The year 2011 has seen a huge amount of fresh-faced rookie groups make their debut – although the cutthroat competition among the lower end of the seniority rankings has always been tough, it has never been as hard for a rookie group to gain a toehold among its competition as the past year, which has – literally – debuted dozens of rookies to fight it out for a sliver of the wealth that the K-Pop gold mine can award them.
The increased level of competition demands the very best from the get-go, and if and when you take a misstep, the punishment is harsh and swift. Too many rookie groups have started off their debut promotions with a wide-eyed wonder and a naïve belief in the process of fame and stardom, and have since vanished into the dustbin of history. Others have found success, whether by a miraculously popular debut single (A Pink, with “I Don’t Know”), sheer hard work (Dal Shabet, with their three – yes, three – releases this year), or by a unique concept or gimmick (Chocolat comes to mind).
As the most turbulent year in K-Pop wound down, we received word that yet another girl group would make their debut. They were called New. F.O (short for “New Five Order”) and we were promised that we would see a groundbreaking change in the fundamental way K-Pop operated.
Their parent company, EnterArts Entertainment (along with 6theory) seemed to have an infinite amount of confidence in their group – releasing a myriad number of teasers and banking on a viral concept with footage of the girls spontaneously creating a street party with their dancing and singing skills.
With all of that hype, it was nigh impossible to keep your eye away from the girls’ official debut song, “Bounce”, when it finally hit the airwaves.
The question lingering in the air was this: would they meet the enormous expectations that they had set for themselves? And would they have anything to differentiate themselves from the spate of other debuts and comebacks this year?
To prove their mettle against their competition, New.F.O needed something to make them stand out amongst their peers, a track that would say, “Hey, we’re young, we’re fresh, and we’re bringing something new to the table”. Especially at the end of the year, when the audience is starting to suffer from K-Pop overload, the need for something “new” – something that would make them stand up and take notice for the sheer virtue of how different it is – is even more important. In short, New.F.O would require a song that would both showcase their skills and offer up something enticing.
Unfortunately, “Bounce” was neither of those things.
The track itself is very reminiscent of a common style in recent K-Pop trends – bubbly electronica mixed with a repeating hook, interrupted every so often by a stylized rap that may or may not make sense in the song’s format. To put it more brusquely, “Bounce” offers nothing new to the ears, nothing to make us sit up and say “Hey, this is different”.
And in today’s cutthroat competition, where “different” matters more and more, it’s a shame that New.F.O chose to stick to what essentially amounts to the steak-and-potatoes version of K-pop music. “Bounce” isn’t a horrible song – it is very reminiscent of Stellar’s “Rocket Girl” with its repeated hook and up-and-down rap – but it’s a classic case of “coulda, shoulda, woulda”. New.F.O could’ve been so much more than what they are. They should’ve had a debut single that actually showcases what they were capable of doing. And they would’ve been much stronger with a proper debut.
The girls try to do the best with what they’ve got; even among the electronic sound, there are hints of their vocal capability, and the rapping is well-done in the confines that the track places on the girls. The girls’ intensity and their genuine enthusiasm for what they sing is also visible, and the song is saved by their sheer pigheadedness that seeks to create something out of nothing.
It’s clear that the girls have skills, and it’s also clear that, judging from their promotions, that they were expected to do something great. However, “Bounce” was a misstep in that it immediately negated all of the hype and the goodwill that they had garnered – if a restaurant says foie gras on their menu, you would expect a well-prepared steak, done correctly; you wouldn’t expect a steak that was foie gras only by name, and was an average American steak in every other sense of the word. There are unique aspects as to what makes foie gras one of the best steaks in the world – unfortunately, in the case of this particular steak, the restaurant’s quality-control team went only so far as to check if the menu description was correct, and ignored what actually went on in the kitchen.
With the talent that the girls undoubtedly possess, they could’ve done so much more for their debut single – could’ve garnered so much more positive attention for themselves – and it is a crying shame that their debut single chose to play it safe.
It’s much too early to close the book – many rookie groups start off with a horrible debut single, yet return stronger than ever. New.F.O is in the same boat – “Bounce” was, to not mince words, a failure in that it failed to showcase the girls’ skills and didn’t capture the attention of the fickle audience, both of which is of supreme importance for all rookies. However, this is not a game where one strike means that you’re out – it’s time for New.F.O to step on the plate and try again, and hopefully with their next try, they’ll finally have a chance to blow it out of the park.
2.5 stars out of 5.