K-POP / KOREAN CULTURE / MUSIC VIDEOS / REVIEWS

[album review] Lee Seung Hwan’s Dreamizer – one of my favorites this year

Last week, the one and only Korean singer, songwriter and producer Lee Seung Hwan released his latest full length album, “Dreamizer“.  If you’re not familiar, here’s his history in a nutshell: this man debut in 1989, later created his own company (Dream Factory), sold over 10 million records, held over 1000 concerts and has collaborated with musicians from MC Sniper to the Outsider (you know, the rapper that can spit out 17 syllables in a second).  He started the ‘Hwantastic Project‘ last year in celebration of his 20th anniversary, where he had current artists cover and reinvent his past singles.  As a refresher, here’s JoKwon (2AM) and Whale (W&Whale) singing “Dunk Shoot“…

THIS WAS SO MY JAM WHEN IT RELEASED, Just FYI!  ( I like JoKwon’s hair here, by the way)

Anyway, Dreamizer.  It’s flippin’ fabulous.  I definitely think it’s one of the best album releases of 2010.  I’ll briefly touch on all the songs (all 13) and drench them with love because I’m really enjoying this album right now.  I can’t help myself.  This is my kind of music – quirky and fun.  This album makes you feel nice things.  It’s creative, emotional, and a breath of fresh air.

Now, I’m not 100% sure, but there may be a kdrama song up in here somewhere.  Don’t quote me on that, though.  If there isn’t, this album sure has an array of songs that would work perfectly for one.

So, Dreamizer opens with  “이별기술자/not sure what that translates to” – a head-bobbing, electro-pop song.  It captures Lee Seung Hwan’s charming personality and delivers it with lovely melodies weaving in and out that hardly tire the cutesy vibe of this song.  It’s a feel-good track that could quite possibly define the word ‘cozy’ by sound.

“이별기술자” segues into the title track, “Half of Half”.  It’s a ballad, and before you fast-forward to the following song, give it a good listen, because it is one heck of a song.  I think I had ‘A Moment’ when I heard it yesterday.  As in one of those ‘holy crap this is absolutely beautiful, crapcrapcrap’-moments.  What probably drew me in was the level of emotion Seung Hwan expresses throughout the verses and Especially in the chorus.  It’s quite touching.  I hardly get emotional with Kpop songs (of any kind), but this one really took me there.  Oh, and the man has pipes.

A/S” (song numero tres) picks up where the opening song left off, full of charm and indie-melodies.  It has a nice instrumentation.  This song kind of reminds me of something MIKA (pop singer from the UK) would sew into his own music.  It’s probably the chorus and those sexy trumpets.

And speaking of Mika, “Dear Son (featuring Heritage)“, which is another slow-roller, is very reminiscent of ‘Happy Ending’.  Just like ‘Happy Ending’, ‘Dear Son’ has a message to deliver and while it starts off slow, it builds up to an explosive ending, with a backup choir and everything.  When I said this album makes you feel nice things, this right here totally justifies my statement.  ‘Dear Son’ is filled with life and whimsy.  It WILL put a big fat smile on your face.

And if this album wasn’t whimsical enough, “I’m a Rockstar” adds a heavy dose of glitter, glam, sugar, spice and everything nice (yes.  I did just quote the Powerpuff Girls).  It’s one of my personal favorites off the entire album.  Unlike some of the previous tracks, which where much lighter and airy, this song has more of a hard-edge and marks the change in tone of the album.  That’s actually one aspect of Lee Seung Hwan’s thinking process in this album which I absolutely love – it has some-what of a structure similar to that of a novel.

Song number 6 “Solitary War” carries on the edge from the last song with a rocker beat and a busy sound.  The melodies remain clever and catchy, as they’ve been throughout this album since song number 1.

Reason” is a slow-tempo song, but you can definitely tell that Seung Hwan approached it from a classic rocker-point of view.  I hear elements that strongly remind me of a Queen ballad.  I want to say that it’s most likely the backup vocals and the guitar riffs.  And the ridiculously beautiful melodies!  If you sit through “Reason” form beginning to end, you will be treated not only with a pretty song, but with little nuances, like trickling sounds and a subtle orchestration.  I’m. In. Love right now.

