LAY – 'LAY 02 SHEEP'
2. I NEED U
7. TOO MUCH
10. X BACK
Lay is back! Last October, his first mini-album 'Lose Control' burned up the charts and broke sales records. He's back with his full-length follow-up, 'Sheep.' Like his last one, it's all sung in Chinese, and the EXO singer wrote all the lyrics, composed and arranged the tunes, and even was involved in directing the MVs.
Starting out strong with the title track "SHEEP," Lay delivers a trap-laden experience. Indeed, fully half of the LP is devoted to this style, including the songs "PEACH," "BOSS," "SHAKE," and "TOO MUCH." How you feel about this largely depends on how you feel about idol rapping, but I happen to feel that when it's done well, it works. Some of these tunes weren't entirely out of place next to a Chemical Brothers album, so that's saying something. Particularly "SHEEP," which has that loud synth sound I crave, along with a sick flow. It's a good song, even if he sounds like he's saying "ship" instead of "sheep." He's not incredibly innovative on these tunes, but they sound like they're supposed to. I've criticized rappers for having a terribly high voice, but Lay's able to down-pitch his voice naturally, morphing it into a smoky, world-weary fry. And what a voice! He's not just a one-trick pony, squeezing his pipes for effect in one part, and hitting those higher notes, and then coming down to deliver some buttery smooth lines. This is particularly evident on "SHAKE." "MASK" is sort of the outlier here, with a lot of pop influence.
Tracks like "I NEED U," "HAND," "DIRECTOR," and "X BACK" are reminiscent of the R&B on his first solo outing a year ago. "I NEED U" is a positively retro take on the genre, with a disco backing track and those smooth choruses that defined some of the jazz-rock compositions of the 70s. The song is also notable as a sweet gift to his grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. "HAND" is a slower, more seductive song about not being able to let go. "DIRECTOR" and "X BACK" have more pop rhythms in them, but still owe their roots to R&B. Lay is arguably at his best here, with a soothing voice that goes right along with the melodies.
It's a strong sophomore outing, and the album feels pretty full. This should give fans what they're waiting for and more, and each song is solid. Lay has a distinctive charm that he displays in this collection. He's personally involved and it shows. Sheep? No, this album roars more like a lion.
MV REVIEW – "I NEED U"
Starting and ending with a quiet, contemplative piano piece entirely separate from the song, in the opening frames we have an introduction in French: "It's not a love story...it's a story about love."
From there we take a trip to the City of Love itself, Paris, France. There are plenty of sights to show us, but mostly it focuses on a personal story. One part is all about showcasing some amazing footwork by Lay, but the main storyline is an elderly couple who seem to be Lay and the woman he proposes to in the MV. They pop a tape into a cassette recorder, and the song takes them back to their romance and their youth.
The girl is indeed beautiful, and Lay looks dashing in his suit. Of course, the suit is not entirely not designed to dance in, but that doesn't deter him in the slightest. We take a little time to sightsee, but mostly it stays personal and focused. There's some nice framing here, and at the end we have the Eiffel Tower silhouetted against a sky of deep marine and ocher.
The story is appropriate since it's a gift from Lay to his grandparents for their 50th-anniversary. It's lavishly shot and makes for a fitting gift, not only to his family but to his fans as well.
MV REVIEW – "SHEEP"
"Sheep" is filmed in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. Definitely proper, since the song is playful as well.
There are people dancing in stores, outside stores, on the street, in the sauna, in a mockup of the interior of a microwave, in a traveling barbershop, on a girder overlooking the city, with all that entails. At the center of all this is Lay, who has this look on his face that says he's taking it all in stride. There's also kind of a mischievous glint in his eye.
There's even a sequence that almost resembles some of the Harlem shake videos, taking place inside a darkened room, and the backup dancers are wearing sheep masks.
It's all very bizarre, and there are so many location changes that your head practically spins. Is there any kind of story or symbolism I'm missing? I doubt it unless there's some relationship between microwave popcorn and sheep that I'm missing. I'm not sure I even wanna know about that connection. Still, all in all, it's worth watching, if only to scratch your head.
We'll save the sheep jokes for another time.
(averaged across both MVs)
MV SCORE: 8.3
ALBUM SCORE: 8.7