Earlier this year, underrated K-pop girl group LABOUM had found themselves at a crossroads eight years into their career. The act’s contracts with longtime agency Global H Media were expiring and, despite their best efforts, they hadn’t quite found the fanfare that had made many of their contemporaries household names.
“We actually talked about disbanding,” member Jinyea (formerly known as ZN) said of the turbulent time in the group’s career, in an interview with SpoTV. In fact, the group’s members had been looking at different career paths, that is until their 2016 release ‘Journey To Atlantis’ suddenly stared to gain traction and eventually rocketed into the Top 10 of the Gaon Digital Chart. It was enough for newly established agency Interpark Music Plus to give the group a chance, in the form of the mini-album ‘Blossom’.
While many K-pop groups try to one-up each other in a world where each release is more energetic and explosive than the last, LABOUM take a step back with a mini-album that’s more stripped-down and laid-back. It gives each members’ vocals more than enough room to truly take center stage – though LABOUM have never claimed to be powerhouses in terms of vocals, and it shows – but ‘Blossom’ thrives on this light, delicate sound.
Title track ‘Kiss Kiss’ is more than enough proof that the quartet’s less is more approach works. Jinyea and Haein’s airy vocals give the track a sense of tenderness (“Your eyes brightly shine on me / No matter how hard I try to run away”), and the scintillating synths help strike the right balance, keeping the production from sounding too sparse.
An initial listen of the mini-album might leave listeners feeling like all the tracks sound almost identical – and that’s not necessarily a inaccurate, with all of them featuring that previously mentioned light, delicate sound – but the strength of ‘Blossom’ largely relies on the nuances of the individual songs coming through over time.
Both ‘How I Wish’ and ‘Repeat’ bring a subtle upbeat energy to an otherwise slow, dreamy-sounding record. ‘How I Wish’ draws influences from city pop, with Soyeon’s higher register and fuller vocals taking center stage. The guitar strumming leading into ‘Repeat’, combined with Haein and Solbin’s deep, rhythmic vocals, build toward a melancholic, R&B-inspired sound that makes it stand out from the rest of the record.
Capping off the record is ‘Love On You’, a smooth and sincere, if somewhat forgettable ballad that’s dedicated to their fans. The acoustic guitar and synths in the latter half of the track complement Soyeon and Haein’s melodic vocals, resulting in a song brimming with optimism and earnestness.
For a record released after a period of uncertainty, and as lovely and heart-warming as ‘Blossom’ is, it comes as a pleasant surprise to see LABOUM taking things slow, assured in their sound. But at the same time, the record at times feels like a missed opportunity to acknowledge and follow the energetic pop sound of ‘Journey To Atlantis’ that rejuvenated their careers.
- Release date: November 3
- Record label: Interpark Music Plus