sistar19_cover

Tracklist

  1. SISTAR19
  2. 있다 없으니까 (Gone Not Around Any Longer)
  3. 나도 여자인데 (A Girl In Love)
  4. Ma Boy
  5. 있다 없으니까 (Gone Not Around Any Longer) (Inst.)

Review

“Gone Not Around Any Longer” is the 2nd release from Sistar subgroup Sistar19. Compared to Sistar, this subgroup composed of Yoon Bora (Bora) and Kim Hyo Jung (Hylolyn) evokes a sexier, more mature image. If Sistar19 were a J-pop duo, then the 19 would be the age of the oldest member, if not the sum of the duo’s ages. Yet while Bora and Hyolyn do aim to capture the essence of 19 year old ‘girls turning into women’, they are actually 22 and 23, giving this more of a ‘American high school sitcoms’ vibe.

Not pictured: Actual teenagers

Not pictured: Actual teenagers

If this were a snarky review, I might say that I am offended by a song so patronizing that it defines ‘Gone’ in the title.  I also might say that intellectual lessons are probably best left to those who have already mastered sitting in a chair.  It’s not clear from watching the video that Bora and Hyolyn have acquired this skill set.

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Also, there have got to be more effective methods for cleaning a table.

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Actually, this song is vulnerable to all sorts of teasing.  Yet the vulnerability on display is exactly what makes the MV so captivating.  On balance, it’s not the most interesting song, but the duo pairs it with a video the pulses with a raw, emotion-laden core.

The instrumentals are simple and hauntingly repetitive, fitting for lyrics constantly evoking loss (있다 없다). It’s a classic R&B ballad, with a huge piano-driven swell in the middle eights that literally causes the MV’s walls to crumble. A saxophone features prominently in the sparse instrumentation, giving the chorus an 80s feel. Hyolyn is frequently cited among the best female vocalists in K-pop and this song gives her a chance to show off her impressive skills without distraction.  Still, I’m personally a fan of songs with more dynamism, so I found this song needlessly boring after only a few listens.

I feel guilty for not saying more about the hyper-sexualization in the video.  Certainly, it’s heavily influenced by Ga-in’s “Bloom: from October 2012, and features sensual depictions of the duo’s sexual desire. There are blindfolded women, the striking contrast of black and white, and a sultry watery motif (It’s a metaphor! For renewal! or…sad!).

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Ga-in’s video sparked a debate about whether or not it is empowering for women to be intimately expressing their desires. As “Bloom” was released almost contemporaneously with Hyuna’s “Ice Cream,” participants had to defend their point of view in lieu of a radically different but equally carnal expression of sexuality There are some excellent points on both sides about differences in audience, cultural norms, and ‘artistry’ (whatever that is), and I really wish I had a stronger opinion on the subject. In the end, I think there are more interesting debates to be had, but I personally love the video.

In particular, the dance is captivatingly visceral. It’s clear from the precision that it’s been highly choreographed, but it’s executed with such emotion that it feels motivated from a place of real emotion. The live performance and dance practice videos have fewer distractions, and I highly recommend viewing them as well.

The rest of the EP stays close to the R&B stylings of the title track.  The self-titled opening track is 45 seconds of vocalization and “A Girl in Love” is a fairly forgettable more upbeat track. The redeeming factor is Bora’s stylized rapping, which swings right along with the beat.  It’s worth a listen to see Sistar19’s other member showing off her skills, but ultimately it fails to rise to the level set by the rest of the album. By contrast, “Ma Boy“, the fourth track on the EP was actually Sistar19’s first single, and is absolutely fantastic. It would fit right in with the tracks from the first two Spice Girls albums, and channels “Naked” to a fairly strong degree.

Sistar have put out some solid releases since their 2010 debut, but they have been unable to crack the upper echelons of K-pop idols, largely owing to their management company not being one of the ‘Big 3’ in Korea.  It’s nice to  see them following the lead of mega-groups like 4minute, Brown Eyed Girls, and Afterschool and forming their own subgroup.  If anything Sistar19 are stronger than their main group, and I hope they continue to put out releases.

Verdict: Starship Entertainment, now the owner’s of the world’s cleanest glass table has crafted an epic MV.

 Gone Not Around Any Longer (Special Photo Edition) 

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Gone Not Around Any Longer (Special Photo Edition) + Photo in Tube

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