Let’s admit it: After School have kind of lost their luster. Yes, they’re still a great group, “Shampoo” was brilliant, and “Flashback” was good for some trashy fun, but the group fails to captivate in the same way that they used to. They’ve become less interesting with each member departure, and by this point, they’d be almost forgettable if it weren’t for their sub-unit, Orange Caramel.
Delightfully garish and terribly tacky, the J-Pop-influenced Orange Caramel continue to be a rising force in the K-Pop world. Their crazy concepts and cartoonish aegyo has bagged them hit after hit and helped them outshine their mother group, and now they’re ready to cement themselves as more than just your average sub-unit with their first full-length album, Lipstick.
Title track “Lipstick” is Orange Caramel’s most mature single to date, but that’s not exactly saying much considering their nursery-pop back catalog. In the song, the OC girls get their lipstick all over a handsome stranger that they’ve got their eyes on; possibly to alert the mystery man’s girlfriend to his infidelity, thus putting him back on the market and ready for their taking.
The production is pure euro-trot –that’s European pop combined with Korean trot music to be precise– and I’m just gonna say it outright: Gangkiz did it first! When Gangkiz mashed the two genres on “Honey Honey”, they were treated like diseased lepers by K-Pop fans, but now that Orange Caramel have fed from the group’s scraps, the same people will be pumping “Lipstick” on repeat.
I’m not mad though, because “Lipstick” is a pretty awesome song in its own right. Quirky, cute, and as sexy as it is silly, it’s the perfect way for Orange Caramel to mature their sound without abandoning their unique style.
The official music video is even better, with the OC girls playing the world’s weirdest game of table tennis while trying to win the heart of a handsome ping ponger. The tacky seventies aesthetic reminds me of Perfume’s “Spending all my time”, but whereas Perfume went for a more muted look, Orange Caramel have gone all cartoony-Asia-meets-Dynasty.
“Flashback” made it onto my jogging playlist, but “Lipstick” is a certified jam, and will tide me over nicely until Kahi and Son Dam Bi’s comebacks. In the meantime, After School better think of something seriously good to return with, or else soon they’re going to start looking like they’re the cash-in sub-unit of the glitzy Orange Caramel, and not the other way around.