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K-Pop Double-Take: HIGH4 Slows Down And Sets The Mood With Their Latest Single 'Day By Day'

By Harper Willis | February 05, 2015 08:17 PM EST

K-Pop Double-Take is a weekly column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.

HIGH4, a K-Pop group comprised of singers Kim Sung Gu and Baek Myeong Han and rappers Im Yeong Jun and Alex, burst onto the scene in April of 2014 with "HIGH HIGH." The six-track EP features a slew of irresistible hits including "Headache," "Not Spring, Love, or Cherry Blossoms" and "A Little Closer."

Considering the breakout success of "HIGH HIGH," it is somewhat surprising that HIGH4 has opted to risk taking a totally different musical approach to their follow up single,

"Day By Day," released on Jan. 5. Whereas "HIGH HIGH" emphasized upbeat tempos, layered hooks, and bombastic production, "Day By Day" is a stripped down, slow-paced R&B ballad that demonstrates patience and restraint.

It's a credit to the band that they can change their musical approach so dramatically and still write a compelling hit.

"Day By Day" does not pander to our modern short-attention spans. It commences with a full minute-and-a-half introduction of sparsely arranged strings, crooning vocals and soft rapping before the beat drops. Some listeners might not have the patience for a build up this long, but others will no doubt find it a welcome change from productions that deliver a non-stop onslaught of competing musical ideas right from the start.

"Day By Day" is built on top of a Roland TR-808 drum machine, a nods to American hip-hop crooners like Frank Ocean and Drake that deliver hooky vocal melodies and laid back raps over minimalist, kick and bass oriented productions.

As a result of the stripped back production, each part takes on a additional musical significance.

The sparse arrangement leaves space for the low end, emphasizing the body and depth of the 808 kick drum, the cornerstone of the track. In the re-intro, a simple lead synth melody forms the central instrumental hook-a simple and effective melody that would have been buried in a denser arrangement.

Perhaps most noticeably, the lead vocals on "Day By Day" aren't constantly doubled or harmonized as is frequently done in K-pop. As a result, each member's performance becomes more personal and intimate. As each new part enters (backing vocals, piano, synth melodies), the song clearly builds from one section to the next.

The continuous build makes the drops and transitions that much more satisfying when they finally come.

By changing it up and slowing down, HIGH4 risks alienating their current fan base, who may be expecting the rapid-fire, full out production style of "HIGH HIGH," laden with hooky riffs and interwoven melodies. But in the long term, if HIGH4 can avoid falling into the trap of releasing the same type of record over and over again, it's probablly a risk worth taking.

As the saying goes, here's a difference between a good idea and the right idea. "Day By Day" hones in on the right ideas more sharply than most contemporary pop productions, and leaves out the rest.

Watch the music video for HIGH4's latest single "Day By Day" RIGHT HERE

Harper Willis is a Brooklyn, New York-based producer and engineer. He has a passion for recording bands in crazy places, like ski mountains, motorcycle garages and swimming pools. 

Tagged :  HIGH4, Day by Day, K-Pop Double-Take

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