I'm generally not a huge fan of individual members of established K-Pop groups attempting to do solo projects. While I love subunits—my recent album obsession is Orange Caramel's 'Lipstick'—I feel that the music of solo acts is haphazardly thrown together, and their main selling point is the high profile of their group. However, this isn't an all-encompassing view, as I feel that two artists have overcome this trend: JYJ's Junsu, with his album 'Tarantallegra', and Brown Eyed Girls' maknae Ga In, whose recent release will be the focus of this review.
'Talk About S' is Ga In's second solo release after her first mini-album 'Step 2/4'—which happens to rank among my favorite mini-albums. After developing such a high affinity for 'Step 2/4', I became ecstatic months ago when I learned of the news that LOEN Entertainment was putting her through another solo project. I was dismayed at first that it was pushed back from its original release date in August, and I became even more so upon acquiring it. 'Talk About S' was thoroughly tinged with the haphazard quality that originally turned me off from group-based solo acts. While the album wasn't terrible by most standards, Ga In's attempt certainly didn't live up to the high standards set by the Brown Eyed Girls.
The first song, "Tinkerbell", has a strong French or Spanish acoustic bistro appeal to it. The minimalist approach and Ga In's breathy vocals give it a nocturnal subduedness. Aside from Ga In's sensual control of her vocal registers, the song sounds lagged and uninspired, which makes it a questionable choice for a first album track. What makes it worse is the unnecessary short-spanned textural and instrumental shifts during the various break sections. I feel that the producers may have added this effect to give the song more interest, but it ended up being distracting and confusing instead.
The second song, "Tiredness", is an enjoyable song to listen to and definitely shows off another side of Ga In in a vocal sense. While she displays her unique ability to effortlessly switch between vocal registers like in "Tinkerbell", this time, she does so with a much more bombastic voice. Ga In is perfectly in sync with the heavy swing drum beat that makes it impossible to resist tapping your foot throughout the song. This song would have been more fitting if Ga In was placed in front of a jazz big band: while the modern rock-based instrumentation is certainly nice, the way in which Ga In presents this song just screams for something more.
Before I bought the mini-album, I was exposed to the next song, "Bloom", through her music video. The overzealous sexuality in the music video certainly did match the over-controlled love-obsessed lyrics in the song. However, the bounty of explicit scenes looked like a mere cover-up for the music. While I didn't hear it at first, YouTube comments criticized Ga In for sounding like IU, which is understandable as the producer of this song also did IU's "Good Day". There's nothing wrong with this comparison, but forcing this style on Ga In just didn't seem to work with what we are accustomed to. She seems off vocally, possessing a nasal, weak quality that we don't often hear from her. The song is written a few steps higher than the range she can comfortably sing in. The instrumental backing and the vocoder backed vocal lines proclaiming "speak up" seem overly cheesy, reminiscent of a bad late '80s, early '90s synthesized pop anthem. This song should have never been included in the album, much less be its title song. While her image is reminiscent of the one she displayed in "Abracadabra", the music does no favors to any potential first-time listeners.
The fourth song, "The Gaze", is the strongest song in the album. Her sleepy vocal quality melts with the low crooning of Yoon Jong Shin and fits like butter over the laid-back, surprisingly groovy R&B background. Despite the typical sound of the background, the compositional techniques help push along the song enough to prevent the song from getting boring. This is most evident at the 3:20 mark onward, where sections melt onto each other effortlessly and culminate in Ga In laying out a high-pitched wail that descends quickly into silence. The song reenters after the listener is given a chance to reflect for a few seconds. The song then fittingly fades out by layers, which is surprisingly effective. This is arguably the song that I will look back at most fondly from this album.
The final song is "Catch Me If You Can", and this certainly reinforces the disappointment that I felt about most of the album. The music sounds similar to "Tiredness", but Ga In doesn't exhibit the features that make "Tiredness" tolerable. Even she seems annoyed about the way she's singing. The song comes off as dragged, unfulfilled, and cheesily annoying. While I wish that the album could have ended on a more positive note, it doesn't distract me from my overall opinion of the album.
Apart from "The Gaze", Ga In's second album falls flat of my expectations. While there's no questioning Ga In's vocal quality, she was merely a shell of her former self during her first solo release and Brown Eyed Girls activities. While I'm not sure how long Brown Eyed Girls will be around, let's hope that if Ga In continues making music, that her next release can live up to the very high standard that she set for herself.
Pros: Ga In's obvious vocal ability, refreshing compositional techniques at end of "The Gaze", envisioning a remix of "Tiredness" with a jazz big band.
Cons: Songs seem haphazardly thrown together, "Bloom" doesn't fit Ga In's style, Brown Eyed Girls setting too high of a standard.
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