JYJ - The Beginning

WHY HELLO THERE! It's been more than half a month since I've written anything, and to be honest I think it took it's toll on me - I should've written, but I had absolutely no time to! I'm back, on a semi-break. I don't have any formal classes, but I have projects to do, and a national speech contest to train for! I hate being a senior. AAAAANYWAY.

The worst thing that could ever happen was the JYJ album to come out while I was submerged in schoolwork, and it happened. I was practically kicking myself this week because I couldn't write a review the day it came out! But on the other hand, I'm kinda thankful that it allowed me to let the album sink in before I opened my mouth to write this.


Like what I said when I reviewed the trio's Japanese EP, I like them because they're a part of DBSK - they're a part of five, not one, not three. But I've sort of come to terms with the fact that the five of them being together may be very difficult to pull off right now. I'm still waiting, like a gazillion other fans, but life goes on, and I'm thankful that they're still actually interested in making music and not hiding from the world, wallowing in self-pity or anything.

I have a few "issues" with this EP-verging-on-album, and some of them aren't exclusive to this album. Therefore, I'm trying my best to phrase my words in the right way - not that I'm afraid of offending anyone because this is purely my opinion, but more because there are times when I don't really end up saying everything I want to, and this time it's important that I do. I won't be talking as a fangirl, and believe me, it was hard, but it's better that I not. I'm still a fan, I just choose not to show it. For a while.

Probably my biggest issue with this album is that they're trying to be American. They're not American. It's not that it's particularly bad to sound like that because there's good American music, it's that I get the impression that they're trying too hard to sound like something they're not just to succeed. I don't like that mindset. I hate it when people sacrifice who they are, who they've shown they are, just because "it'll sell more". Variety is good, I have absolutely no problem with it, but changing your identity as a whole just to cater to another market is wrong. Success is fantastic, because that means more people will be able to hear their music, but if the music they're hearing is not reflective of who they really are, I'd rather they not have that success.

Now we come to the fact that they're singing in English. The English isn't as bad as I expected it to be though and surprisingly, Junsu isn't as bad as everyone thought he was. My theory? Singing is different from talking - Junsu was in a musical and most of the time, in "professional" music, pronunciation is very important, he must've gotten some pointers from the pros he worked with. That applies to Yoochun as well - he may be better than the other two when he speaks (even if he isn't really that good), but his singing voice makes his pronunciation different. It's the type of voice you have, and of course from where you learned to sing. I won't be talking about their pronunciation when I review the songs though, because I honestly don't care that much - it's music, the melodies, arrangements and instrumentals are my main focus.

If I don't think of anything else while I write this paragraph, this is the last issue I'll be talking about before I get to the songs. In Japan, and even in Korea, we get gorgeous songs. I'm not talking about ballads alone, even the uptempos we've gotten from them have been jaw-dropping. I understand that this is different production, songwriting and a different sound all together (which I'm so not OK with), but they don't sound like some of the best singers in Asia on these cuts. When news that they'd be working with producers in the US first surfaces, I threatened Kanye that I'd personally go over to the US and kill him, along with a gazillion other angry fangirls, if ever he decide to autotune them and it come out tasteless and generic. He did. For one track. So I'm thinking about it. My point is, even if there are a few beautiful songs on the album, the songs they seem to be pushing, and majority of the album, is sub-par. We'll get to that next.

For starters, the intro sounds like it got lost in post-prod, and was put into the wrong album. You know, if the album sounded like this, I think I would've liked it. It's spunky, it's got class, and it doesn't hit you over the head but it goes somewhere. My only problem is that JYJ don't sing on it, and that's a pretty big problem. If they had put even just a tiny bit of vocals, I would've liked it even more. But then again, either the album's not good enough for this, or it doesn't fit into the album. Take your pick.

