written by: drowningn00b
The hype machine for Ga-In’s follow up to the delicious “Step 2/4” showed every aspect of Ga-In’s persona: pixie, sex object, objectified star and hard-to-get Lolita. It’s easy to view this in negative terms, since all these archetypes cater to male fantasies of women as sexual trophies to be wanted and chased after. All of this is apparent on her new album cover: naked under a comforter with a come-hither look in her eyes. Whether this is on purpose on Ga-In’s part we’ll never know, but this much is clear – sex is the lure, but what you’re gonna get is way more seductive. ‘Talk About S’ is an exploration of sound and moods than it is a manifesto of the sex life of a kpop idol character.
At five feet and 99 lbs, Ga-In is literally a pixie in human dimensions. So why not re-imagine her as the most famous pixie of all? “Tinkerbell” kicks off the EP with small sounds, like the acoustic guitar riff and Ga-In’s small voice backed by some good DJ effects. And the track progresses in that vein, with sudden stops and starts, and emphasis on the backbeat to create a dance atmosphere. As exciting as the production can get, the effect is lost because Ga-In’s breathy delivery gets in the way. In “Tinkerbell”, she goes into falsetto territory, somewhere she shouldn’t go because it can sound like a helium-balloon version of her trademark husk. The track sounds like a hectic and exciting quickie, but if she sounds like that, best to wait for the voice to calm down.
On the flip side to that, Ga-In’s ballad with producer extraordinaire Yoon Jong Shin, “Gaze”, takes that breathy delivery where it belongs. Picture a dark bar, smoke in the air, and when it clears, you see Ga-In in her Marilyn Monroe blonde curls and heavy eyeliner. “Gaze” is literal, setting up a story of a girl who wants to be desired by the guy looking at her. And the mood is just right, with the keyboard bringing the sensuality, and the drums taking that mood into the animal realm, giving a sense of urgency to what would be a schmaltzy ballad. And to top it all off, Mr. Yoon, as the backing vocal, is a stroke of genius, pun intended. The combination of Ga-In and Jong Shin, singing the same lyrics, brings together passive sensuality and aggressive sexual dominance, making this come-fuck-me ballad one of the most complex, and the best, track I’ve heard all year, maybe ever. She may be out of breathe, but Ga-In is at her best here, even making her high notes sound orgasmic.
As Lolita, Ga-In takes three paths, two good and one bad. To get the bad out of the way, “Tiredness” has potential, but gets fucked with overreaching aims. It has an anthemic rock-light feel, with keyboards and finger snaps, creates nice foundation of simmering attitude. The rock elements underline it all, but as more and more layers, both instrumentally and vocally, are added, the more it detracts from an otherwise knockout track. And Ga-In’s falsetto falls into the same problem as it did in “Tinkerbell”, though not as deeply. A little drama is a good thing, but “Tiredness” goes into melodrama.
Thankfully, “Catch Me If You Can” is exactly what “Tiredness” should have been. It’s raucous, poppy and carefree throughout. The higher parts of the sound are left to the horns, a good thing, finally considering her range failings. And she straddles the line between her normal tone and falsetto well, making for a pleasant listening experience. And with her vocal cadence, Ga-In brings something extra to this girl-group inspired rack that someone of equal vocal ability couldn’t.
And how can I forget “Bloom”? The minute I heard it I knew I liked it, and it hasn’t dulled since. Considering Yoon Il Sang’s proclivity for large orchestral sounds of late, “Bloom” and its electronic-indie sound came as a surprise to me. I was reminded of PeterPan Complex, who expertly combine rock and synth elements in a way that suits a limited vocal range. It’s loud, bright, energetic, and moves at a great pace. The drum stutter in the middle was great treat, breaking up the steady pulse and giving the bloom mentioned so much in the lyrics. It isn’t as great as “Irreversible”, but like it, “Bloom” is the snapshot example of all the concepts Ga-In is going for right now.
For all intents and purposes, k-pop idols are pretty dolls. Their exterior gets molded, clothed and accessorized based on the aim the label has for them at the time. Ga-In’s concept as a woman discovering her sexuality and the power within it could have gone the campy route, or deathly serious. Fortunately, “Talk About S” takes some of both without going to the extremes. The results are mixed, with the dichotomy between the two breathy songs (“Tinkerbell”/”Gaze”) and two raucous songs (“Tiredness”/ “Catch Me If You Can”) showing the bad and the good of these routes. “Gaze” and “Catch Me If You Can” show Ga-In at her best, whether it’s the black and white Monroe or the teasing, colorful Lolita. And “Bloom” brings them into focus. “Talk About S” is an explosion of sound and a celebration of sex and music.
| Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
|Catch Me If You Can||
Points to stars conversion: [(4/5) 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.