K-Pop

From Girl on Top to ‘Woman’ Upside Down: BoA Reaffirms Her Reign as the Queen of K-Pop

BoA Woman Album

BoA‘s not a girl, not yet – err, actually, very much now a woman.

The 31-year-old industry vet has also been leading the pack since the release of her debut album ID; Peace B in 2000. While her popularity has wavered in recent years, as it inevitably does in the world of pop, the quality of her releases and her performance style has remained unchanged.

Her drive hasn’t faltered, either. In fact, with the release of Woman, her ninth full-length Korean language album, on Wednesday (October 24), she’s dropped not one, not two, but three different comebacks in 2018. (Don’t worry, there’s still time for a fourth!)

But first, the title track: as opposed to being a Girl On Top, she’s now a Woman Upside Down.

Kicking off with the click-clack of stilettos (and oh, how I live for the sound of a fierce trot), BoA comes confidently strutting in to the tail-end of 2018 with “Woman,” a grown-up declaration of self fitting for the enduring pop icon who first delivered her fiery empowerment anthem “Girls On Top” 13 years ago – not to mention the current cultural climate. (There’s even a mention of “Girls on top” in the actual song – my heart!)

The accompanying video is equally confident, beginning with a gravity-defying, dancer-assisted stroll on the clouds. Look, it’s BoA paving yet another new path for everyone else in the Korean industry!

Sporting an array of wigs, accompanied by her gang of bad bitches, BoA serves up the slick, top-notch choreography with the kind of effortless cool only she can deliver nearly twenty years deep into her career, providing subtle shades of Beyonce‘s “Formation.” (She’s also giving me a little Ayumi Hamasaki with all that leopard print.) A strictly “Legends Only” situation, obviously.

Like essentially of all of her Korean full-lengths, Woman is a treat, with plenty of great songs – and yes, many are even superior to the lead single. In fact, there are zero duds here – it’s an all-killer, no filler kind of record.

With lyrics penned solely by BoA, plus her frequent credits as a co-composer and co-arranger, Woman underscores the fact that BoA has fully taken the reigns of her own career – as she should as one of the most enduring, influential icons of the Korean pop industry.

As always, BoA’s sound consistently evolves with modern music trends, especially in terms of what’s happening on the electronic/dance scene. Therefore, she’s layered in some of-the-moment trap, future bass and trop-pop textures – but never sabotages her own sense of style.

Highlights are fast and frequent straight out of the gate, including the bouncy “Like It!” – co-composed by Caesar & Loui, the same songwriting duo behind Jinsoul of LOONA‘s “Singing In The Rain.”

“Irreversible,” one of the album’s major standouts – which is made all the better knowing the melodies were composed entirely by BoA (!) – glides across near-whispered vocals and lush, layered, throbbing electronic pulsations.

“Encounter” dabbles in Major Lazer territory with its infectious beat drops and warped, squawking synths. Fun fact: the track was arranged by Corry Nitta, who also did Sky Ferreira‘s “Traces.” A most wonderfully unexpected connection!

“No Limit” similarly slides into the modern scene effortlessly, like a solo take on KARD‘s colorful dancehall/moombahton-inspired releases, a la “Oh NaNa” (It’s right there in the lyrics: na-na-na-na!) or Justin Bieber‘s Purpose, a la “Sorry.”

From the very first hint of the beat, “U&I” quickly establishes itself as That Song of the bunch: the track, co-penned by Sumin, pulsates with all the energy of Body Talk-era Robyn, or maybe even Britney‘s “Heaven On Earth.” The track was arranged by “The Family” Swedish songwriting and production team, responsible for cuts like Loreen‘s “Statements.” What an instant synth-pop smash.

But Woman, just like the woman by the record, is a varied and versatile set, which doesn’t strictly stay in the current Top 40 lane. “Little More” is a blast of horn-heavy joyousness, like a funky modern take on Kool & The Gang‘s “Celebration,” while “If” allows BoA’s vocals to shine (we are) across a laidback electric guitar groove.

“Good Love,” similarly, looks toward the past with familiar, feel-good ’90s R&B vibes, while album closer “I want you back,” co-composed by the legendary Karen Poole (Kylie and Dannii Minogue, among many others!) supplies a delicious disco energy to keep us twirling our way to the album’s very last second. There’s also an undeniable touch of Jackson, both Janet and Michael, to the more throwback cuts – not a shocker, given that they’ve remained her biggest influences throughout her career.

By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that BoA’s managed to make an all-killer, no-filler record full of so many varied sounds and fresh takes on modern trends, nor should it be surprising that she just delivered one of the best K-Pop records of 2018, three different comebacks deep into the year. We should expect nothing less.

BoA really is that woman – the Queen, in fact.

BoA Woman GIF

Woman was released on October 24. (iTunes)

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Photo credit: SM Entertainment