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[Artist Profile] MBLAQ

3 Sep

When MBLAQ or “Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality” debuted, I thought they weren’t anything special at all. They were an interesting mix of good looking guys with some questionable talent but possess some indescribable charm. They’re not really unique even if they have superstar Rain as a mentor compared to the similar group B2ST who debuted around the same time. Both groups started with people who have some sort of talent but was burdened by music that didn’t set them apart from the rest of the industry. In short, I dismissed them as unoriginal, untalented, and even frustrating.

There are five members in MBLAQ: Seung Ho, the leader and an OK vocalist, GO, the lead vocalist with an undeniably great talent, Mir the charismatic rapper, Joon the adorable vocalist, and Cheondoong (Thunder) the rather inept member of the group whose sister Sandara is far more endearing even if they share the same frustrating qualities. If I seem cruel it’s only because I’m writing from the perspective I had when I first encountered them.

Two years later, there needs to be some reevaluation of their group, especially from doubters like me. The release of their mini album Mona Lisa this summer surprised me because it was a vast improvement from the previous materials they’ve released. It’s more mature, relaxed, and there is an overall artistic sense of coherence between the tracks.

In honor of their recent performance of my favorite song from the album “I Don’t Know”–which inspired me to write this post in the first place–here are some musical career highlights and some thoughts on MBLAQ in the last two years.

MBLAQ debuted in 2009 and was touted by some as the “next DBSK” (to what grounds I do not understand since personally comparing them to DBSK is so high a praise) and with Rain personally mentoring them, they may have been the next big thing.

Unfortunately, even if they’ve become big stars, the quality of their music is subpar to all the hype that’s been built up. Take for example their debut single “Oh Yeah”:

The song starts off with some Spanish guitars (something potentially interesting they wasted unfortunately) then suddenly a pulsating electronic beats pops up and transitions into a charismatic rap from Mir awkwardly broken by a slowdown in the beat and GO’s vocals. By the way the flourishes in his voice are beautiful even if he looked a little unappealing with that facial hair. The chorus isn’t very enticing and the grunting “oh yeah” sounds neither sounds sexy or cool but rather creepy given that they’re mixed with some childish girl saying the same thing.

I can’t say that this song was a great debut for them because I don’t think it is. It was a mediocre track that offered no real insight into what this group is capable of producing.

Their follow-up song G.O.O.D Luv revealed another annoyance I have with them. I appreciate the song’s display of G.O’s vocals and that’s it.

The creepy rap towards the end diluted the impressive display of falsetto by G.O., which is unacceptable if only because G.O. made this lackluster song bearable.

The following year, MBLAQ returned with “Y”, a single that Rain wrote, composed, and whose video he choreographed.

My main fault with the song is that its lack of any distinguishable trait that makes MBLAQ unique among the other groups. The vocals are all autotuned especially Thunder, whose talents (or lack thereof) fall victim to the robotic nature of the track. Even Mir is stripped of the charisma he usually possess when he raps and GO lacks the vocal adrenaline that a mediocre song needs in order to be vaguely tolerable.

At this point, I thought MBLAQ had no hope of becoming as big as DBSK with their utter lack of originality and their talents not featured prominently.

Their album “BLAQstyle” released in January of 2011 again changes their direction with a more R&B feel. Their track “Cry” far surpasses the quality of their first three singles and is one of the first tracks from them that I don’t feel I need to be forced to listen to.

However, with their decision to move towards this direction, they’re forced to trim some fat. Mainly, Thunder is almost invisible when compared to Mir’s more charismatic rap and GO and the rest of the vocalists moving front and center. But I can’t blame them. GO has never sounded as good as he does in this song thus far and same with the other two vocalist Joon and Seung Ho.

The second single from the album, “Stay” isn’t shabby. Except for my distaste for its first verse and Thunder, I thought that the rest of the song sounds great. There’s a hint of maturity here that wasn’t as present in their previous singles.

By this release, I felt MBLAQ may have found a niche that fits their talents without actually stepping outside of their comfort zone.

2011 also brought us G.O’s solo material, a release that I ate up with no complaints. Finally, my favorite member of the group–the one whose emotionally rich voice saves the group from being blandness–got his own song! And a slow one to boot!

