the short of it: Narshism‘s biggest triumph is that it’s such an interesting but agreeable album; the beats can get funky to be sure, but never enough to put you off. And at the heart of it: Narsha’s sweet and lovely voice put to use in both the apt and experimental ways.
take-a-fourth: I’m in love, Bbi Ri Bba Bba, Fantastic, Radio Star
Tracklist: 01 Fantastic 02 삐리빠빠 03 I’m in love (With 정성하) 04 Queen B 05 Radio Star 06 맘마미아 (Preview) 07 삐리빠빠 (Inst.)
So first things first, does Bbi Ri Bba Bba even mean anything? After scouring the internet, I found nothing (leave a comment if you can help me and the rest of the english speaking world though!). This however, takes little away from the experience of Narshism‘s title track. You may not know what to expect upon hearing the funky beats that start the song, but it’s the chorus, a haunting siren-like call that climaxes powerfully with an enjoinder that you surrender, that gets you. The song speaks about escape from a nightmare world (the onomatopoeic Bbi Ri Bba Bba sounds could very well be the character-song of some absurd Alice in Wonderland character), and upon layering in the MV, which builds in metaphor upon metaphor of surreal anguish and transformation, you realize and appreciate that Narsha is selling an encompassing visual and melodic experience. As chariteee was explaining to me, BEG’s rise to fame included a repackaging that added visualization to their songs, the kind of transformation that took the austere swaying of R&B singers to intricate stage choreography. “Abracadabra” I believe is the final product of the transformation. It was fierce and theatrical, and it invaded every kpop listener’s pop music consciousness. “Bbi Ri Bba Bba” is an application of the tried-and-tested BEG formula of making the song a theatre experience. It may not become as popular as Abracadabra, but the cohesiveness of the song’s elements: music, MV, lyric-meaning and costumes, make it quality kpop music.
“Bbi Ri Bba Bba”, though catchy, is certain to turn off some listeners. Ironically, however, it is the one song in the mini-album that walks the thin line between appreciable and absurd. That is to say, all the other songs have this quality of both being really interesting and having character, as well as being easy-to-swallow. “Fantastic” is reliant on a club bass sound throughout the song, but it also has a catchy and upbeat jazzy chorus. It comes up for a great combination. “Radio Star” has some mix of a bossanova and adult-easy-listening feel to it, and if you listen closely, you can hear it go through quite the variety of light and subtle percussions to keep it upbeat. Even “Queen B” is worth mentioning for its great retro feel. These songs make Narshism such an interesting album, an opposite, for example, to 4Minute’s HuH, which had this wow-it’s-another-club-song-once-again to it. All of Narshism‘s songs have quirks to make them memorable.
“I’m in Love” is my favorite song of the album: sweet, vulnerable, and acoustic, it showcases Narsha’s voice the best. That’s not to say that Narsha’s voice isn’t central in the other songs; in fact, I think you never forget the quality of her voice in any of the tracks. I thought it was great that each song suited her voice. In the title track for example, the chorus doesn’t autotune Narsha’s vocals (there’s very little autotune in the whole album in fact), but rather compliments it with the haunting chords. Her voice isn’t the most powerful in the industry but it’s certainly of great quality: stylized, consistent and nuanced enough to be remarkable.
So in summary: an album to be listened to from beginning to end: you’ll be far from bored.