For a decent amount of time now, Bolbbalgan4 has been a breath of fresh air in Korean music. Often walking a fine line between K-pop and indie/folk music, the sound of the group is something that you don’t hear often. Maybe someone reading this who is deep in the folds of K-indie music rolled their eyes at that, but to most people, the statement rings true. The airy voice that the member’s project on most of their songs is distinct to their act. When you hear a BOL4 song, you know it’s a BOL4 song.
The duo from Shofar Music has members named Jiyoung and Jiyoon who both debuted in 2016. While there are many good songs from the group, it’s the singles “Some” and “Travel” are most well-known.
This time around, Bolbbalgan4 made a comeback with the EP Two Five. The six-track release featured “Workaholic,” the title track of the release. While the album as a whole wasn’t groundbreaking, the group put out some good music that’s worth checking out.
Bolbbalgan4 Returns with Surprises
- Workaholic (Title Track)
- Day off
- XX (Acoustic Ver.)
Track 1: Workaholic
Starting off the EP was the title track “Workaholic.” The song title gives you a pretty good idea of what it entails… or does it? The clever track tells two different stories: one of, well, a workaholic, and another of someone in a frustrating and failing relationship. A relationship that, like a job, the person had to quit. Most people can likely relate to one or even both of the stories being told within the song. In current times, everyone’s getting overworked. We open our eyes every day “and it’s already morning,” and sometimes our “days are filled with headaches.”
The video mostly follows Jiyoung, with Jiyoon playing somewhat of a background character. Honestly, if you weren’t familiar with the group, this video might lead you to believe that BOL4 is a soloist. It shows Jiyoung as someone who is a workaholic. She gets too many assignments and gets scolded by her boss. She goes home, drinks a beer, and passes out in her work outfit for the day. She eventually reaches her boiling point in the video, running into her office and starting an absolute riot. She must have not been the only person feeling this way, since other employees were more than happy to help the chaos, including beating up the boss and trashing the office.
The video had an easy-to-follow storyline and was a fun viewing. It’s interesting how the lyrics tell a completely different story. A lot of English speaking listeners or viewers of Korean music never go out of their way to read the lyrics, so for some people, they might think this song is purely about working. And while it is to an extent, there’s that relationship aspect as well.
Purely sound-wise, the song is very on-brand for BOL4, but also offered something different. In the past, BOL4’s sound has been much more cheery and maybe even positive sounding. This song gave off a more fed-up or frustrated tone in its theme, but vocally it felt similar. The same thing over and over gets tiring, so it’s good that they tweaked their style while not straying too far from it. The build-up to the final chorus is epic, and when the final chorus comes around the tweaking of notes make a fun change of sound.
“Workaholic” is a catchy tune that is able to tell two very topical and interesting stories. While going after the storyline of love, the group talks about the frustrating and sometimes destructive lifestyle of a workaholic which isn’t shown in the media too often.
Track 2: 25
The second song, “25,” is about turning 25, presumably. That’s what it suggests, but at the time of recording the song, neither member was actually 25. That changed on the 14th, so happy belated birthday to Jiyoung. The pop-y song seemingly talked about how life isn’t like a movie or a show. The key change felt a little unnecessary, but to each their own. This song also came with a music video which had many more popping colors than the one before.
Track 3: XX
In one of the more laid-back songs on the mini-album. The group definitely channels more of a ballad style in this song, at least more than any other track on the release. This song felt like a checkpoint in the release. They had their first two good songs, and before getting to two more, there’s this. It’s not bad in any sense, it just didn’t stick out in the grand scheme of things. A lot of these songs have the ability to stay in your head hours after listening, but for this one, it was in one ear and then out of the other.
Track 4: Taste
Without a doubt, “Taste” was the best b-side from this release. The song talks about the love/hate relationship people have with love. Tying into the title of the song, the clever line “I hate things that are sweet, because sweet things are so addictive” shows a good double entendre between actual sweets (candy) and sweet things that come from love. We could study the lyrics, but it’s also worth noting that this is a really catchy song. The emotion conveyed through the song is that the person is in a problematic situation, which feels fitting.
Track 5: Day off
“Day off” starts with tons of interesting samples. We hear a clock tick, noises from a radio and/or a TV, a phone buzz, oh, and a deafening high-frequency noise. It was a cool intro until the last noise, but that’s nitpicking. The final original track from the group on this release talks about thinking about someone on a day off. The somber song loosely goes back to the work theme used in the title track. While not being too boring of a track, it was a good way to slow down as the album was reaching it’s close.
Track 6: XX (Acoustic Ver.)
Before the album concluded, we were given a bonus track in an acoustic version of “XX.” The song was only 1:35 long. Cool.
Bolbbalgan4’s Latest Release
In general, Bolbbalgan4 had a top-to-bottom great release. Similar to many of the top releases this year, BOL4 tweaked their successful style to put out something unique and special. Channeling a less colorful and glamorous image, the duo talked about the expected topics like love but also touched on things like the rigorous nature of some jobs. All in all, the group was able to give themselves a new image while preserving elements of the past which made them worth paying attention to.