And it transitions swimmingly into “Perfect Memories“.  This song is another slow-poke, but you just gotta love the string section here.  Seung Hwan’s vocals and the orchestration compliment each other rather nicely.  “My Fair Lady (feat. 서우)” has an even more dramatic string section, and then out of no where this lovely female voice appears and it just brings back all those cutesy feelings from the beginning.

And as in the beginning, we’re brought back to the sounds of trumpets, but since we’ve been taken to a distinct cuteness from the one Seung Hwan introduced us with, “Old Love” has a much more folk sound.  It’s very indie and very fun.  It’s one of those seaside songs.  I mean, you could totally listen to this at a beach.  It’s exotic and hypnotic, but somehow still cohesive with the rest of this album.  How do you do it, Lee Seung Hwan!?

And let me tell you, “wonderful day (feat. Park Shin Hye)” is still hypnotic, yet it reeks of Mika and Queen.  And I mean that in all the right ways, because I love those two.  It’s engaging and cheerful, something both Mika and Queen have mastered in their music.

The second-to-last-song, “The Woman of my Life“,  isn’t the strongest song on the album – meaning it’s my least favorite.  The structure and elements aren’t bad at all, but after so much quirkiness and whimsy, I wasn’t expecting it to be so, well, non-explosive.  I don’t hate it though, because it actually really delivers at the end.

And speaking of endings, the final track is amazing.  The way in which “개미혁명” opens is quite epic already, but I love that it sounds like an old school anthem.  It’s a march down Jollyville Road and what fascinates me most about this song is that it feels like an exit rather than an ending.  It’s free-spirited and triumphant.

I encourage everyone to welcome “Dreamizer” with open arms, because once you have, you’ll adore it to bits.  This is a fantastic album that definitely stands on it’s own as a great K-pop album.  It successfully blends all kinds of styles and ventures into places I had  never expected a k-pop album to go.  The playful way “Dreamizer” manages to act cute while remaining mature is one conflicting enigma that I’m more than happy to have encountered.

Sandara Heads are officially done serving their review-rating duties.  Another Kpop head may make a comeback in the future, I just have to find the right one.  Meanwhile, I’m introducing a letter rating-system.  I like the idea of raving with an abundance of ‘pluses’ and flunking the crap outta something with a big fat ‘F’.  Nice, huh.  Anyway, I’ve been pretty busy, but I promise I’ll pick up the slack very soon!  Pinky promise!

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3 thoughts on “[album review] Lee Seung Hwan’s Dreamizer – one of my favorites this year

  1. Wow I REALLY LOVE 이별기술자, I didn’t even know about him until you mentioned him. You have a knack for finding these really awesome artists.

    • jenpoo.com releases downloads of new albums when they release in Korea, even the lesser-known artists, so that’s one way I find out about these kinds of musicians. Lee Seung Hwan isn’t even unknown, he’s actually pretty popular in South Korea, but his sound is just a tad ‘old’ for the teen-Kpop addicts.

      I’m glad you like his music! :D

  2. Okay, I’m happy now :)I’ve run into someone who actually is aware of this hardworking musician.
    I’m not stretching it when I’m telling you that I listen to this magical project straight through EVERY day. It’s obnoxiously feel-good material, but not feel-good as in plastic, mechanic, and sugary. Each track has such a pure, well-rooted, compelling substance that is executed in an unreal way.. I can tell that music really seeps out of LSH’s pores. And as you said in your (fantastic) review, cohesion is so prominent. Every paint stroke and shade in this piece of art skillfully contributes to the painting as a whole, and it all goes together well while preserving contrast and fun. There’s a palette-full of colors and styles that really gives the alum endurance and individuality. But this is simply album-wise… i could write paragraphs on every individual track.
    Yes, I adore Mika and Queen to pieces. But sometimes, when they get a bit too glittery and glammy, Lee Seung Hwan humbly serenades me with his heartfelt, fun-filled symphonies. He’s my favorite out of all of them.
    Have you smelled out his older stuff?? Its insanely hard to find… but a good chunk of it is worth your time.
    And please, please, please examine his live performances. He’s simply amazing.

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