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Posted by 0 pt Monday, June 13, 2011

[Review] "Break Down" by Kim Hyun Joong of SS501


Kim Hyun Joong's mini-album "Break Down" bumped its way into K-pop last week, marking this the fourth solo release from a SS501 member this year. Recognized for his position as the leader of SS501 and for his acting gig in the little-known drama (sarcasm tag), "Boys Over Flowers", Kim Hyun Joong is drawing more attention for his solo endeavors recently. Now that promotions are underway, has the hype and anticipation been justified? Let's break this thing down and find out! === Track List: 01 Intro (Let Me Go) 02 Break Down (feat. Double K) 03 ?? (Please) 04 Kiss Kiss 05 Yes I Will 06 ?? (Please) (Inst.) === "Break Down" opens with "Let Me Go", an anthem-like introductory track filled to the brim with bells, pedal tones, and broad melodies. It's quick to say this early on in the listening process, but this track could have been the one breakout song off the entire mini album had it been extended to full length. It features Kim Hyun Joong's voice in the cleanest treatment; one that works in his favor given that his vocals are one of the most limited of the bunch. The song is thick and hefty, and it works here (Let Me Go). — Unfortunately, some of that cohesion in the intro song is lost within the title track, "Break Down"; while the first track could stand on its own, "Break Down" doesn't hold itself as upright, audibly, as Kim would like us to believe. "Break Down" carries a lot of weight on its shoulders, and after a few listens, it becomes crystal clear that this song was designed to be a visual experience, structured to feature large chunks of 'nothing' for the sole purpose of tossing in dance breaks. It explains the poor vocal performance and nonsensical echoes sprinkled throughout the verses. There are awesome dance tracks out there that have a life of their own with the capability of sufficing without having any visual accompaniment, but "Break Down" isn't one of them. You have to be watching Kim Hyun Joong for this song to be remotely enjoyable, or else it breaks down (no pun intended). We are given a sick rap line, a commercial beat, but the song as an entity is lacking. The decent and indecent balance of the vocal processing doesn't help. Unless you're watching Hyun Joong's live performances, man cleavage and all, "Break Down" is nothing more than average, especially coming from a K-pop veteran. Following the title track is the slower R&B-pop track, "Please". Kim Hyun Joong doesn't sound as beat up in this song, and with nice melodies, the whole thing comes off much cleaner than the previous single. As mentioned earlier, Hyun Joong lacks a truly potent voice. But what K-pop idols are skilled at is working with what they've got. Idols are considered idols for their versatility, which includes their singing, and more often than not, if it isn't a fantastic production that is making them sound good, its the way they handle their vocals that hides any crutch they may have. In "Please", Kim Hyun Joong is given very rudimentary lines and he manages to deliver them to the best of his ability. The outcome: a well-versed, well-sung little number. It's a pain to hear K-pop idols fail to sell relatively simple songs, but the advantage Hyun Joong has is the experience of working with his limited singing voice. The man sounds good, even if the song is nothing fresh to the ears. Then we have "Kiss Kiss", a song that is 'pop' down to the very core. This is the kind of music that blends well with Kim Hyun Joong's voice, since he's quite nasally. "Kiss Kiss" is bright, carefree, and is better suited for Hyun Joong than the try-hard "Break Down." Again, there's very little innovation happening here, but as a piece of this mini album, it's a refreshing song to hear. It has traces of Chris Brown, albeit very obscure ones. — The final track, "Yes I Will", closes on a very different note than the first few tracks. The EP starts off very grungy, urban, and heavy, but this song and "Kiss Kiss" end things on a dance-pop vibe that is inconsistent within the album, but far more believable as music under Kim Hyun Joong's belt. The auto-tune isn't overwhelming nor befitting in "Yes I Will." The song adds to the diversity of what an EP aims for, and makes it clear that it isn't Kim Hyun Joong who is responsible for this not bad-but not amazing solo debut; it's the song choices (Yes I Will). === Clocking in at six songs (including the instrumental) and under twenty minutes, "Break Down" travels slower than expected for the amount of tracks it contains. A majority of what anchors this mini album down is the average songs, but part of the blame has to fall on Kim Hyun Joong's own vocal delivery. It's difficult to argue in favor of Hyun Joong's skills as a singer, because they're as plain and uninspiring as they come. In these cases, it's up to the strengths of a song and the flexibility of such an artist to make it work - something K-pop idols are notoriously phenomenal in doing. "Break Down" captures a few of these moments, but in the larger scope of things, this mini album unwinds to become just another K-pop release with minimal innovation and not enough of a musical departure by Kim Hyun Joong as an individual artist. "Break Down" is average at best, coming in at a distant fourth in the line-up of impressive SS501 solo releases this year (Heo Young Saeng (3.6), Park Jung Min (4.1), Kim Hyung Jun (5.0), Kim Hyung Jun (4.0)). — Overall Rating: 3.1/5What are your thoughts on this EP? — Suggestions for a future review?  Hit the author up on Twitter (@rothsresidence) or via e-mail (arnold.arteaga@allkpop.com)! — Note: This article does not reflect the opinions of allkpop, only of the author.

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