Few have dominated the K-pop stratosphere in their first year as IVE have. Having made their official debut in November last year with ‘Eleven’ and maintaining immense momentum with the atmospheric luxury of ‘Love Dive’, they’ve essentially skyrocketed to unmistakable stardom; every song they’ve put out so far has been a hit.
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The instant success IVE have enjoyed so far can grow into pressure to maintain constant output with the same level of grandiosity. As the stakes continue to rise, however, the Starship Entertainment six-piece – Wonyoung, Rei, Leeseo, Yujin, Liz and Gaeul – only continue to prove their mettle, this time with their latest single album ‘After LIKE’.
On the new record, IVE continue to weave the rich tapestry of textured electronic instrumentation they’ve established in their first two comebacks, this time applying it to a nu-disco sound on its title track. What makes ‘After LIKE’ stand out from the other players in this field of retrofuturism is its generous sampling of Gloria Gaynor’s iconic 1978 hit ‘I Will Survive’, a song widely considered to have marked the beginning of the disco era.
They further texturise ‘I Will Survive’’s signature flurry of swelling strings with layers upon layers of feverish synthesisers and house flourishes. With IVE’s dulcet harmonies added to the mix, the group have a powerful, elegant confessional anthem on their hands: “Twice, thrice, don’t ask me again / You know what my strength is? It’s that I’m honest / Don’t try to doubt what I just said / It’s beyond like, what’s after like?”
IVE continue their nu-disco streak with B-side dance pop track ‘My Satisfaction’, although it takes a darker, more sultry approach. After two comebacks of songs following a similar template of trademark tempo and style variations, ‘My Satisfaction’ is the song that has deviated the most from IVE’s signature vibe so far.
A dark force to be reckoned with sits beneath the synth-filled surface, threatening to break through the surface as IVE’s almost sinister vocal tones set its femme fatale tone. The vocal variation in ‘My Satisfaction’ strays from IVE’s hallmark of sharp soprano notes, offering a gruffer, richer cadence that still doesn’t threaten the chic brand of charisma they’ve been building up through their music so far. Instead, it adds a new depth to this image – “I’m sure of myself every moment / I’m more confident than scared / I’m unaware about fear,” as they put it.
As a collection of songs, ‘After LIKE’ is a fitting third chapter of the musical journey IVE have already taken us on in the months since their debut. This is an arc in their story where they blossom as young women well-accustomed to the nuances of love, all while developing their own signature sounds and visual concepts. The six-piece have been going full speed ahead since the release of ‘Eleven’, and from the sounds of ‘After LIKE’, they aren’t planning on hitting the brakes anytime soon.