Kim Jaejoong releases solo album “I” and MV for rock anthem “Mine”
While I make no denials that I’ve been a fan of DBSK/JYJ/TVXQ since their debut in 2003, I decided to review Kim Jae Joong‘s new album with my inner fan girl locked in the nearest trunk, so I would be able to give you guys an honest review from a lover of music standpoint and not just “another” Kpop nut. Fans of these groups, and it’s members, are some of the most passionate fans in the Kpop world and their love and support for them cannot truly be rivaled -and I am no different. Each member has a very special place in my heart as a fan of Kpop but more-so as a lover of the variety of musical styles and vocals in the Kpop universe.
To lean some credibility to this review, I should at least reveal my processes when I choose to review an album (officially). First off, and I can’t stress this enough, I pick up my copy of the album from an official source. I listen to each song, one-by-one, a minimum of ten times each before I formulate any opinion, and I always look up the lyrical translations as well. My Korean is far from flawless, so every little bit helps. When I listen to each track, I first focus my attention on the songs instrumentation, then after a few plays, focus solely on the lyrics and vocals. My final process is to listen to the songs as a whole. To provide an un-influenced review, I steer clear of all other official reviews posted online until I formulate my own opinion.
Admittedly, when the news hit the internet that Jaejoong’s music concept for his new album was to be heavily based in the genre of Rock, my interest was severely peeked. Rock, no matter where it’s from or what language it’s in, has always been a genre that I’ve truly adored since my earliest memories as a child. The “idea” that an artist well known for his flawless and beautiful “made-for-ballads” type vocals would be venturing into the Rock genre, truly made me quite excited to hear this album. With the pre-release of “One Kiss” fans passed through the looking glass, from what we know of Jaejoong to what was really there all along, and glimpsed into the depths of his seemingly never-ending realm of talent.
While lyrically this song is quite simplistic, it’s Jaejoong’s vocals that really stand out the most. Known for his inspiring power-vocals, Jaejoong shows off his range artfully as well as brings to life the emotion behind the song itself, leaving the listener with the feeling of longing. Some say that this song is directed to the fans, mainly because of the lyrics “At the narrowed crossroads, you put wings on me. You showed me the way to heaven“ (translation) – in relation to him being dubbed the “Angel of Korea” by his fans or “I couldn’t know, since I was born as me, About this common kiss and this rough heart.You taught me the way to find the memories that are hidden” (translation) – a possible reference to the things he’s learned (and remembered) because of the love he receive from his fans. While these interpretation seems plausible, the simplistic and polysemantic nature of the lyrics leave the song open to a myriad of interpretations.
Musically the track itself is a mix of pop and rock with a small pinch of techno elements that blend well for the feel of the track. The music adds to the emotion of the song and compliments the lyrics beautifully. While the accompanying rhythm guitar and slow drums during the main lyrics intensify the emotion behind the song, it’s the crescendo during the sub-chorus and chorus that leaves the fans bobbing their heads and smiling. No matter your personal interpretation of the songs lyrics, it’s the songs instrumentation that ultimately leaves you feeling inspired.
Can you say, “Now we’re talking!”? While I won’t delve into the music video for this release in this review (leaving that for a separate review), I will mention that this song and it’s corresponding MV really won me over in regards to the “Jaejoong: The Rock God” delineation that his die-hard fans have dubbed the artist. With this track, that title is quite well deserved.
When JYJ released it’s track Pierrot we got a small glimpse into the underlying vendetta-like and aggressive side of the group, but with Jaejoong’s MINE we are sucked deeper into the that abyss of raw emotion, resentment, and anger. The lyrics “Don’t come here, this is my ocean. Don’t think about it, I can’t help you, I’m busy fighting.This is my ocean, my ocean. Don’t try to cover even the sun that shines on me.” (translation), gives off the feelings of anger and contempt for those who have tried to deter the artist from everything he’s tried to accomplish. While quite possibly, this song is once again directed towards -well you know the story, I think the songs lyrics are broad enough to have a variety of meanings to each listener. Personally for me the song exudes a feeling of “I won’t let you deter me from goal.”
When I think about the songs instrumentation, I’m immediately reminded of Japanese Rock groups like Alice 9 and The GazettE. That heavy electric guitar and scaling synthesized piano in the beginning mixed with the driving drum beats and rhythmic bass for the main chorus leave the listener screaming “YEAH!” and often times they find themselves head-banging (some for the very first time). The breaks in the music flow featuring just the melancholic rifts from a stand-alone electric guitar and piano, breaks up the song’s over all feel, pushing an over-emphasis on the lyrics during each break.
