So, First Step, CNBLUE‘s first full-length album, released about a month ago and normally I wouldn’t care… but then I got sucked into watching Yonghwa & Seohyun episodes on We Got Married and, well, I started to pay a little more attention to CNB.
I’ll start of by saying that I was a little biased against CNB for silly reasons. First of all – they’re all so YOUNG. The oldest (Jung Yonghwa) is only about a month older than me and the rest are younger. My first thought was – can these boys really pull of being a legit band? Are they even musically mature yet? Being in an idol group is different, but being on the indie scene at that age seemed a little unbelievable.
Second of all, well, I’d heard some CNB in passing (“Love” and “외톨이야” from their Korean debut EP Bluetory) and I was surprised… because it’s exactly the genre of music I enjoy listening to in English. And that turned me off. For some odd reason, I’d only ever listened to dance, hip hop, and rap in Korean (looking back on it, that may be because it was easier to ignore the lyrics I never understood when there was a good beat.) I didn’t WANT to listen to rock in Korean because rock is very much about the lyrics and emotion for me, which I couldn’t yet understand. But now, I’ve gotten over it. My Korean is now good enough that I can understand nearly everything in a song. So I feel like I can enjoy CNB’s music just as much as I enjoy American rock music.
First Step is an AWESOME album. Awesome. There are very few albums, Korean and American alike, that I can listen to straight through without skipping songs, and this is one of them. First of all, I’m a sucker for a sick guitar melody and this album has plenty of that. Plus, I thought every song in this album was interesting, catchy, and enjoyable. Obviously there were some weak links (e.g. “Ready N Go,” “One of a Kind“) but the majority were very memorable. These were my favorites.
직감 (“Intuition”) – Great, catchy song, reminiscent a little of 외톨이야. Can easily get stuck in your head. Be warned.
Love Girl – I LOVE THIS SONG. The only thing that can be annoying is the incredible number of times “love” or 사랑 is repeated in the song. But it’s so catchy, uplifting, and just… happy.
상상 (Imagine) – The beginning of this song is so much in the style of Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz. It’s kind of amazing. The only thing that’s a little awkward is
Yonghwa (?) Jungshin’s rap in the beginning. This song (and actually most of CNB’s songs) could be perfectly fine without rap. The chorus of this song matches so perfectly with the title – it’s dreamy and sweet, almost like a lullaby. And Yonghwa and Jonghyun’s (?? I can’t recognize the voices very well yet T_T) harmonizing was so perfect; it gives me chills every time I hear it.
These were my three favorites. The others were very good as well; and, more importantly, the songs complimented each other and album flowed very well. There was a real sense of cohesiveness that is often lacking in K-pop albums.
Let me tell you – in terms of style and musicality, these boys could make it big in the American music industry. They have some awesome musical inspirations (Jason Mraz, Maroon 5) that are really reflected in their music but they still maintain a very distinct sound. Instrumentally, they have a very current yet unique “Western” sound (as compared to many idol groups who sound like American boybands from the 90’s and/or Lady Gaga wannabes). And they have the added benefit that all of them can sing, which adds an extra layer of complexity to their music, lacking in bands that have only one lead singer.
Too bad America isn’t very receptive to non-English music…. CNB has come out with an all-English album (the thought makes me shudder) but, judging from their song “One of a Kind,” their English needs work. That being said, it’s impressive that they can still maintain a level of depth in their English songs despite it being their second language. (Compare that to Big Bang’s English songs which are just… superficial fluff, lacking any real meaning).
Anyway, LOVE these boys and the new album. Glad they’re finally tasting the success they so heartily deserve.