[Review] Stellar’s “Vibrato” ends up as one of the summer’s more stellar comebacks

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The ironic thing about Stellar’s recent comeback “Vibrato” is that it’s actually a decent song that is destined to be forgotten thanks to a hilariously provocative, yet shrewdly smart, video.

The single’s funky beat is not revolutionary, but the mixture of guitar, strings, and horns provide “Vibrato” with a classic energetic framework ripped right out of the era of bell bottoms. As is usually the case with a dance track like this, Stellar isn’t asked to do much, but the group manages to attack its lines with a good balance of sultriness and strength. The verses fire off at a rapid pace while the choruses provide a nice, slower contrast. Importantly, “Vibrato” never lags and it doesn’t overstay its welcome either. It’s just solid enough to be one of the summer’s better girl group releases.

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As for the video, “Vibrato” is nothing if not bold. Sure, most of the video is nothing but dance-in-a-box shots and incredibly close-up shots of disembodied legs, boobs, and asses, but those elements are shot in such a blatantly sexualized way that it comes off as a subversive critique of the sexualization rather than a celebration of it. The clear boxes that visually objectifies Stellar’s members, as well as the omniscient and claustrophobic camera lens that is interspersed through the video, brilliantly and subtly reinforce this.

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Of course, since this is K-pop, subtlety doesn’t play as well as bluntness and “Vibrato” spends the last third of its video coming up with some of the most blatant vagina imagery that one is likely to find in a music video. It’s brazen but it also helps differentiate “Vibrato” from other K-pop “sexy” concepts that try so hard to remove the actual theme of sex from “sexy”.

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If Stellar’s “Marionette” was all about utilizing sex as a way for Stellar to make itself relevant again, “Vibrato” (and “Fool” to some extent) is a very polished and surprisingly biting reply to those who were all too willing to criticize the group for turning to the sexual concept in the first place when so many other groups are pretty much doing the same thing. It may be somewhat forgettable (but pretty enjoyable!) as a song, but “Vibrato” shows that Stellar may be hitting their stride. If nothing else, “Vibrato” is a pleasant and somewhat thought-provoking video in a summer that has had too few videos that exhibit either of those qualities.

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