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[Review] Sistar – “So Cool” (**)

8 Aug

The ladies of SISTAR have come back with their first album “So Cool” mostly produced by the ubiquitous Brave Brothers. The album is full of dance tracks that have become the SISTAR sound since their debut. Of the twelve tracks, there are only five new songs plus a special version of “Ma Boy”.

  1. “Let’s Get The Party Started”
  2. “So Cool”
  3. “Girls Do It”
  4. “Follow Me”
  5. “New World”
  6. “I Don’t Want A Weak Man”
  7. “How Dare You”
  8. “Over”
  9. “Oh Baby”
  10. “Shady Girl”
  11. “Push Push”
  12. “Ma Boy” (Special Ver.)

First things first, Hyorin is my favorite Korean pop singer because she has a very rich tone that is very rare and very exquisite. Like Bom Park, she can express emotion easily because her voice just has that special soulful quality that words can’t adequately describe. Seeing her on Immortal Song 2 cemented that idea with weekly showcases of her voice that she never gets to do while with SISTAR. Which is a shame because I think the girls could have used one or two songs that displayed their vocals.

Unfortunately, what I got in this album, although slickly produced, is a whole lot of auto-tune that really upset me. Sure, I have my biases against auto-tune since I never warmed up to the process of making people sound digital or robotic allowing such non-singers like Ke$ha to become popular. It’s a shame because the music scene is full of non-singers who are becoming more and more famous than real talented singers simply because their music sounds so good. However, if you listen to them live, they have to resort to unfortunate lipsynching or worse, you get to hear them croak.

Now I don’t necessarily completely hate auto-tune; it works wonders to make the catchiest and most delicious songs out there but only if they’re not overdone. However, some people just don’t deserve to be autotuned and one of them is Hyorin. If anything, she is the last person in need of auto-tune. Why hide such a glorious voice behind digital manipulation?

The first track, Let’s Get the Party Started, definitely puts the musical theme of the album in place with its heavy autotuned performers. Not that I was disappointed but I sighed a little because it indicated the direction of the girls’ singing.

The title track, So Cool, is a great club song that features the least amount of auto tuning of Hyorin. The chorus does remind me of “I Am the Best” because the synthesizer beats almost sound the same but where it leaves me hanging is the lack of a climax. Instead, it’s pretty one note throughout the track.

Those same problems presents itself in all of the other new tracks: Girls Do It is the biggest offender with its dull one-note vocals mixed with auto tune throughout (not even any runs at the end for Hyorin, really?) and its repetitive “oh oh ohs” . Follow Me is perhaps my favorite song on the album with its electric guitar riffs that make it stand out from the rest of the album and this is the track that utilizes Hyorin’s vocals to the furthest extent with impeccable results. New World is the lightest of the five new tracks and for the most part it breezes along pretty nicely with its airy vocals. Still, it doesn’t give Hyorin anything to do but remain at one note throughout.

The new version of Ma Boy would have been my favorite song in the album had it not been officially released as a track for SISTAR 19 previously. The song still has the same sweetness of the original with less star power since Hyorin has to delegate some of the vocals to her groupmates. Still, what made the original sound amazing was Hyorin’s added soulfulness, especially when she does the vocal runs toward the end.

Ultimately, I was let down by this album. I thoroughly enjoyed previous material from SISTAR and with a full album I thought that they could branch out and make songs that challenged them vocally or that is new to them (ballads perhaps is the best way to go). Although the crisp production carries the album and to a certain extent it works as party music, it doesn’t truly move or entice me to listen to these songs more than once or twice.

Rating: ** out of 5

–Clarence

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