While fun, TRI.BE’s maximalist pop on ‘Rub-A-Dum’ lacks creativity and imagination

The septet’s attempt to replicate their debut success on their sophomore offering ‘Conmigo’ proves to be a less successful follow-up

TRI.BE might be one of the many new girl groups on the K-pop scene, but the seven-member act have put the past three months since their debut to good use. The brainchild of hitmaking producer Shinsadong Tiger and EXID’s LE, the group have already returned with their sophomore single album ‘Conmigo’, which features the audacious lead single ‘Rub-A-Dum’ and the B-side ‘Loro’.

The music video for ‘Rub-A-Dum’ opens with the septet dressed in eye-catching colours, taking turns on a jump rope. The set draws heavily from Arabic architecture, mirroring the song’s Middle Eastern-inspired hook, with bright Persian carpets and traditional parasols transporting the idols to another world, one that marks a striking departure from the futuristic theme seen in their debut song ‘Doom Doom Ta’.

What remains, however, is the group’s eclectic, maximalist aesthetic taste. The girls strike poses in a sparsely furnished mansion, frolic through beaches and meadows and finally face off with carbon copies of themselves, teleported via a bolt of lightning from a UFO. The visuals are arresting and the production is strident – in these areas, TRI.BE are definitely ones to watch among K-pop’s up-and-coming fourth generation.

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But look a little closer and ‘Rub-A-Dum’ starts to flounder in the interstices. Each section of the song carries its own distinct flavour, such as leader Songsun’s feathery vocals in the song’s bridge, right before pumping house beats return followed by a half-time breakdown, but the song is weakest at its seams. When consumed as a whole, however, these varied, fragmented sections make for a confusing piece, with the pounding percussion barely holding everything together.

‘Rub-A-Dum’ tries to hide behind its inoffensive production by relying on soaring ad libs during the choruses, much like the hits from co-producer LE’s girl group EXID. However, without the support of an undeniable vocal powerhouse like EXID’s Solji, the group’s layered vocal tracks remain cloying and indistinguishable in what should have been a single member’s moment in the limelight.

And perhaps Shinsadong Tiger is aware of this too, choosing instead to drown the final moments with relentless production. A waste of a perfectly serviceable counterpoint, too, as the idols play on a refreshing, newfound melody line for just a few bars during the bridge before the refrain returns.

From the house-heavy pre-chorus to a chanting hook, ‘Rub-A-Dum’ draws from Shingsadong Tiger’s tried-and-tested formula of wordless, instrumental-driven choruses. When employed well, this style has proven to be a great success as seen over the years from the likes of T-ARA’s ‘Roly Poly’ in the early-2010s to Momoland’s 2018 hit ‘Bboom Bboom’. In TRI.BE’s case, however, ‘Rub-A-Dum’ seems more than a little stale, especially compared to the group’s similar (and vasily superior) debut single ‘Doom Doom Ta’.

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In B-side ‘Loro’, or “parrot” in Spanish, the idols sing about finding their confidence on a track that alternates between uplifting phrases and haughty brags. The production is immaculate, as expected, with a bubbly synth quickly evolving into a brassy chorus. While the same issues remain, like the surrendering of a wordless chorus to the work of the producers, the verses offer a chance for Songsun and Kelly to showcase their vocal chops, with minimal interference from instrumentals.

Just like how the K-pop idols wage war on themselves in the video for ‘Rub-A-Dum’, perhaps the only obstacles to superstardom are TRI.BE themselves. With just four original songs out, TRI.BE still have much to prove to the world; but with the level of creative support they enjoy, it’s clear there are bigger (and hopefully better) things in store for them.

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