This review reflects personal opinions and not those of a professional!
Personal rating: 4.5/5
The impression: To be honest, when YG Ent. posted that famous picture on their official Facebook, asking fans "Who's next?" I was sincerely hoping for WINNER's debut and was quite disappointed when they announced Taeyang's new album. But, and there's a big but in here, I no longer regret. Giving a listen to this album made me fall in love with every single musical note, with every single word.
I like how this album is an overall throw back Thursday and how even the album cover is made to remember us of that old Taeyang that used to be called Sol or Solar, a nickname that died with time as he raised to fame and became known more for his swag-ish and dance tracks. Take the title of the album as it's written on the album cover "Rise Taeyang" and you'll understand just how awesome this album is meant to be and just what's its purpose - Taeyang rises once again like the Sol that reached the peak of all charts back in 2008.
So, let's welcome this little piece of the past that has been caught and dressed up in this beautiful, brand new album, shall we?
01. Intro (Rise) - I really needed to say some words about the intro of the album since not only that is an awesome introduction to the album, but there are some pretty impressive elements mixed in this short track.
First of all, Taeyang's English. Just... WOW! I'm not a native speaker or whatever, but wow, did he manage to impress me with a clean pronunciation! For a non-Korean speaker, a clean English will always impress and most of the times, it will make us sing along. So, there goes a point to Taeyang for his hard work!
Secondly, the beat. It just made me move along with the rhythm even though I'm not the greatest dancer out there. I always thought that an intro that makes you move or sing along with it introduces a great album! And guess what? Up till now, I was never wrong!
And thirdly, the message. Most of the intros don't usually have that much consistency since it's only a fragment of a song. Ok, it has to be catchy, to make people want to hear the full version of it, but most of them just make you skip them and just go for the next track. But this one- this one is one of those intros I really wish it had a full version. I'm not joking! Even though it's pretty short (1:45 minutes), I personally think it manages to capture pretty well Taeyang's intention/thoughts. Something happened - in between the release of "Ringa Linga" and this album, something caused Taeyang to feel the need for a public declaration "I'm not going anywhere, 'cause I worked my ass up here! I'll show you that I am Sol and I will rise brighter than the morning sun!". Or that's what I felt he was saying through this intro...
02. Eyes, Nose, Lips - Maybe this is a real-life dedication, maybe be not... Whatever it is, it was turned in a beautiful long song that got sing along with it and wanna scream to the whole world "THIS IS THE REAL TAEYANG! THIS IS OUR SOL! THIS IS HIS REAL POTENTIAL!" (fan-girl mode deactivated).
If I were to ignore the already existing MV and close my eyes to imagine a new one for this track, I would more than surely see Taeyang in a black-and-white suit under the spotlight, singing to this invisible female that causes him to feel sorry and at the same time long for those better times when they were together. I think it would suit the whole song so much better than the real MV, where Taeyang insisted to appear half naked, thing I don't quite fancy since... it's distracting me from the whole feeling of the song, alright?! Yes, he looks great (even though in my opinion, his abs looked so much better before), but his nice, naked body doesn't go along that well with the feeling of loneliness this track gives away. Or is it just me who sees it like this? Ok, maybe his bareness is used to show his vulnerability , but still... it's distracting to one's eyes!
Anyway, this R&B song, combined with the piano and the acoustic guitar really highlights Taeyang's vocals, proving that he's not only a great dancer (with one of the nicest smiles, if you ask me), but a full artist that debuted displaying a range of colours through his voice. I think that's the most important thing about this song.
But what I love the most about this track is the jerky way he sings the chorus. To me, it sounds so much more personal since it sounds like a regretful enumeration of all the things that were taken from him...
03. 1AM - If the previous track was probably the immediate reaction of the guy after being dumped, this is clearly the later attitude of the very same guy. The track is fun and has an upbeat rhythm, displaying the cool attitude of the guy that really tries his best to get over everything, but still catches himself thinking of her at 1am sharp.
The rhythm is so silly that it just makes you move your feet along with it, move your fingers in the air, wanna go to this guy and just offer him a solution to get over the whole break-up thing. It's fun! It makes me think of Taeyang in a colourful MV or a street performance where he could show a silly acting to display his incapability to get over that girl he speak about. Or it could be a meeting between old lovers where he just gets up and starts showing just how hard it was for him to get over her...
04. Stay With Me (ft. G-Dragon) - Ok, I have to admit that I was waiting to listen to this ever since I saw it was featuring GD. I really think Taeyang's R&B tone goes really well with the relaxed rap of his best friend, G-Dragon-sshi. And they make me smile since in this song, they are one and the same guy: GD is the cool part, the one who acts all macho and doesn't show his soft spot for the girl, while Taeyang is the sweet side that says everything he bears in his heart (you know, like a male best friend that usually gets friend zoned?).
