Browse Category

Album Reviews

Jay Park – ‘Take a Deeper Look’ album review: About time!

It’s finally here! Jay Park finally makes his solo debut!

2011 may only be into its fourth month, but with the deluge of idol groups hitting the Korean pop scene, the music has gotten pretty stale to me. Every time I heard the line “Check it out…” “…Brand new sound!” as the intro to some song from new idol groups, all I kept thinking was: “Nope, it’s the saaaame sound I heard yesterday from that other girl group who debuted!”.

There have been a few decent songs this year, but after being disappointed by the comeback offering from my second favourite girl group (first being SNSD), I had all my hopes pinned on Jay Park to actually bring something fresh to the K-pop scene.

I’ve been anticipating Jay Park’s solo debut for a while now. Ever since I heard “Demon” last year, I knew this dude was destined to be the next big star. Not a star like how Rain is popular as an ‘Asian star,’ but a star of Asian descent who will become a worldwide superstar!

For one, he has the advantage of being American (of Korean descent). Born in Seattle, Jay Park grew up dancing and performing, and his influences are deep in R&B and hip-hop — not cutesy idol pop. Not to mention his love for b-boying.

Since leaving getting kicked out of 2PM, Jay Park has been slowly whetting the appetite of his fans, a.k.a Jaywalkerz. A few YouTube covers later, he’s now out with his first album ‘Take a Deeper Look‘. He’s on his own now, so he has the freedom (I guess) to do the kind of music that he wants, not what JYP any labels wants him to do.

Jay Park Take A Deeper Look album cover Abandoned single

Which brings us to his first single “Abandoned”.

My review:  “Abandoned,” if sung in English, would sound like a lot of the modern day R&B one would hear on radio. I love the chorus, the overall look of the sets, and the choreography by Andrew Baterina is slick! It’s not a ‘fresh new sound’ but a good track in the same vibe of many other good pop R&B tracks from artists such as Ne-Yo & Chris Brown. For a self-penned track, it’s a great effort — given how rare it is that K-pop stars make their own music. If I were to nit pick, it would be Jay looks so awkward from 0:05 to 0:07. Yeah he’s short, and quite shy in real life so I can imagine how awkward it may have been to do some of the scenes in this MV :). I hope he recorded an English version of the same. Or at least has a dance only version of the music video!

My rating – 4/5

As for the other tracks:

Touch The Sky (Feat. The Quiett)” – Kicking the album off with a smooth hip-hop track, Jay Park straight away reminds listeners he can rap too. Love the beat and the retro loop music. (This track also reminded me of the late Nujabes) – (4/5)

“Tonight” – I’m guessing this was supposed to be the first single, but after BIG BANG released their hit “Tonight” a few weeks back, Jay Park and SidusHQ may have had second thoughts on pushing back this track for a second single release. It’s more fast-paced and only the pop-sounding track on the album. Not bad, but I’ll probably like it better with the video.

Jay Park Tonight 오늘밤 MV music video screen capsUpdate (11/05/2011): The MV is out!

Here’s my review:

I’m kinda disappointed :-/ When I watched the behind-the-scenes from a news interview a few months back, the concept seemed cool: dance all the way to a party. But seeing the final result, to me it comes off as a half-assed effort. Stepping out of the house, I would have thought Jay and the ‘public’ would be pulling off slick dance moves continuously and pulled along more people on the way to ‘the club’. At least that is what I thought the concept was. But instead, the dancers seem restricted by the set. Maybe, they should have stepped out and filmed this in the real world and on the streets. Another thing, it’s as though the camera cuts away every time the director felt Jay’s facial expressions (or acting) wasn’t good enough. (Jay’s really got to improve on his facial expressions!) Also, did Andrew Baterina work on the choreography for “Tonight” as well? Because some of the moves look recycled from “Abandoned“. Overall, it’s a cute video which his younger female fans will appreciate, but it really doesn’t improve the song much for me.

