JYJ – The Beginning

jyjthebeginning

Release Date: 14 October 2010
Label: CJes Entertainment/Warner Music Korea

Tracklisting:

  1. Intro
  2. Ayyy Girl (feat. Kanye West and Malik Yusef)
  3. Empty
  4. Be My Girl
  5. Still in Love
  6. I Can Soar
  7. I Love You (feat. Flowsik)
  8. Be The One
  9. Ayyy Girl (DJ EON Remix)
  10. Empty (DJ EON Remix)

I wasn’t quite sure if I really wanted to tackle this album. After all, there was a lot of noise about the lackluster production of the tracks and even more about the history predating its release. But when our very own Nicole Williams sent this to me as a gift, I was spurred to take on the risky debut and see if I could find anything commendable to take away from their foray into a full-length English production. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

Let’s get the most obvious trouble spot out of the way — the album’s lead single and first track. By now the crash and burn of Ayyy Girl is etched in history as a cataclysmic misstep of the then-fledgling group. It wasn’t that Kanye West produced it, it’s that he did so with a detestably rudimentary beat, an obviously cheap throwaway from his collection of hopeless songs — a hidden safe of pitiful tracks every artist has in hopes someone will be willing to pay a reasonable price for one of them because they a) don’t know the difference, or b) are too caught up in the producer’s name to care. Part of me believes the men of JYJ suffered from a bit of both.

But The Beginning is certainly not its first song. Though not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, the tracks Rodney Jerkins contributed held more promise. He took greater care to provide the men with lyrics and music that was, at the very least, of a decidedly more polished quality than his hit-or-miss peer. Be My Girl and Empty are decently composed radio pop that fit well on any Top40 station in the States.

However, it has to be said that the lyrical content of the aforementioned tracks left much to be desired. They’re cute at best and downright cliché at certain moments. It seems as though the words were written as if meant for some group of high school kids, writing their own love songs — complete with the obligatory “Don’t mean to hurt nobodys“, “She came and put it downs”, and tales of love in the club. Considering the past track record of the members of the group, these lyrical miscues are hard to ignore.

Then we get to the solo pieces of each member. While all three were written by Kyoko Hamler (who also wrote and/or co-wrote 75% of the album), each member composed their respective songs. These tracks are the album’s most intriguing, foreshadowing to what would be their most well-crafted offering to date, In Heaven. Jaejoong and Yuchun’s songs take on a level of maturity that we haven’t seen in the men before this point. Songs Still in Love and I Love You, respectively, bring a blue sensuality to the oversaturation of kiddie pop. However, Junsu’s I Can Soar is the album’s most astonishing track, a gospel-tinged ballad that caught me off guard and further places Junsu as one of the industry’s most impressive talents.

This is what listeners should take away from the album: the level of maturity and diversity of their own compositions. Jaejoong unfolded his natural sensuality, adding a lace-tinged vocal to his powerful coo. Yuchun experimented with his higher range, the baritone matching the steady bedroom cadence with an easy falsetto that slid through the notes. Junsu took great care to compose a song that was as melodious as his own husky vocal, highlighting his versatility.

That being said, what could have been a well-constructed album was marred with the desire to cater to an international audience and a couple of unnecessary remixes tacked to the end. But the potential here is great. Though far from perfect, The Beginning is a commendable first effort, made even more exceptional with the members’ ability to compose sophisticated pop music.

Standout Tracks: Still in Love, I Love You, I Can Soar, Be My Girl, Empty.

Rating: ★★¼☆☆ 

You can listen to the album on Xiami and Spotify. You can buy the album on Amazon.

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

12 Responses

  1. amy says:

    I rated this a 1.5/5 when I listened to it, and I don’t even know why I gave it that extra half star. Maybe because “ayyyyyyyy girl” makes me laugh.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, I think most were ready to just throw it away because of Ayyy Girl. I didn’t really think the album got a fair shake because of it, so just wanted to give a bit more perspective. Ah well… that’s my take on the album.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, I think mostly I gave a star for the songs they composed… HaHa. But really, the two tracks Jerkins produced were actually good as far as radio ready, decently produced songs go. The lyrics are also pretty much par for the course for anything on pop radio. As far as a pop album goes, it’s decent, standard radio fare.

