written by: Drowningn00b
The human voice is a varied tool. It can beat box, scat, rap, chant, and yodel. It can make you happy, sad, angry, romantic, think or sleepy. I am a fan of group harmonies, whether that comes in the form of vocal trios, choirs, barbershop quintets or duets. The interplay between the voices, how the different ranges combine to make something that wasn’t there before, amazes me. Sweet Sorrow triggered this when they released “The First Date” at the end of last year.
Two more tracks later, I was ready for a full release, and “Viva” is the result of the wait.
“Viva” is an expansion of where “The First Date” started; a track of charm and playfulness, with a touch of romance throughout. The title track takes that approach and makes it bigger, adding a big band element with horns and drums. The instrumentation of “Viva” is essentially the same throughout the record, with Kim Young Woo’s piano playing at its base and various other accompaniments for variety. “Will Sing” has Lucid Fall on acoustic guitar, while the “The First Date” uses firecracker and similar sound effects for its climax.
But albums do different things to keep the momentum going, and “Adventurer” has the strangest implementation of an electronic break I’ve ever heard. It starts simple enough, but then morphs into a garbled mess of echoes, far away vocals and distorted bass harmonies, and then disappears as abruptly as it appeared. The effect doesn’t appear again, and the distortion doesn’t infect other aspects of the song either. The electronics was done better in “Okay, Goodbye”, so there was no need for this throw away segment. The break in “Adventurer” is odd and out of place, leaving the track ruined because you’re wondering where that come from, and why.
But there is more than enough to make up for the bad in “Viva”. In the aforementioned “Okay, Goodbye,” Sweet Sorrow take a page from the Goldfrapp-electronica playbook to make a soothing ballad that doesn’t go over the top. A vocal high point with more impact would not be out of place, but it would have ruined the overall emotion of the song, so I’m glad it wasn’t there.
Only one track is truly acapella, “Good Night,” which, for a quartet billed as an acapella group, is curious to note. “Good Night” is a nice way to close out the album, putting the spotlight on the guys and the genuine talent behind their charismatic group identity, but their best track on “Viva” is “나랑 같이 해줄래(Be With Me)”, a ballad for lovers that’s perfect not only because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but for any romantic occasion. Unlike other love songs that thrive on heavy “romantic” production (like dramatic strings), “Be With Me” relies on a smooth jazz backing that’s light and a rhythm that begs for a slow dance. The harmonies are top notch, sweet and dynamic, and the vocalizations at the end bring the track to a playful ending. “Be With Me” is perfect, the ideal combination of vocals, instrumentation and group persona coming together for an unbelievable 5 minutes. (AUDIO: “Be With Me”)
“The First Date” MV
Sweet Sorrow’s name is a misnomer because everything I know about them sits contrary to that name. They make parodies of current k-pop hits (including an over the top, deeply-voiced parody of Girl’s Generation’s “Hoot”), have a genuine aegyo affect, and their radio stint could rival Super Junior‘s Heechul’s in more ways than one.
“Viva” continues that contradiction, with material that can be sad, but its overall message is to be happy and in the moment. The lead single, “나랑 같이 해줄래 (Be With Me)” and the first single bring that to the forefront, while the rest of the of the record builds on that beautifully. There are missteps and pacing issues – “Adventurer” and “Will Sing” among them – but “Viva” is an amazing return to form for these guys not to be missed.
Maybe the name is a joke, an inside conspiracy to hook us in. Conspiracy theorists/trolls, commence!
support the artist, buy the music: YesAsia