Quick Reviews: Oh Ji-eun, Vibe, and Shinhwa

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Oh Ji-eun – 3

Release: May 14, 2013
Producer/Distributor: Happy Robot Records/Neowiz Internet
Genre: Ballad, pop
Reviewer Rating:

화 (Shine) (2007) featured some of the most chilling lyrics ever put on a ballad; it was the kind of song that MusicY editors put on their “Top 100 Ballads of All Time” list and marvel at the fact that, some way and somehow, it made the cut. Oh Ji-eun’s third album (which is not titled “Ji-eun” this time) does not return to that level of vitriolic prose, although a cursory glance at the titles below should tell you that there’s still plenty of edge in 3. Few people write more nuanced lyrics, and a theme of understanding and realization flows through the first act of the album. There are some truly crystalline moments in the likes of Merely and Like That on the Set Path as well as infectious joyfulness in the album’s center.

But more macroscopically, this tone-down makes 3 stand out less from its peers. These are the same themes that we are beginning to hear more and more often in the indie pop scene, and here Oh’s personal touch – while definitely present – is harder to see. The dark second act is more adventuresome, and we see (only) glimpses of the exquisite in the throwback grotesqueness of Curse Song and fascinating transformation within Fish. All said and done, this is still a special piece of work – just not as special, perhaps, as before. Set aside an hour to better grasp the album’s long phrasing, and you’ll find yourself marveling at Oh’s under appreciated arrangement skill on top of the lyrical depth.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

  1. 네가 없었다면 (If It Wasn’t for You)
    2. 어긋남을 깨닫다 (To Realize Misalignment)
    3. 고작 (Merely)
  2. 사랑한다고 거짓을 말해줘 (Lie to Me That You Love Me)
  3. 그렇게 정해진 길 위에서 (Like That on the Set Path)
  4. 서울살이는 (Living in Seoul)
  5. 테이블보만 바라봐 (Just Stare at the Tablecloth) – Featuring Sung Jin-hwan
    8. Not Gonna Fall in Love Again – Featuring Lyn, Soy, e-lang, Jung-in, Taru, and Nine9
  6. I Know
  7. 누가 너를 저 높은 곳에 올라가도록 만들었을까 (Who Made You Climb to the High Place Yonder)
    11. Curse Song
    12. 물고기 (Fish) – Featuring eAeon
  8. 겨울아침 (Winter Morning)

Vibe – Organic Sound

Release: May 15, 2013
Producer/Distributor: Music&New/Loen Entertainment
Genre: Ballad
Reviewer Rating:

There is a difference between identity and mannerism, but from the listener’s end, it can be hard to tell which is which. Vibe‘s Re-Feel (2006) was closer to establishing the former; to me, the duo’s fifth studio album is teetering on being the latter. The ballads still aim for maximum amount of guts wrenched with down-to-earth topics and Yoon Min-soo‘s magical voice. The problem is that Organic Sound‘s plots are more contrived than before. They try hard to be everyday tragedies, but haphazard writing and unimaginative execution make these lyrics tiring before the album’s halfway over. (The “Under-19s” track is about as terrible as you can get, in many senses.) It’ll appeal to people who can identify specifically with the situations being described, but the album lacks the unifying power to move a cross-section of listeners. In the meantime, I am told that Ryu Jae-hyon put in a great deal of work into Organic Sound’s analog sound design and recording. So the fidelity is great, but I’m not sure if that’s paying a lot of dividends given the state of the album’s contents.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

  1. 이 나이 먹도록 (Until This Age)
  2. 꼭 한번 만나고 싶다 (Want To Meet You)
  3. 그토록 믿었었던 그 여자가 시집가던 날 (The Day When A Woman So Trusted Gets Married)
  4. 시집가서 잘 살지 그랬어 (Should Have Married and Lived Happily)
  5. 4U – Featuring Im Se-jun
  6. 밤새 (All Night)
    7. 압구정 4번 출구 (Apgujeong Exit 4) – Featuring Lyn
  7. 19세 미만은 이 노래를 듣지 마세요 (Under-19s Shouldn’t Listen to This Song) – Featuring MIII
  8. 봄비 (Spring Rain)
  9. I Hate Mama

Shinhwa – The Classic

Release: May 16, 2013
Producer/Distributor: Shinhwa Company/CJ E&M
Genre: Dance pop, ballad
Reviewer Rating:

I get some strong déjà vu from listening to The ClassicShinhwa‘s eleventh studio album sounds very much like an extension of The Return (2012), sometimes right down to the mechanics – both albums open with an airy modern-rock number seemingly courtesy of Shin Hye-sung‘s interests, and the third track in both albums is the dance-oriented lead single. Both albums have the same balance of down-tempo ballads to spell the high energy. The upside of this close shadowing is, of course, that Shinhwa’s members get to tweak what worked for them the last time.

I wrote at length last year about Shinhwa’s macho-beat roots persisting in a new coat in The Return. This Love is branded with the special identity (starting with the music video), but the song’s core is just as aggressive as, say, Perfect Man (2002). This thing lives by the Shinhwa-trademark shout-out chorus and take-charge attitude in the lyrics. In a nutshell, it’s everything people want and expect from Shinhwa in another processed form. This Love is a bit more punctuated and reserved than Venus (2012) yet achieves the intended result more efficiently; Hurricane is easy mode, a little more liberal with emotion and a little more old-school.

One interesting development here: the album’s best track is Mannequin, which actually follows the example of post-TVXQ SM Entertainment in philosophy. Brass is used with abandon to construct a sense of volume and vibrancy, and the chorus is satisfyingly swift and explosive. It flows a lot like a SHINee song would, but Shinhwa eschews SM’s meticulous polish for a more mature energy. There’s a great deal of potential here. Korea’s longest-running idol group is just getting started.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. 그래 (That’s Right)
2. 아는 남자 (A Man You Know)
3. This Love
4. Scarface
5. New Me
6. 웃다가… (While Laughing…)
7. 마네킹 (Mannequin)
8. Hurricane
9. I Gave You
10. 사랑 노래 (Love Song)

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

Agree or disagree? Or have a recent release that you’d like to see reviewed? Let us know with your comments below! Requested albums will be considered each week and may be selected to be reviewed in the subsequent week.

Sources: Photos – Daum Music

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