Before the review, of course I have to talk about Whitney Houston. How can I not. I don't have any sentimental stories or whatnot about her or her music like a lot of other people, and I'll admit that I didn't listen to her as a kid as much as other people do/did, but I have immense respect for her. Immeasurable respect. So many people have attempted to pull her songs off, and only a handful, or even less, have pulled it off. There is no one like Whitney Houston. May she rest in peace, and may she continue to serve as both an example and and inspiration to younger singers and musicians.
I hate how the only reason why I bothered listening to Ailee was because she's in Dream High 2, but I think the reason why I noticed her in DH 2 in the first place kind of makes up for it. For those who aren't watching the drama, Ailee part of the sort of flagship girl group of the main talent agency in Dream High 2 - the other two members are T-Ara's Jiyeon and SISTAR's Hyorin, and they all move to Kirin and train. Jiyeon has the biggest role out of the three, and out of the four episodes I've seen, I hardly ever heard Ailee talk in comparison to Jiyeon, and actually even Hyorin, because she's always in the sidelines. But out of the three, honestly, Ailee was the one who stood out the most for me in terms of vocals. I mean yeah, Hyorin's amazing too, but her voice in the drama is kind of being downplayed. When Ailee and Hyorin did G.NA's "Top Girl", Ailee slayed Hyorin. Beat her to a pulp.
However, I'm a bit scared for Ailee. We've seen this done recently - "this" being the super-talented female solo artist being given a HUGE publicity push, a melodramatic ballad that shows off her voice, and everyone falling at her feet. G.NA. Ailee may not be from an agency with some kind of clout like how G.NA is from Cube, but she definitely isn't from a humble background, because she's Wheesung's protege. But of course, the measure of a mentor's worth isn't in what he/she has done for him/herself, but in how the student fares. I mean look at Rain, when he was handling MBLAQ they were a complete disaster, no matter how good a performer Rain is. It usually works well though, seeing as YG and JYP were both former pop stars/now-legends themselves, and SM was a frustrated pop star. And it definitely worked with Wheesung, even if I'm not that big a fan.
Ailee is amazing. Let me just put that on the record so if ever she hits it huge in the next few years, I can say I called it. (A bit later than a few others, but early nonetheless!) Like how I called BEAST AND Infinite. And IU.
The reason why I like Ailee's voice is because even if it has body and she can hit high notes at the drop at the hat, there is a sense of youth to her voice. Ailee is like a half-painted canvass -- she has her foundations firmly planted, and unless she smokes or something her voice won't get any worse, but her voice has so much room to grow, to mature. Like IU, who, I think we all agree, was amazing back then, but is even more amazing now. You know Ailee's young (22 is still young in terms of voice), but you also know that she's not this little girl trying to sound like she's fifty. If there's something you should never mess with, it's the age and development of your voice. Tampering with your voice is kind of like tampering with your face - I'm sure we've all heard our fair share of plastic surgery horror stories.
There's nothing really new to "Heaven" per se, but what it does is that it brings out Ailee's voice. It's somewhere in between a screaming-parade and a cute-fest, and it works, both in gaining mainstream attention, because it's not too avant garde, and in showing off that stunning voice. She doesn't hit you over the head with her voice, but she isn't ashamed of it either and when she lets go, it's really something. Everything in moderation.
"Heaven" itself sounds like a Korean-ified cross between Shontelle's "Battle Cry"/"Superwoman", and The Script's "We Cry" -- I like how the instruments sound very clean, but also how the somewhat still raw guitar takes center stage during the chorus, and how you don't hear the bass clearly, but you feel it. And really, it's a gorgeous song, one I'll definitely be looping for the next few days at least. A gorgeous melody on top of an epic and firm, but graceful, melody, brought together by Ailee's stunning and perfectly capable vocals. It's nothing ground-breaking, but it is what it is, it's not pretentious either.
"Heaven" is an effective debut, it gets Ailee out there, and it shows us what she can do, but I still can't help but be a little scared for her, seeing as material-wise, K-Pop female solo acts (emphasis on the POP) haven't been doing as well as they should be. She better not disappoint!