Aespa's 'My World': Mini-album review
On their 3rd mini-album, Aespa establish themselves as a K-Pop quartet that are unafraid to experiment.
It would be a vast understatement to call the world of K-Pop competitive, with the success of groups such as NewJeans, LE SSERAFIM and IVE, girl groups are arguably spearheading the 4th generation of Korean Pop Music. With this increased competition, the expectations and criticism that girl groups face have only continued to increase.
Aespa first debuted in November 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The girl group itself consists of 4 members. Karina, the Korean-born leader of the group, is arguably one of the strongest dancers as well as the oldest member. Winter, the lead vocalist, is also Korean and has one of the strongest voices in the group.
Ningning, also an impressive vocalist, is the youngest of the group and was born and raised in China, singing since a young age. The final member, Giselle, is the group’s main rapper, born and raised in Japan, to a Korean mother and Japanese father, Giselle is the trilingual member of the group, having become fluent in English through her education at an international school.
Perhaps one of the reasons why expectations have been so high for Aespa is due to their position within the market. They are owned by SM Entertainment, one of the most renowned and biggest entertainment companies in Korea. Following on from the likes of iconic groups such as Girls’ Generation and f(x) is a tough ask, yet with the release of this mini-album, their predecessors should be proud.
The album opens up with the aptly titled ‘Welcome to MY World’ which acts as an impressive, almost cinematic introduction to the EP. Featuring dreamy-like vocals and production, the track manages to sound almost supernatural.
Of course, this reflects the album’s main concept, which portrays Aespa as otherworldly beings who are visiting the real world for the first time.
The sound of the track is unique for Aespa, but still retains the ethereal image that has been associated with them since their debut. The music video for this track is visually stunning, featuring a pastoral setting which depicts the members on a road trip through nature, whilst they are chased by a mysterious aura which reveals itself at the end of the video.
The second track, and personal favourite on the album is the lead single, ‘Spicy’. The track is a stark contrast to anything that Aespa has released before, acting as perhaps their most commercial song thus far.
A glossy summer hit, Aespa still manages to defy convention through their production. The production in itself, is unashamedly maximalist and it works well for the track. With sassy lyrics and a video concept that replicates the sense of Y2K seen in movies such as Mean Girls, this sound fits well with the excess that is often associated with this aesthetic.
‘Spicy’ ultimately builds on the sound of Aespa’s predecessors, evoking the same EDM elements that are associated with other iconic SM groups such as f(x).
‘Salty & Sweet’, the next track, perfectly follows on from ‘Spicy’ but tones down the maximalist sound. Instead, the track opts for a more experimental, synthetic production that sounds rather futuristic. However, the track still retains the sense of sassiness that ‘Spicy’ evokes, but this time around, it adds a more unsettling element to the song, with lyrics that frame Aespa as beguiling, temptress-like figures.
‘Salty and Sweet’ is everything we’ve come to associate with Aespa, it is experimental, alien and slightly unnerving, all of which make them stand out from the crowd.
The fourth track, ‘Thirsty’, still manages to be slightly sassy in its lyrical content the lyrics this time act as a more emotional and vulnerable approach to the subject of love. Yet, this time the production takes a different turn. Vaguely reminiscent of the type of contemporary R&B songs we associate with Ariana Grande, the song’s production is still modern and catchy but is slightly more relaxed than the 2 previous tracks.
Perhaps the most westernised song on the album, I can definitely see why ‘Thirsty’ made the cut, as it appeals more to international fans.
The next, penultimate track ‘I’m Unhappy’ is perhaps one of the most surprising on the mini album. Starting with a more simplistic, almost child-like production, the song builds upon the vulnerability present on the previous track. ‘I’m Unhappy’ is an honest, breakup song that also discusses the unrealistic beauty standards that K-pop idols face. Of course, the song has a happy ending, in typical K-Pop fashion, yet the discussion of darker subjects is an avenue that I would like to see Aespa build upon in the future.
In an industry that values perfection and optimism, it’s often nice to see past the façade, even if it’s only a glimpse.
The final track, ‘Til We Meet Again’ closes the EP rather gently. Cinematic and calm, the track could easily act as a closing theme to an Anime. Despite it being my least favourite track on the album due to the generic sound of the ballad, I appreciate the cohesiveness it gives the EP, taking it right back to where it began.
It lacks the punch and sassiness of tracks like ‘Thirsty’ but it does help bring a sense of variety to the EP, which it greatly benefits from.
Overall, ‘My World’ is an impressive 3rd mini-album from Aespa, and showcases their talent and versatility in a way that hasn’t been seen before. SM Entertainment has pulled out the big guns with this album, with a higher budget, easily seen within the music videos for this EP. Despite the short nature of this project, each of the 6 tracks manages to add something different. With a balanced combination of confidence, vulnerability and experimental production, ‘My World’ is Aespa’s best work thus far, and so my expectations have only increased for the eventual release of their first, full album.