After School - 'Shampoo'

After School is known for very strong songs - not always in terms of technique or musicality, but in terms of sound. "Diva" and "Ah!" were very Euro dance and it had a hit-you-over-the-head hook and loop, "Because Of You" was very angst-y with the right amount of grace, "Bang!" was punchy in a sharp kind of way, and even "LOVE LOVE LOVE" had spunk. They are known for their conviction - for the fact that they're not cutesy-cutesy and whatnot, but can still call themselves a girl group. Their music is the epitome of the concept of "girl power" in Korea.

It's a well-established fact by now that I like After School more than your run-of-the-mill girl group at the moment, and it's also well-established that I like them mostly for their material, and some of the members. And because I like them, a part of me is more demanding of them - because I've seen what they are capable of and I know the extent to which they can humanely push themselves.

I don't usually incorporate things like personality and all that into my reviews, but to be completely honest with you they're known as a band with very strong personalities, and they've not only managed to show that in the way they move and act, but in their music. Don't try and deny it because you know it's true - they're classy, strong and intense, it shows in the material.

"Shampoo" is what would most likely come out of mixing "Because of You" and "Ah!"/"Diva" - let's stop at that for now. The piano lines and string section were borrowed from "Because of You", clearly, and so was the grace and the melodic-ness of the song. Then it's as if those qualities was slapped on top of a "Diva"-esque loop and out came "Shampoo". They're moving forward stylistically, but they're taking the qualities that defined their musical identity - I'll give them that.

That said, the melody is gorgeous, if I may say so, but it makes me worry if they will be able to pull this off live because I absolutely hated the fact that "Because of You" was so gorgeous recorded but was a mess live. The crisp beats at the beginning and throughout the song make it nice and clean, and dynamics, although pretty predictable if you can count from 1 to 8 in tempo, very clear and sure. The chorus seems like a mess, with everything running around, but it organizes itself in the end, and it's actually kinda nifty how everything gets resolved. The intro was a little too long for me - almost a minute? When I first heard the song I was confused whether I was listening to the single or the instrumental. As a whole it sounds like something straight out of a 2011 Disney teenage princess/popstar movie that's all about dreams coming true and whatnot.

So now that you slap BCOY on top of "Diva" and add a few things here and there, you'd think that it would be the ultimate After School song to end all After School songs. I will tell you now that it isn't, because it lacks the one quality that set After School apart from groups of their generation. I said that "Shampoo" sounds like a cross between their previous singles, and some of the individual elements are pretty, but I didn't finish the sentence just yet. "Shampoo" sounds like those 3 singles put together, after you suck all the life out of them.

Like I said a while ago, the song is very clean - but it's a little too clean. The song is princess-pretty - but it's a little too pretty. And this time, there's nothing to add that bit of punch that's crucial to their songs.

What happened to the intensity and emotion that made them the band they were? Even when they jumped from "Ah!" to "Because Of You" the song had intensity and a sense of urgency - it had kick. I'll tell you what happened - they mixed the wrong elements together. You're forgetting that it's not the piano line that made "Because of You" angst-y, and it's not the fancy loops that made "Ah!" convincing - it was the strong drum+bass lines. When you listen to the songs at max volume you will literally feel your hearth thumping. Pretty hard.

Another possible factor is the shift in lead vocalists, which I am completely against. If they were giving majority of the singing parts to people who could actually out sing everyone else but were new I'd have nothing against it. But you give Nana and Raina a lot of the solo parts? Seriously? They can sing, they've learned, but there are better, more practiced and more stable singers in After School - give them the attention they deserve.

Another issue with the vocals is the way they were processed. The processing made their vocals far too clean, too sanitary, and too lifeless. No emotion, no intensity - in other words, dead vocals.

You know, I tried listening to the song at max volume after I was let down, thinking maybe that will solve things. I felt nothing. No thumping, no goosebumps, no nothing - I heard, but I didn't feel. If there's one phrase from me that I want you guys to take seriously, it's that music is half-heard, yes, but it's also half-felt. Technique and musicality are vital, of course, but what you feel when you listen to the technicalities is just as important. Music is art because it comes from people - who can think, but who can also feel.

Yeah sure the melody's pretty, the dynamics are neat, and they've grown musically, but there's no life to them. They can ALL do better than this - we've all seen them do just that - so why settle for dullness? Here's hoping my "it's the processing" theory is right. If it is, this will sound epic performed live, I tell you - if they can pull it off properly, that is.

3.9/5

1 comments:

  1. To be honest I am very underwhelmed by their song. It's catchy and I can see myself listening to this alot but I expected more from them. I don't know if they intentionally went for this "softer" sound or Daishi dance gave them this song and they just said "Ok, we'll use this track!". I hope the MV and live performance helps the song because alone as it is Shampoo is kinda weak.

    ReplyDelete

Want to share any of your thoughts on the above post? Drop a comment here! I read all comments and reply occasionally, especially if you have specific questions for me. :D

Note that comments are moderated. Spam, self-advertising (K-Pop-related and otherwise) and overly vulgar submissions will NOT be accepted. If you want me to promote/endorse/follow/link to your site, please e-mail me at popreviewsnow@gmail.com instead.

 

Recent Tweets

Like Pop Reviews Now on Facebook!

Statistics (Since May 2009)

Blog Archive

You're reading an award-winning blog

The K-Pop Writers' Workshop


A workshop for writers of critical pieces on Korean entertainment -- formal reviews, expository essays/Op-eds, and personal essays/Creative Non-Fiction.
Learn from the best in K-Ent writing