Some may argue to the contrary, but for my money HyunA hasn’t given us a truly great solo single since 2014’s “Red“. Instead, she’s been caught in an unending loop of releasing essentially the same song year after year. For this reason, the shift in her sound on “Babe” is worth celebrating alone. HyunA cemented her solo super-stardom by working with producer Shinsadong Tiger for 2011’s addictive “Bubble Pop“, so it only makes sense that he would be the one to pull her back into more melodic territory.
But this being modern-day HyunA, “Babe” isn’t a straightforward pop track. All the hip-hop heavy hallmarks from her recent work are still present. Her coquettish rap plays a large part during the song’s verses, but it’s tempered by a stronger reliance on a vocal-driven structure. She’s never been a belter of a singer, so it makes sense that the hooks veer closer to soft coos and flirtatious come-ons than full-throated pop melody. Still, the fact that “Babe” includes anything approaching a chorus is a win in my book.
Those looking for something as sugar-rush-catchy as “Bubble Pop” may find themselves a bit disappointed. “Babe” occasionally gets tripped up by its own tendency toward distraction. Though the hook is quite addictive from the get-go, the song threatens to meander down one too many tempo and tonal changes. The xylophone-driven instrumental is unique enough on its own, and the fizzy synth during the chorus is a real treat. But once the bottom drops out during the track’s final minute, we’re left with a more trap-influenced breakdown that results in an energy lull where we should be getting a climax.