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.
One random day in 2012, likely in November when I was consuming more Korean entertainment than any point in my life, I clicked on a thumbnail of a girl group in black fringed attire. The video began with a door sliding open to reveal eight confident women. Moments later, they were stomping in heels across an empty space and I was hollering with excitement. “You better walk, ladies!” could be heard over the house as I had my formal introduction to After School. The song was “Flashback” and today, we’re getting into the single album, right after the drop.
You’re tuned into An Album a Day. Show start.
Hey y’all, I can admit that I did not become a big fan of After School despite my enthusiasm, but they genuinely walked into my area of awareness with the boldness of “Flashback.” The June 20, 2012 single album was sexy, bold, and could not have been released at a better time. For one, the sound was futuristic pop, which was heavy on the scene in 2012. Futuristic elements rest on synths, machinery-inspired sounds, and other experimental accents. Robot voices, gears grinding, all that good stuff? You can throw that in with futuristic pop, too. Second, the album is organized well. Five tracks -- the Korean version of “Rip Off,” title track “Flashback,” Nana’s solo “Eyeline,” group ballad “Wristwatch,” and Jungah and Raina’s duet “Timeless” -- are placed in an order that makes the 17-minutes-or-so mini album experience extremely cohesive.
The group is still reserved about showing different colors vocally. However, as I said in Season 4 Episode 12 (EDIT: Episode 11), “‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ is the standing motif for this group.” While I enjoy great vocals on display, including interesting harmonies and other arrangements, After School stays committed to the power of one voice, per se. If the song calls for chanting, we’re chanting. If the song calls for a soloist here, we’ll put a soloist here. Whatever the music calls for, they accommodate in a “one band, one sound” vocal Drumline.
Random side note but I can’t get my mind off of it. Some time ago, who even knows which episode or live stream it was, I said that the human voice is a string instrument. The voice can be acknowledged as an instrument for what it can produce but it isn’t one in the technical sense -- you can’t go about moving a voice around or have someone else take and play your unique voice-- and it isn’t stringed. It burns me to admit it! It would have to fall within aerophone or wind instruments. I’m vexed! We have to use air to create sounds with the voice and this has so little to do with this group and mini album but I just couldn’t go on living a lie. The nerd in me couldn’t have you believe something so wrong for so long!
Okay, back to the album. Its intro, “Rip Off,” is unexpected and sounds nothing like what they’ve produced on any album before this. Although a bit redundant with its key sound effect, there is a magic moment towards its end where the music opens up and puts the group’s vocals in a shining spotlight. It’s not an overtly dynamic song but it’s refreshing. “Flashback” is dancy and works in a nightclub or aerobics class all the same. The other tracks are within the same vein as past albums, not lackluster but not heavily engaging. I do favor the track “Timeless” as a decent up-tempo closing track, but again, there is not much to differentiate it from the formula of After School’s past works.
For this album most of the music production came from a foreign team. I dug around for information on producers Pitchline and TEXU who created songs for this album, but had a hard time. And with me broadcasting from the United States instead of South Korea right now, I kept pulling up things associated with the state of Texas. I want to share information about the works of production teams more often as it is a part of the success of a K-pop group, but there’s still some aspects of the Korean entertainment industry that prefer to keep individual success private. I get it -- the whole creates the impact -- but there’d be no music to sing without the production teams.
Let’s rank this, yes? K-pop fans on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being essential listening and 1 not worth mentioning, the A3Day rating on this is a 5. They continue to deliver on this high ranking despite not blowing my socks off, but the mini album “Flashback” has come closest to doing so. The #A3Day Highlights Playlist on Spotify is updated and features a few tracks from this album, and things are almost ready over on Apple and Google. As soon as all available playlists are curated, you can access their links on a3daypodcast.com. Until then, keep an ear and eye out for our updates. I’ll catch you in the next episode, bye y’all.
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