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CLC’s “Nu.Clear” Album Review

CLC
That is one great title. Nuclear by itself would be good enough but combining “new” and their name (a shortened version of “crystal clear”), CLC have created another classic K-pop portmanteau, ”Nu.Clear.” This release is a new start for CLC because it’s their first since adding former “Produce 101” contestant Kwon Eunbin to their lineup. It also represents a good shot at them making it big as the “Produce 101” craze has not entirely died down. But Cube Entertainment groups have been in decline recently, and CLC never did garner much of a fanbase to add to by now. Whether or not they break out this year, we can be sure they deserve it.

“Nu.Clear” explodes (get it?) into life right from the opening with ‘90s hip-hop beats, record scratches, and bombastic horns. Written and produced by frequent Cube collaborators Son Youngjin and Jo Sungho (4minute’s “Cold Rain,” BtoB’s “It’s Okay), “What Planet Are You From?” doesn’t stray too far from retro pastiche and is energized by the girls’ fantastic vocals. One of the things CLC do better than a lot of other girl groups is their group singing. I don’t know if it’s just good production or they were always planned to be like this but in nearly all of their choruses you can hear a number of distinct voices rather than one being layered. It works especially well on a ‘90s throwback like this. I also love the high-pitched synth that the girls harmonize with in the verses; it transitions the song effortlessly.


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CLC continue with the horns and bubblegum pop on lead single “No Oh Oh” but with a more modern twist than the album opener. It bears the hallmarks of producer Shinsadong Tiger’s work (most recently popularized by EXID), horns, male voices in the background, big vocal choruses, and a healthy disdain for men. “No Oh Oh” is about a girl who knows she’s too young for men’s creepy approaches to them but has to continually say no to the stranger danger. This repetition is mirrored nicely in the refrain of “ani ani aniya” (“no, no, no” in Korean) and in the weird delays that come halfway through the verses. These are the highlights as they suggest a chorus or pre-chorus is about to begin but the song continues on with the verse, shutting down any possible change of heart from the girls. Again, I love how parts of the music harmonize with their voices and this time it’s the electric guitar, which adds a more youthful touch than synths in the previous song. While not as structurally interesting as EXID songs, all of these elements work just as well for CLC to create something more coherent and immediately satisfying.

“1, 2, 3” is CLC’s effort to jump on the GFriend innocent bandwagon. The use of theremin, the 808s, and delay in the chorus all recall GFriend’s own aping of Girls’ Generation. Here though it is dialled up a notch with a lot more elements making GFriend seem like tired old ladies. It begins by slowing the album down with some harp, apparently bringing us (sadly) to the ballad portion of the album already. But it was not to be. The song crashes back into life only seconds later with its chorus of rolling synths and pop beats. Written and produced by singer Lee Sang Chul, Seo EBum, and BPM, “1, 2, 3” does not rest from there and is a great example of fitting someone else’s style into your own. The song is so busy but moves at such a fast pace you don’t have time to be confused. Synths, pianos, and drums jump off each other creating the kinetic energy that keeps the song at this speed. The buoyant vocals shine alongside it, highlighting a key point of this album, vocals and music working in great harmony.

Unfortunately, Nu.Clear does move onto the ballad portion, or just slowed down portion, with “Day by Day.” Again Son Youngjin is on production duties this time with the help of more Cube regulars Ferdy and Big Sancho. More of an acoustic slow jam than a ballad, “Day by Day” isn’t the worst of its kind but comes unwanted in this otherwise bright album. I’m not of the belief that mini-albums like this need to be paced in the same way as full length albums. Give me all the bubblegum pop I can take. That chorus would fit right into any Disney musical so will be likeable to a lot of listeners. Like on all of the tracks, I really like Yeeun’s rap. Her childish and cheeky delivery is always fun and brings CLC’s music to life.


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The more sentimental, subdued tracks continue with “Dear My Friend.” I didn’t find any translated lyrics for it but I bet it’s one of those sappy songs about how much CLC love their fans or each other or something cheesy like that. At least this one is musically a bit more interesting than “Day by Day.” Jo Sungho and Ferdy return for the production to give the verses some edge with plodding synths. The chorus is weak though and reminds me of a charity song from the 80s, which reminds me of songs I never want to listen to twice.

