Billlie seem to be a group on the rise, perhaps not in terms of being general public darlings (aside from Tsuki’s virality), but at least with a growing fandom that should set them up well for bigger and better. While they don’t really have a singular identity or sound yet, the variety they provide with their comebacks is something to look forward to in itself, and returning with what they did on “Ring Ma Bell” certainly qualifies as a pleasant surprise.
Count me amongst those taken off-guard by the choice of this punk-rockish sound out of seemingly nowhere, but needless to say this kind of pop fusion done by idols falls into my wheelhouse. The foundation is remarkably simple for the most part, relying on an electric rhythm guitar and uncomplicated drum hits as the group’s vocals keep things rolling forward. It works for the most part because the listener can feel something bubbling under, and the build of the pre-chorus confirms this. The chorus then takes things up a notch, but the “ring ma bell” hook done in two choral shouting sections from Billlie is what stars, and it’s hard not to see this being a fan favorite live at a concert, for example. Fortunately, things don’t just end there and there’s another section that follows with the refrain that closes it playing like a quality pop chorus in itself.
That said, there are some things that prevent it from reaching the heights it could. In a rare twist, a K-pop song doesn’t go as loud and noisy as I would’ve liked, with the band almost pushed too far into the background of the mix, sapping “Ring Ma Bell” of some of the very aggressiveness and punk aspects they wanted to capture. During the verses it’s not such a big deal as things build from there, but this especially stands out in the initial choruses, which come off way too clean.
So to some extent, during the second chorus I was honestly thinking things were bogging down a bit. Fortunately, what ends up largely redeeming “Ring Ma Bell” is the stellar finish. All the issues I highlighted in the previous paragraph were erased by the more maniac and aggressive closing run, including guitar riffs galore and amping everything up further. Even the bridge put in the middle provided a nice reprieve while still keeping things aggressive over abrupt strums before it dumps the listener right back into the fun. I would’ve put those parts in the earlier choruses and highlighted a guitar solo of some sort, but it’s an idol group not a band, so I get the choice. Either way, Haram‘s vocal in particular stood out, injecting a necessary intensity at times that the mixing robbed from it, and finishing with a showing that made me want to hear more from her in this mode.
So while not perfect, “Ring Ma Bell” provides another quality addition to Billlie’s discography, and time will tell whether it ages to be more good or great. In terms of selling the concept and sound, Billlie certainly accomplish that in their music video, which helps create a nice cohesive package that works together well. It’s also just promising that Mystic Story seem dedicated to providing regular comebacks for the group, as it means they should be able to explore different concepts further in the future. And the fact that I have no idea what that next comeback will sound like makes it something to look forward to.