Hyorin – “Paradise” Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Live
Performance)

Hyorin – Paradise

Reviewed
on November 25, 2016

Bearing this in mind, with “Paradise”
its use of the “build-up” pre-chorus is not only plain, but the execution
behind it comes short and thus, the trade of creativity for effectiveness is
wasted: there is no gained “effectiveness” at all.

Personal Message:
Oddly enough, I have never reviewed
a solo song by Hyorin. While I did review “Erase” in the past, I consider that
more as a duo than a solo. What I specifically had in mind was that I reviewed
“One Way Love” before, but surprisingly I have never done so. (Or if I did,
this goes to show how awful my searching skills are.) Regardless, because I
have not done so, this review is even more encouraging as I truly do wish
to—roughly said—review artists I have yet to review. (Again, this is a slight
stretch as Sistar and Hyorin already have much spotlight on the blog; it is the
fact that I have never reviewed a solo
by Hyorin that I feel excused to say such.)

Edit:
Timing is off due to posting this later.
For random news and updates, I am on a slight break for
Thanksgiving. With this holiday, for those who celebrate it, in addition to
perhaps time spent with loved ones, I do encourage the “theme” of genuinely
being thankful for what one has. (And even if one does not celebrate
Thanksgiving, I think it never hurts to seriously ponder over that.)
Personally, when it comes to people, I am incredibly thankful for past teachers
I have had, current professors (although certainly a “past” professor as I had
the fortune of having a wonderful professor during high school), friends, family,
and my lovely girl (a terrier-mix dog). For more material-based things, I am
very thankful for this blog and, if I could travel to the past, although I
would be not-so-nice with my old self, I would at least thank him for starting
this blog.

For a more serious challenge,
though, to Thanksgiving (or at least a time to ruminate over gratefulness), I
challenge readers to be thankful for otherwise “invisible” people, things, or
acts. For a bad example, I seldom actually stop to be grateful for the
existence of music—strange, is it not? After all for someone who reviews K-Pop
and is constantly surrounded by music and the privilege to spend time analyzing
it, how would I take music for granted? And yet I do. Now for actual examples
of thanking “invisible” people or things, how often does one truly thank, say,
the janitors in a school?

On topic, I want to keep this review
a bit more concise than usual. I do this for, as the usual, balancing school
workload, but furthermore I simply want to begin getting back into the flow of
writing reviews. Admittedly, given how long it has been since the prior song
review, it feels awkward and difficult. Thus, just getting reviews out—even if
a few have to be mediocre for the time being—is the plan.

With that, for our review of
interest, while “Paradise” is no longer accurately called a “comeback” as it
has been a few weeks since it was released, it is still somewhat recent and
definitely a new solo from Hyorin after quite a long time and thus this review
should still feel relevant. Furthermore, I have planned to review it since its
release as, admittedly, I am greatly disappointed at the song. The composition
and even execution on Hyorin’s part are lackluster, and knowing Hyorin’s prowess
as a vocalist, “Paradise” sincerely fails to bring her justice.

Of course, though, for this review
we will focus neither on “blaming” Hyorin nor anyone for that matter; the
purpose of reviews is to critically engage with a song’s own composition and
decisions made in that regard—all while maintaining maturity and respect. If
the following words come across as overly harsh, it should be noted that all
these critiques are towards the composers’ ideas and not to personally attack
them in any manner. And besides: I think it is about time the review focused on
songs that are actually lower than average. I sincerely do attempt to bring a
critical ear and mind to songs, and truly, many K-Pop songs at their worst
reside at average. This makes sense: many composers know what they are doing
and how a general audience best receives a pop song. Thus, at worst, a song may
sound “generically pop” as I have coined. But, as we will see, there are times
where I will boldly argue composers can come short and instead craft a song
that is somewhat unappealing.

And so, let us head to Hyorin’s
supposed special paradise. We would expect such a place to be beautiful,
amazing, and so on, but I instead found that we have landed on an island where
our ears are struggling to stay alive.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 3/10
(3.25/10 raw score) – “Below average”


Vocals: 4/10


Sections: 3/10
(3.33/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Pre-Chorus, Chorus,
Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
4/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 3/10

4.     Chorus: 2/10

5.     Bridge: 2/10

6.     Conclusion: 4/10


Instrumental: 2/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Yeah
Welcome to paradise
I know you want it
Let’s have some fun

You always wore your jacket
Never took it off, so perfect
Even if winds of temptation blew at you
You were just like, “I don’t care”
I’m curious, I want to check
If you can reject even me
Do you not like to date
or have you not met a girl like me yet?

Even if I don’t move a finger,
I can open your heart
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won
I know you want to
Listen up

You always wear black sunglasses
Covering your eyes, pretending not to care
Even if all these eyes of temptation pour on you
You don’t even turn your head
I’m curious about your limit
Poke me, make me burn even more
You’ve never seen this before, never even imagined
Your jaw is gonna drop, oh God

Even if I don’t move a finger,
I can open your heart
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won

[Bridge]

Even if I don’t move a finger, I can open your heart
(I’m a paradise)
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
(Cute)
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
(Don’t be surprised, yeah)
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won

I’ll show you, paradise

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Shocking
for some, the song does score at a three for below average. In this review, we
will first focus on what I argue are the song’s weakest aspects—the sections
and instrumental, and afterwards, we will focus on the strengths of the song—the
vocals in certain cases.

With
the sections, they are arguably in one of the worst scenarios a song could face:
generic in format, but on top of that, poorly executed and failing to meet with
each section’s goal. The pre-choruses, choruses, and bridge are excellent
examples to look at.

When
it comes to the pre-choruses, I think many would agree they follow a generic
format. For those unfamiliar or unable to hear it, the general pop pre-chorus
is when the pre-chorus takes a pause in intensity and pacing once the section
occurs, and from there, it gradually begins to build up in intensity and
increases in its pacing. Consider it a “dive-down-then-back-up” type of format.

Now
regarding why it is troubling in “Paradise,” the use of an extremely common
technique is already limiting in of itself. Pop songs—ones that wish to stand
out—need to deviate away from these
very typical forms while still maintaining some familiarity. In “Paradise,”
this is not the case: it follows quite rigidly a generic pre-chorus format. The
result, then, is that “Paradise” in juxtaposition to other pop songs becomes
indistinguishable and that lack of specialty makes the song negligible.

Another
problem is that the pre-choruses fail
in their goal—and this is despite using a generic format. Explaining what I mean
and why that is significant, we should first understand why this “build-up”
pre-chorus format is typical in the first place. Although there are many
answers, I argue one of the prevalent reasons is that, simply put, it is
effective: a casual listener can hear the clear transition and it is very
predictable in form; in other words, it is easy to follow. Bearing this in
mind, with “Paradise” its use of the “build-up” pre-chorus is not only plain,
but the execution behind it comes short and thus, the trade of creativity for
effectiveness is wasted: there is no gained “effectiveness” at all.

In
terms of why I claim this is from two main reasons: one is that the vocals and
instrumental fail to connect, and secondly, the actual shifts in intensity
occur far too late. With the former, it is quite absurd that Hyorin’s vocals
are already escalating in intensity and yet, the instrumental drags behind. Later,
the opposite occurs: the instrumental begins to outpace the vocals’ own shift
in intensity. This lack of coordination, as a result, leads to listeners
becoming confused—and ironically enough, the reason this generic form is used
is to prevent that in the first place. Lastly, for the latter, it should be
noted that the pre-choruses stall towards the beginning half; during this
portion, the song is in a “break,” but it does not do anything else until the
second half. Only then do we receive the actual shift in intensity. Overall,
with a very late shifting point and the vocals and instrumental conflicting
each other, it leads to rather compromised pre-choruses.

