Identity as a whole really grew on me with time, when I first "skimmed" through the album upon its release back in February I wasn't impressed. I had heard the singles and had mixed feelings about them, and I didn't think the album tracks were any better. A few months later though, for some strange reason, I found myself watching the music video for Possibility and getting curious about whether or not I really though the album was worth my time. It wasn't until at least a dozen listens and my dad's constant comments throughout at least half of those listens that I realized how outstanding an album Identity is.
Yes, I said it, Identity is an outstanding pop album. But like I said, it's extremely hard to sanely justify why I like something without fangirling all over the place, which is why I've gone through a lot of different arguments before coming to one I think is really convincing.
Looking at this from a Korean perspective, the production is much, much, much better than anything you get back in Korea. The quality of the songs and the creativity is lightyears above any mainstream, "major label" or equivalent release. But this wasn't intended for Korea so my first argument is null and void. I do find it rather amusing though that this went to number one on the Hanteo charts, although people could've just been buying it for the name. Argument or none though, the production on this is really good and I have to point it out.
Then I thought, this album has everything I want in one - good production, cohesion, catchy material, pretty decent vocals and an over-all concept. Identity has everything I whine about and wish albums had - have I really found an album that doesn't get any complaints from me?
No, I haven't. I have complaints, as I have for practically all the albums I write about, but for the entire package I don't. That's a start!
Identity is musical. Like Kylie's Aphrodite, I don't have to lecture about dynamics or melody structures or how this song lacks this - it just has it, no question. My focus now is the delivery, the sound, and what it is as an album.
This album has sophistication. There are fun songs, there are edgy ones and there are "sadder ones, but they were all pulled off with a sense of sophistication - I give the Japanese that praise. The album has it's wild points, but the production has made everything clean, giving it a sophisticated and effortless sound. I like. A lot.
If my memory serves me right, White Wishes was released for Christmas. Christmas or not, it's a beautiful song. I don't mean pretty, I mean beautiful. The chords sound very Japanese - very clean, very upfront and clearly through-through - but everything about this song gives me goosebumps. The relatively rough guitar part is a contrast to the gorgeous melody, floating strings, the sweet piano loop and light percussion, but everything thrown together sounds like heaven. I'm not kidding. While all this is going on, we get a song with dynamics and with punch - I'm in love.
Whenever I hear This Is Who I Am, my dad and I address it as "the song that goes nowhere" - it literally goes nowhere. But I do like the instrumentation on this one, and I like the melody, even if it doesn't go anywhere. It's catchy, it's kinda epic in it's own way and it's got a string section - you can't go wrong with that.
Most of the songs on Identity actually have very simple melodies but one, they're catchy, and two, they're well-made. Pop songs are supposed to be catchy and they're supposed to stick to your mind, but they should be done in the most creative way possible - listeners aren't stupid in the sense that the hook should be drilled into their heads every single waking second.
Take Easy and Lazer as examples - you'd think it'd be these songs that drill monotonous "Easy easy easy..."'s or whatever into your head but they're not. You remember the melody of the hooks, yes, but it's not annoying and the song actually has a melody - there's some pseudo-chanting going on in certain parts, but they're actual songs and not some talking slapped on top of a few random chords. They're pretty darn good songs as well.
Identity is a recording and not a bunch of songs thrown together for lack of a good reason - this has every right to be called an actual album.
There's one duet on this album, and it's with 三浦大知, some Japanese electro singer or whatever. I do believe Possibility is one of the few songs that sounds better live, but even then the recording is still good at worse. It sounds very Western, and yet this will never work in the US - it's like a Japanese take on a Western song, it ends up having elements of Japanese sophistication. That's what I like about the Japanese - even when they're drawing influences they know who they are.
If there are songs that sound better live or when you watch the video, there are also songs that sound better recorded - most of the material on Identity are living proofs of that. When I first heard Bump Bump! I was also watching the video, and I didn't like what I was hearing, but the minute I heard it alone, with a nice speaker, I changed my mind - this is one of my favorite songs on the album. It's got substance, dynamics, a catchy hook and this hasn't happened to me for Asian songs yet but I find myself sub-consciously tapping my feet along to the rhythm. I love the trumpet throughout the song, and all the other little details that were put it - another aspect that the Japanese have claimed their own. Bump Bump! has character, it has punch, but once again we go back to the sophistication - it's got class.
Even if it's got class and sophistication and all, the album still has character. It's not clean to the point of sanitary, and it's not as generic as most of the crap that's being shoved down our ears these days. I still have mixed feelings when it comes to If This Is Love, but it's got character so I'm good.
However the song with the most character, in my opinion, is ネコラブ. The melody, the instrumental and the way the vocals were delivered all have spunk that all the other tracks tried to do, but couldn't do as well as this track. It's fun, but at the same time it sounds like something straight out of the big chase scene of a spy movie - this might fit parts of the video for 2 Different Tears better than the actual song! But it's not trying to be "vintage" American or whatever, it's edgy, it's Japanese and that's what it is.
I may not personally like THE END そして and... that much, but BoA is a pop singer and most pop singers are expected to sing ballads - that's who she is. If I were to chose between this My All, the other ballad, this sounds less depressing. I think it's the percussion. My All has its moments, don't get me wrong, but the trumpets at the chorus scream "SLEEZY CLUB". Just the trumpets though.
Fallin' is a really happy song - I smile just hearing the piano loop at the beginning. Yes, there's autotune, but like a few other songs I've written about, it's tasteful. The processing was meant to contrast and complement certain parts of the song, it wasn't meant to mask vocal ability nor was it used out of desire to be a hit (at least I don't think it was) because it wasn't even a single in the first place.
None of these songs are trying to be anything they're not. Because the people behind this album have what I assume is musicality, they're not afraid to draw from their influences and try new things because they know who they are and they don't try to hide it. If not directly copying hits these days is one of the reasons why Identity wasn't a number one album in Japan and didn't sell over 100,000 copies, I don't think the producers and musicians care. They made a good album, what else is there to do? Nothing.