Girl group CLC made big waves overseas last year when they abruptly left behind their sweet and youthful concept in favor of the edgy “Hobgoblin,” which international fans, for whatever reason, love to cite as the superior dark girl group concept to this day. Fans of “Hobgoblin” will be pleased to learn that after a brief return to the cute concept last year, CLC are now back with the brutally intense “Black Dress.” Borrowing from trap and hip-hop as “Hobgoblin” did, “Black Dress” is perhaps the ladies’ fiercest single yet, and while it’s not perfect, its pure commitment to its own sound makes it some of their best work.
It’s important to note that if you don’t come to this song expecting to have your senses assaulted, you may find yourself dizzy by the end of it. The hook’s descending synth line is so aggressive it’s almost vicious, and the surrounding space—the verses, the bridges—don’t always allow room for dynamics to breathe. Without coherent quietness to contrast with the enormity of the hook, the energy of the song has no scale in which to stretch out, and ends up feeling cramped at times. Still, “Black Dress” is so in-your-face that the overcrowded dynamics do the song a favor, at least atmospherically if not compositionally. And whether the build-ups and cool-offs are organized or not, the hook itself remains genius: It sends your head spinning with a wild instrumental-based first half, and then harnesses that electricity with a second half that kicks off an engaging bassline under a maddeningly catchy vocal melody along with a shower of trap percussion that propels the energy into fourth gear. Plus CLC’s vocals own this song like I’ve never heard from these ladies before. Seriously, wow. This was something.
The rest of the mini-album, also titled “Black Dress,” is, I’m excited to say, several times better than their last one. It’s obvious that Cube put more consideration into the production this time around, which is what CLC deserves after all. “Like This” is an ambitious EDM shapeshifter, while “To the Sky,” which was released a few weeks ago ahead of the comeback, has some gorgeously written melodies. But strangely enough, the best tracks on this mini-album are the most subdued pop tracks, “Distance” and “Seventh.” The flowing phrasing of the chorus in “Distance” is to die for, and “Seventh” with its breezy vibes and liberal composition may be my favorite CLC song ever. While I’m still waiting for the girl group to pull a sucker punch and really knock me out, I hope this will be their most successful comeback yet, because it deserves to be.
BLACK DRESS: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bop.
Take a look at CLC’s “Black Dress” MV below: