When news broke that SM Entertainment’s rookie girl group aespa – the four-piece comprising Karina, Giselle, Winter and NingNing – were going down the remake route for their sophomore single, it’s safe to say that fans’ interests were piqued. But it went through the roof when it was revealed exactly who the girls were going to cover – for a group that debuted less than three months ago, it’s no easy feat covering a song written and performed by the same person who co-wrote their debut single, ‘Black Mamba’.
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The person in question is Yoo Young-jin, a senior songwriter/producer at SM Entertainment, who BoA once named as being at the top of the “pecking order inside the agency”. Yoo’s songwriting and producing credits span just about the entire history of SM, from ’90s K-pop legends like H.O.T., S.E.S and Shinhwa, to new(er) blood like EXO, Red Velvet and NCT. Certainly no pressure there, girls.
The original song in question: ‘Forever’, which was part of ‘Winter Vacation In SMTOWN.com’, SM’s 2000 winter holiday compilation. Its sentimental, upbeat melody is certainly reminiscent of early 2000s pop standards, with a bit of a quirky twist towards the end during the ending narration (yes, narration).
The 2021 makeover by aespa, which was produced by Yoo himself, is a departure from both the image and sound the group presented in ‘Black Mamba’. Here, the quartet trade fierce beats and strong, soaring vocals for a sweet, laid-back vibe, ideal for the late winter season. Instead of the original’s overbearing drum-heavy tune, the remake sounds much more refined and pleasant to the ears. It complements instead of being overpowering, allowing the group’s feminine touch to really shine.
However, the essence of the original song has mostly been kept intact through this remake. There are no new rap verses or chasing of current trends, for example, as other K-pop groups may have chosen to do. This, of course, could have been an executive decision by Yoo, but it is also one that gives the aespa members a chance to showcase their vocal ranges. Karina and Giselle may be known as the group’s rappers, but in ‘Forever’, their vocals are pretty much on par with vocalists Winter and Ningning, particularly in the ad-libbing heard midway.
Though the song tells the story of a wintry romance, there are some lyrics that could also bring some warmth and encouragement in our current global climate (“I know this journey can be hard and lonely at times / You can lean on my shoulder then / I want to be on your side”). The other good thing? No (out of place) narration at the end of the song.
Overall, the remake manages to do justice to the original, and may even be a little more believable, thanks to aespa’s sweet, girlish charms. This is an interesting way to showcase a different side of the group, who still have many more facets of themselves to show as they continue their musical journey.