written by: McRoth
I agreed with many of you that I’d give JYJ‘s Kim Jaejoong‘s first solo mini-album ‘I‘ a review, but how I would go about doing that was up to me. Oftentimes the first reactions I have are the first you read in print, but there are many cases where I retreat into my own space, many cases where I hold off on listening to an album, and allow myself the breathing room that had once been occupied by fan groupthink. It’s been almost three weeks since Jaejoong released ‘I’ (January 17), and I’m now really listening to this EP for the first time.
Here are my thoughts.
The album opens with the pre-released track “One Kiss” and right away there is something incredibly momentous in its weight (similar to his work for “Shelter” in 2009). Not only does it lift the mind out of stagnation, but with the use of tremulous strings and crescendos constructs a very surreal atmosphere. Jaejoong is passionate, earnest, and purposeful in his delivery, but the interesting thing is that it isn’t perfect. There are moments when you hear him push notes across this body of sound, and they’re shaky and on edge, but also very raw and honest. Music is as much about technicality as it is about storytelling and Jaejoong strikes a nice balance in this opener.
“Mine“, to the joy of many die-hard fans and longtime followers, challenges this balance even further by placing Jaejoong in a rock environment. It’s an immediate reach to his 2008 project “Maze” and is a reminder of how well Jaejoong is in tune with his identity as an artist. In this case, a complete and undisputed Japanese visual rock pop star. It’s a style unfamiliar on K-Pop turf, but easily recognizable under the JYJ/TVXQ name, as they were/are immensely influenced by Japanese music. You hear it throughout “Mine” – from the patient verses, to the swells in Jaejoong’s vocal delivery in the choruses. It’s messy at times, riddled with tension and heavy releases in the drum kit, but that’s rock and Jaejoong does well in honoring it on “Mine”.
At this point in the EP, Jaejoong has hit two very different but cohesive moods, laying an opera and 70s classic rock undertone, and attempts to carry that theme into less showy tracks “내안 가득히” and “All Alone“; two songs that are packaged with far more gravitas and attention to presentation. Both are theatrical and filled with tons of detail, but there’s a certain restraint in the overall musical experience that keeps them from fully climaxing. The latter lacks a climax altogether.
“나만의 위로” stands out as the only ballad on this EP that doesn’t take on the challenge of blending heavy rock elements with glamour, seemingly out of place in that sense, but as a song is perfectly Jaejoong. It starts off on an acoustic note and unfolds into a grand orchestrated piece that does a brilliant job of showing off Jaejoong’s vocals. It also sounds very K-Pop, which is noteworthy in itself among such heavy non-K-Pop dynamics. The end on this one is abrupt, but the magic is never lost.
‘I’ is an interesting album of boldness and depth where rigidness meets grace. Kim Jaejoong and JYJ alike have gradually been slicing themselves a niche that envelops a certain uniqueness and taste level very different from what you and I are used to from Korea. With Junsu‘s ‘Tarantallegra‘ already in their back catalog, the curiosity to what Yoochun could possibly have in store as a soloist certainly has increased after this.
| Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
Points to stars conversion: [(3.75/5) 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.