Although
I do wish to discuss the bridge and choruses in the context of format, I believe
the prior example should give a general guide as to what I am thinking.
Essentially, this same idea applies to the bridge and choruses: generic in
format, and yet still lacking in execution and therefore, failing to be
successful in the sections’ general goal. As such, let us now proceed to the
instrumental itself—a category I believe that equally weakens “Paradise.”

Harshly
said, the instrumental is definitely a weaker one that I have heard. Only Hyuna’s
“How’s This?” comes into mind as another equally weak instrumental. Within the
instrumental itself, it lacks in both sonic appeal and structure—though ultimately,
I assert the latter is the more detrimental aspect. Either way, in terms of why
I claim the instrumental in a raw sense—a sonic sense—is poor, it renders as
extremely chaotic and lacks complexity. Of course, though, simplicity in an
instrumental can be very beautiful
and effective—Taeyeon’s “11:11” is the best example by far of an amazing
instrumental despite simplicity—but in “Paradise,” given the song’s sections
are all rather generic, having an overly simple, linear instrumental fails to
match the sections. And onto the point of the instrumental being chaotic and
disorganized, this lack of cohesion between the sections’ purpose—think back to
our discussion of the pre-choruses—and the instrumental’s actual flow creates a
confusing, rough listening experience.

Optimistically,
however, as in any song—no matter how weak—there will always be strengths. In “Paradise,”
while the vocals do score lower than usual—and more so if we consider that it
is Hyorin, a singer who normally rates at a seven—the vocals are still actually
the strongest point in the song. Why, then, I give a four is that the vocals
are only the strongest point in certain
situations
; the problem is that, for a vast majority of the song, the
vocals are exceptionally limited in their tune and diversity. Ignoring that,
though, the verses in specific are a good example of what could have carried
the bulk of the song: vocals that are more strenuous and adding a large amount
of tune and flow to an otherwise stale, typical pop song. The minor vocal
beltings here and the variety of note fluctuations definitely grant the verses
some credit—and this being why these sections in particular scored much better
than the rest.  

All
in all, while we truly could look through each section and at each detail to
the song, I believe the given analysis provides a sufficient view on where I
gauge “Paradise.” (And as always, I have to strike a balance between readers who
are very much into analyzing music versus casual fans who want to see where
some people are rating their favorite artist’s songs—I openly welcome both
types of readers and do my best to accommodate both audiences.) In the end, “Paradise”
is, sadly, a below average song; there are far too many weaknesses to the song
and barely any positive points to compensate for those glaring issues. Again, I
wish to emphasize that it is not Hyorin to blame—or, as said, anyone for that
said. “Blaming” is a poor word to use here; the word that is accurate is “critique.”
At most I am critiquing the composers and producers of the song. Knowing Hyorin
is a solid singer and that past releases of her’s—solos or duos—have been quite
decent, this latest release is beyond disappointing. She deserved a far better
produced and composed song, and boldly said, I believe fans equally deserved
better.

Regardless,
however, fans should still very much support Hyorin and Sistar on a personal level,
but as I encourage in reviews, fans should always be musically (and socially if
it arises) critical of the music they consume. And that said, realize I am by
far no specialist in music at all: it is absolutely fine—encouraged, even—for readers
to disagree with me. This is why I write reviews: not to merely share my
opinion, but to begin igniting an intellectual discussion among fans. But, in
short, “Paradise” is a disappointing release and I hope there are much better
composed songs for Hyorin’s future solos.

_______________________________________________________

As
always, thank you to all for joining in this review whether read in full or
skimmed. I do hope this review comes across as genuine critique and not, say,
unnecessary criticism for the sake of “being above pop music.” In other words,
I do attempt to share my take to K-Pop song in a more reasonable way; “Paradise”
scoring poorly is not an attempt to garner attention via controversy. I
personally do find it a weaker song, but again, a weak song does not mean the
composers in of themselves are unskilled nor are the singers involved
unskilled. This song in specific is what is weaker.

In
terms of the next review, UP10TION has surprised me with their latest song, and
given that I am behind reviewing male groups, they will receive priority. That
said, 2NE1 recently disbanded, so it might be time I finally give one of their
songs a review and for me to perhaps give personal opinions on the manner and
why, I argue, it is definitely healthy for fans to be upset and that they are
not “delusional” or “should just get over it.”

Until
then, “Even if I don’t move a finger, / I can open your heart” through reviews—and
by “open your heart” I mean by frustrating readers with mediocre writing
skills. Just look forward to the next review.

GFriend’s Reality Show – “Look After My Dog” Review

GFriend – Look After My Dog (Full Playlist)

GFriend
Look After My Dog

Reviewed on November 19, 2016

There
should be structure in place to keep viewers feeling orientated, but if it is
to the degree that each episode begins feeling the same, that said structure is
too excessive and rigid.

Personal
Message:
Believe it
or not, this review was supposed to
take place on September 7. Clearly, we are quite far away from that day but
regardless, this review will still serve its purpose: being a fun, extra bonus
for readers. On my end, this bonus show review also allows a shorter write
along with a chance to update readers on the lack of reviews as of the late.

With that said, first of all, I do
apologize to readers who continually check back for the latest review. As the
university semester comes to end, so do students—in the sense of being
incredibly busy that is, and not literally. (Though that said, I will leave a
reminder for people, in college or not, to not only constantly check that their
own mental health is in good shape, but to also look out for others’ mental
health. We all have a social and ethical—and for people of faith, religious—responsibility
to help one another, and specifically with university, it can be very stressful
to students and could lead to destructive behaviors if not an “end” to life—and
this is why I address this as I do not wish my prior comment to be taken as a
joke towards college student suicides at all.) Serious reminder aside, point
is, I am incredibly busy. Unfortunately, though, I have not been as productive
as possible and thus, reviews had to be put on halt to compensate for my own
doing. All, however, is going well and I do hope to soon begin writing many
more reviews.

Furthermore, subtitling Fiestar
videos will resume shortly (and more so now that my subtitling computer is a
much more capable machine than the prior one I was using—the prior being used
purely for hard-drive space despite it being vastly slower), but more boldly, I
plan on subtitling—if not entire episodes, at least clips—of GFriend’s latest
reality show: Europe That GFriend Loves.
Most likely it will be clips, but time will tell and equally whether any other
individual or group will be doing so.

Lastly, for a final update, to share
one of my current “assignments”—personally better phrased as “project”—I am
writing a paper that is about GFriend. That is right: I have taken the bold
move of bringing in a non-American, non-English approach in an English class.
Now some readers may be wondering, “What are you writing about GFriend that it
would be considered academic and
related to English class?” My answer to this: I am going to be analyzing
GFriend’s “Navillera” through a “queer studies” lens; in other words,
especially for those unfamiliar with the English/literature discipline, I am
going to be applying a sexuality lens—though this simpler explanation hardly
brings justice to what queer studies is truly about. Basically, though, I will
be arguing that “Navillera” is a significantly complex, deep music video and
song about queerness and “the closet”—the idea that those queer have to hide
their sexuality unlike those who are socially privileged with being
heterosexual.

