Girl's Day is back with their summer-friendly "Darling," a fun, bubbly song that softens the edge they've had with their recent hits, "Female President" and "Something."
And you know what? It's a great song. A great summer song, especially. We've gotten excellent comebacks from girl groups like f(x) and AOA, but aesthetically summer songs? Not so much until "Darling." The video is cute, with a touch of sexiness (see: butt shake). This comeback has all the ingredients of a strong comeback that can compete with the likes of f(x) and, soon, Sistar. But I can't help wondering, as a fan of Girl's Day, where do they stand now?
Are we seeing this girl group near their pinnacle? Are they an emerging group or are they already elite?
Girl's Day had a long, tough road to "Delight." What true fan could forget their underrated if outdated, "Nothing Lasts Forever?" True, the video looks like it's ten years old instead of four (Maybe it's ten in Kpop years). It's a must watch just to see the girls attempt to play instruments (sans Sojin, who was sick through most of the filming).
While the object of Minah's affection in "Twinkle Twinkle" was a young man, she found a new love, dance, in "Oh My God." The young man is in this video too, which gives the two songs even more connective tissue. The aegyo, the melodrama, the comic abandonment, really defined Girl's Day in their early years.
That's who Girl's Day was. If you were to describe Girl's Day, it would have to involve words like: comedic, wacky, aegyo, juvenile. In short, the goofballs of the Kpop world. Crayon Pop before Crayon Pop even existed. And then this happened, just last year:
To be fair, "Don't Forget Me," was the comeback that shied away from their Slapstick Phase, but "Expect" really shocked people with Girl's Day's sudden turn to sexiness. And that suspender move! Yes, there were the same people that always bash girl groups for showing skin, but there were just as many fans that were disappointed at not just the change, but the abruptness of the reversal.
Which is to say, with the transition from "Oh My God" to "Expect," Girl's Day has abandoned traditional continuity. They did not evolve to "Expect," or mature gradually, they completely reinvented themselves. "Expect" is like the debut of an entirely different group. It would be like Brown Eyed Girls eschewing their more adult fare for a bikini party comeback. Or Girls' Generation finally doing that sexy concept. Or picture, if you can: Apink getting political. It should be noted, that Girl's Day has done all of these things, at different degrees.
That's a gamble. You could alienate the fans you do have that have by ignoring the history you've built. In many ways, Girl's Day is a rookie group again. "Don't Forget Me," was that old group's goodbye.
It worked. "Expect" grabbed people's attention. And then "Female President" had their first win on Inkigayo, and then "Something" blew up and became their first monster hit.
With "Darling," Girl's Day isn't so much going back to their roots as reinventing themselves again. While "Darling" is a fun summer song, it's more understated than say "Twinkle Twinkle" or "Hug Me Once." It's cute, and it's adult, and it's sophisticated.
The thing about Girl's Day now is that they don't have a singular identity anymore. They're not the goofballs of Kpop, but they can't really be looked to as just sex symbols either. Even with their spectacular anthem, "Female President," they can't really be the girl power group some fans may want them to be. Girl's Day's identity is malleable. They're chameleons, and that's not a slur. While some girl groups refuse to change and alienate their fans, and some look strange going from cute concepts to sexy ones and then back again, Girl's Day can alter their look entirely with each comeback. That takes commitment, talent, and tremendous personality, three things Girl's Day has, in massive quantities.
Emerging or Elite?
So what does all this histroy/no history mean for Girl's Day's place in Kpop? It means that, despite being a veteran group, with a devoted fanbase, Girl's Day's major popularity is built almost entirely on their newer, edgier songs. In that way, they're fresh, but also not fully established. They're not elite. Yet. "Something" was a revelation, and pushed them to another level, but they still need a few songs to keep them at that level. "Darling" is a huge test on where they stand now. So far, the song is a hit, and is #1 on many Kpop charts. But how long will it stay #1? And can they really compete with f(x) and Sistar? Girl's Day certainly thinks so, and, as a fan, I hope they can. After all their hard work, they deserve success. And when it comes down to it, Kpop is so much more interesting and unpredictable with Girl's Day at the top.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.