2PM – Saint O’Clock (album review)

Saint O’Clock aims hard for granduesque. Does it actually achieve its goal ? We’ll see about this. The boys may not be the best looking fellas in the industry, but for what they lack in looks they surely make up for with their singing abilities. They don’t make ballad bands

Diva skills, I has them

without actual singers, do they ? I have my favorites :  Jo Kwon‘s lyrical voice ( he’s not only the drama queen among the Korean Icons, he’s the drama king in 2AM too as you can clearly see in Like Crazy’s PV ), he may look frail, but I’ve seen him working out crazily at the gym, and I have a thing for Changmin and his nasal trills. Also his quirky sense of humor cracks me up. Too bad KBS canceled the broadcast of Star Golden Bell. I have no knowledge of the other member’s sense of humor or diva-skills.

A few thoughts on the album as a whole before I begin dissecting one track at a time : although it contains a variety of musical influences  and the arrangements are top-notch, at one point the songs might start to sound a bit boresome. To sum it up the album consists of a serious amount of tear-jerkers. There are too many songs fighting for the most epic of them all spot. This is what happens when you add previous releases to the next album and you make little changes to the concept. Because of this, songs like No More or For Love Again fail to impress in spite of being decent songs.  Actually, now that I give the 2 a better listen I find them quite hard to digest and redundant to the context. Anxious at least has a nice low-key instrumental and a strong beat and manages to stand out of the crowd for a bit.
And another thing I’ve noticed : the boys do mostly solo parts, so not so many harmonies as I would like to listen, especially in a chorus and it is a pity because  those would round-up better some songs.

Now let’s discuss the ones I did enjoy listening to. For once I enjoyed an intro track. Phone really does makes sense in disclosing whatever secrets this album may have. You Wouldn’t Answer My Calls is sorrowful, as sorrowful as 2AM can be at its best. It is a great song indeed, but wait till you’ve listened to all of them.

Like Crazy. I wasn’t expecting another epic song to come right next after You Wouldn’t Answer. They’re quite similar and this does somehow level down my expectations.

Just Me. The song has a more positive feeling to it and it features ( at last ) some harmony in the chorus sung by Jo Kwon and Glam. Surprisingly how well a sexy female voice sounds alongside the boys.

Mirage is one of my favorites, we get some r&b, a slightly increased pace and the thing that startles me most is Changmin’s middle 8 part. Believe me, the first time I listened to it I had goose-bumps. It’s that good.

This album was in desperate need of a song like Love U, Hate U. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it has swag and the rap parts are surprisingly good. It features a collabo with, I’m guessing 2 rappers from 방탄소년단, but I’m sensing 1 or 2 of the boys are delivering some lines too. After all, Jinwoon and Changmin are mentioned as rappers too in the description of the band.

With of Without You has a 90s feel to it, it’s more of a dance song and if they were to ask me I would have switched it with Like Crazy, just to balance the album a little bit. I love how well the piano and the sinths get along in this song, but I love them even more in the next one.

I Can’t Say That I Love you is my other favorite track. The instrumental part is kept low-key, the sinths and beats are old school, but the thing I like best are the chorus and Changmin in general. He really does a beautiful job towards the end of the song.

Final rating : 9.5/10

Boys, don't cry. I'm gonna start crying too if you do...


C.N. Blue – Bluetorry ( album review )

I like the fact that pop music is based on a single premise : appeal to as many people as possible. Pop is for the grand masses, it is supposed to sell better than any other music genre and, sometimes, to be more superficial  too. Not always. It is hard to juggle with a good rock song and try to add to it influences from other genres. What’s even harder is to make a pop song sound as if it were a rock one. Well, I don’t know about others, but to me CN Blue isn’t a rock band. I couldn’t care less about their indie background and the rest of the legends that surround them. Other than a good sense in mixing some bits of melodies I see nothing here. Nothing. At ALL. It takes a whole lot more to impress the rock chick in me. As thin the line between love and hate is, the thicker the one between rock and pop is.

