I really had great expectations when Billlie was first teased a few months ago. This is due to the fact that they are signed under Mystic Story – home to the one and only Brown Eyed Girls! And when you are BEG’s sister group, it’s almost close to automatic that you will be working with their constant collaborators – Lee Minsoo and Kim Eana. And when you are under the supervision of that duo, artistry is abound. In the words of Lee Sem in No Playboy (2011), “Let me try break it down to you one time!”
Lee Minsoo and Kim Eana are the people behind some of what I would refer to as my all-time favorite songs in this genre. If you would ask me why I enjoy K-Pop as a whole, I’d play a track from them or show an MV of the songs they made (another person comes to play here and that is MV director Hwang Soo Ah but that’s for another time). If we look back on what they have worked on over the years – from IU to Sunny Hill, and the Brown Eyed Girls, the tracks that they have penned always found a way to intersect the commercial and the creative.
I personally love a good allusion, especially in pop music, because it almost isn’t expected (since it’s just supposed to be pop and nothing else) and when it happens, it’s so good! This duo is a master of that. Some of my favorites from them include The Grasshopper song wherein they flipped Aesop’s fable to shed light on the harsh realities of Korea’s working class. Or in Paradise Lost and how they argue that religion is nothing but a big ploy to withhold sexual liberation. Rarely do you find tracks or performances in this genre (heck even in the bigger pop circle) that tackle and reference such discussions and it is for that reason why they are a special bunch of people in my book of K-Pop recommendations.
Anyway, going back to Billlie, the expectations were definitely high and they did not disappoint. Their lead single, Ring X Ring, is as unsettling as it can get! That damn loop of synths (I’m no production expert so correct me on this) gives off a sense of urgency which actually resonates with what the song is about. Seriously, send any leads on this girl they are looking for because listening to Ring x Ring makes you feel it’s urgent! The P1 teas, I just can’t! Add that nifty Carol of the Bells sample which is a nice touch given that they debuted near the Christmas season. (Also, that has always been lowkey creepy, lbr!).
As if they haven’t snatched us with Ring x Ring, the accompanying EP, whose name I won’t spell out because it’s so lengthy, is a treat and a half too. There’s one for everybody – whether you got into K-Pop recently (flipping a coin), a sucker for ballads (Flowerld), simps Red Velvet b-sides (the eleventh day), me who shivers from a great sample (everybody’s got a Secret), or an Everlasting who misses that good ol’ BEG sound (the rumor). Considerate queens!
It seems like Mystic Story is pushing this group to be a little more on the “unorthodox” (using this term loosely) side and that I can appreciate because honestly, there’s been a lack of that in K-Pop’s current roster of acts. Hopefully, they’ll keep on working with these producers!
Speaking of unorthodox…PIXY! Now, this group started as a discovery from one of the many corners of the K-Pop interwebs. It took me a while to get into the PIXY (their initial releases) but once they dropped Addicted and the Temptation EP, I knew this group was worth a shot. I mean, if you’re gonna come from a company calld AllArt, you better deliver.
And ~ahrt~ is indeed what they have bestowed upon! Lead single “Addicted” is this dark, pulsating track that gives a nod to early VIXX songs (a nice influence to tap because duh, VIXX!). While we could’ve already filled our cup with how good Addicted is, these girls really did not stop there. Enter Bewitched and Moonlight. The former is more of the same vibe as Addicted – and dare I say, slightly even better! The latter is a more straightforward b-side but does not even pale slightly in comparison to the other two.
Honestly, I’ve been referencing 9Muses a lot in this blog, but this slayage reminds me of their Sweet Rendezvous. Though it’s a bunch of previous title tracks compiled in one single album, when viewed as one, it becomes a cornucopia of excellent K-Pop!
PIXY and AllArt were definitely confident that they concocted some good ish here so they really gave all of the EP’s contents with the promotions that they deserve. As they should! It’s just amazing to see smaller companies snap this hard, especially when you put them next to more prominent groups. It’s almost embarrassing how quality releases like these are eclipsed easily by sales or brand reputation lists (nothing new, but yeah).
So, all hail Billlie and PIXY! Two groups that are literally breathing artistry into this generation of K-Pop!
EDIT: These two groups also did follow-up promotions recently with brand new tracks. The gifts that keep on giving! Billlie with an amazing Christmas-themed slow burn that sounds incredibly mature and PIXY with a totally different material from what they’ve been putting out…it’s insane. Talk about range this early in their career!!
Featured Image credit: Screengrab from Billlie | ‘RING X RING’ M/V (via YouTube)