2017 barely started before AOA dropped some new music. And they gave us two title tracks, no less! I like AOA’s songs and my boyfriend is a big fan (what a surprise), so both of us were anticipating this comeback.
*SPOILER ALERT!* These reviews assume that readers have either heard the song and/or watched the music videos. If you would like to know more about what I look at in my reviews, click here.
AOA’s concept: Sexy. To be more precise, I would say “feminine-sexy” or “girly-sexy.” It’s been working well for them so far, so they haven’t changed concepts.
Producers: Erik Lidbom, Brave Brothers, Han Sung Ho (FNC’s CEO), Kim Chang Rak
Like most of AOA’s hits, “Excuse Me” was composed by Brave Brothers. Compared to the playful “Like a Cat” or the energetic “Heart Attack,” the vocals and general atmosphere seem different from what the group normally goes for. It feels a little more low-key, but it still has that addictive chorus and beat. In true earworm fashion, it’s quite repetitive with much variation. But given the softer nature of the song, it makes sense that they wouldn’t play with it a lot. The only part that was kind of jarring was Chanmi and Jimin’s in the second verse. It would have been better to have them just sing the lines instead of doing something to their voices and rap-singing. On the other hand, I really liked Jimin’s “drop the beat” rap . It shook things up in a good way, and it added a very AOA-like element that’s generally missing from this song. Overall, “Excuse Me” makes some major departures from AOA’s established sound, but it works pretty well.
Producers: Hyuk Shin, Marco Reyes and Nathan David Gaines (Joombas Factory)
“Bing Bing” is more typical of AOA’s style: showy and sexy. Choa belts out her signature high notes, and Jimin peppers the song with her English phrases. “Excuse Me” tries to retain a soft and delicate aura, whereas “Bing Bing” is wilder. There’s a welcome contrast between the flirty and feminine vocals and Jimin’s more loud and proud style. I especially like the part in the chorus where the ladies softly sing “Oooh” while Jimin chants “Hey!” I had the opposite reaction to the rapping here: I do enjoy Chanmi’s bridge part, but I find Jimin’s rap to be a little jarring. She goes for a more natural style like she did it “Good Luck,” and it slightly throws off the rhythm in an otherwise steadily-paced song. However, it does provide a good build to the final chorus and Choa’s high note. It’s not as much of a showstopper as some of AOA’s previous hits, but it’s fun to listen to all the same.
SCORES: “Excuse Me” 15/20 ||||| “Bing Bing” 16/20
*SPOILERS!* This section will discuss how the lyrics in relation to the concept of the MV.
Lyrics: Brave Brothers, Chakun
This song is about falling in love at first sight and being surprised by it. The singer politely implores the object of her affection to notice her, because she’s never felt anything like it. I think the use of “excuse me” (the English phrase) has a really great effect, and adds to the shyer element of the song. The music video draws a great parallel, where the girls play detectives that tracking down someone. Technically they’re supposed to be avoiding grabbing his attention (except for maybe Seolhyun), but it kind of feels like they are seeking it – which goes with the lyrics. I also have to say that I liked how they matched the lyrics to the members somewhat. The vocalists’ lines are more passive and wistful, whereas Chanmi and Jimin are a little bolder. They discuss asking for and giving phone numbers and are basically saying “Hey, notice me!”
Lyrics: Han Sung Ho, Cha Kun, Choi Yung Me (Jam Factory), Lee Seu Ran (Jam Factory), Lee Ji Eun (Music Cube)
I was interested to find that “Bing Bing” has a very similar theme to “Excuse Me”. From what I can gather, this one is about the singer being mesmerized by the object of her affection. The one difference is that the singer knows that she too is mesmerizing. So the lyrics have a lot more confidence and boldness, which naturally corresponds with their sexy image. It also fits well with the magic concept, where magicians have to naturally radiate confidence and put on a good show to draw in an audience.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 6/10 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 6/10
AOA has a pretty standard formula for their title tracks. Choa and Yuna gets the most lines. Hyejeong and Seolhyun generally alternate with them either in the verses or the choruses. Jimin depends on the style of the song, but she usually gets at least a solid verse. And Mina and Chanmi get the short end of the stick with one or two short lines.
In some ways, this hasn’t changed. In fact, the line distribution for “Excuse Me” is exactly what I just wrote. However, the amount of lines that ladies get are more even. Mina and Chanmi still definitely need more, but they actually have decent parts this time around. Mina almost has as much time as Hyejeong in “Bing Bing,” and Chanmi balances her few lines with a couple of center positions in the choreography. Seolhyun’s lines are pretty reduced to make room for the other ladies, but I think that’s fine. She’s the face of the group, so she gets a lot of screen time in the music video.
In general I agree with the way that AOA distributes their lines (aside from the Mina and Chanmi thing), so I thought that these songs were pretty fair. Or at least more fair than in the past. “Excuse Me” will get a slightly better score because the distribution is more even. “Bing Bing” is particularly Jimin-heavy, with her two verses and all of the other stuff she shouts out.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 7/10 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 5/10
I totally get that as a straight female, I’m not really AOA’s intended audience. But there’s a difference in choreography that is enticing and sexy and choreography that is specifically geared to attract the male gaze. AOA’s choreographies generally toe the line, but in both of these dances it’s way too obvious.
