Title: 마법소녀 (Magic Girl)
Release Year: 2010
In commemoration of Orange Caramel’s new single, “Bangkok City”, we’re going to review their debut single today: “Magic Girl”.
Orange Caramel consists of three members: Raina, Nana, and Lizzy. They are a sub-unit of After School, an 8-member girl group (soon to be 9) that debuted back in 2008. After School is known for their powerful music and dance moves; they are often called as the South Korea’s version of the Pussycat Dolls.
As the reader knows by now (if you’ve been playing the music video above), Orange Caramel is anything but the Pussycat Dolls.
From the beginning, their goal has been to provide the kind of music (it’s up for debate whether what Orange Caramel does can be considered “music”) that will, without mincing words, give you goosebumps. Although the number of girl groups that have recently capitalized on the trend of the “cute” concept is expanding rapidly, there is no question as to who remains at the top: Orange Caramel.
When Orange Caramel first debuted in the summer of 2010, there was a lot of skepticism – and some outrage – over their very concept. Phrases such as “the death of K-pop” and “an embarrassment to Korea” and “the reason why stereotypes exist” were thrown around, and to be fair, it’s easy to see why.
And yet, their first single, “Magic Girl”, was a resounding success.
First of all – and this is purely my opinion – the reason why they managed to overcome their skeptics was because they went all the way. They didn’t say “Ooh, some people might think this is too far, let’s tone it down a little”. Instead, they stood by their concept, and smiling proudly, shoved it down their faces . There’s something to be said for that, no question about it.
And if you’re crying “Hey! You hypocrite! Remember what you said in your SNSD – Gee review?? About how you hated it because it sounded like something that came out of, and I quote, ‘a chorus-making factory somewhere’??”
Hold your horses. I didn’t say the song was good. I said it was a success. “Magic Girl’ isn’t high art by any means.
Now, I’m going to be blunt here. I liked “Magic Girl” a helluva lot more than I liked “Gee”. And here’s why.
“Magic Girl” isn’t ashamed of its manufactured roots. It actually pays tribute to it by the choreography accompanying the song, which a 5-year-old can pick up in 10 minutes. It’s like it’s saying, “We know we’re not the most talented group ever, but we’re going to have fun doing it”. There’s a strange, down-home quality to Orange Caramel, something that “Gee” loses by its overly glamorous facade.
Simply put, it’s a great, fun song to listen to – when no one’s around.
Plus, the chorus isn’t one word repeated over and over. That’s got to count for something! Also, nearly everyone who hears it and is familiar with the genre agrees that the song has a strong resemblance to Korean “trot” music from the 1970s, while others compare it to J-pop, while still others say it sounds like something out of an anime theme.
The point being, Orange Caramel’s music feels familiar, and it embraces you like a longtime friend would. It’s a song that you can listen to without feeling burdened by it; a few minutes of good, guilt-free fun.
4 out of 5 stars.