take-a-fourth: “HuH” I guess, but even that’s pushing it
4minute’s HuH does well in establishing 4minute in its genre of electrobeats, the club hits with a proclivity toward the hard-hitting. It relies heavily on the addictive autotune and the sounds you most appreciate blasted out along with heavy bass. The biggest issue is that the vocals are weak, and the question thus becomes: does this matter, given that the genre typically doesn’t warrant stellar voices?
“HuH,” the carrier single, is interesting. Its biggest strength is its chorus, the repetition of “huh” is bound to get stuck in your head. The hard-thumping beat is right up my alley, and I really like the instrumental following each chorus. These elements make it a great candidate for being the carrier single, but contradicting these are elements that noticeably strike one too much as odd. The rap before each chorus sticks out too much like a sore thumb, it’s too abrupt and short. The bridge is too long of a break, and the dancing that happens isn’t enough to sustain it. But the biggest problem is that too many moments flashback to HyunA’s “Change”. It doesn’t bode well that the first few seconds sound too much like the solo single and that every time the chorus comes along, the way “naega naega” is exactly as in “Change”. (This again happens with “Highlight” which repeats some of “Muzik”) Unfortunately, the echoes between “HuH” and “Change” beg the question: why need a five-member group, when we can get it from Hyuna?
“i my me mine”, again a very addictive second release, is autotuned to the hilt. Mostly, I enjoyed only the stanzas. Whether the chorus can catch you might depend on the way they sing “play, play, play.” But then again, if that agrees with you, the way they ended with “i my me mine” is likely to get on your nerves. These songs, along with “Highlight” form the core of the album that fits in 4Minute’s hard-hitting club beat genre. Vocal ability may not be the group’s exceptional strength, but to be fair they are decent in what they try to achieve in the genre. But is this enough? It would be if they were the only artists in that niche. But as it is, there exist other groups that offer both the addictive beats and quality vocals. Jonghyun’s vocals towards the end of “Lucifer” for example, make the song so much better. So while initially we might be content with the addictive nature of the carrier singles being mended by autotune, in a song like “highlight,” the lack of dynamics lays bare a great need for some strong rifts to save the song from boredom.
For a sophomore album, 4minute still suffers from a lack of polish for which we usually forgive rookies. Mainly, it’s either that the voices are indistinguishable or that the clashing of differences in voice and style is too apparent. On one hand, it’s a lack of personality and charisma in both voice and actual persona that make us forget that there is more than one vocalist. And I emphasize, this is a problem. kpop has always also been about idol culture, and if one doesn’t know who is singing at a particular point, one becomes forgettable. On the other hand, when we can do this, it becomes chaotic, and it mainly happens in a clash between rap and vocals. In 태연하게 당연하게, the only slow song of the album, the rap part is forced to be in a certain key, and it just ends up awkward. I do believe Hyuna is a talented rapper, but the group needs to find a way to make these transitions less abrupt. A healthy comparison is the case of Bigbang’s TOP. Because of his timbre his raps will always mark a big change in a song (as compared to Gdragon’s more melodic rap). However, he’s gotten comfortable enough that he can carry a whole chorus (think “Lollipop”) and can be committed to that length of song. Comparing this to the abrupt and too short raps before the choruses in “HuH” leaves us wanting a lot more.
So all in all, not a great album.