Miss A - "Independent Women Part III"

JYP's resident angry-fierce girl group is back with their take on the modern R&B girl group which is basically a homage to the queens of fierce -- Destiny's Child. It's a homage in name, sure, but as far as the music is concerned, well, that's what we're going to tackle today.

Their previous EP "Touch" was strong on all fronts but one -- the lead single. The four other tracks managed to channel all the angry, quirky and trendy that they could, but still sound cohesive. The lead single, however, was boring beyond words because it tried far too hard to be serious and "adult".

That said, "Touch" and "Independent Women" are somewhat complementary, because where the earlier EP failed, this new one succeeded. And where "Touch" succeeded, "Independent Women" paled in comparison. Sadly. The lead single is a well-done, welcome change, and the album tracks aren't complete failures or anything, but as a whole the entire album isn't as strong as it could've, and should've been.

The problem with this EP is the nature of the Miss A sound, and there's very little anyone can do with it. Destiny's Child have strong songs that they counter with equally strong vocals but Miss A generally do strong songs that have to carry fairly okay, but not exactly powerful, vocals. As far as the selection of the material in relation to Miss A themselves in concerned, it's a no. The songs may be cohesive with each other, but half of them aren't the right choice for their abilities.

Despite this, it's good to know that "Independent Women" is cohesive. As far as the material itself is concerned, they're the right combination of Miss A and Destiny's Child. And I like how the production on this is very laid-back, a breath of fresh air from the borderline-ridiculously strong production they usually have, but still has confidence and kick in all the right places. And surprisingly, the girls manage pull it off really well, complete with their usual quirk.

Like I said a while ago, "I Don't Need A Man" is a very strong song, and the right choice for a lead single. It's not strong in the usual literal Miss A sense, and actually the song itself sounds frail in comparison to something like "Goodbye Baby". Two things make this -- the vocal delivery and the arrangement. Despite not being a noise barrage, the dynamics of the song are very defined, and the instruments they chose sound like cleaner, updated versions of traditional R&B girl group elements. The beats, the loops, especially that "oriental" but not really loop that's one of the focal points of the song. They're strong enough to carry their vocals, but that's not to say that their vocals on this song didn't have their merits.

The vocal delivery works because despite being a take on something else, the song was clearly tailored for Miss A, or a group of their abilities. I wouldn't really call Miss A vocals top-class, but one, they're competent, and JYP knows how to pick their songs and make them sound like they can sing. Going a little more technical, the solo lines are generally very short and have all these other things going on in between them, which means more time to breathe and which ultimately means more energy to push. And pushing is what they have to do on a song like this. On the other hand, the chorus parts are really choruses -- strength in numbers (something girl groups like DC made use of as well). Because you have (give or take) four voices in unison as opposed to them taking turns, the lines sound fuller than the usual K-Pop song that's done like this, but at the same time they sound very Miss A because they take on a different dimension from the usual girl group scream-fests.

Put everything together and you get a really good song, if I may say so. It's fun in the quirky, slightly serious, Miss A way, and in the same way it's fierce in a more feminine, K-Pop, way.

As I was listening to the album for the first time, I really liked "Ma Style", and I still do. It's the right kind of melodic for Miss A, and it screams girl group, complete with rainbows and smiles and friendship mixed with those pops of fierce. The melody is gorgeous, and the arrangement manages to carry their vocals and at the same time let that pretty melody stand out. I love it. It's a very mild song as a whole, but it still grabs your attention and keeps it 'till the end.

Beyonce references aside, "If I Were A Boy" didn't really click with me until I listened to it for a second time and really concentrated on it. It's an okay song with a pretty melody and it does have its moments, but not always. I get that it's supposed to be subdued and epic and whatnot, but there's a fine line between subdued and boring, and with this they have 3/4 of that foot in subdued, but the 1/4 is in boring. And that's why it didn't really make an impact the first time I heard it -- there aren't enough moments, explosions (both literal and not) to make you stop and concentrate, you have to do it first before the explosions appear. Slowly. It's really a song that grows on you, as it currently is on me.

If only a fourth of "If I Were A Boy"'s foot was in boring, it successfully stepped over on "Madness". I swear, this is such a boring song I don't even know where to start. Or what to start on. The song is okay, but it kind of reminds me of a better version of how Rainbow did the verses of "Alright" (the only difference is that "Alright" had a slightly more interesting, though generic, instrumental) They try, but their vocals aren't strong enough to make this song interesting, which is probably the one thing they need to focus on when a song like this comes up.

Honestly, at first I was kind of confused and let-down over "Time's Up", but I think I understand it more now. Or at least I understand why I'm not really impressed. "Time's Up" is probably the first, and only, song on the EP that used obviously synth/computer loops and all these techno/eurotrash elements, which was probably why I was confused. It's an okay song, but my biggest problem with this is the complete opposite of my biggest problem with "Madness" -- the instrumental overpowers their vocals, and it's not like all the eurotrash, and combination of the instruments, is actually any good. The melody is actually pretty okay, very K-Pop girl group, but of course it gets masked by all those annoying loops and that strange vocal treatment this song has going on.

