But anyway, on to this week's playlist. New releases are back in full swing -- there's a lot to cover, and a lot more that I haven't talked about here yet. I've done all my catching up already though, so I'm sure I'll get around to writing about them in the coming weeks.
John Park - "U"
I'm very, very glad that John Park isn't being caged as a "ballad singer," and that he gets edgy, trendy material that also brings out that gorgeous, rich timbre of his. I don't particularly adore "U," but I think it's a strong song where John Park's performance works together with the arrangement, melody and production -- no one element carries the entire package, as should be the case. The hook is extremely catchy, half because of the melody itself but also because of the execution. At the same time, the spotlight is definitely on John Park -- he doesn't carry the entire song, but his vocals and performance are definitely the focal point. It's gutsy, catchy, slick -- "U" is pop done right.
2PM - "Go Crazy!"
I was a bit surprised when I first heard (and saw) "Go Crazy!" because I never expected 2PM to release something like this. Granted, it fits right into the JYPE sound this year (which I'm in agreement with -- it's working wonders for 15& and GOT7) and it's a well-produced, well-executed release, but it doesn't really fit into the 2PM identity. This kind of "let loose fun" is something more suited to a group like Block B or maybe even BEAST, but not 2PM. Sure, I thought 2PM was pretentious for a while, but "Grown" was the right place for them to be and they've always been that stylish, if not slick, "beastly" in the superior way, almost "Beauty and Beast"-esque, boy band. Even "Hands Up," which was their "fun" release, had an air of sophistication. That said, I can't deny that "Go Crazy!" is a good song -- as far as the JYPE direction is going in it's definitely improving leaps and bounds -- and that I'll definitely listen to the album after hearing this, I just need to get used to this side of 2PM!
Younha - "Run" (Japanese Version)
I used to always look forward to Japanese re-recordings of K-Pop releases because most of the time that meant a touch of the very clean, rich production that Jpop prides itself in. Of course in the case of songs that were good even in Korean like After School's "Bang," it's not so much that the Japanese version is better -- it's that an already-outstanding song is given a fresh twist, a revamp. And it's good to know that while most of K-Pop has gotten lazy in Japan (the recent VIXX release is the height of that laziness so far), releases like this Japanese version of "Run" are still around. Of course this re-working of songs for the Japanese market opens the issue of whether or not artists should tailor fit their market or why can't their music stay the way it is regardless of territory, but that's a whole other matter in itself. Younha's "Run" remains one of my all-time favorite releases, and this re-recording is now definitely one of my favorite Japanese versions of K-Pop singles. While the Korean version had a very sharp, pop-rock-esque arrangement and was all about the juxtaposition of urgency, explosion and a smooth melody, this new recording emphasizes the ethereal quality of "Run." Everything is a more subdued, graceful kind of intense -- that's not to say it's flat, it's nowhere near that, but the explosions don't just pop up or zoom by, they glide. The arrangement is the right amount of grace, balanced by an edgier, more trendy choice of instrumentals and beats and pulled together by an even smoother melody due to the nature of Japanese lyrics. This shows not only the creativity of Japanese production, but also the depth and strength of "Run" itself. "Run" is nothing less than brilliant, as is expected from Younha.
SPICA.S - "Give Your Love"
Like many others I don't really understand why this is called a "sub-unit" when they only lack one member, but the single is here and there's nothing we can do about it. That said, I actually like "Give Your Love" -- I haven't liked any Brave Brothers releases recently, but this one I can genuinely say that I enjoyed. I feel like this is how "Alone," and all his other "sexy", "alluring" productions should have been done -- with some spunk from the performers. That spunk, that conviction and character is what keeps cheesy cliches like those synths and the general "Latin"-esque choice of instrumentation from becoming pretentious. The verses are so-so, they really pale in comparison to that chorus with all its groove and life. I'd listen to "Give Your Love" over and over again just for that chorus.
T-Ara - "Sugar Free"
It was only a matter of time before T-Ara made a foray into EDM/Big Room so I wasn't really surprised when it was announced -- it's not that far from the material they usually release. What I was surprised to know though is that this is their tenth mini-album? All the controversy and sub-par material they've had aside, I can't deny that it's pretty impressive how productive they are as a group. "Sugar Free" itself isn't that far off from the T-Ara we all know -- it's a little more in-your-face about the synth loops and club/dance elements, which means even less dynamics in the arrangement, but the cheesy melody and slightly squeaky hook are still there. Would I listen to this again? Maybe not, I'm more of a "Cry Cry" kind of T-Ara listener.