Album Review: Wonder Girls – “Wonder World”

This is Wonder Girls’ first full-length album since 2007 and first Korean release since 2 Different Tears in 2010. It was released on November 7, 2011.

I really, really like this cover. All of the girls are striking fierce poses and the styling is on point. The black and white increases the drama, too.

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G.N.O is club music done right. Starting with a strong electronic beat and beeping synths, this charismatic number features an amazing group effort vocal performance that serves to show everyone that the Girls are back where they belong. Although I was slightly skeptical about this song initially, all of my doubts were dispelled when I heard the huge chorus (that stuttering effect is to die for, I swear). I really appreciate the distribution of solos in this song because it pretty much subverts everyone’s expectations and sets a high standard for the rest of the album. Yubin and Lim’s tag-team rap verse is an equally impressive contribution. Long story short, this is an excellent track and an even better opening track.

Be My Baby is the lead single for this album and I feel like I might be a minority opinion here because I really like it. Aside from the irony of the fact that itcould arguably be more retro-sounding than even Nobody, despite the fact that this comeback wasn’t supposed to be retro-themed (in all reality, it isn’t, if you exclude this song), I think that Be My Baby has a lot of merits. First off, on the verses we have Sohee and Lim, who, though technically outclassed by Sunye and Yeeun on the vocal front, bring a youthful charm to a song that really calls for that kind of thing. And besides, the two better vocalists of the group carry the chorus, which is arguably the more important part. My main issue with this song is Yubin’s verse and the subsequent key change. Now, it’s no secret that Yubin is my bias in this group, but on this song her rap just sort of comes out of nowhere, and even though it’s good, it’s directly followed by an equally abrupt key modulation. The last minute or so of the song sounds kind of choppy and awkward as a result. However, I can’t bring myself to condemn the whole song because of it. Although this is not my favorite song on this album or even the best potential single in my opinion, I think it’s a great effort and not a failure by any means.

Next we have Girls Girls, a nice, low-key song. Musically, it’s an acoustic studio song somewhat like the Girls’ rendition of B.O.B.’s Nothing on You, if  you’ve seen it (if you haven’t, get on that shit). In terms of the lyrics and message, it’s a feel-good self esteem song aimed at young girls, or perhaps just girls in general. This song really works because none of the girls sound particularly out of their element because of the laid back style. Yubin’s rap is a bit better this time around, although it suffers from the exact same sudden key change as Be My Baby. Ah well. I especially like the “Girls, girls, I’m a Wonder Girl” line, because it’s just cute. Overall I like this song and think it fits nicely into the pop feel of the album so far.

Where to start with Me, in? Well, let me say straight out that I think this song is perfect, so if you don’t like it you can skip this next paragraph because I can pretty much guarantee you’ll disagree with everything I’m about to say. In fact, instead of waxing poetic about all of the things I love about this song, why don’t I just go ahead and list them?
In no particular order:
1. Sunye’s awesome a cappella lead-in. I mean, hello. She’s the best singer in the group (again, arguable) and that shit is brilliant.
2. Those pulsing, gunmetal gray drumbeats and synths. Chills. Put them up against the big band sound of the guitars and drums and you’ve got pure pop gold.
3. That huge chorus. The perfectly executed vocal attack and the sultry in-between lines are so catchy in a classic rock and roll way, it’s amazing.
4. YUBIN’S. RAP. Oh my God, you guys. I’m a self-professed Yubin fangirl but even non-fans have got to give it up for the amazing swagger and control she exhibits in this verse, possibly the best of everything she’s done with WG.
5. Last but not least, the way the whole song just explodes after the bridge. It really does only get better.
Well, there you have it – five reasons why this song kicks K-Pop ass. Try to beat that, EVERY OTHER GIRL GROUP IN KOREA.

Sweet Dreams is a totally different sound. I don’t want to say it’s retro per se, because it’s not, but it’s definitely a lot more pure pop than any other song we’ve heard so far. The verses rest atop some Europop-sounding beats and lead into a sugary sweet chorus (“Take my hand, hold me / Oh please my baby / Stay by my side / Just like you are now“). Yubin’s rap verse comes at the very end of this song, and even then it’s a bit hushed, but honestly I like it better that way in this case because it prevents the whole “truck driver’s gear shift” key change from happening. I think I normally wouldn’t love a song like this, but it’s extremely catchy so I have no problem with it at all.