      Edit: Taking into consideration how really the best tracks are the ones the members composed themselves and the lyrical content of the songs Jerkins produced (even though the production is pretty decent), I had to dock the album a quarter of a star. Part of me still wants to give this three stars, but the critical side knows the best parts are their own songs. When only three of the eight original tracks (I’m not counting the unnecessary remixes) are really good, it kinda only makes sense to give it a 2.75. I feel like I’ll be going back and forth star-wise with this one for a couple days, but for now 2.75 seems to fit best.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, It is because it was standard pop fare that I didn’t like the album. I like a lot of the work Jerkins did throughout my idolhood 90s, but this just seemed like the same stuff.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, That’s understandable, but it’s no better or worse than what’s already on the radio. Thus I can’t justify giving it anything less than I’d give any other pop album, though certainly nothing more than what I’d give something on the radio. “Ayyy Girls'” a pretty terrible song, but it’s just one song that doesn’t define the entire album.

          All in all, it’s a decent debut, a standard pop album that’s not groundbreaking, but certainly not unexpected in the landscape of pop music. I think a 2.75’s a fair enough rating, what I’d probably give any standard pop album I heard past 2005.

  2. Nicole Williams says:

    That’s true about catering to the international fans. They didn’t have to do that. They should have stuck with their sound. I love the album because they sung it in English and its not their home language so kudos to them. I really was hoping for their sound of Korea sung in English. Its not like they got tons of fans after this album anyway so they should have stuck to their roots. I don’t regret purchasing their album. I did like it that much. I just have sadness that they thought we wouldn’t like their own sound. Lets not forget how much i dislike Kanye. I just don’t dig him as an artist!

    • Camiele says:

      @Nicole Williams, It does bother me, but it seems that’s sort of the idea with (especial) Korean “idols” regarding international success. They pretty much see what’s successful and try to make music that’s as close to that as they can. I hope they find work with a more varied group of producers on their next English album, bring different sounds than what we’ve heard thus far. I’m not sure if they will or not, but they need to bring something a bit different to the scene than what they did with this one.

      All that to say, it’s their first full-length album… and it’s in English… HaHa. It was a decent first effort, but there were some MAJOR flaws they need to work out. Foremost of which is not working with producers who don’t actually take them serious because of where they come from and hand them shit music and lyrics. If ANYTHING I think they can pull off just producing the music themselves if they were serious about it… but, you know… whatevs… HaHa.

    • amy says:

      @Nicole Williams + Camiele, I still have a bone to pick in regards of non-English artists having to sing in English to break into the American market. PSY aside… because he seems like such a bleep in the market.

      According to music market studies, the next big breakout it’s going to be a foreign act, considering the numbers of latinos in the US, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for a Latino artists to top regularly Billboard charts. As I understand it, Pitbull has been fairly regular the past year and well, Shakira’s been so constant.

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, I agree with you. But that’s the understanding, at least as far as I can tell, with most idols I’ve seen, in order to be successful (not necessarily taken seriously) you’ve got to appeal to what American audiences apparently find entertaining. For the girls, we all know what that is. For the guys, you’ve got to use recycled lyrics and throwaway beats that no one will touch in the States, but a “crossover” artist will jump at if the name’s a big one that’s selling a lot of albums and whose name is everywhere.

        • amy says:

          @Camiele, I understand……. I’ll just have to sit and wait until the average American, so often dictator of what is worldwide famous, changes. Having said that…….. this “foreign problem” also seems to affect country music. I’ve often heard people say they don’t listen to country music because, well… it’s country music. xD So maybe it’s too “foreign american” for the foreign market? xD

          Americans not listening to music that is too foreign, and foreigners not listening to country music coz it’s too American? xD Country music stars gotta be pop crossovers, and Foreigners gotta sing in English. It’s a mad MAD world. The other day I overheard Taylor Swift played at a mall, and for whole 15 seconds there I thought it was Avril Lavigne. LOL

  3. Camiele says:

    @amy, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Dude… it’s just sad. And unfortunate that music can’t just be appreciated for what it is. I don’t even know if I consider Taylor Swift country, though I guess I can’t really pass any opinion since I don’t like her as a singer and don’t listen to any of her music… HaHa.

    But it’s definitely an interesting dynamic between cultures, how we call music the one thing that connects nations and cultures when other cultures outside of the US are trying to assimilate to the American ideal of what’s popular. Though it seems a lot of countries outside the US don’t particularly like country, you won’t find anyone from the US attempting to assimilate to what other cultures consider popular… though, I suppose it’s because every other country’s trying to assimilate to the States, thus perpetuating the idea that the US is the end all be all of what music sells and is successful.

    *siiiiigh* I don’t get it, cuz especially since after 2005, “mainstream” radio music hasn’t exactly been interesting…

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