Were CLC trying to give us every variation of the boring album track on this album. Nu.Clear started so brightly but slowly faded into disappointment. Ferdy (I’m starting to dislike this person) produces solo this time on “Before,” the most ballady out of the last three songs. I think the thing I hate most about ballads like this is the guitar that strums the same three chords over and over in the chorus. It does make me like the two previous songs a little more though, and I am thankful again for the raps.

Nu.Clear weaves together a number of great sounds that perfectly complement a rookie girl group. Like Oh My Girl, CLC exude the youthful exuberance of teenage girls and never try to go beyond their means. The first half reflects this with three blistering tracks of pure joy while the second slows things down for a mellower time. The first half is considerably better in my mind but the slower tracks don’t ruin the experience totally. It is their best release by far since their debut with “Pepe” so hopefully will spell a time of good fortune for them.

What do you think about CLC’s Nu.Clear? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblrto keep up with all of our posts.

4Minute’s ‘Crazy’ Music Video & Song Review

Apart from Girls’ Generation, no girl group has been as consistently great as 4Minute this generation. Since their debut with Hot Issue, their popularity has gone up and down even when they went through changes with Brave Brothers over the last two years. They blossomed recently, garnering the biggest successes of their career and I expect them to continue this with their new single Crazy.

Crazy is the type of song that would seem stale and overdone in any other group’s hands. The trap beats and overloaded sound have become regular enough in K-Pop that they’re almost outdated, yet here they feel cataclysmic. The hype of the ‘Revamped’ teasers have been completely lived up to and have given us the best song of 2015 so far.

Song

Judging by the comments of the music video on Youtube Crazy is the kind of song that Blackjacks think 2NE1 are masters of. Of course, they’re wrong. While it is most definitely YG-styled, 2NE1 as a group couldn’t pull off this song even if YG were to give them something so complex. The varied vocals and choreography would be too much and the already busy song would be filled with even more parts.

While the song itself sounds packed with too many components, it is structured perfectly to create something busy but measured. The verses are split into three different parts; a rap, Sohyun’s part, and Gayoon’s pre-chorus. This allows the song to be challenging yet not jarring for an audience. Each part is executed to perfection with even Sohyun and Jihyun getting more prominent, longer solos than usual, and also slaying them for once.

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In particular, Gayoon’s pre-chorus works to bind the whole song together. It acts as a time for the whole song to slow down for a second and build up again. It does so quite slowly for a pop song but works so well in tandem with Gayoon’s vocal. Every second beat is skipped right before the chorus kicks in and creates the most satisfying transition you’ll ever hear in K-pop.

The song is brimming with trap snares, kick drums, sirens, synths and an alarmingly good horn loop in the chorus. That sounds like a lot on paper but thanks to the structure and perfect vocals everything comes together to create the perfect commercial club song. Lyrically, there’s nothing interesting going on but that doesn’t matter as this is a song to get crazy to and it achieves that without any doubt.

Music Video

The video is standard dancing in a box stuff. It works with a song like this though because it’s all about going crazy and looking fierce. 4Minute do not fail at this. Their charisma feels genuine and jumps off the screen. The choreography is badass and the styling (apparently done by Gayoon) is cool. Also this marks the first time 4minute music video is not the Hyuna show. It’s always nice to see lesser members getting attention even if they are indeed lesser.

Dance

To cap off a perfect comeback, 4Minute’s dancing does not let them down. It looks like they went to their local club, took the moves of all the girls on the dance floor and turned them into highly choreographed moves ready for the stage. The girls dance with power and vigour, seemingly making it up as they go along. The dance perfectly matches up with the tone of the song.

Rating

4Minute have taken the most used and popular concept in pop music today and reinvigorated it in 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Everything sounds, looks and feels completely fresh when compared to similar K-pop songs. 4Minute have set the bar for 2015, I’m excited to see if anyone can match it.

What’s your opinion of Crazy? Leave your thoughts on the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.