B1A4 has been something of a favourite of mine since their debut in 2011. They sounded fresh, they were solid performers and their debut EP was quite a treat for the ears. My love for them was on a slow uphill ride when It B1A4 came out, but eventually, it came to a halt in the middle of their “My Love” promotions. Recently though, Sesame Player sent that love sky-rocketing and now, IGNITION, the boy’s first studio album is out with title track “Baby, I’m Sorry” leaving every BANA out there shell-shocked — and I mean that in a good way.
Now, what was interesting about this album was the significant amount of creative contribution Jin-young made alongside composing group Our hyung and my dongsaeng. It isn’t anything new for him to compose a song, considering that for the two mini albums prior to their first studio album, he has composed two songs in total–one for each. The same goes for the rest of B1A4 (especially Baro and CNU) who took part in creating eight of the eleven tracks on the album. I can quite confidently say that this isn’t a common occurrence, especially if we are talking about the mainstream idol groups who have albums tailored to fit them, but don’t often take an active role in that creation — let alone create their title track. Truth to be told, I’m actually quite impressed by “Baby, I’m Sorry”. The general consensus is that Jinyoung has utterly butchered San-deul‘s voice. While I may agree, I can still appreciate the song as a whole.
It’s not hard to see that Jin-young was trying to fit the requirements of a title track — especially one that was going to survive in the fast-paced scene we know as K-pop. Whether or not his generous use of synths was necessary is naturally, up for debate, but he has nevertheless created an impressive song. The strong beats tie in well with the bass guitar that is constantly in the background. The beeps, electric guitar and strings merge to create a memorable melody. In terms of composition, I’d say that Jin-young has just created something amazing with which to pad his resume. The generous and near-overbearing autotune present can also be accounted for, as it is for the most part, a fit for the overall tone of the song. And of course, we can’t forget the catchy quality of the song. Maybe B1A4 has horrible English (since debut, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon), but “Baby, I’m Sorry” is a better hook than I had originally believed and truth be told, I will always sing that line with unreigned, fangirl passion, given that it won’t be too embarrassing on my part.
Moving on though, did the rest of the album live up to its title track? I would say yes. It isn’t the best album that has ever been produced, but it has some solid material and cohesion. “This Time is Over” and “So Fine” are definite stand-outs and also do an excellent job in easing the listener into faster-paced “Super Sonic”. This song is attention-grabbing certainly, but also sports two possible turn-offs: saturated autotune and poor English. However, musically, it holds its own as an uptempo dance track. “Super Sonic” also seems to mark a fracture in the album where our synths and fast beats get toned down for Baro‘s solo featuring miss A‘s Min. Personally, I feel that Min outperforms Baro, simply because she is just so much more skilled musically. Despite this significant and occasionally awkward difference in vocal ability, the two of them still manage to pull off an impressive song, making “Just the Two of Us” a must listen (a sample has been provided below).
We turn to a mid-tempo next, “Smile.” While B1A4 is certainly proficient with faster songs, they also present a certain charm with slower songs. “Smile” is one example, sporting a mellow and comfortable melody. It’s actually one of my favourites, if only for the cheesy and adorable lyrics. We are carried into “Feeling” which doesn’t waste any time in bringing out the synths. While it is a good song in its own right, it isn’t quite as memorable as some of the previous tracks, especially since it begins to drag, simply because of how repetitive the arrangement is. Nevertheless, it’s a song that’s easy to enjoy and deserves some moments on replay. The same would go for our resident vocal powerhouse, San-deul’s solo. “One Sided Love” could be passed off as a run-of-the-mill, ballad but it serves its purpose in showcasing San-deul’s ability. Its arrangement is simple, with piano being the main supporting instrument–but it’s also the simplicity that makes it so attractive a song. San-deul’s performance is captivating, to say the least. B1A4 is quick to pick up the pace again, though, with “You Are My Girl”.
“You Are My Girl” is the true final track of “IGNITION” and carries a message. And well, Baro yelling out “saranghamnida” seems to sum it up, no? The opening of this track embodies the personality which BANAs have fallen in love with. The boys are well known within the fandom for their dorky off-screen personalities and it seems only apt for that to be reflected here, on the closing song. The composition reflects the upbeat mood of “You Are My Girl” wonderfully and those trumpets certainly do a great job in adding some much needed flavour. Simply put, this track is destined to become a fan favourite.
Saving the best for the last still seems to hold though, because the unplugged remix of “Wonderful Tonight” is probably one of the best things on IGNITION. Originally a synth-driven Jin-young composition, unplugged, it is the musical equivalent of a warm mug of hot chocolate. Maybe it’s my bias kicking in now, but this remix makes the acoustic guitar sound like the best thing that has ever happened to B1A4’s discography.
Conceptually, this might well be B1A4’s best effort to date (ignoring the fact that they’ve only released two mini albums prior to this album). They debuted as fresh-faced flower boys; in It B1A4, they got quirky, channelling the energy BANAs love so much. IGNITION shows a definite improvement in quality. It is a solid album — not quite the top of their game, but it certainly demonstrates that these boys have potential and seem to be going in the right direction. I have never quite expected this, but everything about this album screams ‘B1A4’ at me. Some groups are great at reinventing themselves, while others have a special charm for injecting their own signature style into everything they do and keeping it consistent. For me, B1A4 is one of the latter although they do their fair share of jumping concept ships. First and foremost, they make K-pop, but they make that K-pop B1A4-esque and that’s something I, along with other supportive BANAs, really love them for.