Jewelry - "Look At Me"

Going through almost as many line-up changes as the Sugababes, Jewelry 2.0 onwards has never really been my cup of tea, nor have they put out any really praise-worthy material. "Vari2ty" had a nice melody, and "One More Time" was Jewelry down to the bone (probably because Minwoo wrote that and their previous biggest single "Superstar"), but after the last original members left, the group kind of had an identity crisis with "Back It Up".

Of course you could argue that the "Back it Up" Jewelry is different from the "Superstar" Jewelry, but at the same time, they're still Jewelry, regardless of the members, and if there's one thing that Jewelry have always had, it's a niche. While the industry became saturated with sickeningly cute girl groups or the polar-opposide overly sexy/serious ones, Jewelry were right smack in the middle of them.

The Jewelry sound has always been funky, slightly edgy and strong, but feminine at the same time. Not girly, not slutty -- feminine. It was the kind of music that wasn't really for the oppa fans, although it was still kind of for them, but in a sense, also for the female market. Sure, the songs were sexy and so was the choreography, but there has always been this air of nonchalance to their music -- like they were doing it for themselves as much as for the opposite sex. So basically this is the closest K-Pop has gotten to the "girl power" that other countries had.

"Back It Up" wasn't overflowing in that, and so I wasn't that excited for "Look At Me", but by the time I finished watching the video, all my doubts flew out the window. And, by the time I finished listening to the EP, I was smiling from ear-to-ear, hooked. This EP has given us a chance to see just how talented these girls are, because the material both accommodates, and hides, their flaws, and brings out their strong points.

But the one thing this EP has that legitimately surprised me was the level of cohesion. It's cohesive! That hardly happens in K-Pop. From start to finish, the production, the execution and the songs themselves -- they all sound like they come from one act, and they all sound like they come from Jewelry. Jewelry in 2012. The girls have really "found themselves" and found the Jewelry point with this EP, and I must say what they've found is pretty good. So good that they may very well be my favorite girl group of this year.

I've never really been a rap person, but "Rhythm HA!!!" was okay, and it made sense. It has that intensity, but sometimes I think the rapping turns into screaming, which I assume isn't a good thing in rap, because it's hardly ever a good thing anywhere. It just charges full speed ahead, which I think is a very apt intro for what's to come.

"Look At Me" is exactly what I'd imagine Jewelry doing in 2012, regardless of the line-up. It has those funky instruments that translate into spunk, it's overflowing with attitude and conviction in pretty much everything, and the production brings out all these little details that make all the difference. It's melodic enough to be called a song, and the vocals are really, really, really well-executed and well-produced, but it's also simple and repetitive enough to be catchy. It's intense all right, but it's not "Sixth Sense" intense -- there's still that strong sense of fun all throughout, which is one of the main reasons why this song works. It's serious where it has to be, but the fun just effortlessly blends in everywhere else.

I love how "Party Rebel" has that Destiny's Child thing going, but still manages to sound extremely K-Pop. It's halfway between Lee Hyori and Son Dambi, with the bass line and those real drums (which I LOVE) making it more Lee Hyori, the processing making it Son Dambi, but those harmonies are just all Destiny's Child, or derivatives of. The hook is extremely repetitive, but I've been listening to it all day and surprisingly I'm not the least bit annoyed yet. Probably because it's put between melodic lines well, so much so that you still remember it, but for good reasons. And while we're on this 90's/early 2000's bandwagon, can I just say that I love the middle 8? It's so unexpected, but at the same time it's not, and it actually makes sense. Gorgeous melody, and I love how they made it sound more natural and bare than the rest of the song. But the icing on this potentially confusing cake is really the production -- the fact that it's so strong just makes this song so much better.

At first I thought "Me Too" was going to be another one of those stock ballads all these girl groups get, and in a sense the melody is, but the way they executed it with this pseudo-Jamaican sound was really smart. The melody alone is pretty boring, and the girls' vocals aren't exactly the most powerful, but the instrumental, and the arrangement of everything, managed to give the song a light shove. And that shove really translates into the song. It's a step below the quality of the two songs that came before, but it's also a welcome break from all the up tempos.

"Single Single" is currently fighting with "Look At Me" as my favorite track. It's such a feel-good track, it's just the right amount of perky, the amount that knows when to hold back. That melody is gorgeous from start to finish, and the smooth vocals are the right kind of vocals for this kind of melody. The post-chorus/pre-bridge that's auto tuned is gorgeous, despite being, you know, auto tuned. My only problem with this song is the treatment of that high note, because it sounds way too much like what happened in Seo In Young's "Anymore" (which I also love to bits, by the way). Not that Seo In Young owns that vocal treatment, but it's almost exactly the same, and it irks me. But anyway, I love this because it's probably the most K-Pop of all the songs on the EP, but the execution brings it one step further. This is the kind of song that usually gets really flimsy production from some C-list "producer" who, most of the time, doesn't really know how to make a song work. Not this time though. The production on this song, like the rest of the album, is very full, but not to the point of being sanitary. The producer didn't douse the EP with bleach, per se, he just piled on the detergent. In a very musical way.

"Look At Me" as a whole is probably one of the best releases I've heard all year, and it's also the one I've enjoyed the most in the past few months. It's cohesive and it has it's own identity, but it's also extremely brave. It's that brevity in the repertoire, in the execution, that makes this album such a pleasure to listen to.

5/5


5 comments:

  1. I completely agree! I like all the songs off this mini album. One of the better mini albums of the year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Am I the only one who has a problem with the rapper...? All the songs are wonderful but the rapper just ruins the song... anyone?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't like Baby J? :( She's been featured with Hyori, Miryo, Hyuna and Jiyeon in special rap stages, and is considered one of the better rappers in k-pop today. Ah well, your opinion is your own. :)

      Delete
    2. No, you're not the only one. I find Baby J extremely clownish.

      Delete
  3. i jst clicked their mv in youtube coz i was bored and need something new...i surprisingly liked the song... im not updated with jewelry and i didnt know the original members have all left. also thanks for reminding me of vari2ty.. it was a nice song

    ReplyDelete

Want to share any of your thoughts on the above post? Drop a comment here! I read all comments and reply occasionally, especially if you have specific questions for me. :D

Note that comments are moderated. Spam, self-advertising (K-Pop-related and otherwise) and overly vulgar submissions will NOT be accepted. If you want me to promote/endorse/follow/link to your site, please e-mail me at popreviewsnow@gmail.com instead.

 

Recent Tweets

Like Pop Reviews Now on Facebook!

Statistics (Since May 2009)

Blog Archive

You're reading an award-winning blog

The K-Pop Writers' Workshop


A workshop for writers of critical pieces on Korean entertainment -- formal reviews, expository essays/Op-eds, and personal essays/Creative Non-Fiction.
Learn from the best in K-Ent writing