For as popular as LOONA have become internationally, their agency has had a difficult time capitalizing on the hype. Sure, the girls attended last year’s KCON LA, but they’ve gone almost a year without a proper comeback. And though the lore surrounding their concept has been detailed and consistent, their title tracks have varied wildly in sound. Last year’s Butterfly won many admirers, but I found its beat-drop-chorus and pitched vocals to be somewhat off-putting. New single So What is likely to polarize further. However, it’s probably my favorite title track the group has released yet.
With added production help from SM Entertainment’s Lee Sooman, So What comes across as a more aggressive version of an ITZY single. Like Dalla Dalla and ICY, the instrumental is stuffed to the brim with noise, forging a wall-of-sound aesthetic that’s overpowering from the start. I appreciate the bombast, especially when it’s tethered to huge waves of layered vocals that give the otherwise combative track a needed richness. While the song’s chorus isn’t melodically complex, it’s arranged with such aplomb that it’s hard not to get caught up in its confidence.
Of course, So What isn’t without its issues. “I’m so bad” is not an appealing hook, and the words are repeated so often that they begin to lose all meaning. I don’t like this kind of ‘aren’t we edgy?’ posturing when boy groups do it, and I don’t appreciate when girl groups take such an obvious route either. So What’s video hints at a complexity that’s lost in the simple English-language catchphrases that pepper the track.
However, much of this repetition is countered by the sheer force spawned by the production. It’s brash and freewheeling and messy, and never lingers long on a single element. When So What finally cools down for its filtered bridge, it’s a welcome break from the attitude-driven cacophony surrounding it. But, moments later the song regenerates — bigger and bolder than ever. This unrelenting energy will either thrill or repel. Right now, I pick the first option, but I could also see So What fizzling out as time goes on.
IATFB says: I remain unimpressed by LOONA’s group efforts, but a massive fan of LOONA’s solo and unit efforts.