So, I’ve been listening to MBLAQ‘s latest endeavor, which obviously means I like it. I think a handful of you will agree with me when I say that this mini-album surpasses their debut record by quite a wide margin (if you’ve already listened to it). It’s got experimental styles, melodrama, and rollercoasting vocals. I have to admit, when I listened/watched the Y teaser last weekend, I instantly lowered my expectations, mainly in part by all of the auto-tuned sinning I was witnessing. Surprisingly, though, the processing was kept to a minimum for a lot of this mini-album and I was left satisfied by their efforts this year.
Most of MBLAQ’s auto-tune reserve is stashed in their title track, Y, and the introduction song. Although Y sounds like a recycled Rain or 2PM song, it still has a pretty catchy beat, which, unfortunately, is beautifully spoiled by a severe dose of processing. It’s weird. Some members sound as if they’re buried much deeper in auto-tune than others. Particularly, Thunder and G.O.. I don’t understand why G.O. of all members, since he has a relatively strong vocal ability (anyone heard his cover of Stevie Wonder’s Lately?). All that aside, though, I still find myself enjoying this song. It’s catchy and I like the hook. I can’t help but think of 2PM’s ‘Again and Again’ from time to time as Y progresses. And Mir rapping – comical! Only because he’s such a character.
So the album started off on the right foot and I was completely relieved by the second track. One Better Day is probably my favorite song of the whole thing. Let’s just chat about those strings for a second. I love that they kept the strings in lower octaves through out the verses, because God knows I love my lower registers. As a cellist, I enjoy hearing low register instruments, which are very capable of reaching much higher places given the opportunity to do so, it’s just that violins are so over rated that who gives a fuck about the Bass and Voila, right? But this song appeases me on several levels. The beat and melodies are so on point and manage to keep the pace rolling from start to finish. Usually, strings are gathered only to snooze through songs. In this case, they 1.) keep up with the pace, and 2.) broaden the dynamics of this song. The processing on MBLAQ’s voices aren’t so in your face, either, which is a major plus. And speaking of, they sound absolutely amazing. They aren’t shouting or squealing or anything too dreadfully unbearable. One Better Day alone is one of their best songs by far in their musical career.
What U Want is another winner. It does sound vaguely familiar, though, but who the hell cares. The instrumentation is really nice. For a second, I thought I wasn’t going to like this song since it started off with a much jazzier sound (not that I hate jazz or anything), but it quickly unfolds into this catchy, laid back, easy listener. The chorus is really good. Korean pop has an affinity for repetition in it’s choruses, but this particular one works perfectly because it incorporates the swagger it carries from the verses and hook and transitions nicely from point A to point B. I could do without the chanting at the end, but other than that, I’ll be listening to this on a frequent basis for a while.
The final song is the obvious angsty ballad. Last Love, which has Rain written all over it, is dramatic and well produced. MBLAQ, which stands for Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality (wtF), can now say they live up to their name with this song because there is plenty of quality in this song. The vocals are strong and they definitely have the potential to take on much heavier songs. They take to the R&B style very well, which is good, because it means they’ve identified with a genre that is suitable for them and find comfortable working with.
I am a big fan of this mini album. It’s got character and a likability that I haven’t found in a K-pop manufactured boy band for a while. I had written this group off as crap, but they’ve risen from their disastrous debut single and flourished into 5 mini Rains, complete with muscles, sex appeal, and then some.