Apink (에이핑크) ‘FIVE’ – Analysis and Review
This article provides a structural and harmonic analysis of ‘FIVE’ and aims to highlight and discuss interesting aspects of the song’s musical composition. ‘FIVE’ was launched as the primary track on Apink’s 6th mini abum “Pink Up” released on 26/06/17.
Although I aim to justify any opinions raised in this article, please respect that the views expressed are my own and they are subjective. For more information, please click here
Identifying the composers:
At the time of writing (9 hours after the official launch of the MV on youtube), there is no official accreditation regarding the production of ‘FIVE’ or the ‘Pink Up’ mini album as a whole. The production artwork published online simply states that Plan A Entertainment are the accredited rights holders. This poses an obvious difficulty in the writing of this article(!)
I have gone as far as to purchase the mini album on iTunes and check the ‘get info’ data but, to my surprise, the composer heading has unhelpfully been left blank on a purchase from an official market platform!
There are various unverified comments on k-pop forums which suggest that Apink regulars Shinsadong Tiger and Beom & Nang were involved in the composition and production of ‘Pink Up’ – stylistically, this makes sense. However, without looking at a copy of the physical release or seeing an as yet unpublished image of the inside of the liner notes for the physical release, I can not confirm this accreditation and can’t address the composers directly, which is a shame as I enjoyed the track!
I have reached out to Plan A and 1-the-K for clarification as to the identity of the composer(s) but have yet to receive a reply. I will update this article accordingly once this information is known, but I find it surprising and disappointing that the production credits for a major mainstream act were not clearly and accessibly published. My article fundamentally argues that FIVE is a well-composed song with coherent structure and interesting harmonic movement. The composer(s) deserve recognition and it would have been nice to directly acknowledge their work.
**[UPDATE]** – Arirang confirmed during a feature piece on Apink’s comeback that the album was indeed produced by Shinsadong Tiger and Beom & Nang.
Song Structure and track info:
(fig A – Bar/Timecode/Structural overview of ‘FIVE’)
- Duration of published recording = 3:12 [source: iTunes]
- Consists of 91 bars in 4/4 time signature
- Tempo – Approx metronome mark of crotchet = 114 (Allegro)
- Key Signature: B Major
- Chorus-Verse Form: Intro, ABCDBCDADB
(fig B – introduction: backing chords, backing synth/keys, solo and melodic elements)
The introduction features 3 bars of repeated synth chording, which brings out the first and fourth quaver(8th) chords of each bar (this implies an illusionary compound 6/8 rhythm being juxtaposed/crossed against a conventional 4/4 beat). The rhythm of the introductory solo guitar and initial vocal melody also syncopates against the main beat. The overall effect is that of irresolute suspense, leading up until the 5th bar where the rhythm finally becomes consistent with the main beat.
The harmony doesn’t immediately or directly highlight the home key of B major, but instead is subtly suggested by the vocal line resolving on a D# on bar 5, with the tonic note (B) being drawn out during the previous bar (thus forming a B major 3rd).
From the above, it’s clear that the composers have gone to some effort to withdraw the harmony from the home key and embellish the beat with cross-rhythmic syncopation. I like this level of detail and applaud the composer(s) ability to implement the techniques in a subtle fashion.
(fig C – melody, backing synth and chordal structure of Chorus 1, bars 6 – 14)
The chorus is thankfully consistent during each repetition throughout the song. There are some instrumental and lyrical idiosyncracies, but nothing that would render the section difficult to annotate if you were arranging the track for a live performance. There is a notable call-and-response taking place between the strings between bars 1-4 of fig C above: the strings first play a ‘turn’ which resolves on C# before a recurring synth drum/keys hit responds. This interaction repeats a second time (without the ‘turn’ in the string line) before a more prominent (and again syncopated) synth solo takes priority. All the while, the vocal melody revolves around notes from the B-Major scale from the first to fifth bar of the passage (again, the home key is being suggest through the vocals as opposed to the backing).