Now, why do I share this at all; am
I not just bragging? No, I am not doing this to brag. I share this to
potentially inspire readers that, contrary to inner thoughts, one can bring K-Pop into their academics
even if they are not, say, in South Korea or an Asian country. After all, K-Pop
is still popular culture—and there
indeed are many studies within this field. In many ways, it is almost
interconnected with English and literary studies as the same lenses and
theories can be applied: examples being looking at race, gender, class, and so
on. All in all, the point of this is to remind readers that personal interests should—in my opinion as an upcoming
educator—very much be included in academics. If given the chance to do such, do
not shy away: be bold and brave and bring in that personal passion, whether it
is for English, physics, math, and so forth.

Now that we are completely
off-topic, let us actually focus on this review. Besides, it is embarrassing
that the Personal Message will probably be longer than the review itself. With Look After My Dog—and of which will be
referred to as LAMD from here on—it
was GFriend’s very first reality show if correct. I have watched it in
September, and it is a shame that the uploaded videos with English subtitles
are gone (due to the subbing group’s channel being terminated for copyright
issues). Because of that, I have linked the episodes but they are without
English subtitles. As such, for those who are unfamiliar with Korean, the show
may be more difficult to watch but I would still encourage watching it even if
a language barrier exists. After all: there are dogs. Dogs. How can one not watch a show if there are adorable, sweet
dogs in it? “Woman’s best friend” is certainly true. I am not being completely
biased; obviously that is not the case because dogs are objectively and
factually the most amazing creatures ever. Right?

Jokes aside, let us actually take a
look at the show and whether I truly do recommend it—dogs included or not.

_______________________________________________________

Plot
Summary:
For a
rough guide, LAMD is a 12-episode
series where GFriend, as the title implies, looks after the dogs of dog parents.
Specifically, though, if we ignore the initial episodes, GFriend is split into
two teams that each watch over different dogs: Yuju, SinB, and Umji on one team;
Sowon, Eunha, and Yerin on the other.

Regarding the actual layout of the
show, the first episode (and perhaps second if my memory is correct) focused
primarily on establishing the show and getting the members comfortable with
their upcoming tasks. At most, GFriend went through minor “dog lessons” in
terms of how to properly treat and monitor dogs—and yes, dogs are seen. But, as
said, it is all background for the show.

After the first (and maybe second)
episode, the actual show begins: each team is given a dog—or dogs—to look after,
but additionally each team is tasked with a personal to-do list for the dog(s).

For example, in one episode, Sowon’s
team is dogsitting two poodles but their task involved taking professional
photographs of the poodles. Now within that very same episode, Yuju’s team is
watching over their own dog: an Old English Sheepdog. Their task, expectedly,
reflects the need of the dog’s parents: taking him out for a walk, and later, a
grooming session. In terms of the ending structure of an episode, both teams
start a live broadcast and, in a competition, attempt to garner more viewers
than the other team. The dogs they looked after oftentimes are included in the
broadcast, though they may include special guests such as a veterinarian.
Whichever team manages to “win” would then earn rewards—treats, shampoos,
etc.—for the dogs they looked after.

This formula runs throughout the
rest of the show—or at least, certainly through the first eight episodes.

_______________________________________________________

Overall
Value: 5/10
(5.0/10
raw score) – “Average”

– Entertainment Value: 7/10

– Structural Value: 3/10

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Statistically, yes, I have included
a number for the sake of it. However unlike song reviews where I do have more
experience and actual critiquing points, here I lack that and thus, the ratings
should be taken skeptically and lightly. Nevertheless, they provide a visual
representation of what I personally take the show to be: average—even if there
are adorable dogs included.

Beginning first with the positives,
it is worth crediting the show for being entertaining in a raw, pure sense. If
ignoring how the show is structured and focusing on the occurring events and
how appealing the show is, I definitely do not deny that the show is enticing.

For one, GFriend in of themselves
provide a lot of entertainment in of themselves. An example is watching Yerin’s
struggle with managing many puppies: these scenes provide some chuckles and
sweet moments. Of course, though, GFriend’s interaction with each other and the
dogs is quite entertaining in of itself—and arguably this is the main core
appeal to the show. As already addressed in the summary, the show’s events are
quite diverse and equally the dogs. There are seldom—if at all—repeated activities
and this is per team to emphasize. As a result, then, each episode is, cliché as
it is to say, a new adventure: a viewer does not know what she/he can expect
next. I argue it is overall this factor to LAMD
that keeps it luring in viewers even if its biggest downfall—being overly
repetitive in layout—exists.

On that note, let us finally address
why I do not find the show entirely compelling. As stated, the show’s layout is
incredibly repetitive—after all, a reader could look over the Plot Summary once
again and realize that. Basically, the show follows the same rigid outline—even
if the activities differ. By even the fifth episode, the show begins to
languish on the pure basis that the show becomes overly predictable. There is
no surprising, new factor to maintain a high level of care for the show;
overtime, despite knowing that activities are different, viewers begin losing
interest because overall there is a routine pattern in place. Sure
predictability and structure is essential to a show—this is definitely true and
I am not quite disagreeing with this. But the point is, when a show becomes overly predictable, it feels that the
third episode carries the same essence as the eighth—and this, indeed, is
problematic. There should be structure in place to keep viewers feeling
orientated, but if it is to the degree that each episode begins feeling the
same, that said structure is too excessive and rigid. Lastly, with the
broadcasting portion appearing irrelevant as it suddenly becomes Look After My Dog and Look After Our
Broadcast
, I find the structural aspect not only leaning towards being too stale,
but also disorganized as it would be preferable for GFriend’s interaction with
dogs to be the main highlight versus suddenly including a competitive aspect.

LAMD is ultimately a show worth watching
if one is either—or perhaps both—a fan of dogs and GFriend, but harshly said, I
do not recommend watching past around seven or eight episodes. It becomes far
too dull the longer one engages with it, and given that other reality shows
exist with GFriend participating, I would prioritize those ahead of LAMD. (An example is GFriend’s and
MAMAMOO’s collaborating reality show, Showtime—which
I
did review
.) Unless if this is a show remaining on a personal “watch list,”
I find it less appealing than most.

_______________________________________________________

As the usual, thank you to all for
reading or skimming—though given the shorter and less thorough analysis, I
expect many would read it versus just skimming for ratings as in a song review.
Again, show reviews are meant to be understood as a bonus post and as being based on very subjective
reasons. I lack knowledge with how to actually deconstruct visual mediums and
thus, truly cannot provide more “objective subjective” reasons as I do in song
reviews.

While I will attempt to reach at
least four reviews for the month, I hope readers are understanding for the lack
of reviews but I will do my best to catch up. There are a few reviews already
in mind—many of which are new artists to the blog (and even newly debuted) so
look forward to those.

Until then, for those with dogs,
continue to love and snuggle them. To those without dogs, continue to love and
snuggle plushies and other human beings. Look forward to most likely BULLDOK’s “Why
Not”—a recently debuted female group that has been garnering much attention for
their first release.

MAMAMOO  – “Decalcomanie” Review

(Music
Video – Dance Version)

MAMAMOO – Décalcomanie

Reviewed
on November 8, 2016

image

This
might be the best song I have ever heard
in my entire life. It might be.

Personal Message:
This might be the best song I have
ever heard in my entire life. It
might be. Or at least tied with Ailee’s “Evening Sky,” a song that I do confidently
claim is the best song I have ever heard. (Edit: Another song to credit, though, is MAMAMOO’s cover of “Hinterlands.” Their cover was amazingly arranged and composed, and admittedly, was the first song that made me tearful not due to emotions per se, but due to its own musical beauty.)

