Posts

Seventeen’s ’17 Carat’ Album Review

Seventeen
It seems as if for as long as I have been listening to K-pop, Pledis Entertainment’s latest boy group Seventeen has been teased. With as many members as their name, with an apparent average age of seventeen too, the group was first announced and touted as one of the next big things before rookies began to explode in 2012. But until May, it was just rumored debuts. On May 29, Seventeen finally released its first album “17 Carat.” I had been interested in the group’s debut long before that, because I was into all things Pledis since I’m a huge After School fan. After a while, though, I forgot that Seventeen even existed and when the group finally resurfaced recently I wasn’t too hopeful. With such a long wait and a line up that was less than their name originally suggested (13) interest had dropped off. That’s what makes, at least for me, their eventual debut so surprisingly great.


 Also on KultScene: Epik High Lights It Up in Los Angeles

Recently, there’s been a trend of K-pop boy bands debuting with a powerful concept. They immediately try to act like men even at a young age. They never really embrace the vibrancy of youth while they still have it, a trend that was popular in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s (ie SHINee and SS501.) With Seventeen aligning their concept perfectly with the members ages, they have created something energetic but straightforward. They did this by also using some of the more powerful, darker concept signifiers like including lots of rap. Each of these elements is incorporated well to give Seventeen a fresh rookie feeling. The lead single ‘’Adore U’’ is especially good and utterly vibrant.

Too bad the rest of the album doesn’t hold up.

The first song, ‘’Shining Diamond,’’ opens with Michael Jackson through the prism of K-pop. The opening whispers and references make this apparent. However, the retro electro verses sound comes off as just dated enough to be a throwback while remaining modern. They move into a fairly standard orchestral chorus with a big hook. Throughout the song, voices are pitched slightly higher in a nice touch to recall MJ.

Of course, this is K-pop so it can’t just be an homage. It is also infused with rapping and seems to announce that it’ll be a big part of Seventeen’s sound. In an environment where more and more idol rappers are coming from underground backgrounds, it’s important to at least sound good if you don’t write your own stuff. The rappers here do flow quite well. I especially like how they can switch between two rappers at a moment’s notice organically. Vocal contrasts like this always adds a layer of interest to a song for me.

That being said ‘’Shining Diamond’’ never rises above being more than album filler. It’s a fine opening but doesn’t come across as anything more than what we are used to.

Not surprisingly, lead single ‘’Adore U’’ is the real shining diamond of the album. There’s something about those guitars that is so effervescent and reminiscent of adolescence that “Adore U” is impossible to dislike. The sounds are so funky and fresh amongst the hyperactive, multi-genre sound that’s popular in K-pop music today. “Adore U” is fun without having to get too complicated.

‘’Adore U’’ achieves a lighter sound while still incorporating a lot of rapping. It’s accomplished and confident without ever sounding arrogant. Again, they make use of different rapping styles in dual verses. Not only does it sound great but the rap actually makes Seventeen come across as even more fun. It seems like the rappers are having a conversation, which adds a sense of camaraderie and energy. The rap also helps to give the individual verses an extra edge, making sure they don’t get forgotten behind the amazing chorus.

This chorus goes for a delightful double hook. The ‘yoohoos’ of the first are sweetly infectious and the brilliant shout of “Oh-kkin-da” (The Korean title of the song,) in the second repetition of the chorus is an extravagant declaration of love. The lyrics here (and throughout) are refreshingly honest and sweet. Boy band posturing has gotten old fast that, at least to me, it’s nice to see a group being vulnerably adorable. There’s a straightforward exuberance to ‘’Adore U’’ that I don’t think even Got7 has achieved lately.


 Also on KultScene: UNIQ ‘Luv Again’ Music Video & Song Review

The third track seems to go against this infectious fun though. It’s far and away my least favourite song on the album. It’s a Diplo-lite style slice of electro rap that does nothing to add to the already massive pile of these in K-pop. The beat is formulaic and the chorus chants are dull. The rapping is not too bad. That’s the best I can say about ‘’Ah Yeah,’ which pales in comparison to EXID’s song by the same name.

