Junsu - "Tarantallegra" (Album)

I think majority of us are in agreement that if there’s one member in 5-piece DBSK that deserves a solo album the most, it’s Junsu, obviously because he’s the whole package. His voice is this close to becoming a national treasure, his stage presence is something else, and his dancing is pretty good too, so I’ve heard. So when news of a proper solo release came out, everyone freaked out. I'll admit that I was one of those crazy fangirls who were freaking out yesterday over the mere idea of a Junsu solo release, which would lead to an album, but I think it's safe to say now that I've gotten down from that high. So, when all the hype is gone, what are we left with? Well, that's a pretty long story in itself.

There have been a lot of mixed thoughts about "Tarantallegra", both the song and the album, and I completely understand the people who say they don't like it -- more than their personal preference, I get why and what could make them dislike it. However, my response would be that you're looking at the wrong thing. Like what I said in my review of Big Bang's "Alive", you have to look at, and think of, the right element in order to completely appreciate it.

The main focus of "Tarantallegra" isn't the visuals, it isn't the production or even the material itself -- it's Junsu, and how he both shows off and manipulates his stunning vocals. Think about it, the visuals, his clothes and everything, are cringe-worthy most of the time, the production is fine, but nothing I'd rave about, and the songs themselves are actually pretty generic and could've been sung by anyone. The point of this album is really Junsu, and in my opinion, that's what makes a good solo album (from a former idol, that is), because idols who go solo don't need material that overpowers them, they get enough of that in their respective groups, they need material to overpower. Material that just sits there and lets them fly off to wherever. And that takes a certain skill level to be able to do.

I won’t lie and say that this album is everything I expected and more, because it’s not, and I was disappointed when I first heard it because I was expecting everything to be equally brilliant -- the material, the delivery, the production -- but hearing the album now, this is the most ideal way to do a solo album. This isn’t just an album, this is Junsu’s album, and that has to be made very clear. But even that, I'm not entirely sure about.

There are things I don’t like, and the more I listen, the more problems I find. I don’t like the production on the entire album, because it dulls Junsu’s vocals, and in turn, dulls all the songs. Junsu still carries the songs, but dull production is something out of his reach, and it does absolutely nothing for the generic material. The songs don’t have to be loud, because the album is actually pretty soft volume-wise (not dynamics-wise), but I would’ve liked the production to be crisp.

Half of the album, or more than actually, is made up of ballads. I was half-expecting this, as always, but I was also hoping that Junsu wouldn’t go down this route. He’s had enough ballads in and out of DBSK, solo or group, to last him several lifetimes. Some of the ballads on this are gorgeous, of course, and Junsu sings them better than everyone else, but this is the same thing all over again. On the other hand, for a first solo release, sticking with something comfortable may be better. Who knows.


I listened to “Tarantallegra” the song again this morning, and I do agree with some of the comments on yesterday’s single review -- it’s potentially boring, and when I listened to it again without the music video, there were parts what just went on and on and on. However, the song gives me the impression that you really have to look at the entire package (and all it’s ridiculousness) to fully appreciate it. The song leans towards boring by itself, but if you really focus on Junsu’s vocals it’s really something else, and add in the video, Junsu’s performance as a whole in particular, and it gets that much better.

The synths on “Set Me Free” are so Christina (Aguilera) circa-”Keeps Getting Better, and now that I think about it, the entire song is so Christina. Period. It also reminds me a bit of After School’s “Dream” around the edges. But again, the focus of this entire album isn’t the material, which I’ve already deemed average, it’s the delivery. For me, Junsu’s vocals are enough to draw me in.

Okay, fine, “No Pain” isn’t a ballad ballad like “사랑이 싫다구요” or the others in the album, but it’s not the uptempo I wanted either. Although, even as a slow R&B track, I hate to say this, it’s pretty generic. Gorgeous, yes, and I’ll give it to Jaejoong for making something that has his name all over it, but this song is far too frail for anyone to salvage, even Junsu. Nice try, Jaejoong, but this song just didn’t move me.

The problem with “사랑이 싫다구요” is a problem I see in a lot of other Korean ballads, actually -- they’re too low. I was watching K-Pop Star a few weeks back, and from what I got the industry opinion on these things is that they’re “emotional”. I’m sorry, but the only thing this song does to me is give me a sore throat. The same goes for “알면서도”, a few tracks later. It has OST song written all over it, but honestly, at this point it sounds too much like a better-sung version of “사랑이 싫다구요” in the right key.

Which is why, while the choruses of both songs are gorgeous and Junsu’s voice takes center stage, as it should, I prefer “돌고 돌아도”, not just because it’s in waltz-time, even if that’s a major reason too. Junsu’s singing in the right range, and we actually get the chance to feel the emotion, because he isn’t scratching our throats anymore. And the arrangement laced with the ever so slightly oriental melody has a much more natural flow than the previous song. If “Mulan” had one of those ballroom scenes appropriated for China, this would be the song playing.

