SM Entertainment’s experiments with supergroups have been famously polarising. When the K-pop megalabel debuted SuperM – a group that combined some of the best talents across K-pop generations – with the bombastic ‘Jopping,’ they clearly intended to appeal to a modernised, global audience. While ambitious, perhaps it also proved counterproductive in places, relying on the concept more than the output.
Fortunately, the company has been far more savvy with GOT The Beat, a sub-unit of the rotational supergroup Girls On Top that features soloist BoA, Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon and Hyoyeon, Red Velvet’s Seulgi and Wendy, and aespa’s Winter and Karina.
GOT The Beat’s debut project expertly harnesses their combined strengths, making for a confident and tightly structured work replete with pleasant surprises. The mesmerising refrain on title track ‘Stamp On It’ serves as a reset button as the group switches genres at warp speed à la Girls’ Generation’s ‘I Got A Boy’. While not laden with the musical whiplashes of the SNSD song, ‘Stamp On It’ is still well-executed, a musical delicacy as intricate as it is delightful.
Meanwhile, the trap and bass-laden ‘Goddess Level’ pumps adrenaline into the veins. Soaring vocals heighten the intensity, while a ridiculously catchy saxophone melody underlines the chorus, the musical equivalent of an arrogant smirk.
Perhaps it’s the combined years of hits that the women of GOT The Beat have under their belts, but the overconfidence this album exudes is anything but off-putting – it even charges familiar sounds with an attractive intensity. The members are beauties wrapped in barbed wire on ‘Rose’, which compares fatalistic beauty to the thorns on said flower. Over luxurious, sensual R&B, the group alternates between low-pitched rapping and sweet, deadly harmonies. “I don’t need to take your love. Don’t, don’t, don’t you know? You bеtter go away,” they declare on the chorus, the vocal harmonies amplifying the menace.
And GOT The Beat are still scathingly blunt even when they explore a more light-hearted sound. On ‘Mala’ – which is very Red Velvet – the melodic vocals, flute melody and heavy bass create a heady concoction. The kaleidoscopic arrangement pulls and pushes, keeping a tight grip on the rap verses and introducing release on the pre-choruses as the members ask us to lose control, just in time for the flute to string it all together.
Kudos is due to the deliberate decision to build most of the album’s songs around standout hooks, such as the saxophone on ‘Goddess Level’ and the flute on ‘Mala’. Even in the songs that falter, interesting hooks help. ‘Alter Ego’ becomes a little predictable in the latter half, but the bass-laden breakbeat saves the momentum. On this track, GOT The Beat wield Dreamcatcher-esque environmental metaphors to emphasise the power of small, deliberate action: “I bring the doom, I bring the bless / That choice is all at my fingertips / On the dry, achromatic earth / The act of planting a single hope (it’s up to me).”
GOT The Beat do stumble, though, on ‘Outlaw’, with its busy arrangement that tries to do too much all at once. Even the commendable vocal variety suffers from elements clamouring to overpower each other.
The strong sonics of ‘Stamp On It’ have made GOT The Beat’s project debut a commanding one – but a question of identity remains. How might this supergroup become more the sum of its extremely talented parts? How do the members’ individual prowess contribute to a collective vision distinct from that of their own groups? The answers may only become clear when SM begins to exercise Girls On Top’s rotational format, but until then, GOT The Beat still deserve praise for a job well done.
- Release date: January 16
- Record label: SM Entertainment