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'Virgin' is a cohesive album. That's what it is - it's an album. Even if not all the songs are amazing or whatever, put them together, listen to the thing from start to finish, and they make sense.
The material on this album is very Pop/Disney/the stuff I grew up with - it's girl group material done in 2011. So you have all these fancy effects, analog-fests, autotune and modern technology. Not always a good thing, but at least they changed things up a bit.
For an intro, 'Let's Step Up' is pretty long. But to a certain extent I like it. It's got those hard drum/percussion lines that they used in "Bang", laced with an analog synth-fest (which is welcomed), and it's oozing After School. Overflowing, almost. But the neat thing is that 'Shampoo' comes right after, and they complement each other really well.
The more I listen to 'Shampoo', the more I personally like it. I do like listening to it for fun and whatnot, and it is a pretty song (bar the autotune), but no matter how many times I listen to it 'Shampoo' still lacks kick, and in After School's case, kick is vital.
'Virgin' should've been the first single, to be completely honest with you. Make the vocals more powerful and less restrained, give the instrumental more dynamic dynamics (LOL), and basically magnify the entire song - it'll sound like one hell of an After School single, I tell you. It's got hints of the Gahee and Orange Caramel singles, but the sounds don't clash, nor do they overpower the over-all After School sound. I like chorus, because even if it does go on and on and on and can literally go on forever, it's melodic, and it sounds very "sly", so to say. Attitude. Yes.
So on the vlog I talked about the 3 "re-recordings" - 'Bang!', 'Because of You' and 'When I Fall'. There's not much change to 'Bang', except for the vocals and maybe some little details in the instrumental. They spiced up 'Because of You' a little more, with the added autotune, the stronger-sounding instrumental, the held-back vocals, and the addition of backing vocals throughout. But just when I thought it couldn't get any better, in comes 'When I Fall'. As you saw on the video, I was literally speechless. The pretty piano line made my eyes light up and all, but then the drums came in and I just lost it. REAL DRUMS. CYMBALS. OH MY GOD. The dynamics were spot-on too, and the melody's gorgeous to start with, so throw everything together, as well as a string section they sneaked in just before the last chorus, and you have epic.
'Play Ur Love' is, in one word, pretty. I, fact, it's on the same wavelength as 'Shampoo', the only difference is that the vocals have clarity, and that makes all the difference - there's punch to them. And they were actually really well-executed - everyone sounds good, not too cutesy, and with the right amount of urgency to give the song the life it should have.
'Dream' is very US mainstream pop. It's also very cheesy - mass produced-ish, but catchy in its own way. And LOL at the pre-school, just LOL. I don't know all their voices inside out yet so I can't pinpoint her, so I have no idea if she can sing. New girl's not half bad though - I just need to see her live.
Raina's solo song '시간에 기대어', reminds me a lot of the early 2000's pop I grew up with, actually - M2M, maybe super early Christina, that type. Everything from the melody to the hook to the vocal treatment - it's like you took a song from that era and updated the production. Not a big fan of the chorus because it tends to be a bit nightclub-y, but the verses are fine, and the middle 8 is decent. But in all honesty, it really fits Raina - she sounds like she actually has something more than an OK voice! I'm kinda annoyed at the execution of those high notes towards the end, but I realize that however she did them I'd be annoyed. She's one of the lead vocalists for a reason, yes, but just because she has a nice voice in this range, doesn't give Pledis permission to make her sing all those shrill parts - you can have a nice voice and not have wide range.
Jung Ah's solo song, like I said, didn't make her sound like her, and she actually sounds even more cutesy than Raina. No. God no. She has a gorgeous, gorgeous voice, when she pushes. While Raina shouldn't push, Jung Ah should - and she didn't on this. The song itself is your standard big ballad they'd play on a chick-flick type k-drama - run-of-the-mill melody, nagging chorus, good singer, and big drums and backup vocals.
The only new ballad by the whole band on the album - '잘 지내고 있죠'. It's a ballad. Your standard sad, sobbing, k-drama ballad. Nothing new, then. Well done, but that's about it.
'Funky Man' wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be after I saw who'd be singing it, but then again we went through Orange Caramel, I highly doubt anything could be worse than that. It reminds me of a lot of other songs, but I kinda like it in the cheesy/guilty pleasure kind of way. Beneath all the gimmicks, the talking, and the cheap-ified instrumental, the melody's actually kinda pretty. It's something you'd have to listen to at max volume, but at times you'd be too shy to let anyone know you're listening to it. It's hella catchy though, so ultimately that wins.
Best track(s): 'Virgin', 'When I Fall' (re-recording)
Good track(s): 'Shampoo', 'Play Ur Love', 'Because of You' (re-recording), '시간에 기대어'
Worst track(s): N/A
The Rating: 4.4/5