I first heard Ayyy Girl (emphasis on the 3 'y's) in LQ when it leaked a few days ago, and my initial observation was that it's so boring - it doesn't go anywhere. There are songs that have instrumentals that don't go anywhere, but that means the vocals should be able to carry it, more importantly, the hook. Now that I heard it in HQ, I still kinda have the same observations. It starts out like a boring Love In This Club but the verses are gorgeous, and I really mean gorgeous, because the vocals have dynamics, but the minute they've built up that intensity, the hook goes and makes everything boring again. It stuck to my head, yeah, but it's boringly annoying, if that's even possible. And the middle 8 was a let-down. It's not particularly bad, but I was hoping for mind-blowing. It wasn't. OH, and I get this impression that there's way too much Kanye and thatotherguytheyworkedwith on the track. I (don't) understand that they might need the "big names" to get them some leverage in the US, but not to the point where they're there for the first minute.

The same goes for Empty. Almost the same, at least. The verses are gorgeous, and the melody fits Yoochun's voice (even if the English is total fail), the bridge is pretty, but the chorus doesn't explode. It's not as bad as Ayyy Girl, because now that I listen to it again the resonance, even if I don't like it, is a nice contrast to the melodic verses. And this middle 8 was pretty. Not mind-blowing, but pretty - I liked the pianos, and Yoochun pulled it off well. I would've liked it to explode though - I like the live version a gazillion times better than this. Sure there are fantastic songs that don't explode, but it's a lot easier to make it explode and sound good than not and still sound good. A tip to Kanye, next time you produce them, lay off the processing (not necessarily autotune), please? You're sanitizing their vocals, and it doesn't sound good.

Be My Girl is, in simple worlds, my favorite song. You know I'm a sucker for pretty melodies laced with sweet piano parts. The most surprising part of this all is that the hook of this (the "you should be my baby" part) got stuck in my head more than the hook of Ayyy Girl did. noididnotlistentothisfortwowholedays. It's not as dynamic as I'd like it to be, but the pretty harmonies (did I hear right? Harmonies?!? YES!) and the otherwise decent hook are enough, even if I was expecting more. I wanted a mind-blowingly gorgeous song, I got pretty. Oh well, that's life.

I adore Jaejoong, I really do, but Still In Love reminds me a lot of a less gorgeous version of IU's MIA. The verses are beyond beautiful and Jaejoong sounds phenomenal (minus the pronunciation, at least) but once again, the chorus is so anticlimactic in the wrong ways. There are songs that can be anticlimactic and still be great, but the treatment of JJ's vocals, how they took out all the dynamics, makes it absolutely boring. *sigh*

Why am I leaning more towards Junsu these days? He has a gorgeous voice, yeah, and starring in Mozart! sure helped his technique, as if he needed any more. I've always liked Jaejoong better, but I Can Soar is gorgeous. There are points where it gets a little cheesy and generic, but as a whole it's a yes from me. It's not stunning or anything, but the simplicity of it all is what I've been looking for from the beginning of the album. They're some of the best singers in Asia - they're selling their vocals, it's only fit that they flaunt them in the best way possible.

Aaaaand Yoochun's solo track, I Love You, is a train wreck, a complete and utter train wreck. OK, it's not that bad, but it's not that great either. It bores me though. I don't know why, but whenever I try to listen to it, I have the sudden urge to press forward - it's even more boring than Ayyy Girl, and that's pretty boring. Sometimes I think that being boring is worse than being bad, because at least if it's bad it gets your attention, one way or another. If it's boring you don't wanna hear it, and you don't have anything to say about it either.

Be The One is one of the better songs on the album, if I must say. Even if this is the song that I might have to kill Kanye for. It's got attitude, one way or another, most probably because of the dynamics. It explodes. At first I didn't really like this track, but now that I'm listening to it, it's grown on me. It has traces of Swedish production in it - is it just me or would this have absolutely no problem fitting into a Danny or Darin album? Actually, I think I like it a little more now. The autotune is this close to being classy, but it's not quite there, so I don't love it that much, but it's OK - a good way to end the album/EP.

