Review: SPICA – “Ghost” Is Predictably And Unfortunately Flawless

ghost spica

If there is a fear to be had when it comes to SPICA, it’s that the group may have already maximized what it does best. There is comfort in finding one’s comfort zone in pop music and SPICA has seemingly known theirs from the start. Strong ballads and R&B tunes worked together perfectly when paired with SPICA’s five great vocalists. So it’s not much of a surprise that “Ghost” is, without a doubt, an amazing ballad executed brilliantly by a group who can produce this type of stuff in their sleep. However, a honing of form doesn’t necessarily mean much if no one cares about it.

SPICA’s formula is followed to a tee in “Ghost”. Although the production team of Sweetune is more well known for their synth-laden disco sound, they’ve tailored their talents to SPICA’s strengths in pop ballads. A repetitive piano riff, snare drums and a running guitar warble have all the spark and originality of a church band, albeit a pretty savvy church band. No matter how cliched the sound is, sometimes cliches exist for good reasons. Like every other SPICA release, “Ghost” foregoes catchy or innovative sounds for what amounts to a character-less canvas of sound.

Given such an easy and calculated target, the group demolishes “Ghost”.  There’s just the right amount of breaths taken to give “Ghost” an authentic feel and the choruses are outstanding as SPICA is able to translate so much emotion through their voices. Not to be overlooked, Juhyun’s rap is also a great example of a rap bridge which flows well within the structure of the song. The four other members of SPICA all deliver as the middle-register notes play well within every member’s comfort level (Bohyung and Boa’s pipes are of no surprise but “Ghost” shows that Narae is probably underrated in SPICA). When it comes to the vocals, “Ghost” is sublime.

Obligatory Boa post.

Obligatory Boa post.

The video will never be faulted for being too ambitious but it gets the job done. Through a mixture of slow motion and hazy filters, there is a thin but appreciated plot to what amounts to a SPICA runway show. Two women get their hearts crushed by the same guy, only for the guy to show up out of nowhere and choose one of the girls right in front of the other. Somehow, everyone is cool with this. Whatever the improbable K-Drama tie-ups, the video at least fits thematically with the song which is appropriate considering how neat and tidy “Ghost” is. Narae gets most of the main billing to the complaint of no one as the rest of the four members play extras during the plot parts. The members’ wardrobe, make up and styling are all on point, a little plain but flattering. “Ghost” is a conservative endeavor but SPICA nails each low hurdle with aplomb.

So much slaughter.

So much slaughter.

As fantastic as “Ghost” is for a SPICA single, it also showcases the group’s biggest weakness- namely that they keep playing to their strengths (SPICA didn’t even try to do much different with their sub-unit SPICA.S). And while that would be great for a group that enjoys a large and sustainable fan base, it may not work for SPICA. The group keeps putting out average productions with some of the best vocals in K-Pop and the reception has been less than wildly enthusiastic – even after they received tutelage from K-Pop business maestro Lee Hyori. “Ghost” is a great representation of SPICA at top form. However, at some point doing the same thing over and over (no matter how flawless that thing is) and expecting different results has to start counting as insanity.

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25 comments

  1. Maybe because it’s dipshit reviewers like you who always find fault with whatever SPICA does. Half you fuckheads say SPICA has wandered off from their strengths after Painkiller and here you are saying it’s because they can’t get away from it. Yet more and more average kpop groups are pumping out the same generic crap like sexy concepts or bubble gum pop and not getting anywhere with them either. The fact is kpop has little to do with music it just about marketing and perception. SPICA is making good music but you idiotic reviews just want to find any fault with it just to make a story.

    1. supersensualisticsl · · Reply

      Wow. Are you having a bad day? Want to talk about it?

    2. Are you new here? ‘cos if you’ ve been reading any of the past reviews, you would know that the Yellow Slug is a SPICA fan, but also an objective one.
      I enjoy this song but agree that it is unlikely to register much on the charts or general K-Pop listening audience. I found the MV a tad dull, actually.

      1. It’s a ballad, what do you want them prancing around in cheerleader outfits? But the fact that you don’t like the mv is fine. If you don’t like the song that’s fine too. But he’s saying this is “an amazing ballad executed brilliantly” and then calling that a FAULT?!?! How stupid as shit is that?

