Like many things in life, my ambivalence towards the Wonder Girls’ all too ubiquitous hit “Nobody” probably owes a lot to timing. To date myself here, the group’s smash hit came out when I was in college and in a decidedly not-K-Pop phase of my music listening life (I would fight anyone who said that Lil’ Wayne wasn’t anything less than a lyrical genius. I maintain that Da Drought 3 is amazing.). And, for reasons that I will try to explain below, unlike plenty of other K-Pop tracks, “Nobody” has never grown on me. It (much like SNSD’s “Gee”). It has remained just as oddly grating as ever.
“Nobody” has plenty of undeniably great features. First and foremost, the song’s hook is unfairly simple and wickedly catchy. The repetitive, off-kilter claps makes it impossible to disengage from the beat while the Wonder Girls’ vocals hit this level of soulful hypnosis that ensures that “I want nobody, nobody but you (*Clap clap. Clap.)” will echo in the listener’s skull long after the tune ends. However, while the combination of the two is deadly, everything else surrounding “Nobody” doesn’t really add much. The choice to make the percussive claps so prominent gives “Nobody” a tin sound that the vocals never really satisfyingly fills. Instead, the song starts at a march and it doesn’t progress to anywhere exciting. It certainly doesn’t help matters that JYP manages to leave the strongest impression in the video, both because of his comedic acting and the fact that the small snippet of “Honey” that serves as the video’s intro sounds far and away more lively, funky and fun than “Nobody.”
Granted, the looping quality of “Nobody” is arguably more of an asset than a flaw but when a song’s far and away best asset has is a percussive clap and a great hook, it might work better as a ringtone than a single.