KOREAN CULTURE / REVIEWS

[Review] FT Island’s Return

The boys of FT Island have been pretty busy recently. Their new Japanese album Five Treasure Island has been tearing up the charts and setting records along the way. Keeping up with the Japanese promotions, Lead singer, Lee Hong Ki, is staring in the Japanese drama Muscle Girl. And as if that wasn’t enough the band provided “Haruka,” the drama’s theme song.

Somewhere in the middle of all that they have found time to squeeze in a round of Korean promotions with their new mini album aptly titled Return. In the past, FT Island has struggled to find balance between their rock style of music and their idol band image and now with pop rock band CNBLUE firmly entrenched in the K-pop scene staying relevant might be harder than ever.

photo credit: Minhwanism

Rising to the challenge, the album starts things off with “Hello Hello.” Deceptively, the song begins with a standard FT Island hard-hitting chorus but almost instantly pulls back and acoustic guitar off-beats take over. Before anyone gets too used to that, the rest of the band cuts in and bassist, Jaejin, raps a few lines before the song dives back into the dramatic chorus. That’s where the strength of this song is: the transitions. Trying to mix the folk elements of the verses with the emotional rock chorus is a train wreck waiting to happen but FT Island pulls it off quite nicely.

Another thing the band has struggled with is blending the voices of all three vocalists. Hong Ki’s voice is heavy which contrasts with Jaejin’s airy tone and Seunghyun, the newest member, lacks history and experience with the band. However, since the days of their Cross & Change promotions that particular barrier seems to have dissipated and the awkward, unsure trade-offs are a thing of the past. The transitions between Seunghyun and Hong Ki in the second verse are particularly well executed and show extreme improvement.

It’s also worth noting that this song boasts a tempo of 200 BPM. Why? Because that is really fast. Instead of sounding manic and out of control, though, the drilling off-beats and simple melody keep everything (and everyone) in check.

The middle eight marks a dark spot in the song as it borrows heavily from FT Island’s label mate CNBLUE. Hong Ki takes a moment to indulge in Yonghwa’s signature chant singing with nonsensical “la la las” and “ha ha has”. Unfortunately, the CNBLUE influences don’t stop there and continue throughout the rest of the album.

After “Hello Hello” the album cools down with “Oh” and not the Girls’ Generation variety. If nothing else, this song is an experiment in harmonizing Jaejin with Hong Ki because hey, if CNBLUE can do it so can they. To pull this off, Jaejin delivers a smooth, pleasant vocal and for his part, Hong Ki tones down his usual effervescence to match. Although they are not Yonghwa and Jonghyun this duet shows improvement and limited success. The two sing with, around and next to each other without one taking the spotlight off the other.

Just in case anyone was getting lost in the CNBLUE references, FT Island reminds us that they can still rock with the next track, “I’m Going to Have You.” Like the title suggests, it’s an intense, slightly creepy number with cutting guitar chords, pounding bass lines and Hong Ki back with a vengeance. Songs like this allow FT Island to remain believable as a rock band while they waver to the pop side of things. It almost sounds like this song belongs on their recent Japanese album Five Treasure Island but alas, it’s here instead.

photo credit: Minhwanism

Now, don’t get too comfortable with that sound because as I warned, CNBLUE quickly returns to haunt the album with the next track, “I Confess.” With a relaxed melody, minimalist instrumentation and unassuming vocal, it’s nothing more than FT Island’s version of their label mate’s “Love Light.” It isn’t all bad, as both Minhwan and Jonghun step out of the background to lend their voices to the track, but it still lacks any style or innovation whatsoever. Sure, the song is pretty enough, but it is a bit irksome that where a beautiful, heartbreaking FT Island ballad should be we get yet another CNBLUE knockoff.

Return does end on a bit of a high note with “Sunshine Girl.” This song reestablishes an inkling of originality by taking an unexpected turn for the pop punk. It greets listeners with a guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on, say, Blink 182’s album Enema of State. What is glaringly un-punk, however, are the lyrics. Because this is K-pop, FT Island can hardly sing about destruction or general agitation with right-wing causes. Instead the lyrics drill “you are beautiful, you are wonderful,” into our heads repeatedly and teach us how to count to four. All aboard the self-esteem express. The song itself is very cool but like I said, this is K-pop and FT Island is just an idol band so we must be placated with Hong Ki belting out another happy-go-lucky love song.