        I have read his reviews before and even commented before (I’m not sure they ever got posted because it was some time are the article was written, and no I didn’t swear in those). And in his reviews he always has that tinge negativity so I did not know he is a SPICA fan, and no I am not a mercury either. He just comes off like a guy who is trying to act like he has the answer to SPICA’s lack of success and over reaching in his analysis simply to find fault to make his article more interesting. People have given millions of reasons why SPICA isn’t a top tier group in Korea, like not, coming from the Big 3, too old for kpop, their personalities aren’t interesting, etc….But to actually saying they’re singing is too good, is beyond stupidity. You all want to fanboy him, go ahead. I’m doing exactly what he’s doing, reviewing his dumbass review.

      2. You can make your point and disagree respectfully without resorting to swearing and name calling. One of the reasons I enjoy coming here is that I often find informative comments, like Jason’s, even when he doesn’t agree with the review. Please keep it civil.

    3. Well, I’m not sure reviewers ( especially on English language sites) can be blamed for Spica’s lack of popularity. They are in a genre that eats up the sexy concepts and bubble gum pop that you mentioned in their home country. Maybe they should try branching out into the more mainstream areas of Korean music. Maybe not. But blasting someone like the Slug for their lack of popularity is not really appropriate.

      1. If the media can be given credit for making groups successful then they must also take part of the blame for keep them from it. He’s part of that machine whether you want to believe it or not, albeit a very very minuscule part. And yes there is a genre that etas up sexy and bubble gum pop but there’s still a larger majority, even in Korea, that appreciates other genres. But my point was that there are still exponentially more groups that fail with those concepts than succeed.

      2. I love the song like I love pretty much all of SPICA’s R&B stuff but I just don’t see this becoming some huge hit. It’s really well done but the video isn’t amazing and the production is alright. The only outstanding thing is the vocals but we’ve known that SPICA can sing since “Potently”.

        For what it’s worth, SPICA is one of my favorite groups.

      3. Believe me, I wish I had that sort of influence on people’s opinions. Have I really graduated to “the media?”

        (No. No, I have not.)

      4. Wow, you have joined the media. I guess we will see you doing the K-pop minute on Fox News soon.

      5. I demand my media credentials and back stage passes to miss A concerts.

      6. You know Fei’s restraining order still stands, so you can’t go backstage. 🙂

  2. I really hope this catches the public fancy. They were so close to getting a show win with “You Don’t Love Me.” that I would love to see them get over the hump and get a show win finally and the recognition that goes with one. Unfortunately, there will be a fair amount of tough competition, which will probably make that hard to do with Hello Venus, A Pink, and AOA due out with comebacks this month as well as several other groups I can’t think of at the moment. At least they are out ahead of them and their song looks like it will be different from what the other girl groups are doing. I really want to see this group succeed.

  3. With voices this good they should just abandon K-pop and go for more serious parts of the Korean music scene. Or, at least, branch out a bit.

    Do most Koreans even pay attention to K-pop? I thought it was primarily young people driving sales?

  4. Since I can’t respond to Slug’s reply, I’ll post this. I don’t think this song was meant to be a huge success (although I’m sure they would have taken it if it did) because SPICA isn’t promoting it at all. This was put out for their 1000day celebration and although it looks like B2M mght have spent some money I think there’s more to it. The song has been retitled on Itunes to “Autumn X Sweetune Special Ghost” so I think it is part of some bigger project for Sweetune. The MV director and the fashion designer Doii are sisters, so I think even the mv was made on the cheap and Doii got SPICA to walk the runway for SFW. And for B2M/SPICA this song provides the opportunity to bring back the pre-Lee Hyori era SPICA fans with a return to their original style just in time for Boa’s solo and the full SPICA album planned for early next year. This all seems like a collaboration between the parties that worked out in favor for SPICA.

    1. I’m just going to put this here because I don’t know where to put it. Although I don’t support Hoku’s tone in his original post, I wholeheartedly agree with his main point, which is that yellowslug gave an unfair review of SPICA’s single, because specific details and nuances weren’t addressed. This post is mainly addressed to yellowslug.

      The background of SPICA’s “Ghost” was that it was a special gift for their 1000th day anniversary to Mercuries and because of that, they are not planning to promote the song. Keeping this in mind, it is unfair to say that SPICA is expecting “different results” because they are not expecting ANY results. SPICA will not get much results from this song but it’s not their goal. Subsequently, most of the improvement points outlined by yellowslug can be considered unreasonable, since it is illogical to make a gift to fans so innovative, with a high budget MV, etc.

