[Album Review] Block B 'Very Good'
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In K-Pop, a big scandal can be career ending. Han Kyung Il recently told the story of how he lost his singing career after a publicity stunt in which he missed all of his schedules for a week and people in the industry no longer wanted to work with him. Contract struggles can be just as bad, we've seen contract woes rob talented performers (JYJ) of the rightful spotlight they should be enjoying. Rookie group burnout is a common occurrence, with a scant few groups making out of their first year or two in tact.
It's pretty much a K-Pop miracle...
Block B, who were still rookies when all of this started, have endured two years of scandals, contract problems, and being raked over the coals by the Korean public. Finally, they've not only escaped their old contracts, but they've also managed to find a home under a new agency (Seven Seasons) and come back with their entire original lineup intact to bring us 'Very Good', an EP written and produced entirely by members Zico and Kyung (along with Pop Time, who they've worked with before). Their future went from looking bleak to looking very good. It's pretty much a K-Pop miracle, and to top it all off, the album is doing remarkably well in sales.
Perhaps most remarkable, however, is the group's overwhelming positivity since their return, starting with the beautiful pre-release track "Be the Light". Despite sad lyrics, the violin and guitar-laden electronic dance composition stays light and sweet. In performances, the group stops dancing to stare out into the audience, plainly saying, "Be the light, shine your light on me," and one can't help but wonder if this song isn't a plea to their fans, written when Block B wasn't sure if they would ever come back or if their BBCs would still be waiting for them upon their return.
"Be the Light" sounds like it could be a Big Bang dance ballad- there are elements of "Love Song" and "Koe wo Kikasete" in there (full disclosure- Love Song" is one of my all-time favorite K-Pop songs), but the balance of changing sections and the transitions between those sections is a new and really beautiful addition to the genre. The line distribution is smart and plays to each member's strengths- it's rare that you see a K-Pop song with such even line division, especially from such a big group. From the perfect blend of the harmonies to the thrumming heartbeat of the bass, this song oozes craftsmanship, and set Block B up for a strong return to form.
As fantastic as "Be the Light" is, "Very Good" was the comeback that we were all waiting for- the song that boldly answers the question of how Block B is doing these days. Rather than dwell on the past, the boys are glad to be back in the game, picking up right where they left off with "Nillili Mambo" and doing what they do best- just having fun.
Instead of bumbling pirates, this time around our guys are bumbling, Batman-inspired bank robbers, taking tongue-in-cheek visual jabs at the fact that they're often compared to Big Bang, and causing the same general cartoonish mayhem that we've come to expect from them by now. The song falls firmly into familiar rowdy-party-starter territory, but that's kind of what most of us were hoping for and it's good to know that Block B is still very much Block B. Things take a surprisingly sexy turn on Kyung's loungey duet with Urban Zakapa's Jo Hyunah, "When Where What How" and the jazz-tinged album closer, "Nice Day". Block B may still be the same ol' Block B, but they've still got a few tricks up their sleeves- which, as a fan, is an exciting thing to hear.
Very Good's biggest flaw is that it's too short. After a year-long wait, three group songs and a solo feels a little light. Let's all hope that for once, Block B finally gets a full, drama-free promotion cycle and come back soon which can make up for all that music we've lost to scandals over the last two years.
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