[Review][Album] CN Blue – “Ear Fun”

written by: drowningn00b

Rock in the idol megasphere isn’t rock in its most common sense. It’s more akin to the earliest years of The Beatles; a group of guys that look like pop idols and sing well together that just happen to play instruments. The instrument playing isn’t technical or intricate. An idol’s only purpose is to provide the sound a producer would create digitally. Pop-rock, as it is commonly referred to, leans heavily on pop tricks to gain popularity, with the rock elements existing as an afterthought. CN Blue’s “Ear Fun” mini finally hit stores recently, and it’s a mixed bag. It tries to make a more equal balance between these elements, but CN Blue’s pop sensibilities and their idol status give “Ear Fun” a promising, and at the same time distressing outlook on their future as legit pop artists and musicians. (maybe not quite like The Beatles.)

To get the unpleasantness out of the way, let’s talk about the lead single, “Hey You”. In a nutshell, the song is not good.

We get it, CN Blue, “I’m A Loner” was your most successful song to date, but get over it! “Hey You” doesn’t copy that old one; “Love” already did that. What “Hey You” does to “I’m A Loner” is take a nail-spiked bat and beat a dead horse to a bloody pulp. The pieces within “Hey You” don’t do anything new to the template that “Love” didn’t already try to do. Not only is the song bad, but it’s quite honestly disrespectful. CN Blue has talent beyond their looks and “I’m A Loner”, but FNC purposefully keeps them stuck in a perpetual money-making motion machine year after year. If you have it on any music device, delete it now. Leave it on YouTube to rot and die. Watch it if you must, but I’d advise against it; just go back to their original.

Fortunately, “Ear Fun” is not total shit, thank goodness. When news hit the interwebs that Yong Hwa would have a hand in the writing and composition of the mini, my interest went up. Writing “Bangmal Song” may have been a one-off, so could he pull off the heftier scale of an EP? Answer: a resounding yes.

“First Step” Review (2011) | “Blue Love” Review (2010) | “Bluetory” Review (2010)

Still in Love”, as a teaser single, was a good choice to highlight (review here). I just wish it was the only single to the mini. If FNC wanted a poppy and fast tempo single, “Rock n’ Roll” would have made a better choice. It’s a silly song and it has a rock edge that non-fans don’t know CN Blue had. As a guitarist, Jong Hyun has the chops to go somewhere, though he gets the same treatment Kim Jung Mo of TRAX does from SM Entertainment. CN Blue could even take miss A’s “sentimental” idols claim and make it work one better. “Dream Boy” is short and sweet, with a soft exterior and crunchy inside that’s ideal for pop-rock tracks of the melancholy nature. Yong Hwa’s sweet vocals, alongside Jong Hyun’s guitar, work well together. Why FNC hasn’t put the focus on that pairing and fostered the talent therein is maddening.

Ultimately, “Ear Fun” is lopsided. “Hey You” is a slap in the face to CN Blue fans, and the last two tracks (“Run” and “In My Head”) try at something new and interesting, but fall short of that goal. “Still in Love” is the best song on this mini, with “Dream Boy” right behind it. “Rock n’ Roll” ultimately serves as Jong Hyun’s demo tape for his guitar skills and a silly track that would’ve done CN Blue better in the long run. CN Blue needs to experiment outside their established sound and get good at it. It sounds stupid for me to have to say that, considering this is CN Blue’s seventh official release.


23 thoughts on “[Review][Album] CN Blue – “Ear Fun”

  1. Recently there was an article that stated Yonghwa wanted to change their style but their company pretty much sat him down and said, “That’s cute, but you should really just listen to us.”

    I personally would love to see them branch out in the Korean Market. Much like Girl’s Generation, I prefer the work on their Japanese albums more than their Korean albums. I still think they’re talented, but yet again, Korean agencies are more for locking their idols in place as opposed to letting them, ya know, make MUSIC.

    • I liked this style for their debut and their second mini album, but they haven’t seem to have grown past that. Disappointing work, to be honest, but they’re talented enough that they could definitely improve.

      • I think they have grown out past their debut, but not in Korea. If you research more, you’ll see how much they improve musically, however its not just given much attention. I suggest you try their Japanese album and listen more to their self composed songs and you will see what I mean..

    • Wow. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. That’s upsetting to hear that the business of the industry trumps artistic aspirations. Very disappointing to hear that.

  2. i just read somewhere that Mr. Han, FNC ‘s CEO will give a chance for CNBLUE to make their album with just their own composition songs, maybe after 2-3 months after this mini,, i wanna hear Jonghyun’s songs too, so that their album will have various color, ,

  3. Disappointing. As an early fan and discovered them not long after their debut, I found that this mini album (esp the title track) feels like just to remind the public that CNBLUE is still in the business after their long journey in Japan. I honestly prefer them to stay longer in Japan rather than coming back to Korea with this kind of mini.

