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Friday, August 29, 2014

Track-by-Track: Taemin - Ace

God, it's been a long time since I've done one of these. And with all of my going on about K-Pop this summer, it's time for some in-depth opinionating on some of the summer's biggest albums, starting with the solo debut of Shinee's Taemin. A note about any K-Pop review I do: I am not a Korean speaker. I search out translations of the lyrics when it interests me, but lyrics are definitely not something I'm focusing too heavily on in these reviews.

1. Ace - We get a slow burn to open the mini-album. I'm usually not a fan of this, but this track is so slinky and interesting and well-produced that I can't help but love it. The waterfall of vocals in the chorus are especially effective. The English bit at the end makes me laugh, though, as it's such a weird phrase: "Talkin' about what I know about". 10/10

2. Danger - Loved it from the very first listen. This is what Michael Jackson in 2014 would sound like, albeit Korean. It's an impressive, dense production, with the catchiest "bom bom bom" bits I've ever heard in a song. Full of attitude and a chaotic, propulsive beat, this is more than a song. It's an opening salvo. 10/10

3. Experience - We open with some spaghetti western guitar before launching into another catchy, uptempo MJ-inspired pop number. This suffers just a bit by following the excellent Danger, but it's still another great production with an easy chorus and strong beat. 9/10

4. Pretty Boy (ft. Kai) - This sounds more like current K-Pop than anything else on the album, and that's no bad thing. From the trumpeting opening to the huge, aggressive hook, this is a definite standout. If they were to select another single from the album, this would be my pick. In a lot of ways, it sounds like a mix between Shinee (Taemin's group) and EXO (Kai's group), which obviously makes sense. Doesn't make it any less awesome. 10/10

5. Wicked - We're going old-school again, with a slightly funkier feel. My favorite part is when things slow down for the bridge. It's actually better than the chorus, which is a little weak melodically. Still good, but not up to the four tracks that preceded it. 8/10

6. Play Me - With a nod to symmetry, we end with another slow track. This isn't as interesting or melodically rewarding as Ace. Unfortunately, it's easily my least favorite track. Perfectly pleasant, but it just doesn't do anything special for me. 6/10

Album Grade: 8.6/10 Highly Recommended

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