Side B: Chasing Down Infinite
The group for this week’s Side B session is Infinite, one of my personal favorites. Even though it’s been a few months since their May comeback, it’s never a bad time to take a look at their lesser known material.
Infinite has been around on the K-pop scene long enough for most fans to at least know a little bit about them. They made their debut under Woollim Entertainment in June 2010 with “Come Back Again” and gained respect with the successful release of their first full-length album, Over the Top. The seven-member group includes Sunggyu, the fearless leader who recently made his solo debut, Dongwoo, the rapper, Woohyun, a vocalist, Hoya, the main dancer, Sungyeol, the self-appointed funny man, L, the visual, and Sungjong, the baby of the group.
Infinite’s debut was not the strongest, and the group actually began attracting attention after their promotional single from Over the Top, “Be Mine,” was released. Their music tends to be extremely energetic with a lot of fusion elements (as you’ll see in a little bit), and the boys have managed to create a signature sound for themselves even after being on the scene for a relatively short amount of time compared to the likes of Super Junior and Big Bang who have coined distinct signature sounds after years in the industry. Infinite is also one of the best groups to watch on variety shows — the boys were featured on Sesame Player in the summer of 2011 and more recently, Infinite Ranking King. They also spent some time taking care of three puppies for Birth of a Family, during which Sunggyu figured out that he wasn’t really a dog person at all. Infinite’s a lot of fun to follow because all the members have such distinct personalities, and that makes it easy to fall in love with them.
Besides “Be Mine,” Infinite also brought strong tracks such as “Before the Dawn” and “Paradise” to the table in 2011. Due to their strong showing, they walked away with quite a few awards that year, including two Golden Disk awards. Needless to say, most Inspirits had high expectations when the group announced a comeback for May this year.
Infinite is known for having some of the most energetic music in K-pop and not being afraid to experiment with all kinds of elements in their recordings. Their tracks usually have some of the cleanest and slickest-sounding production I hear from idol groups. Not only that, the boys dominate stages with powerful (and perfectly synchronized) dance routines. All of these things make Infinite an incredibly well-rounded group, and that’s why they have such a solid fanbase today. Because they have such a wide variety of genres in their discography, I chose tracks they never promoted that stood out against some of their more general-sounding songs for this article.
Without further ado, here are the tracks for this Side B!
“Fixed Star,” First Invasion
The first ballad ever released by Infinite is one of their prettiest. Unfortunately, it’s also one of their most underrated tracks. While their vocals aren’t the strongest, the way the boys’ voices blend together during the chorus is absolutely stunning. The beat is also fast enough to not rob the song of energy, but relaxed instead to really allow the listener to sit back and enjoy this traditional Korean pop ballad.
“Can You Smile,” Evolution
“Can You Smile” frequently goes unnoticed because it follows “Before the Dawn” on the mini-album. It’s a cheerful, upbeat number with pounding drum beats and a slick bass line that’s hard to pick out. Synths and orchestral elements are also incorporated into this song, and at points it feels like too much, but the fast-paced giddiness of this track is worth noting.
“Hysterie” is one of Infinite’s jazzier songs, with “block chords” from the trumpet section and the bass line. There are breaks and syncopation you wouldn’t normally expect from a K-pop song, but the jazz feel lends the song a touch of personality. The rap verse feels a little out of place with this melody, but you can hear the block chords really well during that break. Instead of using the percussion to give the beat that drives the song this time, they use the trumpet line instead, which is something quite different.
“Tic Toc,” Over the Top
Syncopation and orchestral elements make “Tic Toc” different from its counterparts. Techno elements are fused into the song to create an energetic sound, but not so much that they would drive the song. During the rap bridge, piano notes in the background make a cool clock effect. While the vocals in this song don’t really stand out, other elements in the background really brought it to my attention while listening to this album.
“Because (Sunggyu’s solo track),” Over the Top
The percussion beat, which has a march beat contrasting with a piano melody that you’d expect to find in ballads, creates an interesting effect in Sunggyu’s solo. His vocals are emphasized by the lack of overwhelming synths during the verses, but there are some electronica elements during the chorus to add energy. The transitions between the two are pretty smooth and pleasant to listen to.
“In The Summer,” Infinitize
Infinite isn’t known for their acoustic material, so this track from their latest mini-album is a refreshing change. Clean guitar chords and soft drumming allows the harmonization of the boys’ voices to shine in this summery song. While not quite an acoustic rock track, it blends elements usually found in that genre with a more ballad-esque melody. The phrase “less is more” definitely applies to “In The Summer,” a lighthearted and fun track atypical of Infinite.
“Only Tears,” Infinitize
Unlike other K-pop groups, Infinite isn’t really known for their ballads. While they have a few strong vocalists, their strength lies in how “together” they can sound. The piano melody paired with sweet guitar notes creates a nice frame effect for the solos in this ballad, as the members opt for individual lines and choruses instead of their usual “togetherness.” Overall, while the vocals are not perfect, this song is something out of the box for Infinite and they executed it well.
Infinite has impressed critics and fans alike with their ability to experiment successfully with their signature sound. I hope that this Side B brought some different-sounding tracks to your attention, in time to get you excited about their (possible) comeback next February! With such versatility that’s hard to come by in today’s K-pop, Infinite is truly a group to pay attention to as they continue to show growth in every release.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Side B. Watch this space for more from Seoulbeats!