Cosmic Girls is pretty high up on my list of K-pop groups that I think need more attention. They’re doing pretty well for themselves, and their names are fairly known within the industry… but after five years of activity, I don’t think they’ve gotten the recognition that they deserve. They’ve never had that one hit that would put them on the same level as other famous girl groups that debuted around the same time. And it’s a shame, because their music is SO GOOD! I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again: “Butterfly” had all the makings of a classic girl group song, and it should have launched them to stardom. (Well technically, that should have happened years ago… but you know what I mean.) Anyway, I’m always excited for a Cosmic Girls comeback, so I was eagerly anticipating “Unnatural.”
In terms of the music itself, “Unnatural” seems like new territory for Cosmic Girls. Over the years, their lead singles have usually fallen into two categories. The first is fresh and bubbly (and a little more cutesy in their early days), like “Mo Mo Mo,” “I Wish,” “Happy,” “Boogie Up,” etc. The second is more ethereal and kind of otherwordly to match their original zodiac/outer space concept; songs like these include “Secret” (MY FAVORITE), “Dreams Come True,” “Save Me Save You,” and “As You Wish.” Their new single, on the other hand, is a classy dance jam tinged with just a bit of a retro feel. Since Cosmic Girls’ last full-group single “Butterfly” was a bright positive anthem about growing up, the glamorous and sophisticated vibes of “Unnatural” definitely seem like the next logical step in their artistic journey.
Though lyrics don’t really play a factor in how much I like a K-pop song or not, I do enjoy the subject of the aptly named “Unnatural” – it’s about how you feel unsettled around someone you like and how you can’t seem to behave normally when they’re around, plus the frustration of knowing that person can probably always tell you’re being awkward. While this isn’t so applicable to me now after years of dating experience and a long-term relationship, reading these lyrics summoned some super cringy memories of how I acted around my crushes from middle school all the way up to college. So I think this is a song anyone can relate to for sure; if you’re not going through it now, you’ve definitely been through it before.
As relatable as “Unnatural” is, the one drawback is that it’s hard for Cosmic Girls to express the lyrics with the tried and true K-pop formula. To be fair, I don’t believe the visual aspects of a comeback have to highlight and mirror the lyrics of the song in order to be successful. I always think it’s awesome when they do, but it’s more like a bonus; it doesn’t negatively affect anything if they don’t. However, I do feel like there’s a pretty big disconnect between what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing with “Unnatural.” The members of Cosmic Girls are gorgeous, and it’s always hard to imagine such beautiful women ever being awkward when they’re dressed up so glamorously and look so perfect. And it’s not like they can convey the lyrics through the choreography, because K-pop dancing always has to look flawless. (Though I appreciate that whoever was in charge of the choreography did put in some unique looking key point moves.)
Personally, I get this feeling most from the music video because there isn’t really anything “unnatural” about it. I see sets and shots that suggest the members of Cosmic Girls are maybe supposed to look like mannequins or dolls, but the video doesn’t follow through on that and it’s not super obvious. Which is I think is a shame, because it would have been super cool if that they had expanded that concept – like if they showed the members acting normal and animated around each other, but then turning stiff and clearly posed like a mannequin whenever a potential romantic interest is nearby. That’s just the film school graduate in me throwing out a quick idea, but I think there are plenty of interesting ways this music video could have depicted the “unnatural” aspect of the song without making the members actually look awkward.
Again, I want to emphasize that this is an observation I had and it’s not a criticism at all. I really like this comeback, but the disparity between the song’s theme and its portrayal was just something that really stood out to me in my initial reaction. For the record, I think the music video is very nice: the girls are stunning, the shots are amazing, the production design is detailed, and the choreography looks fantastic. I mostly feel “neutral” about it because I’m clearly not the target audience, and therefore I don’t feel inclined to watch it over and over. I’m just bringing all this up because I think there was a missed opportunity to really link the song and the music video together. Since Cosmic Girls’s music videos often have such interesting and compelling storylines, I really wanted this one to be the same. A music video with a pretty aesthetic is good, but it could have been great.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
“Unnatural” isn’t my absolute favorite Cosmic Girls comeback, though it definitely ranks in the Top 5. But since I’ve been following them from the start, I’m impressed by how much growth this release shows. There’s a lot of progress – not only in the mature upgrade to the music and outfits, but also just in the group’s general distribution. Starship Entertainment seems to be one of those kinds of agencies that tend to push whichever member has the most visibility. Ever since Cosmic Girls got reorganized into a 10-person group (gah I miss the Chinese members), most of the focus has been split between rising actress/visual Bona and former I.O.I member Yeonjung. So I’m pleased to see that the overall distribution for “Unnatural” is a lot more balanced than it was in the past. Everyone gets a good amount of lines, screen/center time, and at least one standout moment – and I love to see it.
“Unnatural” is very much the kind of comeback that a girl group does when they’re ready to transition into the veteran stage of their careers: intense and sexy enough to show audiences that they’re adult women now, but just upbeat enough so that it doesn’t seem like too drastic a change. Many girl groups have successfully matured their images by doing this kind of in-between styles comeback. I’m reminded of TWICE doing “Fancy,” GFriend dropping “Mago,” and even Apink coming out with “I’m So Sick” several years ago. (While I don’t think any of these sound like “Unnatural,” they share similar aesthetics and energy.) I genuinely hope Cosmic Girls will have similar favorable results. While I’m not sure this will ultimately. be the breakout hit they deserve – although it SHOULD be – I think it’s a song they can definitely be proud of.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to Starship Entertainment.