Apink have quietly become one of the longest running girl groups still active in today’s idol industry. They rarely make waves (at least internationally), but have sustained their popularity over eight years — an eternity in K-pop. When it comes to solo material from the group, main vocal Eunji is probably the first member to come to mind. When it comes to larger-than-life personalities, you’re likely to think of Bomi. But, you don’t see the name Oh Hayoung mentioned nearly as often. She’s acted here and there, and appeared on multiple variety series, but hasn’t solidified her name as a soloist. Debut single Don’t Make Me Laugh aims to change that.
The song is as light and pleasant as can be, and that may be a problem. Without a concept that would make Hayoung stand out, Laugh is the equivalent of musical wallpaper. It’s a nice, head-nodding background track, but doesn’t compel much interest on its own.
Taking an early-00’s template already well-loved by Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, Laugh has a throwback appeal. It’s an uncluttered pop song, driven by buoyant acoustic guitar and a catchy “ha ha ha” hook. The melody feels refreshing, if familiar, and suits Hayoung’s light vocals. The prominent use of piano reminds me of old Vanessa Carlton songs, while the lilting melody might have been given to early Britney Spears during her more reserved moments. While none of this is going to set the modern K-pop industry alight, I appreciate the rush of comforting nostalgia that the song offers. I’m still not sure that I know who Oh Hayoung is as an artist, but Laugh is like a warm blanket on a chilly morning.