With over 2,300 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.
The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!
Year Released: 2006
Few (if any) K-pop acts have ever burned brighter than TVXQ at their prime. Though their first several albums were more ballad-heavy than their image might suggest, they were led by what could only be described as event singles. As one of K-pop’s all-time great songs, 2005’s Rising Sun set the bar impossibly high. But only a year later, O-Jung.Ban.Hap. replicated its dramatic sound with a more streamlined structure. The result is nearly as strong, representing a high water mark of the group’s singles discography.
The “Jung. Ban. Hap.” portion of O’s title has been translated to “Justice. Opposition. Solution.” as well as “Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.” This gives you an idea of just how heady the song’s lyrics are, taking influence from a philosophical formula first developed in the 1700’s. That’s pretty out there for a pop song, but O is the work of mastermind producer Yoo Young-Jin, who makes sure the academic theory never outshines his bombastic dance pop production.
Opening with an iconic percussive breakdown, the song quickly launches into its dizzying blend of hard hitting beats and frenzied synths. Rock guitar is used liberally, adding a satisfying crunch to an already electric groove. And then, of course, there’s TVXQ themselves. The quintet gives a confident performance, and they’re at their best when their powerful voices blend together for the militant chorus. O predates EXO’s debut by six years, but provides the framework for what would become their initial sound. It’s slightly cold and mysterious, but driven by a thrilling blend of genres and over-the-top arrangements.
With all this said, O’s final twenty seconds are its trump card, and what really earn it a place in the K-pop hall of fame. As the production revs up and a blistering electric guitar solo joins the fray, Young-Jin and TVXQ deliver what just might be the most invigorating ending to any K-pop song. It feels too short, which only leaves you wanting to hit the replay button immediately.