My rating – 3/5

“I Can’t Be Without You” (너 없이 안돼) – A slow-tempo R&B ballad. I don’t know, Jay’s vocals sound a bit off to me on this track. (2/5)

“Don’t Let Go” – Keeping the tempo, another smooth R&B ballad. Listening to the track, it makes you wonder if Jay writes a song in English and then translates it into Korean. (3/5)

“Level 1000” (Feat. Dok2) –  Essentially a rap track with a gangsta vibe. Jay Park raps pretty well and is joined by his buddy Dok2, who also appeared on “Abandoned”. (3/5)

Update (14/05/2011): Even this track got a music video! (Although on a much, much lower budget)

Bestie” – Essentially the Korean version of “Bestie,” an English track Jay Park released last year and performed at his fan meets. The chorus is concert-friendly and a fun track Jay performs with his AOM posse.

Listening to the album, you know Jay Park is striving to be a R&B star, and not a pop star per se. All the tracks, with the exception of “Tonight,” have a strong R&B/hip-hop vibe and I wonder if they would have sounded better had they been sung in English.

Overall, for a first mini-album, ‘Take a Deeper Look‘ is a solid effort from Jay Park. It’s not a ‘classic’ by any  means. The production could use some improvement but regardless, you have to give credit where its due. Jay Park worked on this album by himself and his friends, mostly Cha Cha. Not with any industry big shots — and for that, ‘Take a Deeper Look‘ gets an overall rating of 4 out of 5 from me.

(By the way Jay, when is “Demon” getting an official release?!) Edit (05/09/2011):  Well that just came out of nowhere! The “Demon” MV is released!

Hmmm, doesn’t look…erm, very good. Very poorly produced in my opinion. I know it has 3D sequences but anyway, even Jay himself tweeted about the MV:

Jay Park Demon MV tweet
Even he didn't know the MV was going to be released!

I agree with him. The sound in the MV doesn’t do the song justice. They should have just released the single.

(/end Edit)

Last November, I delayed my return journey from Bangkok just so I could see Jay Park live (you can read about my fan meet experience here). It was money well spent to see Jay’s talents at that stage in his career. He’s only going to get bigger now.

There’s still some awkwardness in his appearance, but I guess its got to do with his shyness and humble nature. He’ll probably grow more comfortable in front of the camera in due time. (Actually, act all hip & cool in music videos, I really get annoyed when people act like that in real life… so I hope he stays the same in real life). ‘Take a Deeper Look‘ is Jay Park’s first solo Korean album, but with his recent meetings with Will.I.Am and getting to perform as Ne-Yo’s concert opener, Jay’s slowly gearing up for his US debut.

I can only wonder how good his first English album will be!

I Can’t Be Without You (너 없이 안돼)

2AM – ‘Saint O’ Clock’ album review: My favourite K-pop album of 2010!

When I heard of 2AM the first time, I disregarded them as some soppy-boy band for girls who love their mushy love songs. An Asian version of Il Divo (minus the opera) if you may.

2am Saint O' Clock promo teaser concept member photos
From top: Jinwoon, Changmin, Jo Kwon, Seulong

Even when allkpop began hyping their upcoming new release with the many (many) teasers they kept releasing, I never bothered to click. Then when the official music videos for their first two singles were released, I was curious to see if the hype was all worth it. I listened to the two singles – “Like Crazy” and  “You Wouldn’t Answer My calls” and went: “Wow, nice songs. They have great voices too.”

So I thought to myself: ” Well, if they have two great songs in one album, they may have a few more good songs”.

2am Saint O'Clock rain alternate new album cover
2AM's first full-length studio album

Long story short, here I am writing a track-by-track album review for an album I think is one of the best pop albums of the year! (I’ve managed to find out the English translation for the Korean song titles):

1) INTRO – Phone:  A beautiful piano laden instrumental with the phone constantly ringing in the background. Sounds very Japanese soundtrack-esque. Also a precursor to the next track.

2) 전활 받지 않는 너에게 / You Wouldn’t Answer My Calls – A beautiful emotional ballad. Not much else to say really. It’s beautiful track.

I wouldn’t rave about the video, but then again, I’m a guy. The girls seem to love it. (4 out of 5 for the song)

3. 미친 듯이 / Like Crazy – Another great ballad! Slightly more uptempo compared to its predecessor but a soppy ballad none the less.

