When Block B hit the scene, Korean hip-hop in the major male idol sphere was dominated by Big Bang and its sub-unit activities, and no one else. Dalmatian tried their stab at this section and began a following with their cute and happy demeanor. Basically, Dalmatian is the group of boys next door who can rap, sing and dance. Block B, with their debut single set, “Do U Wanna Be?”, and their debut single “그대로 멈춰라!”, set out to bring a somewhat grittier street style of rap and singing, thanks to Zico, the group’s leader, and Park Hyung, both of which made their names in the underground hip-hop. (Note: the fact that S. Korea has an underground hip-hop scene is a surprise, to say the least.) Block B, gained a considerable following, causing pre-orders of their first mini-album, and retail copies of, ‘New Kids on the Block‘, to sell out. With hype like this, and the precedent they established, did Block B become a blockbuster with this new set?
Several months ago, Cho PD, the Korean hip-hop icon, announced he had taken a group of guys – helmed by U-Kwon (dancer), Tae-il (main vocalist), P.O. (sub-rapper), Jaehyo (sub-vocalist), B-Bomb (dancer), and the aforementioned rappers – under his wing and trained to write music. This is unique because not only are idol groups trained specifically to become performers, but rookie groups are not writers of their own music or in control of any of it. (f(x), I’m looking at you.)
Following their single set’s steps, NKotB has three very similar songs; a swagger rap song (“Halo”), an upbeat one (“가서 전해”), and a one for the ladies (“U Hoo Hoo”). What becomes instantly apparent is that the production style is more appropriate for the summer, with beats and vocal/rap segments that would fit in well at an outdoor party.
The opener, “Halo”, like its sister track, is all about the personality. It makes me want to either be jealous of them or want to be like them. (Not with those dreads, I don’t, Zico!) This is one of those songs that benefited from the hand-clapping gimmick because it would have taken itself too seriously. Unlike “Wanna B”, this one has a slightly subdued approach to production, which is a better fit for self-boasting rap songs. The bridge is well sung by Tae-il, one of his best, too. It does suffer from unoriginal writing, mainly the “yeah yeah yeahs”. And the song would have been great had it not been for the dance break. Only two in the group can dance and the rest cannot. The dance break is not necessary here or in Block B. This segment detracts from the flow of an already good track.
The single, “가서 전해”, is a desperate attempt to get the noona-lover/cute label. The track is broken up into two distinct segments, rap and vocal, that don’t quite connect or transition well from one to another. The tempo isn’t consistent and the overall effect feels like two unfinished songs that were glued together. The song redeems itself at the middle eight section. P.O. raps along a vocal background of “yeah yeah yeahs” (noticing a trend anyone?), which works really well in building up to the climax, only to be derailed by the lackluster bridge. Production aside, this track felt like something Dalmatian would record. It reminded me of “Lover Cop”, with the electronic style, a happy demeanor, and the shouting at the end of both songs. Overall, “가서 전해” is a mess of a song with one good segment.
Rappers doing love songs can be a tricky thing. They are not trained singers, so they benefit from having at least one in the song that can. Also, the rappers themselves have to keep their own persona while rapping sweet nothings into the mic. The best example of this is Big Bang’s “Forever With You” featuring Park Bom. GD & TOP keep all the elements that make them who they are and still bring the manly romanticism to the song. Additionally, Park Bom is the ideal singer because she sings well enough to back up the feeling without over imposing.
Block B achieved this with their first love song, “나만 이런거야?”, eliminating the two dancers and sub-vocalist altogether. The result is a refined song, though a bit loud. Its counterpart, “U Hoo Hoo”, however, falls flat on its face. This time around, this is a singer-centric song and every singer is auto-tuned to horrible effect. The song is over-produced, with too many effects all over the place. There is nothing redeemable from this song, and could have been cut from the mini altogether.
I was a huge fan of ‘Do U Wanna B?‘ They brought the swag I was missing from Big Bang and 2NE1 at the time of its release, and they were different enough from Dalmatian to keep my attention. ‘New Kids on the Block‘ builds on the template of DUWB, but doesn’t fully realize their potential. There is too much sound and effects in the last two of the new set. “Halo” achieves its intended purpose to great results, making for a fantastic listen, as well the only reason to give “New Kids on the Block” a listen. Though skeptic, I’m still a fan of Block B.
Hi! My name is Xtian, and I’m a total pop music whore. I’m from NYC and can be seen dancing in the streets with headphones permanently glued to my ears. I may not have had a musical background, but I’m a lover of all things music, so I’m excited to be bringing a new voice to the McRoth’s funhouse. Y’all can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, follow me on twitter, where I do most of my social media-ing, @drowningn00b. See y’all lataz!