On topic, “New York” by MAMAMOO was
a very disappointing release, and while I did not review it, fans would
probably be glad I did not as it would have been a rather negative review. Nonetheless,
with “Decalcomanie,” I am beyond impressed. Even that statement does a poor job
of expressing how I render the song. If it comes to a song’s sounds—and hence the emphasis on “heard”
as said earlier—“Decalcomanie” is one of, if not the, best releases I have ever heard in months or even years if I
dare say that. Admittedly its lyrics may be lacking, but if we pay attention to
its pure sonic aspect, this song completely sets a standard for MAMAMOO that I
thought would not have been possible to further increase. But indeed: MAMAMOO
and their producers have done it; they have taken “Decalcomanie” to an entirely
new level of music quality that I never anticipated.

With this review, though, there are
a few disclaimers to put forth. For one, as noted, this song just came out
today and while I have attempted to analyze the song as deeply as possible, I
am prematurely reviewing it. From what I personally have found, the best
reviews come when I have spent days—not minutes, hours, but days—analyzing and
actively listening to a song. With “Decalcomanie,” it is clear I have not had
the chance to let the song “settle” and to come back to it with a new listening
experience. Thus, this is to point out that ratings given here may be overly
hasty and potentially full of bias. On that note, my personal bias—musical and
as a fan—might come out in this review. I am a huge fan of MAMAMOO musically,
but I also very much admire the ladies and look up to Solar as my role model. Given
how recent the song is, I might have unknowingly inflated the ratings due to a
personal desire to support MAMAMOO. Finally, and  to further expand on a mentioned point,
besides enjoy MAMAMOO’s music, it perfectly happens that “Decalcomanie” suits
my personal music preferences. Songs that follow “Decalcomanie” ‘s style tend
to be ones I enjoy most, and thus, bias can easily leak into the review.

Those points clarified, for one more
final message, this review might be shorter than usual. Due to being extremely
busy with university (coincidentally I have a music research paper due in a few
days), I will instead focus this review towards more critical, controversial
points rather than guiding readers through every detail of the song. This is
unfortunate as, whenever I give “extreme” ratings—ratings that are polarized
either very positively or negatively—I do end up writing more thorough
explanations so that readers can understand my perspectives.

Edit:
A dance version was uploaded and thus, the following points are no longer
relevant. Shoutout to RBW Entertainment for their decision to release a dance
version this early versus, for example, delaying it a few weeks so as to
stretch out a song’s popularity.

Lastly, before hopping into the
review itself, I will now address the links. As per usual, the music video is
included. The reason, however, an audio link is included is because there is a
huge pause in the middle of the music video for the purposes of plot because we still
socially find it “sexy” for boys to be aggressive and forceful, and if this is
the case, I demand a music video where a woman is forceful to boys since that
will be considered equally “sexy” and if not we have a problem. (Edit: With actually watching the video now,
I will say Moonbyul saved the day and she can pull me roughly in for a kiss whenever
she wants. Partially kidding. Mostly not. Can I have my “first kiss” with
Moonbyul?)
. Am I taking out my university stress onto a
music video plot and encouraging readers to be critical consumers of it?
Probably. Am I “fanboying” over Moonbyul and her soothing, charming deep voice?
Probably. Now do I find the music video itself aesthetically pleasing and in
that regard still praise the video even with its questionable plot? Yes. Social
critiques and jokes aside, while the audio link will serve as what readers
should be listening to in terms of following my review, I will remind future
readers that it is liable to copyright. Therefore, future readers months or
even years ahead might be forced to rely on the music video.

All of this covered, let us focus on
why I assert “Decalcomanie” is for sure not only MAMAMOO’s best release, but
possibly one of the best releases I have heard in a long time.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(7.25/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 8/10


Sections: 8/10
(8.0/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Chorus, Verse, Rap, Chorus, Bridge, Rap, Conclusion (Chorus)

1.     Introduction:
7/10

2.     Verse: 8/10

3.     Chorus: 9/10

4.     Rap: 8/10

5.     Bridge: 7/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 9/10


Instrumental: 8/10


Lyrics: 5/10

[Instrumental]

Knock knock
Strange is your appearance and unusual eyes
It’s a little bit suspicious
It’s 10 to 12
Getting influenced by the atmosphere
We’re looking at each other
Even the silence is sticky
Looks like our relationship is going to burst

You and I kiss
I feel good
Leave me to you
I feel good
This is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous
I think maybe I’ll cross the line
Drawn to you
I feel good
An orange-colored drawing
I feel good
It’s a little bit dangerous, dangerous
But I can’t stop even if it’s dangerous
I feel good

Knock knock
I already predicted this
Ladies have a really good sense
It has already happened
We spend the midnight secretly

At that time, knock knock
Since last summer, like an adolescent girl
I dreamt a romance night and day
I only waited today
Oh yes
Oh, cellphone is off, deadly breath
A secret party, roll out the red carpet
Welcome to my place, knock knock
Put your hands above your head
Clap your hands

You and I kiss
I feel good
Leave me to you
I feel good
This is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous
I think maybe I’ll cross the line
Drawn to you
I feel good
An orange-colored drawing
I feel good
It’s a little bit dangerous, dangerous
But I can’t stop even if it’s dangerous
I feel good

Your whispering wakes me up
(I feel good)
Your gesture and motion
(I feel good)
This morning only with you
(I feel good)
I feel good, good, good, good

Roughly combed hair and a body like a hulk
I want to see your line and hug you from behind
Keep on, I can’t breathe
I can’t control myself
I prepared for you
(MAMAMOO is coming back for you)
Knock knock knock knock
Put your hands above your head
Clap your hands

You and I kiss
I feel good
Leave me to you
I feel good
This is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous
I think maybe I’ll cross the line
Drawn to you
I feel good
An orange-colored drawing
I feel good
It’s a little bit dangerous, dangerous
But I can’t stop even if it’s dangerous
I feel good

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: As
readers can tell, the song scores very well. Eights are by no means easy to
achieve, and yet “Decalcomanie” manages to earn all but one. In particular,
though, that “one” holds back its overall rating: the lyrics. As alluded to
earlier, the song’s sonic components are brilliant, but unfortunately, the
lyrics are average at most. The plot, for one, is nothing extraordinary.
Certainly the plot’s overall focus on “forbidden love” may be intriguing
considering it is a rarer plot outline, but even so it fails to stretch beyond
its label. Whether a song is about sweet love, heartbreaking split ups, or
about falling for someone when one should not (as in this song), what I remain
critical of is how far—or not—the lyrics go beyond these generic summaries. In
“Decalcomanie,” unfortunately the lyrics do not extend the plot beyond that
overarching label. If there was an unexpected plot-twist that occurred in the
lyrics that complicated the general storyline label, implicitly or explicitly,
this would have been desirable.

Furthermore,
another limiting feature to the lyrics is its details: lacking complexity. The
verses and raps provide some variety, but even then, the details render more as
filler than introducing new ideas. Most impairing, though, are the choruses
(though this will sound ironic later once we focus on the audio): repetitive in
form and providing minimal detail to the plot. Additionally, with how the
choruses are a huge core to the song and therefore reused often, the already
lackluster state of them makes the lyrics even more limited.

Switching
over to the audio itself now, what makes “Decalcomanie” score incredibly well
is that it excels in what I argue are the two main factors of a song:
composition and execution. Now this may sound confusing; after all, based on my
review outline, are the factors I consider important—for K-Pop at least—the
vocals, sections, instrumental, and lyrics? Although those are the factors we
focus on, I am talking in an even more general sense: looking at a song at,
say, the production and composition stages. For what I am connoting with
“composition” as a general factor, I refer to the song in of itself. In other
words, how the song is laid out and is arranged, structured, and the like.
Think of it as the skeleton to a song. In terms of “execution,” then, I am
referring to when idols provide their vocals and furthermore, when the song
actually physically plays versus being theoretical.

