Tuesday 12 August 2014

WINNER "2014 S/S" Album Review

This review reflects personal opinions and not those of a professional!
Personal rating: 5/5

The impression: All this time, while waiting for WINNER's debut, all I could think of was "YG, give me WINNER and nobody will get hurt!". Yes, we've suffered a lot waiting for the winners of the survival program WIN TV to make their much deserved debut on the k-scene and today, 12th of August, it finally happened! I literally shed some tears when I first listened to the album! Really! The waiting was long and the anticipation high, but trust me, you won't be disappointed if you give them a chance!
As a whole, I like that the album manages to keep the colours the boys had before becoming WINNER, so if you were a supporter of them throughout the program, you'll be more than pleased to hear Team A's specific tones. But, as it was bound to happen through their hard work and training, WINNER grew up as an artistic and quite lyrical group, and even though you'll find their songs simple and maybe not that fancy as you'd expect from YG artists, the way the tracks keep you hooked is the only thing that matters! 
From what I see, their debut could be the beginning of a new era in the k-world.

The tracks:
01. Empty (공허해 ) - Their first title track... Look at me getting all emotional over it! But, getting over my own feelings, I'll have to say that it's a little bit obvious that the composer is B.I (he's the leader of Team B and a rapper as well). The song has that feeling that B.I used to give out through his songs, you know? It has that special way of intertwining words and feelings in a truthful, lyrical, hip-hop based song. This song is not specific to what WINNER used to be... it's like they took someone else's clothes and wore them for the public to see. As I see it, there are numerous types of lyricism; in this case, there is Song Mino's type, there's Nam Taehyun's, there's Kang Seung Yoon's and then there's B.I's. And each is different from the other ones. Mino's is rough, wild, bombastic, full of that freedom rappers usually conserve in their compositions; Taehyun's is sweet and mellow; Seung Yoon's is giving out his rebellious side, rock tunes here and there; B.I's is lyrical with deep, usually personal meaning. And this track screams B.I's name. Not that it's a bad thing! The man is definitely super talented! And strange enough, even if maybe the song wasn't meant to get to the boys in WINNER (hey, I'm just assuming things here, let my imagination work on this, please), this hip-hop based ballad manages to fit WINNER... or is it the other way around?
Anyway, I like the fact that Mino's rap is the one opening the song and I like that fact that towards the end, he sings with his badass voice. It's cool to die for! Jinwoo's high note is timidly giving the track that longing feeling, while Taehyun's tiny, but high in notes voice, echoes behind perfectly. Seung Yoon is supposed to keep it cool with his unmistakable rockish vocalization and Seung Hoon speaks about the loneliness of a man in simple and yet so addictive rap. It's a cool track, really!
And the MV makes it so that it brings out even more the solitude that trickles from the lyrics. It's artistic and high quality, surprising the coldness a man feels after a break up or at that point of a relationship when feelings seem to no longer exist.

02. Color Ring - Kang Seung Yoon! Ahem, pardon my fangirling over this perfection of composer song... Another title track, another mind blowing song and if I'm allowed to say so, a piece of art! Ok, I'll take my chances and say that the song belongs to the leader. Am I right? Of course I am! I knew it from the moment I heard it! And nothing would have given it up if not for the rockish ending. Ok, there are some other elements that made me think Seung Yoon could be the composer of this track, but I couldn't say it for sure until I reached that certain part around the end of the song.
Oh, this song! It broke my heart into pieces and made me fall deeply for it! It's sad, full of longing, full of guilt - the ending of a story is being said through this song (excuse me for having a sweet tooth for rock ballads). I love everything about it: the instrumental that brings together the acoustic guitar and the piano and then, that beautiful part played by a real band with the drums being clearly heard, the sad lyrics, the voices that come together so well. Oh, and about the voices, got to love Mino's deep, hoarse singing voice that blends with Taehyun's so perfectly. Yep, there's nothing that these boys can't do! And Seung Hoon expresses the many frustrations while Seung Yoon brings his specific, soulful, poetic and full of alternating tonalities voice. There's no way you won't fall in love with this song and with WINNER as well!
And a super plus comes from the incredible visual MV! I loved the graphic of it, how it gives you the impression of simplicity and how it yet shows one's complexity. And the way the boys acted - thumbs up! (Mino! No fair! I got distracted by your manliness! And Seung Yoon and his new hair cut made me look for him in every frame). My favourite scene? Hmmm... there are four: 1. when the girl let's go of Seung Yoon's hand, he looks so freakin' pissed (compared to the others that look sad and regretful, maybe a little bit frustrated), 2. when Seung Hoon stretches his hand upwards and the couch transforms into water under him, making him fall into the deep water, 3. when Seung Yoon runs in the rain, screaming and 4. the ending scene, where Mino turns his back on his phone that later is shown to be receiving a call.

