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[Album Review] BoA – “Only One” (****)

23 Jul

 

It’s been two years since “Hurricane Venus” stormed the charts but BoA is finally back with her 7th Korean album. BoA is a highly respected veteran (I can’t believe she’s only 26! She’s been around for so long) and I’m sure many people will be keen to see how well she does. This release follows two of the biggest veteran idols’ returns this year (that’ll be Shinhwa and Se7en).

The first track, the title song “Only One,” stands as one of the best releases this year so far. It’s a mid-tempo semi-ballad that has a beautiful piano melody that is then followed by synths matched by the equally beautiful vocal work that BoA does here. She has a limited range but she sings so beautifully with it. It’s a really dreamy track and as it progresses, BoA adds some drama to it with some vocal acrobatics. As an opener, it succeeds in heightening the mood for the listener. The next song, “The Shadow,” is a perfect BoA track that reminds me of her earlier music (always a good thing!). It doesn’t sound dated but there’s something very early-Kpop about it and I don’t mind at all. Bonus points for making the bridge (where she whispers) so damn wonderful.

“The One” sounds a little like Beyonce’s “Halo” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” (since they both use the same sample). It even has the same feel as those two tracks and I can’t help but be drawn into her beautiful voice. I love how this song builds up towards the chorus: the melody and orchestra has been established by the introduction but slows down during the verse then the bridge slowly brings it back up. It’s very classy and BoA has never sounded as assured as she does here.

“Not Over You” is a good track but there are spots where the instrumental seems messy: case and point that awkward transition between the chorus and the second verse–it was abrupt and kind of robbed the chorus of its energy. I do love how tired she sounds in the chorus when she says “oh I’m not over you.” The next song, “The Top” is probably my least favorite song on this album if only because it feels safe and less adventurous than the rest of the album.

“Mayday Mayday” winds down the album with its easy-listening sound. Of all the songs in the album, this one feels the most old-school, which isn’t a bad thing at all but just feels safe and disposable. The last track, “One Dream” is apt as a closer simply because it definitely lifts the listener’s spirits and BoA sounds so good in it.

Overall, I am so impressed and amazed by this album that even if it starts to slow down in terms of quality towards the end, the first half of the album feels invigorating and exciting. The latter half isn’t as good as the first but they’re still better than some of the tracks in K-pop. BoA proves again that she is here to stay and that she earned all the love she got over the past 12 years.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Clarence

 

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