  4. As a long time supporter of CNBLUE, I agree with your assessment on Hey You. A number of us threw a fit when we heard that the same composer would be writing the Korean title track again (we dubbed it Loner v4), especially when both Yong Hwa and Jong Hyun have been writing/composing all their songs in Japan since 2010. They’ve been involved in at least 80% of their Japanese and Korean releases – something like 35+ songs since their debut.

    CNBLUE admitted that they were upset when they heard that they were to keep their old style for this album (Yoo Hee Yeol Sketchbook interview) and thankfully their CEO has promised that this would be the last time. Yong Hwa managed to negotiate 2-3 months off after these promotions to focus on re-defining their musical direction.

    I’m curious, have you listened to any of their recent Japanese releases? Would like to know what you think of them as I believe that their Japanese releases show the true musical progression of this band in terms of experimentation and increasing maturity (since it IS written by them). Even the non-title songs are great, like Yong Hwa’s sarcastic Mr KIA and ethereal Feelings, and Jong Hyun’s breath-taking Illusion, Rain of Blessing and head-banging Get Away.

    Having watched them live in concert in LA, there is just something extra enrapturing about their performances when they play their own self-composed songs – so much more raw, organic and honest as they are completely one with their music. They are not mere performers, but musicians expressing their art.

    • just my thoughts exactly…..i was wondering if the author here gets to hear other songs other than their Korean albums cos I personally can see how the boys evolve….they have gone a long way since their debut . That’s why I am frustrated when they say the boys have not improve….one must try to hear their self composed songs so they will know.

  5. I wasn’t really disappointed with this album cos I was expecting FNC to stick to its formula when its come to Korean “idol laden” music industry. They are playing it safe. I think also it’s not that really a slap to most fans as we also get to hear Yonghwa’s compositions.

    What saddens me is the fact that they are restricted artistically in Korea….

    I disagree with you about In My Head….its a great song….one that proven its worth in Japan….if your aware of it.Also, hearing all their self composed songs along the years shows how much the boys improve and how much they experimented on their songs.

  6. As mentioned above, we’ve already known about the title song, so it was not much disappointing. I was more interested in and curious about Yonghwa’s song, Still in love, and i was right, after all, the biggest addictive song of this album is still “Still in love”. By the way, i think still in love’s being released before the title track was because of boices'(our) reactions to hearing KDH song.. I know FNC is not so sensitive about fans, but nevertheless i want to think that way :))

    But the thing that really bothers me is, most people still and still cannot understand the difference between the words “idol” and “band” and continue thinking them as a pop idol. And most people just listen the title songs and don’t pay much attention to the other songs in the album… That’s why Yonghwa is emphasizing “own composition” phrase everywhere.. because he knowt it is a need. I really don’t like and don’t listen Japanese usually, but after months passed, still loving their Japanese songs !

    Always seeing the phrase “the color of CNBLUE”. In my opinion, “In My Head” is the color of CNBLUE…”Get Away” is the color of CNBLUE…and more.. Those songs and performances show the real color and capacity and improvement of CNBLUE. So anyone should take these into consideration before commenting… My words are not for you, but for everyone.. Thanks.

  7. I agree. As a CNBLUE’s fan since the very beginning, I was upset. ‘Hey You’ sounds so mediocre compared to their Japan released tracks. Money makes people (re: FNC Music’s side) put aside the members’ passion. This album makes people keep having bad prejudice about them as a band. It’s such a waste. Jeez, I was upset and suddenly I lost my appetite to listen to them if the agency’s still on the way :(

  8. Wow! Everyone has an opinion on CN Blue! Had I known this, I would’ve written more reviews on idols :P Just kidding.
    Thanks everyone for reading and your comments. Lively debate is a good sign of an active readership, so I’m thankful for that. Two points, though.

    1. I did read about FNC allowing the group to expand their sound in Korea. It sounds promising considering their Japanese material (which, for the record, I have heard, but more on this later). However, that news doesn’t discount the quality of “Ear Fun”. I can’t judge someone’s current finished project to something that hasn’t been created yet. So there’s that.

    2. Not sure if you guys know this, but this isn’t a J-pop blog, or “Koreans in Japan” blog, but a Koreans in k-pop blog. I understand that CN Blue has much better material in Japan than they do in Korea. That argument can be made of almost every single k-pop artist that leaves their mother country. For analysis on CN Blue’s Japanese versus Korean material, you are gonna have to look elsewhere for that, or join the team and write it up (http://mcrothsresidence.com/join-the-team/)! If I was going to add in their Japanese material, that would’ve been its own post altogether. My focus when it comes to k-pop is to look at the Korean discography and any patterns therein. Frankly, CN Blue hasn’t grown in that regard.