Point
is, “Decalcomanie” does both well and I mention these “composition” and
“execution” labels since, admittedly, songs can still do decently if not well
as long as one of those excel. For example, GFriend’s
“Navillera”
I have argued is a solidly composed
song. That said, the execution in terms of the vocals— while still great—is not
at an incredibly high level. GFriend, overall, tends to excel more from song
composition strengths than necessarily relying on pure vocal execution to bring
excellent songs. Is this bad? Again, it is not since in the end their songs do
in fact flourish—specifically with “Rough” and “Navillera” if we are to be
exact. And of course, there are cases where groups with solid execution can
make an otherwise lackluster song composition excel. An example in mind of this
case would be SPICA’s “Tonight”: the song’s composition does come off as
repetitive and a bit plain, but SPICA’s vocal execution brings forth an
excellent song as the end result. With this all in mind now, let it be
reiterated: MAMAMOO’s  “Decalcomanie”
does both well—and indeed,
considering just excelling in one is enough to warrant great songs, this should
be indicative of how much potential MAMAMOO’s comeback has.

The
introduction might provide a clear example of solid execution and composition
at work. With the introduction, one may argue it is plain: after all, it is
merely a beat occurring—and at that, it lasts for a few seconds. On closer
inspection, however, this supposed minor section brings forth major benefits to
“Decalcomanie.” On a composition level, given that the song is relatively
quick-paced with its progression—for example, note that it has no pre-chorus, as
we will further discuss later—an introduction that is crafted in a way as to
establish the song’s pacing is vital. The lack of a shorter introduction would
potentially lead to listeners feeling that the song is overly rushed. Imagine
this: The introduction is a lengthy, dramatic, piano-based introduction. If “Decalcomanie”
adopted this route, everything following after—the verse then chorus—would have
been too sudden. Thus, even if the introduction is seemingly short and
worthless, I argue its limited duration was very much planned out.  

Now
in terms of the execution of the introduction’s sounds, what should be noticed
is that the delivered “plain beats” are no longer “plain” if we stop listening
to them in an abstract vacuum. Since the instrumental actually continues on,
seamlessly, into the following verse, it builds cohesion into the song at a
very early point. Besides how important cohesion is in, once again, this
fast-paced song, the beauty of the execution is more on the instrumental
continuing freely. It is these simple beats that begin the very first steps and
buildup for the verses—all in a smooth, clean, and concise fashion.

Let
us now focus on the choruses, though, as these sections are ultimately what I
assert as the main core to the song. Moreover, these sections provide another
example of how “Decalcomanie” possesses both solid execution and composition.
For example, when focusing on the execution, MAMAMOO’s vocals and the
instrumental are of immediate attention. In this section, both aspects
flourish. The vocals are almost self-explanatory: they are powerful, soft,
precise, wild, and if accounting for the song in whole, it remains diverse with
including raps and the rougher verses. As for the instrumental’s execution, there
are many subtle features that deserve praising. In particular, despite the instrumental
following a more simplistic form, the way it carries out is indispensable to
the choruses’ success. With how the vocals are incredibly intense and active,
the direction of the song is easily lost; listeners can easily become
disorientated due to how overpowering the vocals can be. To counteract that,
the instrumental’s simpler execution does just that: it provides a contrast to
MAMAMOO’s stellar, energetic singing as the heavier bass line is a blatant,
easy sound to follow, and equally the rhythm and beats maintaining a slightly
slower rate and less intense state and thus provides other aspects for a
listener to maintain her balance.

However,
even with all of that covered, there is still one peculiar feature that makes
the choruses go to a nine—a rating that is essentially the highest possible for
this blog. My answer to this is: coordination—both within the section itself,
but also outside the section itself. Since we have partially covered the
section itself, though, I will focus more on the latter.

If
we view the choruses from a wider perspective and view it in relation to all of
the other sections, we would discover some risky composition decisions that,
thankfully, resulted well. Specifically, what I am most drawn to is how the
choruses are self-sufficient; alone, the choruses fulfill—with admittedly some
assistance from the verses—the role of, say, pre-choruses and post-choruses.
Especially as discussed earlier with how the song lacks pre-choruses—sections
that are defaults in almost every pop song—this was an extremely bold move from
the composers. Nevertheless, it very much worked out and that is due to how the
choruses—and verses—are composed in a certain manner.

For
one, before the choruses directly begin, there is a generic format used:
quickening beats—or in this case, clapping—that signaled a change. Whether this
portion belongs to the verse or chorus is unclear, and I would argue that is
irrelevant as the main point is that it provides a blatant transition. More
importantly, for when the choruses unequivocally arrive, the very first seconds
if not the first second provides
another critical transition. During this moment, the vocals are marginally played
ahead of time before the instrumental begins once again. That initiation from
the vocals—and to clarify, the vocals do start the choruses at a high peak—is essentially
the “pre-chorus” of the song if we dare claim it as that. Even if it appears
sudden, I would disagree with that: the choruses are quick but not sudden—the latter
implying the composition did not properly transition from the verse to chorus. This
all relates back, however, to my initial point: that the choruses are
incredibly well coordinated. The choruses are working with minimal time to pull off, as we have discussed, simple tasks such
as transitions, but because of the efficiency and coordination of the choruses,
everything manages to tie together.

Overall,
MAMAMOO’s comeback is definitely an above average song, and I would argue it is
a good song. Past releases may have
focused more on being upbeat and pop-distinctive, but the ladies have now
equally proven they can deliver well with a more refined, powerful and intense
song. Currently, I will consider “Decalcomanie” the best song of the year, and
I would be incredibly pleased if another song manages to contest that. And so
to end, while this review is by far the worst I have written in a while (“Decalcomanie”
is, after all, a really complex song in my opinion), I will leave the main
summary of this review: MAMAMOO’s comeback is amazing. It is fabulous.
Fantastic. “Decalcomanie” is pure beauty in its composition and in its vocal
and instrumental delivery.

_______________________________________________________

Once
again, I do apologize with this review being rather unorganized and rough in
its analysis. There are so many impressive moments in this song, and I
unfortunately lack the musical skills to be able to truly deconstruct all of those
specific pieces—let alone attempt to articulate them. But, if anything, this
song is another reason for why I argue repetitively that the humanities
matters. Music can be—and is—very beautiful.

Look
forward to other reviews to come, some of which will be focused on recent songs
and some on catching up from October’s reviews. I plan to release a few extremely
short reviews in a week or so. All in all, “I feel good” with “Decalcomanie.”
It is by far one of the better songs I have heard.

I was wondering, what’s the difference between a composer and producer? You use them interchangeably, so are they the same?

Hello. First of all, apologies for not answering this a few days ago when you sent it. I was not ignoring it; in fact, after reading these brilliant questions, I had to actually correct my own knowledge so as to give you a more accurate, thorough answer. 

To already answer the latter question, it is a huge mistake on my end that I have used them interchangeably. Now it is possible that a producer is also the composer–and oftentimes this can be the case with K-Pop–but in most cases, these roles are by different people. In other words, if the producer is also the composer, then yes they–emphasis here: they as in the persons–can be referred to interchangeably. But, it should be noted there are significant differences in roles and thus, what a producer does is not what a composer does. On this end, and for what the question focuses more on I am guessing, no they should not be used interchangeably and this is my mistake for doing so in reviews. After all, I am an amateur/casual reviewer and am by no means a professional with music. The only specialty I personally bring to my reviews is, compared to many other amateur/casual reviewers, a somewhat more developed skill of “active listening.”

