BTOB - "Beep Beep"

BTOB's 2012 EP "Press Play" remains one of my favorite idol releases, despite the fact that the group was off my radar last year. "Press Play" was such a strong EP that I was honestly scared out of my mind at the thought of follow-up releases, and whether they would do BTOB justice or fail miserably. After all, the higher the standards the higher the fall. I worried for nothing though, because through "Beep Beep" BTOB have further established their identity as a group. Their sound has become synonymous with polished, well-executed youthful pop -- and that's exactly what the material on this EP shows.

At first glance, the title track "Beep Beep" sounds like a combination of the bare complexity of "Press Play" with the strong recall of "사랑밖에 난 몰라." It's a track that gives the impression of weight but upon closer inspection doesn't actually use much. It's easy to identify the three central elements -- the piano line, the drum line, and the melody. They are what help the song strike that perfect balance between raw and clean. The drum line lays the foundation well -- the use of the snare and the bass make it a gutsy kind of clean. The piano line, on top of being in a minor chord, is a graceful kind of sharp -- it's a lot more grounded and constant throughout, as opposed to running around all over the place. And the melody has a masculine grace to it, for lack of a better term. It's a mischievous melody with a strong recall, sung by rich voices. Put everything together, add strings and token car horns, and you have a song that's well-executed, well-produced and musical yet unmistakably pop.

"Hello Mello" channels a different, more obvious kind of mischief compared to "Beep Beep." While there is less depth its strength is its playfulness, achieved because it has no extra baggage to carry, so to say. There's still weight to the song of course, and it's most evident in the rich vocals and the bass line (when it does appear). But other than that the elements come and go in a loosely organized manner -- the light, playful and almost inaudible piano line, the slightly arrogant (in a good way) rap parts, and the ridiculously catchy melody all just zoom by. But that confidence, paired with strong production, surprisingly makes "Hello Mello" a pleasant tongue-in-cheek package.

The slower songs, "끝난 건가요" and "Melody" put BTOB at the center. There's not much going on in the songs themselves, they're both pretty generic boyband/idol group packages, and so it's the execution that sets them apart. "끝난 건가요" is a pleasantly pretty song, with a gripping melody and an arrangement that doesn't bombard you in any way. The instrumental is flat throughout (give or take a few additions), giving the vocals room to run around with the melody. And run around they do -- taking advantage of the entire group by using harmonies, choruses and multi-tracking to give the song dynamics. On the other hand, "Melody" takes advantage of the diversity in the group's vocals -- compared to "끝난 건가요" there's a lot more emphasis on the solo portions, and harmonies are used more as additions than central elements. The product is an even less in-your-face, and quietly gripping song. It can get boring at times and approach cheesy territory at others, especially the guitar line, but like the rest of the EP it uses it to an advantage. It's not pretentious.

Ten seconds into "여보세요" and I knew this would be my favorite track from the EP, simply because it was everything I had come to love about BTOB. "여보세요" is fun, light-hearted, but also the song that's most unashamed of what it is. It's tongue-in-cheek in all the right places, and pretty when need be. It could have been cheesy because of the melody and some of the production choices (like the piano line at the chorus) but it's not because instead of trying to be "serious art", it embraces the pop and runs with it. "여보세요" is a song you need to look at as a whole -- how everything creates this kind of pleasant chaos. The melody has its moments like the "ooh ooh"'s at the verses, and they help balance out the other repetitive parts especially during the chorus. The dynamics contribute a lot to the song's success -- bare verses that create urgency, choruses that bask in explosions everywhere from the layers upon layers of instruments and multi-tracked vocals, and smooth transitions that balance everything out. All that makes for not just an easy listen, but a pleasantly easy one.

While for a bit I was unsure of how this kind of no-nonsense pop will hold up in the long run because as a whole it lacks a kind of intelligent dimension that I like in my pop, ultimately I can't deny that "Beep Beep" is a well-produced, well-executed pop album. It's pop at its "poppiest" with the catchy hooks, ridiculously clean production, tight arrangements and gripping melodies. It's good at what it is and what it tries to be -- at the end of the day that's all I ask for.

4.3/5
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