Friday, July 6, 2012

[Album Review] ZE:A 'Spectacular'

Star Empire Entertainment

Following their debut in 2010, ZE:A, also known as 'Children Of Empire' under Star Empire Entertainment (which also houses Nine Muses and Jewelry), kept a resilient effort, trying basically everything by the book in order gain better success. The nine member boy group has come a long way from their auto-tune ruined Mazeltov single days but before this release, they seemed to be stuck with self-imposed bad luck. Their title tracks after Mazeltov were much better but  due to some stroke of bad luck, they failed to attain the recognition they deserved and struck out. Their career path in some form shares stark similarities with U-Kiss in that they both lacked a solid debut due to lackluster songs releases with the above mentioned Mazeltov and the latter's Not Young. U-Kiss were finally able to come into their own and shine with their second studio album 'Neverland', which featured some great songs. Since U-Kiss has escaped Neverland and ventured into a much better place, let's examine if ZE:A will step up and prove themselves to be Spectacular. After listening to the title track Aftermath, I'm excited about how the whole album will turn out.

Let's see if their second studio album Spectacular will finally prove to be the breakthrough they were hoping for after its release on the 4th of July.

1. Love Is Gone - The song starts with a simple yet haunting melody and when the elements start presenting themselves, it develops into a full fledged song. I have always had problems with the management of the rappers within the group, Heechul, Tae Heon, Min Woo have the usual K-pop rapper voice that can shine under flawless execution but they are always given less than perfect circumstances and usually end up falling flat. The rap parts in this song ruins the harmony of the song because of the over-done execution. The melody was simple but beautiful and it is good song to begin the album with. The dub-step before the finale was not bad but just felt unneeded. Overall, the song was nothing special but wasn't bad as well.

2. Aftermath - Right away when the song started, it just felt right being the title song. The instrumentals of the song blend really well with their harmonic voices and the rap parts that drags the first song down is completely cut down and that was a welcome sign. The main chorus that Dongjun sings is filled with emotions that it brings to mind the bad luck the group has faced. It is one of their strongest title tracks to date and boasts an impressive arrangement overall. For a sweet live performance, check out the video below:

3. Hunter - The aggressive beat of the song picks up right away and feels a mature track they attempted. The zoom in the beginning sounds like an element from a game and the guitar riffs sound like something Sweetune would produce. The fast paced rap parts in the song was impressive and the vocal sets were put in places were they put the whole element of the song out. Even though it was of good quality, it was not memorable.

Star Empire Entertainment

4. COY Girl - The old ZE:A sound was distinguishable in this track, with the vocal sets heavily processed to an unneeded degree. It is a decent club dance track but nothing that would make you feel impressed after hearing.

5. Body To Body - Another follow up dance track that has heavily induced European pop sounds. The background sounds were amusing at first but got annoying afterwards. I really liked the part where the vocalists made an entrance in the song and that special feeling just gets lost in the other parts. The separate instrumental part was reminding of the previous songs. Could have been something special but ends up being highly disappointing.

6. Never End - The instrumental in the back drop could have been developed into something special but slowly fades because it keeps on repeating itself. The chorus was soothing and haunting but it was not as strong as the title track.

7. Begin With Kiss - The beginning tune was innocently fun and the soothing vocals made the song sound like a cute pop ballad song. The slow tune overall and the cute process of their voices made this song worthwhile. Their strong vocal sets were evident and I was finally getting happy that rap would finally be excluded but I thinking it when the rap part started and it was surprisingly not bad and felt belonged in the song. A very fun sounding song.

Star Empire Entertainment

8. Daily Daily - Finally, the moment I was waiting for. Daily Daily was released as a Japanese single along with All Day Long. When I first heard the Japanese version, it made me very happy because it was one of the finest ballad that I had heard from them. I was anticipating that they would release the song in Korean because it sounded too good. The simple instrumentals and the soothing vocals were instantly likable and it was perfectly put right after Begin With Kiss. The beautiful arrangements were simply great and gave the song an uplift with the vocalist doing their best job.

9. Someday... - The instrumental is slower than Daily Daily and the vocalist shine in this slow song. This song has good parts in between but overall fails to put a memorable part to make it stick.

10. Dirty Cat - This song puts every wrong moves ZE:A has made into one song. The song begins with a computerized voice saying, "You can have a lot of fun looking for them" and that just doesn't work to raise its level. Overall, it's a understandably fun and innovative track but it just fails to provide anything meaningful. And also the line, "Dirty Cat Girl" doesn't help. The lyrics just doesn't work and derails the song down. The instrumentals has some jazz flair and keeps a well pace throughout but the song overall doesn't impress. Low Point.

11. S.A.D (Something In A Dream) - The beginning reminds of the k-pop a decade before and the instrumental sounds like the song from My Girl OST. The classical sound is a good accompany for the song but it is forgettable as well.

Overall, I was very impressed with the album and felt that the mature and impressive sounds worked well even though many the tracks beside Aftermath were underwhelming. The album did have the usual fillers and disappointments but the majority of the productions were impressive. Donjun really shined in the album with the other equally strong vocalists in the background supporting him. I was impressed also with the harmony the group showed in each of the songs. The dance tracks in the album were disappointing because the beats kept repeating and there were sounds thrown all over the place. I can sense that ZE:A might finally be heading in the right direction musically and that will hopefully become respected for their efforts. 

High Points: 'Aftermath', 'Begin With Kiss', 'Daily Daily'
Stuck in Between: 'Love Is Gone', 'Never End', 'Someday...', 'S.A.D'
Low Points: 'Hunter', 'COY Girl', 'Body To Body', 'Dirty Cat'

Result: 3.8/5

Leave me with your thoughts about 'Spectacular'. And also be sure to check out Seoulbeats' review here as well.

[Video Source: ze:a, kati liz @ Youtube]
[Image Source: Getty Images]

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