Now regarding the main core of the question, there are so many ways to explain this difference. Basically, to roughly quote my music/fine arts professor, she explained it as: the producer puts out and funds the music and at times refines a song; the composer arranges and actually creates the song itself. For our purposes, when it comes to these reviews, I care more about the composers than producers–unless, of course, they are the same person. For example, JYP does both: he composes songs for his idols (or himself) and he produces them via publishing them, adding in revisions throughout, and ultimately does the recordings of idols. Composers, on the other hand, are the ones that “write down” a song.

On topic, composers are the ones that make the decisions my reviews care more for. In other words, the composers decide how the vocals are used, how sections are arranged, how the introduction and conclusion are, and so forth. The song itself is from the composers. Why, then, the producers matter is they ultimately help run the show–or song, if we are speaking less figuratively. As readers may know, when a group receives a song, there is usually a “demo vocals” involved. Again, let us use JYP. In I.O.I’s “Very Very Very,” there was a video where JYP did the “demoing” of the song vocally, and as we know he composed the song itself. I.O.I’s role, then, was to record their own vocals onto it. JYP composed the song, but now in producer-mode, he is responsible for getting I.O.I’s vocals recorded down and, in the end, publishes out the song. Now of course, idols at times may partake in composing a song as well, but thi is how the usual formula runs in K-Pop.

Basically, in summary, the composer creates the song and how it is formatted while the producer funds and aids in recording the song. Of course, though, if other readers have a better explanation or an even more accurate example of what occurs behind-the-scenes, feel free to send it in and I will post it in your credit. 

Thank you to the asker for this wonderful question. I find it very heartwarming when there are readers who are genuinely curious on music in all of its form–from questions of idols and K-Pop, to questions of music production or theory, and so on. Also in terms of my next review, I will probably review MAMAMOO’s “Decalcomanie”–a song that I might claim is the best song I have ever heard in my entire life.

Apink – “Only One” Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Dance
Practice)

Apink – Only One

Reviewed
on October 31, 2016

That said, for where many would critique the vocals, it is true that the singing is not necessarily strenuous in this song, and most detrimentally, it appears that there is little to no variation of the vocals. However, I greatly disagree on this end: the vocals are quite diverse if we notice the shifts that occur on a micro-level—from a section to the next—and the shifts that occur on a macro-level—the vocals’ change from the song’s first half to second half.

Personal Message:
Although I do feel disappointed at
myself for only releasing five reviews this month and, on top of that, to still
not review Hyuna’s “How’s This,” I will aim for November to be a better
reviewing month. Regardless, though, I am content with what was covered in
October: two artists that we had yet to see on the blog and that I managed to
review purely comebacks versus older releases. That said, for how we will end
this month, we will be taking a look—or more accurately, hearing—at Apink’s
latest comeback. Of course, though, “comeback” may be a stretch; in truth,
“Only One” might be more accurately called “latest release” than necessarily a
“comeback”—the latter implying it is very
new.

Regardless of technical labels, I
return to “Only One” for two reasons. The first is I just simply love the music
video; I cannot resist the chance to share how aesthetically pleasing the music
video is. Moreover, I find the video completely soothing and creating a sense
of inner peace. Perhaps I am just an odd boy. But besides these points, I am
reviewing “Only One” as it proves peculiar in a musical sense. After all, if my
friend’s words are correct, Apink did not win at all with this release.
Regarding why not, my friend has come up with solid reasons that I can agree
with. In particular, there were a lot of other popular groups promoting at the
same time. Yet, I personally remain unsatisfied with that answer—and equally
she does, too. Considering Apink is equally as popular as those who promoted
with them, a single win should have at least occurred. And so, this is where my
personal stance comes in: I think there is something about “Only One”—the song
in of itself—that deterred listeners. Truthfully, I would argue the song is not
“public-friendly” at all; unless if one is actively
listening to it—and admittedly, the majority of pop music fans do not—“Only
One” comes off as a rather boring release.

With this, I will have a rarer
digression: one that is about music and not the usual social topics. Basically,
I will discuss what “active listening is,” how to begin doing so, and how
“active listening” can still be achieved with minimal—or even no—musical theory
knowledge. Afterwards, I will then transition back to the review itself, and in
the review, provide an example of how “active listening” can transform “Only
One”—a supposed lackluster song by Apink—to suddenly a rather complex,
sophisticated and intelligently produced song.

What is “active listening”? (From
here on, I will remove the quotations as, I hope, it will become familiar as
any other musical terminology.) In short, I personally like to term it as the
“critical thinking” of music as, ultimately, that is exactly it: being able to
look beyond the surface, asking “why,” and understanding various perspectives. Critical
thinking is similar if not identical to that general definition—though it is
oftentimes associated with academic-related topics versus that of fine arts.
(But, then again, I personally consider music/fine arts in general “academic.”)
On topic, for a more applicable definition of active listening, this refers to—keyword—actively hearing a song: it means constantly paying attention to the
composition, asking why certain
composition decisions are made, and being able to attempt to answer those very questions. It should
be noted that each of the mentioned three points (and many more that even I am
still not capable of) require practice in of themselves; to be able to pay attention
and pick out certain techniques, for example, is difficult and takes skills and
practice.

With a general background covered,
let us now actually use an example. Since “TT” has been the latest review, we shall use it. With paying close
attention to the audio, this ranges from general listening—hearing the basic
melodies and transitions—to more complex listening—noticing how, during the
pre-choruses, that the vocals become monotonous and that the final transition
point added vocal layering as a minor climax. From here (though bear in mind
there is no chronological order for my discussed active listening), we could
then apply the “why.” Why did the composers of “TT” decide to structure the
pre-choruses as is? More questions can be asked, and better yet more complex
ones. For the purposes of continuing, though, we will settle for this and
proceed to the next step: attempting to answer why. This, as with every step,
can range from a simple one such as this is to merely transition the song, to
slightly more complex answers such as that the composers did this as a way to
begin merging the instrumental and vocals and to provide contrast to the
pre-choruses’ initial, slower beginning. Best of all with active listening is
it matters less on the answers one produces and more instead on the actual
process itself: the process of asking questions, of actually analyzing the song
versus passively listening to it. That is the main goal of active listening:
listeners becoming an active participant of pop music (or any genre).

Now for a few points readers may
have, perhaps a common rebuttal is: “So is it bad to passively listen to songs?
I’m not here to be a future producer or musician; I just want to listen for
enjoyment.” To this: Yes, this is perfectly acceptable. In fact, with pop
music, it is meant to be enjoyed
casually; pop music is music that is meant to be “public-friendly”—anyone can
listen to pop, regardless of music knowledge, and find it quite enjoyable. (In
fact, I personally do passively listen to music still—even if I actively listen
at other times or when I have to review a song.) My prior points of active
listening are not to strip this away at all. I personally believe pop music
should be cherished as it is a very versatile genre. Everyone can appreciate
it, whether a casual listener or a critical, active one. My point about active
listening, then, is to provide an entry for those who wish to become critical
of pop songs—this, I would argue, is important considering a few “elite”
musicians and critical listeners wrongfully belittle pop music when, in reality
and as I hope my reviews show, pop music can indeed be quite complex and worthy
of musical appreciation.

