Korean rapper PSY‘s runaway smash-of-smashes “Gangnam Style” is set to reach a historic one billion YouTube views by Christmas. The continued American attention should buy the man a pretty sweet yacht, but at this point he’s actually flopping around a bit on the charts back in Korea, especially given that he’s been sitting at No. 1 in so many other countries (currently: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Norway). In other words, apparently “Gangnam Style” has long since graduated to such a level of worldwide Internet saturation that Korean pop listeners have decided it’s time to move on.
Son Ga-In, a.k.a “Gain,” is by far Psy’s most exciting successor yet, a bleach-blonde singer who just turned 25 and was previously best known as a member of a popular pop quartet Brown Eyed Girls. These days, she’s currently focusing on a solo career; her eagerly awaited sophomore album Talk About S was released October 5. Billboard’s recent efforts toward tracking K-pop would put her recent peak at No. 2, but her addictive lead single “Bloom” has topped all the real-time ranking charts operated by a number of smaller Korean regional music sites, a phenomenon known as an “All Kill” among K-pop’s most enthusiastic followers. That’s exactly how “Gangnam Style” started, too.
“Bloom” is a very different animal, though — most notably, it takes itself a bit more seriously. GaIn clearly wants you to have fun, but there are no dances that frat boys will be doing on Halloween, and no shots of anyone rapping on the toilet. Instead, “Bloom” opens with in-your-face retro production that sounds a bit reminiscent of Like a Prayer-era Madonna with a tinge of New Jack Swing. At first, its mostly minor-key funk gears grind into position, then drum-machine rolls and jangly little triads slip around way up on the highest guitar strings. Those cards are played masterfully, and they wrap you up in the song’s sound so quickly, that it seems impossible they’d be able to pull off a typically exultant, major-key K-pop explosion, especially one where the lyrics switch to English. But there it is anyway, a dramatic and difficult change of pace where both sides of the tipping point seem like the better half, giving you a quick breather before you get back to dancing — the real deal, not just pantomiming a horsey ride.