K-HIPHOP / K-POP / KOREAN CULTURE / REVIEWS

[Review] [Album] D-Unit – “Welcome to Business”

written by: drowningn00b

When D-Unit hit the scene, the inevitable 2NE1 comparison spread like herpes. From the fashions akin, the “Fire” days, to even the vocal similarities, D-Unit could not escape the large shadow of YG Entertainment’s mega girl group. But the more you listen to their debut full length record, ‘Welcome to Business‘, it’s clear the comparison comes with baggage, both good and bad.

Branded as a “hip-hop rookie group” by former disgruntled YG Entertainment employee, Lee Yong Hak, D-Unit is far from it. Sure, Woo-Ram and Ujin can rap, but the bulk of “Business” focuses on the trio’s singing, whether apart or harmonizing. Only three tracks have the girls pitting on the mic, making D-Unit a hybrid of dance-pop tracks and R&B ballads than legit hip-hop. It’s a trend the hip-hop idol groups are moving towards, for better or worse.

For their lead track “Crush”, with 1llionaire’s Dok2, D-Unit starts off solidly, setting the tone of “Business” with a synth-heavy dance track. It isn’t something new in terms of production or lyric composition, but D-Unit does it well. And that potential in talent continues. Woo-Ram, the much talked about little sister of T-Ara’s Bo Ram, shows off why she’s the leader of this fledgling group in the lead single, “I’m Missing You”. An acoustic guitar up-tempo number, “Missing” is the best pop track here, which is telling. All the deficiencies in the trio are dealt with well, mainly the queaky quality of the vocals. The dance production is energetic and doesn’t clash on itself or D-Unit. “Anniversary” brings the record full circle, though by this point, all the problems in “Business” and D-Unit are glaring, dulling an otherwise good track.

==

So what are the problems? They are two-fold: D-Unit’s chipmunk vocals and the inept use of studio equipment. As young as they are, their vocals were not the main point in their training. Throughout “Business”, these girls can’t stop screeching, and can’t help doing so. If 2NE1’s Park Bom is a screeching cat, D-Unit is a trio of bats. “Turn The Lights On” and “Good-Bye Tata” are two examples where the singing becomes unbearable, taking away anything interesting in the production. It seems D-Business Entertainment was in a rush to push D-Unit into the public eye, since “Business” isn’t as polished vocally as it could be.

Out of their control, D-Unit’s debut also suffers from sound mixing, not production. Sure, “Luv Vision” needed a longer roll out of its climax, and “Anniversary” has an awkward dub-step placement, but these issues don’t hold a candle to the awful levels in volume. The job of a sound mixer is to make sure the various parts of the song are calibrated to one another so that the elements don’t clash. If a singer is hitting a high note, the drum machine should not be as loud as he/she is and generally, the verses should be quieter than the chorus. With the exception of “Anniversary” and “I’m Missing You”, “Business” is all fucked up. D-Unit’s squeaking gets emphasized by the high notes in the percussive beats and the synth in what should have been the best R&B track, “Luv Vision”, is loud in the chorus. If it was only one or two tracks, this would not need mentioning. But as I listened further into “Welcome to Business”, I felt a trickle of blood down my neck.

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D-Business should have released a debut mini instead of an entire album for D-Unit. While talking to mellowyel [her blog here], the topic of debut releases as LPs or EPs came up. As an LP, “Welcome to Business” is long, with its best points spread throughout its eight tracks, but landing few good punches. Woo-Ram and Ujin are able rappers and singers, Zin can sing, and some of these songs have good to great beats behind them, but they don’t come together often enough. “I’m Missing You” and [track 8] get the up-tempo stuff right, while “Luv Vision” passes for the better of the mid-tempo to ballad numbers by D-Unit. The rest of “Business” is filler, tracks mediocre or plain terrible, thus extending the record to justify a higher price point. It sucks for D-Unit, because they work as a trio, but “Welcome to Business” doesn’t do them justice.

==

Scorecard

Crush
.5
I’m Missing You
.75
Late
.5
Turn the Lights On
0
Stereo
0
Good-Bye Tata
0
 Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
Luv Vision
.5
Anniversary
.75
Before the Weekend Comes
.5
Total Points
3.5

Points to stars conversion: [(3.5/9) x 5] + 0.25*

2.2/5


*there is a 0.25 bonus for every album. The logic is that, if every song were “pretty good”, it’s a 4-star album.

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