Girl group gugudan is back after only two and a half months, and the title track should be a knockout. “The Boots” has nearly all the things I usually look for in a song: spectacular dynamics, well-developed composition, a sparkling-clear instrumental, an element of uniqueness, and impressive performance. Yet, it doesn’t quite come together for me. That’s a shame, because gugudan is one of the most capable rookie girl groups at the moment (wait—can we still call them rookies now that it’s officially been over a year since their debut?) and this should have been their breakout song. Unfortunately, it appears we’re going to have to wait at least until their next comeback for something really killer.
gugudan’s first comeback with “A Girl Like Me” was excellent, but its retro girl crush concept didn’t find much purchase among Korean audiences. Then the group threw a curveball: November’s “Chococo,” an incredible song but an absolute wacko. I figured that Jellyfish Entertainment’s plan was to establish some individuality for gugudan with this oddball, and then hit the scene with something trendy and catchy shortly after. That appears to the intention of “The Boots,” which incorporates a funky bassline into the verses and deliciously balanced electronic noises into the chorus. Present through it all are a jazzy whistled hook and lovely vocal flourishes, all of which should give the song an immediate addictive factor. But they don’t. Something’s missing. I think what keeps tripping me up is the difference in the styles offered by the verses and by the chorus. It’s not that they’re radically disparate, but they are distinct enough to make the transitions feel disruptive instead of conductive. The energy accumulated in the verses hits the end of a broken circuit when the chorus begins, and vice versa. Because of that, the song can’t get anywhere. The forward motion isn’t there.
The rest of the EP, “Act.4 Cait Sith,” is also lackluster, which is a disappointment, because gugudan can do better. “Lovesick” is good, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen plenty of from the group before. I wish this comeback had propelled gugudan forward, but it looks like that’s not the case this time around. Hopefully they will have some time to rest in the next few months as they prepare something more cohesive, because at this point, I think it’s especially important that Jellyfish makes sure not to rush things.
THE BOOTS: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Just slightly floppy.
Take a look at gugudan’s “The Boots” MV below: