When Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun - or JYJ - waved goodbye to Dong Bang Shin Ki, I was a little worried, mainly because they no longer had that easy access to the high production value that SM Entertainment provides. As far as audible quality goes, SM spends a ridiculous amount of money to make their artists sound extremely good (don't quote me on that), and let's be honest, 95% of the time they do. Not only that, but JYJ were faced with the absence of two key singers - one bass and one tenor, and I mean, what's a burger without buns? Of course, those two members (Changmin and Yunho) faced a far more challenging road ahead of them without their main vocalists there to fill in the voids. Both ways, the dynamics changed, and it was going to be interesting to hear exactly how they would manage to divvy up their parts. More so in HoMin's case than JYJ. But unlike their brethren, JYJ have had the opportunity to expose themselves and gain a little more experience as a three-member ensemble. Last fall, they released "The..." in Japan, and it was the first time we heard JYJ without the other two members (on a recording). As always, they reached #1 on the Oricon charts, and at this point, charting at number one should not come as a surprise to anybody. Rather than going back home to Korea though, they packed their bags and flew to America, where the sound of "The..." was noticeably replaced with a more Americanized style with hopes to break into the US market. JYJ released "The Beginning" in October with the help of American producer/rapper Kanye West and renowned producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. To put it lightly, their American foray was messy. Both the marketing and content of the album were way off base from the standards I had held in my mind for JYJ, and I know that if they had a clear plan of attack, things would have gone a little more smoothly. There were two or three songs on "The Beginning" worth salvaging, and okay, it wasn't the worst thing ever, but one thing was certain: We still didn't have a clear idea of what kind of sound would be definitive of JYJ. Now Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun are back in Korea with their latest EP, "Their Rooms", and I should point out the emphasis on 'their', because they basically did everything: composed, wrote, sang, everything. To say this mini album is impressive just doesn't cut it. I sincerely forgive them for the mess and a half that was "The Beginning" because "Their Rooms" is exceptionally done, especially for the aforementioned fact that they did everything on it. Oh, and by the way, I've introducing a rating system. 01. "Mission" The first track on "Music Essay" opens the doors wide open to Yoochun whispering, "yeah, brand new JYJ", and a simple string section playing a mysterious, staccato riff that starts sounding pretty cool once the beat kicks in. Though the lyrics triggered several rounds of laughs (it's K-pop, what else is new?), I couldn't help but let myself be engulfed by the pounding beats and catchy chorus. "Mission" isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but it's nonetheless an impressive upbeat thriller. It feels very K-pop but without really crossing the lines of gimmicks and tackiness. 4.5/5 02. "Nine" "Nine" is a nice mixture of lush vocals with soaring melodies and a really pretty instrumental. There's just enough going on for it to not be considered a 'filler' track. It also helps if you're a sucker for good ballads, like myself, especially ones sung by people who were gifted with gorgeous voices. Jaejoong, the head honcho who wrote and composed this, constructed a very engaging chorus that not only sticks, but transmits emotions well beyond the language barriers. The only glaring place worth revising is the song's opening lines. Yoochun, buddy, that's not the right octave. 3.9/5 03. "Pierrot" What a name. "Pierrot" is a mid tempo song chock-full of Junsu singing his head off to the word 'pierrot' and words that rhyme with it. He sounds amazing though, and if you're a fan of his adlibs, you'll enjoy this song. The break left room for improvement; the instrumental started doing something interesting and then... nothing. Having said that, there's a lot of other elements at play that add substance to this piece. Like Yoochun's pre-chorus line or the spacious instrumental. I'll be spinning this song a few dozen times this week. 4/5 04. "Fallen Leaves" The thing about this particular number is not so much the song, but JYJ's interpretation. It's one thing to hit the right note and another to understand 'how' to hit it, and well, JYJ know how to do it like nobody's business. All three members have moments within this song where they shine and sound absolutely amazing. I mean, the way they ease into the notes and hold them out just a hair melts my insides. I'm a little iffy about the instrumental on this ballad though. String sections tend to tick me off because they are always over the top and massive-sounding. I think a smaller ensemble would have been a better complement. Imagine a cello/bass line playing through the verses! *Dies* That is if they decided to use a real orchestra. 3.9/5 05. "I.D.S." You want me in your what?! Oh, plans? Phew, I thought Junsu meant something a little more... lewd. "I.D.S." is the only song so far that features auto-tune, but it's scarcely used, so no worries. It's in here more for effect rather than fixing any bad singing. It's JYJ; bad singing does not exist. The synths sound vaguely familiar, but I just can't put my finger on it. Overall, the song is pretty simple, with the exception of the middle 8, which is the most gorgeous thing ever. Then it goes back to the same hypnotizing rhythm. 3.5/5 06. "Untitled Song Part 1" This song will impact listeners, if you know the lyrics, in ways that don't really apply to me. I'm not going to get into the content of the words, but it is pretty clear that Yoochun's rap is rooted in a particular emotion that seems to smear right over the lyrics. While the rap is somewhat passive-aggresive, the soft beat and added vocals serve as a really powerful complement. 3.9/5 - For a mini-album in K-pop, this is perfectly paced and brilliantly composed. Not a single song falls short or gets lost among the others. From one song to the next, there's a strong sense of cohesion and it feels like the perfect amount of songs with just the right amount of energy in each. JYJ has proven that they don't need the luxury of a high brow agency to produce amazing work, and actually, the fact that their sound isn't at all like it was under DBSK helps it remains refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable. Overall Rating: 4.7/5 Recommended Tracks: Mission, Pierrot, Nine --- Suggestions for a future review? Hit the author up on Twitter (@rothsresidence) or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)! --- Note: This article does not reflect the opinions of allkpop, only of the author.
Posted by Tuesday, January 25, 2011
[Review] 'Their Rooms' by JYJ
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