Getting back to my kpop review, well, I like CN Blue. Gotcha, ha? They’re fresh, they’re talented, they use instruments, well, I guess CN Blueonly on recording studios and concerts because I have yet to see one plugged guitar or drum in a live tv performance and they write their own songs. Which is more than all of SM and JYP artists put together are capable of doing. Except IU, but I’m not so sure about IU being under JYP. Oh, and that mock of a rock band, Trax. Yes, that one too. Anyway, CN Blue manage to impress me as kpop artists, but even from this point of view things don’t look as shiny on close-ups as they do from afar.

Let’s take a closer look at Bluetorry. It’s a plethora of western influences, from Maroon 5 to Arctic Monkeys ( hmm, alternative isn’t really my area of expertise, I’m more into progressive and stuff ) and there’s definitely a bunch of good ideas that stand out, however they’re inconstant with their compositions. I’m a Loner is 5 songs in 1, but that’s exactly its appeal and it is a hell of a good song. The different tunes blend together beautifully and the rappers/backing vocals manage to keep up with Yong Hwa’s strong vocals, complementing his parts.

The same thing goes for Love Revolution, another fun listening experience. The guitar riff might not be as original as they would like it to be, yet it does the trick to bring more color to the song. Love Revolution’s greatness lies in the fact that it manages to introduce you into that vibrant concert atmosphere.  You can even hear in the background some screaming and clapping as if it were recorded from a live performance. Or as if a pack of Yong Hwa’s groupies were gushing inside the recording room.  A nice touch, nonetheless.

Y, why is bad. 3rd-rate-American-garage-band bad. They manage to ruin it even more by getting the rapper/rappers drunk at first and then telling them do deliver a solo. What happened to all the energy from before?

I know, they were keeping themselves for the next track on the list, Now or Ever which is a failed attempt to sound an inch more aggressive, but a nice sing-along song.

I’ll Forget You is indeed a nice ballad, I love the instrumental part, all the instruments can be clearly heard, but I’m not so sure about the melody. It does sound a bit too bland for my taste.

In the end all I can say is that I do prefer their previous Japanese releases to the total disappointment First Step it was for me. And more than everything I like Love Revolution which I think still remains their best track.

Final rating : 8.3/10

This is not decent rocker behaviour. Revise it.

Co-Ed School – Too Late

Co-Ed School seems to have dissipated before I was able to figure out exactly just how many members are there and what are their gender. Some of the girls went to form 5dolls but the boys and the real objects of my interest are nowhere to be found. That’s a pity because I am a fan of this band’s concept. I love dance tracks that feature both male and female voices. I have yet to find something similar in style with Co-Ed and the thought that I won’t be able to enjoy any new material from them is excruciating.

I’m going to talk about Too Late which, in my opinion, is a perfect pop song from start to end. It has a powerful vibe, it is perfect material for clubs, the vocal parts are sharp and crisp, the arrangement is done flawlessly and what I like most is how the verses are delivered as if the two sides, the boys and the girls, are having a fast-paced argument. It is superficial without being cheesy, it is commercial but at the same time easy to digest and in the end does it really matter that it hasn’t the most complex melody or more elaborate vocal parts ? It is a fresh and fun song and the singers are young, we should spare them the steep criticism.

I’m also loving the video. Dust coming out of clothes and dancing in the rain will always look cool.

Rain, erhm, well, water in general is cool.

Dust is cool

I didn’t get the whole robotic-eyes-coming-in-and-out-of-the-blonde-guy-thing, but  the fact that the MV actually had an interesting story managed to keep me glued to the screen the whole 5 minutes.

Final rating : 9.3/10

Miss A – A Class (album review)

The one girl group that manages to impress me is Miss A. I have all the confidence in the world when it comes to JYP‘s capability as a producer. He’s a master at polishing rough talents and at discovering all of the out of the ordinary traits hidden inside those artists he works with. You could say that this is a must for any producer, but you really have to be a genius in order to make 2PM that succesful. Geesh, is so obvious the boys are nothing more than mediocre singers. But the moment they start taking those tops of and doing all those group acrobatics…

Why is it that the perfect abs of 2PM boys are a recurring topic on this site ??

