[#17] Ailee - "I'll Be OK"

From: "A's Doll House"
Released: July
Territory: South Korea
Previous Best of Entries: 2012: [#2] "Shut Up" (With Simon D) and [#4] "Invitation"
Other notable song(s) from 2013: "Rainy Day", "U & I"

It's no secret that I adore Ailee -- I think she is easily one of the best vocalists K-Pop has at the moment, and I think the fact that she's not being restricted to boring ballads is the right decision on the part of her agency. While I do question some of their A&R decisions, especially when it comes to how her EPs so far have been put together, I think with the right material she will go even further than she's already going.

I wouldn't exactly call "A's Doll House" a step in the right direction after "Invitation", because apart from the progression in the sounds of her lead singles the two EPs have very different characters and approach Ailee's voice in different ways. "A's Doll House" sounds a lot grittier and a bit more low-budget (if I may say so) then "Invitation." But the reason why I chose "I'll Be OK" to put on the countdown this year, and the reason why it's so high up, is because it proves a point I always want to remind people of.

That good singers, beautiful voices, can do trendy pop songs too. That they do not "lower" themselves by singing up tempos or pop staples -- because like ballads, up tempos are just another kind of song. And "I'll Be OK" is able to bring in trendy elements while pushing Ailee's voice and showing it all off. Like some of the other songs on this year's countdown, what carries "I'll Be OK" is Ailee's performance of the melody. The melody itself serves as the song's pivot -- it's spaced-out and it paces itself during the verses before shifting to the more urgent bridges, made slightly more chaotic (in a good way) by background vocals interspersed between the lead vocals as well as repetition. And of course, the explosions in Ailee's vocals courtesy of her belting signal the exploding of the song itself. The middle 8 is the same, it's the vocals that simmer, and that sharp percussion only aids the vocals, feeds the fire so to say.

While the production on "I'll Be OK" isn't exactly top-tier, it makes up for that with an arrangement that knows what to highlight in lieu of it -- in this case, Ailee's vocals.

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