[Review] [Mini-Album] 4Men – ‘The Fifth Album Vol. 1’

2013_4men_5th album vol 1

written by: McRoth

4Men are natural born singers. At their best, they are able to translate meaningful songwriting to incredibly cathartic interpretations with their raw knack for this thing we call singing. You know this, and I do, too.

Returning off the blissful album that was ‘The Artist‘ of 2011, 4Men have decided to divvy up their 2013 comeback album into parts, releasing ‘The Fifth Album Vol. 1‘ this month in EP format. It’s a trend among vocalists, definitely, but as you’ll understand in a second, this route of sustaining the life of an album may very well be the least favorable way to go.

Immediately, this mini-album drowns in cliched balladry that is common in the most drab Korean music – generally of the poor OST variety. It’s slow to build, dramatic in all the wrong places, and forgetful of its melody. It’s not to say that lead single “Hello, It’s Me” is bad, because it is technically fine. It’s the poor emotional connection it attempts to make that really lowers its appeal and, sadly, renders it unremarkable. It’s nothing new for the kind of song it is nor fresh for them as a group, and to hear 4Men falter on an emotional level – because they can be quite masterful at it – is partly surprising and partly disappointing.

내 세상” literally commits identical crimes, though this one at least has a decent hook.

The second half of this EP is less forgiving, as “그 때 그 시절 (Feat. 미)” (and its interlude) bring in a female voice.

Ideally, a featurette should have been the needed additive to this album, but to its misfortune transforms the listening experience into even more of a murky one than when it limped open. And I think herein lies the problem.

4Men pull out their same tricks (or lack thereof) from one sulky ballad to the next, and turn this from what was probably supposed to be a nostalgic and reflective album to a drag that lacks spirit. As I try to listen to ‘The Fifth Album’ I don’t sense an urgency toward the point and meaning of anything, and I think the decision to split it into however many volumes was a packaging error across the board. As listeners, we’re left with an incomplete point of view, and while breaking an album has worked in many other occasions and this way of doing things is successful when done right, this fails to capture the novelty and engage of such broken storylines. Not just that, but the material itself lacks freshness and appeal.

If there’s one takeaway moment for 4Men on this album, it’s “But I” (audio below). It’s the closest thing to suspense and musically driven emotional tension this album offers, and even then it’s still just alright of a song among a sea of forgettable ones.

Here’s hoping Vol. 2 is an improvement.



Hello, It’s Me
내 세상
But I
 Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
그 때의 나, 그 때의 너 (Interlude)
그 때 그 시절 (Feat. 미)
Total Points

Points to stars conversion: [(1.25/5) 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.

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