As you may have seen on Twitter a few days ago, I had extremely high hopes for this song, because I knew it would be something good when I heard it in the Wonder Girls' ill-fated movie, and once the teasers came out the bar was raised even higher. Now that the song's out, was I satisfied? Well, that's a pretty long story, and provides enough material for a full-length review.
To be completely honest, I first heard "Like Money" in full when I saw the video. It was in 1080p, but after that first time I was ready to completely dismiss the song -- I even thought of a food analogy for my disappointment. However, if there's something that this song has reminded me, it's that I should never, ever, judge a song solely on the video, no matter how HD it is.
That is also my first argument -- "Like Money" shows that the Wonder Girls are a group who need the support of their repertoire to make a good performance. I had to go listen to the single proper to appreciate it, because the track on the video was a let-down. While they carry their songs well and there is no contesting Ye Eun and Sun Ye's vocal abilities, that is only half of the equation -- the other half is the song itself. So when you listen to a Wonder Girls track, you should be focusing on the song, and its elements, more than the performance proper. Which, in my opinion, is both good and bad. On one hand, a focus on music is something very few bands have, but on the other hand, it also means that they haven't properly learned to match their strong material with a performance of equal proficiency.
However for similar reasons, Akon getting an entire verse+chorus cycle is a little too much for me (which is also why this review is titled Wonder Girls and Akon, not Wonder Girls featuring Akon). "Like Money" is not a single to launch both the Wonder Girls and Akon -- it's a song to propel the Wonder Girls, and the Wonder Girls alone, because Akon is already a big name. They still get majority of the song compared to Akon, but if you think about it, when people hear a song in a public place, on TV or on the radio, they usually only catch on to it at the tail end of the first chorus or the beginning of the second verse. If the first thing these listeners hear is Akon, and if they hear that for an entire cycle, they will tend to think this is a song Akon did with a random girl group, and not the other way around. They'll only discover that this is a predominantly Wonder Girls song once they look for it on iTunes or Google. Getting just one verse, or one chorus, for me, is enough for a featuring credit.
I may not be able to call myself an expert on American and British pop/dance like I could, and would have, three years ago, but the one thing I've noticed from the little I've heard recently is that (as expected from dance/pop) the bass line has become one of the most important parts of a song, if not the most, both to my disdain and delight. Extremely loud bass lines have never really been in my good books, because it's so easy to just turn up the volume and overpower the entire song with a boring bass line, defeating the purpose, but at the same time, so many songs have beautifully subtle but confident bass lines that are underneath all the other elements and yet in their subtlety manage to let their presence be felt, and felt well. Those are the ones I absolutely adore.
While the bass line is thinner than I would've liked it to be, hearing the better-quality audio track made the realize that the focus of the song isn't the bass line. It's still a very important part of the song, and like I said, that's the fad now, but I cannot call this a disappointment simply because of the bass line, because the song has merits that equal, maybe even outweigh, the sub-par bass line.
The first is the melody. The gorgeous, confident melody, that I'm pleasantly surprised to say, fits all of their vocals very well. Yes, even Lim, whose whiny vocals usually annoy me beyond belief. The auto tune is blatant but tasteful, and used in contrast to the chorus. There is no blatant processing on the chorus, which is the part that has the most belting, and needs the most power and spunk. Ye Eun and Sun Ye do the strength and confidence justice, giving the melody kick. As a whole, the melody is both versatile and cohesive, all while being extremely catchy. It serves its purpose well.
The build-up of the entire song, everything from the instruments to the dynamics, was done extremely well, not letting go even once it reaches the chorus -- even building up more halfway through. It's a very fluid song, and while the transitions are very pronounced and the dynamics playful, everything just makes sense together. Effortless and fearless -- I can't complain if I get those, can't I?
And a last note, something that I've also realized as a wrap up this review -- "Like Money" is the type of the song grows on you. At first it will probably be a complete let down, more so for the people who waited months for this (me included), but the thing is, this song has dimension. It's not just a melody slapped on top of a bass line with a few synth lines running around -- it's an actual song, with elements that both firmly stand apart and blend together effortlessly, with so many little details running around -- that every time you hear it, you hear something new.
This will be on my playlist for a pretty long time, that's for sure.