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[Review] Block B 'Blockbuster'

October 25, 2012 @ 7:35 pm
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After eight months- practically an eternity in the world of K-Pop- Block B is finally back! Unless you slept through the entire middle of February, I doubt I need to remind you about the 'Thailand scandal' that rocked the band, cutting their "Nanrina" promotions short, and leaving all of us wondering what the future held for these young men just barely out of rookie-dom. When their cutesy, pinwheel-filled "Action (RMX)" video which came out in May, sans leader Zico (who was having vocal chord issues) and sans promotions, there was a lot of fan speculation that the band had abandoned its obnoxious, troublemaking image for something safer in an attempt to rebuild public relations, and that they'd never again be the Block B we once knew.

So, how does a young group come back from such a big scandal? If you are Block B, apparently your leader turns into a modern-day Jack Sparrow, takes the title for 'worst hair in K-Pop' by rocking a blonde, dreadlock/mullet hybrid, steals the fake diamond from SECRET's "Poison" MV, gathers the rest of you into his band of loopy pirate buddies, and you all run as fast as you can to evade capture. "Nillili Mambo" is the wacky Block B comeback that we've been waiting for.



The lyrics (written by Zico, composed by Zico and Pop Time) are your generic mayhem-inspiring-party-time cross between goofy carelessness and agression that we've heard from them before, but washed in its 'Pirates of the Carribean'-esque instrumental and featuring some interesting harmonies, there's just enough new material to keep it from being a total rehash of previous releases.  This isn't a super dramatic departure from "Nanrina"- after such a long break shrouded in so much uncertainty, they needed to let their fans know that they are still Block B, which is exactly what "Nillili Mambo" does.

K-Pop has a pretty loose definition of hip-hop, encompassing just about anything with a tough image and rapping (pretty much every Big Bang release, 2ne1's more bombastic songs, EvoL's "We are a bit Different", much of B.A.P's catalogue, the previously mentioned "Nillili Mambo"), even if it would never pass as hip-hop outside of K-Pop.  Block B's halloweenish, somewhat Busta Rhymes-esque "No Joke" (lyrics by Zico and Kyung, composed by Delly Boi), however, is a song I'm comfortable categorizing as hip-hop. The spooky number sounds like a horror movie soundtrack, complete with a creepy spoken intro and even a theremin loop. There's a static buzz in the bassline and this faint, echoey sound that bounces at you from all directions throughout the song- it almost sounds like someone shouting "Hey!" from far off.  Slightly scary, but the song's surely still hit material.

Unfortunately, not everything on the album could be a hit. "Movie's Over" (lyrics by Zico, composed by Zico, Jiyoung, and Bumjoo) is decent, but it's not something we would expect from from Block B- honestly, it sounds more like a B1A4 B-side. It's not bad, and the instrumental sounds cool, but it just doesn't add much to the album.

As for unexpected things that *are* a hit, how about Taeil's self-written and composed solo, the piano-driven ballad "Where are You"? If you played it without any context, you'd assume it was an OST song, especially once it hits the 2:45 mark, but you'd never guess it came from a Block B album. It's easy to forget just how good Block B's singers are and they definitely deserve some recognition.

The vocalists get more chances to shine to some degree on "11:30" (lyrics by Kyung and Zico, composed by HARANHN and Ricky) and "Mental Breaker", (written and composed by Zico and Swedish composers Marcos Ubeda and Kevin Borg) but they're most impressive moment is on "Romantic" (written by Cho PD, Zico, and P.O, composed by Aivan). The last of the brand-new songs on this album (two tracks, "Halo" and "Did You or Didn't You", were both released last year) features jazzy vocals and even plays with scatting- talk about unexpected! Almost all of the scatting heard in K-Pop has been through covers of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours", which are always too carefully copycatted to be really impressive. "Romantic" is an understated highlight of the album, and creates a great bookend against the opening track, "11:30".

In the way that some of B.A.P's fans turned up their noses at tracks like "Crash" and "Dancing in the Rain", Block B's fans will most likely be bristling at the less aggressive tracks or at much of the randomness on 'Blockbuster'.  As for me, I'm glad to see them experimenting- when you've got this many members in a group, why not capitalize on everyone's talents? At the end of a day, for a band that's been on such shaky ground for most of 2012, this is a pretty solid comeback.



What are your thoughts on BlockB′s 'Blockbuster' mini album? Leave an honest rating and your thoughts in the comments below.

You can follow this writer on Twitter @allergictostuff

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