Is it even possible to review Crayon Pop by any reasonable standard?
Isn’t part of the joy of the group the fact that they seem to defy every convention, as if the group were some science experiment done by a slacking alien teenager who got assigned Earth for some intergalactic science class report?
Can an act built on non-convention stay fresh and exciting without becoming aggravating or uninteresting? There is always a danger in becoming too enraptured with one’s own quirks where the need to protect the identity and brand subsume the freshness which made the group so much fun to begin with. Being different and being good are two completely separate things. Luckily, while “UH-EE” is another release of Crayon Pop’s that finds the group circling its own orbit, sometimes navel-gazing can be fun and Crayon Pop’s greatest weapon – the conviction they can bring to the silliest of settings – is as strong as ever.
If anything, Crayon Pop is self-aware with what they’re doing. The song begins with a standard classy jazz number to go with its formal setting. After the ballroom mood is set, the real beat sets in and the contrast helps create a disorienting atmosphere that is like, well, watching a Crayon Pop music video. The production, best described as techno-trot, has a shrewdly simple techno beat that only seems to be some quick hitting synths and snares and cymbals. The main beat, with its dizzying tail-offs at the end of each riff is very Crayon Pop. It’s not so much inviting as it is demanding. While no one can force someone to “have fun”, damned if Crayon Pop doesn’t try.
The vocals mirror the production. The lyrics hit hard and aren’t sung so much as they are barked. There is an aggressiveness behind the beat and the vocal delivery which helps balance out the fuck-tons of “cute” involved in “UH-EE”.
Even the rap doesn’t differentiate itself much from the chorus or verses but none of this really matters. “UH-EE” is engineered to get feet moving and five petite drill sergeants are much better equipped to do that than a quintet of songstresses.
Part of the charm of Crayon Pop is the low-budget look of their work. The lack of elaborate set pieces, exotic locales or even pop star outfits creates a particular challenge for any pop group as it means that there’s really nowhere to hide. Crayon Pop thrives in such an environment. Indeed, the bareness of their videos creates a void of context which only serves to highlight the bizarre sight of five girls dancing in a spastic but completely synchronized way to music that sounds like it was put together by running FL Studio through a senior’s banquet ball.
“UH-EE” plays into all that in some pretty blatant ways. The stage isn’t bare. Rather “UH-EE” takes place at some gala filled with guests dressed in evening wear. So, what better way to stand out from a black tie crowd than in altered hanboks? It’s a bit obvious (and I don’t think Crayon Pop needs any help drawing attention to themselves) but the extras are smartly employed as background fodder. The huge mass of moving black and white makes for a much more interesting dance-in-a-box set than the standard “all-black or all-white wall with geometric shapes cut out of it”.
The dance, aside from being seemingly manic, is fun to watch and Crayon Pop sells it well. There’s a ton of movement and Crayon Pop looks like they’re participating in some tribal war ceremony as often as they look like they’re dancing. It borders on exhausting to watch but the earnestness with which Crayon Pop attacks the choreography stops things from becoming laughable.
The editing and direction smartly stay out of the way, mostly allowing Crayon Pop to shoulder the load. This is a dance-in-the-box concept by every standard but unlike some other messes, at least the dance moves are visible and not buried under an assault of lights, cuts and haphazard individual shots. Smartly, the video plays Crayon Pop’s “beamed in from another planet” schtick straight and “UH-EE” is served all the better for it.
Crayon Pop not only marches to the beat of their own drum, they aggressively proselytize as they go. And while that can be off-putting to those who aren’t on Crayon Pop’s wavelength (and don’t wish to be), the group has managed to do what few groups can; carve out an identifiable image for themselves. “UH-EE” is unapologetically Crayon Pop-espque in its wardrobe, choreography and direction and while niches always run the risk of painting themselves into corners, with “UH-EE” Crayon Pop proves that they have the gumption to just dance all over those fresh paint jobs anyways.
TLDR: Much fun, Crayon Pop brainwashing is pleasant.