Like “Hello Hello” this album runs at 200 BPM and changes direction every few seconds. Sure, it’s missing the dramatic string sections from albums past but it also lacks the vocal processing other pop rock bands in K-pop are experiencing these days, so all things in balance. If anything, it could have done without the blatant CNBLUE gimmicks because they really weren’t necessary. It’s getting old with CNBLUE and I didn’t need it with FT Island.

As a whole this album won’t reduce you to tears or encourage any unlawful destruction of property because FT Island is now more commercial than ever before. For fear of being brushed to the side by the glitz and glamor of the top Korean idols they have reserved their heavy rock anthems and swooping ballads for their new Japanese material. It’s proven that CNBLUE’s brand of watered down rock sells in Korea and Return emulates that almost exactly. As such, there is nothing on the album that stands out as bad, per se, but there is also very little that stands out as new or exciting.

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22 thoughts on “[Review] FT Island’s Return

  1. Hey, may be some one can feel that this album is not good but for us, Primadonnas we really love “Returns” and I have to say that “I confess” is the only song that our leader – Choi JongHoon compose for us and we really really love this songs.

    Ok, this review make us feels hurt. I will never go to this wen site again. LOL.

    We will always love and support FT Island.

  2. and one more thing I have to say is that “PLEASE STOP COMPARE FT ISLAND WITH CN BLUE” . You can not compare like this.

    Sorry but I hate the writer of this review.

  3. If this web have the dislike button, I will click on this dislike button 1million times.

    The writer should shut up.

  4. Hey, why can you write our “Return” like this? Why can you say about CNBlue when you are saying abour FTIsland. Pls stop comparing FT Island and CN Blue if you don’t know clearly about them. FT Island is FT Isand and CN Blue is CN Blue. Too stupid to compare them, do you understand me?
    How about “Return”… I believe athough how many I say about it, you still can’t understand. And, I know, my FT Island won’t care about this review. So, the last thing I want to say is you are a person who don’t know what the music is. If you don’t understand, pls shut up. Don’t make yourself ugly and foolish like this. I hate you and I hate this post.
    Sorry for my English skill, if I was good in it, I’m sure you have to listen to more than ever.
    p.s: ah, I have cried whenever I hear “I confess” and I smile when I hear other songs.

  5. Well i’m really getting mad when i read this in the translation this morning but if there’s someone i should leave a comment, it’s the writer of this article, not the translator. That’s why i tried to looking for this. At first i thought i would ignore it, but since i’m a prim, i just can’t. So there’s some words i want to say with you and i hope you (the writer) could spend a little time to read it:
    First, the first thing i feel when i’m reading this article is you are not writing this with the position of a commentator, but a FTIsland’s anti fan, and some more, is CN Blue’s fan. I don’t know if my feeling’s right or not, but it’s just mine
    From this, actually we don’t have to care about this stupid review of you, ’cause your writing means nothing and it can’t reglect the fact about FT Island. But all we want to do, is just make u understand.
    I believe with my ability and knowledge, i can totally write an article just like yours to say just good things about FT Island and bad things about CN Blue, about how good FTI are, how do they deserve with their succeed, and that they’re a real band to me, not just an idol group. On the other hand, I can compare them with CNB, I can say CNB’s succeed is just luck and that they’re not talented at all (That’s not exactly what you said in your writing, but I feel like you really mean it). Yes, I can totally write one just like that and post it anywhere I can (because they’re exactly what I think about the 2 groups) but I didn’t. Why? Because all of it are just my belief, my thought nothing else. No one proove it, no one checked them, gather they’re the truth or not. And because of that, it’s not fair with CNB’s fans if I did it for real. It’s just my thought, and I can think about it, I don’t have the right to show it to everyone and make them angry like what you’re doing right now. For real, I hate CNB, but I can’t force everyone to follow me. I could do it if I were an expert, a real commentator, but I don’t think you’re, because no expert would comment like what you did above.
    So what I want to say, is that isn’t right or wrong when you wrote this, I just say that is not even FAIR. Every group has fans, and anti fans, I accept that. But you named your article “REVIEW”, and what you did is just compare FTI with CNB, everything and posted it and make us angry. Really, is that your aim for all of this?? And we don’t want our idols to be compared like that. It’s not a review, at all. Although I love FTIsland, but if you read carefully, I’m writing this comment very fair.
    Once you read this, I hope you would think about what you did over again, because I think Prims deserve an apologize from you.
    P/s: I’m a foreigner, and I wrote this comment very fast so there’s surely a lot of mistakes, but I still hope that you can understand. Thanks.

