Despite only having two single albums to their name, IVE have been 2 for 2 in terms of quality. Debut track Eleven still stands as one of last years stronger efforts and Love Dive remains amongst 2022’s best and most unique singles. As such, IVE have become one of those groups I actively look forward to. A sentiment that’s only furthered by the delirious, disco fuelled majesty of the groups latest single, After Like.
From the moment I heard that glorious I Will Survive sample in the first teaser, I knew I would love After Like. The instrumentation sounded absolutely euphoric, propelling the otherwise iconic sample into overdrive and delivering an unstoppable dance floor drive. It was the first time in a long time where I had been actively anticipating a K-pop comeback and though I was ready to be disappointed, After Like is everything I could have wanted from it and maybe even more.
Opening with a dramatic collage of strings that foreshadow the tracks central sample, After Like launches into a surprisingly summery verse. I adore the usage of rhythm guitar here, it lends Rei’s already charismatic flow an additional sense of buoyancy that makes for a really tight introduction. In fact, the entire track harnesses a real beach vibe, one that could have easily worked alongside a beach-side mv. The airy hook is also a testament to this, harnessing a more laid back delivery and melodic construction that manages to be both breezy and effortlessly cool. I adore the usage of house piano and those filtered vocals, they add so much character and groove to even the tracks quieter moments, elevating every single moment of this disco-tastic stunner.
But I can’t really talk about After Like without mentioning the star of the show can I. Very few times has a sample been so expertly used and integrated into a k-pop song as seen here. Initially I was afraid it would feel too overbearing and take away from After Like‘s individual charms but that is absolutely not the case. I adore arrangements that feel like an exercise in release and After Like is an excellent example of that. Despite being repeated three full times throughout the tracks 3 minute run time, it never feels over used or grating. And though that can be attributed to the timeless nature of the melody, credit must also be given to the incredibly tight arrangement. Elements of the sample, such as the dramatic disco strings are omnipresent but are utilised sparingly so that each post chorus feels like its own mini climax. It’s absolutely euphoric on each and every repetition, utilising the drama of its arrangement to create a swirling display of pure pop majesty. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the second chorus brings together rappers Gaeul and Rei for a killer rap breakdown over the ascending, near symphonic sample. Something that just hits all the right buttons for me and remains one of my all time favourite production quirks.
In a year that’s seen its fair share of middling singles, IVE have manage to craft two absolute stunners. Each unique in their own way but equally as impactful. And though Love Dive is one of my favourite songs of the year, I think that After Like may just be even better. This is a real firecracker of a comeback and one of the most instant girl group singles in a long time.
Final Rating: 9.5 / 10