Here we go. It’s the return of one of the biggest names in Korean pop music: BIGBANG. The much anticipated comeback comes after, let’s face it, a pretty bad last year for the 5 member group. But whatever, I’m here to talk about the music, not their scandals. And when it comes to music, you just know Big Bang never disappoints!
Date: September 1st, 2009
The next morning, we had breakfast at the famous Kashi Art Cafe.
After breakfast, we hired an auto to take us to Jew Town, the first sight on our to-do list.
We first entered an old building, which I believe was Mattancherry Palace. It housed artifacts and had several murals, but there was a lot of restoration work going on while we were there. We were in and out very quickly.
Unfortunately, they don’t allow photography inside the Paradesi Synagogue, but from what I saw, it isn’t very big. The tale of Cochin Jews is an interesting one, dating back centuries. It was at this point, reading about how Jews ended up Kerala (and even the Syrian Christians) that I began to realize how Kerala has always had a historical connection with the Middle East.
I guess it was a privilege to meet someone like Mrs. Selam, one among the few remaining Jews of Kerala. (Read the story of Yaheh Hallegua, she’s apparently the last remaining Pardesi Jew of ‘child-bearing’ age)
I bought a few tiger prawns and a small lobster for myself (if I remember correctly, both together cost less than Rs. 300). As they were getting grilled nearby, we went for a quick stroll along the promenade.
We sat by the fish stalls and had our lunch.
Post lunch, we went for a stroll.
So here it is:
After sunset, we all had something to eat before parting ways. Ramesh and Anand were heading back to Bangalore, while I took a bus to head up north to my hometown in Kerala.
*Onam is the biggest festival in Kerala and one of the celebratory highlights include making pookkalam (a floral creation)
Previous posts in this series:
Normally there are two conditions on which I decide to write a K-pop review. Either I should be a fan of the artist (SNSD, Rainbow, Jay Park, INFINITE) or the artist comes out with music I really end up liking (Block B, AA). The decision to write a review of Miss A’s new mini album was purely because I gave the album a chance.
I’m not a huge fan of the girl group, but nor do I dislike the girls. Miss A are just one among the many popular groups that I really don’t care much for (like 4Minute, MBLAQ) besides one or two of their songs. But like every new K-pop release, regardless of my past opinions of an artist, I don’t dismiss their new music right away until I listen to a few of the tracks.
It’s a move I didn’t regret with Miss A’s ‘Touch – The 4th Project‘
1. “Touch” – The title track and lead single:
Written and produced by JYP supremo Park Jin Young, “Touch” at first listen didn’t really win me over. In fact I stopped listening to it after the first chorus. One, it wasn’t a great song on first listen, and secondly, I found the dancing a bit… weird (I only heard the song once the music video was out). But since I decided to write this review, I gave it a couple of more listens and watched the MV in its entirety. It slowly grew on me.
“Touch” has a slightly haunting aura and an infectious hook to it. The vocals don’t ever soar but are well in line with the song’s melody. I still find the dance choreography a bit weird, so it’ll be interesting how the girls interpret it live on stage. Still, my stance hasn’t improved much since my first listen. It’s not that great a song for a lead single. – 3/5
2. “Lips” – Here now is when the album gets a lot better. Unlike “Touch,” this song instantly won me over! Produced by German producer and songwriter FUEGO, the same guy behind Chris Brown’s latest hit “Turn Up the Music,” “Lips” is pure electronic-pop. It’s got a great build up during the chorus, and unlike the current trend of forcing cheap, re-hashed hooks influenced by house music, “Lips” never strays into bad territory. Definitely one of the best tracks on the album! – 4/5
3. “Rock n Rule“- I anticipated rocking guitar sounds, but instead the third track is pure club Euro-pop. An uptempo, and uplifting dance track with a dubstep bridge (I’m honestly bored of dubstep now – everybody’s doing it!). It’s still a good song though, and suits Miss A’s image perfectly. – 4/5
4. “No Mercy” – Hard-hitting drums opens this fierce track influenced by Brit-pop music. It was by this time into listening to the album I knew I just knew I had to write this review. “No Mercy” may not make an ideal single, but it’s still an example of a fine album track. – 3.5/5
5. “Over U” – First thing that popped into my head when this song began? “Run Devil Run” and Britney Spears. Which only meant the production was foreign and surely European. And surely enough, they were. Deepfrost are the Norwegian team responsible for this song, and it’s another good addition to the album. – 3/5
6. “Touch (Newport mix)” – The final track on the album is a R&B remix of the title track, and you know what? I actually prefer this version over the one that got released! In my opinion, this production suits the song’s melody better. Was this how “Touch” was initially intended to sound? Because I’m not kidding when I say it genuinely sounds better this way.
As is the norm in K-pop, just about every idol group releases a first single which involves dancing. I don’t know if JY Park forced “Touch” to be turned into a more upbeat version, so that the choreographers to create a dance for it. I like to believe some of the moves in the dance choreography shows how forced it looks. Regardless, this remix gets another 4/5 from me!
JY Park’s productions have been a hit-or-miss for me. As much as I believe 2PM’s “Again & Again” is one of best k-pop songs by a boyband, I also rank “Hands Up” as one of the worst by a top-tier group. JY Park is responsible for pretty much every lead single for an artist coming coming out of the JYP label (even though Miss A are managed by subsidiary AQ Entertainment). At first I assumed releasing “Touch” as the lead single was a bit of a stubborn decision by JY Park when there were better tracks like “Lips” and “Rock n Rule,” but after listening to the album in its entirety, I feel Miss A’s comeback will still be successful. I’m sure they will perform the remix version of “Touch” on music programs and the album should win them a few awards in their promotion cycle.
But the real decision to write this review was so that I could give the other songs on the album the attention they deserve. And yes, the headline is a take on the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover“. In an industry where the norm for most K-pop albums are: “one great single, rest album fillers,” ‘Touch – The 4th Project‘ is a rare example of when the album tracks outshine the lead single.
JYP released the best K-pop album of last year (in my opinion) and if Miss A’s ‘Touch’ is any indication, I’m all the more looking forward to 2PM’s comeback this year. JYP has already kicked off 2012 with some good music, I just hope there’s more in the pipeline!
My final rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Pretty Good)