Infinite’s long-awaited comeback resulted in the title track Tell Me, which divided opinion on this site and others. It’s taken from the group’s third full-length album, Top Seed, and kicks off a string of ten other newly released songs. Just like with 2016’s Infinite Only, I’m here to offer my thoughts on every single one of them. Check back each day for several mini-reviews, and be sure to take a look at my sprawling K-Pop A-Z page for thoughts on the group’s entire catalog.
1. Begin // 2. Tell Me // 3. Synchronise // 4. No More // 5. TGIF (Dongwoo solo) // 6. Pray // 7. Why Me // 8. Wind // 9. I Hate // 10. Reminisce (L solo) // 11. Love Song (Sungjong solo) // 12. Begin Again
I would like nothing more than for Infinite to reunite with Sweetune on a more permanent basis, and Pray is a testament to their unmatched teamwork. The song was originally recorded all the way back in 2011 at the start of the group’s golden age, but it sounds incredibly fresh even seven years later. Positioned as an orchestral waltz, the ornate instrumental is impossibly dense and dramatic, utilizing the guys’ vocals as part of the song’s backdrop of layered strings and guitar. And when it comes to Infinite’s vocals, Sweetune is still the production team who knows how to arrange them best. The entire last minute becomes chill-inducing as Sungkyu and Woohyun attack the chorus, fueling the off-kilter melody with the kind of powerful performance only Infinite can bring.
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This song is amazing!
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Are you ready for this comment? Because I need to publicly post why I love this song to the very depths of my soul (also if this has been Woollim Ent property since like 2011, then Sweetune have no excuse for not doing more stuff this year). This is gonna be long and probably far too detailed but, hey, I really like Sweetune:
First things first: the 6/8 time is great and something that almost never happens in kpop, which makes me really happy, because I really like triple time signatures. Of course it still has some of the very classically Sweetune song components, like slap bass (or at least it sounds like that), overblown drama at very turn, an analog-sounding synth loop, electric guitar, metal influence etc. etc. but it really just goes to a new level with bringing in various classical music elements. The arrangement is just so…. intricate.Honestly I wish we had more instrumental breaks so that I could hear it better. You have the low low bass, which I had to crank my headphones way up to hear, that’s actually playing this really cool line as well as the electric rhythm guitar (which can be heard most clearly in the intro), which of course I seriously enjoy because I am a huge advocate for electric guitars and strings in the same song. The whole bass section is actually rather hard to make out, but I think (and it’s honestly really hard to tell with super polished pop productions such as these) what’s happening is a mix of two bass guitars (playing different things, mind you), + the appearance of either synth, real -or a mixture of both- strings at certain times. I think it’s especially nice how the rhythm of the bass generally follows that of the drum machines as well. The percussion choices in general are really interesting because they seem to be a mix of stuff you would probably find in an orchestra (which is not new territory for Sweetune by the way, like the timpani drums in Spica’s “Russian Roulette”) and, like, probably just cool drum machine synthetic stuff.
Then, not to be left behind is the g o d-g i v e n string arrangement, which I kills me every time I look up from trying to figure wtf is happening in the bass section (I honestly think it’s a mix of real bass guitar, synth, with low strings at certain times and that’s not even including the slap bass sections that come out a little more clearly in the verses and bridge). Most prominently you have the soaring high string melody over top of everything which has a lot of great melodic interplay with the vocal line AND the bass line. Plus that string line is NOT repetitive in the slightest like most melodic violin usages in kpop, with a new melodies popping up at every turn. The fact that that melody line isn’t static throughout all the choruses is not only uncommon in kpop but really awesome, because it makes each refrain of the vocals seem increasingly powerful. Plus, you’ve got a more ornamented string melody wayyyyyyy back in the mix of the very last refrain that adds even more drama. I can’t. Now, the strings sitting in between the melody and the bass are a lot harder to pinpoint because, but during the verses you can hear what sounds like a cello mirroring the piano chords, which is ALSO mirroring the bass line. Wow. There’s also the odd broken chord played by probably-a-cello here and there that cuts through the layering at just the right times to keep the listener on their toes (even though this whole song is an exercise in shifting arrangements). This last bit I only noticed after about the 20th spin of this track but listen very closely to the last refrain of the chorus melody- the rhythm guitar line gets turned way down but in it’s place, sitting right on top of the drums is, yes you guessed it, a NEW STRING LINE mirroring the bass line. Speaking of details, along with //more strings// there’s also these subtle background vocals that are pretty buried in the mix, but which add yet another dimension to the music.
There are just so many minute, intricate details, and I haven’t even gotten to Infinite themselves! They perform this track admirably, and I really couldn’t think of a group of voices more deserving to sing it. The vocal melody itself is absolutely sublime, hitting off of the other elements to get as grandiose as possible. The bridge through to the last chorus is definitely one of my favorite sections; the violin gets this new, lachrymose melody that harmonizes beautifully with the bass below it, Dongwoo’s rap is great, and so are Sunggyu’s echo-like ad-libs.
All of those things are just dandy, but what I find even more impressive about this song is the way that it conveys emotion. The intentions of the song are right in the title: “Sorrow.” And it is sorrowful. But I’m about 95% certain it’s ALSO in a major key. Because the aim of the song is to make something “sorrowful” out of a tonal center that is widely considered to be “happy” there’s a sense of conflict inherent to the piece. I think that that sense of conflict is perfectly capitalized, as the music straddles the line between desperation and hope. If you listen, major chords tend to punctuate big ascending moments in the vocals- it really plucks at the heartstrings, honestly. I think the moment that exemplifies what I’m talking about is when Dongwoo says “letting go of your neck and grabbing your shoulders” into where he says “yes I know this is my lonely road”. It’s. Just. So. Beautiful.
Essentially, this song is crack for a music theory nerd like me- it’ll probably be months before I decode every little filament of detail here, which means that every time I listen will be an adventure. I’m in love.
P.S. even tinier little details like the electric guitar amp feedback-sounding sample and the string trill before the final chorus seriously make it stand out even more. Seriously so great. I can’t believe a spent a full hour and a half writing this. My word, I’m sorry for making an 1,000 word comment.
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I love it! You need to start your own blog, JYHB!
I wish I knew half as much about music theory as you do. I hope while analyzing all the little details that you wrote about, you can also just let go and feel the song rush over you. It’s fabulous stuff — and now I need to give it an even closer listen.
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Hello. Sorry for randomly replying out of nowhere, but I wanted to say that I loved reading your comment/review. This song gives me feels literally and I could have never expressed it as beautifully since I am a music noob. Just want to thank you because the comment made me really happy about the fact that there is someone who has as many thoughts about the song as I have!
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I discovered your reviews for Infinite songs some time ago and it has been fun reading them and I guess you have almost all of their songs covered. Amazing!
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