The album format has always been special to me. Whether it’s a full-length or mini, albums have the opportunity to tell stories and develop an act’s personal style. Occasionally, I dive in and offer in-depth track by track reviews, but sometimes a bite-sized overview is just as fun.
That’s what this feature is all about: sharing notable albums and offering some quick thoughts about what makes them tick.
B1A4 – What’s Happening?
Released May 6, 2013
1. Starlight’s Song (별빛의 노래)
It intrigues me when an album opens with a song that’s not the title track/single. This puts tremendous faith in whichever lucky b-side is selected, and with Starlight’s Song that faith is definitely warranted. This is an absolute stunner of a pop song. The gorgeous melody builds to anthemic highs, surging with the sentiment of a ballad and the power of a dance track. Sandeul gets a chance to stretch his vocals at the climax, but all of the guys sound incredible.
2. What’s Happening? (이게 무슨 일이야)
For as much as I adore B1A4, I haven’t written about them all that much on the blog. What’s Happening is a bonafide legend, and deserves a fuller write-up. When I think bright, power pop title tracks, this is the template. It’s danceable, rocky and impossibly catchy. That chorus is a brilliant ray of sunshine, guaranteed to lift your spirits. But, the whole track is a perfectly calibrated piece of pop music. It’s inviting enough to work as a simple earworm but quirky enough to have real artistic merit. It’s also one of the first times we get to hear that wonderful “bonus chorus” structure that Jinyoung loves so much, as What’s Happening concludes with a buoyant coda.
We’re back to the uplifting, ultra-melodic style of Starlight’s Song. Yesterday is another of those tracks that feels like a great ballad even though the production is more upbeat. The verses are restrained but emotive, while that chorus crests with a majestic swell. The chant-along climax is great fun, laying the ground for a belt-along finale that keeps the energy high.
4. Good Love
B1A4’s albums are often full of these slower, jazzy r&b b-sides. It’s not my favorite sound for the group, but they pull it off very well. A track like Good Love thrives upon the nuances of their performance. Falsetto is used especially well, mixing with the muted brass and playful keys to craft a sound that’s laidback but engaging. Toward the end, the song feels like it’s spinning its wheels a little, but that might just be my own musical preferences talking.
5. How Many Times (몇 번을)
We’re back to a more upbeat album closer. How Many Times kicks off with an extended rap from Baro, gradually building interest. By the time the chorus drops, the tempo rises and we’re in full ‘anime theme’ territory. That kick drum stays around, adding great pulse to the track. Compared to the highlights of B1A4’s discography, this is a slight effort. But, it’s insistent enough to compensate for its repetitive structure. I love the guitar loop running through the background.