After School – VIRGIN

August 16, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Posted in After School | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
After School – VIRGIN

1. Let’s Step Up
2. Shampoo
3. Virgin
4. Bang! (2011 New Recording)
5. Play Ur Love
6. Dream (feat. Pre-School Girl Yoon Jo)
7. Neo Ttaemune (2011 New Recording)
8. Sigane Gidaeeo (Raina Solo)
9. Jal Jinaego Itjyo
10. Funky Man (Nana vs Lizzy (feat. Pre-School Girl Yoon Jo))
11. My Bell (Jung-A Solo)
12. When I Fall (2011 New Recording)
13. Shampoo (Radio Edit)

♦ ♦ ♦

VIRGIN is the Korean debut album by South-Korean girl group After School, and the first recording to feature new member E-Young. The album was released on April 27, 2011.

Let’s Step Up is the introduction track to the album, starting with some random noises like footsteps and tapdance sounds but the entire thing starts to sound pretty good after that! Bekah has her first moment to shine with some really fierce vocals in the last couple of seconds. Strong intro track.

Shampoo has a instrumental startup, but the sound was very attractive to me, combining synths with softer strings. The girls all have amazing vocals (I still can’t really tell which vocals belong to which girl), but the real surprise was to hear Nana rap for once instead of Kahi or Bekah. There’s some repeating in this song, but in a sense it’s actually quite catchy for once instead of annoying.

I’m surprised that Virgin has more of a solid sound to it with much more attitude and maturity than some of After School’s usual tracks, which is good since it’s the album’s title track. Less cutesy vocals, too. The one thing that’s bugging me now is how there are no real highlights in the arrangement, so this is the bad side of repeated parts in songs. Still, the overall feel of the song is decent enough.

Bang! (2011 New Recording) remains my all time favorite After School song, and I especially like this Korean version over the Japanese. This new 2011 version is even better than the original one in quality and music, the vocals are fuller and way better than I expected, the girls show much more guts here like they really own it. Bekah’s raps were better and even Raina’s high note gave me even more goosebumps.

Play Ur Love is the first ballad on the album, in R&B style and sung by Kahi, Jung Ah, Raina and Nana. I know Kahi’s vocals pretty well because I listened to her solo mini album, they are the most mature vocals of the entire group, but I like Raina’s vocals even better. She has the biggest vocal range, just like she showed in Bang!. It’s a ballad with a good arrangement for once, with some great beats in the background to balance it off and even though it’s a little slower than the previous songs it still managed to hold my attention.

Apparently they had a girl named Yoon Jo involved on two of this album’s tracks, she would later become a member of Hello Venus. Dream (feat. Pre-School Girl Yoon Jo) is quite a cheesy song if you ask me, but after they passed the cute pop sections and Yoon Jo actually throws some of her lyrics in, I’m surprised by how good her vocals are. Very different from the rest of the girls, but still she fits in sooo well. I like how the saxophone part actually adds something more to an otherwise boring song.

Neo Ttaemune (2011 New Recording) is a really good song, I always liked it since the first time I heard it back when it was released. The only thing is the raps, especially in the first verse, which were just a little too fierce at that point in the song. Everyone’s singing their solo to autotune, but it actually fits the style of the song which turns out to be very uptempo and full of attitude. The piano adds just a little more emotional feel to it in the intro and bridge, so it gives a good balance. Catchy track.

I already expected a Raina solo since she’s almost becoming After School’s newest main vocalist, but I was also anticipating it because she has one of the best vocals in the entire group. Sigane Gidaeeo is a really sweet solo ballad for Raina, showing off her great vocals. True, she should’ve put *ss into that adlibbing in the bridge, but she’s the only one who really deserved a solo track up until now and she nailed it. Short and sweet, that’s what it is.

Jal Jinaego Itjyo is the ballad song reserved for Jung-Ah, Raina, Nana and Lee-Young, and it has sooo much more power and emotion than Play Ur Love although three of the four girls working on that one are featured in this track as well. Every girl gets more lines than usual, with Nana having the biggest improvement. For once it’s not Jung-Ah taking center stage here. These girls should form a group of their own, for out of all the members their vocals fit best together to deliver the best performance, with each girl having a unique sound perfect for different parts of the song. Dang, I’m enthousiastic.

Funky Man (Nana vs Lizzy (feat. Pre-School Girl Yoon Jo)) is a song that caused so much controversy in Korea when the Minstry of Gender Equality and Family deemed this song to be inappropriate (as well as the album’s title..?) due to ‘inappropriate lyrics’. Douchebags. Anyways, this is actually an uptempo song with SPICE to it. And finally a little moment for Nana and Lizzy. The song is as funky as the title suggests with some really nice guitar riffs throughout the song, as well as good beats and synths. Really recommended.

Apparently Jung-Ah gets a solo too, and no wonder since she’s the group’s leader. My Bell is a beautiful power ballad that shows off her great vocals, which I think is needed since the focus lies on other girls too much. Jung-Ah should have more fans, she’s been abandoned by them too much. I actually love her husky and deep vocals, and her ability to really make a ballad like this shine with her emotional approach.

I remember When I Fall (2011 New Recording) as the track on the Neo Ttaemune single that I liked better than the actual title track. The beat in the background is pretty slick, and I’m a sucker for great beats ofcourse. The girls’ vocals appear to be much smoother in the verses and more emotional towards the buildup in the end, which I really like about the track. It’s more like an organic song, less synths and more acoustic instruments such as the guitar. Love this new version.

After School’s Korean debut is pretty strong, I must say. It’s still taking me some time to become an actual fan (and to learn how to tell all these vocals apart, daaaang), but I already like their vocals since they just started out so that must count for something. I pushed back this review for a long long time, afraid it wouldn’t satisfy me the way it eventually did. I like how it’s a tight group but they still manage to give some of the girls a solo song or a couple of them a song together, with Funky Man as the very best example in that case. This album was a great welcome to new member E-Young and a farewell to Bekah, who graduated shortly after Shampoo‘s promotion. A great way to go out with a Bang! (Harharhar…)

Favorite tracks: Shampoo | Bang! (2011 New Recording) | Play Ur Love | Neo Ttaemune (2011 New Recording) | Jal Jinaego Itjyo | Funky Man (Nana vs Lizzy (feat. Pre-School Girl Yoon Jo)) | My Bell | When I Fall (2011 New Recording)

OVERALL RATING

4 stars

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