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[Review] [Album] Younha – “Supersonic”

written by: drowningn00b

Right off the bat, I have to be honest with you Neighbours. One, I love lawsuits by artists. When Backstreet Boys sued Lou Pearlman for monetary control of the group, they released one of the best pop albums in my teen years, ‘Millenium‘ (“Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” is still my shit). In K-Pop, lawsuits brought about the mature pop trio, JYJ (much to the chagrin of old-school TVXQ fans) and KARA’s beef with DSP Entertainment gave us some fabulously saccharine J-Pop and K-Pop crossovers as result. Artistic differences lead by lawsuits change the dynamics within the artist(s), resulting in a different dimension in the music.

Two, I never heard Younha’s stuff before. A big deal in Japan and Korea, she never ran across my radar. Like IU, the marketing by Lion Media turned me off to Younha, and IU as well. Branded as little sisters or something worth protecting, the patronizing way audiences se these two drove me to ignore all together, which is a shame. The labels don’t enforce the talent, but focus only on their youthful looks, regardless of how old they are within the industry.

Younha, who has had eight years in the industry, sued Lion Media last year for control of her talnt and won, severing her contract in February of this year (source: global.mnet.com). Since becoming a free agent, Younha finally released her full length Korean record, ‘Supersonic’, in the beginning of the summer. Long overdue here at McRoth’s Residence, but after the hype and promotions for the record, does Supersonic stand the test of time? Let’s find out.

When I say that hardcore rock doesn’t exist to the extent that it did in the 80s and 90s, that isn’t entirely true. It’s not that I was right or wrong (I’m still right), but I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. When Younha graced the covers of her previous material, all I thought was “pop-rock bullshit”. Apparently I was right, with other bloggers calling her material “spunky”, among other such labels. But when the hype machine began with the trio of teasers for the title track, “Hope” and “Run”, my mind changed on her, and for good reason. ‘Supersonic’ is mind-blowing (and that isn’t a hyperbole), and going so hard for close to 50 minutes, it’s amazing Younha isn’t hoarse.

The biggest thing about ‘Supersonic’ you already know is how big it is. Sonically, this fourth record could not have been bigger with just a rock band. Frankly, Transylvanian Orchestra is its closest rival in terms of power. Beginning with the unrelenting tile track, repeated in the ballad, “Showers”, and subtly done in “Wait For Me”, Younha and her band pack in so much power and sound it comes close to overwhelming. When played loudly, it isn’t music you’re listening to anymore; the music transcends the sound. The atmospheric “Set Me Free” expertly plays with highs and lows, mixing the instruments and vocals so that both can show off without ruining the experience.

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And Younha can definitely show off. Her voice is gigantic. Whether she’s singing about what she ate after a break up in “Cream Sauce Pasta” or partying with a potential guy in “Rock Like Stars” with Tiger JK, Younha’s range is impressive. Thankfully, she isn’t prone to vocal runs a la Christina Aguilera. In her performance of “Showers” on her radio show, you knew she wasn’t faking it on the recording, or needed the hand of a clever producer. You just needed confirmation of your best hopes of Younha and the song.

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And as profiled in this year’s first round of Top Korean Songs of the Year 2012, Compliant put it right by putting “Would We Have Changed” with John Park on his list. Highlighting the excellent harmonies, the only thing I can add is this: the pairing pushed each other to sing better. John Park, not known for his vocal acrobatics, used his voice to reach heights he rarely hits alone, and Younha sings differently to accommodate that. It’s a tit for tat duet which is how all the best duets between vocalists should be. And Tiger JK and Jay Park don’t falter either, bringing their trademark personas to liven things up on “Supersonic”. She can rock with the bad boys alone, Korea, so no need for protection, thank you very much.

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In an image-psychotic culture like South Korea’s, women in K-Pop can fall by the wayside if they don’t come with a visual hook. If you aren’t skeletal, then there needs to be something else. Long legs? SNSD. Hips? Hyuna from 4minute, or Hyorin from SISTAR. If you’re a lady, fuck your talent: image comes first. Younha was part of this (some of it still lingers) and succeeded in some ways and failed in others. Regardless, she gained control of her image and talent with her lawsuit victory and “Supersonic” is the result of that. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the album cover looks skyward with only her name as any indication of who she is.

“Supersonic” is about an accomplished vocalist with a great team behind her. “Supersonic” is an amazing record that screams “take me seriously”. Once a listener gives this album the go-around, they will.

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Scorecard

Supersonic
1.0
People
.75
Rock Like Stars
.75
Run
.75
No Limit
1.0
Showers
1.0
Would We Have Changed
1.0
Set Me Free
.75
Cream Sauce Pasta
.75
 Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
Wait For Me
1.0
Driver
.75
Hope
.75
Total Points
10.25

Points to stars conversion: [(10.25/12) x 5] + 0.25*

4.5/5

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*there is a 0.25 bonus for every album. The logic is that, if every song were “pretty good”, it’s a 4-star album.

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9 thoughts on “[Review] [Album] Younha – “Supersonic”

  1. Well written review and I can agree with the overall score. “Supersonic” has to be one of the best albums to come out the K-Pop-sphere this year. Younha’s voice is so powerful and just soars! I’m still not over it and I’m proud of her. She just got out of her lawsuit but that didn’t hold her back from making a fantastic album. I hope she keeps it up. :)

  2. I never listened to Younha before this album. Decided to give her a shot on a whim. Liked Supersonic much better than I thought I would. Run is one of my favorite Korean songs of the year.

  3. Totally agree with you on this one. Younha is all about vocals, but this proves she’s a musician who needs to be taken seriously. The perfect combination (my time of artist! lol). What is more important is the cohesion in this album, its so easy to listen from begining to end. Nice review and great work dude!

  4. Pingback: [Review] [Mini-Album] Younha – ‘Just Listen’ | McRoth's Residence

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