    Keep on commenting!

    • yup, the only one problem for cnblue in kpop just their title songs…. i mean if they want people recognize them as musician in kpop industry.. they need make their own title song… don’t care about sales and win in music show… (but if they win or good in sales is better), the different between cnblue and other kpop idols music in Japan (maybe like Bigbang) is their record in Japan was made by them, i mean the songs in their singles. about record in this later because they just major debut in japan in 2011 before that they are in indie label not so many people in japan recognize them,, their Fanboy in japan is growing up bit by bit also in my country. so sorry if we are cnblue’s fans always make a comparison between their japan material with korean material because we are sad. (this problem maybe almost the same as ftisland), sorry for my bad english :)

    • Thanks for responding. Just to clarify, I’m not here to defend the album or the title song… oh no, I agree with you that I believe the band can do way better than that. I’m actually glad you shredded Hey You to pieces because, frankly, FNC needs to know that they can’t get away with such laziness and it’s detrimental to CNBLUE’s reputation in Korea. I really hope this is the last we’re seeing of Loner regurgitations.

      It’s a pity you’re not taking into account CNBLUE’s full body of work regardless of country as that would be a more accurate and just assessment, but hey, it’s your blog and you can review whatever you please. :) If anything, it is a good representation of what anyone who’s only been exposed to their Korean releases would think about this band which is downright tragic. It does make one wonder about the state of the kpop industry if most kpop artists are releasing much better work outside their home country but that’s a different discussion altogether.

      Well, in case you, or anyone else, is ever inspired to write an article on their Japanese releases, here’s (my shameless plug at) a site that has compiled a list of CNBLUE’s self-compositions (both Korean and Japanese) with links to their live performance videos – IMHO the true test of an instrumental band is in their live performances. It is a pretty lengthy list for a 2 year old band; they’ve written much more than “Banmal Song”.

      Remove the brackets/parenthesis around the dot.


      • Gasp! Shameful plugging on my article! If I hadn’t half a mind to kick your…

        Sure, please! The more discussion on this, the better. Like you point out, the Japan-Korean comparison is a much longer discussion than I’m willing to put on this review. I’ve been thinking quite a bit on this topic, so maybe it’ll appear as an op-ed when I get a chance to stop fucking around.
        I could not have said it better myself. FNC’s treatment of CN Blue isn’t beneficial to anyone. Sooner or later, the fans will make their decision on their handling of CN Blue (hopefully “Ear Fun” is the last of this, echoing your sentiments).
        Thanks for reading!

        • the title of this album is ear fun. it leads u to a not-heavy-song. that’s why yonghwa write song like rock n roll n yeah it’s quite stupid but when u hear it again, not that bad. run is quite good. the tempo is cool. actually i don’t like dream boy. it’s like he combine several part of 2 different songs in one. in my head is awesome. still in love is my fav. i don’t even have to say anything about hey you -_-

  9. I wasn’t impressed with Hey You when I first heard it but I must give credit to YH and JH for making it sound good. But I went beyond the title song and found myself loving the rest of the songs alot. I think YH is a very talented composer and while some of the songs may sound simple and in your words ‘silly’, but I enjoy these simple and silly songs the most as they don’t pretend to be something they’re not suppose to be. These are songs that come from the heart and you can tell from the lyrics that they really want to change but unfortunately they didn’t manage to do it in this album. They are still a young group and I am confident that they will grow stronger with each release, as long as their company doesn’t stifle their creative juice.

    Overall I would still listen to this album purely because of all the other songs except Hey You.

  10. I’m late to join in the discussion. But better late than never eh…

    Okay, I’ve read your reviews both for Still In Love and the Ear Fun album.

    CNBlue caught me by surprise. For me, CNBlue is kind of like a burst of colors amidst grey background. That is, they do offer something different and more authentic flavor than the overly-used synthesizer and techno as one can easily see in the K Music. Moreover, the musical instruments were not simply used as props but they actually played on them, but such a shame when these instruments are not plugged in for the recorded shows in Korea. Some even get censored, case in point – Tattoo.

    Firstly, yes, I do very much agree on the Hey You as title track. Totally been there and done that. Hopefully, Hey You would be the eulogy for all I’m Loner versions past and no more in the future – amen.

