Girl groups in the K-pop world are a dime in a dozen. With new ones sprouting on the scene every other day, there are only so few who can successfully grasp the attention of the listening public. STAYC, the first-ever girl group formed by hitmaking duo Black Eyed Pilseung’s new company High Up Entertainment, managed to capture lightning in a bottle the first time around and they plan on continuing their hot streak with their second single album ‘STAYDOM’.
Fair enough, compared to other rookies on the scene STAYC already had the upper hand at debut: their team’s ace, former child actress Park Si-eun, who is also the daughter of veteran singer Park Namjung, helped boost the group’s recognition even before they hit the stage. Not to mention that BEP – aka Rado and Choi Kyu Sung – are their mentors and producers, adding another star to their cred. But STAYC’s own popularity seems to naturally stem from the fact that they’re a genuinely talented group – everything else is just an added bonus.
The six-piece’s sophomore single album ‘STAYDOM’, released just five months after their breakout hit, marks another huge leap in the girl group’s burgeoning career. Gone are the electropop dramatics featured on ‘So Bad’ – their first single album release which also included the suave B-side ‘Like This’ – and say hello to a more mellowed version of STAYC. However, the slight sonic shift shouldn’t take anyone by surprise – in January, the girl group unveiled an unplugged version of ‘So Bad’ showcasing their range; as good as they are in delivering dance pop bangers, they’re also equally great in a more stripped-down setting.
While ‘STAYDOM’ isn’t exactly all barebones, its lead single ‘ASAP’ is considerably low-key compared to its predecessor. Even the instrumental hook that arrives post-chorus is more laid-back, with its twinkly 8-bit-inspired ringtone melody. At times, though, it seems like ‘ASAP’ doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be, trapped between a cutesy bubblegum pop production and a sensual summer jam. Yet the confusion results in a joyful synthy ride that becomes strangely addictive over time, a kind of spell that can only be cast by wizards like BEP.
However, tucked away underneath ‘ASAP’ is the delicate, cruisy bop ‘Love Fool’, which is easily the best song on ‘STAYDOM’. Another winning production helmed by BEP, the track is an example of how each STAYC member complements one another – the vocally diverse sextet aren’t forced to sing outside of their comfort zone, instead, they’re allowed to bring their distinct persona to the song. The huskiness of J’s voice transitions smoothly into Sieun’s high-pitched verse before Seeun and Isa’s breathy flow come in naturally later.
The only misstep on ‘STAYDOM’ appears on the bouncy second track ‘So What’, where Auto-Tune is applied to J’s perfectly fine deep vocals. It takes this reviewer out for a second from fully enjoying the song, her brash verses standing out from everyone else’s normal-sounding lines, but when the worst is over, ‘So What’ is an absolute delight. Though given BEP’s track record and experience, the faux pas is a major rookie mistake.
At the tail end, ‘STAYDOM’ sneaks in the TAK remix of ‘So Bad’ which the group debuted earlier this year during a special performance on the SBS music programme Inkigayo. It’s a nice treat for fans who enjoyed the live version and is a hopeful preview of STAYC’s future, if they ever decide to go down a darker pop-meets-EDM-hip-hop route someday. While STAYC might playfully declare things are “going down” in their slogan, ‘STAYDOM’ proves otherwise, because it’s only up from here on for the girl group.
- Release date: April 8
- Record label: High Up Entertainment