The thing is that Dalmatian has the wherewithal to make whatever they tackle sound good. That much rings true about “State Of Emergency” and that much we’ve established already. Each and every song is refined and tight from beginning to end. The lead single, “E.R“, which reminds me of a blend of BEAST‘s “Fiction” and Code-V‘s “Addiction“, captures the voices of Dalmatian like none of their past singles has before. The vocal processing is so careful about staying true to their strong singing, that it absolutely soars in this song. Every member’s voice is bright, beautifully compressed, and sent through light and tasteful pitch shifting in the most appropriate places (like the ends of the chorus).
Just by listening to this song, I can tell that it must have been a fucking joy to record this group of singers, because their voices are beautiful and each one really brings this song (and album) to its feet.
If there’s anything really holding this album back from shining like I’m sure it was intended to, it’s the aforementioned trend of seriousness and maturity that has been infiltrating K-pop this year. Everyone has been appearing in these darker tones (MBLAQ, U-KISS, B1A4, F.Cuz), so much so, that it is turning this relatively pleasant musical style into an overused trump card.
I’ve stated before that going dark may seem like a perfectly normal transition in music, and it can be, but the key is to go dark correctly. Fortunately, most of this year’s groups have made really impressive strides into sophisticated and grown-up molds, but what is happening now is that we’re being perpetually served all of this tension all at once from everyone. There’s a never ending cycle occurring in today’s K-pop music of deep and dark tones, especially from the boy bands, that it’s making each and every promotional single from the next one feel less and less powerful when this style could easily make a really big impact when presented at the most opportune moment (see: BEAST circa 2011).
Having suppressed most, if not all of their free-spirited personalities in their music, Dalmatian have in turn removed a very important level of their appeal. Their music doesn’t come across as vibrant as it did last year, and it’s not like I’m asking them to be overtly cute like in “Lover Cop” more than I’m really just craving for the warmth in songs like “Really Really” and “Real Eyes”.
They’ve carried a nice R&B vibe over to “State Of Emergency”, heard in full bloom in “Hurt Me”, a mid tempo track akin to the level of quality of R&B/hip-hop trio One Way. And they’ve posed a very thrilling take on a pop/R&B song with “Still By Ur Side”, splicing throaty raps next to really gorgeously sung melodies in a way that B.A.P could only dream of.
Yet, I still feel like Dalmatian missed their opportunity to truly shine by not stepping outside of what every other boy band is doing, and have thus inadvertently become part of the “every other boy band” denomination. They sound really good and the songs are tastefully produced, but there’s something missing. A spark of character to really shake these songs to their core.