written by: drowningn00b
Artist/Album: After School – The 6th Maxi Single ‘First Love’
Genre: Dance, Pop, Idol
Release Date: June 13, 2013
When news hit the web that After School would learn a pole-dancing routine for the concept of their new single, my immediate thought went to strippers. My hunch got stronger when teaser images of Nana posing nude and a MV teaser with what appeared to be topless members with wet hair followed thereafter. Whatever raunchy idea I had created of “First Love” in my mind was quickly dashed with the resulting product of more pole acrobatics than anything super tasteless, as MTVK describes it. For this new maxi single, After School plays with the idea of expectation, with results both disappointing and well-crafted.
Brave Brothers, who produced AS’ biggest hit, “Because of You”, gives the girls another ballad with the lead single, “First Love”. It’s a surprising track, with rock elements giving the song urgency. Following SISTAR’s “Alone”, it seems fit to do again; lightning does not strike twice. While the production is solid, AS keeps up the bland vocal delivery of singles past. Jungah is underused, as usual, and while she can always hit the note, Raina can’t rescue “First Love” from the misfortunes of the second verse. Nana and Lizzy have improved significantly from all the vocal work in and out of AS, and the newer girls (and vet Uee) show their lack of experience when singing solo.
Which brings me to the other ballad, sung by the queens of After School. Listening to fan reaction, Jungah and Raina reunite for “화장을 하다 울었어 (Crying While Putting On Makeup)”. While they sing well, “Crying” lays on the melodrama, with exaggerated strings and such high pitch singing, that while showing off Jungah’s wide range, isn’t conducive to harmonizing with Raina. What “Timeless” did right and where “Crying” fails is to let each lady shine independently of one another and still bring those strengths together when needed. Both showed off their full range and exceptional harmonies. “Crying” is a vocal showcase that doesn’t play to Jungah’s strengths and one that leaves Raina’s ad-libbing floating off into the universe. While its predecessor received just praise, “Crying” is not what made Jungah and Raina a great sub-unit idea.
Buried within the body of this maxi single are the club-ready tracks “Dressing Room” and “Love Beat”. By name alone, “Dressing Room” fit the pole-dancing concept better, but it goes beyond simple imagery. Taking 80’s style guitar-synths, “Dressing Room” is a dirty bass groove-fest. The “uh-uh-uh” vocal loop sets it up perfectly, launching into a track that, had it not had the name After School attached to it, could have easily come out of the synth-indie sound that’s hot right now. The instrumental breaks and the repeated “I’m changing love” bit are nice splits from common composition troupes, making me wonder why this wasn’t the lead single, or at least a part of the teaser.
In “Love Beat”, the production continues to be bass heavy, but this time with a fuzzed synth loop running underneath. Sharing the high pitch singing of “Crying”, “Love Beat” is a throwback to the vocal-centric dance jams of the late-90s, early-00s with lovely harmonies. Amazingly, as high as they go, After School, together, never shriek or pierce your eardrums. Considering how diverse the group is, hearing clear and pleasing vocal work for the first time from AS 5.0 shows they finally got it right. These two club bangers (and “Time’s Up” to a lesser extent) show a girl group settled in their present makeup, and hoping to show more of that confidence in the future.
Solidifying their current lineup, After School’s “First Love” is what “Flashback” aimed to be (a throwback to dance music), and failed to build on its strength. The R&B-pop single gets the wet blanket treatment by the girls, while the return of Jungah and Raina (RainGah? Jungina?) goes nowhere on the generic melodrama of “Crying”.
After School shines on the club tracks “Dressing Room” and “Love Beat”, taking cues from house-pop and vocal-dance for exceptional summer night jams, while “Time’s Up” emphasizes After School getting harmonies correct. Uneven in quality, “First Love” is hit and miss, but a decent move in the right direction.
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
|Crying While Putting On Makeup||
Points to stars conversion: [(3.5/5) 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.