Since I don’t know Korean, I have no idea why they’re crying so much in the video. (4/5 for the song)

4. 바로 나야 (feat. GLAM) / Just Me (Feat. GLAM) – One of the my favourite tracks on the album! Happier, fresh-sounding with a 90s- groove to it. (4/5)

5. Mirage – Getting into American R & B territory with this one. Just ‘okay’ to me. (Sorry, I don’t like Korean-pop trying too hard to sound American) (2.5/5)

6. 다시 사랑하기엔 / To Love Again – A nice ballad. Sounds like a track you’d often find on a soundtrack to some K-drama or movie. (3/5)

7. 이젠 없다 / Now, There’s No More – Found this to be track best enjoyed with your eyes closed. Another great ballad. (3.5/5)

8. 불안하다 / Nervous – Beats! Thumping beats! Yet another song with a strong 90s-vibe. This time a lot more uptempo. (4/5)

9. Love U, Hate U (feat. 방탄소년단) – My least favourite track on this album. Only because its another attempt to sound American with its “H to the A to the T to E” lyrics. Didn’t even bother listening to it in full the first time. (1/5)

10. With or Without U – The most uptempo track on the album, this is a great track with the guys letting it all out in the chorus. (3.5/5)

11. 사랑한단 말 못해 / Can’t Tell You That I Love You – The final track on the album and believe it or not… my favourite song on this album! A sexy uptempo track with great beats, this seems to be a favourite among fans as well.

Overall album rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

I’m definitely getting this album! Either on or when I go to Bangkok in a few days time. With this album, 2AM are now officially on my k-pop radar.

Update: I finally bought my copy of the album. Picked it up when I was in Manila, Philippines.

Shinee Hello 2AM Saint O' Clock album CDs India
Also bought SHINee's 'Hello' re-package album because I loved "Lucifer" so much!

Linkin Park – ‘A Thousand Suns’ album review

When I wrote my take on the first single off ‘A Thousand Suns’ — “The Catalyst,” some of the comments I got disagreed with my opinion, while some… well, just ranted without even making sense of what I wrote. What I did write was that I liked “The Catalyst,” and though it was very different from anything they had done before, I was still willing to listen to the whole album before I judge the direction Linkin Park was heading.

Linkin Park A Thousand Suns album cover review
'A Thousand Suns' album cover

Since “The Catalyst” debuted, the comments online have been 50:50. 50% saying they hate the new sound and praying Linkin Park wouldn’t go all electronic. The other 50% saying they welcome the new sound and will always support Linkin Park because they feel it makes them “a real fan”.

Well guess what. The first 50% are going to be disappointed with ‘A Thousand Suns‘.

The sound is nothing like you have heard from Linkin Park before. If you are expecting anything close to a formulaic LP song structure from the Hybrid Theory-era, forget it. You won’t find it here.

Yes, it’s heavy on the electronic drum pad sounds and there isn’t a whole lot of ‘guitar’ on A Thousand Suns. But does that mean this album sucks and it’s end of Linkin Park as we know it? No.

Track by track review (ratings on a scale of 5):

1. The Requiem (2:01)The album opener with lines from “The Catalyst” sung in a female voice

2. The Radiance (0:57) – interlude with a speech soundbite

3. Burning the Skies (4:13) – The first full-fledged track. A rather somber mid-tempo track with vocals sung by Chester Bennington and U2-esque guitars kicking halfway through. (3/5)

4. Empty Spaces (0:18) – another interlude

5. When They Come For Me (4:55) – Probably the only song from A Thousand Suns I can see drummer Rob Bourdon getting to really play his drums. This track belongs to Mike Shinoda on the vocals and features a heavy eastern-sound. (3.5/5)

6. Robot Boy (4:28) – I don’t really expect to hear the band perform this song a whole lot, not in its entirety anyway. It maybe over 4 minutes long but sounds like an extended interlude. (2.5/5)

7. Jonarda Del Muerto (1:34) – interlude (yeah, there’s a lot of that in this album)… but this time in Japanese — despite the title being Spanish. Go figure.

