September is a busy month for Korean pop, and for good reason. The slew of comebacks from K-pop’s finest means a lot of new music, and for me, reviews of said music.
JYJ – Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu, the trio formerly of five-piece TVXQ, have just released their first Korean album. The three of them have had quite a dramatic struggle the last two years. Their fallout with SM Entertainment over “slave contract” allegations, the resulting reluctance of the major TV networks to allow JYJ to appear on their music shows and the many other irritating situations the group have faced recently. It’s hasn’t been smooth sailing for JYJ.
But despite all the circumstances, it’s not like JYJ fans haven’t gotten glimpses of what the three of them have been up to. Two of them, Yoochun and Jaejoong, are popular actors appearing on dramas; the three of them have enough endorsements on hand to rake in the moolah, and JYJ have released three albums already — two EPs and one studio album. Unfortunately, their studio album was an English album for the global market. I say ‘unfortunately’ because it was very hard for me to listen to the songs keeping in mind how much they were struggling in stressing their accents. On top of that, the first single they released, “Ayy Girl” was… just… terrible! Kanye West made no difference to that song.
I hope JYJ learnt a valuable lesson with “The Beginning,” that just because you manage to bag big names from the American pop industry, doesn’t always mean you’ll get the best songs from them. And why turn to the West? Listening to ‘In Heaven,’ its apparent the three members are very capable of writing hit songs by themselves!
1. “Get Out” – An angst-filled track written by Jaejoong and Yoochun expressing the frustrations of a girl toying around with their emotions. The English isn’t perfect: “…but tonight I don’t need a damn explain” … but who cares, the song is catchy! With the “hey!” and “ho!,” this song will be a crowd favourite at JYJ concerts. My only gripe with “Get Out”? The “You will never find true love. Fuck you!” line. Really JYJ? Was the “Fuck you” really necessary? Stay classy guys. – 4/5
Edit: The MV is out!
2. “In Heaven” – The title track, written by ‘man god’ Jaejoong, is undoubtedly the best track on the album!
In fact, it’s not just the best track on this album, it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard this year! I just can’t stop listening to this powerful ballad. Junsu’s and Yoochun’s vocals… man, one can truly feel the emotions cut through the skin when they sing! The above MV is poignant and melodramatic, but the song can stand well above all on it’s own. – 5/5
3. “Fallen Leaves” (낙엽) – This track was already in the EP Their Rooms “Our Story”. A slow, classic sounding ballad. Junsu wails through this song. After all, it is his song. He wrote and arranged it himself. – 3/5
4. “Boy’s Letter” (소년의 편지) – Another ballad written by ‘with-new-haircut-looks-like-Robert-Pattinson-from-Twilight’ Jaejoong. Soaring vocals and an epic score, this is a beautiful song about a boy professing his love for that special girl, but just can’t seem to gather up the courage to tell her sooner, and in person. – 4.5/5
5. “Mission” – After 4 stellar tracks comes this song — and what a change for the worse. I could barely make it past the first chorus. The song has a good violin hook, but it’s so repetitive, you get sick of it. Worst of all, and what really killed the song for me, were the lyrics for the chorus which are entirely in English:
“Mission make it mission, let’s go Mission, make it make it go,
I must go make it mission, let’s go mission, make it go,
I must go make it mission, let’s go mission, make it go,
I want u screaming,
JYJ verse 2″
Sorry, but those lines make absolutely no sense what-so-ever! When you are top class act, why is it so hard to consult a lyricist or producer – or just about anybody who is proficient in the English language? Especially when the writer (Junsu in this case) isn’t very fluent in English himself. It’s one of the things that really distracts me about a K-pop song — English lines that make no sense. Totally ruined the song for me. – 1/5
6. “I.D.S” (I Deal Scenario) – The production in this song just feels so amateur, and dated. Considering this track and “Mission” are from their last EP, it’s a valid remark. Written by ‘perfect jawline’ Jaejoong, this track is just pure album filler material. – 2/5
7. “Pierrot” (삐에로) – Written from the point of a pantomime character, ‘can he be anymore good looking’ Jaejoong writes about what it’s like to be a puppet under someone else’s control, and how he longs for his freedom. Hmm, I wonder what inspired him to write such a song Another track from their Korean music book. – 3/5
8. “You’re” -Written by Junsu, the second last track on the album could have used a bit more punch in the beginning. But as the song progresses, the rap part (which I was surprised to know it was Yoochun), could have been longer, because he sounded awesome! – 3/5
9. “Nine” – The final track on the album, and yet another one from their EP. On the EP it was track number 2, and on this album it’s track number 9. Looks like they just dumped this track in to round it up. Nothing special. – 2/5
To me, ’In Heaven’ the album comes in two halves: one half, sounds more recent and has the production values you would expect in 2011. The other half, sounds like a collection of tracks that have been lying around for sometime and surely required some more work before they could have been deemed worthy to befit this album. Mostly the three from the EP Their Rooms “Our Story” – “Mission,” “I.D.S” and “Nine”. If they were going to re-use material, I would have instead liked a Korean version of better songs like “Empty” (from The Beginning). That song deserved to have been released as a single! (Ugh, “Ayy Girl”!)
All said and done, the three men that make JYJ worked on this album themselves. And like mentioned in my Jay Park ‘Take a Deeper Look’ album review, it’s something K-pop listeners really need to appreciate. From writing the lyrics to the music, Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu have pulled off something you won’t find many idol groups do — make their own music. And tracks like “Get Out,” “Boy’s Letter” and especially “In Heaven” are stellar, emotionally-wringed songs worthy of serious recognition.
But that’s the sad part. With the on-going reluctance to let JYJ perform on KBS, MBC and SBS, I wonder if the members will get the recognition — or more importantly, the year-end awards — “In Heaven” deserves.
The album will sell well, there’s no doubt about that. Heck, if JYJ put out a collection of nursery rhyme covers, their fanatical and extremely supportive fanbase will pre-order them in the tens of thousands. That’s how loyal they are!
Because half of ‘In Heaven’ is filled with songs from their last EP, the scores average to a 3 out of 5. But stressing the fact the newer songs are far superior and showcase the writing talents of ‘man crush’ Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu, ‘In Heaven’ gets a final rating of 4 out of 5 from me.
I hope “In Heaven” does so well, the major networks have no choice but to give in and shower JYJ with the mainstream attention the group have been missing, because I seriously believe the more crap the industry throws at JYJ, their fanbase will only grow stronger and even more supportive.
The boys themselves are surely not going to give up! Their fight to the top is not over yet.