Another aspect to clarify is that active
listening does not mean one has to “review” music; in other words, active
listening does not mean one judges the quality
of a song—deciding good or bad. That is where music reviews come in: having
to apply active listening, but to then make a claim—that the vocals are good,
that the choruses are bad, and so on—and to then defend that very claim through
evidence and deeper analysis of the song. Active listening simply means being
able to pick out features of a song, subtle and blatant, and to attempt to
understand why such composition decisions were made. One does not have to
decide if those said decisions are worth calling “good” or “bad.”  

Onto the next point, now that
readers understand the general premises of active listening, we will now focus
on how to actually begin actively listening. Being told the background and
layout is not helpful, after all, if a listener feels overwhelmed with hearing
a song. Where does one simply begin?

Personally to share and before
answering, readers should realize that active listening is a skill that
develops over time through practice. At first, it is difficult to actively
listen to a pop song. During my first reviews, I struggled to switch from a
casual hearing to a more critical hearing—this being the reason for why my
first reviews liberally gave out nines and tens. It takes practice. That said,
for the biggest guide on how to begin that shift of passive to active: look—or
more accurately, listen—to the production
and not the execution per se.

Explaining what I mean, I will use
literature as a comparison. At first, one learns to analyze literature through,
for example, characters. We would discuss characters as if they were genuine
people and analyze their actions and
words. However, as one becomes more experienced and skilled and progresses to
higher levels of analyzing literature, no longer are characters in of
themselves discussed. Instead, it is the author
that is discussed: how did the author
depict a certain character, why would they make
a character say a specific line? This line of thought translates perfectly
to active listening. Look at how a song is composed versus how the song is
necessarily executed. In other words, never say: “Group A provide weak vocals
to Song A because they suck, and Group A did a horrible job at transitioning
from the verse to pre-choruses.” Instead, it is much more analytical and a
proper use of active listening to say: “Song A showcases weaker vocals, and the
transition point at the verse to pre-chorus was horribly composed.” Again, the
main point is to focus on the song in whole and not the singers involved
necessarily. (For a fun fact, readers can directly track my growth with active
listening by paying attention to this very switch: going from critiquing
idols—singers who have minimal roles besides execution, unless if they are part
of the composition—to critiquing the producers and composers of a song.)

This covered, readers may still
wonder on the actual process of active listening. It is understood that it
takes practice and that one should focus on the composition versus idols, but
exactly how? Is it through beginning to catch very subtle sounds?

To answer the former first, the most
important step is to be in a mental state and even physical state that allows
one to concentrate purely on the audio. No visuals should be included—this
being a music video, lyrics, or around a particularly distracting environment. Secondly,
isolating sounds is important. It is difficult if not impossible to actively
listen to a song from, say, a cellphone’s speaker in the middle of a busy
family gathering. On this note, and perhaps a more upsetting point to bring up,
one’s social class might affect one’s active listening if we are to gauge the
materials involved. It is far more effective to actively listen to song through
high-quality headphones, earbuds, or speakers than from a worn-out, low-quality
listening device. Even so, though, the highest-quality listening devices are
never necessary but the devices used should at least be decent. (And if a
reader is curious on how one can determine a listening device’s quality, that
is another topic that I cannot answer thoroughly.) Lastly, and arguably the
most important factor, one should simply focus on the audio itself. This means,
at times, simply sitting down in a quiet environment and paying pure attention
to sounds. Lyrics are to be
understood as sounds versus meaning and language; a song’s emotional
tone—happy, sad, playful, and so on—is to be ignored; the executing artists
involved—the idols singing, the group, the biases involved—are all to be
ignored. Listen to the sounds in of themselves—this is, in summary, how to
actively listen to a song.

Regarding the latter question
earlier of perhaps some physical sonic aspects to pay attention to, one huge
clarification is that active listening is not about hearing all of the subtle
cues in a song. For example, many music reviewers are praised for being able to
hear a pin drop from many meters away. This is, while understandably
flattering, in truth is an insult: it implies that reviewers—or more
accurately, active listeners whether they review songs or not—are only
proficient in selectively hearing. That is not at all what active listening is
about as discussed above. Once again, the main core of active listening is to
be intellectually engaged with a song’s sounds such as through asking
questions, speculating answers as to why certain composition decisions were
made, or understanding the effects a composition decision creates. So for
readers wondering to begin, do not worry of being able to hear everything that
occurs. It is extremely difficult to do so, and harshly said, is not worth
doing so unless if one truly wishes to analyze a song to its finest details. Active
listening is about the intellectual engagement, not being selective listeners—the
latter, after all, requires no critical thinking.

And so this transitions us to my
concluding point: that active listening can occur even if one has no musical
theory whatsoever. If not clear by now, I am of the few serious music reviewers
who have managed to continue doing this work despite lacking musical theory
knowledge. Now I do have some knowledge, but it is far minimal. For example, I
could use—and at times do—terms of crescendo and decrescendo, or that the
ending of a song is the “coda” and not just “conclusion,” or that many if not
all pop songs follow a binary form of “A, B, A, B” (“A” referring to the
initial buildup while the “B” refers to the climactic portions). Other than
these, though, I cannot read musical notes—let alone even determine rough
musical notes (though I have, through listening by ear, crafted out a melody to
a certain song after a whole pitiful month). More shockingly, I lack mechanical
musical skills: I cannot play any instruments proficiently besides using the
guitar for purposes of crafting out a melody on a single string—again, another
pitiful moment.

And yet, here I am writing music
reviews that, if I can be arrogant for a bit, go beyond superficial ones of
merely addressing the obvious points of a song. Why is this possible? Because,
though I still very much am improving, have practiced the skill of actively
listening for two or three years—and only then, it is the recent months where
reviews have finally reached a more critical stage of analysis. I still have
much to improve on, but as seen, it is in fact possible to improve despite
lacking musical theory knowledge. Likewise, for readers, even if one cannot
name the notes that occur or even if one lacks the very basic labels—examples
being vocal belting, harmonization, and so on—it is still definitely possible
to be an active listener. The key point is to continually practice it and to
focus not so much on nitpicking traits of a song, but instead to focus on
analyzing the song: asking why a certain decision was made, what were its
effects, what would have occurred if another decision was made, and so on.

Returning to Apink and the review
itself, let us have a thorough example of how active listening is important. As
said, in a casual context, “Only One” comes across as overly repetitive,
simple, and bluntly said, boring. However, as I will argue, if we are actively
listening, there are many impressive composition decisions and techniques
applied—ones that very much augment the song. The problem, however, is the
failure to hear those special aspects prevents “Only One” from excelling—this
being what I will challenge in the review.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.50/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 7/10
(6.50/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Conclusion  (Chorus)

1.     Introduction:
7/10

2.     Verse: 7/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 7/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 6/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 5/10

[Instrumental]

It seems like a dreaming at
the end of exhausted day
Covering me with warmth,
my empty mind is full of your scent now
Able to dream forever

Too soft a scent and little bit shy,
trembling
To be honest I’m afraid
Please cheer me up
and hug me tightly

I hope you have the same thinking as me
I hope it’ll be bright everyday
You are my only one, baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
Love, love, love, my baby

You comfort me at the cold, cloud-filled night
The light called “You” seems like a kid
I like your eyes which are full of me
Please cover my sorrowful memories
The kid called “You” makes me happy
I’m falling in love

Too soft scent and little bit shy,
trembling
I’m afraid you’ll leave me
Please cheer me up
and hold my hands tightly

I hope you have the same thinking as me
I hope it’ll be bright everyday
You are my only one, baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
Love, love, love, my baby

You’re trembling and it feels new every day
I hope we won’t forget this moment
Not able to hurt my mind which is grown up with you
Always this feeling feels like a dream
I hope we won’t forget this moment forever
Oh baby

You are my only one baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
(Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well)
Love, love, love, my baby

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
While I do consider “Only One” Apink’s best release as of yet, it is
statistically unsettling: it is above average, yes, but it is a decimal away
from being only slightly above average. Nonetheless, if ignoring the lyrics, I
argue all the other categories hold incredibly well even if, on the surface,
many appear lacking.