8. Waiting For The End (3:51) – When Chester sings the first line, it sounds like sounds the same as Elbow’s “On a Day Like This“. Still, after hearing this I feel like Chester’s getting bored of screaming the shit out of his throat and sometimes just wants to sing. Confirmed by the band to be the second single. (3.5/5)

9. Blackout (4:39) – At first I was like 🙂 … then I started nodding my head… and then I was like :D… and then it stayed like that until 2:12! My favourite song on the album! Oh, and about Chester getting “bored of screaming,” I take it back. (4.5/5)

10. Wretches and Kings (4:15) – The second track released online. I didn’t like it when I first heard it last week, I don’t like even now. It’s not a great song but it is the closest to a Mike Shinoda-rapping verses, Chester-singing chorus combination you’ll get on A Thousand Suns. (2/5)

11. Wisdom, Justice, and Love (1:38) – another interlude with a speech soundbite

12. Iridescent (4:56) – A Chester Bennington ballad that will sound better live. (3.5/5)

13. Fallout (1:23) – the last interlude of the album

14.  The Catalyst (5:39) – The first single off A Thousand Suns and one of the best tracks on the album. Once you hear the entire album, the placing of “The Catalyst” in the track list makes a lot more sense. I’m SO going to sing-along to this live. (4/5)

15. The Messenger (3:01) – An acoustic song on a Linkin Park studio album. Yup. (3/5)


I’ll reiterate, A Thousand Suns is going to be a huge disappointment for some “hardcore” LP fans, and to other “real fans,” they’ll appreciate the effort even if they don’t like it — if only to show their support. Which camp do I belong to?


I love Linkin Park. In 2000, ever since I heard “One Step Closer,” they were my favourite nu-metal band — the genre label slapped on to bands like LP and the genre kick-starters Limp Bizkit. I owned the latter’s Significant Other and Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water (loved both) but I still felt Hybrid Theory was a better example of a fusion between rap and rock . (That and the fact Fred Durst sounds like a wuss compared Mike Shinoda’s rapping)

To me though, Meteora (2003) remains my favourite Linkin Park album. It was a good showcase of all Linkin Park could do at the time — be it the (still)awesome “Faint,” great rock ballads or even songs like “Breaking the Habit“. But then they decided to hire legendary producer Rick Rubin and sought a more organic sound for their third studio album. Fine, I’m all for experimentation if the outcome is still good music, but outside of favourites “Bleed It Out,” “Hands Held High” and “No More Sorrow,” Minutes to Midnight was a disappointment for me.

Like many, I too was hoping for a return to ‘form’ (more Meteora than Hybrid Theory) but I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.

A Thousand Suns is yet another attempt by Linkin Park to try something different. Some will call this a step in the wrong direction but I’m going to commend LP for it. Thought the track list numbers 15, only 9 are proper songs — and I still prefer A Thousand Suns to Minutes to Midnight. And yes, like my previous post, some commenters will call me “crazy” — but it’s okay. This is the internet, people can call me whatever their immature mindsets churn out.

I’m someone who listens to a wide variety of music. From classic rock to pop, from trance to easy-listening, from 90s hip-hop to even korean pop — my ears are all open to good music. I’m sure the members of Linkin Park are like that too. Some metal fans just can’t seem to comprehend their favourite musicians actually appreciating genres outside of the ones that made them famous — but like it or not, it’s nothing new. Real musicians (and music lovers) don’t restrict themselves to just one single genre.

Everybody has the right to listen to whatever pleases them. I’m also not the kind of person who goes around calling Justin Bieber “gay” just because I don’t like his music (btw, I don’t like his music). And just like I never lost any love for Keane (one of my favourite bands) because they too broke away from their “signature sound” on their third album, I’m not going to lose hope on Linkin Park either. I’m still going to buy this album. If not for how much I liked it, at least so they continue to make music — and more importantly, one day tour India.

Linkin Park A Thousand Suns band new photo

Linkin Park will eventually get back to a sound that made them world famous. They all do. It’s just that, after 50 million in album sales, a loyal fanbase on every continent, 2 Grammy awards, Linkin Park are in a position to do what they like. While they may lose some fans with A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park will always have an army of supporters large enough to keep them rocking.

In The End, that’s all that really matters.

A Thousand Suns final rating: 3.75/5

Disclaimer: I reviewed this album based on an illegal download. I’m still going to buy the album when it’s officially out in India and if you want to better the chances of seeing your favourite band tour your country, I’d suggest you do the same. Album sales are figures used to draw an artist to a particular country.

EDIT: I finally got my copy of ‘A Thousand Suns,’ the CD + DVD edition.

Linkin Park A Thousand Suns CD+DVD edition packageThe DVD features a 30-minute behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ documentary. It was okay.

Related Posts with Thumbnails