With 내안 가득히 (You Fill Me Up) we switch from the “rock god” musical direction back to ballad format that Jaejoong is so well known for. The concept of the song (as most see it) is a “love confession” where the artist is portraying a man deeply in love with a woman who of which he’s on the verge of losing.
Now, normally this is where I would talk mostly about the lyrics of the song, but in the case of You Fill Me Up, the main focus here is the artists vocals. Ballads are definitely Jaejoong’s forte and with this track he showcases that talent flawlessly. The vocal ranges change back and forth through out the track and these changes personify its over-all emotions. However, while I’ve always been a sucker for ballads, this track isn’t that amazing. More par-for-the-course when you think about the over-all direction, instrumentation, and lyrics that Jaejoong is known for. It’s not “OMG THAT’S AWESOME!” it’s more just “Ehh Yup, that’s a Jaejoong ballad alright”.
Now the instrumentation is something truly to be discussed. On the surface it may also seem to be along the lines of the standard ballad tracks that Jaejoong has released previously along with the general trend of Kpop ballads as whole. However, this track exudes a subtle sexy vibe that can be hard to miss. Perhaps its the slow down beats or the jazz-style rhythmic sound that permeates through out, but it gives off the feel of a song where the instrumentation has a ulterior motive. Even though it’s a ballad that you would love to innocently slow dance to, it’s the subtly of the instrumentation that makes you want to dance naughtily.
The one true “love song” on the album, 나만의 위로 (Healing for Myself), brings us once again back to those loving memories of some of the best ballads ever created. I can honestly say that across-the-board, when it comes to every Kpop album I’ve ever listened to in my almost thirteen years as a fan, there is always one track on every album that truly speaks to me and ends up being my absolute favorite track on the album. Ninety-nine percent of the time, its usually what we call a “filler track” -one that is never promoted by the artist, officially. Healing for Myself is that track for me.
If I were to pick what part of the song speaks to me the most, it has to be the emotion in Jaejoong’s voice. Kpop songs rarely ever make me cry, but this one had me in tears near-instantly. The emotion behind the vocals in this track epitomize the feelings of love, longing, and desire. With lyrics like “Love love, the love that abandoned me. Love love, I live in memories and reminiscence. You are already my soul. How to live, without you?” (translated) and “Even the cup of coffee that I unconsciously ordered for you is cold like the you who cooled off, unlike my heart. Trying to fix the puzzle of love that already went criss-cross.Cry, cry, cry again.” (translated) you can’t help but feel melancholic and even a bit depressed. For me in particular, when Jaejoong sings the lyrics that start off with “Love, Love, the love that abandoned me” my heart instantly breaks every time. It reminds us all how painful love can sometimes be.
The instrumentation for this song, starts off with an acoustic feel and quickly turns into a typical pop ballad, but for me its that acoustic part of the track that exudes the most emotion. Acoustic tracks, while done somewhat often, rarely get any good international promotion or fan love, officially, which is extremely sad in my opinion. I have found that simplistic musical instrumentation has a deeper affect on the listener and helps them relate even further to the feel and emotions that are trying to be portrayed. The over-all emotional depth of the tracks accompanying music is at the heart of this song and without it the song would be a complete wash. This is truly a great example of how well music, lyrics, and vocals can blend seamlessly.
Once again Jaejoong presents to the world his angel-like vocals in the ballad All Alone. While this song is quite pretty instrumentally that “Wow” factor that I was looking forward to really isn’t there.
His vocals fit well with this type of track (a usual) but the song itself really isn’t that impressive. I hate to be so curt about it but I really found this track quite boring. The song’s saving grace is the low-lying orchestral accompaniment which is the cornerstone of the song’s “pretty” feel. The lyrics, set around a story of the losing of someone he loved, are quiet poetic -which Jaejoong is quite well known for but even-so it still comes off ordinary.
All-in-all I enjoyed Kim Jaejoong’s new album. However, I have to admit one really big issue that I had with it: the lack of ROCK! As I mentioned previously, I have been a Rock fan ever since I can remember so I went into this album with decently high hopes for an album that would stop my rock heart. Unfortunately, with the exception of MINE, the influence of rock in all the other tracks is near non-existent. It was quite disappointing from that aspect. However, overall, Jaejoong did an excellent job for his first solo album. I’m hoping we will have many more flashes of Jaejoong:The Rock God in the future, and I’m now patiently waiting for his next release (and the rumored new album from JYJ).
What did you think of Jaejoong’s new album?
*Special Note: Thanks you to my colleague Jung Bae for inspiring me to try my first all-out review! This was fun!