Weekly Playlist (July 27-August 2)

In an attempt to keep up with blogging on a weekly basis, here we go with another column! Hopefully my attempts aren't futile this time. Basically, my weekly playlist is a list of four to five (sometimes more, depends) songs that I had on rotation this entire week -- new releases and older songs alike, songs I've written long form reviews for or not. I always have music playing anyway, and what's one paragraph a song and some formatting? Fingers crossed (real hard) that I keep this up!
There were quite a few major new releases this week -- JYJ and YeEun, among others -- but this week's playlist is a mix of fresh, slightly new, and some older stuff as well.

BoA - "FUN"
BoA's back in Japan with a summer single, and I talked about the a-side last week but the b-side is just as summer-y BoA. It reminds me of a more in-your-face version of f(x)'s "All Night," and I like both tracks! "Fun" is slightly less "inspirational cheesy" than "Masayume Chasing," but the instrumental still has its moments of cheese. For the most part though it's a gorgeous melody with a strong hook that's easy to sing along to, strong, rounded, J-Pop production, and light vocal treatment of BoA's normally rich but slightly squeaky vocals. It matches her well, and "Fun" is unashamed of the cheese of that synth line -- instead of trying to cover it up the production and arrangement take advantage of it. So while I'm not the biggest fan of the cheesy parts, the conviction in its delivery is something to take notice of.

JYJ (Jaejoong) - "Dear J"
Full review of JYJ's "Just Us"
While YeEun's solo release has completely overshadowed most of "Just Us" (sorry JYJ!), I had a few songs from the LP on rotation for quite a while, and I still think "Dear J" is one of the best. As much as I would've liked to pick a song with all three, "Dear J" was the stand-out for me, and not just because it's Jaejoong. This is one of the few songs on the release that sounded good despite the flimsy production, and the graceful strength to the arrangement and vocal treatment was enough to grab me from the very beginning. Jaejoong's voice shines on the track, and the flexibility he has always been known for is taken full advantage of -- he goes from lower ranges to screaming in what seems like a flash. It's also very pleasant for a pop track in the sense that I can listen to this at 7 in the morning (like what I'm doing now) with no complaints, and I attribute that to it's pop sensibilities -- the smooth, at times sweeping, melody and the slick arrangement that favors the grace over grit.

Ailee - "Singing Got Better"
I don't really know why I started listening to "Singing Got Better" again this week, but I do know that it's definitely one of my favorite 2014 releases so far. It's so Ailee -- slick pop paired with powerful, firm vocals. I especially like two things about "Singing Got Better," first that the arrangement was done in such a way that the song literally drowns in gloriousness -- the epic string section, the crisp drum line, the thumping bass you can really feel, the stirring piano hook, the guitar strums, when everything is put together at the chorus it's just one huge explosion of pretty. The vocals as well -- when the sweeping strings come on it's just as playfully graceful and when the instrumental explodes, boy do Ailee's vocals explode. And the second thing that really grabbed me with this song was, of course, the melody -- apart from being cohesive with the arrangement it really brings out all of Ailee's strengths. The belting starts at the first bridge and just keeps going, and the chorus makes use of her whole range from the high notes to comfortable-mid ranges with pretty melodies and even some of her equally powerful lower range that continues to the next verses. Hands-down one of Ailee's best ballads.

After School - "Because Of You"
2009 Single Review / Best of 2009 entry

I got a few questions on ask.fm this week about 4Minute's "new sound" care of Brave Brothers, and I was reminded of possibly the best Brave Brothers production ever -- After School's "Because Of You," which led me to start listening to it again. I never really liked After School before this -- I had heard "Diva" and "Ah" when I was just starting the whole K-Pop thing, and they weren't really my cup to tea (I've grown to like the two songs though, they're okay) so I wasn't really expecting anything with this release. Plus the fact that even if it was pretty early into my K-Pop sojourn I had heard enough Brave Brothers productions to see how repetitive they are. But then "Because Of You" came out and changed everything -- it was so much classier than their previous singles, sort of like a maturity. I've grown to like it a lot more than I initially did, so much so that I really think this is one out of two or three of the best songs on After School's repertoire. The song has guts, it has intensity -- Bekah and Gahee's rap parts here really take the song places and give it that fierce edge After School were initially known for, and the catchy melody was both forceful with the belting and graceful with slight sweeps and pretty background vocals. Pair that with a strong arrangement that explodes and builds up in all the right places and a more than appropriate instrumentation complete with haunting strings and cymbals, and you have one of the best, if not the best, Brave Brothers and After School have done.

HA:TFELT (YeEun) - "Wherever Together"
full review of "Me?"
It's very, very hard to single out one song from the HA:TFELT release because the songs work even better when they're heard as an entire package (which is very telling of the kind of album it is) and because even individually, every single song is unique in its strength. So I decided to let iTunes decide, and apparently "Wherever Together" is the song I listened to the most these past few days. I'm not surprised -- it's a gorgeous, gorgeous song and it shows exactly how YeEun has slayed the competition. Anyone can make a dance track these days, but few can make a good one -- and even fewer have the ability to make a structured dance track that still focuses on the vocalist. It's effortless, which is a very important quality to have for a dance track. You need to want to dance to it and "get lost in the music" so to say, not force yourself to jump around just because everyone else is or because it's cool. "Wherever Together" manages to do both though -- you want to dance to it, but it also fulfills the "cool quota" of current trendy dance music. And to do something like that takes talent.


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