Subunits are hardly rare in the world of K-Pop, but more often than not, they come across as a one-off experiment: “If you like this particular combination, tell us now! If not, we’ll reassemble the full group and never speak of this again!” More often than not, the fans’ silence seals the fate of subunit after subunit. Tell us the truth: You’ve already forgotten about U-BEAT, 2YOON, and Rainbow Pixie, haven’t you?
Done poorly, the experiment leaves us wondering why the producers would ever think that staging a comeback with three-sevenths or one-third of the group might be a good idea. When Orange Caramel made their debut in 2010, their parent group, After School, was at the peak of success with hits like “Bang!” and “Because of You.” Launching a new subunit with a completely new concept seemed unnecessary, but that’s probably why it worked — Pledis likely had the ability and initiative to invest in them properly, rather than rushing forward with a desperate slapdash single. We’re not claiming that Orange Caramel is a runaway hit-maker to rival 2NE1 or EXO, but the fact that they’ve lasted four years is still pretty impressive.
The trio’s success lies partly in the fact that they spotted an empty niche early on in the game — that energetic candy-Lolita act that seemed like it would work better in Japan than Korea — and quickly staked it as their own, scoring chart wins in both countries. Over the past four years, Nana, Lizzy, and Raina have doubled down on their unique image, delivering increasingly bizarre concepts each time. Even as their After School alter egos have followed the tried-and-true path of performing sexier dances and showing more skin, the ladies of Orange Caramel have instead: battled a giant bride in an epic Ping-Pong match (“Lipstick”), become pieces of sushi which are eaten by… themselves (“Catallena”), and finally, in “My Copycat,” delivered the first-ever K-Pop “Where’s Waldo” and “Spot the Differences.” The only other group that comes remotely close to bringing this level of weird is Crayon Pop — themselves an insanely successful experiment.
“My Copycat” relies upon a reference to Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP’s “We No Speak Americano,” abandoning the familiar beep-beep beats only during the synth-laden refrain. It may lack the instant catchiness of”Catallena” (which hit 1 million views within the first 24 hours), but it’s competently constructed. Even if you’re not a fan of their style, you can’t help but tap your foot while following along.
To us, the music video is the real standout. We love the madcap “Where’s Waldo” scenes: Nuns, a gigantic teddy bear, a policeman sitting cross-legged on the floor, Ping-Pong players, and breakdancers are just a few of the many characters occupying tiny portions of the screen, in an engaging display that makes us wish that the original childhood staple could have been live-action. (We’re still looking for Seho!) Orange Caramel clearly does well working with Digipedi Studio, the directors of their last three music videos, and we hope to see more collaborations from them in the future.
We’re happy to see that Pledis is giving Orange Caramel the time and budget they deserve. We hope After School will receive the same treatment when they make their comeback!