AOA has a habit of dancing sexily and looking innocent at the same time, like they have no idea of the effect that they have. This happens “Excuse Me,” where the dance does not match the feel of the song at all. Body waves, light booty popping, and Chanmi swaying her behind during her part look really out of place from the soft and ladylike vocals. The only place where it works is Jimin’s rap (which I love).
As for “Bing Bing,” the dancing is bolder and more confident. The ladies are rocking an “I’m sexy and I know it” feeling. But the dance is literally all about the booty. The entire chorus consists of putting your hands on your head and gently bopping your bum around in a circle, and then turning around doing it again. This kind of choreography just puts all of the focus on how to titillate men, which for me is kind of gross. But maybe the reason that frustrates me is because I know that they’re capable of more.
I will say that there are some parts that I enjoy. I LOVE the cutesy stepping as the key point for “Excuse Me.” It’s super girly and fits the song perfectly. Plus it’s sexy without being too in-your-face.
For “Bing Bing,” I like the part where they swivel their hips. The swiveling motion goes with their singing “Oooooh,” and the rhythm matches Jimin’s “Hey!” I was disappointed that the umbrella dance from the teaser didn’t make an appearance. That was way better than that booty-bopping thing they have going on.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 12/20 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 10/20
CENTER AND FORMATIONS:
AOA has a general pattern with their centers: Seolhyun, Choa, Yuna, Seolhyun. This is the case in both “Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing.” Although I do wish the dance line (Hyejeong and Chanmi) was showcased a little more, I think that the usage of Seolhyun is smart. Showcasing the face of the group at the beginning and ending is a good move, especially since she’s not really prominent for the rest of the song. The formations for both songs are okay, but nothing really stood out to me.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 6/10 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 7/10
I’m really digging the detective concept. It’s a fun story, where the girls track a mysterious man. The editing flows nicely, and their cumulative efforts result in Seolhyun nabbing the guy. (He’s an actor from Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, which I didn’t watch) It does have some funny continuity errors, like Seolhyun’s ever changing hairstyle and Jimin looking for a fingerprint on a cup she’s holding with her bare hand. But overall, you just go along with it. The music video mainly gets props for its on-point production design, though I’m not exactly sure what time period we’re supposed to be in. At first I thought the 40’s because of the sets and decor and then the 60’s because of the color scheme and outfits (I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men recently). A review that I read said 50’s, and then my boyfriend said the 80’s. So we’ll just call it retro and say it’s well-done.
Here the girls are sexy magicians, and each one has a certain dazzling act. They range from classic (Mina’s hat tricks) to showy (Chanmi’s rings) to daring (Seolhyun’s water escape). My personal favorite was Hyejeong spinning on the wheel while someone threw roses at her. There’s no story here; the idea is just to sit back and be mesmerized. The aesthetic reminds me a lot of Now You See Me, with the colder fluorescent lighting. Sometimes magic shows can be all about being flash, and it would have been easy to go that route. AOA can go over the top with the sexy sometimes. But despite the bright lights, they decided to keep things simple fairly classy and it was a good call. The ladies know that they’re hot, and they let it speak for themselves. It’s nice, but I think having some kind of story or narrative would have elevated it.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 17/20 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 15/20
The styling is really great for both numbers. I love the outfits for “Excuse Me”: the sexier signature outfit, the female Sherlock ensemble, and those pinstripe overalls. These costumes are cuter and add to the more delicate and feminine image of the concept.
The outfits for “Bing Bing” are darker and more glamourous. I’m not a huge fan of the trenchcoat outfit as the signature look, but I do like the black leotards.
As for the hair, all of the ladies have opted for more natural colors. Three of them have black hair, three of them have brown hair, and Choa sticks with the blond that she’s become famous for. It’s a nice uniform look. The makeup is always on-point, and in “Bing Bing” they add some glitter to make things a little more glamorous.
Excuse Me – Choa. She fits the concept of the song best, and the color and length of her hair look so amazing on her!
Bing Bing – Seolhyun. I want that sparkly outfit from the beginning of the MV.
SCORES: “Excuse Me,” 9/10 ||||| “Bing Bing,” 8/10
|EXCUSE ME||BING BING|
|Line Distribution (10)||7||5|
|Music Video (20)||17||15|
CONCLUSION: Besides being sexy, AOA has become known for having a specific concept with every comeback. Ever since “Short Hair,” they’re always sexy something or others: sexy cat burglars, sexy lacrosse players, sexy lifeguards, etc. They’re really good at giving each member a specific role or thing to do. These two concepts are no different. AOA is sticking with a formula that’s worked so far for them, and on some levels it still does. But there seems to be a little something missing (my biggest problem is the choreography) which makes it good but not great. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the same concept, but sometimes you get better results when you change it up a little.
Apparently these two songs are not charting well in Korea, but I do enjoy them. I didn’t think that they were as bad as some of the netizen reactions. It just wasn’t as exciting and fun as some of their past hits. I heard today that they got their 1st win on Show Champion, so I hope that continues and that their concert is super successful. Better luck next time, ladies!
Sources: Youtube, FNC Entertainment, MPD/M! Countdown (MNET), Soompi, K-pop K-fans (Blogspot)