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[&] Verónica A. Bastardo , July 15th, 2021 08:41

K-pop twelve-piece Loona with an albun of high contrasts and big emotions, finds Verónica A. Bastardo

In the k-pop girl group world we find some tropes that follow classic concepts like the sweet girl-next-door, your badass girl-crush, the playful comedian, and so many others that are a mix of visuals, narrative, and sound, intended to put these groups in a specific place in the market. Then we have Loona, who have explored them all and evolved to a concept on their own that follows heavy electronic experimentation and constant reinvention. The group remain very on brand with their complex Loonaverse storyline.

While we won’t dig deeper into this transmedia effort that combines music and an unique parallel universe, it is worth mentioning that since their pre-debut days the lyrics of the group have been crafted in order to add not just a message of empowerment to women but also easter eggs that serve as symbols to follow their narrative. This new album is no exception.

Since the very first second of [&] you’ll feel like you are entering in to a futuristic cinematic universe through an instrumental intro '&', where intricate synths that simulate spaceships, satellites, and airy spaces that develop into a drum-heavy mix with an Indian flute melody, signalling the beginning of the major event of the album: the lead single.

‘PTT (Paint The Town)’ is a tribute to classic grandiose Bollywood numbers in which rhythmic beats through tablas and electric drums are the big protagonists, building up into a potent song about facing hardships. The Indian flute of the intro transitions smoothly into this track and gives a key melody to catch the middle-eastern influence the song has, along with the strings of a sitar. The production here recalls a mix of something like ‘Nagada Nagada’ (from the movie Jab We Met) but with powerful EDM drops and half rapped/half sang verses, along with ad-libbed details that take advantage of the huge diversity of vocal timbres the group has. The little build ups with each passing beat add up to a perfect, goosebump-inducing song.

While the transitions seem odd between some songs on the tracklist, it’s of forgettable impact when you enjoy each track on their own and it follows enough through the messages of self-confidence in the lyrics. ‘WOW’ offers a bit of this. The first chord is like a punch of sound out of nowhere followed by a silence, then jazzy vocal runs and touches of rag piano melodies take the whole song into a fun and slightly quirky sound with robotic-distorted harmonies in consonance with the celebratory feeling of the lyrics that invite the listener to grasp their life and own their stage. The different members’ interpretation and their characteristic electronic-pop oriented composition put this as the perfect bop of the album.

Loona’s speciality as performers is what adds the key point to each of their tracks through the individuality of the members, from their specific vocal timbres to their interpretation, without breaking the harmony of the song. Here the line distribution plays an important part to make each track as smooth and organic as it can be for twelve different voices – a feat well achieved in their English-language power ballad, ‘Dance On My Own’.

While the group’s sound is an unexpected trip in each new music project and their journey through sound is just beginning, Loona came back with an album that hits just right when you want to cement yourself as a pop reference in a worldwide music audience. They play with different sound trends that navigate from Bollywood-esque details, Korean ballad fairytale-like chimes and strings, quirky jazz, radio friendly power ballads, and even the minimalistic traits of Korean indie r&b trends, summoning rough lo-fi sounds and a tight focus on the voice, as on final track ‘U R’. Loona manage to do all of this, while maintaining their signature message of encouragement to young women all around the world: confidence, self-love, and owning your destiny.