K-Pop Songs of the Summer Review: TVXQ - Hi Ya Ya
Over time, the K-Pop Review community has grown from a few individuals into a full subset of the internet. Now, TheBiasList, Kbopped, 10/10 - Music, Hallyureviews, Jei’s Kulture Notes, Deforested Music, A Floating Realm in the Corner, 8.5 Music, and Kpopreviewed are working together, to create a series, where we review some of our favorite collections of songs from the huge K-Pop catalog, with each of us choosing a song each to fit the theme. August’s theme is ‘Summer’, so here we all are with our favorite K-Pop summer songs to bring some refreshing sounds to your speakers.
Be sure to check out everyone’s blogs in the links below!
10/10 - Music Review (Me/Current Review)
A Floating Realm in the Corner Review (Blog)
KBOPPED Review (Blog)
Jei's Kulture Notes Review (Blog)
Hallyu Reviews Review (Blog)
8.5 Music Review (Blog)
KPOPREVIEWED Review (Blog)
Deforested Music Review (Blog)
The Bias List Review (Blog)
Welcome to the greatest collaboration between the K-Pop review bloggers yet! In this feature, all of the reviewers listed above will take turns to write about their favorite K-Pop summer song of all time. It was at the time when we were liting all our picks that I realized how much of a geek I am for older songs. My favorite era for music is the 50s, and I picked the oldest summer song amongst the reviewers, with TVXQ's 2005 summer classic in Hi Ya Ya.
That said, Hi Ya Ya would fit perfectly in every decade since the 60s with a few minor edits. It is this timelessness that really makes Hi Ya Ya a near-perfect song. From moment one, the song is pure propulsive pop-rock, scrupleless and ageless.
When one thinks of TVXQ, it is common to imagine their SMP hits and classics by Yoo Young-Jin and Thomas Troelsen such as Mirotic, Rising Sun, Catch Me, Keep Your Head Down, O Jung-Ban-Hap, Tri-Angle, and Wrong Number. Others will think of their ballads such as Why Did I Completely Fall in Love With You, Love in the Ice, Bolero, and Before U Go. Indeed, those two styles make up the bulk of TVXQ's hefty discography and 2000s SM artists in general. But in between that, there is a forgotten style, the summer sound.
Usually, during summertime, SM artists would get together to release an SM Town summer album, while the major artists would release their own summer albums. On other occasions, summer songs would be singles on normal albums. In the latter situation, BoA's Atlantic Princess was released. I nearly picked that song despite its May release date, as it is so definitively a summer K-Pop classic. It was on my list with two other summer songs that failed to make it in, but I am not mentioning them as two of the reviewers have them covered. But I digress.
Anyway, TVXQ released a lot of summer songs within albums as those. However, many of their summer highlights are actually J-Pop tracks, such as Summer Dream, and the much more recent (and equally good) Hot Hot Hot. While both of those songs are upper 9s or 10s themselves, Hi Ya Ya barely triumphs over those two with its ability to last in any situation summer-related, while still being a perfect song for all seasons.
Hi Ya Ya was released back when TVXQ was five, and thus they had an incredible catalog of talented performers to jump to any time the song needed. The song opens with some classic pop guitar chords before a slamming icy synth announces Yoochun's rapid-fire opening. The guitar creates an electronic grid for Yoochun to build on. The opening rap is exclusively in English, as with a lot of Yoochun raps. The difference here is that while not lyrically sound, I am not internally dying each time I hear it.
At the same time, the drums and percussion provide just the right amount of pop to capture that lightning-in-a-bottle feel and energy. Supporting Yoochun, Junsu provides strong ad-libs, as he always does. This intro never fails to put a smile on my face.
Right after this, the production slows down to an upbeat and poppy groove, rather than the speediness of the song till this point. Jaejoong starts the verse with a simple line. A choir sings between each phrase, each individually by a member. Once again, Junsu and Yoochun, who have the final two phrases get the best lines.
