Current K-pop #1: MBLAQ, DBSK

One I love, one I love to hate (or just kind of…hate).

MBLAQ’s “CRY”

I love this! MBLAQ gets better and better with each release. I love the laid-back, slow R&B feel to the song, and it feels very Rain, which I’m sure is not surprising. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Love Story, and then some of the dancing reminds me of Hip Song. It being so reminiscent of Rain’s work is probably not an asset, but this song is better than what’s out there right now.

There are some parts of the choreography that are so great to look at when they’re all synchronized (ie, in the music video), but are disappointing me in the lives. MBLAQ is still really green on stage, and it shows. I know boy band dancing and staying in sync is a lot harder than viewers give performers for, but still, it’s messing up my enjoyment of their performances. That and Mir & Thunder are BLACK HOLES for this group. In my world, MBLAQ would just be Seungho, G.O. and Joon. And even Joon I’d urge him to tone down the try-hard, just a tad.

HOMIN’s “KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN”

Yes, I really don’t like this.

Let’s talk about this song isolated from whatever drama may have been associated with the whole comeback. When I first heard this song, I found it really reminiscent to two other Yoo Young-jin songs, “Hey! Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Man in Love” (SuJu). I like that it has a stark militaristic beat but this song is so piecemeal and so incomplete. It’s little fragments of ideas put haphazardly together.

The song is littered with things that are by themselves really great: the chorus, the fantastic drum beat all throughout, “나는 Keep it low 나는 Keep it low,” the little battle cry dancing at the end right before Changmin’s high note. But put all together, this song is incredibly messy and listening to it makes me feel really aggravated. There are too many mix of styles and for the first time, I feel that this mix of styles is really not something Yunho and Changmin in particular are very adept at adopting. They’re both good singers, but not much else in terms of manipulating their voices.

I find their rapping horrendous and the speak/talk/spit-words-out thing is really not working. Yunho’s adopted this horrible nasal thing ever since “Purple Line” and it exasperates me that he thinks it actually works and that people actually enjoy listening to him sing/talk like that. Changmin has no rapping skill whatsoever, and what’s more interesting to me is that his rap lines are so obviously laced with Yoo Young-jin’s own rapping that it really frustrates me as a regular SM follower and listeners. Yoo Young-jin’s involvement in this song goes so far beyond composing/producing — he raps, he narrates and it just feels like too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe it’s because Yoo Young-jin is so desperate for some singing action and he knows he’ll never be as hot or can dance as well as the other idols that he can’t pursue the typical path of a singer. Maybe he also knows that two voices are not five, and he’s trying to fill that void. Whatever his thought process, I really don’t like the end result.

And then in terms of performances, I like what they’ve done to divvy up the spotlight between two members in the choreography. It’s fresh. What I don’t like is how Yunho dances. Changmin is fine, but he’s always been one of those idols who can dance because they’ve been disciplined to do so, not because they have an innate sense of rhythm. So I feel nothing, no attachment to his movement. Changmin has always had trouble controlling his pitch, and his screams on top of an already hectic song give me a headache, which says nothing for the absolute hate I have for Yunho’s nasal rapping. I wish they just SANG a song (a reason why I liked “Maximum” a lot more) instead of playing around with skills they obviously do not have.

At the end of the day, my biggest problem is how much of a mess Yoo Young-jin made with this song, and how his expectations really went against what HoMin are capable of after 7 years of performing as artists. Let’s not place HoMin’s capabilities in this song against what “could have” been had they had 3 extra members. Let’s just look at it and say that both Yunho and Changmin are stepping out of their comfort zone in terms of what they were required to do in this song. As someone who’s watched them perform for years now, it’s apparent to me that their greatest weaknesses as artists are magnified through this song.

  • http://astromantic.org f

    Changmin has no rapping skill whatsoever, and what’s more interesting to me is that his rap lines are so obviously laced with Yoo Young-jin’s own rapping that it really frustrates me as a regular SM follower and listeners.
    I knew Changmin couldn’t have sounded that good during the rap. It was just too good to be true!

    Yunho’s rapping is just tragic all around.

  • http://other-worldly.org Justine

    I actually love both songs very very much!

    Sadly, Cry is the only release I like from MBLAQ this time, their single isn’t as good as this one. Mir is actually a really good rapper given the right song (something like Y) and he’s VERY charismatic on stage, he actually carries a lot of charisma for MBLAQ live but with Thunder.. oh good lord. Nothing works for that guy I’m sorry.

    Yunho’s rapping was so cringeworthy in the first few listens but I kind of got used to it. As with every Youngjin song in my experience, hated it in the beginning then proceeded to listen to it all the time after that. Plus I can’t really hate the song when the 2 do such a good job of performing it on stage. Not to mention Yunho’s krumping skills, oh my god. They can leave the singing to JYJ and their emo-ness, but I’m loving DBSK right now. It’s the only thing I look forward to all week during music shows because there’s nothing on kpop that I like as much right now. Not even Seungri’s solo performances =/

    • B

      Cry is excellent and probably their best song to date. Performance wise, I agree with you on this point in that I really like Mir:he has a nice flow, his rapping voice is excellent (its deep and a tad husky) and I think he’s the most charismatic on stage out of the entire 5 when the spotlight is placed on him.
      Joon sounds HORRID live, and Seungho always sounds out of breath. G.O. is the only one decent live…and Thunder…well Thunder and his sister are just famous for their looks really LOL.

      Side note: they all get really pretty glittery eyeshadow that i must try the next time I go to a party…

      as with DBSK…the rapping just ruined the whole experience for me. I really only liked the chorus, can’t even handle the song.

      • http://other-worldly.org Justine

        True! Why do male kpop idols get better eye makeup than the girls?

  • Sarah B.

    I agree completely on MBLAQ. Cry is actually the first song I’ve liked from them and made me actually pay attention to them beyond GO with his Nassun duets which I love. Mir and Thunder contribute absolutely nothing to the group beyond their family connections and Joon definitely needs to tone down the try hard.

    Can’t stand Keep Your Head down but surprisingly I liked pretty much everything else on the album. I wish they would have promoted something like Crazy or Rumour. They aren’t as upbeat as KYHD but they also aren’t super slow ballads so I think they could have worked as lead singles.

  • Alixana

    MBLAQ needs Thunder to be pretty & G.O. to sing and look like Rain. Joon tries why too hard. I just can’t stand that guy. He does everything over the top.
    As for Keep your head down, I hate the song but I love the Gotta keep it low part and Keep your head doooown~ (when they puch the dancers’ heads down). And the beginning – “it’s Yunho time!” Haha, gets to me every time. The rest of the song is like a downgraded version of Bonamana (which is already a downgraded version of Sorry sorry).

    And I hate man-clevage the two are sporting in performances.

  • http://iwishihadtaste.blogspot.com iwishihadtaste

    Case in point: After the blood-rushing progressive increase that is the first part of the song (up until the two sets of “WAE blablabla WAE blablabla WAE blablabla”), I feel like suddenly the floor is pulled from under me and I either drop back down to the beginning or I’m in a different song, entirely. It’s a discombobulating mix that, nevertheless, as you mentioned, has terrific little gems inside it. I’ve chosen to make a mental edit of it — and the corresponding video features no dandy-on-LSD suits.

    @Alixana: “YUNHO TIME!” gets me every. single. time.

  • Lisa

    Thanks to you I’ve been listening to MBLAQ’s “Cry” non-stop since yesterday. It is so damn catchy and addictive. Last time this happened, it was SM Ballad’s “Hot Times”-which was also because of you, lol. Thank you!