From: "Autumn Breeze"
Territory: South Korea
Previous Best of Entries: n/a
Other notable song(s) from 2014: "One Last Memory"
Unfortunately I'm not an old enough K-Pop fan to have been around when S were first active in the early 2000s, but I have learned enough K-Pop history to be excited for S's comeback. And of course, anything with Hye Sung's gorgeous voice in it is bound to have at least one great song.
And while "Autumn Breeze" is the typical ballad album, "Utopia" stands out because it's the happiest song on the EP. The song is carried by this gorgeous but steady piano line -- while everything's running all over the place it's there in the background, but at the intro and during the verses it really stands out. The piano line gives the song grace and stability, a seeming duality that for me is one of the piano's unique qualities. On top of that, when the rest of the instrumental comes in obviously the first thing I notice is the drum line. From those graceful snare rolls in the bridge that provide a real (not processed/computerized) build-up to steady drum line that immediately follows -- they, along with the piano line, give the song grounding so the other instruments can really just soar.
But even more than the foundations, "Utopia" is a song with character. The electric guitar is one of those elements that gives the song kick -- it still fits into the graceful quality of the whole song, especially with the actual chords/progressions it plays, but the very nature of the electric guitar brings an interesting texture to the arrangement.
What I like the most about "Utopia" is that even if this is the most non-ballad of all the songs, it still shows off S's vocals. Hyesung, Kangta and Lee Ji Hoon all sound their best. It's a song that really makes use of their entire range -- from the bubbling, mid-range choruses to the soaring, but not screaming, choruses. It's such a joy to listen so a song that's well-composed, well-produced, and not only well-sung, but also by singers with distinct identities who clearly know what they're doing.