‘’Jam Jam’’ follows on from ‘’Ah Yeah’’ with its hip hop tendencies. Its production is altogether more interesting than the previous song, yet not enough to make it stand out amongst the album in the same way that “Adore U” does. The bubbling looping synth holds the song together with a lot of fun, but the bursting adolescence takes a back seat once again for rapping because it’s cool, and serious, and mature.

This would all be so much worse if Seventeen’s rappers weren’t pretty decent. One member, Vernon, especially has a distinctive and impressive flow.

Just when I taught things were getting really bad ‘’17 Carat’’ moves on to the obligatory upbeat, acoustic cute song. It’s better than an obligatory ballad, I guess, but “Adore U” was so addicting with the fun, upbeat, electronic sound that I hoped for more of its ilk.

I liked how Seventeen had been sort of sweet before but that was with a lead single which helped them differentiate from the K-pop crowd. “20” is the sort of album filler that is so prevalent among all groups that the sweetness means nothing past the title track. Songs with cute lyrics about love over an acoustic guitar are second on my list of K-pop things I hate after album filler ballads; Seventeen differentiated itself with the title track, now I want to see something fabulous on the album. The one good thing I can say about this song is the electric guitar stuff at the start is fun. It never comes back though so it may not even be a good thing to tease the listener that way.

We are left here with a strong debut on top of a weak album. Usually lesser albums could be ignored if their accompanying single was good enough but nowadays it’s not as clear. When groups like BTS with ‘‘In The Mood For Love’’ and EXID with ‘‘Ah Yeah’’, are releasing brilliant and complete albums the game is slowly being pushed. Seventeen though, have created an album that is only seventeen minutes yet is tough to stay interested. What started out so exciting quickly turned into a derivative bore. ‘‘Adore U’’ is genuinely a smash though and could prove to garner them a strong young fanbase.

What’s do you think of Seventeen’s debut? Let us know what you think in 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.

Album Review: SHINee’s ‘Odd’

AlbumReviewSHINeeOddFeatured

SHINee is finally back after their successful “Misconceptions” saga and the hit song, “Everybody.” The quintet came back with their fourth studio albumOdd” on May 18. The whole “Odd” album makes it clear that SHINee is clearly unafraid to experiment with both old and new sounds in order to show us a mature side to the boy band. Yet again, this has spelled success for SHINee.


ODD EYE

The album opens up with “Odd Eye,” the first song out of several that were composed by member Jonghyun. As the song begins, we hear fellow member Key reciting spoken word in English. In the background, we hear dramatic violins, then electronic drums and synthesizers drop in as soon as Jonghyun starts singing. The continuous bass in the song makes this a perfect R&B tune.

The track is very sexy and rapper Minho adds a lot to the track with his rap joining Key’s. The harmonies between vocalists Taemin, Jonghyun, and Onew are amazing. The track seems more mature than what we have heard before from SHINee like “Lucifer”, “Sherlock”, and “Hello”. “Odd Eye” talks about falling in love at first sight with a mysterious person, and through the song you hear the boys describing everything they find attractive in this person. This track is a great song to start the album and prepares us for what’s to come.


LOVE SICK

As soon as “Love Sick” starts it reveals a close resemblance to one of SHINee’s past songs, “Like A Fire.” But in reality, the song is actually the continuation of the group’s debut song, “Replay (Noona You’re So Pretty.)” The track features a simple electronic beat that is consistent through the song and mixes the sounds of the piano, metronome, and drums. The theme of the album is SHINee in love. With this song, the boys talk about how much they miss the woman they love and how much they still think about her. Key’s vocals are outstanding in this track and very prominent. The chorus is sang by all of them, and is a throwback to the songs of 90’s boy bands.


VIEW

“View” is the first single from “Odd” and was also composed by Jonghyun. The song is very surprising because at first it starts as a ballad but then the beat starts building up into the chorus and explodes with electro-house and techno beats a la Giorgio Moroder that fits perfectly with SHINee. This song is different from what we are used to hearing from SHINee. It’s not as crazy electronically infused like “Everybody,” but that’s why this track seems very refreshing for them and for K-pop overall. The repeating chorus of “Nomeu Areumdoweun, doweun, doweun, doweun view” , (which in Korean means “beautiful view”) is so catchy. The beat is strong and easy to dance to, making this song very fun and a favorite in the album.


