The boys 2PM have had a rather tumultuous year, haven’t they? From losing their leader temporarily (or so the company says – personally I kind of did believe that he would be back eventually) to losing their leader permanently, to gaining a shitload of anti-fans because of a bunch of rumors that I personally think are a little too ridiculous to be plausible, they are finally back in the idol scene with their third single Don’t Stop Can’t Stop. From the teaser released earlier last week, it seems like the group is sticking to the concept they know best: manly and beastly, with a lot of shirt-ripping in between.
I stan 2PM pretty hard but I think I can remain fair in spite of that 😛 I’ve criticized the group before for relying too much on flash as opposed to actual substance (I mean, more than the usual for idol groups that is – admit it, half the group can barely hold their notes together) so I’m looking forward to seeing if they’ve learned from their past mistakes.
1. Don’t Stop Can’t Stop– I’m not even going to lie, I think this is a really strong first track and if they don’t promote this, I’m going to be pretty ticked off. It just sounds so raw and angry, but there’s actually something other than just anger at one level, you know what I mean? Like some indignance maybe, determination and resignation, that sort of thing. Nichkhun wins first prize for most improved rap (though I don’t know, anything would sound better than the indigenous chanting he did for Heartbeat), and holy hell Junsu sounds REALLY GOOD. He’s been slipping for me vocals-wise so I’m glad that he’s getting his groove back.
2. Without U – Praise Jaysus, the full song actually sounds like the teaser. I’m glad they kept the piano in there because the piano, Khun’s rap (surprise! Though he’s about a breath away from indigenous chanting territory again) and Wooyoung’s part was the only thing I like about it. The song itself is pretty mediocre and predictable. For example, I knew that as soon as the chorus comes, it would start sounding really techno, and that there would be a key change somewhere in there. What is it with producers and their belief that techno-fying an otherwise okay song will make it a sure hit? In any case, the song grows on you after a few listens but it’s still not good enough that I would purposely look for it so I can listen to it.
3. 마자 – Niga Mibda 2.0? Seriously, that was my first impression of the song. I quite like it though. Junsu sounds particularly amazing here, and I never thought I would live to hear OckCat sound like…an actual cat.
4.목숨을 건다 – I don’t think I’ve ever heard 2PM sing an actual honest-to-goodness ballad so this is very interesting to me, even more so because *GASP* Taecyeon and Chansung actually have SINGING parts! Putting them beside Wooyoung, Junsu and Junho’s voices though, makes it even more evident that the two rappers lack some serious range, but hey. Baby steps, right? Khun on the other hand, sounds…pretty good, actually. Vocals aside, the song itself is really sweet and sincere, which I like.
5. Without U (Explorer mix) – I never feel good about remixes and this is no different. The mixing sounds kind of amateur-ish and doesn’t make the song more memorable than it already is. Which isn’t a lot.
6. Space 마자 – Again, totally unnecessary, especially since the song on its own is okay already. It just sounds messy with the techno thrown in.
I think a little bit of my heart chipped off when I heard the members introduce themselves in Don’t Stop Can’t Stop. I’m not an idiot – I’m perfectly aware that Jay’s really not coming back anymore and that has been the state of things for quite some time now but hearing six names instead of seven gave it such a note of finality that I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad. 😦 I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing what Jay brought to this group.
Well at least they’re finally getting over that awful girl that’s plagued them for four singles already.
Concept-wise, I like it. This is just my interpretation of course, but if you juxtapose the songs to the current state of affairs in the 2PM fandom, it really sounds like the boys are sending an iron-fisted message to everyone: they WILL be okay without you (‘you’ being Hottest turned Coldest and perhaps to a certain extent Jay? Though obviously the ‘we will be okay without you’ is probably less hostile) and everyone who hates them can pretty much go and fuck themselves because they’re still going to be doing what they’re doing in spite of all the people trying to pull them down.
Music-wise however…it’s standard 2PM fare: you’ve got a few gems in between all the rocks but the gems aren’t sparkly and in the end, they’re all rocks anyway. JYP SHOULD RETIRE AS A PRODUCER ALREADY. There, I said it. I find it extremely telling that 2AM suddenly got this massive boost in popularity following the release of their first mini-album, with songs not produced by JYP. The man is a great guy but he has to stop hogging the producer title because he kind of sucks at it. Almost all of 2PM’s songs sound the same and now that I think about it, there is a striking similarity to some of Bi’s older stuff as well. It’s not fresh, it’s uninspired and recycled, and these qualities seep into their choreography as well. I refuse to believe that that ridiculous rehash of No Love, No More is all 2PM is capable of now.
It’s fucking 2PM. What were you expecting, a symphony?
To be quite honest, 2PM as a musical group has been underwhelming even before Jay left so to expect a ginormous improvement from them when their best performer is gone is a little too idealistic. At the same time, however, if you’re a fan (and you’ve withstood criticism for remaining a fan despite all the rumors and mudslinging), it’s not wrong to want the boys to challenge themselves with better material especially since a lot of people are insinuating that the only value they had as performers was the value that Jay brought. Fans need a reason to stay fans so I can’t blame them for being disappointed. I personally, will be ticked off if they win awards and stuff with such lackluster material because it’s basically awarding them for mediocrity.
But alas, that’s how it goes in the world of Kpop. T_T
On the flipside, how good do Wooyoung and the Junbros sound, honestly? As I said before, Junsu’s been slipping as vocalist for me recently, as he has a tendency to just go overboard and it sounds really bad sometimes, but I thought that his ad-libs gave a little extra oomph to songs that would otherwise be just blah, period. As for Junho and Wooyoung, it shows that they’ve been working really hard to fill in the vocal space that Jay left behind, which is really commendable. Khun rapping, I’m not so sure about, but admittedly he has gotten better at it. Just needs to work more on his breathing (there is a fine line between rapping and just plain talking) and on concealing his weird Thai-American-Korean accent that makes him stumble over pronunciation and such things.
Vocals-wise, this is how I rank them: Junbros and Wooyoung are high up there, Khun fluctuating between middle to lower (depends on how much dancing is involved, haha), and Taecyeon and Chansung being so bad that they’re practically underground, which is why they’re usually relegated to rap duty. I took the complete lack of autotune in the tracks, plus Taecyeon and Chansung actually singing to mean that there’s been an improvement where vocals is concerned so I hope I won’t be disappointed.
All in all, 2/5. 😐 Sorry, guys.