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[Review] 4Minute – Volume Up (**)

11 May

4minute has always seemed like such a strange group to me. On first glance, they possess talent. Their are definitely good singers here but half of the time their voices seemed trapped in really lifeless or dull tracks. They definitely are beautiful to look at but their beauty isn’t really interesting, except HyunA, whose exaggerated features border on pornographic. There hasn’t been a release from them that thoroughly entertained me: “Heart to Heart” was interesting but doesn’t linger in my mind while their past songs seem to rest somewhere between dull or uninspired.

In fact, HyunA, the biggest star in the group, releases better music when she’s away from the group: Troublemaker’s success rests as much on her sex appeal and charms as it does on Hyunseung from Beast. “Bubble Pop” is a summer jam that hit a nerve around the world because it’s so catchy. Here, she’s a distraction, something that kind of ruins most of the songs because of the vast difference in their talents. I like HyunA by herself, but not when she’s in the group.

Their new release, the 3rd mini album, Volume Up, is a really strange release in that the songs have very interesting parts and constructions but the way they’re put together do not often cohere into good pop music. Take the title track, “Volume Up”. On first listen, the song is easily memorable for the horns that come up throughout the track. Its verses are definitely good but then they transition into a bridge that ups the tempo a notch and then decidedly pumps up the rock-edge of the sound for the chorus. The chorus is then taken over by the girls’ screaming and then the enticing horn comes back. Then, repeat. What doesn’t work for me in this construction of the song is that each part seems to be different songs put together in one and none of them transition well at all. There’s too much excess but nothing seems to make sense together: the screaming, mixed with the tone of the singers, and Hyuna.

The rest of the album falls apart like the first track. “I’m OK” has its great moments, especially the chorus, the only sign of the girls being alive and actually singing with feeling. The rest of the song is mixed with weird tones and dramatic slowdown of instrumental that aren’t interesting. “Say My Name” has a very interesting Middle-eastern sound mixed with urban rhythms but my friend was right when she pointed out how much it sounded like a bad Britney Spears song. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that but I do think the song is really strangely put together. I don’t know what it is with the girls but they can never seem to do a serious dance song without sounding excessive in any way. “Femme Fatale” is the only song that completely works for me but that comes with the caveat that the instrumental isn’t as challenging or inspired as the rest of the song. Nonetheless, there is no unnecessary urgency in the girls’ voices nor are they really singing opposite the track’s tone. “Dream Racer” sounds like fun but then comes that weird break in between the chorus and verse. Like the previous songs, the sound of this track is particularly odd in that it is composed of different sounds that do not cohere in a fitting way. I did like the verses here though sometimes, especially in Hyuna’s cases, they’re delivered lazily. The last song is a good track only insomuch that it succeeds to close an album that has so many inconsistencies.

Volume Up is really an odd album that aims for very interesting songs and to an extent, they succeeded: their songs’ instrumentals are definitely unique and varied compared to other K-pop albums. But they failed to make these songs interesting because they don’t really have the ability to do so. They’re not very emotive singers and it shows. The songs that do work here make sense sonically because the singers are all not really singing. That said, 4minute has talent and I applaud them for trying something new even if it doesn’t work out all the time.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Clarence

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