Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quick Take: Girls' Generation, "Paparazzi"

Hmm. If I were to sum up the song in one word, that would be it.

I've never thought SNSD put out the best music in k-pop or j-pop. But I've also never thought their music was generic. Unfortunately, that's how I'd describe this track. It sounds like something that any old pop group could put out. The now-obligatory dubstep breakdown doesn't help - they could have done without that section completely if you ask me.

Which isn't to say it's a bad song, because it's not, but rather that I've always thought that their music had a unique quality to it - that the songs were written for them and not for anyone else. And I don't hear that in this song. I think it'll work for them though - they've hit on everything that's hot in J-pop right now, and given it a Western flair that should please international audiences. But I do hope that they come up with something a little more unique for their follow-up singles and the eventual album.

The video's pretty. Not sure about the styling, but they're working the song and the choreo. The dance version in particular is a whole lotta hotness. I don't know what was going on in the intro though: first military drums over Ravel's Bolero, then "Singing In the Rain" - as the lead-up to an electro-pop track? #confused

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not-Very-Quick Take: f(x) - Electric Shock (mini-album)

I've always thought that f(x) was a talented group with good performers, but I've also always been of two minds about their material. For example, I initially really liked "NU ABO", but I fell out of love with it after a while and haven't quite repaired our relationship yet. I also liked their Pinocchio album - I realize that it's a hot ass mess and not consistent at all, and yet that's part of what I love about it - they take any style and infuse it with their "f(x)-ness". What f(x)-ness is, exactly, I can't tell you, but I'm a fan of it and will take it in any form they give it to me.

Because of all the above then, I'm kind of sad that this mini is not as much of a hot ass mess. Defeated expectations, I suppose. But I'm sure I'll get over it because I think this mini is actually pretty good. It's consistent, which is nice, and it's surprisingly different. This is material that SM wouldn't try out with any other group, unlike the Pinocchio album which, despite my fondness for it, sounded a little like a collection B-sides from a host of other girl groups. It's like they took the f(x)-ness and translated it into music - loud, slightly grungy, almost quirky electro-pop. It doesn't quite make sense, but you love it anyway.

"Electric Shock" will probably leave a better impression with the MV, but for what it is, I like it. This is what I wanted them to do with "Mr. Simple" - take out the weird beat changes and just make it a straight up dance track. Maybe not as interesting, but at least you don't stop and go "wtf just happened?" at random points in the song when you're supposed to be dancing it up. The other songs are fun too - my favorite right now is "Love Hate". Among the writing credits for this song include two British songwriters that have worked with some of my favorite British artists (Ed Sheeran, Girls Aloud, Lily Allen, Kylie, Sugababes - and not my favorite but I figured I should mention them: One Direction), and the sound really reflects that background. It sounds very British, like something an up-and-coming girl group would put out in an attempt to grab a chart spot before GA make their comeback. I love the British pop sound, so I hope I can hear more of it in k-pop.

Before this gets too long, I just want to thank SM for freeing Amber from the short-rap-at-the-end-of-the-song box. f(x) works so much better when she's actually a part of the group and not the token member. So yay for her singing, actually rapping, and not just dropping a few English lines here and there (see "Beautiful Stranger"). Yes, she's different from your typical girl group member, but that doesn't mean the best way to use that is to single her out and go "look how different she is!" Not only is it annoying, but it also undermines the integrity of your group's image - by showing how unlike the other members Amber is, you take away from the f(x)-ness that makes the group what it is. So yay for fixing that. SM seems to be figuring out how to actually drop decent material these days, and not just throw money at its groups and wait for them to scrape together a CD. They're improving at a snail's pace, but they're getting there. Not that I have a lot of hope for Super Junior's upcoming album, though. Unless they plan to go on hiatus once Leeteuk enlists, I expect it'll be the same ol' thing from them. (There's a teeny part of me that hopes to be proven wrong.)

Edit: The video came out - it doesn't really change my perception of the song. But they work it as usual, and they look fabulous - save the throwbacks to the "NU ABO" styling, which was my least favorite video fashion-wise.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quick Take: Wonder Girls "Like This" + "Wonder Party"

This mini-album threw me off. The promos had me expecting WG to throw down some electro-pop in the vein of "G.N.O" or "Supa B". Instead we get what I can only describe as a tentative foray into pop R&B, which unfortunately falls short of their previous releases. I tried to come up with ways that JYP to justify this release, cos I didn't really get it:

1) They were too busy preparing for their US debut to come up with any good songs: But it's not WG that's writing the songs, it's the in-house songwriters. And that album was done like two months ago. Not a good excuse.

2) They got complacent and decided that since they're about to take over America, they just needed to release a lil' sumthin sumthin to please the Korean fans: But then why a mini instead of a single? Yes, you could charge more for it, and yes, almost no artist whose been around for over a year releases singles these days - but to compromise your group's reputation with a lackluster release just seems like a bad idea no matter how I look at it. Wonder World set the bar high, and Wonder Party just walked right under it with headroom to spare.

3) They wanted to experiment with the pop R&B sound without spending too much money or exerting the girls since they're gearing up to debut in both Japan and the US:
This seems to make sense. To be honest, this sound really only suits Ye-eun and Sunye, and maybe Yubin - the other two just don't have strong enough vocals to pull off anything that even resembles R&B. Hence why the main track is minimal on the vocals but major on the fun, and the only other songs that leave an impression are the ballads. Also, the in-house songwriters probably aren't used to the genre, hence the lacklusterness of the mini overall.

I'm kind of relieved that they've dropped the retro for a bit, though, especially since they're going to reproduce "Nobody" for the nth time for their Japanese fans. (A good idea? Only time will tell.) At this stage they really should be experimenting more with their sound, and as we saw on Wonder World, they can actually branch out and not fail horribly. Here's to hoping that they continue to grow and develop as a group.

"Like This" on its own kind of washed over me. Catchy, but unimpressive. But I loved the video - it's not typical WG, and the girls looked like they were having a great time. I'm a fan of the dance, and I'll probably rewatch the video just to learn it.