This U-Kiss album was one of those albums I listened to just for the sake of saying that I heard it, but in all honesty it really exceeded my expectations. It's not amazing or anything, I'll say that flat-out, but it does have quite a few good points, that are enough to win me over.
The recurring theme throughout the entire album is the fact that it really sounds like a U-Kiss album through and through - there's no mistaking the sound. There are many other groups with the same producers, songwriters and whatnot, but they are at the stage where it's either they develop an identity, or fizzle away with all the other ill-fated boybands. In short, it's sink or swim. And they swam. Figuratively speaking, if this was a race they probably wouldn't have come out in first place, but they would most definitely make it to the finish line.
And what I was most surprised with was the presence of quite a number of really gorgeous songs. Not nice songs, not okay songs, the album actually had songs I would gladly listen to even after the initial hype of the album is over.
I tweeted yesterday, when I initially heard the album, that the first half was really good, and I still stand by that. The second half, however, is rather boring and just doesn't have enough impact to leave a lasting impression. Even now, I can hardly remember any of the songs in the second half, apart from that disastrous duet with Paran. I always say, if a song fails to make me stop what I'm doing at that moment, it's not worth listening to when I'm conscious of it, and only the first half really made me stop and listen.
In all honesty, I hardly ever pay attention to intros on kpop albums because most of the time they have nothing to do with the rest of the album and either set the bar too high or put me off listening to the album proper, but by the intro of this album alone, there was no mistaking that this was a U-Kiss album. It has the right attitude but enough melody, and it's familiar, but fresh enough to draw you in. It's an actual cut on the album and not just some random loops thrown together last-minute and put at the beginning of the album.
"Neverland" isn't half bad, I'll give them that. Again, it sounds like a U-Kiss song, everything from the vocal treatment to the structure to the way the chorus was phrased, yet it's fresh and new. My first impression of it was that it was some kind of hybrid of "0330" and "Bingeul Bingeul" because although the autotune was very much in place and there were parts of the song that just went on and on, parts of the song were treated in a way similar to "0330", with a lot less autotune and a lot more melody. You still have the standard syllables repeating, but the melody is more prominent and stronger than your usual "ADD Song", as I like to call it. It's catchy, it's repetitive, it's simple, but a good enough melody exists to carry the song. The video is such a disappointment though, but it's just a video - the song's good enough.
The first of the gorgeous songs I was talking about a while ago is "Baby Don't Cry". It's very k-pop boyband and will have no problem fitting in with the BEAST repertoire, but the vocals shift it right back into the U-Kiss territory. Initially it came off as a very heavy song - if I were to compare it to food it would be something like super creamy and deadly chocolate ice cream. But actually, the melody, the vocals, and the treatment, floats over the really heavy, thick almost, instrumental, so it's a very nice balance, and an absolute pleasure to listen to, if I may say so.
"Some Day" was the first track we heard in full, when it came out a few days before the rest of the album, and I've noticed that all the tracks they release before a formal album comes out, which is this and "Without You" from "Only One", are the really pretty songs on the eventual album. My only problem with "Some Day" is that at times it seems like it's too slow and the vocals end up either chasing the instrumental or sound like they're lagging, which still doesn't take away the fact that it's a pretty song. Still, there's something slightly off about some parts of the song. I like how it ends though, with that strong, slightly high, note and just one chord - it reminds me a lot of choir+piano arrangements of songs.
And we move on to my favorite song on the album - "Take Me Away". Stunning. I never thought I'd say that about a U-Kiss song, but really, it's stunning to the point where you get all warm and fuzzy when you hear the song. I'd class this with the "Angel"'s (Sarah McLaughlan) of the world, with the simple but stunning piano line, the minimal use of other instruments, and the tame vocals. The absence of high note parades and screaming is partially because U-Kiss are not really the best people to do those, but I think also because that's the point of the song - to not hit people over the head. The harmonies, although very obviously tinkered with during post-production which kinda makes them sound like robots, aren't half bad, although I wouldn't call them good. Nice try though, U-Kiss. As a whole though, the song is really the type to literally pull at your heartstrings - the echo they used on the vocals, the dynamics, and even the harmonies, all make for probably the most stunning kpop song I've heard in the past few months.
However, I was really disappointed to find out that after my favorite song, the album goes downhill. It's a gradual fall, but a fall nonetheless.
"ON THE Floor" (strange capitalization) actually has a pretty decent melody and it's very catchy even not during the hook, but it's rather generic - I can readily name several other groups who've done, or could do, something very similar to this. Just taking the song alone though, it's something I'd definitely listen to twice or thrice more, but I'm not too sure if it'll stay in my iPod for longer than a few weeks. Same goes for "친구의 사랑" - it's a really pretty song, and I mean really quaint and pretty, but not gorgeous enough to stand beside the first few tracks. I like the melody, and the arrangement is very apt, but taking the entire album into consideration it's too much 90's boyband ballad and not enough U-Kiss.
"4월 이야기" is really out of place on the album, to be honest. So it's a duet between someone from the band, and a girl from Brave Girls, who has a gorgeous voice (I actually thought she was Haeri for a while, until she started hitting high notes and it sounded different) but really, it's a little too fairy tale with butterflies and princesses to be in a U-Kiss album. It sounds like a slightly better-produced drama OST, actually.
"Obsession" seemed like an interesting song at the beginning, but the vocal treatment at the chorus really, really, annoyed me, and it just goes on and on and on and it doesn't even have a pretty melody. The entire song's all over the place, and it just goes through you when you listen to it. "Top That" is every so slightly more U-Kiss, but something about the song just isn't right - it sounds more like a girls' song than a boyband song. That's not saying they can't sing girls' songs, but the way it was delivered is just off.
"Tell Me Y" is another one of those songs that just goes on and on and on. It does have a melody, but the long, slightly shrill, notes hurt my ears more than soothe them, and all the talking/screaming in the background is no help. Please go back to singing, U-Kiss, I kind of prefer the autotune over this.
So the duet with Paran is preceded by this extremely long part where all the guys do is fool around and cough and whatever, which is completely unnecessary. I know they're friends, but in case you've forgotten, this is a song, you know, with a melody and instrumentation? Yeah. So once the song actually starts after two and a half minutes, you'd think it's this really stunning or mind-blowing package, but it's actually quite boring. If you really listen intently, it's a pretty melody and the simple guitar at the beginning is kinda like the piano in "Take Me Away", but once the chorus hits it becomes a drag. It's average, boring and very predictable. I'm very disappointed, because not only is this the last track on an album I liked at the beginning, but these guys can actually sing.
Basically, the album slowly builds up to "Take Me Away", and then after that it just goes downhill all the way. The first half was really good, and the cuts are definitely going on this weekend's study playlist, but the second half was so disappointing. It's as if they put all their effort in to 5 tracks and then just got lazy for the rest of the album, or forgot the point/concept in the middle of recording and just did whatever.
The Best Track(s): "Take Me Away"
The Okay Tracks: "Baby Don't Cry", "Neverland", "Some Day", "친구의 사랑"
The Worst Track(s): "Obsession"
The Rating: 4.1/5