  6. Aha, you really know how to make people angry. I can see “CN Blue” in every paragraph while this review is for FT Island. You know, if someone take a fast look at this passage, he or she may think this is about both FT and CN. I don’t want to say anything more because there’s no excuse for me to comment about if this is FT’s music or CN’s music.

  7. DON’T COMPARE FT wt CN !!! DON”T DO IT. DON”T SAY ANYTHING IF U DON’T KNOW ABT FT. my favorite song is I CONFeSS, Its composed by LEADER CHOI JONG HUN, he composed for us
    you know what? Jong Hun compose not only I CONFESS but also Moonlight Angel, I want, Friend…and recently, Let It Go (new sigle in Jap, will release on 27 July)
    I’m so proud of him and others

  8. OMG so mạnhmồm :)))))))))) Stop those fucking things before i get mad.
    Hey boy, how much do know FT ISLAND? U just can compare stupidly without thinking or knowing any thing muahahaha.

    FT ISLAND is definitely TREASURE, n CN Blue? Oh hoho i dont know LOL
    More over, FT ISLAND is CN Blue’s sunbae, so its easily to understand that FT ISLAND is BETTER ( if i dont want to say “the BEST” LOL)

    Okay this’s just a nonsensical review, its NOT worth thinking ’bout, my girls .

  9. U wrote this unfairly for sure. Oh whatever, i shd have ignored it instead of reading it n getting mad like this.

    WHAT THE FUCK did u mean by writing “Seunghyun, the newest member, lacks history and experience with the band.” SeungHyun had been a trainie of FNC so far n he has been joining FT ISLAND for more than 2 years. Therefore, how could u write so bravely like that? LOL how much do u know ’bout FT ISLAND’s SONG SEUNGHYUN? Any one saying that SeungHyun lacks of skills or has weak voice is over-STUPID person LOL

    And one more thing i need to remind u. Listen up! I dont know what kind of band CN Blue is and truely i dont ever need to know, but FT ISLAND is TRUELY a COSMO ROCK BAND, not an idol group. Is there any idol groups who dont know how to dance? LOL

    Seeing how u comment ’bout the “I confess” song, LOL do u know that our leader composed it esp. for PRIMADONNA? Please respect it as u r a thoughtful person. Okay if u said that “It isn’t all bad, as both Minhwan and Jonghun step out of the background to lend their voices to the track, but it still lacks any style or innovation whatsoever.” , look back at CN Blue’s LOVE GIRL MV. It is rock? Is it a new style of innovation? Is it something new? Haha its just a mediocre song with mediocre melody, lyrics n so on. Nothing special, nothing ROCK. It’s even worse than I CONFESS for sure LOL

    “Theres no stupid questions, just stupid people”. Remember this quote, it’s for u, a stupid person with nonsensical sentences n various imagination. :))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  10. How much do you know about FT that you said so?
    What do you know about FT ‘s style thay are following?
    Why are you comparing FT to CN?
    Their music ‘s style are totally different.
    Moreover, FT never said that they only follow rock.
    They are trying with many different styles to find the one that really fits them.
    You said that FT’s ” I confess” same CNBLUE’s ” love light” but it was composed by our leader-Choi Jong Hun for Prims.
    Almost Prims cry when they listen to “I confess”. And it’s a really meaningful song to Prims.
    But you said that it wasn’t worth listening to.
    That makes me feel very uncomfortable.
    I don’t know how many times you listen to RETURN.
    But that’s so wrong of you to say so.
    What do you think if your idol is compared to another band?
    You should think carefully before talking about someone’s else idol who you don’t know much about them.
    Whatever you say, with Prims, FT is always no1.
    And even if you is a anti-fan and you hate FT, you should be careful of what you say.
    I just want to say: Ilove FT and I don’t want somebody talking nonsense about them.

  11. Eeeeek! The responses here are quite scary, but I expected nothing less. I’m like a hardcore Primadonna, but I’m not offended, and I sorta agree. Don’t you start with “oh I’m a true Primadonna because I like everything they do.” I’m still a Primadonna if I don’t like a song or an album, and I hope for them to do better and pick themselves up if they didn’t do as well, isn’t that what being a supportive fan is? Not blindly following their every move? I think you guys need to understand that this is a review, an opinion, and the writer isn’t attacking FT Island with hate, just criticism. It’s not personal, it’s music. And from what I’ve read, it seems like the writer LIKES FT Island, but was disappointed with THIS ALBUM due to the more apparent mainstream influences of CN Blue. The writer is also not saying whether one band is better than the other, but the comparison is relevant since they’re both from the same company and clearly FNC is trying to up FTI’s sliding popularity by emulating CN Blue’s success. Super Frickin’ Sad, I know, but it’s showbiz. :(

