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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Track-by-Track: Winner - 2014 S/S

I was one of the eager viewers who watched Winner become an official group through the reality show WIN last summer. To be totally honest, I was rooting for the other group, but I knew that no matter who won, YG would give them a chance at great debut album. In a lot of ways, the album that did materialize surprised me. 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. Empty - The standard YG mid-tempo that took me a couple of listens to fully appreciate. What did sit with me instantly, though, were the processed, syncopated background vocals throughout the song. Sometimes it's those little touches that make a song stand out. Now it's definitely one of my favorites from the album. 9/10

2. Color Ring - I'm not a fan of kicking off an album with back-to-back downtempos, but that doesn't mean this isn't a great single. In fact, I like it even better than Empty. It has a more organic, rock feel to it and takes its time to build to its emotional climax. Sonically, it sounds quite similar to Kang Seung Yoon's solo track, Stealer, from last year. Except this one's better. 10/10

3. Don't Flirt - Finally, an uptempo track! It's not the album's best, but it is nice to hear that slightly reggae-ish beat kick in and know that this isn't going to be an album filled entirely with ballads. The song itself is fairly standard k-pop album filler, but at least it's at the top end of that category quality-wise. The hook is particularly sticky. 8/10

4. I'm Him - The album's only straight-up hip-hop song, and it's a monster. The beat alone makes this an instant standout. I love how at the end it switches to an old-school break beat for a few bars. If anything, I'd like to see the group pursue this sound more in the future, even if it is technically a solo piece. It's a nice complement to their otherwise smooth aesthetic. 10/10

5. Love Is A Lie - Probably the album's most club-friendly track, this sounds like it could have been a Big Bang song from a couple years back. It doesn't stand out as single-material to me, but I appreciate the relentless eurobeat and the spoken bits at the end of the chorus make me laugh for some reason. 8/10

6. Confession - Now we're in total ballad territory, slowing the tempo way down. Luckily, the melody is pretty and the production lush. Some nice falsetto here, too. It's very nice, just not my favorite kind of K-Pop. 7/10

7. But - This represents part two of what I consider to be the album's somewhat saggy middle. It's a pleasant midtempo with a great chorus, but no real edge. As nice as it is, it's one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. 7/10

8. Different - I've noticed that this track is getting a lot of love from the fan community. I've gotta admit that I'm a little baffled by that. It's not a bad song by any means, but I don't really see what separates it from the two before and after it. It's another pleasant midtempo with a good chorus. 7/10

9. Tonight - Completing our exhaustive run of pleasant midtempos, we have Tonight. Despite this sounding like 90's r&b (a good thing), it's probably my least favorite track on the album. I don't skip it, but in the realm of K-Pop, it sounds like so much else that I can't highly recommend it either. 6/10

10. Smile Again - Those who watched WIN will be familiar with this track. It's one of the catchiest songs on the album, and feels like a good, celebratory closer. I'm not a huge fan with what they did with the production here, but a good song is a good song, no matter how it's dressed up. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.0/10 Recommended

Nick's Recommendation: I find that inserting the two tracks the band recorded as part of the WIN program into the album helps round out the tempos and sound. The excellent Go Up slots perfectly between tracks 7 and 8 and helps resolve that saggy middle issue. And Just Another Boy acts as a great primer right before Smile Again closes the album.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome review! As a team B fan, I'm glad to hear that you also rooted for them during WIN. Have you heard of their new survival show Mix&Match? As a fan, I'm upset to hear that the original line-up will be changed, but at the same time, I guess I should hold my judgement before the show debuts. ):

5:06 AM  

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