This is pretty rare, but I actually like the Korean arrangement of "Intoxication" better than the Japanese one -- I adore the guitar line, in all its crisp glory and how it contrasts the vocal treatment (which, for once, matches the song) and the dynamics have much more punch here. But “Intoxication” is a brilliant song regardless.

I’m a bit disappointed with the number of uptempos though -- there are only four proper uptempo tracks. But at least they were spaced out and put between multiple ballads. Between “Breath” and “Fever”, I prefer “Fever”, but “Breath” is isn’t half-bad either. It’s very Simon Curtis circa-”8Bit Heart”, the arrangement especially. But “Fever” is something I’d imagine he’d bring to the US. I’m not entirely sure if it would work in terms of sales, but it works for Junsu because he sings with such ease and conviction, especially the chorus, which is glorious on all levels.

And the best song on the album? “Lullaby”. It’s stunning, and it was made and executed with a musical mindset. The arrangement half of the package, because it’s just as stunning as the delivery. The strings and chymes that lead into a very clean drum kit and gentle but confident synths, especially. Junsu sang the entire song flawlessly, and he really sounds his best on this song -- both technically and emotionally. He turned a potentially cheesy and lounge-y song into something stunning.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard “이슬을 머금은 나무” somewhere before, but I can’t quite remember where. Nevertheless, it’s another gorgeous ballad, and currently fighting with “돌고 돌아도” for my second favorite song. It’s the kind of song that lulls you to sleep, not because it’s boring, but because it’s gorgeous and it relaxes you. Epic string section? Check. Half-real drums? Check. Junsu’s stunning voice? Check. Check. Aaaaaand Check.

Tarantallegra” is an okay album, boring around the edges, yes, but I think another dimension to it is that Junsu himself is very comfortable with the material on it, so he delivers it much better than it actually is. Fair enough.

My favorite: "Lullaby"
Song(s) I'd listen to again: "돌고 돌아도", "이슬을 머금은 나무", "Fever", "Set Me Free"
My least favorite: "사랑이 싫다구요"
The final verdict: 3.9/5

21 comments:

  1. I love Junsu, but honestly, this album doesn't have the ability to draw new fans in. It consists of ballads and dance songs (that sound like another versions of Xiatic and Intoxication) half and half, that sounds pretty, but are mostly similar to each other if you don't listen closely. More variety in genres would make this album much more interesting and this is the problem I have with JYJ albums as well.

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    1. Yes I agree. There are some songs I like AND I KNOW the problem isn't the vocal talents it is rather the material they work with. I will be fair in realizing that in the past they didn't have much to work with and many of the songs were written or composed by JYJ themselves but hopefully they will have better material for their upcoming album. Something different.

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  2. I have to say that I'm just a casual listener and listen to more ballad songs than uptempo, so the overall album is fine to me. I just have some observations for some songs this album. My first impression on 'Set Me Free' is that it sounds like typical K-pop (more like girl group songs) until you mention Christina's song. Fever reminds me of some patterns of DB5K japanese uptempo songs. Also, one shot in 'Sunset' (around 0.34) sounds the same as 9095 background.

    돌고 돌아도 is actually my favorite song. It has some feeling of asian folk song. There's some theme that sounds similar to Fox Rain by Lee Sun Hee (My Girlfriend of a Gumiho OST: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1I87SHTh9c )

    I have to agree with you that 알면서도 is all over like OST song and it sounds like a better version of 사랑이 싫다구요. To be honest, I prefer 알면서도 than 사랑이 싫다구요, which is composed by the famous composer of 'That Woman' (Secret Garden OST). I guess maybe the beginning of 사랑이 싫다구요 is too low as you mention and I'm still thinking that Junsu's voice doesn't fit for such a low tone.

    I think I've heard 이슬을 머금은 나무 before as well. I feel it's familiar to some Thai ballad songs (the beginning phrase, but I can't really remember which song exactly) mixed with "In sa" ('haha~~' verse).
    ... Just my 2cents, though.

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  3. The 2 comments before me said what i had in mind... that the fast songs are shadows of xiahtic and 돌고 돌아도 reminds me of fox rain.

    Lullaby, like i mentioned in the other review, is definitely the stand out track in this album. Its the only song that allows me to enjoy it for its melody, instrumental and vocals without being conscious of the different elements.

    I ceetainly agree with your point about the production value and how junsu's marvellous voice (his strongest asset) was not treated correctly.

    When i listened to the album with my headphones, a lot of times i was too distracted by the instrumentals and how raw they were put together to appreciate junsu, or the song for that matter. Most of the songs sound very amateurish, it was like getting a bunch of sound samples and dumping them together to make an instrumental. To put it simply, the production lacks sophistication.

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  4. yep.... the production could have been more crisp. sighs, nothing beats good ol japanese production (the secret code will still be number one in my <3). and although the production is so-so and su's vocals could have been showcased better, the album has JUNSU written all over it - which i kinda appreciate. the boy has guts. so proud of him :D i think fans will have a better experience of the songs once they're performed live, given su's ability as a performer. am praying for a live band for his concert tour. maybe that'll inspire 'em to rearrange some of the songs? *wishes* am still waiting for the time when these guys (jyj) would hook up with some awesome producers and blow our socks off~~ anyhoo, Lullaby is my most favorite track in the album, followed by 돌고 돌아도 then intoxication (that addtl layer of strings -spanish guitaresque??- was awesome).. 이슬을 머금은 나무 is such a lovely ballad, sounds a bit like Insa with the "ahhh ahh" bits, don't ya think? ^___^v

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  5. As a k-pop fan, I like this album a lot. There are probably 2 songs that I would delete, but the rest are on replay so far.

