While I am usually not the biggest fan of over-the-top aegyo, I’ve always liked B1A4 because they have never taken that image too seriously. They don’t try to be cute. They make fun of themselves a lot, and it’s that playfulness that makes them likable. It’s almost as if the cute factor is simply by happenstance.
Even though B1A4 has succeeded in drawing me toward the aegyo, it’s been great to see their maturity and talent, especially in “Tried to Walk” in their last album In the Wind. A new facet of the group was revealed, a facet that was neither forced nor suffocating (in terms of talent), like in “Baby I’m Sorry” off Ignition. It struck the perfect middle balance.
Just like their repackage (with “Baby Goodnight”) though, the quintet has shifted gears again and regressed to their wacky and cute image for summer; this comes in the form of their new mini-album What’s Going On. This concept has always been their forte. They’ve been doing this since they debuted with “O.K.”, right up to “Baby Good Night” — despite its questionable message — but this time around, the concept and musical styles differ.
The album opens with “Starlight’s Song,” a tune that falls in that mid-tempo range; not quite a dance track but not a ballad either. B1A4 uses this style a lot for their B-sides, and it’s the reason I like their music so much. They know how to add just enough variety to keep listeners intrigued.
The song leans toward the upbeat side but still remains subdued — its premise is a guy reminiscing about his ex. The song has a distinct alternative rock influence that pairs well with its somber lyrics. The bridge and chorus even remind me somewhat of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” Nevertheless, it still sounds like typical B1A4, as does “What’s Going On,” which is next in the sequence.
Composed by leader Jinyoung, the lead single off the album is the only track that actually goes with the cute concept. It’s also my least favorite. The song follows the same arrangement as previous upbeat electro-pop/rock singles “Baby Goodnight” and “Beautiful Target,” which isn’t particularly bad since B1A4 are fantastic at that eccentric cuteness, both in style and in music. The problem lies in the fact that the sections within “What’s Going On” are too different from one another.
Take for example, Baro’s sequence at the bridge. While it is my favorite part of the song, it also pulls the song apart at its seams because it is too stylistically different from the verses and chorus. That part in particular sticks out so much as it immediately precedes the chorus, which is what we always remember first.
And even though their past promoted singles have always had that element of randomness, their previous tracks have had smoother transitions between sections rather than jumps, as in this case. While the music video thankfully steps in and holds the song together, it just can’t stand on its own. Perhaps if the same guitar had carried over into the bridge or if the synthesizer were gone, Baro’s part might’ve held the song together.
And then there’s “Yesterday.” The R&B tinged track is the highlight of the album with its perfect use of the members’ voices. The song is about someone who complains and doesn’t give his girlfriend the attention she deserves, even forgetting their date “yesterday,” but when he finally showed up, she didn’t get mad, just kissed him. When he remembers that, he realizes how much he loves her and is resolved to treat her better.
The song builds slowly by layering their voices, and everything is laid out to push the emotion to the forefront. The combination of crystalline piano with a heavy drum beat works wonderfully with the harmonization throughout. It gives it this great retro feel and reminds us just how talented B1A4 as a group really is.
Where “Yesterday” shows their skills as a unit, “Good Love” lets their individual voices shine. The soulful ballad addresses a couple who have lost the spark they once had. They’ve grown completely distant and fallen out of love.
The track relies heavily on rap, unsurprising since the track was penned by CNU and Baro. But with its stripped down quality of just piano and a jazzy brass and percussion combo, the song is the most mature on the album.
“How Many Times” rounds out the album with a heartbroken plea for the pain of a love lost to go away, but sadly the song falls rather flat. The song is not bad. It’s actually quite pleasant with a surprisingly happy piano at the start of the song that belies the emotion of the lyrics. Unfortunately, it lacks enough variety to follow up such a subdued track as “Good Love” and is ultimately forgettable.
With the exception of the single, B1A4 has definitely continued with the more mature sound of In the Wind, but it’s bizarre to hear it alongside their aegyo-infused image because the themes within this album are quite melancholy.
While they are great at the cute concept — and I can admit that it’s not as silly as it has been — I can’t help but dislike it in this case because it just doesn’t go with the album. Not only are they addressing heavier subject matter, they’ve also proven that they can handle serious concepts. B1A4 deserves a chance to not only show that they’ve matured in sound but also in image.