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Lowlife Princess: Noir Verónica A. Bastardo , December 8th, 2022 08:21

The twisted musical mind of a highly conceptual pop artist who has much to say

BIBI is precisely the sort of great act you can find once you go deep in the Korean music landscape. She has this mix between the ideal girl-next-door type and the I-don't-give-a-fuck punk, mixing mainstream sounds with taboo narratives – in the context of a conservative society – around sex, violence and a woman with much to say. Before last year’s EP, Life is a Bi… she was known through a series of groundbreaking singles in which the excesses of life was the main topic and her honeyed voice intrigued everyone. With this new release plays again with the sounds she just wants without giving much explanation.

Lowlife Princess: Noir is her official full album debut. A dystopian project where the music takes you from old Korean tales to a cyberpunk future in which violence and death are the norm. ‘Intro’ captures this essence perfectly, through a mix of repetitive phrases, electronic sounds, and out and out chaos, with bits of music box-like strings and traditional Asian wind instruments. It also sets the tone for the melodic side of the whole project. You will hear many of these leitmotivs in almost every song.

Tension in the way of the basses here: low registers and long sustained final notes characterise the first chapter of the album, composed of three major revenge songs: ‘Blade’, ‘BIBI Vengeance’ and ‘Animal Farm’. While the first one is pure suspense, with its tones of old thrillers and the rumble of bass drums, the second one is the violence behind that rage. The beat is pure latin reggaeton, but her vocal interpretation is the fire’s fuel and the intricate drums are the chaos.

‘Animal Farm’ sounds like desperation. A staccato piano chord plays in a fast beat while BIBI sings in higher notes, the whole thing evolving to a mix of orchestral strings with electric guitar and soft ad libs, capturing the essence of a weaponless woman in a dilemma with humanity.

It’s interesting how, just after spitting on the society around her, she decides to introduce the night-time city romance with ‘MotoSpeed 24’, drawn on by the always-good synthwave sounds with a heavy trap beat that adds bits of sensuality. The transition between this song and ‘Sweet Sorrow of Mother’ marks the halfway point of our tale, changing to this sort of poem through the rhythm of a minimalist mid-tempo rag piano.

The next set of songs represent the despair behind abuse made music. ‘Loveholic’s Hangover’ is your classic pop-trap ballad duet, however ‘Wet Nightmare’, ‘Witch Hunt’ and ‘Lowlife Princess’ capture the essence of fear and terror. Perhaps it’s the minor chords in the strings set against the major melody in the voice, or the filtered distorted screams and the airy moans in stereo sound from ear to ear.

David Lynch’s Blue Velvet explored themes of abuse in a pop world. Here, the pink reality is the dance r&b musicality and glimmering sounds, but the underbelly of abuse lurks behind BIBI’s sorrowful interpretation and noir lyrics. Lowlife Princess: Noir is a conceptual album divided into four acts, well defined by music and BIBI’s vocal performance. And like a good noir script, there’s no happy ending. Just a hero’s journey in a loop. On and on. She closes the album with more chaos on ‘Jotto’ and ‘City Love’, songs in which the hatred comes back into her voice, finishing with Japanese-style rock and disturbance, that sets you in feelings of revenge. It’s the exact same mood she introduced to us in the beginning, making this project just a great well-rounded record.