In the world of Hallyu, the sad reality is that only a lucky few can truly achieve a surge in popularity in the average lifespan of a group. My all-time favorite girl group, Nine Muses, is unfortunately one of the unlucky ones. A lot of people say that because Nine Muses is known for frequent lineup changes, they became a group that was hard to stand by through the years. I, as a loyal Mine, beg to differ. I've been a fan ever since Nine Muses was labeled as having the worst debut song and stage in 2010, and I was one of only 100 people who truly loved “No Playboy” for what it is back then. Fast forward to 2017 and the group remains the same exact group I first fell in love with years ago, both in terms of drive and passion.
Now down to just four members, Nine Muses still has a dynamic lineup. The group has always been a vocally-stable group, except during the “No Playboy” era when the group composition focused more on the model-idol identity the agency wanted to push with the girls. They have Keumjo, who is an excellent vocalist, Kyungri and Hyemi who have been the group's key vocalists for a long time now, and Sojin, who has showcased her tremendous potential in rap. The group's overall style may have changed through the years, but I'd like to think that the vocal color of the group is still the same, with the key vocalists still on board with the group.
Just over a month before the group’s seventh anniversary, the girls made a comeback with a new mini-album, MUSES DIARY Part 2: IDENTITY. The mini-album contains five new tracks (plus one instrumental), which all showcase a new musical direction. After the retro concept they had with last year’s “Lip2Lip,” the group came back with a sexier and darker look and sound, which worked to their advantage, mostly because the group has always fared better when promoting sexy, edgy concepts.
The mini-album opens with the 50-second intro track “Identity,” which may sound familiar to anyone who has seen the comeback teaser the group released weeks ago. It opens the album with high energy, which allows for a perfect transition onto the next track, which is “Remember,” the mini-album’s main title track.
“Remember” was composed and arranged by a relatively new production team called NUPLAY, who has also worked with Super Junior’s Ryeowook and DAY6. The song is the group’s most electronic-sounding single to date and is a lot different from anything the group has released. It is possible that this is why the song may sound really fresh for long-time Namyu fans. It opens like an acoustic ballad, continuously progressing and building up before it completely explodes into an EDM-influenced section. Unlike the choruses of a lot of Nine Muses tracks, the chorus for “Remember” doesn’t open with a steady-flowing melody for the whole verse. It approaches like a hook with the girls repeating “gieokhae” before the next lines are sung, making the chorus sound like a question and answer session, which cleverly works for the message of the lyrics. The track is arguably the group’s second best non-Sweetune title track, next to 2015’s “Drama,” because of how unexpected the song sounds as a Nine Muses single. The track’s highlights would definitely include the pre-chorus section where the girls sing “love me, love me, love me” on a beautiful ascending melody that almost sounds hypnotizing, as well as Sojin’s whisper-style rap section.
The music video for “Remember” is also one of the group’s best music videos to date. While keeping a certain degree of mystery in the plot, the cinematography plays a lot with darker colors, matching perfectly to the sentiment of the lyrics. There is a lack of choreography shots in the video because they are replaced by plot-driven scenes. Despite this, the video remains visually aesthetic: 20% due to the camera angles and location choices, and 80% due to the girls’ visuals. Sojin and Kyungri’s pool scenes specifically stand out because of the amazing color in their shots.
My personal favorite b-side on the album is up next: “Pastry,” a track produced by Jung Jaeyeop, Baek Gayeong, and Urban Jeonsung. It is the brightest track of all four new full-length tracks, featuring the catchiest chorus. It opens with just a guitar and snaps, but the song completely takes the pop route building up with the piano and synths. Kyungri’s falsetto opening the chorus is definitely the track’s highlight, making the melody sound crystal clear.
The next track, “Two of Us,” is produced by Star Empire-housed songwriter Jung Changwook. Producing a lot of the group’s best tracks such as “Drama” and “Secret,” it is no surprise that “Two of Us” is another excellent song. The song is exactly what a Nine Muses track would sound like, and it’s because Jung Changwook’s style of production has become a familiar component of the group. The track is another catchy cut from the album, featuring playful synths that circulate at some sections of the track.
Slowing things down, “Hate Me” is the most laid-back track of the album. The product of hit-maker team e.one, “Hate Me” is an emotional mid-tempo song featuring a soft pop-rock arrangement. It sounds like a song you’d hear while in a coffee shop because of the relaxing nature the track has despite its louder instrumental component. The song boasts a hook section that gets to your head. By the end of the track you’ll be singing the “I hate me, I won’t miss you” lines on repeat.
All in all, Nine Muses’ comeback with “Remember” became one of their most solid eras to date. Every element of the album and music video was well thought out, not to mention how efficient their promotions were executed this time, too. It is no doubt that the group has once again proven they are still a force to be reckoned with. This whole comeback is being treated like a relaunch of the group and, as a fan, I love where this is going. With Hyemi renewing her contract as well, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a lot more of the group from now on. Heck, the girls even announced that they’ll be preparing for another comeback once promotions for “Remember” and their upcoming concert are complete. Now I can’t wait!