[Review] “Firework” is ironically LABOUM at their least explosive

Girl group Laboum were at their commercial and musical peak from 2015-2017, book-ended by the pop brilliance of singles Aalow Aalow and Hwi Hwi. There must be something lucky about repetitive, onomatopoeia titles. Since that point, a newly-matured sound has brought the group a niche fan base, but the girls have struggled to cement their place in the K-pop industry. Regardless, new single Firework marks a big achievement for Laboum. The song is taken from their first full album — an unfortunately rare format when it comes to girl groups.

Though the song does an admirable job showing off the girls’ voices, it’s too subdued to make much of a mark. Firework’s verses are downright sluggish, driven by a rhythmic acoustic guitar loop and spare percussion. Laboum sound very much like Mamamoo here, so similar at points that it would be easy to confuse the two groups. In a way, this is an enviable comparison, but it also makes it difficult for the girls to harness their own musical colors.

Firework’s chorus is easily its strongest moment, climaxing in an unexpected burst of falsetto. Tethered to a more interesting arrangement, I could imagine this being a big standout for Laboum. But other than that palette-cleansing high note (and some equally acrobatic ad-libs toward Firework’s conclusion), the song just doesn’t modulate enough. The same production that kicks off the instrumental stays relatively unchanged throughout its three-and-a-half minute running time. This almost feels like an “acoustic version” of a larger, more memorable pop track. Stripping things back may be a good way to focus on the girls’ unadorned talents, but the approach doesn’t make for a very exciting or noteworthy comeback.

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IATFB says: Disappointing. Despite their nugu status and the sajaegi mess and Yulhee’s baby, one thing that has always shone through is their discography, but I hope this relatively lazy effort doesn’t signal a path to the end.

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