[album review] Beast’s Fiction and Fact

Beast is the one idol group whose comeback I always look forward to because it’s really amazing watching them improve with every new release. Back with their first full album Fiction and Fact, they continue to showcase the mellow side that we’ve seen in their previous effort Lights Go on Again while still maintaining the energy that makes them so quintessentially them.

And uh, yeah, I’m back too. 🙂

1. The Fact – Have I mentioned how much I love Cube’s intro tracks? I do. I’ve always thought that intro tracks are meant to introduce the vibe that the album’s going for and Cube has never disappointed in that area. The RnB influences in this song is actually similar in vein to what we heard in Lights Go on Again but more polished, if that makes sense. The best part about this is probably the fact that it’s over two minutes long – hooray for an extended intro!

2. Fiction – The first track leads perfectly into the second and if there’s another thing I love, it’s cohesiveness. As far as singles go, this is a definite step up from Soom and Shock and miles ahead of Beautiful. I mean, I do like their singles but they were usually processed to hell and back and it would get kind of annoying after awhile. The instrumental is incredibly melodic and still distinctly Beast’s in terms of ‘vibe’ but the synths are cleaned up considerably to showcase what really matters: vocals. I especially like the layering that goes on in this track; the little background fiction, fiction in the chorus and the bridge gives this song a little extra oomph.

3. Back to You – The John Mayer fan is strong in this one. Me, I mean, not the track – I read the title and immediately thought of the familiar opening chords. In any case, the beginning sort of gave me the hope that the last track would flow just as easily into this one but no such luck. Of all the songs in this album, this one is the most reminiscent of the Beast-that-was. It’s standard K-pop and very meh in my opinion.

4. You – This track reminds me of the sort of music that was popular in the 90’s to the early 2000’s and I absolutely love it. I love the use of the piano + drum combination for the instrumental and it’s the sort of cute that’s suited to the level of experience Beast is currently at. It’s mature, palatable cute, which is definitely something their last single was not. If they don’t do a live of this, I will be so, so disappointed.

5. Freeze – And we’re back to uptempo. I’m actually not complaining because it’s pure energy and not in the typical “it’s uptempo so I’m going to go heavy on the processing that the K-pop of today is famous for.” Again, this song is palatable cute. If it had been released as a World Cup song, I would probably find myself cheering for Korea in spite of the fact that I know next to nothing about football and support Spain on principle.

6. Virus – Of course, no K-pop album is complete without the slow jam. It’s not as strong as the previous tracks but it does grow on you after a few listens. I like the melody and the vocals are absolutely gorgeous. Dongwoon’s falsetto in particular, was a pleasant surprise because I had no idea that he could do this sort of thing and actually sound good.

7. Though I Call – This is actually similar to the sort of ballads that Beast is known for but there’s something here that wasn’t there before (oh, is that a Beauty and the Beast reference, Kaye? Well done.) This might be my favorite ballad yet. Gorgeous melody, gorgeous vocals. Really, what more can you ask for?

8. On Rainy Days – I love it. I was a massive Craig David fan back in the day and the melody – from beats to the plucked strings to the opening oohs and yeahs – has a very similar vibe. Again, the layering in the chorus is just amazing; if you take away the harmonies underlying the main lines of the chorus, it wouldn’t hit as hard as it does. The cough is a little random but whatever, I can go with it.

9. Lightless (unplugged) – Following the album’s theme of cleaning up production, this is an acoustic version of Lightless, which came out in their previous mini-album. I like the arrangement of the instrumental but I find myself cringing at the arrangement of the vocals. Their voices are lovely but I feel like they were thinking “hmm, I wonder how many falsettos and melismas I can fit into a three and a half minute song?” Simplicity is really the key. It’s not wrong to embellish but when you do it one after the other, it starts sounding really gratuitous.

10. Fiction (orchestra version) – The string section is absolutely gorgeous but I’m torn on the raps; I feel like if you’re going to throw in the elegance of a string section, you don’t necessarily need the rap but at the same time, the rap keeps the song from becoming too much of a ballad.

General Comments: And Beast continues to leave their competition in the dust. What I like best about this group is their ability to try new things without completely leaving themselves behind. The sound of this album is so distinctly Beast but it’s fresh and you can actually hear their evolution from album to album. From the over-autotuned (but still ever so catchy) Bad Girl to the more mellowed-out Fiction, you can hear them getting more and more polished and it’s not just in the instrumentals either.

Can we talk about Dongwoon? I’d been interested in his voice for a long time but I’d previously pegged as him one of the weaker vocalists due to the fact that he didn’t really have much range, nor did he exhibit the same control that Hyunseung, Yoseob, Kikwang and even Doojoon had, and in two years, he’s gone from having three lines in Bad Girl to having an entire verse in Shock, to a glory note (!) in Soom, to a spot in the frigging chorus in Fiction. It took Beast TWO YEARS to make all of their members competent vocalists (except for Junhyung but he gets a pass for being a really, really good idol rapper). To put things in perspective for you, 2PM is three years old and on a good day, they only have three solid vocalists.

I know that there people out there who aren’t really wild about the album because it’s so ‘tame’ in comparison to their previous material but I disagree; their willingness to explore other genres and ability to drive to constantly improve is what makes Beast one of the front runners in the idol scene and I for one will be having this album on repeat for quite awhile.

5/5

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