Best Track: Be My Girl
Better Tracks: Be The One, I Can Soar
Worst Track: I Love You (Feat. Flowsik)
The Rating: 4/5 Most definitely not as good as I expected it to be, but The Beginning has it's pros and cons - at this point, it all boils down to taste.

21 comments:

  1. i dont want to rant too long lol. anyway, thanks for ur review. i really love to read a review that doesnt sound so bias. this is it. since i know u're a cassies (if im not mistaken), thanks for being so honest :) hurm, as for me, apart from Ayyy Girl, i think ILY is pretty good compared to Be The One LOL. I can Soar is pretty boring though, but still i keep repeating it,all of them keke. yeah,after all, my rating is 4/5 as well :P

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  2. I'm not sure if the Americanization is just to cater to the overseas market...their self-declared music interests have always tilted heavily towards American artists, and their self-composed numbers are in line with what they've composed before too.

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  3. hi there. I was just looking around when I saw your review. I guess I'll give this album a 4.5/5 mainly because I have some issues with Ayyy Girl. The first time I heard it in LQ, I felt scared for the boys. I'm not a cassie but I am a big fan of their music. Ayyy girl sounds so unlike them, I can't explain it, I love the first part of it, not including the rap, but the end was not so pleasant for me. It becomes so catchy the more you listen to it and I started to like it except the last part.

    I disagree with the boring part. I'm actually enjoying all the tracks, except the last part of ayyy girl. My favorite is EMPTY. I must say, I was not impress with any of the tracks when I first listened to it, but it's all very catchy the more you listen to it. In my experience, I've never fallen inlove with any dbsk tracks at first sight (something like that) but they do grow on you till you'll just find yourself listening to it all day. This happened to me with kotoba ni dekinai, taxi, wasurenaide, etc but now I can't stop listening to them even if sometimes it seemed as if I play these songs all day. What I'm saying is that 'The Beginning' gives me the same feeling. I've only started to listen to the songs 2 days ago but they got stucked in my head, literally. I also thought Yoochun's 'I Love You' was bad when I first heard it, but it's actually a good song. I guess we should be complaining cuz I'm really hoping for some ballads cuz that's what they do best, but I love this album a lot. Empty is the best, Be My Girl and Be the One are the bomb,I love you is unusual but it's very nice when you really listen to it, and Still in Love needs more bass imo, but i'm not complaining. I can soar showcased Junsu's vocal prowess. I tried to figure out what my issue with Ayyy girl is, and I think it was because the pronunciation towards the end is awkward and worsened by tune. I think JYJ'S BEGINNING EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS. I was scared they'll butcher the english songs but they really improve so much, esp EMPTY, I'd think it was sang by an english speaker if I didn't know it was them. They really can do whatever they set their minds on.

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  4. I'm actually surprised you gave this album such a high score.

    Normally I have no problem with Kanye (as a musician), but "Ayyy Girl" sounds as though he wrote it on a day that he felt uninspired. The quality of both the composition and production is way below Kanye's usual stuff.

    As for the rest of the album, it just passes for me. Darkchild did a good job ("Empty", "Be My Girl"). Thanks for the review!

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  5. Hello! I've always loved reading your music reviews, especially the DBSK ones since I'm a Cassie too :) Ayyy Girl didn't really catch on me when I first heard it :/ However, I attended JYJ's showcase yesterday, and the live version sounded better than the recorded version(or maybe because it was the whole concert atmosphere :D) I thought they would only sing songs from The Beginning, so I was really delighted when they sang Found You (Sungkyunkwan Scandal). Be The One was really good too :D
    Hopefully JYJ will come up with another Korean/Japanese album soon! I enjoyed this album, but I prefer the kind of songs that they're given on their Asian albums :)

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  6. I'm gonna be honest Nikki...the only reason you gave the album such a high score is because your beloved JYJ was in it, had this been any other artist it probably would have gotten like a 2/5.

