Se7en - "2ND MINI ALBUM"

Yes! I'm typing! :D I'm feeling a lot better now, so I guess I can go ahead and cheat my way into writing a review, seeing as I don't really get all my points across when I do vlogs. And besides, I wrote three papers last week, and my hand is still alive. I think? That and I'm going through yet another "identity crisis", so to say, and more than anything I need to assure myself that I still actually have the brain to write for myself.

But enough of all my drama.

I won't lie and give off the impression that I was sane and all intellectual when I first listened to this EP, because within the first ten seconds I totally lost it. As in everything. After the first song I was freaking out and screaming in my head, and by the end of the EP I was reduced to ash. For those who haven't heard the EP yet, yes, it's that good. So after you read this review, go listen to it. And it's not just because of that stunning JYP song, which we'll get to in a while. It's a good EP because while it sounds current, fresh, and very 2012, the focus of this release is to create classics. Staples. Songs that, anywhere from three to five years later, will be covered to death.

Even by just skimming through the album, you'll notice two key reasons why I came to that conclusion. First is the emphasis on the melodies. "Emphasis" doesn't necessarily mean volume, it doesn't necessarily mean that the vocal track overpowers everything else -- it's that all the elements are wrapped around the melody. It's kind of like a hamburger. While you have a host of other vegetables, sauces, cheese, and whatever else you want to slap on your burger, the focal point is still the patty, beef or fish or whatever, and all the toppings you put, ideally, compliment the patty proper. The melodies have to be interesting and current, but they also have to be simple enough for people other than Se7en to sing. Why is this important in creating classics? I think I've discussed this in my BEAST review last year, but basically the gist is that the melody is the part of the song which has the ability to transcend time. When people remix, re-arrange, or cover, the element of the song that is kept the closest to the original is the melody. And, it kind of goes without saying, that the melody is the part people remember the most -- when you hum a song, you don't hum the drum line or the string section, you hum the melody. So putting a premium on the melody makes it easier for people to not only cover the songs, but remember it, and pass it on to other people, even after the song's expiry date.

The second point is actually something I think I've already discussed here as well. If you noticed, or even if you didn't because I'm about to tell you, majority of the instruments and elements used on the songs are very common - the full arrangement can be replicated by a live band (bass, guitar, drums, keyboard), and it would come pretty close to the recording. You don't hear an abundance of obviously computer-generated loops or whacked out sounds, and even if you did, they don't play that big a role to the songs as wholes, you can just as easily take them out and the songs would sound perfectly fine. Again, this quality will make it easier for the songs on the EP to last several years at the very least. By using "timeless" instruments, like the piano and strings, you make it possible for almost anyone to play it. And, like I always say, technology is most definitely not static, so what was once the big fad will most likely not be that hot anymore after a few years. Like auto tune -- have you noticed that people have been gradually moving away from it over the past few years? And now, the songs that were heavily dependent on the obvious auto tune are said to be caught in a time warp. That's not going to happen with the songs on the Se7en EP, because while some have elaborate arrangements, you don't have that many relevant, fancy effects. Of course there are times when these effects add depth to the songs, and I don't deny the fact that technology has brought music practically everywhere both literally and figuratively, but by keeping it simple, while making use of what you have, you give people, now or in the future, the room to experiment with your songs, using the conventions and technologies present.

Take that, top it with YG's stunningly strong production and Se7en's very capable vocals, and you get one of the best EPs I've heard in quite a while. It's cohesive, but it doesn't bore you to death either. It's one of the few K-Pop releases that I'd willingly, gladly, play from start to finish over and over and over again.

From the first line, I knew "SOMEBODY ELSE" was going to be amazing. It definitely didn't disappoint. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the song Se7en's pushing in Japan. The song reminds me of Big Bang's "Love Song", but a lot less hip-hop/rock, and a lot more pop/rock. It's perky, it's fun, but it screams Se7en. One thing I like about YG's production is the fact that although it's extremely clean, extremely smooth, unlike SM production, YG balances the sanitary nature of that kind of production, with something rough or raw, in this case it's Se7en's vocals. His vocals lie between the extremely processed, and the extremely raw. It's like all they did with the vocals was even it out and clean it up a bit here and there, as opposed to the SM style which basically pours bleach on everything, even if the cloth isn't white. Gorgeous melody, very apt, and ever so slightly mind-blowing, explosions, and generally an amazing song. This is actually now my morning alarm because it's noisy and it wakes me up, but it's still melodic, so it's not a complete shock when this starts playing at five in the morning.

After listening to the EP for the first time, the song that stuck out the most of me was actually "Angel". And it's still a really gorgeous song, what with just the guitar and piano during the verses, and the slow, but sure, build-up to the slightly intense chorus, which has this really gorgeous string section and those cymbals here and there that add a whole epicness to it. But the more I listened to it, the more the chorus got really boring -- it just goes on and on and over and over again. I adore the thought of the song, because really, it's very simple but it manages to catch your attention, but there's more to music than just the technicality, so I don't adore the song itself. For the 829743892473289th time (and you might be sick of hearing this already), music is half-heard, and half-felt, and "Angel" kinda lacks that as a whole. BUT I wouldn't mind if this was the only song I could listen to for the rest of my life.