The beginning of Stop! is kind of weird because it really doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the song itself will sound like, but that’s perfectly fine because the body of the song is actually quite good. The upbeat pop-rock vibe is an interesting direction to take, and the chorus is really infectious. Yubin’s rap is kind of short, but that’s forgivable. I also liked how Yeeun took the first verse because her voice has a coy, girlish quality that really fits with the instrumentation. Overall, I was really glad that this song continued the trend of strong tracks on this album.

Dear. Boy is Wonder World’s first attempt at R&B and it’s a nice one. Keeping with the trend of unexpected solos, Yubin is the first one to sing on this track, and to be perfectly honest she sounds great. Clearly she’s gotten some more vocal training recently because she sounds more or less on par with the rest of the members. The rest of the girls sound equally great (yes, even Lim and Sohee) and I’ll just say that this is a really nice song that speaks for itself.

The second R&B affair is 두고두고 (Dugo dugo; For Many Years), a duet between Yeeun and Sunye. This song is really slow and relaxed, which is perfect for showcasing the two girls’ vocals, far and away the best in the group. Although this song has no real buildup and it may sound dated to some, the real treat is the vocal performances. Really, how can you deny this kind of talent? It’s impressive on so many levels.

I really loved SuperB when I first heard it, but I didn’t know until recently that it was a duet between Sohee and Yubin. Talk about a shock! Although I would have never thought to put these two together to make a duet, it turns out their voices have similar tones in them. I must say that although they both sound really good, Sohee deserves special mention, simply for the maturation that’s evident in her voice when compared to her solos from the beginning of the group’s career. Put together with the stylish, mysterious electro instrumental, this song sounds really sleek and modern.

Can we just take a moment to gush about the awesomeness that is Act Cool? Giving Lim her own solo, and a rap solo at that, is another thing I would have never thought to do, but God does it work. Turns out that not only can she rap, she has amazing flow and just all-around swagger. It’s kind of funny to listen to squeaky-voiced Lim rapping but it’s also very cool. San E’s inclusion in the title is somewhat misleading because his role in the actual song is pretty minimal. The one thing I don’t really care for in this song is the well-intentioned but awkwardly placed bridge, which kind of destroys the flow of the song for a hot second. But other than that minor blip, I was really impressed and pleasantly surprised by this song. Go, Lim!

Be My Baby (Ra. D Mix) takes the bubbly pop original and turns it into a jazzier, groovier slow jam. Although this remix isn’t, like, radically different from the original, it’s nice because it’s nice and toned down for the end of the album. It also sounds a little warmer (if that makes sense?) because of the brass instruments and jazzy piano. And for once, Yubin’s rap doesn’t sound totally random.

What better way to cap off the album than with a song about shoes? Nu Shoes is basically exactly what it says on the tin: the Wonder Girls’ love letter to a girl’s best accessory, her shoes. The lyrics are mostly in English here, and I ended up really enjoying them because they’re pretty cute and clever. This was a really awesome way of ending the album because it left me with great feelings. After all, who doesn’t love a good pair of shoes?

Summary: Oh, Wonder Girls. I was really happy when I heard that they would be taking their act to my homeland, the good old U.S. of A, because getting to see my favorite idols live was really too good to be true. And I was happy for them when they achieved moderate success, but truth be told, I’m most happy now that they’re back in Korea making the wonderful pop music they deserve to be making. I wasn’t really a fan of 2 Different Tears, but now that I’ve listened to this album several times through, I’m happy to report that it was only a momentary misstep. With this great collection of club bangers, R&B ballads and catchy pop numbers, this much is clear as far as Wonder Girls are concerned: they’re back.

Album Grade: A+
Recommended Tracks:
Me, in | Act Cool (feat. San E) | Dear. Boy | SuperB | pretty much every song on the album

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Wonder Girls – “Wonder World”

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