I honestly thought that Hyorin (I refuse to spell it as Hyolyn, sorry people) would never release an album by herself. And if we’re going to be especially honest here, she’s probably deserved one since forever. People always put her next to Ailee in terms of musical style, and while I do agree with that to an extent, I think that the side by side comparisons are irrelevant. Hyorin has her niche in the K-pop world, because she drives towards R&B and modern pop and Ailee sticks to 90s pop-anthems. Ironically, I’m rather ambivalent about both, because I think both misuse their voice extensively.
Back when I wrote about Ailee’s album, I sort of just skimmed over what I thought of Hyorin’s voice, saying it’s better suited for a random rant. It still is, and honestly, I don’t think I can give Hyorin the justice she deserves in “analyzing” her voice. This is mostly because I have very subjective issues with it, and the few objective issues I have are ones most singers of pop music wouldn’t really recognize as problems. Given my musical background, Hyorin encapsulates the qualities of a gifted singer that I dislike. She lacks breathing control (or just breathes too much), and sounds like a chipmunk a good portion of the time. What I find lacking in Hyorin and Ailee’s voices parallels the kind of problems I see in Jaejoong and Junsu‘s singing. All are overemphasizing stylistic elements under the claim that they are “emoting,” and personally, I think it sounds stupid. In Korean pop music culture however, they are considered some of the best singers, because of that quality, so I guess I’ve hit a moot point. I’m probably going to have to sit here disliking all of these people in K-pop who actually can sing. Thanks, Korea.
Despite all of these reservations, Love&Hate turned out alright. I’m glad that Hyorin didn’t take the Ailee route and decide belt through 90% of her songs, but I did find the album treading through Sistar territory a little too much. It not only makes the album boring from the perspective of musical variety, but it also makes Sistar look extremely useless. If you can arguably get a better Sistar via Hyorin alone, why have Sistar in the first place?
But before I get shot by every Sistar fan ever, let’s take a step back from the “big picture” and look at the music itself. Do I like it?
No, Not really.
(I know, I know, everyone is fawning over “Red Lipstick,” etc….but don’t start pulling the trigger on me again just yet.)
Like I mentioned before, all of Love&Hate sounds like a much improved Sistar from their most recent albums, which in turn makes it boring. There’s a lot of R&B, Hip-pop, and Pop stirred into this album’s cauldron, and for the most part, it’s pretty bland. “Don’t Love Me” is the one song that I felt best reflected the zenith of Hyorin’s reserved singing ability. She doesn’t need to belt to make a statement, and while she rarely belts in Love&Hate, she doesn’t make much of a statement (ignoring “Don’t Love Me”…and probably “One Way Love” too) either.
What I liked about “Don’t Love Me” is that the song is basic enough that Hyorin can glide through the whole thing effortlessly, but she gives it enough oomph to make it interesting. The song also stays away from creating an infinite loop of sound that is rather headache inducing.
–Okay, that’s probably a bad descriptor for the feeling I’m attempting to convey. What I’m trying to say about the “infinite loop” is that lot of pop songs create a single ringing sound through the song (“Tonight” and “Closer” especially) that basically sits at the central note. “Don’t Love Me” does the same thing, but it breaks it up enough that you don’t feel that ringing without resorting to a rap. (I admit that this stipulation basically knocked out a good 50% of songs in the album.) It makes the song easy to bite into without falling into lethargy.
In the end, even “Don’t Love Me” is just a pretty song amongst a multitude of other pretty songs I’ve probably forgotten about already. I can’t really say that any other song left any lingering feelings, and even “Don’t Love Me” was just as insignificant. I listened to it and that was that. Ailee tried too hard and produced an apathetic listener from me; Hyorin took it easy and did the same thing. I guess I prefer Hyorin’s version of apathy conjuring music, but I think that in trying to pursue pure pop as their defining genre, they’ve dug up a very difficult hole for themselves to climb out of–it’s nearly impossible to create something unique, in both the vocal and musical style of the singer. All you’re going to get is something I guarantee I’ve heard before…and most of the time, I really have no desire to hear it again.
If we put conspiracy theories and personal (subjective) perceptions aside, I can’t deny that this album is solid in from conception to release. Hyorin has a clear idea of what kind of sound she wants to embody, and she executes it like she just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. What I like and the objective quality of a release are often at odds at each other, and it’s a fact I’ve come to accept wholeheartedly. Although I will still assert my opinions like gospel, there is no way that I’ll ever claim that my subjective opinions are gospel. The fact of the matter is, Love&Hate is a good album, and I’m never going to like it myself.
Love&Hate it is then.