Music of the Week: “Albums Lost, Albums Found, Albums Better Left in the Ground” (Part 2)

Ailee_Magazine

Welcome to the belated Part II of my journey through recently released K-pop Albums! I hope that it turns out to be a worthwhile and informative read. If anything, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the albums listed here, especially if you find your opinions contrary to my own.

Seo Tai-ji, Quiet Night

I think I picked up Quiet Night for the first time for two reasons. The first is a natural curiosity for what would come of the very first K-pop idol’s musical career, and the second is an interest in the album cover. They may say that judging a book by its cover is a mistake, but I think that my mental association of gorgeous covers and great music have served me well in K-indie. I only hoped that same recognition would happen here.

My first impression of the album summed up to “Huh.” The word is pretty uninformative at face value, but in this case, it’s a rather positive reaction. Even with the huge image change involved with the release of Quiet Night, I was surprised to find music that would rival Yukari in K-pop proper, much less from Seo Tai-ji given the musical world he comes from. I guess if the iconic Cho Yong Pil can turn around and release a modern rock album, Seo Tai-ji can dabble in EDM and Electro-rock(?).

The title song, “Sogyeokdong,” is pleasant, though I much prefer IU’s vocals to Seo’s because her voice carries more substance. IU’s vocal body lets the instrumentals sing to their greatest potential (in general, rock is harsh) along with letting the main melody flower.  The follow up,  “Christmalo.win,” contrasts the former song not by substance, but by style–basically, it’s extremely quirky. At times I don’t think Seo Tai-ji pulls it off–the Christmas/Halloween chimera only comes through very vaguely. However, “Christmalo.win” does have a creepy factor that would place it comfortably among Japanese gothic music.

The rest of the album follows in the footsteps of the single tracks in being ominously cheerful, and all of them are certainly worth your time. Unlike pop music where hooks can be enough to grab you or leave you in the dust, Silent Night needs some appreciation of electro-pop to  take in well. In the end, I think I really respect Seo Tai-ji for perusing what interests him rather than develop poorly made characters (i.e. songs and persona) to overcome his musical career’s deadline. Silent Night has the right amount of complexity to be easily accessible as well as provide a more collaborative avenue for the growth of electro-pop. I admit several songs do blend together in the album, but the last half is so strong that I really don’t mind having to wait for more like it.

Recommended Tracks: I’m not going to even bother. Listen to the whole darn thing.

Ailee, Magazine

A major point I emphasized in my review of A’s Doll House is the distinction between substantial music and unsubstantial music. For Ailee, unsubstantial tracks are the ones that blindly let her belt and lack the structure to support that belting. I won’t deny for a second that power anthems are catchy, but over the long run, a power anthem loses its potency. In Magazine, I had hoped that Ailee took the time to go after what she loved in music rather than to let her public-given identity in K-pop calculate her every move.

In any case, what we have here is the exact opposite. Magazine puts Ailee on the fast lane to becoming a good voice with unmemorable music. Magazine is undoubtedly what Korea wants out of her and the little bit of honesty A’s Doll House had is squandered in its wake. While I don’t discount what Korea wants, there’s something sad about having Ailee turn into something that fits x,y, and z boxes. Each song in Magazine has its strengths, but what the whole mini album lacks is continuity.

Recommended Track(s): “문득병 (Suddenly Sick)” (but even this is a bit of a stretch)

2PM, Go Crazy

I wrote extensively on how Grown such a huge improvement for 2PM, but despite my championing of its merits, I don’t think the album suited the greater identity of 2PM. If we look back all the way  the group’s first song, “10 Points Out of 10,” and follow them back up to Grown, the 2PM of yesteryear has little to do with the 2PM we all heard in that last album, no matter how good of an album it was.

Go Crazy, on the other hand, tries to bridge the gap between the overarching style of 2PM and music that stays to true to the changes the group has gone through. While the product doesn’t exactly have the sleek output that Grown had, it is a really pleasant listen. Go Crazy has a lot of music that is reminiscent of the first decade of this millennium, and when coupled with the jazzy flavor we saw on Grown, and I can’t deny it’s something I easily enjoy even if my satisfaction afterwards isn’t always as positive as the initial perception. DBSK‘s throwback, “Spellbound,” is by and far one of my favorite tracks of the year, so I can’t emphasize enough how one can’t go wrong with old-school pop. Jazzy tunes tend to have more depth (lots of brass to compose for), it performs on stage well,  and it easily covers up mediocre vocals.

Overall though, Go Crazy is isn’t what I wanted especially after hearing “Go Crazy”‘s spunk and 2PM-ness. The rest of the album feels like filler, albeit nice filler. I would have liked a couple more “I’m Your Man”s (a Japanese release, I know!) to show up in Go Crazy, for as much as I like throwback, much of it feels artificial from the group.

I guess that means I kinda miss what the “Without You” and “Heartbeat” eras brought for 2PM. (Haha. How ironic.)

Recommended Tracks: “이별여행 (Farewell Trip),” “Beautiful,” and “Go Crazy”

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