Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
In one of the week’s best surprises, Taemin’s new Japanese album had an early digital release on November 5th. I’ve been looking forward to these new songs since they were teased back in September, and the full album doesn’t disappoint. Taemin touches on influences from many luminaries (Better Man could have easily been a long lost Prince track) and ties it all together with his undeniable charisma.
A song like Holy Water is especially refreshing because it doesn’t hold back. On the surface, it’s a mid-tempo pop track. But, its arrangement is given Lady Gaga-level theatrics, anchored by a rootsy — almost gospel — repetition of the song’s title. Melodically, the hook is incredibly simple and repetitive, but it’s given life-or-death gravity by its bombastic production. Taemin supplies a reliably compelling performance during the slow-burn verses, which provide effective contrast with the sinister, piano-led pre-chorus and that immense hook. Things become even grander as distorted synths join the fray mid-way through. It’s anything but subtle, and that’s what I love about it. Taemin is at his best when he embraces the innate theatricality of his performance style. Holy Water could just as easily been ripped from some awesome, imaginary K-pop musical.
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