Hyorin’s “Love&Hate”


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.

(Starship Entertainment)

6 responses to “Hyorin’s “Love&Hate”

  1. I agree with you that the album is so-so, but I’ve always thought Hyorin sings very well. I’m just curious, who, then, do you think sings well?


    • Hyorin sings well, but she has this tinny voice that gets on my nerves, sort of like the way Ailee belts out and destroys the note she’s singing.

      I think Younha is the best I’ve come across so far, because she isn’t showy with her voice. She may not be “objectively” the best, but I really love earthy singers like her, Yoon-ah from Jaurim, e-Aeon, Taru, Park Ji-yoon, Lim Kim, etc., that are able to breathe into the musicality of the song instead of showing off their voice–which is what the 4 I mentioned in the piece do. Tae-yeon has a timbre I like, but she isn’t as great as I would like her to be. I guess I don’t really like Pop music singers despite enjoying pop music. It’s rather strange. That being said, it’s easier to like male singers, pop or not, because their voices naturally mellow out.


  2. Hyorin’s singing style just isn’t my cup of tea. She sings great but at the end of the day it all comes to preferences. I for some strange reason am just not fond of some RnB & Gospel singing styles.

    I too prefer singers like Lim Kim, and pretty much most female singers featured in Epik High’s albums pre-YG. Which is probably why I enjoy listening to western artists: Enya, Emma Louise, Sarah Blasko, Sally Seltmann,Haim & Sia. I’m also in the lookout for some Korean female singers that can sing rock, any suggestions? Thanks πŸ™‚


    • Younha.

      Have I said Younha yet? πŸ˜›

      She’s pretty much the Korean Pop-Piano-Ambient (kinda)-Rock Goddess, so if you love that stuff, definitely check her out. Since she was featured in an Epik High song, you probably already know of her in some fashion.

      [Or maybe my spazzing was enough of a neon sign. XD]

      Besides my obvious bias, you should try artists that are considered “Korean Indie,” such as Jaurim, Ibadi, early WxWhale etc. But don’t feel limited to those; there’s a group for every kind of rock style you’d want to listen to. If you want to expand into C-Rock, I’d recommend Utopia.

      Koreanindie and Seoulbeats’s Indie Gems (I wrote some of those) are great places to start exploring. Also, Emily (the first commenter) is probably a better resource than I could ever be. She’s a fantastic person too, so feel free to ask her at her tumblr, Dramarathon. She already has a lot of recs.

      Let me know if you find anything you like!


    • Jaurim’s Kim Yoon Ah is the best and most versatile IMO, she’s just amazing, even more so live. There’s also Nam Sang Ah from 3rd Line Butterfly she is effing cool, and Nine from Dear Cloud, her voice is the beautiful velvety type. Jinshil from Mad Soul Child, love love love!
      But yeah I agree with Shweta, male vocalists are easier to love in general.


  3. personally i enjoyed hyorin’s album. the songs are easy listening. i hardly listen to Sistar, so i can’t comment too much about the similarity in musical style. but we all know that Sistar is essentially Hyorin and the other three. even when they are promoting as Sistar19, Bora just feels like an unnecessary extra.

    i don’t mind her voice so much. it is breathy i admit… and she sounds like those who have damaged vocal nodes or somtin. i believe Junsu sounds a little hoarse now because he damaged his vocal nodes when he was younger. she is just a natural born singer. i can appreciate that because kpop is 90% mediocre/okay singers, especially the females.



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