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6equence Verónica A. Bastardo , January 27th, 2022 10:09

Rapper-singer Moonbyul steps out of the shadow of K-pop quartet Mamamoo to explore an unexpected dyamic range, finds Véronica A. Bastardo

Moonbyul is a unique artist too often overshadowed by the other three voices in the k-pop quartet Mamamoo. While she has been fulfilling her duty as the main rapper with a deep, dark voice, that’s not all that she is and each solo project she embarks on probes her possibilities further. From exploring her sound in quirky hip-hop track ‘Selfish’ to the mysterious and provocative powerhouse of ‘Eclipse’, her third EP is a personal letter to all the stages of love. Deciding not to be defined by just one label she went for all the trendy sounds in the Korean music scene, from pop and hip-hop to R&B.

You know an EP has a concept when the artists add stuff like an intro or an outro. In the case of 6equence, ‘Intro: SYNOPSIS’ presents the main topic of the album as a movie divided in scenes. In 1:38 mins it builds an intimate environment through a semi-acoustic guitar that develops into a more electronic vibe with a trap beat, like a wave. It’s calm, it grows, and suddenly it’s quiet again, perfect to catch the listeners attention. At first I had this big problem with the tracklist order because it felt messy. Why, I asked myself, am I listening to a loud 90s hip-hop track after such calmness? But hey – the storytelling is in the details. I thought of it as the evolution of love.

Romance, couples, falling in love or [insert here any other term you want to use] in most cases isn’t this smooth journey some movies paint it as. It is more from "I know you, nice to meet you" to a "I think I'm crazy about you" but in happy terms first. That’s the point of ‘G999’, a fun, joyful, and definitely energizing way of confessing to someone through the classic djing style of 70s parties in the Bronx: echoed claps, some smooth raps shared by Moonstar and Mirani, and a touch of playful wordplay (I wish I had more the space here to teach you all Korean, but for now perhaps curiosity will make you search for the lyrics’ meaning).

If I had to introduce this album to someone through just one song, I’d make a PowerPoint presentation on why ‘Shutdown’ deserves all the flowers. It perfectly captures the intimacy of the sexy part of romance. Moonbyul and Seori are the perfect duo. You have one deep, almost raspy low-key voice singing about desire and then this clearer, more soothing and delicate tone to create the ideal call-and-response dynamic. The lyrics themselves speak volumes – even more so when combined with the music video, which strongly hints at an LGBTQ+ relationship, a touchy topic in South Korea.

Queerness is something that has identifyed Moonbyul’s style for a while. From gender neutral fashion style, lyrics, and a tendency to pick music genres and sounds more associated with male idols in Korea. Once again this is clear in the music video styling of the promotional track ‘Lunatic’, a pop dance track that flows seamlessly between singing and rapping, something so uniquely Moonbyul. This track is special not only because it conveys a break-up as an energizing and confusing moment of life, in the form of messy synths, oddly satisfying anti-drops, and repeated words to form additive hooks; but because it is made by a soloist. It’s your typical k-pop group song – you can imagine it perhaps by a rookie boy group – but Byul’s attitude and versatility make it stand out.

6equence has an unexpected dynamic in which opposite music genres recreate the different stages of a relationship, from falling in love to the angst of one last call to mend things up, like in r&b ballad ‘ddu ddu ddu’, which flirts with pop-rock stylings through electric guitar arpeggios and pronounced drums to paint the desperation of an unanswered conversation. This album showcases the magic and freedom that comes from working solo and staying true to your own story, delivering a sincere and meaningful narrative that also highlights those slightly hidden talents – a deep and candid singing voice and genius songwriting – that sometimes get missed in groups of musicians.