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[Review] 'Hands Up' by 2PM

June 26, 2011 @ 5:25 am
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A summer in Korean pop music wouldn't be complete without the presence of the overexposure and explosiveness of 2PM. From the get-go, this pop group didn't just set out to woo fans with their music, but present a feast for the eyes as well. Now, with a few years of super stardom under their belts, to say that 2PM have accomplished both really goes without saying. 2PM currently stand as a six member boy band consisting of Chansung, Junho, Junsu, Nichkhun, Taecyeon, and Wooyoung. From their humble beginning, 2PM brought to the table a slew of high-energy music with memorable songs like "10 Points Out of 10 Points" and the wildly popular "Again & Again". But after the group suffered the (dramatic) loss of their ex-leader Jay Park and all the backlash that followed, 2PM's musical offering stepped away from gleeful moods to music colored in angst and frustration. Now they're back with their latest full-length album, "Hands Up"; this time, we hear 2PM drift away from their frigid phase and howl their way back to the happy-go-lucky six that they once were. Brimming with club-ish tunes and the like, "Hands Up" aims to showcase a different side of 2PM, one that many Hottests probably forgot existed. But does this album have the execution to boot? Let's find out. === Track List: 01 Hands Up 02 Electricity 03 Give It To Me 04 Like A Movie (영화처럼) 05 Don't You Know (모르니) 06 Hot 07 Without U 08 I'll Be Back 09 I Can't 10 Hands Up (East4A mix) 11 Electricity (220v mix) 12 Thank You 13 Don't Stop Can't Stop === "...everyone put your hands up, and get your drinks up!" Chansung commands as "Hands Up" hits its first loop of synths and digital nuances. It's no secret that electronic music is the style of choice by mainstream artists, especially these past couple of years, and Kpop idols are no different. From Big Bang to SHINee, Kpop groups are dousing their music with electro-bells and whistles to match the energy of today's roaring crowds; with "Hands Up" as their title track, 2PM have done their best to meet these standards of the nightlife sound, and to an extent, they got it right. Like every club banger out there, "Hands Up" is extremely repetitive and drills the title into your head from the beginning to the very end. Along with its swirling lyrics is a screechy synth loop that plays out endlessly throughout the song, almost challenging it to see which gets tattooed into your memory first: the synths or all the 'put-put-put-put-put yo hands up' chants that plague the track. Some of the melodies are engaging - Wooyoung's break down is the best piece of the song, melodically - but 2PM lose a lot of musicality as the song progresses. The direction in "Hands Up" is practically non-existent. The song doesn't go anywhere, nor build up to anything climactic, but instead stays stagnant through its three-minute existence. 2PM, although a six member boy band, possesses very few vocalists. As a unit, their vocal presentation is rather weak and it's clearly heard in this lead single. In "Hands Up", Most of the members sing-talk their way from one line to the next, delivering a minimal amount of conviction (take Chansung, who briefly tinkers through his very few lines enough to save himself from fully falling out of tune). The entire purpose of their 'singing' is to sell us the melodies, which aren't memorable to begin with, but since the word monotonous has become synonymous with the word 'catchy' in pop music, they've evidently decided on repetition as their safety net. But as straightforward as the song is, I can not de-rail the fact that the actual vibes "Hands Up" exudes are right on the money. The song is careless, but in the best way possible. It's fun and far more exciting than the angsty tracks on 2PM's previous EPs. They aimed to spread their energy rather than bottling it up on stage, and with "Hands Up", they've hit their mark. So well, that you'll pay zero attention to how extremely cookie-cutter this song actually is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgrB2KBZws4 Following the title track is "Electricity", a very urban and 'street' song that was previously used on the Kdrama, "Dream High". As 'hard' as 2PM would like us to believe them to be with this track, it's not the easiest thing to do when their pop career has taken them in directions so obscure from this, that an effort like "Electricity" is immediately rendered forced and artificial. It would have been a great deal of help had the production been worthwhile, but alas, that is not the case. "Open your heart and let the music go into your soul," Junsu muses, but the line is trumped by the unyieldingly plain attributes (if that's what you'll call