Jaejoong (JYJ) - "Just Another Girl"

I wanted to wait a bit for the mass hysteria going on inside, and outside, the fandom to simmer down a bit before I sat down to really take "WWW" apart, mainly because I think I listened to it for the first time with all the wrong expectations. Yesterday I wasn't really that impressed by the album as a whole -- I thought it was too repetitive and the brilliant songs stuck out like sore fingers. But some albums just need time to settle, and "WWW" is one of them.

Musically, I wouldn't call "WWW" a ground-breaking album. Whether it's a motif or a specific guitar riff, I've heard most, if not all, of the material somewhere else before. The J-Rock influences are all over, as are rock conventions that are in use almost everywhere (believe me, I know). But that's not a problem, because this is another one of those albums where the how is just as important as the what. And I don't just mean Jaejoong's performance, I mean everything it took to turn notes on paper to songs on an album -- production, arrangement, the works. And at the end of the day, there's hardly any more room for proper "originality" in pop music -- what separates good pop musicians from bad nowadays is who can execute the formula the best.

What "WWW" is though is cohesive, mainly because it really is just straightforward pop/rock. And really, I'd rather be given a simple album whose confidence in its identity shows in the material itself than one that's confused because it's trying to be "diverse" or "different." It's not pretentious, thank heavens. Jaejoong has clearly learned from "I" and "Y", albums whose existences I now want to deny. While this cohesion does get a bit too much later in to the album (I'll get to that later), clearly the thought put into the album was properly translated into the material, because it shows in the songs. Probably the most striking improvement on "WWW" is the production, which is about time. The album sounds very sharp, very trendy, and very clean -- strong production will do that.

"Just Another Girl" is the lead single for all the right reasons, I think. Aside from being strong musically, it carries the album -- to a certain extent this is somewhat a summary, an encapsulation, of "WWW". As a song, the best part of "Just Another Girl" is the fact that it's loud and head bang-worthy, but it's not noisy. It's not filled with useless instruments whose sole purpose in the arrangement is to provide volume. Each element contributes not only to the volume, but to the dimension of the song.

The melody is smooth and sing-able, there is actual singing, something a lot of people forget when they try to do "rock." The melody isn't something that's possible only in a recording studio -- it's something ordinary people can sing or hum along to. On the surface the melody really is pretty, graceful in all the right places, forceful when it has to be. It's a great fit for Jaejoong's vocals as well, because he sounds best in higher registers that require him to belt out the notes. But at the same time he's a proficient enough singer that he doesn't just scream his way through the song.

The other element I really want to focus on is the drum line, and how well-executed it is. The first time I heard the song, I didn't just hear it -- I felt it. It's very crisp, some of the more audible parts are of the snare, the strokes are very short, they don't linger, and there are some really pretty rolls happening. My dad is a producer of primarily mainstream rock bands, and one of the most important lessons I learned from him is how the drum line is the foundation of a band arrangement. It is what all the other instruments refer to for tempo dynamics, and because of that it brings everything together. And the drum line on "Just Another Girl" does a great job of bringing the song together. What I liked the most though is that the drum line never disappears -- it makes its presence felt from start to finish. When some of the other instruments tone down, the drums and the melody are the constants, as they should be.

The treatment of the guitars on the song is sort of a continuation of the edginess of the drums -- it's just as gutsy with all these gymnastics, but at the same time it's not showing off for the whole three minutes. It has just as much substance as it does style. The treatment also gives it a graceful, melodic dimension to contrast the stiff drums -- the guitar becomes the middle ground between the drums and the smooth melody that's only smoothened further by Jaejoong's vocals.

Lastly, the transitions on "Just Another Girl" are, surprisingly, ridiculously smooth. The transition from the first verse to the first chorus is very clear, you know exactly when the chorus hits, but instead of the song bombarding you with "THIS IS THE CHORUS", it kind of just leads you to the chorus. It's a slow, but very sure build-up that starts the minute the first guitar comes in -- it knows exactly where it came from, and exactly where it's going. And I credit the arrangement of the drum line for that, because the drums really do anchor the song. There are quiet moments, there are very loud ones, there are breakdowns and explosions left and right, yes, but the song gets from one side to the other in the most natural way. It's like when you go on a tour and the tour guide knows exactly where to go and what to say when. The song knows exactly what it's doing, and it can do it very comfortably -- that mastery translates into the fact that "Just Another Girl" progresses with almost nonchalant smoothness.

"Just Another Girl" is trendy, very "now", yes, but also potentially timeless, simply because it's such a well-done song. It's "musical," because it went beyond just well-thought through and masterfully executed everything. If "Just Another Girl" is anything to go by, which it is, "WWW" is definitely a much, much stronger release from Jaejoong.

5/5

6 comments:

  1. "Jaejoong has clearly learned from "I" and "Y", albums whose existences I now want to deny". Really? For me, "One Kiss" and "Mine" (not other songs in that mini album) are the peak of Jaejoong's achievement, Jaejoong at his best. “One kiss” ,especially, is a masterpiece. I love the new album since many songs are really good, not just one of two. But I didn't find any song in this new album that at par with One Kiss and Mine.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Jaejoong has clearly learned from "I" and "Y", albums whose existences I now want to deny". Really? For me, "One Kiss" and "Mine" (not other songs in that mini album) are the peak of Jaejoong's achievement, Jaejoong at his best. “One kiss” ,especially, is a masterpiece. I love the new album since many songs are really good, not just one of two. But I didn't find any song in this new album that at par with One Kiss and Mine.

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  3. I'm not a big fan of rock, but I found this song very well produced. Very nice review.

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  4. just the tittle song? when are u going to review the album? this album is so good IMO, there's so little of filler and totally enjoyable even for people who don't really favor rock songs ^^

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  5. Thanks for the review, hope you get the chance to review his full album. :)
    WWW is definitely a step up in terms of production quality. Looking forward to seeing if Jaejoong and JYJ's upward trajectory can continue long into the future.

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  6. thank you for the review. Is there going to be an album review also?
    thanks in advance

    ReplyDelete

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