BABYMONSTER’s highly anticipated debut ‘Batter Up’ is a swing and a miss

BABYMONSTER’s highly anticipated debut ‘Batter Up’ is a swing and a miss

“Attention!” goes the cry at the start of ‘Batter Up’, the debut single from YG Entertainment’s new girl group, BABYMONSTER. It’s a fitting way to kick off their story – a call to order after months of rumours and whispers about when they would debut, who would be in the final line-up and what they would sound like. All eyes have been – and still are – on the six-member group, and now, they’re ready to give the world something to watch.

Whatever they show has a lot to live up to in more ways than one. BABYMONSTER are the first girl group to debut under YG since BLACKPINK in 2016 – a group that have spent the last seven years becoming one of K-pop’s biggest acts and a global force to be reckoned with. That BLACKPINK are still in contract renewal negotiations with the label also raises the stakes here, putting more impetus on their successors to start off strongly. The hotbed of creativity and imagination that is the girl group scene in K-pop’s fourth generation, too, gives the new rookies a tough act to follow – their debut has little hope of making the impact you’d expect from a group under YG if it is nothing other than average.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what ‘Batter Up’ is. That first rallying cry might make you sit up and listen in, but it quickly dissipates into a song that does little actually to keep your attention. Even in the moments that are clearly designed to be the track’s earworm moments, it feels weak and leaves no lasting impression. Formulaic to its core, it’s as if the team behind it have used BLACKPINK’s ‘How You Like That’, Lisa’s ‘Money’ and the chorus of TREASURE’s ‘Bona Bona’ as their template but crucially forgotten to fill this song in with anything new, interesting or distinctive.

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If there’s one thing ‘Batter Up’ achieves, it’s somehow taking that template and making it sound dated. The single’s synthesised brass melodies feel tired, and the lack of heft behind the bass leaves the whole thing sounding limp and half-hearted. When coupled with lyrics that are meant to be strong and empowering, it creates a big disconnect – one that brings down the whole track.

If there was more oomph to the music, the lyrics might hit harder, but they’d still be predictable and superficial “tough girl” nonsense. “I’m on a mission, don’t need permission / No matter what, I’m gonna make my own decisions,” Rami sings in the first verse, a by-the-numbers declaration of independence. Later, Chiquita adds: “Remember me, sting like a bee / We are the MVP rocking the stage.”

Perhaps it’s a line that’s intended as a fake-it-til-you-make-it premonition of where BABYMONSTER will end up in years to come, but for a bold claim like that to work, it needs to be housed in a much better song. Don’t even get us started on the cringe levels of YG making 17-year-old Asa rap: “Like a boss baby, Imma boss baby / Rip it up, everything like brrrr-ah.”

It’s a shame that such a highly anticipated debut is so disappointing. BABYMONSTER’s six members (planned seventh member Ahyeon is not involved in this track for health reasons but could rejoin the group in the future) aren’t at fault here, using their talents to deliver the song as best they can. Up against lazy, bad songwriting, though, even the most Herculean of efforts would likely fall flat. “Batter, batter, batter up,” the girls chant in the chorus as they mime whacking a baseball out of the park. BABYMONSTER’s debut, though, is no home run but a swing and a miss. Strike one.

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