Sistar Enter a New Era with “I Like That”

Sistar are a blockbuster pop group. Everything they do–from sound, to harmonies, to visuals–operate on a higher level. They are the greatest argument for “some people have it, some people don’t” because you know some groups will work their entire careers and never achieve Sistar’s level of professionally and beautifully executed spectacle.

Sistar, specifically Hyorin/Hyolin, have haters. Hyorin being an unlikeable diva because she doesn’t smile 24/7 and the group templating songs are often the greatest crimes leveraged against these icons. I usually know nothing about the netizen nonsense that plagues the greatest pop industry on the planet. So if I know something about Sistar’s criticizers, then I’m just taking that as a sign that they are winning. However, I’ve noticed it’s not all anti-fan backlash. A lot of people who like, but don’t love, the group also complain about the song copying.

I still have no idea what the complaints concerning the singles from “Touch My Body” to “Shake It” being too similar are based on. Sure, they sound like they could be on the same album, as did their breakthrough Brave Brother’s sounds, but each song still had a unique flavor. And this is nothing new. In the west, albums needs 3 or 4 singles. In Korea, those singles are spread out as title songs over several EPs.

Like any successful career, Sistar went through phases. They work a sound for a couple of projects then switch it up. “Shake It” was a pure celebration. You can imagine a backyard pool party with limbo and water guns. On the other hand, “Touch My Body” was much smoother and relaxed, like a grownup ride with the top down on the way to the beach. They are iconic summer singles that relish in big, lush sounds. But even with similarly structure choruses, each song captures two completely different moods (and are wonderful).

Let’s take a moment:

With that last nod to a great era of distinctive summer pop, let’s discuss the new phase of Sistar’s career as veteran grown women, masters of blockbuster pop. Their new single, “I Like That” has been released.

It’s not as catchy.

All the ways it deviates from past singles are the very reasons it’s not as catchy.

It’s “Give It to Me” after four lines of crack. The beautiful vocals, crunchy guitars, and horn flourishes are all pushed to a drive-off-the-cliff tempo that kind of puts everything in competition with one another. The parts move by very quicky. Just when I get hooked, it’s on to the next setpiece. Everything and nothing stands out. The song comes and goes in a blur and nothing really sticks.

UPDATE: I’ve heard this song so many times in the last day that everything sounds slower. I hear all the parts and it’s quite great.

But let’s discuss what steals the show…the damn music video.

Massage parlors trip up the careers of Korean male celebrities, but Sistar have built their temple in one with magic. True pop fans from around the world can take pilgrimage and worship the spiritual experience of superstars being superstars, posing on furniture in various states of seductive forlornness and dancing in full harem mode.

There must be a performance version, and it better be flawless. No wonky camera work. (Infinite’s dance version of “Back” made me dizzy.)

Ultimately, I wish Secret had released this song/video and officially substantiated their own crown as the #grownwomen of pop. This song would be iconic for them. For Secret, this would be the post-“Poison” breakthrough, taking the wall-of-sound band of 2012 and perfecting it with experience for 2016. I would be screaming and crying and apologizing for having lost faith. For Sistar, this is solid stuff. It’s a welcome addition to a collection of hits, but their previous singles were more confidently at ease in their identity. They did not push so hard. “I Like That” takes the anti-ADD approach to craft that often (paradoxically) makes a song quite forgettable in the long run.

This will grow on me. The live performances will make me fall in love with the song. Eventually, I’ll enjoy the song by itself because it will conjure images from the video.

Good, but not great, stuff. I’ve been very picky this year with kpop’s greats, especially the A-list veterans, because it’s been a very good year and rookies are really showing up.

But Stellar still rule 2016.

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