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  7. I disagree with Anonymous (the second one). I gave the album a 4/5 in my blog as well, but I think if it was say... Big Bang (and there was no sign of Kanye), I would've given a higher score. This type of music is more Big Bang's element. I still think JYJ and hip hop/r&b sounds like a weird combination.

    Half the time, JYJ seemed scared to open their mouths (Jaejoong's Still In Love comes to mind. Particularly 3:20. He could have really done something epic and got happy-go-lucky with some falsettos and adlibs). It felt like they were more concerned about their pronunciation than having a good time. I didn't have any expectations before hand, but what I heard felt underwhelming for artists of JYJ's caliber.

    Even though you (Nikki) said that Micky's solo was the weakest (as far as keeping your attention [and let's face it, his English got a bit lazy.]), I found it to be rather strong because Micky himself had a hand in writing it and his presence is there. Even though Junsu can sing his butt off and is the "best" at emoting, I found myself bored with his solo because it sounds like the typical American Idol Winner/high school graduation schlock that the everyday person doesn't listen to voluntarily. But like you said, this album can either be received well, or poorly depending on taste.

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  8. i am agree with Anonimus, that they are very good when sing korean songs in their language.And i like much more how they look in Thancksgiven Toyo Dome - special yoochun

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  9. I don't know where else to post this, so I'm going to post it here.

    It's just a very simple question:

    What is there to like about K-Pop (from a Filipino perspective)?

    I just want to understand this phenomenon better. Keep writing your rather interesting reviews.

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  10. helloworld: to be honest with you, I got into kpop because there was a lul in new, good British Pop. I honestly wasn't into the idol groups when I first "delved" into kpop - my first proper addiction was Rain. I got into the idols because I personally like the boyband/girlgroup thing and I'm constantly looking for what makes a good (and bad) vocal group. I like new music, I like whatever music I like regardless of where it comes from, what language it's in, how it's made, who makes it and it just so happens that I like kpop. Heck, I once listened to a Greek pop star! ;D

    If you're looking for a "Filipino perspective" on this, what I assume is a somewhat generic answer, I'm not the right person to answer you. To be honest with you, I personally think the only reason why kpop got so big here is because the Wonder Girls dabbled a little in the US and we obviously all want to be American. But that's just me, and I'm not like that (I'm not saying it's bad!). ;D

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  11. mmm actually this album overall not bad.maybe 4/5 for me. I am agree with Susan, the songs get more stuck in ur head after u listen it all day. The first time listened the album, the first one got my attention is 'empty' and 'be the one'. For 'empty', it's because this song is really good and 'be the one' really makes people nodded their head throughout this song. i have a little argument for ayy girl. this song actually pretty catchy to be listened at the first time but after a while this song is not that good, especially after listen it several time, this song is hilarious...
    After i heard it several time, 'i can soar' become gorgeus (before i think it's pretty boring), 'still in love' i dont mind JJ's pronunciation anymore and i like the instrument since the beginning I heard this song, and 'i love you' is also good i like it...
    And i am glad they try hip-hop/RnB feel in this album, it's refreshing. Surprise may be but i am not disappointed with this album. i am don't care many people said it's not suitable with JYJ's style. JYJ's can pull out new fans with this album. it's show that they are not stuck in just one genre. i give high credit to JYJ.

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  12. Thank you so much for your review! I agree with a lot of what you said. I'm terribly disappointed that Ayyy Girl is the song they're promoting so much; that's just a bad idea. Kanye or not, it's just not that good, and I hope it doesn't ruin their chance in the American market. I liken it to when Se7en came out with Them Girls featuring Lil Kim. Just because a song features an American artist doesn't guarantee any success! (Especially if that artist is Lil Kim, let's be honest here).

