Sunday, November 6, 2011
Wonder Girls - "Wonder World"
No matter what I say about JYP being one-dimensional and forcing his singing style down his idol groups' throats, we all have to remember that JYP was once an idol himself. Although I doubt they called him an idol, he was making pop music for himself before he branched out into mentoring, and because of that he not only understands the concept of a song, but the concept of a performance. Unlike other songwriters who merely adapt to trends, JYP understands that at the end of the day, the songs he makes will be sung by people, with strengths and exceptional talent, yes, but who also have limitations. He understands that because he went through that before, and it shows in the album.
"Wonder World" is a pop album through and through, but the quality of the songs is really something else. And they're actual songs, with actual melodies and actual singing, which can actually be performed live. Each and every song has a purpose on the album, even the ones I didn't like that much, they make sense. I never thought I'd say this, but "Wonder World" is, hands-down, one of the best k-pop albums of the year. I listened to it for the first time a few hours ago, and honestly I found myself giving almost every song 5 stars. I don't do that - like, the most 5-star songs I've given an album is probably two or three. I gave "Wonder World" five perfect scores out of twelve. In terms of the album as a whole, the Wonder Girls, and JYP, did not fail to deliver.
However, the single choice is as much an epic fail as the album is brilliant. Whose BRILLIANT idea was it to choose boring, whiny and generic, "Be My Baby" as the lead single, when there are like five other songs that are easily more amazing and more attention-grabbing than "Be My Baby"? Huh? The single, in theory, is supposed to sell the rest of the album, but when the lead single is out of place with the rest of the album, how's it supposed to sell? The only people who will end up listening to the brilliance that is "Wonder World" are the people who knew WG before "Be My Baby".
However, "G.N.O." not being single material still doesn't excuse the fact that "Be My Baby" should never have been the lead single in the first place. Just listening to it, "Be My Baby" sounds like those cheap/slightly slutty Christmas songs that warrant performances like how they did "Jingle Bell Rock" in "Mean Girls" -- but I don't know if I mean it in a good or bad way, so I'll leave it to you guys. It's catchy but boring, melodic but whiny, almost like they're yodeling or something, but one thing you can't deny is that it sounds like a Wonder Girls song. And it's a song. Weak and generic, it's still a song, and seeing as a lot of acts these days forget the song part of their music, not bad. HOWEVER, the more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced that whether JYP was conscious of this or not, "Be My Baby" was inspired in some way, shape or form, by Girls' Aloud's brilliant, brilliant, "Biology". It is, for lack of a better term, rather cheeky, and has the slightly dry British snappy-ness to the melody and the instrumental.
"Girls Girls" is the pretty kind of stunning. It's not the epic kind of stunning, it's the "oh my god this is sReeo pretty I'm gonna cry" kind, and that's my favorite kind -- it reminds me of "You I Do", my favorite song from "Dreamgirls", which in itself is one of my favorite movies. It's a simple song with simple verses, but the chorus is gorgeous and they have the vocals to pull it off properly, apart from the fact that it actually matches all their vocals. Actually, it's one of those easy to sing melodies, and that's why it's so gorgeous. Try humming it -- unlike other songs it's not only possible, but it will also sound good for a lot of people. The instrumental is playful yet gorgeous, and all the instruments are so graceful and really fall into place with each other. In an age where majority of the songs out these days are overproduced and loud, songs like this remind me that people still actually make music. It's a gorgeous song, but it doesn't leave out that element of fun, of enjoyment. It's songs like this that remind me of why I like music in the first place, and why I never resisted my family's insistence that I develop a strong musical background -- because music is fun, and it's meant to be enjoyed.
It came to my attention that "Me, In" is in fact a cover of an old-school Korean rock song, and Ree let me hear the original before the Wonder Girls version came out. My GOD is this an amazing cover. JYP really knows how to one, choose songs to cover, and two, make them DAMN good. Apologies for the informal language, but there's really no other word to describe how I feel about this cover. It's got attitude, spunk and kick, but without losing the clean pop sound of the rest of the album. The verses are so, so, SO strong, almost too strong, actually, that the chorus ends up sounding a bit flat. I mean it's an epic cover, but the way they treated the chorus (as in group of people singing, not the chorus chorus) vocals just ruined it for me. Still one of the better songs on the album though, and one of the five-star songs.
If Atomic Kitten were to come back in 2011, "Sweet Dreams" would be their lead single. If S Club 6/7/8 were to come back in 2011, "Sweet Dreams" would be their lead single. If all these European pop groups were to come back in 2011/2012 and this was written by Savan Kotecha or Max Martin or a Swedish production house, they'd ALL be fighting for this song. It's so Euro-pop, from the synths to the bits of "oo whoa whoa" autotune, to the melody, that for a while I was convinced I was listening to Atomic Kitten's "Feels So Good" and that it was 2002 again. But I wasn't, and that's what makes this so brilliant. It's like a more bass-y, fuller-sounding version of something off an Atomic Kitten/Later S Club album, and in case you've forgotten, before I got into kpop I was a British pop fan/critic/slight-expert. Like "Sweet Dreams", if all these European pop groups were to come back this year, they'd all be fighting over "Stop!" as the b-side, or a lesser act will get it for a single, like Play or something. Or No Angels. (are they still alive?) Again, the synths, the structure of the song, and basically everything about it makes it sound SO Euro, not that I'm complaining.
The final pair is "SuperB" and "Act Cool" -- the edgy songs. They're less melody, more hook and style, but even then they're still good songs. Well, "SuperB" is. After the two slower songs, it's a good song to get you back into uptempos and kind of leaves you hanging to go listen to the album again. From what I'm hearing, "Act Cool" sounds like just Hye Rim rapping, and remember, I hate Hye Rim's voice. It's an interesting song though, and a good filler track. In a sense I think the album does need these slightly less good tracks to one, keep you listening, but at the same time, while you're listening to these, all you're thinking about is re-listening to the previous songs. Apart from that (rather random) kinda interesting singing part at the end of "Act Cool", that's exactly what these songs are -- fillers.
"Nu Shoes" is entirely in English, so I'm guessing this is going on that English album they're working on? Putting aside that it sounds like Christmas (Why do so many songs on this album sound like Christmas? Is it just me?), I really like it. It's catchy, it's very trendy and edgy, but it actually has a pretty melody, a real bass line, and it doesn't just go in a straight line dynamics-wise, which keeps people interested. It's kind of a compromise to the loudness war -- the choruses are packed like crazy, but the song still has a sense of loud and soft.
I stand by what I said at the beginning -- "Wonder World" is, hands-down, THE best k-pop album of the year. It's an album, the songs make sense together, but the songs were also outstandingly produced, delivered and sung. It has its flaws, no album is 100% perfect and we all have our own preferences, but this is the closest k-pop has gotten to perfection.
The best song: "Girls Girls", hands-down
The better songs: "G.N.O.", "Me, In", "Sweet Dreams", "두고두고"
The worst song: "Act Cool", but that's because there's hardly any singing on it.
The rating: 4.9/5 - the highest rating I've given to an album all year.