C.N. Blue has finally made a return to the K-pop scene, and is off to a strong start with the release of their third and latest mini album Ear Fun. It’s been a long time since the mainstream K-pop scene has gotten any pop-rock indie loving, and with so many new groups as well as so many returning groups crashing the stage with their synthetic pop beats and autotune, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear Yong-hwa at the mic, Jong-hyun on guitar, Jung-shin at the bass, and Min-hyuk on the drums again. Really C.N. Blue, it’s been too long.
Ear Fun is a bundle of homemade goodies. Five of the six songs are C.N. Blue originals, the last being a slightly revamped re-issue from a previous Japanese release. Leader and pretty boy Yong-hwa was personally involved in the production of every orignal song, and is the sole composer of the re-issued song from Japan. Also, the members co-wrote every song off the album except the title. Every track is without a doubt solid and unique in its own respect, while still holding true to C.N. Blue’s musical style and roots as a band. So let’s get to it then, shall we; track by track, let’s explore C.N. Blue’s comeback mini-album Ear Fun.
C.N. Blue stayed true to their colors with this album, and the images the music paints function as great homecoming concepts. I love the overall musical feel I get from the album too, but I still think C.N. Blue can push the music envelope even more. Perhaps it was smarter to play a little on the safe side for a comeback, but I can feel the C.N. Blue powerhouse that hopefully manifests in their full album in the coming months.
Talent/Skill: 5 out of 5
C.N. Blue is a band with well balanced vocal ability and musical talent, which to me, is already a unique quality to have in mainstream K-pop. Those skills alone coupled with the passion in the music itself amplifies the quality of this album and C.N.Blue as cohesive unit, particularly in the diverse tracks of this album. You can actually hear the earnestness in Yong-hwa’s voice and this sexy new confidence in Jong-hyun’s voice, making each track all the more worth while. You can’t doubt for a moment the talent in this quartet, or their skills with their instruments and vocals.
Music: 5 out of 5
The album kicks off with the title track “Hey You,” which opens to electronic beats and the scratching at a DJ’s table. This intro is momentarily reminiscent of C.N. Blue’s last Korean title track, “Intuition,” but morphs into a completely different rhythm. Suddenly, I had the urge to swing my arm and snap my fingers–the melody is outrageously infectious and all the instruments are considerably more pronounced in “Hey You,” relative to other songs off the album. Also, it’s worth noting C.N. Blue’s habit for scat singing (vocal jazz musings, “doo doo doo doo doo, bah bah, doo wop, doo wop,” etc) is still as enjoyable as ever. It’s something that fits well their musical style that also makes their sound extremely distinct. The second track, “Still in Love,” once again uses some electric piano notes to open with, and then breaks into a mellow cadence, eventually leading into a very laid back, breeze in your hair, sun on your face type song. Again, we hear the use of scat singing to break up the intensity and keep the track smooth and free flowing.
“Dream Boy” is an absolutely adorable song. No conflicted drama or love line, nothing too serious or deep. “Dream Boy” is the perfect light-hearted song that literally tells the story of a dreaming boy. The raw acoustics add a dreamy ambience to the song as the lyrics hold fast to feelings of wonder, hope, and ambition. It’s a fitting lyrical piece for the boys, as it perhaps embodies not only childhood emotions, but also their emotions as budding musicians in a daring industry. With “Rock N’ Roll,” we finally pick up the pace as the song fits the equivalent of a C.N. Blue dance song. We hear a lot more guitar in this song and it really amps up the energy of the entire piece. This is the song to which you’ll catch your foot tapping away under your desk without even knowing.
“Run” is another fast-paced track, but it is much more animated than “Dream Boy” in my opinion. Again, we hear a lot of guitar to keep the feeling light and airy, and the drums are particularly strong in this song, most likely to add emphasis to the chorus. The balance of Yong-hwa and Jong-hyun’s vocals in “Run” is just heaven in your ears, as Yong-hwa’s raspier voice complements the milky tone of Jong-hyun’s voice.
And lastly, onto our final track and my personal favorite, “In My Head.” This song is the perfect combination of power vocals and smooth rhythm. It is especially orgasmic in the final minute when Jong-hyun hits the higher notes and Yong-hwa meets him in the falling notes. The lyrical composition differs from the original Japanese compositions, tying the love and loyalty themes in the song almost as tribute to listeners and fans-alike. Such a heart-felt note to leave on, huh?
X Factor: 3 out of 5
While I am thoroughly addicted to this entire album, it is a fairly safe package. Like I mentioned before, I really think C.N. Blue is coming up on a musical opportunity to really wow us with something thought-provoking and elemental infused in their iconic style. As for this mini, it’s definitely a step up for C.N. Blue, and fair game for a comeback, but there is no real X-factor to this album, not much that makes it particularly emotional or inspiring or some feeling of the like. Still, that is not to say that this album falls flat, because it doesn’t. There is a special spark about this third album that has me lovestruck.
Well, that’s a wrap of the Ear Fun review. I hope you’re enjoying the album as much as I am. Keep an eye out for C.N. Blue’s comeback stages and stay tuned to their rankings as Ear Fun rocks the charts! Let’s hear what you all thought of C.N. Blue’s third mini-album–is Ear Fun all the fun you thought it would be?