In the (almost) three years since their debut, CLC have cycled through just about every girl group concept you can imagine. Yet, none of these changes in style has led to lasting commercial success. And quite frankly, none has resonated all that strongly with me either. With new single “Black Dress“, the girls are moving back to the harder-edged EDM/hip-hop sound of last year’s “Hobgoblin“, which brought them a certain level of international attention.
The song doesn’t waste any time laying out its intent. Its opening bars offer a cacophonous barrage of warped synths and pounding percussion. And while it’s refreshing to hear a girl group sound so aggressive, CLC could have done with a more idiosyncratic instrumental collage. Instead, the recurring loops feel all too familiar, as if they could be grafted to any number of similarly-pitched tracks of the last few years. The fact that the song forgoes a proper chorus in favor of this generic production only heightens the problem.
Thankfully, “Black Dress” populates the space around this creative vacuum with a few killer moments. The surging pre-chorus — driven by swirling, Brave Brothers-esque vocal touches — acts as the song’s melodic centerpiece and quickly becomes its most memorable segment. The final beat drop is also effective, as extra vocals and instrumental elements are pulled into the fray. As a performance piece, the killer energy of “Black Dress” is a great move for the group. As an actual song, it feels incomplete. We need more badass girl groups in K-pop, and CLC are clearly capable of pulling off this style. But, they need equally badass songs that seek to set trends rather than follow.