Ah yes, the JYP song. I'm kind of surprised that they made a ballad a lead single, but then again Rain's "Love Song" wasn't exactly an uptempo either (ah yes, the Rain-Se7en rivalry), plus Se7en is one of the few people who can actually pull it off, so I'm not complaining. The song is SO JYP. I have come to the conclusion that it's not really that JYP forces his minions into singing exactly like him, thus ending up sounding like they're being strangled every other word, it's that he writes songs that give them no choice. Because Se7en doesn't sing like JYP acts and even if it's not blatant on "When I Can't Sing", the nature of the song, with the cut-off end notes, really forces Se7en to sound like JYP. And again, the song is very simple, with the piano line taking the lead, that is, under the melody. "When I Can't Sing" is an example of a well-done "song normal people can't really sing in the shower" type. It's well done, yes, and if you're a professional, or maybe even an idol, it's possible to sing it, but if you neither have the training nor the environment, it's something that's better off listened to than sung. Which kind of goes against my main point of making the melodies simple, but at the end of the day it's a gorgeous, strong song, and its ability to garner listens is just as important as its ability to be sung.

"That Person" is the subdued song on the EP. The subdued but slightly epic. There are points which sound really European, especially with the melody itself and the choice of progressions and loops, and it reminds me of something the likes of Darin or Steven Borg would have no problem singing. I adore the drum line, how it's in the background for a lot of the song, but during those random parts where it chooses to appear, it sounds very warm. The melody sounds very clear, but again it sounds very real, and in it sounding real, people get the impression that it's actually humanly possible to sing it, which puts it closer to the audience.

"Understand" is the full-on ballad. It's one of those, "You want a ballad? Here, take this," and BAM you get brilliance. "Understand" is very simple, but it's also very transparent, what you hear is what you get, which, again, makes it perfect for mimicry, which is the beginning of immortalization for a song. This is a no-frills song, a drum line, strings, your usual instruments, under an unassuming, but gorgeous melody. And it's not afraid. Sometimes when you say "ballad" or "simple", people tend to strip off too much, and just vocals and piano *can* get boring after a while. Not everyone can carry a song with just vocals, and while Se7en is probably one of those people who CAN, again, the focus of this album is making classics -- if it's too hard to sing, people will be too scared to try. So while yes, "Understand" is simple, it doesn't skimp on what it shouldn't. You get your simplicity, your bare sound, but you also get your intensity and your character.

At the end of the day, and at the end of the EP, hip-hop/R&B is what YG does best, so it would be a crime not to include a signature YG track on their flagship male solo artist's big comeback. This is prime YG material. And while this can be put beside the likes of "Hot Times" and "Before U Go", which I adore, what YG does miles better than SM is groove. This song has it, and a lot it of at that. Honestly, as much as I think they're gorgeous songs, after hearing "MAKE GOOD LOVE" "Before U Go" and "Hot Times" sound stiff. Why? Because SM overproduces. To them, this is a contest -- who spends the most money making a song, who works with the biggest-named producer, who sells the most. And it shows in the songs. "Before U Go" is extremely packed, in the arrangement, in the choice of instruments, and in the vocal treatment. Everything sounds so heavy. On the other hand, "MAKE GOOD LOVE" sounds light, springy almost. The experience is kind of like degrees of oiliness. Too much oil makes the food really greasy and gives you a stomach ache, compared to lightly-oiled food, which not only keeps your arteries slightly healthier, but also lets you taste things other than grease. It's intense where it has to be,it knows when to go full-steam, but it also knows when to pull back and let us savor it.

A well-deserved  5/5

....and my hand hurts again. I guess this will have to tie everyone over until the end of the month or something, as far as text posts are concerned. But I *will* start working on a new vlog this week! I hope you guys aren't sick of my horrid face yet.

3 comments:

  1. i noticed for a few of the times where you reviewed the jyp artists, you mention of jyp forcing his artists to sing his way. I was wondering if you could explain it a bit more. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry, but i noticed that i didn't phrase my question correctly. I was wondering how you know if a singer is singing in JYP's style? Do you have to hear for certain stylistic trademarks in the voice?

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  3. I'm not sure if the takeaway from this review is that YG production > SM production, or maybe you mean specifically within the K-R&B sub-genre. But in either case I disagree. I think it ultimately has to be examined with a context of preference, mood, or occasion.

    The one glaring statement "as opposed to the SM style which basically pours bleach on everything, even if the cloth isn't white." This sounds way more applicable to YG as a whole than to SM when you look at a majority of 2NE1's songs and a lot of BIGBANG (including solos and sub units), and even Se7en's last mini album. Although I must say YG has reigned it in a lot lately, and if they dare over-process Se7en's voice I will raise hell.

    I also can't agree with the oily & greasy label that was thrown on Yoo Young Jin's R&Bs. Rather than saying it's too heavy to stomach, I'd say the difference in their styles is much more like red wine vs white wine, an analogy I doubt you'd understand because I don't think you're of legal drinking age yet. They're both good in their own ways, they serve different purposes, for different occasions, appeases different demographics, and taste distinctly different even though they're both made from grapes.

    From my point of view, I really adore the YG flavor R&Bs, it's refreshing, mellow, easy to listen to and thoroughly enjoyable, and I totally understand why they can be more popular with female listeners. But the R&B purist inside me still yearns for the more masculine sound of the SM R&Bs, because they exude a more vintage, old-school R&B flavor, a la Jodeci, and the vocals, while extremely raw, present an additional layer of soulfulness and seriousness that I don't feel in YG R&Bs. I know they don't sound as current as the more advanced sounds YG is putting out, but to me that's what makes them even more timeless.

    I probably sound like a broken record making a case for SM but really I love both flavors, and depending on how I'm feeling that day I may like one more than the other, there's a time and place for each of them to shine (for the record I bought Se7en's mini album on iTunes as soon as it was released). It's a shame very few people in Kpop are making R&Bs like these nowadays, and the genre as a whole doesn't seem to be popular with the younger audience, so I really jump up in joy when such Se7en albums come out (and that EXO song, as much as people say it's a ripoff of Before U Go, I loved it to bits and pieces). Gimme 10 more of these albums.

    ReplyDelete

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