Fourth Wave K-Pop is already confronting and surpassing its third-wave heritage. As Blackpink goes on tour with second LP Born Pink, the ‘self-made’ group (G)I-LDE takes steps towards new musical heights for the global genre. The EP ‘I love’ was co-written with three of the six members of the group, with Soyeon writing each song and producing the lead single, ‘Nxde’. The music is good across the album. It has at once retro and contemporary inspirations, echoing NMIXX’s 1920s-inspired ‘Dice’ from their September EP ‘ENTWURF’. (G)I-LDE takes up where NMIXX left off, taking the Blackpink revolution to new heights, making way for further growth in the future.
The first song and lead single is itself a startling achievement, with a music video inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Bansky. The old and new inspirations behind this retropop album find manifestation in the contrast between the penultimate track, the nostalgic, atmospheric, and melodic ‘Sculpture’, and the hypermodern concept behind the sultry, synth-driven ‘DARK (X-file)’, closing the six-track EP with lyrical rapping and subtly assured singing and sensual sighing.
The harmonic concept behind the EP is very 20s-inspired. There is no skirting round the edges of old-school musical and jazz sonic landscapes, and no obvious return to the 2010s pop sounds that drove the group’s 2018 collaboration on ear-worm ‘POP/STARS’ (with K/DA and Madison Beer, who takes the Britney/Ariana legacy she inherits in new and promising directions). The 20s are back, baby, and they’re here to stay.
An exception is the second track, ‘LOVE’, which draws on 90s pop clichés and K-Pop ballad norms, while simultaneously turning these traditions on their head with the infectious chorus, ‘breaking up the love’. ‘Change’ similarly draws on rock-inspired 90s guitar-driven sounds while also employing high-hats to give a contemporary drill-adjacent soundscape to the apt song: ‘When the truth is not that beautiful’.
The one forgettable song is ‘Reset’, which, though perhaps the one truly beautiful song on the record, lacks the same energy or reassurance of the other tracks. The 90s dominate the middle tracks of the album, but the 20s inspiration behind the rest of the album is as clear as is the 50s/60s Monroe aesthetics of the lead music video, combined with the Bansky 00s/10s contemporary inspiration.
In fusing soundscapes and song concepts from across the ages, this record stands at a turning point in modern music, analogous to the turn from classical music to modern music in the birth of jazz in the ashes of romanticism, a century ago. What new age of music will be born from the slow death of old conventions? The hints are presented here, in a form that bridges between past and present, facing the future. For it is what is unknown that elicits the most fear.
The jazz-inspired UK musician Jacob Collier describes his latest album Djesse Vol. 3 as encapsulating ‘negative space’. But negative time is the other side of this negative dialectic. The first step to escaping this pit of nothingness is to face it, while overcoming it with a deeper despair, which generations before us have faced. Will we face our fears, too? Only time will tell. ‘I love’ is a good start — and a welcome addition to the fourthwave of K-Pop. For if Blackpink is the revolution, then groups like NMIXX and (G)I-LDE are the next generation on this interstellar journey, towards the future. I can’t wait for what comes next.
Disclaimer: Any similarity between names mentioned and actual individuals is purely accidental and largely theoretical. These are fun ideas to entertain but, as always, I may be mistaken. After all, what do I know?