Miss A - "Hush"

As far as girl groups go, Miss A are one of the few who have my respect -- while there are been iffy additions to their repertoire, they've also had some really amazing material over the past few years. Up to now, I still listen to "No Mercy" and "Lips" on a regular basis. Last year's "I Don't Need A Man" was okay, nothing mind-blowing, but it's good to see them back to releasing great material this year.

In a nutshell, what makes "Hush" tick is the fact that it's intense in an unpredictable way. "Hush" is the kind of song you need to listen to, and not just read about or see the sheet music of, in order to really appreciate. "On paper," it seems like it doesn't have any kick, that it's a pretty boring song -- the bass line doesn't come in until the second verse, there's no excessive belting or vocal gymnastics throughout, and the melodic lines are pretty spaced out. But as far as "Hush" is concerned, the intensity is elsewhere.

You'd think that the absence of a bass line for almost half the song will result in a boring first half, but it doesn't. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that introducing a bass line that early into the song will destroy it. The guitar and piano/synth lines that accompany the melody until the end of the first chorus allow us to hear the melody, which is what steers this part of the song. There's also a drum line -- that thin, repetitive beat that sounds like bongo drums during the verses, and the tambourine during the chorus. It gives the song some body, and it's enough to act as a foundation. The chorus is quiet but urgent, catchy but not in-your-face. The layering of several, thin, vocal tracks also plays a big role -- the intensity of the chorus itself is in the harmonies. You hear all of this, the catchy chorus, the harmonies, because of the bare instrumentation. The melody doesn't have to compete with dozens of other, potentially more obvious, sounds, so it doesn't have to scream to make a point. The first part is a very minimalist approach to the instrumentation (as far as pop songs are concerned), but it works. "Hush" uses elements sparingly, yes, it gives space to breathe, but between those spaces are all sorts of kicks and punches.

The bass line comes in with the second verse, and by this time it's both a needed and much-welcomed entrance, complete with a new synth loop. Because, like it or not, we all spent the first part at the edge of our seats waiting for it to show up. It's welcomed because it's a familiar element amidst a rather "surprising" first part, it's a familiar way of executing intensity, and if the first part doesn't grab attention, the second part will. At the same time it's also necessary, mainly because it's with the bass line that we come to appreciate that "minimalist" first part more. With the bass line, the song explodes in a different, but equally effective, way. It gives the song's kick some attitude, even firmer grounding, and it's also what makes this sound sound like a Miss A song.

These "minimalist" elements -- the melody, the initial instrumentation -- they're all present in the second part, and they're just as audible and prominent as they were in the first chorus. The chorus is just as catchy, that guitar is just as urgent. They are actual elements that can actually hold their ground against other, louder, ones. And that's the point -- to strip down something to the bare minimum needed to function, not strip something of its very foundations.

"Hush" works precisely because of its two parts, because it is just as much a natural progression as it is a juxtaposition between the subdued first part and chaotic second. It's a song that, in keeping with its title, is quiet in all the right places. But at the same time it knows exactly where, when, and how, to pack a punch.



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