But it grows on you, and after McRoth knocked some sense in me just before I published this, I realized what I was doing wrong. "Time's Up" is a song that's meant to be played on max volume, preferably on ridiculously high-powered audio, because that's the only time you can actually hear everything. If you're just listening to it in the background while surfing the net or reading a book (like what I was doing a while ago) the only thing you'll hear is the eurotrash (like what I heard) -- the louder it is, the more you hear. And the more you hear, the better it gets.

As a whole, "Independent Women Part III" is an okay EP, but my biggest regret with it is that so, so much could've been done better -- this could have been a great album if all these problems were ironed out beforehand.

4/5

6 comments:

  1. Thanks very much for the review! I've been listening to all the songs on the album and felt like adding some of my own thoughts.

    1) I Don't Need A Man - I think this song is definitely stronger than Touch, but not as strong as Goodbye Baby. I can't be sure if I was hitting the replay button to hear the song again or to look at all the stuff they had in the music video at first. I did find the song addicting after listening to it a couple times and I like this MV the best out of all the ones I've seen from Miss A so far, so that's a huge plus in my book.

    2) Ma Style - Love this song and think it's the strongest one aside from the title track and hope we get to hear it live sometime. I knew I was going to be repeating this after the first minute. The way the melody flows and their vocals blend, it's easily one of their best songs despite the simplicity to it. It also proves this group doesn't always need in-your-face arrangements for things to sound great.

    3) If I Were A Boy - I really don't know what the point is of having a song like this and following it with a track like "Madness". While you may like this one and this song has it's moments, aside from being a homage to Beyonce's song of the same name, I don't see the point. The song is boring and nothing special in my opinion which is disappointing after hearing the first 2 songs.

    4) Madness - I was really looking forward to hearing this since they had Taecyeon featured in it, but was disappointed by the fact his part was merely in the background. I liked this one better than "If I Were A Boy" because I felt the arrangement was a bit simpler and showcased the vocals of the girls with a more ethereal feel which provided a cleaner sound that I enjoyed. I'm sure there will be many that appreciate hearing their voices so clearly, even if the song itself I feel is ok and not boring by any stretch of the imagination.

    After hearing Madness and If I Were A Boy though, I agree their vocals just aren't meant for songs like these. When I hear both songs (especially Madness) I can't help but think about how much better a group like Sistar who has the vocal ability to carry those songs would do with them. I think this should be a lesson that production itself can't make songs sound great with just good vocals when great ones are needed.

    5) Time's Up - I can't think of a more appropriate title for a song to end an album with after listening to 2 great songs and 1 not-so-great song, and 1 ok song. The sad part is in comparison to the other 4 songs, this one is just "there". And while I listened to it appropriately (with sound blasting), all I can say is it's just ok. If anyone wanted to hear Miss A sing on a dance track, you got it and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

    I think I've liked every other Miss A album more overall than this one which I find sad given how talented this group is. The album is still a good effort though and worth listening to.

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  2. Great review but I think we were all expecting something a little more fiercer - I was expecting the dance to be but I quite liked the song. I have yet to listen to the whole album but I've heard good reports about it.

    But what you said about Madness, I couldn't imagine another group like Sistar getting it because it would be 80% Hyorin and 20% other members.

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    Replies
    1. Then I think you need to see more of Sistar. ;) I've seen Soyu fill in for Hyorin when she's forgotten her lines (when they were promoting Loving U and singing Lead Me on radio) or taken lead when Hyorin was sick on recorded radio broadcasts in studio. If I hadn't seen it, just hearing it I probably wouldn't have noticed a difference.

      I'd highly recommend checking out their covers of Big Mama's Break Away and Refusal, along with Destiny Child's Say My Name. I'd say the only 4 member girl group with better harmonies is BEG.

      I'd also agree with you if it was a year or so ago that it might be that way, but not after Alone and Loving U. Dasom's singing has improved a lot, but I think that's also because she has pros like Hyorin and Soyu to draw from. Bora's the weakest link vocally, but I've heard her sing too and I can't say it's any worse than Jia.

      Delete
  3. Sorry not what you said but what the anon said before me!

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  4. "I dont need a man is a weak song for me... i expected something more oomph more feisty fierce girl power especially from the teasers and title of the EP itself "Independent Women"

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  5. Yeah, I think everyone expected something more fiercer or louder as the title track. Though to be honest, I'm happy with how the song turned out. It's fun like how Miss A used to during their Breathe promotions. Plus, I'm kinda tired of hearing loud and crazy songs (or having them as a lead single). :) As for the rest of the album, I found it pretty good. Love "Ma Style." I'm probably one of the few who likes "If I Were a Boy" too. lol "Madness" is smooth and sexy. As for "Time's Up," I agree. It sounds so messy but I can understand you (and Arnold) saying it's a song meant to listen to with the volume LOUD! It's growing on me. :)
    Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete

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