Taking inspiration from pop history is a common thing for artists to do. The Barbarettes harken back to The Andrew Sisters, doo-wop, barbershop quartets and acapella pop from the beginning half of the 20th century with a refreshingly cute aesthetic on top to color their music. Lee Hyori leaned heavily on similar genres, as well as girl group pop and R&B like The Supremes for her latest LP, Monochrome. When you take inspiration, you have to commit; if you half-ass it, the song collapses and no matter how good you are as an artist, the song’s effect is lost in its poserism. The aforementioned ladies knew that and did it right, with Xin Seha following the same path on his debut record, 24Town.
The 80s were a time of strength and self-reliance, to the detriment of others. Shoulder pads were meant to show power in women’s wear, but they made the wearer look like American football players. Pop music relied heavily on synths and gender play, with men singing in falsetto and whispers against synthetic sounds, making sex a theme in some of the songs, but not immediate reality because the electronics prevented intimacy from coming across. Xin Seha understands all of this, pouring it all into the tracks that make up 24Town.
From the beginning, “Youth,” with its boom-clap-boom-clap backbone and mid-tempo synth-groove, sets up the record as one of playfulness and adventure, with “back to the wild style” as a running theme in the LP. No doubt about it, 24Town is all 80’s, all the time, focusing on heavy bass synths, reverb drum machine crashes and drones to maintain a strong party atmosphere. On “Fr3aky D33r,” one thing becomes clear; as much as Xin Seha loves the 80’s, he’s also poking fun at it. From the e’s as 3’s to the repetitive and changing Michael Jackson line of “대-인 Dance (Xin The Shuffle Lover),” Xin is having fun with all the cheese, keeping 24Town from drowning in earnestness.
Songs like “Need You Tonight” by INXS made an impact on Xin Seha because sex, both lyrically and melodically, make up the best parts of 24Town. The two lead singles, “맞닿음” and “내일이 매일” with Koho, as well as “Physical Medium,” brim with heavy bass synth riffs and quick tempo that set up a great groove to dance like you don’t care who sees, or sit and pose like you don’t care who’s around. Not only are they fantastic dance production, but Xin Seha’s other trick is his vocals. Xin’s voice is a bit on the thin side, so he layers it in two registers. On “Physical Medium,” he layers his falsetto and his regular deep voice, the auditory equivalent of looking through red and blue 3D glasses. These songs are meant as the ultimate ego trip, the “I know I’m so cool even while wearing acid wash jeans”; songs that can get you laid, if that’s your goal when you dance. Xin seha gets the underlying pathos of the 80’s hedonistic synth pop and puts it on glorious display on “24Town.”
Xin Seha understands the trick to making nostalgia feel genuine. He takes all the elements of 80s music (synths, falsettos, the “I’m too cool for school” attitude) and plays it up, with his tongue firmly in cheek. Xin Seha knows 24Town rips off that era and takes it all the way. Tracks like “Fr3aky D33r,” “Youth” and “38½” present the playful side, while the gems “맞닿음,” “Physical Medium” and “내일이 매일”” play up the attention-seeking, shiny-exterior and cool-reserve attitude inherent in synth-pop. Xin Seha knows his muse inside and out, and 24Town is a fantastic and faithful recreation of that era, without the mess.