03. Don't Flirt - is a super fun song that will make your body move along the beat without you even noticing it! I like the beat of it 'cause it gives the vibe of a concert held in a club, with the boys talking of a certain someone from the crowd gathered in front of them. And I like it also for the sincerity of the lyrics, for the way it shows that men are vulnerable as well and insecure and holding in a lot for the woman they like. Sounds a lil' bit like one of GD's songs if you ask me in matter of fun vibe, that is!
My favourite part of it is the last part of the song because it reminds me of the American pop songs from the '90 and early 2000s. It's fun and makes you dance, definitely a summer track to listen while getting tanned!
Is my imagination wild or you can see them too performing inside a club while listening to the track?

04. I'm Him (Mino's solo) - makes it evident for everyone that he is not a rapper reared inside an entertainment company, but out there, in the undergrounds, where the shit gets real and you need talent to survive or you're dog food. Yep, Song Mino used to be a well known underground rapper prior to his debut with BOM and now with WINNER. And maybe it's that wilderness of words that coated him with his current image. One thing is for sure: he learned his rhythm before coming to YG and so, through this track, I believe he offers some kind of warming to his rivals and his fans as well, to the entire entertainment world actually.
I like his wild nature as the toughness fits Mino like a glove. And the song - man, that sassy oriental rhythm that keeps up with his rap is just addicting!

05. Love Is a Lie - yet another fun track that kind of makes fun of one's delusion! The electronic instrumental is super fun and gets stuck inside your head quite quickly! But what makes it fun is the fun rap parts and the catchy chorus that will have you sing along or hum along with them. Love the way Mino keeps singing "Lie lie, love's a lie" and the way Seung Yoon says at some point "Love is so bad" on such a tone that it seems he mocks the poor man that suffers while being unable to admit that everything is over with his girlfriend.
But what I really, really like about this song, is the fact that the vocalist take turns in singing the chorus, which is super 'cause it gives them all lines during the song, thing which you hardly meet in other groups where you can meet vocalists with just a line or two during the whole 3 to 4 minutes^^' Thumbs up for WINNER!

06. Confession (Taehyun's solo) - is a ballad composed and sang by the group's maknae, Nam Taehyun. For those who followed the group through their evolution prior the debut, they know that Taehyun is one of the main vocalists and has a soulful voice and that his voice manages to deliver his feelings through the song he sings.
This one is especially sweet as it was written before their album and we actually heard it during WINNER TV, which means that papa YG really intended to debut them and didn't do it just to save his reputation after having them go through a survival show. And plus, the boy has the talent! I think, ballads fit Taehyun the best. So, if you're Taehyun biased, you'll want to give a listen to this song under a starry sky or with your eyes closed.