      Furthermore, I think “playing to their strengths” is an unreasonable fault to give to SPICA. With respect to scenes shown in “Hyori X Unnie”, it makes no sense to spend more effort covering weaknesses than to play to strengths in order to strengthen an identity. Hyori knew that she could not hit high notes like other singers so she found something else that she could do better and created her identity based upon that. Similarly, SPICA should not force the issue and try to release something cute, because if they don’t have it in them, then how can they express it? That is not to say that SPICA is one dimensional – they have explored lots of new territories after Hyori’s tutelage.

      Overall, I understand that you are giving a positive review to SPICA, but some points appear to be uninformed. It is very apparent from reading your past reviews that you are a SPICA fan, but you didn’t show it in this review by lacking knowledge of this song’s background. Hopefully you can continue to improve in the future, though. All the best!

      1. I think you’re missing a huge point in how I approach these things. I tend to view works on their own and then within the context of what else the group has done. That’s it. Whether it’s “for fans” or a “general audience” is immaterial to how it’s reviewed. I’m not that interested in authorial intent (if we’re really getting into writing theory).

      2. I understand if you don’t prioritise the intent of the content. Maybe it has little to no effect in other songs. Despite this, it doesn’t make sense not to consider SPICA’s intent in “Ghost”. In this scenario, SPICA specifically released a song for their fans and expressed no intent to promote this song.

        A main point in your review was that the group could be bordering on “insanity” if they continued to release songs like these while expecting results. You also wrote that it doesn’t “mean much if no one cares about it”. Aren’t these critiques ultimately irrelevant and misleading? SPICA expected no results and specifically released it to those who care – their dedicated fan-base. This doesn’t look like fair critique to folks who are familiar with SPICA.

        By ignoring the intent (and therefore, context) of “Ghost”, can you see that the review’s quality was lowered, because of its misleading nature and irrelevance to the song? It is like critiquing a horror movie for its lack of comedy.

        To bring my point to the very bare basics, with regards to what you replied with: Author produces content “for fans”. Whether it’s “for fans” or a “general audience” is irrelevant to the reviewer. Yet, a point of critique in review is that the content does not appeal to the “general audience”. This incongruency hurts the review.

      3. No, the point of that remark is that “Ghost” is not anything that SPICA hasn’t done before and already covered well. That’s the main point.

  5. black soshi · · Reply

    Thanks for the Boa gif.

  6. brooke lynnannne · · Reply

    My biggest problem with this song Is Jiwon gets very little to sing.

    I wish they would let her sing some stronger notes sometime. She can belt out notes but shes always relegated to small parts in verses.

    1. I think it’s a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. SPICA’s got so many powerfully strong vocalists that someone’s bound to get lesser billing than they probably would otherwise.

  7. Hopefully this is some good news for SPICA. The article says they renewed with CJ E&M, but I haven’t found any evidence that there was a prior professional relationship with them. Earlier today it was announced that Eric Nam who is also with B2M had signed a marketing and endorsement deal with CJ E&M and B2M would just act as business agent it seems.

    This combination of news reinforces my suspicion that the year of nothing from SPICA, the announced but never materialized Boa solo project, or Nicole having a new promotion after her solo debut is because B2M probably ran out of money and couldn’t get financing for new projects. This sounds like B2M finally concluded that they couldn’t promote their artists anymore and at least found some kind of business arrangement so their artists might have more success.

    This kind of shows how even with great talent, the lack of a solid marketing plan and a lack of luck will sink a small company. For example, if Starship doesn’t have Sistar debut well and then go supernova within two years, Starship is probably a footnote and not a growing company that got snatched up by a much bigger label and continues to grow. Likewise, Starship at least seemed to understand how to market their artists well and grow their brands so that when they release a song it is an automatic #1 or at least top 10 hit.

    It could be too that B2M was just too under-capitalized to start with and unlike Starship with Sistar, they could not take advantage of SPICA having a pretty good debut. Part of that too may be that B2M forgot the important lesson that singing talent is important, but you must have someone who is eager to act and has some talent at it, or someone who has a personality that shines on variety shows so an offer comes to be a regular on a variety show that is on a major network. One thing that showed when SPICA did the show with Hyori mentoring them was just how uncomfortable many of them were with that. SPICA needed a Bora, Suzy, Jiyoung, Sunhwa, Victoria, etc. that could be out there every week for months or a year promoting their group in front of a big audience even when not actively promoting.

    I really hope this bodes well for a successful SPICA comeback and maybe that we hear something from Nicole.

    1. Yup! I am overjoyed that my faves are making a comeback.

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