written by: Testamentvm
For many, Psy’s success with “Gangnam Style” came from nowhere. And yet “Gangnam Style”, the undisputed release of this summer, represents the crowning moment of slow, and at certain junctures, painfully arduous climb to the top. After spending over a decade in the business, Psy, after six albums, has finally mastered the rules of the game. That’s not a learning curve most kpop labels are comfortable with, but Psy is no idol, as this latest release makes very clear. And, perhaps, as I’ll return to later, this is the reason for his viral success.
The Berklee-educated musician made his debut in 2002, to little public fanfare. Two of his albums, For Children and For Adults were both slammed with sales bans to minors on the basis of their content. In the meanwhile, Psy made headway in the realm of variety comedy, where he created a name for himself with parody dances of popular idols (think Jokwon). Fast forward to 2010, when, after serving four years in the military (he was found guilty of improperly finishing his two-year service and was forced to complete another two), he joined YG Entertainment, and made a comeback with “Right Now“, encouraged in part by the success of DJ DOC’s comeback.
Experience has made Psy better at masking his subversive bent in the trappings of his infectiously catchy pop numbers. In fact, Psy is still the same Psy from his debut; he’s just gotten better at packaging away the more subversive aspects of his artistic persona away from public view. The cheekiness is still there, just more hidden from view – e.g. “77 101” (feat. Leessang and Kim Jin Pyo). Of course, Korea also has also loosened up since his debut. It’s not as staunchly conservative as it used to be, though compared to its peers, it still has a long way to go.
But this album also has its reflective and contemplative moments, which have unfortunately been overlooked in Psy’s incredible rise to the top. We get songs filled with that certain kind of honesty and vulnerability that can only come from a man in his 30s looking back on life.
1. Tree Frog (feat. G-Dragon) – guitar-driven rock with a be-yourself message, but don’t be caught off-guard by the (random?) screamo bit towards the end.
2. Passionate Goodbye (feat. Sung Si Kyung) – Sung Si Kyung and Psy go way back, and they finally collaborate on a wonderful, electronic-ized version of a typical kpop ballad. Sung Si Kyung’s gorgeous vocals shine, as usual.
3. Gangnam Style – an electro-pop number that bears striking similarities to its electro-rock cousin “Right Now”.
4. 77 101 – (feat. Leessang and Kim Jin Pyo) – a nostalgic, laid back hip-hop number that’s unfortunately banned for its use of explicit language.
5. What Would It Have Been Like (feat. Park Jung Hyun) – an emotional number reflecting on love lost. A wonderful ballad made even better with an assist from “Korea’s fairy”, Park Jung Hyun.
6. Never Say Goodbye (feat. Yoon Do Hyun) – a rock number featuring the legendary Yoon Do Hyun (of YB). It begins with a piano-led intro before diving into a full-blown rock number. Fans of Green Day will find familiar stomping grounds here.
| Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
|What Would It Have Been Like||
|Never Say Goodbye||
Points to stars conversion: [(4.75/6) x 5] + 0.25*
*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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