take-a-fourth: Take it slow, Wedding Dress , 니가 잠든 후에 /After You Fall Asleep, SOLAR
I will reveal my biases upfront, I am quite the Taeyang fanboy, and it was this guy that got me into kpop, so do excuse the extraneous part at the end.
Tracklist: 1) SOLAR (Intro) 2) Superstar 3) I need a girl (Feat. G-dragon) 4) Just a feeling 5) You’re my 6) Move (Feat. Teddy) 7) Break down 8 ) After you fall asleep (Feat. Swings) 9) Where u at 10) Wedding dress 11) Prayer (Feat. Teddy) 12) Look At Me 13) Take it slow
A full listen of SOLAR isn’t the smoothest ride; Taeyang actually has some pretty bad songs in the album (and not the kind I found in 4Minute’s HuH, which are more like a bad because it’s such a boring song). Rather, the bad songs in this album sometimes sounded harsh and even painful. At times it is bad vocals: (and I hate to admit this) I had to stop “You’re my” when Taeyang started going crazy with his falsettos. In “Move,” on top of a chorus that seems sung lazily, the autotune when he sings “move” is a bit too harsh. Other times, and I’m at odds with chariteee on this one, it’s the absurd, as I found the horns in “Break Down” quite annoying, like the rest of the song. It was something about my not knowing what was happening, like it reminded me of being on a carousel while watching some horrible fast food advertisement and being force-fed sugar cubes (yes, just general confusion).
However, SOLAR finds salvation in its best songs, and boy do they get good. “Solar” is a second short of a minute, but it begins the album as a thrown gauntlet and it reads: one should be quite ready for some amazing vocals. “Take it Slow” is irrefutable proof that this guy can sing and is probably the likely favorite of most people: it’s the kind of song singers might use to prove themselves in a contest. And it also has some pretty raw lyrics that our boy Taeyang wrote himself; that he wrote it without metaphors but rather with straightforward vulnerability makes it quite strong. “니가 잠든 후에 “(After You Fall Asleep) has a great beat and is the song I am most addicted to in the album, so stick with it even if the Chinese instrumental that begins it puts you off. “Wedding Dress” is arguably the best song in the album, and though it has great vocals, the reason for this is because Taeyang made it into a phenomenon (which I will talk about later). And just in case you need more suggestions, which I doubt since the album has already become quite amazing, noteworthy also are “Where U at” and “Just a Feeling.”
Taeyang worked with some great people in SOLAR, GDragon does an awesome rap in “I Need a Girl” and wrote a lot of the songs on the album (including 니가 잠든 후에 /After You Fall Asleep where Swings was a great find as the rapper). And of course, Teddy’s amazing work is also all over the album, including the rap in “Move”. So all in all, a great album, and definitely worth buying. It has the Taeyang-feel to it, i.e., that he commits vocally, melodically, and experimentally. This means that he can fail quite badly, but it also means that when he gets it, it can get sublime. Either way, you appreciate that it’s neither boring nor mediocre.
1) SOLAR (Intro) 2) Superstar 3) I need a girl (Feat. G-dragon) 4) Just a feeling 5) You’re my 6) Move (Feat. Teddy) 7) Break down 8 ) After you fall asleep (Feat. Swings) 9) Where u at 10) Wedding dress 11) Prayer (Feat. Teddy) 12) Look At Me 13) Take it slow
The album review stops here, but the next paragraphs are my insights on the album and external factors, so feel free to skip it if so inclined.
Though by the time this post comes out, Taeyang has already won the three major Korean music programs (Inkigayo, M!Countdown and Music Bank). An article (link) came out on allkpop.com about how the album was falling short of expectations. And today he just lost M!Countdown to rookie group MissA (and there is some stigma to this since rookie groups rarely do well on their first debut). Despite a great review of his album, I do agree that Taeyang isn’t doing as well chart-wise. As expansively discussed by the people at alwaystaeyang, this is due to overhype (the daily teasers and advertising that YG embarked on raised the expectations a lot), the current summer milieu in kpop to favor groups over solo artists (a bit on this here), as well as a misstep in the release of the mv (an initial video was taken down for one with more dancing, which more people seemed to want). I also believe that this is due to a weak carrier single. Don’t get me wrong, “I Need a Girl” is the type of song that gets stuck in your head, but problematically, it takes a few days for this to happen. I understand that it was a marketing strategy as well, echoing the sort of character of “Only Look at Me” plus endearing quirky lyrics and the opportunity to use Sandara Park. But I do believe Taeyang has stronger songs in the album. If I had found it after listening to the album, I would have been all over it as one of the “gems” in the album. Unfortunately, as a hyped up released single, it kind of fell flat.
The comparison of course, is with what I think is the success of “Wedding Dress,” which though never really stood a chance to win Korean countdowns as a digital single, was quite the phenomenon. I like to believe that the success of Wedding Dress was felt more outside Korea, in quirky ways like reaching no. 3 in Dutch countdowns, enjoying plays in a McDonald’s in New York’s Times Square, or the number of english covers that surfaced on youtube. I am quite sure it was also what paved for the success of SOLAR in other countries (reaching #3 and #1 in iTunes R&B charts in US and Canada respectively, and was #87 in the overall chart); quite an achievement for an album sung in Korean. Of course, the other sense that “Wedding Dress” was a phenomenon is the package in which it was presented. To add to the great vocals that it had, it was one well-made MV and had such great choreography. I will always love that pause it takes just before the first chorus: YoungBae posed with a cocked hat, and a ceiling of concentric circles coming down. I am still amazed by that slow dance he does in the bridge, and I love that move as he waves his right hand in the air, touching invisible piano keys. (and this is where the fanboy in me comes out) “Wedding Dress” is a great representative of why I love kpop, that one package of addicting song, great vocals, awesome choreography and creative music video direction. It’s kpop: so much more than just the song and so encompassing: the kind of art one lives in.
The contrast between these two songs is a symptom of a conflict with Taeyang: YG expects the chart-topping success of BigBang, but R&B, I believe, is just not where kpop is going these days. So “I Need a Girl” was a compromise, I believe. Not the best R&B song on the album but not as niche as wedding dress, and perhaps catchier. It is an attempt to market the genre, and I guess I would rather that this happen then for Taeyang to fall into a niche. The thing to amend however, is to temper expectations.