    Overall I think the pronuniation is going to be the biggest hurdle. I was quite surprised how well Junsu did. Yoochun gets too nasally for my liking (tho when he raps it's not an issue), but it was Jaejoong's accent that was the strongest, and it really detracted from his solo (but like you said, the melody was pretty; his compositions usually are).

    Out of all the tracks I'd have to day Empty and Be The One are my favorite songs. When I listened to Be The One I actually felt like I was listening to a song that was more true to their style.

    Nonetheless, I still plan on buying their album when it becomes available in Canada (hopefully soon on iTunes). Because if anything, they deserve a chance to get better. And the only way they'll get that chance is through our support.

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  13. I think you all need to understand that TVXQ its something and JYJ is another, i like them both but they are 3 now, and they are adapting to all of the changes. the way i see it, they did an amazing job with this album, i loved Ay girl and all of the other songs. You are all living in the past and comparing two different things. i hope one day they can be 5 again, but right now they are only 3 and so therefor they have different objectives towards the future and where they want to go with their music. So once again stop living in the past and just enjoy the music.

    Thanks for the review*

    Kiss kiss

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  14. All I can say is that music taste is really a personal thing. For me this album started out not that great, but I think it's a grower, and it got better and better each time I listen to those songs. Now and then I find some perticular parts really really touching and I enjoy them a lot. That's funny, but I like it.

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  15. hey all you people that commented
    lets see you do better

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  16. If you gave me as much money as they spent on this whole thing. I'm pretty sure I can make a better album. They probably paid Kanye a boatload of money just to do ...essentially nothing. There are some insanely talented up and coming producers out there, too bad their current company thinks name-dropping alone would be enough.

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  17. I agree and disagree with your review. I agree with JYJ not bein as good as DBSK and them kinda "selling out" to succeed in the US market. But honestly all it takes for a song to succeed in the US are lyrics (that can or might not make any sense) and a nice beat. Thats exactly what Kanye did. musicality and dynamics and all that mumbo jumbo werent necessarily the focus of this album i think.

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  18. Hey Nikki!

    I know these boys got a lot of flak for this album, especially from the not-so-fans. I have to agree with most of them, too.

    However, having seen them perform live at their JYJ in Seoul showcase, I would have to say that I am very, very proud of them. This is not an easy album to make and pull off, especially since it's such a different style from what they're used to. But to see the boys working their ass off, jumping onstage, enjoying every minute of it -- makes you think that this is really just the beginning of bigger things. :) It was the most moving experience for me to watch Jaejoong shed his normal image and go hiphop: for me, it showed his dedication as a musician to expand and grow.

    These boys have proven their vocal prowess time and again with their ballads. There is an entire horizon to be conquered, so let's give them time to grow into their own style.

    My score would be more like 3/5 :)

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  19. Just wanted to say a thank you for your review. I am in no-way a hard-core DBSK/TVXQ fan, because I have only heard a few of their songs and tend to prefer those with a faster tempo (I'm getting old, need to stay young, like :P)

    So having listened to the songs a few times briefly today after your review, I'd like to say that Empty and Be the One (that you recommended) are my tops.

    I thought their pronunciation suffered in I Love You for instance, but was fine in Empty and Be the One.

    I am, however, particularly looking forward to the cover/remix by AhRex of Empty though (http://ahrex.tumblr.com/post/2129052796)

    And yes, I'm turning to K-Pop on occasion as well because of the lack of songs I like in the UK charts - I just wish I understood Korean.

    p/s: And the album cover, I would have preferred a different stylist.

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  20. I really like most of the songs, especially Be my girl.
    They're missing the top vocals (CM) and bass (YH) but I think they can do well.

    BTW what is Jaejoong wearing???

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  21. hello thanks for the review but for me their songs are cool..well ayyy girl is so so so but all in all are good..yes it's not catchy at first but the more you listen to it you begin to like it...i like yoochun voice it's cool...

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