Without hesitation, I’m very sure this song will be near the top of my list of favorite songs this year when I compile it later in December. G.O wrote this melancholy song and he gets to explore his full range that he wasn’t able to reach within the constraints of his group. This is singing at its best and emotion at its most palpable. G.O. deserves more of his own single material and quick!

After this track, G.O. and the rest of group returned with their best collection of songs yet, “Mona Lisa”. The title track itself is a memorable tune that highlights finally the true potential of this group.

Here, we get a large dose of the Spanish theme that they employed in their first single in 2009. Only here, it’s present throughout instead of being present only at the beginning and the ending. Even though both “Mona Lisa” and “Oh Yeah” have similar musical theme, they’re so different. Ironically, I thought MBLAQ stepped out of its comfort zone by producing a track so off-base with K-pop music nowadays. Instead, there’s a more international twist in there. In addition, all members are firing on all cylinders with G.O not required to do much of the heavy lifting at all. Instead, he harmonizes and blends well with them without being overshadowed or overshadowing (as he’s used to) them. Even Thunder, whose lackluster rapping or vocals never stood a chance, sounds like he improved greatly.

The rest of the album is packed with great tunes that show each member’s range and I admire that.

Two years after their debut, I’m still not quite sure whether or not MBLAQ is a great bunch of talented people and whether their latest effort is a fluke. But given that their last two albums are infinitely better than their first releases, I have to say I’m start to grow attached to them. They have an interesting mix of characters even if sometimes they’re a tad forgettable. Here’s hoping that they just keep getting better.

–Clarence

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2 Responses to “[Artist Profile] MBLAQ”

  1. berry September 4, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I laugh at some kpop lyrics (and lyrics of anyone,really) and “listen to my Y” always makes me smile at it’s complete lack of anything resembling coherency. I really think that MBLAQ has improved as well since their debut, especially in their last album. My favourite song, like you, is I Don’t Know, i also have to add i think the ending is really cute 🙂
    Often when thinking about MBLAQ, i’m thinking about 2NE1 first, which is how initially i viewed MBLAQ – as dara’s brothers group. it took awhile for them to be shake that label in my mind.
    i have varying views on MBLAQ depending on my frame of mind. i like them as a group but if there is a ‘weak link’ it is thunder. he hasn’t got any firm skills in my mind, g.o is the singer, joon is an amazing dancer, seungho is talented at the piano (have you heard the intro to BLAQstyle), mir is the rapper. thunder feels a bit like he was tacked on. i don’t think this is necessarily his fault, he wasn’t meant to be part of the group and was only added 2 weeks before their debut cos they were desperate. this lead to him being ‘made’, in a sense, the weak one, if they’d had more time to find someone else or thunder had had more time to train maybe it would be different. i wonder what the member he replaced was like and whether he would have altered the group in anyway.
    but that said i like the group, i think they are quite charming, having seen bits of their interviews and tv shows on youtube, i admit to being a fan of the Park siblings (i really like their supportive relationship). but since i’m not a crazy fangirl (sorry but some fans just can’t admit flaws in their favourite groups *sigh*) i can say that at the beginning they were kinda standard, in fact quite bad in some songs/parts of songs. here’s hoping that they continue to improve, cos i quite liked their last few songs.
    btw really sorry if you managed to read the whole comment – cos it is massive, and probably doesn’t make any sense lol 😀

    • dramapop September 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      Oh don’t worry I write so much when I post comments LOL I write “essays” as some of my friends say when they read what I write on their fb walls. Don’t get me wrong I completely love Sandara Park regardless of her flaws (Yes I understand she has flaws) and I think Thunder is so adorable even if he is talentless. The difference is what they do for the group. Dara is fabulously adorable and charming when she sings. She brings a sweet and innocent flavor to 2NE1 that none of the three can concoct quite as well her. She even has great moments in 2NE1 songs (I loveeee her parts in Lonely and Ugly and I Don’t Care). But I do know that she seems oddly tacked on in parts of songs (her part in Cant Nobody, could have lived without it) and she is kinda stiff at dancing. Thunder on the other hand is irredeemably inadequate at singing, rapping, and/or dancing. Witness how they switched him to vocals again in their most recent album and letting Mir do all the rapping. It just shows that they’re not quite sure what to do with him. However, I do think that he has vastly improved even if his current skill level is still a notch or two below the other members of MBLAQ. That being said, I am starting to like MBLAQ even if its only because I love this album so much.
      –Clarence

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