Being an SM Entertainment girl group, Aespa obviously arrived with a lot of fanfare and expectations. Their “Black Mamba” debut had some odd choices and didn’t impress, but hey that’s not a red flag, tons of great groups have had shaky debuts. Then they followed up by remaking Yoo Young Jin’s “Forever”, which was as nondescript and plodding as the original.
Not the best trend, and now for their latest comeback they decided to remake or reimagine “Next Level” by A$ton Wyld off the Hobbs & Shaw soundtrack. That sounds like a shitpost or something, but I assure you that it’s entirely true, and unfortunately so.
The original “Next Level” was uninteresting and seemed intent on sucking the energy out of the room, and unfortunately the remake does basically the same thing for the majority of the effort.
Then around halfway through the song, they seemed to remember that they had promised to switch things up, and so they stitched in what truly felt like an entirely different song with a vocal-centric run before segueing into some kind of perfunctory SME boy group verse and then switching back again to the original template. Perhaps in a different world those two segments could’ve been used to make something decent, but SME unfortunately choose the foundation of “Next Level” to lay it over.
SNSD‘s “I Got A Boy” is the obvious comp here, but even that seems like a stretch since this felt like much more of a clear case of multiple concept overhauls in one song. “IGAB” at least tried to mesh it together in the end and, perhaps more importantly, they brought a ton of energy to the table instead of siphoning it away for the majority of the track. I suppose it’s almost impressive how Aespa managed to mash a mini into one song and still found a way to make it uncompelling. Because regardless of whether you like most of the songs that employ dramatic shifts, you at least come away feeling something from them, but “Next Level” just leaves one confused and uninterested.
Some have justified what SME is doing with Aespa by comparing them to S.E.S, saying the release path is similar in terms of follow-ups to an original single debut being a cover and a remake, but the key difference in that equation is that S.E.S’s songs were generally good.
Regardless, it’s unfortunate that Aespa haven’t turned it around because it seems like piling on at this point. They’ve been getting backlash from a lot of neutral international observers already, so this is just a basic take on their existence so far that preaches to the choir for the most part. That’s not much fun, but they’re making it difficult to go against the grain with choices like this.