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AESPA 'DRAMA' - Album Review

by Senthujan Sivarasa


Last year was a year full of amazing comebacks. One of my absolute favourite comebacks of the year was aespa’s DRAMA. 

Picture it, aespa has just released their summer digital single, Better Things, and now winter is here (aside from the actual member haha). Here comes aespa with some heat through the release of their 4th mini album DRAMA. The album sees aespa further demonstrate that there is much more to aespa than the eyes meet.



Image credit: Promotional image for DRAMA by aespa


DRAMA:


The mini-album begins with the title track of the album DRAMA, which brings the fire and a-energy that we are used to getting from them. The song sees aespa remind the audience that they are here to stay. With lyrics, such as "You know, I'm savage, Unstoppable, baddest," aespa’s confidence as a group continues to shine.

The production is full of drama, twists and turns. The song begins with an iconic Winter intro as she whispers “I'm the drama”. Winter is known for her intros, her most noticeable one being from their title track Savage. Following this, Karina and Giselle start the song with a rap. However, the pre-chorus slows down, with NingNing and Winter’s vocals serving as a focus point.


Image Credit: Screenshot from the DRAMA  Music Video by aespa


Throughout the song, there are noticeable changes within the production, which makes you wonder if it's the same song. However, it isn’t an Aespa song, if there wasn’t a beat drop. The song displays similarities to their earlier work, notably Black Mamba and Next Level. As with any Aespa song, Winter and NingNing deliver glass-shattering high notes during the bridge which further escalates the drama of the song. 


The lyrics further showcase them establishing their self-confidence in being strong leaders in their world. “Rules, they will follow me, tap my finger and watch the world move”  Winter sings before the chorus drops. Overall, the song is a strong title track and continues the message that Aespa are not to be messed with. 



Image Credit: Screenshot from the DRAMA Music Video by aespa


The music video, released on the same day as the track, brings the song to life whilst captivating the fieriness that aespa carries. With sharp choreography, stunning visuals and concepts full of drama, the video portrays a different side to aespa whilst keeping to the dark concept that they are known for.


Trick or Trick:


The second track, Trick or Trick continues the dark sonic sound of DRAMA. Interestingly, the song has a Halloween theme. This can easily be found through the use of heavy bass and lyrics such as “Now you see me, Now you don’t”, which continues to linger on my mind even after listening to the album. Sonically, the song is similar to their previous work whilst the lyrics tell a story of the girls playing hide and seek with a love interest.



Image Credit: Promotional image for DRAMA by aespa


Don't Blink:


Unreleased at the time of the concert, Don’t Blink was first sung during their 2023 world tour concert. Whilst this song has a slower pace and is a bit underwhelming compared to the previous two tracks, when you listen to the album in full, the track could be viewed as a building block of the small sonic transition that could be heard throughout the album. With the girls singing lyrics such as "Look closely, the moment you let your guard down, I'll turn your world upside down", their confidence powers through the stripped-down production, which allows the members’ vocals to shine. The vocals during the verses are stunning and showcase different sounds made by the members, which further allows the girls to explore their vocals in different ways. 


Image credit: aespa photographed on their 2023 world tour in London.



Hot Air Balloon:


The Fourth track of the mini album, Hot Air Balloon, was first previewed, before being released, during their world tour. It takes a complete U-turn from the first three songs of the mini album. This song explores a more playful side to aespa. We first got to see a brighter side to aespa through their previous release, My World. It’s nice to see that they’ve continued to explore this sound. The production of Hot Air Balloon reminds me of playing a video game, like Mario Kart. It further emphasises the playfulness of the lyrics.  The lyrics explore going on a journey up into the sky with a loved one. 


Image Credit: Aespa performing on their 1st world tour 'SYNK: HYPER LINE.


Whilst it might be thought that the chorus is a bit repetitive, when hearing the song live, you can’t help but jump for joy and like the lyrics, the song will make you want to “jump into their Hot Air Balloon”.


YOLO:


The summer theme continues with the next track YOLO, which could be described as a  British summer tune. This song embraces the feeling of playing around on the beach and enjoying drinks by the ocean. The use of a fading intro allows a smooth transition from the previous track.



Image Credit: Promotional Image for DRMAMA by aespa


If you were a causal listener of aespa’s, it may come as a surprise that the group also have songs on this theme, as aespa’s concepts are mostly based on AI and dark concepts. It would been interesting to see the general public on this side of aespa. On that note, YOLO’s production may seem to be viewed as having too many different pop sounds added onto one song. 


Lyrically, as the title suggests, the girls emphasise the importance of living in the moment and loving themselves, regardless of the negative days. With lyrics, such as “If I enjoy it more every day, I will be the winner (Bigger, better), Getting higher, I like my life only live once”. This song was also performed during their 2023 world tour before being released. It is a song that allows the fans to engage with the girls when performed live.


YOU: 


The album ends with You, a gentle track, quite opposite to the album's first half. Layered with soothing vocals, the song is a love letter towards their fans. The song’s lyrics are heart-touching and can be dedicated to true love. With lyrics, such as “My world, because you are there, Let's always be together, My heart is full of you”, you can’t help but think of a loved one, in this case, aespa are showing their love and appreciation towards their fans for their support through their K-pop journey.


Image Credit: Promotional image for DRAMA by aespa


I adore the beginning of the song; the piano intro and the vintage sound set the mood for the song. The song provides a light-hearted ending to the album and a strong message to their fans.


Final Thoughts:


Overall, DRAMA has the audience sitting on their Hot Air Balloon through a journey of music. Starting strong with a feisty track, we travel through the different emotions that the girls portray throughout the songs. Through each song, we seem to uncover a deeper layer of aespa, ultimately revealing a more vulnerable and personal side to the girls. One thing that aespa has successfully done since debuting in November 2020 is creating a unique identity which defers them from other groups.



Image Credit: Promotional Image for DRAMA by aespa.


As a music listener, it is amazing to see how different sonic sounds can take the individual through a journey; this is something that aespa has confidently succeeded through this body of work. As the title of their special digital track, Better Things are on the Horizon for aespa. I hope we get a full album from the girls as it will provide more space to further explore who aespa are.


My album track ranking for DRAMA:


  1. DRAMA

  2. You

  3. Trick or Trick

  4. Hot Air Balloon

  5. Don’t Blink

  6. YOLO






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