This is way overdue. Heck, me posting on this blog, PERIOD, is way overdue.
I was originally planning on doing a formal album review for JYJ’s latest release, but opted not to because a) I already have another album review in the works, which is more than I can handle what with my current schedule, and b) I have a heckuva lot more to say about JYJ’s album than just some paltry comments about their music alone. But just because it needs to be done:
Paltry Comments About The Music Alone:
- “Ayyy Girl” is as embarrassing as the title suggests. Kanye sings. It is not autotuned.
- “Empty” is probably the best uptempo song off the album, and should have been the lead single rather than “Ayyy Girl.”
- Yoochun sounds terrible, and it is a tragedy. His self-composed song, “I Love You,” could’ve been one of the best cuts off the album had it not been for his voice.
- Junsu’s voice is magical as always, and his English pronunciation is *gasp* actually the clearest out of the three.
- Jaejoong’s English pronunciation is often muddled and incoherent to the point of distraction, which makes “Still In Love” a little difficult to listen to. It still possesses Jaejoong’s trademark musical emoness, though, so if you’re into that sort of thing…
- Did I mention that Junsu sounds magical? His voice just oozes sweetheartness in this album and I don’t know why I’m only picking up on it now.
- There are two songs (“I Love You”, “Still In Love”) that use a rain sound effect as an intro. Coincidentally, they are both composed by Yoochun and Jaejoong. That puts the count at four DBSK/JYJ songs with a rain sound effect intro (the other two being “Day Moon/Harudal” and “Shelter”). That being said, WILL SOMEONE TELL THEM TO PLEASE STOP. IT IS TACKY.
Now onto the more interesting stuff after the cut.
To be honest, I don’t think I really understood the true nature of JYJ’s “new image” until I realized that I had to tag “The Beginning” as “R&B” in my iTunes, rather than “K-pop.” It’s not only because the album is in English – however audibly indistinguishable the English is – but because the tracks are not K-pop tracks. They’re singingselling American R&B, through and through.
Well, duh – it’s an obvious fact, whether one realizes it by listening to their music, or seeing Kanye West and Darkchild’s names in the album liner notes. Upon first listen, I didn’t really know what to think about JYJ’s songs, mostly because a) “Ayyy Girl” is just horrible, period; and b) I was still conditioned to associate the members’ voices with that special K-pop/J-pop sound, so hearing Junsu’s voice in an American R&B song was, well, confusing.
It’ll take some getting used to…but let’s face it: I’ve never had a hard time liking crappy music. Bonus points if I actually care about the artists performing the song.
Which is just the problem, I guess. Despite my apparent weakness for crappy music, I can’t seem to take a liking to mainstream American pop unless I feel a personal connection with the artist. Case in point: logically speaking, I should not be able to tolerate “Like a G6.” The music’s not atrocious, but the lyrics kill me. Kill. Me.
But I mean, it’s Far East Movement and (okay, yeah, this is probably some form of reverse racism, go me) they’re Asian-American and they’re repping the APA community in the music industry. Hello, personal connection. Hello, three million plays of “Like a G6” within a week.
(Which opens the door to a whole new issue and a whole new blog rant, but I’ll save it for later.)
So seeing as I was basically madly in love with these three (plus two ;_;) guys for more than a solid year, it’d make perfect sense for me to stan their music as irrationally hard as I did back in their DBSK heyday, right?
There’s a reason why I own all of DBSK’s albums, but not a single full FM album. I’ve come to realize that, musically speaking, there’s a fundamental difference between K-pop and American pop. One only sells K-pop music successfully if one sells the K-pop idol that is packaged with it. Thus, K-pop music focuses on featuring the idols’ voices and abilities, because that’s what they’re selling: the idol, not the music. That’s how whiny Minho stans somehow land the boy two or three more singing lines every time a new single comes around, and that’s how K-pop can be so marketably terrible and terribly marketable.
(Hey, maybe if you’re lucky, you might even land on an idol who’s actually a good singer!)
