Quick Reviews: Jinbo, FIESTAR, and T-ara

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Jinbo – KRNB

Release: August 29, 2012
Distributor: Independent (released for free via Bandcamp)

Note: The artist has released this album for free here:

Jinbo has been prolific since his masterful 2010 album Afterwork, but KRNB (pronounced Korean-B) is his first actual release since then. It’s a done-to-death approach on paper: take a handful of hit songs, change them up some, then release as a remake album. But Jinbo approaches that “change them up” part from a totally different direction; rather than merely adding new arrangements or employing samples, he elects to rebuild songs from the ground up, keeping only the fundamentals. It results in an interesting balance, where you can just barely recognize a theme here or there, but most songs sound like they may as well be unrelated.

It’s a curious selection of tracks, as well. Most of them are 1990s ballads and pop tunes, but there’s also a handful of good idol music – to the tune of SNSD, BoA, 2NE1, and Taeyang. Regardless of source, all of the songs go through a rebirth into various shades of urban R&B. The creativity in these transformations is palpable. SNSD’s infectiously cheery Gee becomes Damn, a sticky slow jam that even remixes clips of actual SNSD members’ voices (according to Jinbo, he recorded these during an interview with the girls as he explained his song’s concept) to build a tastefully suggestive narrative. Kim Gun-mo‘s 빨간 우산 (Red Umbrella) becomes 아름다운 그녀 (She’s Beautiful), a groove-heavy funk track. BoA’s Game becomes Love Game, which keeps the original’s exhilaration but achieves it with a buzzing neo soul instrumentation. And so on.

If you’re looking for Afterwork’s breathtaking sound design, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll be getting an ideal of how remakes should be done – not a mere new coat of paint, but a proactive, imaginative reinterpretation. The ability to do this sets producers like Kanye West and Bangladesh apart. Jinbo is now getting to that level.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

  1. Intro: KRNB [Originally “감싸 안으며” (“Embracing”) by S.E.S., 2001]
    2. 아름다운 그녀 (She’s Beautiful) [Originally “빨간 우산” (“Red Umbrella”) by Kim Gun-mo, 1996]
  2. 알고 있었어 (I Knew) [Originally “알고있었어 (I Knew)” by Deuce, 1993]
  3. I Need You Girl [Originally “I Need A Girl” by Taeyang, 2010]
    5. Damn [Originally “Gee” by SNSD, 2009]
  4. 너와 함께하면 행복해 (I’m Happy When I’m With You) [Originally “너와 함께한 시간속에서” (“In Time Spent With You”) by Seo Taiji and the Boys, 1992]
  5. Interlude: Not Too Young At All [Originally “Too Young” by Nat King Cole, 1951]
    8. 나빠 (Nappa) [Originally “아파” (“It Hurts”) by 2NE1, 2010]
    9. Love Game [Originally “Game” by BoA, 2010]
    10. Best Friend [Originally “오래된 친구” (“Old Friend”) by Bitkwa Sogeum (Light and Salt), 1994]
  6. 너와 함께한 시간 속에서 (In Time Spent With You), Take 3 [Originally “너와 함께한 시간속에서” (“In Time Spent With You”) by Seo Taiji and the Boys, 1992]*
  7. Late Night Interlude: Listen Girl [Originally “아끼지 못했던 사랑” (“Love I Couldn’t Cherish”) by Solid, 1995]
    13. Yes and No [Originally “Yes or No” by Solid, 1996]
  • This eleventh track is not included in my copy of the album – even the track numbering doesn’t acknowledge it. It appears to be included in certain review versions or copies distributed from other than Bandcamp.



Release: August 31, 2012
Distributor: Loen Entertainment

Loen Entertainment is quickly becoming one of the most consistent agencies in the idol scene. The debut of FIESTAR, the company’s next ambitious project, helps that cause. This is the first Loen release in a while to not feature a Lee Min-soo track, but KZ and TEXU fill in well enough with the two colorful songs Vista and Wicked. The former takes a page out of Lee’s playbook and casts an abundance of real-session sounds ranging from brass to organ. This richness boosts the track’s bombast in the verses, pre-choruses, and lengthy bridge; it does seem like there’s a bit too much melody void in the chorus given the build-up, but it’s still an enjoyable song.

The latter is a bouncy moombahton track that dutifully follows the current hip-hop-heavy girl group trend: between Tiger JK and FIESTAR’s rappers, Wicked probably features the lengthiest rap portions of any female idol release this year. I’m actually pretty impressed by the rap tones here – Yezi does her best Yoon Mi-rae impression and Cheska embellishes with creativity – but as is the case with most idol releases, an actual judgement of lyricism is next to impossible in Wicked. Vista shows lots of promise, albeit little that we haven’t seen before.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. Vista
2. Wicked
3. 달빛바다 (Sea of Moonlight) – FIESTAR version

T-ara – Mirage

Release: September 4, 2012
Distributor: Loen Entertainment

Even if it wasn’t a questionable PR decision, Mirage would still be an abortive effort. This repackage of Day By Day adds paltry little to T-ara’s discography. One new single, Sxxy Love, is a Shinsadong Tiger-composed, retro-themed tune with a disco base, club tune embellishments in the form of abrasive synths, a sing-along chorus with a little oldie pop feel… in other words, the exact same thing that we’ve heard a few times too many by now. None of it is done any better than in Bo Peep Bo Peep or Lovey-Dovey. The weightless electronic sound is still limp; the chorus still achieves only the gaudiness of retro and none of its attractions; the lyrics are still unhappily stuck between excruciating triteness and F(x)-like unorthodoxy. (Not to say that Sxxy Love has much in common with that group’s more interesting deconstructionism.)

The other new song, 낮과 밤 (Day And Night), is marginally better – although this one too lacks an engaging element, the performances (with two featured vocalists plus Areum, the new T-ara member) are nuanced. But there are plausible allegations that the song plagiarizes Chu Ga-yeol‘s debut single, so that’s another potential hit to a group that could ill afford any more. Mirage achieves two things: one, it proves that Areum is a serviceable (if not perfect) replacement for Hwayoung, and two, it’s yet another exhibit that shows pairing Shinsadong Tiger with this group is a really bad idea. So there’s that.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

  1. Sxxy Love
  2. 낮과 밤 (Day And Night) – Featuring Gunji of Gavy NJ, Shannon
  3. Day By Day
  4. Holiday
  5. 떠나지마 (Don’t Go)
    6. Hue
  6. 사랑놀이 (Love Game)

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the individual and not of hellokpop as a whole.

Sources: Photos – Bandcamp (1), Bugs Music (2) (3)

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