Monday, October 15, 2012

Miss A - "Independent Women Part III"

JYP's resident angry-fierce girl group is back with their take on the modern R&B girl group which is basically a homage to the queens of fierce -- Destiny's Child. It's a homage in name, sure, but as far as the music is concerned, well, that's what we're going to tackle today.

Their previous EP "Touch" was strong on all fronts but one -- the lead single. The four other tracks managed to channel all the angry, quirky and trendy that they could, but still sound cohesive. The lead single, however, was boring beyond words because it tried far too hard to be serious and "adult".

That said, "Touch" and "Independent Women" are somewhat complementary, because where the earlier EP failed, this new one succeeded. And where "Touch" succeeded, "Independent Women" paled in comparison. Sadly. The lead single is a well-done, welcome change, and the album tracks aren't complete failures or anything, but as a whole the entire album isn't as strong as it could've, and should've been.

The problem with this EP is the nature of the Miss A sound, and there's very little anyone can do with it. Destiny's Child have strong songs that they counter with equally strong vocals but Miss A generally do strong songs that have to carry fairly okay, but not exactly powerful, vocals. As far as the selection of the material in relation to Miss A themselves in concerned, it's a no. The songs may be cohesive with each other, but half of them aren't the right choice for their abilities.

Despite this, it's good to know that "Independent Women" is cohesive. As far as the material itself is concerned, they're the right combination of Miss A and Destiny's Child. And I like how the production on this is very laid-back, a breath of fresh air from the borderline-ridiculously strong production they usually have, but still has confidence and kick in all the right places. And surprisingly, the girls manage pull it off really well, complete with their usual quirk.

Like I said a while ago, "I Don't Need A Man" is a very strong song, and the right choice for a lead single. It's not strong in the usual literal Miss A sense, and actually the song itself sounds frail in comparison to something like "Goodbye Baby". Two things make this -- the vocal delivery and the arrangement. Despite not being a noise barrage, the dynamics of the song are very defined, and the instruments they chose sound like cleaner, updated versions of traditional R&B girl group elements. The beats, the loops, especially that "oriental" but not really loop that's one of the focal points of the song. They're strong enough to carry their vocals, but that's not to say that their vocals on this song didn't have their merits.

The vocal delivery works because despite being a take on something else, the song was clearly tailored for Miss A, or a group of their abilities. I wouldn't really call Miss A vocals top-class, but one, they're competent, and JYP knows how to pick their songs and make them sound like they can sing. Going a little more technical, the solo lines are generally very short and have all these other things going on in between them, which means more time to breathe and which ultimately means more energy to push. And pushing is what they have to do on a song like this. On the other hand, the chorus parts are really choruses -- strength in numbers (something girl groups like DC made use of as well). Because you have (give or take) four voices in unison as opposed to them taking turns, the lines sound fuller than the usual K-Pop song that's done like this, but at the same time they sound very Miss A because they take on a different dimension from the usual girl group scream-fests.

Put everything together and you get a really good song, if I may say so. It's fun in the quirky, slightly serious, Miss A way, and in the same way it's fierce in a more feminine, K-Pop, way.

As I was listening to the album for the first time, I really liked "Ma Style", and I still do. It's the right kind of melodic for Miss A, and it screams girl group, complete with rainbows and smiles and friendship mixed with those pops of fierce. The melody is gorgeous, and the arrangement manages to carry their vocals and at the same time let that pretty melody stand out. I love it. It's a very mild song as a whole, but it still grabs your attention and keeps it 'till the end.

Beyonce references aside, "If I Were A Boy" didn't really click with me until I listened to it for a second time and really concentrated on it. It's an okay song with a pretty melody and it does have its moments, but not always. I get that it's supposed to be subdued and epic and whatnot, but there's a fine line between subdued and boring, and with this they have 3/4 of that foot in subdued, but the 1/4 is in boring. And that's why it didn't really make an impact the first time I heard it -- there aren't enough moments, explosions (both literal and not) to make you stop and concentrate, you have to do it first before the explosions appear. Slowly. It's really a song that grows on you, as it currently is on me.

If only a fourth of "If I Were A Boy"'s foot was in boring, it successfully stepped over on "Madness". I swear, this is such a boring song I don't even know where to start. Or what to start on. The song is okay, but it kind of reminds me of a better version of how Rainbow did the verses of "Alright" (the only difference is that "Alright" had a slightly more interesting, though generic, instrumental) They try, but their vocals aren't strong enough to make this song interesting, which is probably the one thing they need to focus on when a song like this comes up.

Honestly, at first I was kind of confused and let-down over "Time's Up", but I think I understand it more now. Or at least I understand why I'm not really impressed. "Time's Up" is probably the first, and only, song on the EP that used obviously synth/computer loops and all these techno/eurotrash elements, which was probably why I was confused. It's an okay song, but my biggest problem with this is the complete opposite of my biggest problem with "Madness" -- the instrumental overpowers their vocals, and it's not like all the eurotrash, and combination of the instruments, is actually any good. The melody is actually pretty okay, very K-Pop girl group, but of course it gets masked by all those annoying loops and that strange vocal treatment this song has going on.

But it grows on you, and after McRoth knocked some sense in me just before I published this, I realized what I was doing wrong. "Time's Up" is a song that's meant to be played on max volume, preferably on ridiculously high-powered audio, because that's the only time you can actually hear everything. If you're just listening to it in the background while surfing the net or reading a book (like what I was doing a while ago) the only thing you'll hear is the eurotrash (like what I heard) -- the louder it is, the more you hear. And the more you hear, the better it gets.

As a whole, "Independent Women Part III" is an okay EP, but my biggest regret with it is that so, so much could've been done better -- this could have been a great album if all these problems were ironed out beforehand.


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