When GFRIEND disbanded last year, it seemed like its six members might go the same way as GOT7 – each pursuing their own separate paths. By September, news of Yerin, Sowon and Yuju’s individual deals with new agencies was announced but, a month later, the remaining half of the group – Eunha, SinB and Umji – bucked the trend of going solo and signed with BPM Entertainment as a new three-piece group.
A little over four months later and, as VIVIZ, the trio are still bucking trends. In an era for K-pop where “girl group” is almost synonymous with “girl crush concept”, the re-debuting singers have gone for something refreshingly different – no concept at all, allowing themselves to embody whatever style or attitude they like at any given point in their journey.
“We decided not to determine our colour and direction a specific way,” Umji told Dazed Korea last year. “We want to try as many things as our ability can reach.” Despite no concise identity being chosen from the outset, their debut mini-album ‘Beam Of Prism’ offers some strong hints as to what the VIVIZ DNA is – bright, upbeat and fun.
Their debut release is an aptly named record. It shines strongly with the kind of rejuvenated spirit that comes from having your dreams resuscitated and given a second life, but its glow isn’t straightforward, bending and twisting in unexpected ways as if it’s being shone against the titular prism. It’s softly unpredictable in places, but in a way that pulls you in rather than keeps you at arm’s length.
‘BOP BOP!’, the mini-album’s title track, is the strongest example of this. As it’s title suggests, it’s an exuberant and infectious introduction – a bop so strong they named it twice, you could say. But it also features moments of invention and creativity between its hooks. The reversed effect on the opening vocals is a refreshing production choice that makes things instantly intriguing, all tied together by a retro disco-pop sound not too far away from GFRIEND’s final title track, ‘Mago’.
Echoes of GFRIEND can be heard elsewhere on ‘Beam Of Prism’, most notably on closing track ‘Mirror’. It shares the old group’s elegance and heartfelt approach, layers of strings floating beneath VIVIZ’s tale of battling against fear and low self-confidence to find strength within yourself. “When the darkness comes, the mirror shows myself,” Umji and Eunha sing on its chorus. “I will find another me that has been locked inside myself.”
Finding a new version of themselves is a task that gets explored on the rest of the record. ‘Tweet Tweet’ is cooler and more mysterious, the three members casting an alluring spell through sleek future bass that leaves you ready to blindly follow Umji’s command to “Follow my trick, be enchanted”. ‘Lemonade’, meanwhile, is a gently bubbling piece of ’80s synth-pop that keeps the enigmatic feeling running high, while the Umji co-write ‘Love You Like’ is a sweet, optimistic slice of dreamy folk-tinged pop.
There are moments that feel like missed opportunities, though. If expanded into a full song, the vaporwave synths and funk bass of ‘Intro’ could make for perhaps one of the most interesting songs in recent K-pop, while ‘Fiesta’ dips a bit too deeply into the pot of retro sounds, pulling out something that falls just on the wrong side of cheesy in its piercing, trumpeting synths.
Still, these are minor gripes on a mini-album that does a solid job at re-introducing its performers in a new context. As the group themselves have noted, it’s rare for singers to be given a second chance at debuting – especially as a team – but, so far, VIVIZ are making the most of this opportunity in spectacular form.
- Release date: February 9
- Record label: Big Planet Made