The Instrumental + Vocal refrain:
(fig D – instrumental and vocal refrain post chorus 1 and chorus 2)
The instrumental + vocal refrain occurs a total 3 times (if we include the outro section, which has an additional bar for settling the song). Much like the intro, it is characterised with recurring backing chords, which are this time embellished by strings or a synth solo. An interesting observation made whilst listening to the first Instr + Vocal refrain (immediately after Chorus 1) was how the composer has dimmed the volume and panning on the 2nd and 4th bars of the passage to generate an ‘echo’ effect. The 2nd bar echoes the vocal line from the last bar of chorus 1 and the 4th bar echoes the vocal line from the 3rd bar.
I have noted that there is some ambiguity in naming the chord of the first bar of the refrain. This is because D#(the major 3rd of B major) is suspended from the vocal line above a repeated E-major chord. To compound this confusion further, the strings line begins by playing the first few notes of a B-Major scale! I have annotated this diplomatically as an E/B slash chord, however it could just as easily be considered E#7. Again, I would argue it is intelligent and chaste use of harmony.
(fig E – Verse- melody, backing guitar, chordal switches and skeletal bass line)
It’s obvious that the composer’s priority in this song was to assist the regular 4/4 time signature with syncopated rhythms throughout. It’s understandable, it assists in providing a brisk and ‘upbeat’ feel to the song. Nowhere is the above more apparent than throughout fig E, in which the melody syncopates against the beat in every bar with the exceptions of 3,7 & 8. The sense of brisk and upbeat movement is also a result of the brisk palm-mute electric guitar picking in bars 1-3 and 5-7 of fig E before legato picking in otaves in the final bar of the passage.
Again, with the exception of slight variations in instrumentation and lyrical rhythm, the verses are very much consistent throughout the song.
There are three bridge sections in ‘FIVE’, although the first two of these are very similar. I have listed these below as Bridge A, Bridge A2 and Bridge B.
(fig F – Annotation of Bridge A1: Melody, backing vocals, skeletal chording)
The first four bars of Bridges A and A2 are characterised by a recurring chord pattern, traversing from C#m to D# to G#m twice (see fig F). There is a nice (but again subtle) chromatic scale, which one can pick out of the inner backing harmonies in bar 6. The vocal melody in bar 6 again brings out the notes of the B-major scale, but this is difficult to pick out clearly, given the chromatic movement in the backing chords.
(fig G – Annotation of Bridge B: Melody, String backing and skeletal chording)
Bridge B is essentially an evolution of the main vocal hook (4th bar of fig B or the last bar of each chorus/instrumental + vocal refrain section). It is also the first obvious passage in the whole song where the backing harmony finally brings out the home key of B Major. There is a really pleasant C#dim7 – C#7 chord progression from bars 5-7 of fig G, which traverse from C#-diminished with 7th, through to B minor7 (it is important to juxtapose this with a D-A in the bass line if you want to replicate a similar harmony to the original track), to G major, to a repeat of that B minor 7 chord before moving to C# major 7.
I imagine that many people will be surprised when they realize that the key signature doesn’t modulate up (like a ballad) in bars 8 and 9 of fig G. This isn’t a criticism – more a suggestion for any musicians wanting to add a surprise flair if they write a cover version of the song.
‘FIVE’ is an excellently written comeback single. The composer(s) have achieved a song which is light, fun, upbeat, brisk and packed full of harmonic and rhythmic detail (if you’re a music theory nerd/cover artist this song has great potential). The song is generally well-structured and with enough instrumental variety in the recurring sections to be able to listen to the song multiple times without getting bored. The vocal line is catchy and doesn’t rest too heavily upon the home key signature except from when it is absolutely necessary (and even then, it is subtle in how it does it!). I really enjoyed listening to this song, I look forward to hearing the rest of the mini-album and just wish that Plan A Entertainment had clearly specified the composers of the song when the song was originally released..