    Secondly, this is where it gets tad interesting because I’m surprised that you have mentioned “Banmal Song”. It was a good “teaser” and very provocative of you indeed, since I’m irrevocably sure you know and realize that there’s no “Banmal Song” in actuality. That song life span was only during We Got Married (we are talking and referring to the singular song that was circulated through the uploaded video clip). The official track released was For The First Time Lover (FTFTL), the composer was JYH, lyricists – JYH and Han Seung Hun and arrangement was Han Seung Hun.

    You are an imp eh, to use “Banmal Song” as a comparison basis for JYH as composer and lyricist as well as for Still In Love. When I am very sure you have much better selections in your repertoire for such purpose. Just look at his on the spot compositions e.g., His Beautiful, Promise, rap verse and the latest Because I Miss You, Heartstrings OST. From a rapper to symphonic ballad, that shows JYH breadth and dynamic as a composer. The latter song only took him 30 minutes while Mr. Han was in the gents (having a tough day with his constipation or taking of his masque – this is just adlibs of mine, for your kind info).

    I’ve listened to ‘n’ times Still In Love (SIL), and I can’t find the any similarity this song to FTFTL. The first time listening, it gave me the light rock of Beatles. But as I heard it more, I would categorize SIL as a seductive song. This song just slowly wooed the listeners. Each time, there would be a new finding and as such another appreciation for SIL. As for the song genre, a mixture, I would say. After the scat, there’s the blues rock (strongly noticeable in the Beatles earlier songs) with a harder beat, pop punk in the mid part of the song, courtesy of the drum and guitar riff sounds. This is the song, that you can relate to and have connection with your parents during their Beatlesmania heyday. A mixture of old and new, where the middle part gave the song a new and modern feel.

    Dream Boy – this is a breather song, transition between SIL and towards the rest of the tracks in Ear Fun. Dream Boy has the new wave music feel of the mid 80s to early 90s. By the way, this song is quite the departure for JYH’s music style because normally, I would say this would incline more to LJH’s compositions before he up the notched with The Way single.

    Rock & Roll, Run and In My Head – there’s a shift in the songs with subtle elements from alternative rock, post punk, post grunge and hard/glam rock. If one listens to it in general, of course with miss such nuances. The Rock & Roll would be a great travelling song, when you are on the road and going crazy with your bunch of girl friends. Run is a song that you could brag to look cool for both sexes. I could totally see this song playing in clubs and be a great mash-up or re-arrange from blues/jazz rock to harder/metal rock, which CNBlue is famously known for to do in their live concerts. In My Head (IMH) – this song has a few versions. In Ear Fun, I do feel that this song was bit subdued as compared when it was released during CNBlue official debut under the Warner Japan label. Again, going back to the Music Industry in Korea, I do understand the reason behind it. My favorite would remain MTV unplugged version, it just oozes smexy (smokingly hot and sexy).

    So, in terms of music in Ear Fun album – when I look back, from SIL to IMH, actually a tribute to rock music. Because each song does pertain its own characteristic to give its listeners all around the rock music flavor. Ear Fun, for me is a symphony of rock music journey, starting with the British style of rock invasion ended up with the more up-todate style of Bon Jovi style.

    I’m sure with your reviews of this band’s albums so far, you’re also aware the dual roles that JYH/LJH/KMH have as lyricists. But what I’m most impressed in Ear Fun is the poetical lyrics that showed the depth, personal and rawness of JYH, where he went to the core and expressed it. Especially the raw verses in SIL and IMH. I wish JYH was the sole lyricist here because there were a few verse that sounded commercial, which marred the beauty of SIL’s lyrics a bit. CNBlue songs lyrics written by them now, are more poetic and each verse and prose are flow fluidly, but still captured the and retained the essence of what the band is all about. Thus, make the listeners emotionally invested and connected with their songs.

    Overall, on the legitimate test of CNBlue as musician – currently, not merely as pop artists nor Idols (because I don’t see them as such) I don’t doubt it. One needs to only look at their body of work, be it in Korea or for a comprehensive rounded view in Japan as well. And to experience CNBlue as its best is via their live performances because here, they are able to express their artistic freedom. You’re most welcome to visit cnbluetheband blog, as mentioned by Checkinout above, to view those clips.

  11. hey guys..i have been reading the comments and had been an ardent lover of cnblue since have known the band.i want to say these guys are totally musicians who doesnt see music as a way to get money but as their life…and give them a break guys!!!they are new to this industry and they still need a hold to have a permanent mark until which they cant express their opinions just like that..am sure they will learn more musically as well as industry wise.Lets wish them good luck and make them know we love their music and they should go ahead to be themselves….

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  14. wahh?!..lol i love that song!..and the video. i watch it every day!!..okay okay, maybe its not as deep as their older songs..but its about love, and its cute, and catchy! plus the video is pretty sweet too..jonghyun is getting more gorgeous every day! ^_^

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