WJSN’s “Happy” abandons their spacey pop identity for a too familiar template

Now that Sistar has officially disbanded, WJSN are Starship Entertainment’s sole remaining girl group. Over their past two releases, the girls have started to develop an intriguing, spacey pop style that has helped give them an identity within an overly crowded market. Rather than strengthen this burgeoning sound, “Happy” goes the easy route by enlisting proven hit-makers Black Eyed Pilseung for a track that slavishly follows a very familiar, very frenetic, girl group template.

Strangely, “Happy” is all pep but no personality. The problem is, there are so many groups tackling this exact sound that it all begins to feel a bit faceless. The rapid-fire verses are especially emblematic of this issue. The trend in K-pop has been veering towards larger groups, and it seems almost impossible to both write a coherent verse and cater to all the different voices and selling points of each member. “Happy” launches with an escalating spiral of synth, quickly jettisoning the disoriented listener into a stream of sing-talk-rap-aegyo that keeps a frantic pace but winds up being pretty forgettable.

This doesn’t mean that “Happy” isn’t a lot of fun. It certainly has energy, and the punchy chorus at its heart is a winner. There are some retro elements at play in the production, and I wish they would have been brought out more strongly. There’s simply too much going on in every way possible. I can imagine a streamlined version of this same song that would have been more more successful. Still, with summer coming up it’s hard to say no to such an upbeat burst of exuberance.

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