written by: lolpenny
SISTAR have proven that they flourish within the bounds of the typical K-pop song (verse-chorus-verse, middle eight, rap) due mainly to Hyorin’s ability to sing any song into the ground and beat it into submission. When juxtaposed against most girl groups who whisper their way through a melody, this feat seems almost God-like, giving them an air of superiority even when their musical content dictates otherwise.
But with Alone it seems that they, like all of Kpop before them, have decided to try something marginally different. To accomplish this painstaking task, their usual mold is forced into a slightly more melancholy key and decorated retro flourishes because apparently that has become mandatory. (An aside: the bandwagon is full. Please catch another.) The result is the catchy track, “Alone,” in which Hyorin waxes about angst while the other three dance circles around her.
From there we travel to a more upbeat place with “No Mercy.” The funky 70s baseline remains intact from “Alone” but quickly deteriorates when Bora steps in to fulfill her rapper role. The problem with having a designated rapper is that even when the song doesn’t require it, a rap must be added. Unfortunately in this instance, her part sounds tacked on and it interrupts the song’s progression. After this hitch, the song patters out in an anti-climactic loop.
The rest of the album isn’t all that different than their previous work. It includes the obligatory track about girl power, and “Lead Me” which sounds a lot like SISTAR 19’s “Ma Boy,” even spelling out the group’s lackluster moniker in case we’ve forgotten how clever it is. Hyorin’s range and volume shine on this laid back, rhythmic track without veering off toward the wailing strain that is her default on faster, more melodic songs.
Alone ends on a sugar coated note with “I Choose to Love You,” a song that clearly got lost on its way to an IU album. The subtle piano line distinguishes it from the rest of the mini album in the worst way possible and the adorable melody grates when paired with Hyorin’s power vocals. Her tone on this track is comparable to a lion pretending to be a kitten, or Rapidash masquerading as Twilight Sparkle. The song would have been better suited for the group’s other vocalists, particularly Soyu who is so often given the short end of the stick.
“I Choose to Love You,” illustrates the major problem SISTAR suffers: one member is such a fantastic vocalist that the knee-jerk reaction is to give her the majority of every song to the detriment of the group at large. SISTAR specializes in pretty run of the mill, electronica pop songs to the point that nothing is outside the reach of the other three members. However, I would conservatively estimate that Hyorin sings 95% of the album and it consequently lacks the dynamics other groups possess.
If you’re a fan of the way Hyorin physically detaches her jaw to swallow her microphone whole then you will no doubt love this album. It contains everything mainstream K-pop embodies and executes it with a finesse that is commonly overlooked. But the fact remains that SISTAR is a group, a conglomeration of voices, not Hyorin and her backup dancers.