Though I constantly say I’m not looking to pick up any more K-pop groups, I’ve been curious about HOT ISSUE’s debut. So far this year, I’ve written twice as many posts for male artists as I have for female artists. Therefore, I’m genuinely excited to see another girl group arrive on the scene. I’ll admit, I did have some pre-conceived notions because I heard they were created by one of the co-founders of Cube Entertainment… and they just so happen to share their name with an iconic song by Cube’s very first girl group. (That would be 4Minute, who was active from 2009-2016.) Whether that’s coincidence or not, I feel like it was kind of unfair to name them that since it’s somewhat burdensome. Thankfully, their debut will help them take a solid step towards establishing their own unique group identity.
Girl crush is all the rage these days, so it’s not that surprising that HOT ISSUE has gone that route for their debut. I know some people are kind of over it by now, but it’s actually my preferred concept. I loved it back before it was popular, and I still do. I just really enjoy powerful songs that show girl groups at their strongest and sassiest, and “GRATATA” certainly fits that category. HOT ISSUE is practically bursting with energy as they enthusiastically jump and stomp around to the powerful percussion. While it’s nice that the music has some gentler moments, I immensely appreciate that they’re going for a full-on badass kind of song. A lot of “girl crush” these days is actually a mixture of girl crush and cute, which is great in its own way. But there’s just something about going all out and being 100% fierce that really resonates with me. So in terms of the music, I’m totally on board.
Unfortunately, there’s a major part of HOT ISSUE’s debut that I’m not keen on. When I heard the first line “I’m a famous sniper” (said in English), I quickly realized the theme of this song is that HOT ISSUE wants to metaphorically shoot their way into their fans hearts. I’m also pretty sure that them saying “GRATATA” is supposed to sound like rapid-fire bullets, and the choreography has so many moments of them making guns with their hands and pretending to shoot. It makes me rather uncomfortable, and that’s because I’m from the U.S. – a place where gun violence is a huge issue, especially now. Korea is much safer than most places I’ve lived, so I understand whoever put this concept together probably hasn’t had to worry about someone pulling a gun on them. However, it’s still quite awkward for me to watch.
I was actually surprised that I had such a strong reaction to the gun-like movements in “GRATATA,” because it’s never happened to me before. While I would never personally own a gun, I don’t have a problem with seeing them in pop culture. I watch fantasy and action movies all the time without blinking an eye, and I even play shooter style video games occasionally. Plus I’ve seen a fair amount of K-pop choreographies with these moves before. I can’t think of many examples right now, but I know BLACKPINK did the finger guns in both “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and “Kill This Love.” Red Velvet did it in “Bad Boy,” thought it was more subtle. I think EVERGLOW has done it for one of their songs, but I can’t remember which. And I haven’t posted about ITZY’s “In the Morning” yet, but shooting guns is also one of their key point moves.
Truthfully, none of the gun-like movements I’ve seen in other K-pop dances ever bothered me in the past. (Well, I’m still on the fence about ITZY… but I’ll get to that in my post about them.) So, I was wondering why it was such an issue for me with “GRATATA.” Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I believe it ultimately boils down to the way it’s handled. Most of the choreographies I mentioned only use the finger guns or shooting motions for short specific moments, but it constantly happens in “GRATATA.” I feel like they’re making a gun every 10-20 seconds once they hit the first chorus, and it’s just way too much. It’s a shame because the choreography matches the music so well, and there are a lot of parts that caught my eye. Half of those finger guns aren’t even necessary; the movements would still look cool without them.
Similarly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the music video. The people in charge could have taken the lyrics of “GRATATA” and turned them into a whole visual concept. They could have done a music video about them being spies or characters in a video game or something like that, and it would have worked perfectly. I probably wouldn’t have even had a problem, because it would have been clearly framed in a pop culture context. But the music video lacks a strong concept and production design, and it mostly just shows the girls dancing or posing. They shout, “I’m going to shoot shoot shoot / You’re going to boom boom boom / We’re going to bang bang bang” while firing off their finger guns. (Those lyrics are in English, by the way.) And there’s something about it that just feels really off to me.
To be clear, I don’t think this is HOT ISSUE’s fault at all. I know they’re young girls who are freshly debuted, and they don’t have creative control over anything. And like I said, they live in a country where guns are mostly seen in video games, movies, and dramas – I’m very aware they have no frame of reference. However, I’m fully side-eyeing the people who put this whole debut together. “GRATATA” is not the kind of song that will probably be a hit with the Korean general public, so it’s safe to assume they’re aiming towards more international (read: Western) audiences. And it just feels like yet another time when people in K-pop desire to “go global,” but their lack of knowledge/awareness of the world outside of Korea prevents them from seeing how some of their intended demographic might actually perceive their work.
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.)
|Dance||Not My Style|
I feel bad because I really wanted to like HOT ISSUE’s debut. It’s clear they have a lot of talent and potential, and I did enjoy the composition and sound of the song itself. But sadly, I really just can’t get past the gun references. Like I said, I don’t care if it’s just a move or two in the choreography or if there’s a clear non-real world context. And if their music video had been made with a video game or action movie concept, I seriously wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But the sniper thing is literally all the comeback is about, from the lyrics of the song to the choreography, and it just doesn’t sit right with me. That being said, this is 100% a personal thing. I’m sure there are other American and Western K-pop fans who won’t have an issue with this at all; in fact, I sincerely hope there are. While I won’t spend a lot of time on this debut, I wish HOT ISSUE all the best. And I’m looking forward to their next release, which hopefully won’t be so gun-happy.
(“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: Featured image and music video belong to S2 Entertainment.