[Review] Nine Muses’ “Hurt Locker” is here to slay & save summer

NineMusesHurtLockerBeach

July is going to be a crowded one for K-pop so, given the nature of how quickly releases come and go, Nine Muses’ “Hurt Locker” is facing stiff competition this month. However, if “Hurt Locker” doesn’t manage to dominate the airways, it won’t be for a lack of quality, as Nine Muses’ latest comeback is a smartly constructed summer jam that utilizes the group’s strengths, both as vocalists and as performers, in great harmony with the song’s catchy beat.

The really fantastic element of “Hurt Locker” is the balance of the production. The verses utilize a minimal riff and raspy snares to great effect, creating a lightness that allows the vocals to be the focal point. The transitions into the choruses are built up properly so that the richer synth-driven hooks provide a greater and much appreciated contrast. Nine Muses acquit themselves nicely on vocals as the addictive dance track is something that the group does just about as well as anyone else in the genre — truthfully, given their body of work over the past two years, the only group that I’d say rivals Nine Muses in that regard is T-ara. Hyemi and Hyuna do their usual heavy lifting while Kyungri gets plenty to do in “Hurt Locker”, and her recognizable delivery adds a nice quirkiness that helps give the track some personality — not sure if I’m a fan of Kyungri’s singing quite yet, as she often sounds like she has a cold, but it works here.

If there’s one part of the song that doesn’t quite gel, it’s Euaerin’s rap, which sounds a little shoe-horned in for a song that seems to strive for airy warmth. Still, Eauerin raps are never dull and its inclusion is a minor nitpick for such a solid track.

As far as visually, Nine Muses doesn’t deviate much from its formula — build a set, have 9 8 9 7 8 9 7 6 8 performers who could moonlight as super models dance on said set, ???, profit. “Hurt Locker” makes a great choice by going for a shipyard set and the containers’ color schemes really help light up the video without being overbearing.

Like the best set constructions, the shipyard is definitely a presence, it synergizes with the group’s overall wardrobe and look, and it’s not distracting in the least. Still, as good of a backdrop as the shipyard is, it often feels like the group could have done more with it. The final shots of the making-of video for “Hurt Locker” demonstrates some of the potential of the shipping containers, and it’s unfortunate that those scenes were cut from the final version.

The group’s wardrobe and styling great, as usual. I’m not exactly sure what look the group was going for with its group and choreography shots, but they’re perfectly glitzy for a dance number, and the standard-fare K-pop attire that the members wear for individual shots are fine for a summer jam. Anything that gets Hyuna or Kyungri back in front of a camera isn’t going to elicit many complaints from here.

The odd thing about “Hurt Locker” is that it is, on the one hand, a fairly solid Nine Muses release that is an improvement over “Drama”, but not quite at the level of the group’s unbelievably amazing 2013 releases (as a reminder, the group released “Dolls,” “Wild,” “Gun”, and “Glue” in one freaking year). On the other hand, while it may just be slightly above average for Nine Muses, “Hurt Locker” is still addictive, fun, and it’s probably my favorite music video that’s been released in the past two months. The song has a replay quality to it thanks to the deft production that doesn’t wear out its welcome, and one simply does not tire of basking in the glory of Nine Muses themselves. July is going to be a very busy month for K-pop, but Nine Muses has definitely set an early bar for other groups to reach.

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As usual, you can buy their glorious album here.

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