them) of the beat. There is absolutely no depth in this song, and even if it reflects the simplicity of actual rap songs, those that meet high levels of success and popularity are usually filled with staggering amounts of intricate phrasing and sequences, things that are also missing in this track (Electricity). Fortunately, things take a turn for the better from track number three, "Give It To Me", onward to the end of this album. The guys of 2PM have expressed that they're at the point in their career where if push comes to shove, they have to either decide to continue riding on this whimsical life of the Korean pop idol or 'evolve'. Without having made any significant decision, "Hands Up" reflects a palette of maturity and sophistication to 2PM. Even when they were grumpy throughout the somber "Heartbeat" and "Without U" promotions, those moments weren't showcasing musical growth like we hear in this album. "Give It To Me" (composed by Junho), isn't strong enough to be a single, but there are things about it that are more believable and authentic compared to the first two ho-hum tracks. "Give It To Me" allows 2PM to express emotion and sensuality without having to over do the sex-appeal that J.Y. Park and JYP Entertainment are so notorious for incorporating in their music. When 2PM pull back, they shine far more than when they dwell in the convoluted image of 'beastly' idols (Give It To Me). "Like a Movie" (or "영화처럼") is simply lush in style. It's a soft, slow song that follows well after "Give It To Me", but it takes things one step further by treating us with a broad and spacious chorus. 2PM's music is usually crisp and tight, which lives up to the amazingly clean production style of JYP Entertainment, yet we hear them in a very mystifying atmosphere and that in itself is refreshing. Even the rap section and shifts near the end don't clash with the overall feel of the song; it's a song driven by 2PM and not the other way around. Nichkhun singing will please a lot of fans out there (Like A Movie). What holds the title as one of the best songs on the album, "Don't You Know" ("모르니") relinquishes all the sweetest bits of 2PM and delivers it in one of the nicest packages to date. "Don't You Know" is an up-beat, old-school take on a fun summer song. It screams Kpop in every way, shape, and form, and that's exactly why it's so appealing. It's not trying too hard to sound Western like a lot of Kpop tends to do. Instead, 2PM polishes what Korean pop music is all about and lays down some catchy (but not gimmicky) melodies that are less pretentious and way more fun to jive to. We also hear 2PM stripped completely of their beastly sound and stuffy attitude, showing us that they are in fact capable of stepping into music that is less idol-esque, yet very much Korean pop (Don't You Know). Rounding out the new songs is "Hot" (composed by Junsu). If you're a fan of U-KISS's style (or even Big Bang), this song is right up your alley. It features an assortment of electro-pop twirls that are in line with the club feel that the album opens with. This time, though, there's more electro-pop details to listen for. You'll almost forget this is 2PM when the song picks up steam during the pre-chorus/chorus sections, as they're strategically explosive and filled with energy. Unlike the title track, this 'club' song is a little more diverse and appropriately loud where it should be (Hot). [While "Hands Up" features seven more songs, two of those are remixes and the rest have already been released. Therefore, they won't be 'reviewed' here.] === 2PM's "Hands Up" marks a point in their career where they have let go of their angst and welcomed a fun and lively sound that I'm sure you're all glad to see them with. The arrangements aren't as dark, but still possess that level of quality that JYP Entertainment is so keen on producing (even those songs composed by 2PM members). "Hands Up" is laid-back and tame, and for the most part, it all falls into place like it should. However, even if these songs are nice and well fitted to 2PM's current musical style, there isn't anything stand-out enough about them.  It's been a while since 2PM managed to deliver a smash hit that lives on past its debut (Again & Again, for example), and something of that magnitude just isn't present here. But the potential is definitely there. 2PM aren't mind-blowing artists (at least not on recordings), yet hearing them calm things down and let go in their music is good. Not fantastic; just good. — Overall Rating: 3.9/5What are your thoughts on 2PM's new album? — Suggestions for a future review?  Hit the author up on Twitter (@rothsresidence) or via e-mail (arnold.arteaga@allkpop.com)! — Note: This article does not reflect the opinions of allkpop, only of the author.

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