History, LOEN Entertainment‘s first ever boy group, broke into the Kpop scene in 2013 with a song that broke the mold. “Dreamer” was a dramatic pop-ballad that included harmonies and acapella sections that were reminiscent of Queen‘s “Boehmian Rhapsody” and a chorus that sped up into an irresistibly catchy, sweeping melody. This song set them on a path of distinction among the K-pop community because it was not only original, but they also had the voices to execute the musically challenging piece.
Unfortunately, their releases have been hit and miss since then. They floundered with their second single, the painfully stereotypical “Tell Me Love” which was boring to say the least and certainly didn’t make use of their talent. Their third single “What Am I To You” was much better and brought History back to a place of utilizing their vocal abilities. The song didn’t follow the trends of the industry and went for a more retro sound which was what made me fall in love with History in the first place.
Now, they’ve returned with their first mini album of 2014 and, sadly, the single “Psycho“ is not only underwhelming considering what the group is capable of, but it’s also down-right cacophonous. As is sometimes the case, the group’s company chose the least catchy song on the album to promote. The idea of History using “Psycho” as their single when they had so many other good choices on the mini album is just as unfathomable as it was when SHINee promoted “Everybody” off an otherwise musically sophisticated EP.
As a whole, the Desire album is appealing to any fan that enjoys a retro Western pop sound. It has a cohesive 1980’s feel that relies heavily on funky beats and synth. The album is in keeping with History’s tendency to use tried-and-true pop sounding melodies for their songs as opposed to going with the more recent Kpop trends of dubstep and Hip Hop. There aren’t any tracks on the mini that feel completely out of place, but the range of quality of the tracks does vary and it makes me wonder why they chose one of the lesser-quality songs as the headliner.
The single “Psycho” is the least put together song on the mini. Even though it does fall within the album theme its execution is undeniably sloppy. As is the trend in Kpop, “Psycho” has a chorus, bridge, and verse that all feel like they came from separate songs. The pieces aren’t bad individually but put together as one song they sound ill-matched. The beginning of the song and the section right before the lyrical chorus sound like they were sampled from Prince’s Purple Rain album – a la “When Doves Cry” — but the softer parts fail to keep that energy going and it makes the song difficult to get in to as a whole.
“I Got U“ is another song that has the 80’s dance-track feel. Arguably, it does a lot better with the sound than “Psycho” because it has a consistent beat throughout that builds up to a chorus that fits with the tempo of the song. Done with the right concept, this could have been a stellar single. Instead of following the creepy, unhealthy relationship trend with “Psycho,” History could have done something sexy, funky, and unique with “I Got U.” Maybe next time.
“태양은 없다” gets in touch with the Latin music inspired side of History’s group concept. This song is smooth and lower-tempo than the previous two tracks which creates a nice change of pace in the mini album. The chorus is still vivacious enough to be single material, though. Talk about sexy; the sensual piano in this song could have inspired some truly sultry choreography. Regardless, it is a pleasant listen and the vocals are spot on.
“It’s Alright” takes the album back in the 80’s electro-funk direction – especially with the beginning instrumentals and plucked bass background. This song has a slow build-up, making it probably the least likely candidate for the single spot, but the chorus has a charming melody and the rap is full of priceless English. Sticking with the retro theme once again, this song may as well have come off of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, that’s how recognizable the style and execution are.
“Blue Moon” is the most typically Kpop sounding song on the entire album which makes it prime single material. It does draw a little on the Latin music beats, but it doesn’t lean heavily in that direction or in the 80’s direction. Because of that it is probably the most stand-alone song in terms of style. It has a good pick-up at the chorus that makes it catchy and then a fun little oooo-ing section that appeals to the ear. The back beat is fast enough to support both sexy and intense choreography and, although there are moments of deviation from the main melody, it feels like a cohesive song. If I were to pick a single that would appeal most to the masses, this would be it.
Despite being full of fabulous tracks, the Desire mini album doesn’t put its best foot forward with its single, “Psycho.” Usually it is the opposite with Kpop albums – the single is catchy, the rest not so much – but in this case the other tracks on the album are definitely more likely to grab the ear than the jarringly disjointed single track. Hopefully not too many first-time History listeners were scared away because of “Psycho” and will instead give the group a chance by listening to the whole album.
(YouTube, LOEN Entertainment)