The American music scene, on the other hand, is well past its “idol” days (Lady Gaga excluded), and the quality of music reflects an audience that does not care as much about the quality of voices as it does the quality of music. Thus, you’ve got people like Ke$ha who can’t sing for a skunk’s liver but hey, a few catchy songs and you’ve got a successful artist.
It’s almost as if American music production regards the voice not as the focal point of a song, but simply as a component. It seems as if American listeners like to listen to their music rather holistically, to the point where listeners are more likely to fall in love with composers/lyricists/producers rather than singers.
(Guess singer-songwriters no longer have a reason to whine.)
I took this into consideration while listening to JYJ’s album, and couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that I was no longer listening to Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu. I was listening to JYJ, and JYJ isn’t just the three members’ voices. JYJ is the voices plus the beat plus the melody plus the electronically engineered sound plus Kanye’s intermittent fail singing. JYJ is music in the most holistic sense possible, because that’s how mainstream American pop is engineered and sold.
And I don’t know if I like that.
I don’t think I’d mind it nearly as much if the music itself was actually good. The reason why I was able to put up with DBSK’s crap songs was because, at the very least, their voices were there – I always loved their voices, and their voices always sounded good (on the recordings, at least). But one listen of The Beginning and you can just tell that there’s something different. No, it’s not just a change of genre. It’s a change of focus – that is, Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu’s voices are no longer the focus.
To be honest, I kinda saw this coming once I found out that they were going to be working with American producers. A part of me was reassured at the fact that they’d be collabing with Kanye – music-wise, the man can do no wrong – but after listening to The Beginning, I’m getting the vibe that Kanye kinda half-assed this project and went off to work on his own solo album instead. I mean, he didn’t even bother to autotune his own singing on the freaking lead single off the album. And I am not impressed.
There are about two, maybe three semi-impressive tracks off of the album, and the rest is rather forgettable. With the way things are going, JYJ is going to become rather forgettable unless they bring back the most precious thing they have: their voices. I still maintain that these guys could sing the “Happy Birthday” song and make it sound amazing.
(I’m trying to push the whole concept of Yoochun to the dark corner of my mind until he quits smoking and stops sucking. Then we can talk.)
I know these guys want to focus on “making music” with their whole new career direction spiel and all, and good for them. And if this is the kind of music they want to make, then so be it. But it doesn’t have to come at the price of their voices playing second fiddle to their music. With what’s been evidenced by The Beginning, I’m willing to believe that JYJ will not be able to sell their music by relying on the belief that it is good music. Because it really isn’t. However, they will be able to sell their music if they unveil the true potential of their voices. The Beginning just isn’t an adequate example of what they can truly do, and if their true potential is only revealed to prospective JYJ fans through old DBSK stuff…well, then that kinda defeats the whole purpose of JYJ, doesn’t it?
Meh. The thing about these US crossover K-pop artists is that, obviously, they start off at the bottom of the ladder…but then they climb two steps and then just kind of stagnate. Even someone like Jay Park – who doesn’t have nearly as high of a cultural hurdle to overcome as a born-and-bred Korean celeb does – is now hanging out with Kevjumba and Nigahiga and David Choi and other young Asian-American celebs with a sub-popular cult following. Heck, no one would even know that he was once a leader of a top K-pop boyband.
So where do we put JYJ? Are they still popular? Well duh, the ridiculous amounts of album preorders attest to that. But who are they popular amongst? Cassies – die-hard, pearl red-bleeding Cassies who have carved “Always Keep The Faith” into their hearts and onto their checkbooks: their promise to “support” the members no matter what. Which, I mean, all the more power to them. But what I’m beginning to see, though, is a slowly rising level of cult-esque fan hysteria within these “AKTF”-ers that will only get more crazy as JYJ gets less popular with the non-Cassie sect. In the end, JYJ will gain support from the insanest of the insanely passionate fans – which will be seen as admirable to the open minded. But to the masses? It’ll be an instant turnoff.
Which – with the combination of suckiness as discussed above – ultimately spells failure.
Someone please tell me that there’s a better ending to this. ;_;