With a lead single titled Ocean, TVXQ has most obviously broken into the summer pop scene. Ocean is your standard pop, with just a bit of dupstep flare without the actual d-d-d-dubstepping. Rather, in the chorus, TVXQ do quite a lot of vocal repetitions, but instead of being annoying, they add to the catchiness and the intended immaturity of the song. Changmin and Yunho sound glowingly in sync as usual; it is kind of funny to reflect that Yunho was once considered the singing dead weight in TVXQ.
Being your standard pop, Ocean is merely a good song, not a great one. It is fine to thump to in the club, to listen to while drinking coconut milk on the beach, but not a song to top charts and go triple platinum. The whole song is one shade of upbeat and does not deviate; nothing exciting or unexpected happens, it is safe and sunny. What gives Ocean its special oomph is that it is sung by two professionals who work together seamlessly, and make the most of whatever they get, even if it is “oogas.” I absolutely despise the beginning yells of “ooga”, etc. Even the instrumentals by themselves sound fun, and adding the oogas doesn’t contribute much to it. The point is make Yunho and Changmin young and fun again, not silly.
The Ocean -Rising Starr Remix- is also quite nice, making for an even more enthusiastic club thumper, taking cues from eurodance in the background (think Britney and will.i.am’s Scream & Shout). I actually wish they had done more remixing, because eurodance has not been explored so much in jpop or kpop (think NU’EST’s Face). However, those who do slick eurodance usually rock a chill vibe, in constrast to high-energy Changmin and Yunho are oiled, masculine and tightly choreographed humanoids (I know you see what I did there). Perhaps it is better they laid off the eurodance.
TVXQ’s partner song in this release is Wedding Dress, a likewise upbeat song. The lyrics, “Wedding dress, say yes!” funnily reminds me of the show Say Yes To the Dress, even though I have never watched it and only heard secondhand accounts of my friends obsessed with it. This song highlights TVXQ’s maturity in the Japanese market; only older artists can sing about getting married without getting weird stares– imagine SHINee singing this. Weirdly knit eyebrows abound. TVXQ sounds carefree in these two songs, light and airy, much in contrast to their previous upbeat releases in TIME, in which I got so frustrated that I said that Changmin and Yunho should never sing happy songs ever and only sing emo ones. Clearly, I was wrong. Put with the right songs and the right mood, Changmin and Yunho can kill it. It is not simply a matter of whether Changmin and Yunho are good singers, it is also a matter of how skilled their producers are picking songs that fits their strengths and hides their weaknesses.
Like Ocean, Wedding Dress is entirely safe and entirely one shade of happy. It is catchy in a non-threatening way– you’ll enjoy listening it, and it won’t get stuck in your head afterwards. Overall, this release by TVXQ was thoroughly enjoyable. While not epic chart-storming tracks, their fluffiness is very much appreciated in the haze of summer. While we all need to read novels like Anna Karenina once in a while, it is okay to read things like Twilight from time to time (I think. Even reading the Wikipedia entry gave me jeebies).
Like TVXQ, BoA’s Japanese repertoire is significantly better than her releases in Korea. It is my theory that BoA’s Korean producers knew that Disturbance was such a dull song that they made Taemin play the male lead. In contrast, her Japanese releases are thoughtful and detailed, and the newest release, Tail of Hope, is not an exception. The beginning motif is light and actually does a great job of recalling BoA’s reedy voice. In fact, the whole song’s instrumentals are light, without much heavy bass, and is balanced correctly against BoA’s voice. This song also uses a lot of BoA’s higher register, which is usually wispy and light. Unsurprisingly, the song actually mirrors BoA’s singing voice. Light and with a catchy English hook, Tail of Hope is most definitely a summer release.
Baby you.. is a tasteful counterpoint to Tail of Hope, slower but still optimistic. While perhaps not very original, it fits BoA’s style extremely well, using both her lower mezzosoprano and her soprano head voice. I can already imagine her singing this live, and absolutely rocking the vocalizations. As with every recording that she sings, she brings minute attention to each word and enunciates everything clearly. Despite BoA’s popularity, I believe her voice is somewhat an acquired taste, because it can be reedy (see clarinet, oboe), like Onew.
Both BoA’s and TVXQ’s releases show how much depends on the artists themselves to give flavor to the songs. With decades of experience between these three people, they certainly do not disappoint. With SHINee’s (review spoiler!) superb Japanese album as a follow-up, jpop certainly seems to be gearing up for a cheerful summer.