Also on KultScene: CL’s ‘Doctor Pepper’ Song Review

ROMANCE

“Romance” is a very chaotic and fast song. The beats almost seem to come out of a Mario Kart game, but it also has a few latin and tropical influences with the sounds resembling castanets. The lyrics are sung very fast and the beat continues to get faster and faster. We have never heard anything like this from SHINee before, but as crazy and chaotic as the track seems it works perfectly. The vocal arrangement through the song is great, but it seems like SHINee had to practice a lot for this song due to the fast timing. It’s a very difficult song to sing, it almost seems like they are rapping and singing at the same time but the five managed to pull the song off very well.


TRIGGER

With “Trigger,” SHINee introduces us to a very different sound. This is a complete 360 turn from the previous track. “Romance” was very happy and fun but the album takes a darker turn with “Trigger.” With R&B beats, trap elements, the infusion of xylophones, and big bass drops, the track contains a handful of sounds that are rarely mixed together but seem to work well with the lyrics. The song talks about a love affair gone wrong. The affair went crazy and there is no way turning back; SHINee metaphorically says through the song that the only way to end it all is to pull the trigger. The track is dark, sexy, and the vocals of each member also sound different. Jonghyun sings deeper, while Taemin and Onew’s voices feels stronger. Key’s “Pull the trigger” line in the background sounds very seductive.


FAREWELL MY LOVE/AN ODE TO YOU

With the next two songs in the album, “Farewell My Love” and “An Ode To You,” SHINee goes back to what we all love from them: Their romantic R&B ballads that showcases the member’s talented vocals.

“Farewell My Love” opens slowly but starts building up with a steady pace until the chorus. The beat is very sensual and the member’s vocals are showcased beautifully on the chorus. At the end of the song, Minho raps with a deeper tone that fits perfect with the nostalgic track about saying goodbye to the person you love.

An “Ode To You” perfectly depicts the moment in a relationship when you feel that everything is about to end, but there is still hope to continue on. This track is one of the saddest in the album and the music is filled with violins and pianos to enhance the sad feeling of the song.


Also on KultScene:Review: SHINee World III in Mexico City

ALIVE

With the next song of the album, SHINee brings us as the listener back to life. With the past two songs they almost made us cry, but “Alive,” wakes us up again. This is also the first time we hear the group’s iconic line, “SHINee is back”. This song uses the same formula as “Trigger,” but feels less chaotic and more controlled. The track has heavier basses that, when paired with SHINee’s choreography, will enhance the feeling of the song. With love being the continuous theme for this album, this track embodies the feeling you have when you feel completely alive and in love with someone.


WOOF WOOF

“Woof Woof” has different genres in it, a mixture of brass, jazz, and swing. This is the most similar to what SM Entertainment did with SHINee’s senior group TVXQ, in the song “Something.” The song is just very fun and it seems like the boys had a lot of fun recording the song. I can already picture SHINee all dappered up and swinging and tap dancing the song. This song feels very fresh and Key’s English once again is an unexpected pleasure for English-speaking listeners.


BLACK HOLE

“Black Hole” keeps a steady up-tempo drum beat as soon as the track starts. The techno-house feeling from “View” comes back with the synthesizers through the bridges and chorus of the song. There’s some disco and dance that seems to take you back to the ‘70s but it has a very modern feel to it. This is one of my favorite songs from the album and I can’t wait to see them perform this song live.


AN ENCORE

The album ends with “An Encore,” which is accompanied by pianos and strings that explode at the chorus. This song is a beautiful, upbeat ballad that feels perfect for a soundtrack. “An Encore” is a perfect song to end the album with. Through the song the boys have beautiful melodies and harmonies and leave you wanting more from them. It gives you the feeling of saying goodbye to someone but you know that you will see them back again soon.


Overall SHINee delivered one of their best composed albums in their career. With producers like Will Simms (producer of EXO‘s “Wolf” and Girls’ Generation‘s “I Got A Boy”), The Underdogs, Kenzie, Mike Daley and many more they achieved a more mature sound and had fun and experimented with the songs. The album is very solid and fresh and fits perfect with the members who are always evolving and outdoing themselves.

What do you think of SHINee’s fourth studio album Odd? Share your thoughts in 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.