Miss A’s latest release, the A Class album is exactly like the title says, nothing less than A Class. I really dig that whole feet fetish thingie, especially in the video. They’re slim, they’re young, why shouldn’t they flaunt it ?

Out of the 4 girls I’m more familiar with Suzy‘s role in Dream High and that hilarious bad-ass attitude of Min. That girl can seriously kick some ass with just a bat of an eye.

I’m impressed of how convincing these girls in their late teens or early 20s sound. This is why Miss A is so much better than most of the other girl groups : they refuse to play cute, yet don’t try to be too seductive. They’re natural when performing live and give an overall impression of a mature and full of girl-power group. It also helps that they have strong vocals, I’m guessing Min‘s the most prominent one.

The overall mixing is done nimbly, some mediocre melodies are saved by the arrangers, the exact case of  Blankly, the, oh, so plain ballad without that orchestral intro.

I have some favourites, One To Ten, Help Me, Goodbye Baby of course, a wonderful breakup song, Love Again and Good Girl Bad Girl an even more wonderful break up song, keke “Shut Up Boy!!”. Break it, Play The Music DJ and a few others don’t rise to the awesomeness of those before-mentioned.

A Class is a very good pop album. It has all those elements that worked well in the 80s but wrapped in the finest up to date orchestration. The kind of album I would recommend to anyone that thinks pop isn’t all that complicated.

Final rating : 9/10

2PM – Hands Up ( album review )

It’s the hardest thing ever for me to take 2PM seriously. Any way I try to look at them, that one Matrix performance consequently pops up in my mind and I start to laugh hysterically.

Well, as long as JYP doesn’t take himself too seriously when he’s dancing to MC Hammer’s Too Legit To Quit, I’m sure he meant

Wooyoung's reaction to my stupid talk

Wooyoung's reaction to my stupid talk

the same thing for 2PM’s performance.
2PM’s songs are kind of, erm, weird. Their vocal parts sound ugly but in an attractive way. I can’t say for sure if I like or dislike them, but they leave a lasting impression. Along with the visuals, the overall effect is devastating for my health. Yet, you should know by now that I have a weak  heart.

My response to Wooyoung's reaction

My response to Wooyoung's reaction

With Hands Up album, 2PM are trying to break through the magic doors of the clubhouse. I bet the password is : “Everyone(..) get your drinks up”. As a party anthem, Hands Up, delivers. It’s hip, it abounds of synthesisers, it has a nice rhythm, not too fast, not too slow, and I really see myself exercising my biceps and triceps on it. The main problem with Electricity, the second track, is that I definitely like the remix version better. I would have named this version the 0.4v remix or something like that and swap it with the 220v remix leaving it at the end of the track list.

The album as a whole is not worth listening to. There was room in it for 2 EP releases, Without U and I’ll Be Back, but the rest of the tracks are mediocre songs. With one important exception : Like A Movie. I don’t know why OneWay’s Chance decided to start composing for kpop bands. From what I’ve seen, his songs are stuck in the middle of the albums. An ingrate position for such a great artist. I’d really like him be the composer for main tracks.

Final rating : 6/10( Matrix effect )

We be dancing in the club

We be rockin' in the club

We be coolest in the club

We be goin' to the store

2PM – I’ll Be Back ( from the Matrix )

There are moments in one’s life when you may feel bored, sad or even hopeless. There is a cure for all these negative feelings. JYP pays extra care for your needs and has created Universe’s best feel good boy band . These boys will most certainly uplift your spirits and make you share at least one good laugh. They are 2PM, 6 beastly like men* that are definitely not shy when it comes to making a complete fool of themselves.
So, for those dark moments, I give you the best medicine : Matrix by 2PM.

*I like to think of them like Duracell bunnies on steroids.