[Review] 4minute 'Name is 4minute'
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After some moderately successful or unsuccessful attempts—depending on your personal opinion—with derivative solo artist and subunit releases, 4minute has finally become cohesive again, releasing their mini-album 'Name is 4minute'. While at first, I must admit I was somewhat dumbfounded by the concept the group took upon themselves. Luckily, as the mini-album continued to play, this poor start gave way to perhaps the strongest overall release by the power group 4minute.
I have very mixed opinions about the first track "What's Your Name?", and unfortunately they predominately are tinged with negativity. While I can see why some may love the track, for the most part I found it to be a bit off, especially since most of 4minute's headlining tracks have been astoundingly remarkable. Overall, this song feels nothing more like an extended introduction for a mini-album. Aside from the opening being strongly reminiscent of the opening of "Ice Cream" by member HyunA, the piece is all over the place. Over-processed vocals; uninspired, clumsy rapping; and laying on a single chord throughout the track leave it with an undeniably shallow, incomplete feeling. While the minimal-esque urban instrumentals give the piece a somewhat catchy aura, most of the synthesized instrumental effects are poorly balanced and come off as an annoying distraction against the vocal performances. Then again, this perhaps isn't the worst mistake in the world. Case in point, the producers obviously tried to feature HyunA far more than her previous role in the group, which isn't a bad move considering she's become the face of the group, but her attempt at fierce rapping falls as flat as it always has.
Perhaps the only redeeming quality of "What's Your Name?" is the bridge sections that feature Gayoon. Not only does this provide a nice downplayed textural shift from the wall of sound that is the rest of the song, but it's perhaps the only token of vocal artistry that exists throughout the entire song. While even calling this "artistry" may be somewhat of a stretch, Gayoon continues to justify her position as the glue that holds the rest of the group to an acceptable standard. But even this can't help from this being what is perhaps the weakest headlining release of 4minute in quite some time, and while ephemerally catchy, this track is definitely a step backwards from their otherwise solid repertoire they've been churning out lately.
While in most mini-album releases, the rest of the album pales starkly in comparison to the headlining track but this isn't the case with the rest of 'Name is 4minute'. In fact, the album actually becomes increasingly more enjoyable to listen to with each track that comes after.
The next track, "Whatever", is perhaps one of my favorite K-Pop tracks when it comes to rhythmic shifting. The piece starts out as a swinging heavy electro step piece that features a more traditional 4minute sound, it also features much more definitive rapping and vocals than the previous track. After the chorus performance, the song immediately shifts into an uptempo, sample-heavy clap-based pop track through which the same vocal construction appears over. Another layer is added onto this track and the same construction repeats again. While the overall song structure is rather simplistic, when the differentiating rhythmic styles between the verse and chorus are paired onto different tempo and textural backgrounds, an irresistible sense of flowing tension and release is felt throughout the song. While I'm quite this technique has been used elsewhere in K-Pop, this wee bit of creativity was especially refreshing here.
"Gimme That" is again a more prototypical 4minute uptempo urban power anthem. Jiyoon is especially impressive with her somewhat restrained (in a good way) vocal shouting sporadically throughout the track. Despite nothing else here is particularly noteworthy or unique, it's as solid of a track as one could ask for in the course of a mini-album's progression.
"Domino" is perhaps the strongest track on the mini-album. In much the same way that "What's Your Name?" references "Ice Cream", the bluegrass instrumentals recall 2YOON's recent track release "24/7". However, this piece is superior in just about every way from the subunit's lackluster dabbling in bluegrass. While the song has the undertone of a progressive, up-tempo bluegrass song, the layering of various synth-heavy urban elements create an absolutely irresistible hybrid mix of sounds not heard in a 4minute track before. I'm particular fond of the speak phone vocal effects that appears throughout the song: it's a distorted vocal technique without the annoyance of a deliberate vocoder. The song groves heavily until it reaches a foot-stomping swing at the end. This song is 4minute at their finest and gives me another reason to look forward to their continued future releases. Why this isn't the headlining track I'll never know. But it's good that this gem was included rather than not.
Unlike most mini-albums, 'Name is 4Minute' actually gets better as you further progress past the title track. Without a doubt, I'll be listening to this album quite a bit in the near future…just bypassing "What's Your Name?" while I do. As a whole, this release actually went beyond what I expected from 4minute—a group whom I already held in rather high regards.
Pros: Mini-album gets better as it continues, Gayoon's interlude in "What's My Name?", rhythmic texture in "Whatever", awesome hybrid bluegrass in "Domino"
Cons: "What's Your Name" is a poorly put together song
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