An Album a Day is my exploration into the Korean music scene. This podcast will cover mainstream, indie and some underground artists within the scene and provide both factual and opinionated commentary. The biggest benefit to sharing my thoughts this way is that it will hopefully expose you to more great music and exploration of your own.
The date is July 11, 2013, and A-Jax returned for a sophomore mini-album. Five tracks, 18 minutes, and a hunger for success. Did A-Jax make magic happen? Find out, right after the drop.
You’re tuned into An Album a Day. Show start.
Hey y’all, after reaching top 10 ranks with their debut EP, I’m convinced that A-Jax set out to prove something with “insane,” their follow-up album. It isn’t always necessary to provide an album with double-digit track listings, especially when the title track could stand on its own as an instrumental. It’s a complete shame that it isn’t available as an instrumental somewhere for me to devour, but I’ll get back to this song in just a moment.
First on the album is “Don’t break my heart.” Don’t let this song’s title confuse you, it’s not a ballad and it’s not mopy. In fact,it’s a pulsing, futuristic dance track where the members are telling their love interest that things are over, all the while begging them to stay. I mistook the chorus as saying, “Don’t go out,” but they’re actually saying “go, go out.” I really enjoyed hearing the conflict! Suddenly, it stops and in creeps “Insane,” the title track.
I’ll say this now, I’m truly biased towards this track. “Insane” follows a pattern that many dance music and instrumental producers, myself included, commit to. There is a drum kit that doesn’t let up while synths and other production effects encircle the vocals and it’s absolutely delicious. The music for the first verse is thick and highlights the lower vocals of the members, and then opens up sonically. The advancing sounds from the 38-second mark until its completion around 52 seconds is… this sounds like something I would’ve produced! It’s a tried and true escalation and the nuances are so pleasing. Even more unfortunate than not having an instrumental for me to boots-and-cats, in-my-living-room-nightclub dance to is, there is no information about who produced the track. How dare Korean entertainment companies?!?! Yes, I know that their philosophy is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, 하지만 진지하게요, 왜요?! (Translation: But seriously, why?!)
The party keeps going with track number three, “Don’t leave me.” This time, A-Jax’s mind is made up from the first song! If you need an idea of what the vibe is, think of the couple off to the side at a party who looks like they think they’re in a movie, drama, or music video, what with the dramatic movements and distressed facial expressions. Imagine 90s R&B hand motions and a drizzle of rain, for added effect. The emotions depart quickly with “Fantasy,” the fourth track that throws us back into Dance Dance Revolution mode. The guitars on this track are begging for you to acknowledge it, so do so with a thrashing of your body. The guys are somewhat swallowed up by the music in this track but it’s not a failure.
A surprise for me was hearing the final track, “Thank ya,” as I immediately remembered hearing it in 2013. It was passive listening on a YouTube playlist, I’m certain, but the familiarity really made me smile. Actively listening now, there’s nothing wrong with the song except for a groaning sound effect at transitions in the song. I really wish they wouldn’t have done that! It’s not very distracting but it’s awkward. Especially given the lyrics, as they’re thanking their partner for being present and open to their love. And then you groan. Eww.
K-pop fans on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being essential listening and 1 not worth mentioning, the A3Day rating for this album is a 5. It’s cohesive, high-energy, and genuinely sounds innovative. They eventually earned the number 8 spot on Korean charts with this one, so I’m calling it a success, for sure. Continue to check out the #A3Day Highlights Playlist on Spotify, as it features tracks from today’s albums and past episode’s artists, and I’ll catch you in the next episode, bye y’all.
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