Take
the vocals for example. On the surface, very few would contest the idea that
the vocals’ sounds are poor. Indeed, Apink’s vocals are arguably at their best
in this song if we focus on how tuneful they are. That said, for where many
would critique the vocals, it is true that the singing is not necessarily
strenuous in this song, and most detrimentally, it appears that there is little
to no variation of the vocals. However, I greatly disagree on this end: the
vocals are quite diverse if we notice the shifts that occur on a
micro-level—from a section to the next—and the shifts that occur on a
macro-level—the vocals’ change from the song’s first half to second half.
Noticing these minor yet substantial changes is what allows one realize the
vocals in “Only One” are quite impressive.

Regarding
the individual, micro shifts, the most obvious example is when the choruses
occur. Here, as most readers can detect, the vocal intensity unequivocally
shifts to a higher intensity. Moreover, though, the verse to pre-chorus vocal
shift is also important and it is one I would predict many fail to notice. In
this instance, one should realize there is a drastic change in vocal belting:
the duration increases, and likewise does the stress of doing so. Although both
are minor, it is something that very much provides variety to the vocals if we
hone in on it. Additionally, it is also worth noting that the shift is actually
a gradual one; the moment a new member takes over for singing, the vocals at
that very moment begin to crescendo—buildup—towards more intensive vocals. Now
on the surface because of how minor these changes are, it does appear that the
vocals follow an overly linear, boring path. However, as I encourage, listening
closely reveals these changes that greatly add variety.

In
terms of the macro-level vocal changes, another key distinction listeners
should notice is that the first half of “Only One” is extraordinarily different
from the second half. While all halves are pleasing in the actual, physical
sounds of the vocals, the style and form of the singing are quite different.
For example, in the second verse, the pacing is slightly increased but more
noticeably is the firmness of the vocals. The first verse, after all, took on a
more fragile, lighter sound. Contrast that to the second verse’s harsher,
stronger presence and that indeed serves as an appealing, diverse point in the
song’s vocals. Likewise, and for a rather obvious shift, vocal layering becomes
incredibly prevalent in the second half—particularly near the beginning of the
second pre-chorus. From echoed, hollowed out background vocals to added belting
layers, as seen—or more accurately, heard—there are many impressive composition at play. The most impressive part,
though, is that all of these choices were blended into the song as a whole so
well that many fail to notice them—though it does backfire in the sense of
people not being able to appreciate these choices due to not noticing them at
all.

Again,
as I hope this review is showing, it is through active listening that we are
able to hear the more delicate intricacies and beauty of “Only One.” Let us now
focus on the sections themselves and see what impressive composition exist in
this category.

Before
starting, it should be noted that although we really could hammer through the
entire sections—and that we did with much earlier reviews—current reviews focus
instead on more provoking or even controversial aspects. This is to prevent a
robotic voice from taking over, and admittedly, sometimes the best description
of something is “average.”

On
topic, one section in specific that I have to highlight is the verse, but more
narrowly I wish to focus on the second verse. The beginning of this section is,
in my assertion, the best part of “Only One.” The “rebound” that occurs—when the
song takes a very brief yet sudden drop to pause and returns—is phenomenally
executed and implemented. It serves a multitude of strengths for this song:
transitioning in after the prior chorus, adding a unique entry point and take
in the song as a whole, and so much more. For example, this rebound allows the
instrumental and vocals to begin, quite literally, at the same position—this being
otherwise difficult if not impossible. Explaining what I mean, if the rebound
never occurred, the instrumental would have had to continue relentlessly from
the prior chorus and the vocals would have to merge into that pre-running
instrumental. While that is never in of itself problematic for a song, “Only
One” took a very interesting route: using a rebound—a pause—so that both vocals and instrumental would reset
and begin anew. As a result of this, it creates a perfect, seamless transition
and the flow is perfectly established once more as the vocals and instrumental
are now able to be better meshed with one another. On top of all of this, the
rebound also provides the foundation for the second half of the song to become
more intense—an example is in the added vocal layering, as discussed earlier. For
how that occurred, it is because the rebound halted and then quickly resumed
the song—a pull and push form. That very form, then, created a minor
buildup/crescendo, and from there, having a more intensive run is possible as
the rebound created a path towards a more climactic, intense point. All in all,
this might be overly focusing on a very specific portion of the song, but it is
these moments that deeply bring out the charm in “Only One”—moments that
otherwise are missed without actively listening to it.

Now
all that said, there are still weaker points to the song. The most direct fault
is the lyrics; the lyrics render averagely as neither details nor plot prove
creative. Musically, though, there are still weaknesses: the choruses and
bridge. Although the two sonically are solid—the instrumental and vocals, after
all, are not problematic—it is the structure of these sections themselves that
prove a bit concerning. With the bridge, besides its somewhat abrupt
transition, the form of it runs counterproductive to “Only One” ‘s general
form: a slower, but definitely forward-progressing song. The bridge forces a
heavier slowing of the song in whole, and thus, that sudden shift was an aspect
I found slightly troubling.

Another
critique, and perhaps the biggest one, is how the choruses transitioned within
itself. Interestingly, even in Apink’s “Remember” (their prior comeback), they
ran into this issue—though I admit I do not remember if I discussed it in the
review. (And no: no puns intended.) Horrible jokes aside, the critique I have
is that when switching to the latter half of the choruses—in other words, for
readers to follow, when Eunji sings—the jump from the prior half—Bomi’s part—is
a bit of a stretch. The vocals become significantly more powerful and intense,
and while that in a vacuum can be pleasant, if we consider the general flow and
how the first half of a chorus is still relatively softer and just merely
quickened, the second half can come off as slightly overpowering. Again, it is
nothing completely impairing to the song, but it tends to provide a “skipping”
moment when listening to the choruses.

If
we gloss over this song in particular, once again I agree wholeheartedly with
the many who claim it is Apink’s worst release or their most boring one. After
all, in a more casual listening, “Only One” does come off as just that: plain;
stale; disinteresting. However as I argued, it is by honing into peculiar
points in this song that truly highlights how beautifully composed “Only One”
is. In my opinion, this is Apink’s best song yet even if it happens to be the
more mentally taxing one in the sense of having to actively notice the
techniques involved. In the end, I rate it as above average and find that reasonably
if we listen critically. And this is where I would challenge readers: Do you
find the song weak even after actively listening? Did actively listening to it
make the song more accessible and appealing? As always, I am just providing a
single view to the many there are and am definitely by no means the “right”
view.

_______________________________________________________

Perhaps
I am truly being arrogant now, but I have to say this is the first review in a
while where I am relatively satisfied with the given analysis. It might be,
though, due to bringing in a more positive view to “Only One” when many
disagree. Regardless, I hope readers and Apink fans enjoy the review and, more
importantly, find personal reasons for disagreeing or agreeing—or even both.

In
terms of the next review, November is starting and I unfortunately have too
many essays to attend to. As a result, for perhaps the first half of Novembers,
reviews will focus more on quantity less in complexity as much as I dislike
saying this. Look forward to SHINee’s “1 of 1” as the next review.