Ailee, the queen of K-Pop, spent some time away from her throne but has finally come back "Home" with her 4th mini album 'A New Empire.' Delivering a fresh new sound, Ailee put her powerhouse vocals to the test with six new tracks.
1. Home (Feat. Yoon Mirae)
2. Peekaboo / Why You Think I'm In Love With You
3. Feelin` (Feat. Eric Nam)
4. Live or Die (Feat. Tak)
5. I Need You
6. If You
"Home" is a heavy hip-hop influenced track that panders to listener's desires for everything to be composed from either R&B or hip-hop genres nowadays. The opening is sick, as in 100% got me and the rest of the listeners hooked, but then it kind of changes course. It is a bit disappointing when songs open up one way and start to diverge into a different direction than expected.
Despite the switch up, "Home" is still worth the listen and makes for a great promotional track. The piano melody is as powerful as Ailee herself and is married together by a sturdy trap-like beat, faintly auto-tuned ad-libs and subtle snapping. The electric guitars during Yoon Mi Rae's rap make for another great addition to the instrumental. Take a listen in the MV down below!
The MV for "Home" is very classy and put together nicely. It is clean of vibrant colors, aside from the seductive reds, and free of overdone effects. It is dark, sensual and sets the mood. Her top-quality fashion, which creates an alluring look for her, paired with simple but luxurious settings make for a nice change from her previous MVs which are a bit more loud in style.
Ailee has definitely spent some time crafting her dance routine as it is killer and flawlessly displays her curvy figure. The only thing fans may dislike is that there is no appearance by Yoon Mi Rae in the MV. Despite that, once again, Ailee's songs have a message put out there and "Home" definitely sends 2NE1's version packin'.
Ailee yearning for her lover to "come back home" are realistic with lines like "I'm going home alone now" and "I'm trapped alone in this room and I remember, I miss you, why won't you come home?"
Ailee makes a reference to being on her cell phone a few times, and it makes me believe the whole refrain can be a reference to a typical conversation between two lovers. If that is the case, it adds a touch of sensitivity to this already grand song. While her album is well composed with other addicting tracks, "Home" is a great addition to K-Pop... It just becomes more likable after a second listen.
"Peekaboo / Why You Think I'm In Love With You" is the second track to approach the plate and it served up something special with its catchy instrumental but I did want more. "Peekaboo" is another bad girl track that goes hard with the beat; the lyrics are sweet too but that is about it. Although I enjoy the track, I still can't get over Ailee's mediocre "whoop" in her "hip hop" tracks. It is cute but at the same time... girl group rappers go harder with the image and sound than Ailee does in this circumstance.
I feel she was a bit out of her element in the sense that she appears to be trying to emulate a style similar to rapper Jessi with the way she slurs or emphasizes certain words at the end of each bridge. The beat is the only saving grace that makes "Peekaboo" a boss track if anything.
Things get a lot better with the helping hand of Eric Nam's vocals in "Feelin'." A bit more light beat and fast paced, "Feelin'" has a clean instrumental that allows both their vocals to stand out clearly. It keeps uniformity and maintains the same R&B style from previous tracks but is a more light-hearted tune.
I was expecting this track to have the most chemistry and to a be a fan favorite out of all the songs that feature artists on her album. However, Eric Nam seemed to have a minor role in comparison to other songs he has featured in with other artists. Their vocals still come together nicely and enhance the song after the second chorus. Eric's vocals add balance and sensitivity to the song as Ailee's vocals are boasting some serious power. It is nice to hear his gentle ad-libs alongside Ailee's voice.
After taking in the breath of fresh air from "Feelin'," Ailee returns to her album's hip hop concept with "Live or Die" featuring Tak of Baechigi. After hearing the same instrumental recycled through each of her songs, the album seems to die a bit for me.
Of course the rapping in "Live or Die" is superb and the instrumental is dope, but it borders a more generic sound. It just seems to be missing a touch of variety - simply adding in feature artists won't do it alone. Putting those words aside, Tak offers some quality sounds to Ailee's album and he is a refreshingly unexpected artist to be featured.
Finally, Ailee brings some hope back into this 'Empire' with "I Need You." The song revitalizes listeners as it becomes a melodic ballad that truly showcases her vocal range. The light guitar strums, steady pacing drums, gentle notes from the piano, hints of electric guitar and shimmering sounds make this pure ear candy.
She opens up softly saying, "I know I said I'm okay, but till this day it's always raining in my heart," and continues to passionately repeat "Ooh, I need you." The song is beautifully composed and made for Ailee's style as her voice dances along the melody. The song becomes more enjoyable as Ailee escalates into a strong climax of ad-libs and high notes towards the end. Her vibrato and falsettos are breathtaking, as always, and turns "I Need You" into a wonderful piece on her album.
Ailee's new found empire finally comes to close with "If You." It is another strong ballad that keeps things going with another nice piano melody. It has a funky, gospel sound to it, similar to Ladies' Code's "I'm Fine, Thank You."
Her voice is rich and well defined on this light-on-the-ears track. It isn't over-shrouded by unnecessary background noises, instrumentals or awkward emphasis on words in her previous "raps." It is pure singing - the way Ailee performs best. The lyrics, like the song, are simple and tell the story of a girl who simply can't stop thinking about her lover and questioning whether, if things changed, they would still love each other.
"If You" brings closure to the album in a delicate manner and sheds light on Ailee's past style of singing. While her new sounds in "Home" are powerful and amusing, I prefer Ailee's acoustic singing any day.
Overall, Ailee's voice is a flexible instrument itself, as she hits many highs and lows throughout each individual track. However, this album seems to be a playground for her voice to jump between different styles and influences while playing it safe on the same instrumental. The songs are composed of this same synthetic beat while her voice seems to mimic that of Beyonce's on more than one occasion.
Luckily, this mini album is put together nicely, especially towards the end, and her sensational voice isn't drowned away in a flood of today's trends. Ailee still holds her title of being "The Beyonce of Korea," and while this album put the "new" in her 'Empire,' Ailee's pure, heavenly voice is clearly here to stay.