But an interesting thing to note here; there is no pre-chorus. Rather, each phrase builds the song forward to the chorus. Rather than the general song structure of playing at a level field in the verses, build in pre-chorus, and culminate in the chorus, Hi Ya Ya uses the verses for a much more level building ground.
After the choir gives one last punch before the chorus arrives. Notice how each and every refrain is stretched out in its full glory, never cut for time constraints. Also, rather than the counter-melodies, the chorus is led by two vocal melodies, phrased in the same direction. The whole group sings one, while one member independently sings the same refrain, just at a different time, playing off the main melody. The independent singer can now play off the central melody, without hurting the song's speed at all.
The chorus is lightning-in-a-bottle. The first refrain is central enough that the tune is not changed too much, and rather than the independent member simply plays around the central melody. For the second phrase, the rest of the members sift into choir-esque melodies, while the central member sings a lyrical line, with the same basic tune.
The chorus then ends with the phrase "Neor Saranghae, forever come with me", performed by Changmin in the first repetition, before a rock beat blends the chorus with the upcoming verse. Occasionally, you will come across musical lines or phrases that hit hard, are memorable, catchy, and overall accomplish their purpose perfectly. When it comes to summer K-Pop songs, the two best examples of this are "Neor Jhoahae" from Winner's 2017 mega-hit Really Really, and this is the other one. It comes with the summery and fun pathos it was intended to have, paired with an excellent slow-down of the melody. Of all the singers who perform the line in the song, Changmin truly does it best.
Afterward, the song instantly shoots back to full speed, repeating the phrasing pattern from the first verse. The melody is not entirely repeated, giving just the right amount of emotional nostalgia, while treading new ground. TVXQ as five had an amazing vocal line-up, and every switch-up in the singer adds a different layer to the melody. This allows the producers a large amount of room to move around and play with the vocal styles.
The verse ends in a slightly different version than the first verse, culminating in a choir-like hook, with a muted Yoochun singing "Till the end of time", this merger is subtle and allows us to enter the chorus with a smile. Once again, the vocal layering usage makes the chorus entirely fresh. That is the central trick of Hi Ya Ya, the melody is simple, it just is twisted in interesting directions.
We now enter the bridge. For the first time in the entire song, the beat slows to a halt. Instead of pop-rock, a simple piano dots the instrumentation. As anyone who has heard TVXQ's a cappella pieces, they know they certainly can do a lot without a lot. Culminating in a classic choir-like formation, the bridge does so much in so few seconds that it is best experienced rather than told off.
The bridge ends once again with Yoochun's muted "Till the end of time". However, this time it is given free space and marks a new surge. The chorus then instantly picks up, without any build-up, straight to max firepower. This time, the lyrics are rephrased to single that they are concluding. Jaejoong, during his segment at the lead, ends on a fantastic high note. From this point onwards, the rest of the members sing the central melody, while each of the 5 gets a turn at the head, where they ad-lib or add just a few tweaks to end the piece on a high.
Jaejoong then ends with the "Neor Saranghae, forever come with me". This time, however, it is stretched into a proper conclusion for all-time, rather than a phrase, allowing you to take a few seconds to simply appreciate the song for what it has managed to do.
Hi Ya Ya truly is the refreshing summer anthem it was supposed to be and has become a staple of summertime for me since I first heard it, almost a decade ago (which was well over half a decade after the song's initial arrival on the scene back in 2005). In many ways, it is the perfect summer classic, blending timeless pop with just enough timeless tricks to make sure it is anything but generic. It still hits as hard as it did years ago, and I presume it will continue to do so for years to come.
That ends the first review from the K-Pop Songs of the Summer series. Make sure to check out all the blogs, and keep up with the posting. Tomorrow, KH, also known as Bluerasberrysyrup from A Floating Realm in the Corner, will provide us with a review for an underrated modern summer bop. Here is a hint for the song she'll review, it has an excellent rap, with the two rappers providing very different styles around an excellent dance beat!
Next Review: A Floating Realm in the Corner (Blog)
Image Source: Lina of Hallyu Reviews