Episode 11

After School "Virgin" (2011)

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.

Several days have passed and we’re back with the show. In a world where fast and consistent content rules the land, and attention spans are shorter than ever,  I thank you for being a positive audience and your willingness to wait for me. Now, on this National Teacher’s Day, allow me to turn your attention back to where we left off, class. After School’s discography continues, right after the drop. 

You’re tuned into An Album a Day. Show start.

Hey y’all, we have reached the debut studio album, “Virgin,” a whopping 13 track experience on both Pledis Entertainment and LOEN Entertainment labels. LOEN is now Kakao M and likely assumed co-publishing responsibilities for this album because of a long-standing positive reputation. While Pledis was relatively new on the scene with a year 2007 founding, LOEN was established in 1978. Interestingly enough, Pledis is almost like the new kid on the block again, as it was acquired by Big Hit Entertainment in May 2020. 

Back to the album. The studio album is less than an hour long but delivers a solid experience. Approaching this April 29, 2011 release date began in 2009, thus setting the scene for anticipation. The group’s ninth member, E-Young, was introduced during this era and there were other big moments for After School, such as their leader’s debut solo project and the first full-length album from subunit Orange Caramel. The group was riding a buzz wave and audiences wanted to hear what was next. 

Nine new tracks were released, including two as solos for members Raina and Jungah; and three songs were re-recordings. Their third single, “Shampoo,” was added as a radio edit, too. In terms of singles from the album, technically November 2009’s “Because of You” is first and March 2010’s “Bang!” is second. The songs were added to the studio album to create a solid thread, as if to say, “Hey, we know what vibe we want to give you and we’ve been consistent about it for years.” Okay, maybe not to say that specifically but it was clever planning on the production side. By grabbing older tracks and incorporating them into After School’s first studio album, it shows that the direction for their sound, the colors they were intended to create, was solid from the get-go. There wasn’t any experimentation prior that would tarnish the potential of the album “Virgin,” is what I’m saying.

Nonetheless, I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy it. The music production during this time in pop music was hollow. A lot of music sounded like Norway-founded, Los Angeles-based music production duo Stargate (if you need a point of reference, think Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” or much of Rihanna’s “Good Girl Gone Bad” studio album). They were sought after and produced simple songs that put guitars in the spotlight but not a bass. This production style caters to crafting for lyrics and not for musicality. As a music producer who’s focused on instrumentals, I don’t prioritize space for lyrics, but for the various instruments to do the talking. I acknowledge my bias in this review but I also admit boredom with hearing limitations in vocal arrangements as well for After School. They did not attempt anything too drastic. Suffice it to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is the standing motif for this group.

That aside, 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. The energy of the album is consistent and though there is a perceived tendency to end on a mellow track, the closing track brings the continuity full-circle. Some versions will have the radio edit of “Shampoo” as the close while others will experience a selection of instrumentals from the album. Whether in hard copy or digital form, the choices work. I don’t have to be a big fan of the album to acknowledge this fact. Maybe you’ll feel the same way? Give it a listen and then let me know. The #A3Day Highlights Playlist on Spotify is finally updated and features a few tracks from this album! I’ll catch you in the next episode, bye y’all.

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About the Podcast

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Multifacetedacg Presents: An Album a Day
A Review of Every Album in K-pop

About your host

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Ashley Griffin

Ashley "Multifacetedacg" Griffin is a diverse content creator. Since 2013, she's specialized in Hallyu Wave entertainment, with an emphasis on K-pop and music production commentary.