Two Minute Review: Teen Top Advises You to Upgrade Your Speakers with 'Warning Sign'

Teen Top are perennial producers of quality Kpop, frequently breaking into the top ten charts on Gaon with recent hits like “Ah-Ah,” “Missing,” and “Rocking.” But something has shifted in the musical structure of their latest single, “Warning Sign,” from the new EP, Red Point. If you’re not listening on a quality sound system, you’ve likely already written this release off as not worth your time. But why is that? Let’s break it down in 120 seconds.

First of all, let’s describe the sound that we’re hearing in “Warning Sign.” The song is driven by a very old-school, double bass sound that operates at a lower frequency (way down to the 41 Hz range) than the standard drum kits heard in most pop music, and it comes with a much richer tonal quality to boot. That means a double bass can create a very interesting sound, but it’s also nearly useless on cheap speakers and earbuds. That’s a real risk that Teen Top is taking, because if you’re anything like me, a good 95% of your music listens are on buds. No judgment. But for “Warning Sign” to sound anything like it was intended, you’re going to need to plug Teen Top into your sound system to get access to the right range of frequencies.

If you don’t have a chance to listen in the right audio environment, you’ll likely notice what many fans have already pointed out: that “Warning Sign” sounds muted and altogether unspectacular. On sub-par speakers, the double bass blends into white noise so easily that within a few seconds only the vocals will be registering. All of which makes it seem as though “Warning Sign” is severely lacking in power. Everything feels soft, timid. There’s no danger. It’s not until you listen on decent speakers that “Warning Sign” begins to suggest a darkness that threatens to envelope you if you stand too close. Surely, the fans who have applauded Teen Top’s new direction with this release are plugging into their A/V systems.

But it's a big risk! Pop music succeeds by becoming ubiquitous, and rule number one is to create a low barrier of entry. Forget being the boldest and the brightest, a large number of casual listeners to this single will hear only a muffled bass line with soft vocals over the top. It’s a more mature release, and a change from their previous Brave Sound music, but it’s almost as if Teen Top didn’t want to be noticed.

Zander Stachniak is a southern-born, Chicago-based writer who first discovered Kpop through ShoutCast Radio. His biases are f(x) and Block B.


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