Brave Girls – ‘Summer Queen’ review: resurgent girl group make a euphoric bid for the throne

Fresh from the second life their viral hit ‘Rollin’’ handed them, K-pop’s new favourite underdogs stay true to themselves but prove they’ve got more up their sleeves

If you’d asked Brave Girls four months ago what they’d be doing this summer, their answers likely wouldn’t have included asserting themselves as the rulers of the sunny season. In February the four-piece, who have been together as the current lineup since 2016, were about to disband thanks to the obscurity they’d fallen into within the K-pop scene. Then, a miraculous resurgence – their 2017 single ‘Rollin’’ suddenly went viral thanks to a fan-edited video doing the rounds on YouTube.

Now, here they are, with a chart-topping single and South Korean music show wins under their belts, plus a renewed interest in what comes next for Brave Girls. Will the perennial underdogs be able to capitalise on their second chance, or will viral fame slip away just as quickly as it first arrived? On their fifth mini-album ‘Summer Queen’, the group opt for the former option, making a confident and bright play to stay on our playlists at least until autumn returns.

“We want to establish ourselves as the group people think about during the summer,” leader Minyoung said during their media showcase last week (June 17). ‘Summer Queen’ won’t harm that ambition – it’s a record that feels ready-made for listening to at the beach, by the pool and on sticky nights when the day’s heat is replaced with an electric energy. It’s also a record of variety, refusing to settle into any one summery groove.

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The title track ‘Chi Mat Ba Ram’ takes the form of an exuberant tropical house song whose energy is impossible to not get swept along by. Its sound isn’t exactly “on trend” for 2021, but somehow that makes it work all the more – Brave Girls aren’t playing up to what’s cool to keep their momentum going, just pulling big, euphoric bangers out of the bag that could land in any era. It only falters on the English version, whose lyrics feel more stilted than the Korean original.

‘Pool Party’ – which features a great cameo from Brave Entertainment labelmate and DKB rapper E-Chan – dials things back to ’80s-inspired synth-pop and wouldn’t sound out of place on Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Emotion’ album, while ‘Summer By Myself’ brings together city pop and new jack swing, and ‘Fever’ delves into balmy disco. There are elements of second-generation K-pop throughout, but instead of feeling dated and old, Brave Girls make everything sound as fresh as hearing it for the first time.

Lyrically, though, there’s less range. All of the songs detail some version of a moment of love under the sun – on ‘Chi Mat Ba Ram’, Minyoung sings: “Love comes to me too / The hot sun shines / It’s a beautiful summer night.” Later, on ‘Summer By Myself’, Eunji tells us: “Under the dazzling sunlight, I will confess my love / This feeling of walking on the cloud.”

In many ways, ‘Fever’ is the record’s most adventurous track – in its lyrics, its sound and in Yujeong’s ultra cool rap verse. Here, Brave Girls conspire to beckon you away from a life of predictability, even if just for one night, and into a world of rule-breaking and running wild. “So dangerous, somebody call 911 / I thought I got burned,” Yujeong drawls as things heat up. “Make way for the ambulance / The atmosphere is lit, so fabulous.”

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Although there is the occasional moment of misfire across its five tracks, ‘Summer Queen’ is more than strong enough to keep the hype around K-pop’s biggest resurgence. Brave Girls should start polishing their crowns – their ascendance to the queens of summer is almost complete.

Details

brave girls summer queen comeback review
  • Release date: June 17
  • Record label: Brave Entertainment
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