HyunA in command on “Lip & Hip” with return of bombastic sound

No matter how popular HyunA is, she will always be a divisive artist. K-pop pushes sexuality as much as any genre of entertainment, but it’s usually clouded in a confusing mix of innocence and perceived wholesomeness that plays to a sense of cultural modesty. HyunA, on the other hand, throws it all out there. This brash cheekiness has never been more apparent than during her ballsy new music video for “Lip & Hip“. It will no doubt have many watchers dismissing her as trashy and try-hard, but there’s a certain amount of subversion at play that perfectly defines why she’s become such an important artist within K-pop’s restrictive imaging.

For my money, “Lip & Hip” is the best HyunA’s sounded since 2014’s mighty Red. It may not be the exciting shift in sound that August’s Babe represented, but it does an excellent job balancing all of the elements that have made her solo work notable. The song retains the charismatic hip-hop style of past hits like How’s This and Roll Deep, but wraps it in a glossier pop package that pulls in a more electronic sound. There are enough big melodic moments to counter the sing-talk of the verses, and HyunA’s vocals have never sounded stronger.

But more than the song itself, “Lip & Hip” employs an explosive instrumental that lends it the kind of bombast missing from her work for the past few years. I love the heavy emphasis on percussion, which filters in and out with dynamic fills that punctuate each segment. Meanwhile, the dramatic pre-chorus build is straight from a 2NE1 song, climaxing in a drop that doesn’t rely solely on one repeated instrumental riff. You can’t get away with this kind of stuff if you don’t absolutely own it, and HyunA sounds completely in command here.

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