In the music industry, nobody’s doing it like LOONA — and that statement is not a hyperbole, but a plain reality. The group, albeit not yet as popular in their home country as some of their counterparts, has excelled at showcasing uniqueness in every single artistic angle: a mix of ethereal and elevating sounds with fresh, banging beats, astounding visual content with an underlying fictional storyline that has been developed since the beginning of the group, lyrical content filled with fleshed-out metaphors, live performances with extremely detailed choreography that’s carried out alluringly thanks to the members’ singing and dancing skills, and undeniable star power and charisma that’s present in every single one of the 12 components that form LOONA.
While LOONA has been making waves all over the Internet thanks to its highly dedicated international fanbase, each one of their projects have seen their popularity and success grow exponentially. Last year, in October, the group released their third mini-album titled 12:00 (read as ‘Midnight’) — and not only did they become the first-ever fourth-generation Korean girl group in history to debut into the U.S. Billboard Top 200 albums chart, but they also managed to crack the American Top 40 in radio with their English track ‘Star.’
After gaining enough steam to launch a new project and seeing the return of beloved member and vocal powerhouse HaSeul after a two-year break, LOONA has finally made a comeback to music on June 28th with their brand new mini-album & (read as “AND”) which brings together many of the factors that have taken the group to artistic greatness to present yet another quality recipe.
Concept Photo – "LOOПΔ"
— 이달의 소녀(LOOΠΔ) (@loonatheworld) June 23, 2021
&: TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW
The opening track for this project continues with the LOONA tradition of getting started with an instrumental that sets the tone for what’s to come — this time, though, it feels more cinematographic and dramatic than ever. Wolves howling, screeching metals and distorted vocals are only some of the elements that can be heard in the introduction to this mini-album with a clear build-up for some epic and grandiose musical moments.
“PTT (Paint The Town)”
“Paint The Town” is meant to follow your typical contemporary K-Pop “girl crush” concept with a military beat. However, the heavy Bollywood inspirations make for a more distinctive production that doesn’t let the listener breathe for a single second throughout the track. The chorus ends up feeling a bit anticlimactic after a huge buildup due to the use of onomatopoeias, which LOONA had perfectly incorporated into their previous title track “Why Not”, and it does feel like a fully-sang chorus would have made the climax of the song more satisfying. However, it’s commendable that there are so many layers involved and they never end up conflicting with each other. The track has a clear vision, and it’s fully realized.
A clear stand-out moment in “Paint The Town” is the bridge, perhaps the most immersive aspect in the whole single. Although this song may not necessarily appeal to the classic LOONA spirit, it’s clear that it intends to catch the attention of new ears — and on that note, we can safely say that due to its over-the-top nature and its catchiness, it’ll be very successful.
LOONA refuses to slow down after the three-minute adrenaline of “Paint The Town” in the euphoric, joyous “WOW.” This track features a New Jack Swing style, perhaps an homage to the group’s beginnings and a much-improved callback to first member HeeJin’s solo single ‘ViViD’ and YeoJin’s ‘Kiss Later.’ This song is fast-paced, loud, and a great example of what the group has to offer in their cheekiest, most amusing side.
One of the strongest suits in “WOW” is the seamless blend of harmonies — a remarkable characteristic that’s ever-present in LOONA’s music, and one that feels worthy of applause due to the various combinations within the members of the group that have had great results. Additionally, the occasional implementation of a piano elevates the track beyond its limits — contributing to the overall upbeat feeling. We’ll have to be on the lookout for LOONA’s performances of this song, as they’re sure to be a fun time.
“Be Honest” is yet another highly entertaining, bubbly moment in this mini-album. The vocals are sweet and the retro sounds are very reminiscent of earlier eras in the K-Pop scene — in the best possible way. From the get-go, this song transports the audience to a summertime road trip to the beach while not falling under expectable clichés and including some unexpected elements on the way.
“Dance On My Own”
LOONA once again provides their fanbase with a track fully sung in English in “Dance On My Own.” Lyrically, the song is loyal to the group’s dedication to promoting self-love and independence with simple yet effective lines such as “I don’t wanna be somebody / Who lets somebody hold me if they hold me back.” Production-wise, it fits the current state of chart-topping Western pop music with an underlying trap beat that’s accompanied by a quite sweet vocal delivery.
“Dance On My Own” is not necessarily the highest point in this mini-album, and perhaps it would have benefitted from a longer duration and a different bridge to switch up the beat and flow of the track. Still, it’s a well-crafted pop song that lets its singers shine and exude personality at all times.
“A Different Night”
K-pop ballads can be very hit-or-miss. Fortunately, this has never been an issue for LOONA, having in their repertoire mind-blowing good slow-paced tracks like “Sonatine” and “Fall Again” — and it’s clear they’re still exceptional at them in “A Different Night.” The chorus of this track is absolutely mesmerizing, carried out by the powerful voices of members Chuu and Kim Lip.
“A Different Night” manages to convey emotion perfectly thanks to the atmospheric instrumentation and the energetic vocal ability of its performers. A rather quiet electric guitar wraps up the song as the cherry on top — and it helps leave no question in the fact that the song is a perfect example of the group’s range and talent.
For the final act in this 7-song project, LOONA wraps up the record with yet another sweet, nostalgic-feeling track in “U R.” This song begins with member Go Won’s unmistakable vocals front and center and an already flawless delivery that sets the tone appropriately. In regards to the lyrical content, this song is by far the superior piece in the whole mini-album: it is a touching love letter that we can choose to interpret towards a significant other, a friend, the fans, or the artists themselves — and it contains several references to celestial objects, following a common theme in the group’s discography that’s always integrated interestingly in the artistic direction of each project.
“U R” largely feels like watching a sky full of stars, making for a rather ethereal experience. The classic components of a ballad are very much present during the whole song, but they’re combined with a lo-fi style that balances the emotional aspect with the relaxed feel. Ultimately, it was a great choice to wrap up a wildly diverse project and, whether intentional or not, it finds success in leaving the audience looking forward to an immediate second listen.
Concept Photo – "LOOПΔ"
— 이달의 소녀(LOOΠΔ) (@loonatheworld) June 9, 2021
LOONA’s fourth mini-album & is the latest addition to a collection of musical and visual art that continues on a trend of experimentation and versatility. This project shows the girl group at its hungriest, where every single facet is turned up to the max — and it leaves the door open for, hopefully, a future full-length debut album that can wholly showcase everything that makes LOONA the ultimate supergroup in the K-Pop scene.
Featured Image Credit: BlockBerry Creative/LOONA