Jellyfish Entertainment, home to former Fly to the Sky member Brian Joo, former Superstar K winner Seo In Guk, and balladeer extraordinaire Sung Si Kyung, made its first foray into the uber-competitive world of idol music with the debut of VIXX, a six-member outfit chock-full of – if predebut buzz is anything to go by – celebrity doppelgängers, which in the world of K-pop, can only mean good things. There’s VIXX’s leader N, who has the good fortune to resemble Korea’s current golden boy Kim Soo Hyun, and then member Hong Bin, who resembles YG Entertainment soloist Se7en.
Their musical doppelgängers are less easier to identify. The two songs on their debut mini-album (“Super Hero“ and ”Starlight“) certainly sound different from the sound coming from other boygroups. The synth-pop, almost back-to-the-future sound in ”Super Hero” (produced by Brent Paschke and Drew Ryan Scott, the latter whom has an extensive back catalog of hits, both in K-pop and worldwide), with its wide, sidechained pads is gleamingly earnest, and compliments the buoyant optimism of the chorus, “The world you want is all yours/I can do anything, what do you want?/Trust me, oh I will protect you girl“. Their sound, while difficult to encapsulate in few words, is assuredly refreshing – and in some ways reminiscent of the smooth, loungey-Clazziquai feel – a mellow synth-pop number with a four on the floor skeleton.
The vocal talent in this group was surprisingly better than expected. Leo and Ken, the two vocalists, have a lovely (if a bit high and effeminate, especially given their appearance) tone, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from those two in future releases. My only gripe with this song, putting aside the horrifically atrocious Engrish rap intro from a well-meaning, but ultimately misguided Ravi (rapper), is the strangely quiet rap break that the above mentioned Ravi shines in. His rap is strangely quieter than the rest of the vocals, and I’m curious if that was a production mistake that wasn’t caught until it was too late?
“Starlight” is similar to ”Super Hero” in its reliance on synths over natural instruments, but goes for a different, more rambunctious tack – a nu-disco feel soldered to a 90s K-pop chord progression, with a surprisingly apt “OMG” thrown in the mix right before the chorus. There’s a lot going on – in terms of instruments, rhythm, and of course, the change of the pace in the bridge that might disorient the unwary listener for the odd moment or two. Overall, though, while not as immediately ear-catching as ”Super Hero”, ”Starlight” has its charms (however complex they are), and could quickly work its way up your iTunes Most Played List as well.
VIXX is definitely a group to watch – they show a uniqueness and musicality that’s different from their competitors (their closest rival might be B1A4), and if their management doesn’t drop the ball, this group is more than capable of carving out a successful niche for themselves.
As an aside, there’s been an interesting push lately on the branding end of things – rookie groups B.A.P and VIXX both have a cartoon character (Matoki and Rovix, respectively). It’s a smart move that gives companies yet another way to generate income – sales of a popular cartoon on T-shirts will not only appeal to fans, but if it’s well-designed enough, fashion conscious non-fans as well.