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  6. AT ALL THE PEOPLE THAT CTITIC HIS ALBUM! GO TO FUCK BITCH!
    YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND NOTHING STUPID PEOPLE!
    L'ALBUM OF JUNSU IS VERY GOOD!
    CONGRATULATION JUNSU!

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    Replies
    1. Calm your tits bish lol we're all entitled to our own opinions and preferences, and it's not like what they're saying here are all negative anyway.

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    2. Please stop. Ranting mindlessly helps no one. Yes some people don't like it but they don't insult JYJ for it. (which unfortunately many people are in the habit of doing)

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  7. I've listened to the album 3 times now and whatever I thought the first time through doesn't really matter because as the title song talks about, music should just grab you and make you want to listen and dance. That is exactly what happened after the first time through. The album has a flow to it that gets under your skin.

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  8. overall i'm fairly disappointed at his new album songs. the music intro in tarantallegra is great but the song lack of 'climax' during the chorus. this song doesn't have a climax at all. it's just putting pieces up together. the instrumental is great but the song is not.

    as a fan when jaejoong said 'breath' is going to be 'mission' part 2, i was so excited as mission is one of my favorite JYJ songs, i can that song on repeat and never get bored. 'breath' started with an deep husky angry tone and its just puts me off. the only nice part in breath is english lines 'will i ever see you'

    junsu previous composition 'xiahtic' and 'intoxiacation' was pretty good but this time all the dance track in his album is well...not up to standards.

    my favorite song in the album is 'turn around and around' and 'no gain'

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    Replies
    1. I read the same comment at other sites. Did you copy&paste your comment, anywhere?
      jjein???

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    2. LOL! Me too. I was like....I read this before...
      Seriously JJein, show some initiative. The more you express what you think is wrong (and right)the more rich your review will be. Stop being so lazy.

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  9. Awww... though you have put this across rather fiercely, I still have to agree to some parts. I was honestly, honestly, disappointed in some of the songs when it failed to bring out Junsu's vocals, but there are still others that made up for it, so I am not bothered.
    Also, I am thankful that Junsu actually bothered to try something a little outside of his comfort zone and mostly, I am thankful that he did not rap.
    Lastly, this album has a 'Junsu' feel to it, sophisticated and 'Junsu-ie', which most Junsu fans, especially myself, will fall head over heels in love with, but it might be a little hard to grab non-fans' attention. IDK.
    Anyhow, for those who judge purely based on visuals, should by now, be able to see that there is more to the MV... and appreciate it in all it's glory. I believe that Junsu did whatever he did for a reason, and whatever it is, I am willing to accept.
    This solo attempt is commendable and an incentive to Junsu's fans... but no one is perfect, so constructive feedbacks are nice as well!

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  10. honestly when it comes to TVXQ/JYJ music, all my analytical thinking and judgment are thrown out of the window...i don't really think too much into music, just listening to their vocals is heaven to me. i am so happy that junsu released an album so that i can hear more of his voice now in my ipod wherever i go. his voice is really a gift from God. actually all five of their voices are gifts from God.

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  11. For me, i would say that the dance and fast tracks in this album are just not for me. Since i'm the kind who prefers ballads. Just feel that junsu's voice is superb and heavenly as usual in the ballads. It's really just him that amazes and makes everything look good. His voice, his charisma, the stage presence he brings out. I have no problems generally with the ballads. I think they are all nice songs coupled with his nice voice. And and just my thought. He should continue with ballads primarily i feel. It's this that makes him attractive. Enjoying the album currently though :)

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  12. I haven't actually sat down for a front-to-back listen of the entire album, but after reading your review of the single which I didn't agree with, I have to say that I was hesitant to read the review for the full album. But I'm glad to see that you've come back and highlighted a lot of what made Tarantellagra (the single song and music video) not =one of the top songs I've heard all week - hell I've been even scrolling past that to listen to random c-pop which I haven't heard in ages. It surprises me given that it's JUNSU and I'd really waited to go all batshit crazy over this album, and it has disappointed. I will make a fairer judgement after listening it once through the way it was meant to be listened, but till then I've really be underwhelmed and that just makes me sad ): I wanted to love this, I really did.

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  13. i kept thinking that "set me free" sounded like "heartbreaker" by g-dragon... haha. i felt a sense of familiarity since it sounds like any other kpop song. xD

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  14. I really liked your blog! It helped me alot… Awesome. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

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  15. the vid is awesome, junsu is sexier than ever, but i don't fall in love with his songs ...
    i miss dbsk a lot
    and i just hear the new suju album, opera, their song, "way" remind me a lot of dbsk songs, it makes me cry :(

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