    I actually did like this album, not as much as, say, my forever love for Cross & Change or Cheerful Sensibility, but I liked it despite the more pop influences (but I like CN Blue too, heh). For me, FTI had always been a favorite because, even though I like pop (and FTI is a pop-rockish band, yeah?), FTI could always do things that were heavier and more heart-wrenching. There are those songs that immediately get stuck in your head for 2 weeks, but after that you’re positively sick of it. But then there are those songs that you warm up to slowly, but once you get there, you never get tired of it, ever. It may not be that catchy tune, but it’s hits that emotional spot, it speaks even when you don’t understand the lyrics, and boy is it prettttty sounding. That’s what FTI does for me anyways. I think FTI didn’t do that with this album; they opted for the former rather than the latter, which is why it probably won’t be as memorable…..but it is mighty catchy and fun. But with what FTI is perfectly capable of doing, which is something more substantial, I’ve come to expect it, so naturally, I was a little disappointed. Some people might have loved their new pop style (and their pop is still far from other idol pop, relatively speaking), but this is just my opinion. Anyways, here’s to hoping for the next album. May we cry rivers and drown in Hong-ki’s voice. Cute songs are nice too, if done right…(who else loved “Angel and the Woodsman” because I can’t find enough love for that song, hmph.)

    Thanks for the review! :)

    • I am also a primadonna and I agree with you Tam…jeezzz… other people should calm down. This is only a review and it wasn’t bashing FT Island. As a matter of fact, it was even praising FT Island for its past albums and achievements. It just so happen that their new album did not meet up to the writer’s standards. But if you read carefully, it wasn’t mean or offensive at all. And we all know that FT Island and CN Blue are friends so even if others compare them, we know that it is only for a friendly competition because both have their unique charms and they are equally talented and good looking.

  12. Gosh, there seems to be so much hate here. I randomly stumbled upon this review and while I was kinda upset with the review, (the writer seems to hate both FTI and CNB – if you read the article carefully, the writer was not praising CNB either) I was more surprised with the responses. Never had an encounter with Primadonnas and I hope I never will. You guys are scary.

    • I seem to hate both FT Island and CNBLUE? Actually, I like both of them very much. You can like something and be critical of it at the same time. Most of what is say is positive and comparisons aren’t insults.

      • so sorry for that lolpenny… i guess they just misunderstood your review. but actually i like it… if I were FT Island and CN Blue, I’ll take it as a constructive criticism, which will eventually help them hone their craft. Love, Love, Love FT Island and CN Blue… if it were not for them, I would not have dare venture into Kpop. Thanks for the post!

  13. FT Island is FT Island and CNBLUE is CNBLUE. Yes, that’s right. I like them both, actually. I’m being objective here.
    But I agree with the reviewer that this is just not their best album. I can feel the urge to steal CNBLUE’s spotlight in Kpop recently. The tracks are good enough. Although Sunshine Girl is astounding, but I can say that they sort of losing their taste. There is just something missing in this album.
    Their Japanese tracks are way way way way better than this.

  14. I came here after reading comments on Sunny Hill’s new album…and I’m shocked at these comments….
    Being a fan of FT Island myself, a HARDCORE fan…I’m surprised to say I actually agree with most of what he’s saying in here.
    The style…is so….not them.
    And I must apologise for my fellow fans here. I guess some just can’t really take all the criticism which, as harsh at it may be, is never actually insulting.
    Some need to learn to be more respectful. I hate seeing people swearing and cursing at this author, because they actually do have a valid point.

  15. The writer’s made some valid points here however…
    must there be so many comparisons between FTI and CNB? It’s making the review seem more like a comparative essay like: FTI vs CNB @_@ or something. There’s bound to be some overlap since they are under the same label.

    • wow thanks for commenting.
      the reason it seems like a drawn out comparison between the album and what cnblue were doing at the time is because it is. cnblue was very popular at the time and it made sense for ft island to emulate that to an extent. that is what i wanted to discuss in the review and wow i didn’t expect people to react like this.

      • To be honest, I was very surprised by the amount of ‘cussing out’ you received (far above) as well. XD… It seemed rather uncalled for.
        And thanks for the explanation, it allowed me to see your view more I guess. I didn’t know that Cnblue was very popular during that time so I was a bit iffy that your review appeared to be a drawn out comparison between the two bands instead of a review about the mini-album.

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