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[Review] B1A4 – 2nd Mini Album (****1/2)

15 Sep

Among the bevy of newcomers to the K-pop scene this year, B1A4 happens to be my favorite with their impressive vocals and charming personalities. Their first mini-album was a great debut that featured one of my favorite songs of the year “Only Learnt The Bad Things.” Here to prove that their success wasn’t a fluke, B1A4 released their 2nd mini-album which despite its quality, I’m afraid it might get lost among the bigger names coming out with new releases this fall.

And that’s a shame because this happens to be one of the better album releases all year round and it shows an improvement in the sound of the group.

What impresses me most about this album is the lack of vocal processing that has become prevalent in the music scene nowadays. In addition, the boys, particularly Sandeul, are restraining their vocals, stopping short of vocal gymnastics in every song which is rare. It’s rare because nowadays, when groups get great singers, they always make them oversing every part even when it’s not necessary to the song. So it’s refreshing to hear the boys just have fun and relax while singing.

The first song is the epitome of fun in this album. Beautiful Target features a pulsing beat topped with quirky melodies and a girl voice sprinkled here and there. The song is so infectious because the boys are so relaxed while singing even though their voices have gotten more mature since their last outing. In addition, main rapper Baro’s rap delivery is both comical and charismatic, adding a cute flavor to the tune.

My Love‘s Europop-esque sounds is just like one of the songs from U-Kiss’s latest album Neverland except it doesn’t have the jarring vocal treatment that U-Kiss employs in their songs. Instead, we get more vocal restraint from the guys. The repetitive hook “my love” is catchy and is far less annoying than I’d imagine it would be with auto-tuning. The chorus here is much louder than the last song but the boys pull back when they sing the verses, which I think is a smart move.

The best song on the album oddly doesn’t seem to fit the album either. Chu Chu Chu is a mid-tempo R&B song that shows B1A4’s soulfulness. It’s weird because I never thought that they’re really R&B-type of singers and I love Sandeul in this song. I know he can sing high notes really well but I love how he manages to restrain himself to just a little short of the higher notes he usually comes up with. The English delivery here is flawless and smooth. Baro is also notable in this song because his charisma shines through.

Wonderful Tonight is far more upbeat than the rest of the album and it’s a nice filler track that can be played when you just want to dance. The boys’ voices really shine in this song because the beat requires them to sing in a higher register than the other songs. Still, while it’s obvious that they can sing, they show restraint and it’s still damn impressive.

The last song maybe oddly titled (seriously now what is with this odd titles? I D S? now Foooool?) but Fooool closes out the album with more restraint. Oddly, this is where I thought the restraint doesn’t work. As the closer of an album it’s either supposed to wind us down or bring us to a higher level of joy than the previous tracks. Instead, we stay in the middle where this album has been taking us. They needed the fireworks and this could have been the track to display them.

While the album is great at showing the boys’ vocal restraint and maturity, it still left me wanting for more (which shouldn’t happen usually when you have a whole album to deal with) instead of wanting to restart the whole album. Fooool doesn’t really work because it leaves us abruptly as if we’re expected to say “that’s it?”.

In the last album, Sandeul impressed me the most especially in “Only Learnt the Bad Things.” Here, Baro is the MVP with his cool and charming rap delivery that flows smoothly in every song. He reminds me of B2ST’s Junhyung or T.O.P for that matter.

Overall, this is a noteworthy album that shows off the boys’ vocals without being overbearing. Here’s hoping that they can earn some much deserved recognition this fall among the heavy hitters. If they keep producing at this level, then maybe they too will become one of the bigger names of K-pop soon.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

–Clarence

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