When 2YOON's first EP "Harvest Moon" came out last January, I didn't really pay it much attention.
Perhaps 2YOON was lost in the shuffle of all the new groups coming out in 2013. But when I heard they were an "offshoot" group from 4Minute, a group I am openly crazy about, I decided to give the EP a listen.
2YOON's members Gayoon and Jiyoon have lovely voices, and are well-accustomed to singing together as members of 4minute. Apparently, Cube Entertainment's CEO knew they would be a good pair after seeing them perform together in London in 2011.
On "Harvest Moon," they also had the help of some very capable producers and songwriters, namely Lee Sang Ho, Seo Jae Woo, & Seo Yong Bae. From what I have heard, the concept for "Harvest Moon" was to incorporate American culture throughout the EP.
Each song on "Harvest Moon" has something unique about it, but "24/7" is the real gem. And not just because of its unexpected country twang; "24/7" is a perfect example of how wonderfully eclectic K-pop can be.
I'm happy that these two talented singer/performers, Gayoon and Jiyoon, along with their music producers at CUBE, were daring enough to try something so new and different.
As a fan of the electronic side of K-pop, I was really surprised that I liked this song so much.
"24/7" starts out with a mysterious sounding banjo line in a minor key, and then a bass heavy two-step digital beat comes in.
The vocal melody of the first verse soars way up high and then gracefully falls back down again in a mesmerizing way, and the lyrics themselves are delivered in a playful combination of rapping and singing. I guess maybe that's not too far from what a square dance "caller" does, but it's interesting to hear this delivery style in Korean.
As mentioned before, Gayoon and Jiyoon sound great when they sing in harmony and there are lots of subtle harmonies in this song.
As "24/7" progresses, the K-pop influences start to jump out in the mix with the Space Age keyboard flourishes, the big loud electric guitar power chords and the occasional electronic zaps and whooshes in the background.
But for the most part, everything else rides on that hypnotizing banjo line and hard driving two-step rhythm.
The fantastic video for "24/7", which is set in a theme park that appears to be modeled after an American goldrush town right out of Bonanza, begins to make a bit more sense after reading the translated lyrics.
The song talks about being tired of the daily grind of the city, the crowded subways, the same old movies, boring food, dull conversation, the same old routine "24/7" day in day out.
But the chorus tells us to just forget everything for one night to dance at the rodeo.
South Korea is no stranger to American cowboy culture.
In 1961, a Korean singer named Han Myeong Suk who won over US soldiers with her own version of a country song, "The Boy in the Yellow Shirt," sung entirely in Korean. You can listen to that song here.
Consider also that there are several traditional Korean instruments that closely resemble the Banjo. The traditional Korean string instrument with the most obvious resemblance to the American-style Banjo would be the the "Wolgeum," which takes its name from the moon-shaped body of the instrument.
SPIN and TIME magazine both gave 2YOON some very unexpected positive attention in 2013 for their bold foray into Country music. Regardless of what musical styles they may have borrowed from, "24/7" is a great song, and I hope the group picked up lots of new fans because of it!
"24/7" is cute, and catchy with a hidden depth in the harmonies and instrumentation that make it sort of dreamy too.
I am not ashamed to say this song pops into my head from out of nowhere from time to time.
Every time I hear genre-defying songs like "24/7," I'm happily reminded that there's a lot of gutsy, interesting experimentation in K-pop these days.
I look forward to hearing some more of that from 2YOON.
Carl Hamm is a DJ, radio host, film maker and self-described culture pusher. "Pop Yeh Yeh," Hamm's compilation of 1960s psychedelic rock from Singapore and Malaysia, is being re-issued on vinyl in April, as part of Record Store Day.