07. But - is yet another incredible song that featured guitars and a real band, a mellow ballad with accents of rock. I like the way it goes from the soulful parts of the vocalists to the funky and somehow fun parts of the rappers (of course that I blame Mino for it!), but I really like the way Taehyun and Seung Yoon take turns into screaming "I was bad" - it puts something different in a song that is supposed to be sad.
The lyrics are something special as well: a request to stay in love, to love him even though he knows he's lacking and that he's selfish. It's a refreshing song that makes me wonder how it would sound live :)

08. Different - is a song about not being able to express your feelings, about sometimes being nothing more, nothing less than a mere human. WINNER sings from the perspective of the man that realizes that he's different from what all the other boyfriends show to their girlfriends and admits that in simple words that come out as both an explanation and some sort of favour asking. It's a nice song, with the guitar giving the start to what could be a track with a cold vibe. But I like it! I like the way Mino's cool rap is intertwined with the vocals of Seung Yoon, I like Jinwoo and Taehyun's soft vocals and Seung Hoon's rapid rap. But what I like the most is that somehow reggae part (Seung Yoon's singing it) that you can hear towards the end of the song and Mino's singing voice (man, is there something Song Mino can't do?! O.o).
Plus, the chorus will definitely get you hooked!

09. Tonight -  is yet another track that saw the light thanks to the talented maknae, Taehyun :) How I know? It has those feelings Taehyun puts in his songs and if you give a good listen to it, you'll notice how well it goes with his voice (I actually like this one so much more than "Confession"). What really caught me off guard, is the sexy vibe the song has despite being a soulful song that talks about the impossibility of getting over a break-up. It's the saxophone, I'm telling you!

10. Smile Again -  is a song that I personally believe to have brought WINNER the fame during the survival program where they used to be known as Team A. Sincerely, I think this is the song that showcases the potential of this group as well as Seung Yoon's talent as the leader of the group, as a composer and performer. I still remember how Mino worked to hard to dance despite his aching ankle, how Seung Hoon put on a great choreography, how Seung Yoon worked on the song himself together with Taehyun. I think it was the first time they won and were praised for their performance (really, watch their survival show if you haven't already!). 
But until now, I talked about the performance version of this song, while I should talk about the studio version which is on their album. Personally, I think it's too clean compared to the performance version. I believe it lacks the power to display their vocals as the other version did. Plus, I'm not really a fan of the new instrumental part as it's based on studio/computer sounds rather than the electric guitar that can be heard if you give a listen to their performance version. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the song! I really do! It's one of those songs that got me hooked and made me cheer for them during their survival, but this version just... kills their playfulness! The song is no longer lively. Heck, even Taehyun's high note that he worked so hard to reach (really, he got the other members to step on his belly to make the right sounds come out) is no longer that powerful as it was during that live performance. And it's bad, really, that the studio version does not reach the same level as the live one... 
But, nonetheless, as I am their die-hard declared fan, I am indeed happy to finally have this song in my playlist! :)

Overall: I might have said some things that will not appeal to the other fans of WINNER, but I only stated my opinion. Some tracks are better than others and some got me really excited. The album, as a whole, is totally enjoyable and shows just how much these boys have grown over the past months. I believe they'll be able to accomplish so much more if the fans will give them the chance to display their talents.
What I like more and really admire is the fact that they debuted with a full album and not just a single or and EP like other groups do. This showed that their producer (papa YG, I see what you did there!) really believed in them and that he considered not using their track would have been a total waste. It kind of proves the unity of WINNER and YG, doesn't it?
Otherwise, I don't know... I would have liked for Seung Yoon to have a solo track as well (yep, you might have noticed that I tend to be biased when it comes to him, but I was a fan of his way before him becoming part of Team A and their leader later on, so yeah...) or to have more tracks composed by him featured on this album, but at the same time I understand and know that every single member is talented and that they needed to show what they're capable of after many months of training.
And to end it with a sincere note, I will say that WINNER did not disappoint me with their late debut. I am happy to have them out in the spotlight at last and even more exited to have noted that they kept their colours and didn't astray from their style too much. I believe they can grow big and who knows, maybe launch a whole new era in the k-world :)
WINNER, thumbs up! ^.^

P.S. Favourite tracks? "Color Ring", "Smile Again", "Don't Flirt" and "But" totally won me over :)

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