I really respect all YG artists since their use of English in songs really makes sense. I think I've heard so much broken English that makes no sense in other k-pop songs that I no longer find it silly. But this song's English lines really act as bridges between how the man acts and how he feels, which is awesome!
Another thing I absolutely love is the choir bridge mixed with GD's laid back rap pleading! It's just brilliant! Ok, ok, you caught me, this is my second favourite song on this whole album!
05. Beautiful (Body) (ft. CL) - This is exactly that type of dance track that absolutely makes no sense to me! First of all, it's disappointing to all those fangirls that don't look like Young Bae's ideal type... kiddin', but really I personally felt like hiding after hearing this song.
Unfortunately, I don't find the song anything special. The beat is alright and easy to move along to, but otherwise, the lyrics don't have that much of consistency and the message is quite shallow... Heck, let's be honest here, the whole song pretty much says "I wanna have your babies!"... Sorry, this track is disappointing from this perspective. Otherwise, the way he admits he howls like a wolf when he thinks of her body - that's damn funny!
06. Ringa Linga - Another dance track. Should I stop here? I mean, I don't want anyone to think that I insult Taeyang or anything, but I personally don't think this type of song or style suits him. He has a great body, hands down, and great dancing skills, I'll give him credit for that. But this type of songs don't display his vocals like his other songs do. Ok, here he raps quite coolly and the singing bridge put some of his vocals into the spotlight. But that's pretty much all, I'm sorry to say this...
I have to admit that when I first listened to it, I wasn't thrilled at all. It just didn't grabbed my attention. It was someone else's dance cover that made me take a liking into this song, which is quite strange since I usually go for the original version...
07. This Isn't It - Is this the aftermath of that courageous approach to the new break-up in track 03? I think so. But still, I like this song very much for the sweet display of emotional vocals, for the acoustic guitar arrangement, for the piano accompanying Taeyang, for the sincerity of the lyrics. I like how it's soft as a lullaby and full of the regrets of a man that doesn't know how to be happy after a break-up (really now, Taeyang dear, who broke your heart to so many pieces? VIPs will protect you, don't you worry!).
And if the other tracks were somehow familiar to me, this one really brings out a new type of rhythm and a new melodic line, which makes me take a different type of liking of it. It's a song to listen during rainy days, or when the summer wind blows strongly...
08. Throw Away - Another track that sounds fresh and really nice! And sincerely? It's my absolute number one from this album! Why? Because is one of the best love confessions ever (second after 'ROD' of GD). The best thing someone can do for the person he/she likes is to change completely so that they match, so that they meet halfway. And here, Taeyang sings exactly about he throws away everything he held tightly onto before: selfishness, greed, thinking he's better on his own. And that's really sweet and nice of him!
I also love the melody's arrangements - I think they used a band for it and some classical instruments like violins (I can hear them on the background at times) and of course, the piano. Where to put that awesome featuring of the choir once again! Really nicely composed and arranged!
Curiously, I have nothing to complain about! The track is incredible, Taeyang's vocals were in great shape, the instrumental to die for... I absolutely love it! Really! It's already stuck inside my head :)
09. Love You to Death - Now this is another song that I really love and that is number one for me as well. I love Taeyang's way of singing it - relaxed, laid-back, with sex-appeal. This song would be perfect to display Taeyang's dancing skills as well as nice vocals.
And I absolutely love the rock-ish feeling of it, the intoxicating darkness infused in the instrumental. And the oscillation between high and low tones Taeyang creates with his own voice - man, now that's what I call sexy! I wonder if Kang Seung Yoon participated in composing the instrumental...
Oh, and there's also CL's participation in the song. Usually, I'm not that much of a fan of auto-tunning, but here it only sustains the sexy feeling Taeyang himself creates, so I cannot do anything else but like it just as much as I like the rest of the song.
As for the message, it's a clear confession and promise of everlasting love. Is there anything else to add? Nope.
Overall: Taeyang's 'Rise' is definitely a mixture of fresh sounds with those of throw-back-Thursday, thing which I really like. He manages to remind his fans of the old times when he was Sol and when he sang just as much as he danced, where the swag of YG was yet to be established. I love how there's familiarity in some of the songs, while some are just amazing through their new beats. I think Taeyang really managed to re-create himself back as Sol while keeping that cool image he has built over the years.
If I were to be really sincere, I wasn't expecting much of this album as the past singles and songs disappointed me. But this album managed to make me fall in love with Taeyang the artist, with Taeyang the singer, with Taeyang the performer and with Taeyang the man (the public one since I never met him in person :D). I think all VIPs will like this as well as other k-pop fans! And he'll definitely gain some new fans through this new release!
But, although I praised this album all throughout this review, I still couldn't give him 5 out of 5 as the dance tracks weren't really my cup of tea and a track or two sounded like some American R&B songs, not that it's a bad thing or anything, but I pretty much prefer Taeyang to sound like himself and not like Chris Brown... get what I mean?
I wish his album to get first place in different charts! :)