20130626_seoulbeats_roy kim2Just a couple of days ago, Roy Kim finally released his debut album, but it’s not what’s on people’s minds right now. Just when he seemed to finally break out of controversy that’s been following him, dating rumors have begun to swirl around him and singer-turned-actress Park Soo-jin.

Thankfully, the rumors — which were denied — haven’t stopped Kim’s success. The Superstar K winner released his first single “Spring, Spring, Spring” at the end of April to much acclaim despite the plagiarism claims, even picking up a win on a music show. It seems that Kim has an affinity for repetition in threes as his album is titled Love, Love, Love, and it definitely deserves all of the love it’s been getting. It’s already topped all of the major music charts.

On this album, Roy Kim continues along the same lines of his single “Spring, Spring, Spring” with the obvious folk and country influences. The singer-songwriter thus puts himself in a great position as a rookie by standing apart from the excessive electronic-influenced and autotune-heavy music churning out with every comeback.

The album opens with “Intro (My Forest),” a simple introductory track of Kim humming over an acoustic guitar. It’s barely audible and has a scratchy sound and obvious ambient noise that remind me of listening on vinyl. It sets a nostalgic tone for the entire album, appropriate and sweet.

We go into full country mode with “Listen to This Song.” The track is about going on even when the times get tough and being positive. It only makes sense then that it features a quick strummed guitar with a violin and percussions of a shaker and clapping, all of which push the listener along a happy song. With Kim’s deep but emotionally light voice and the fun “woo” in the chorus, it makes for a fun, positive listen.

Thematically, it makes the perfect segue into the previously released single “Spring, Spring, Spring” since the song is about being positive in the spring despite remember a past relationship. Perhaps it’s because the song has more variety musically — it builds and fluctuates nicely — but in comparison to the previous track Kim’s voice sounds strangely happier, considering the lyrics.

The next track “Let Me Love You” seems to take the sadder side of the same situation of “Spring, Spring, Spring,” almost like a counterpoint to it. Instead of being positive, the song is about a guy dwelling on heartbreak. He even says, “The words I can’t ever say again, the words: I love you.”

The music itself has an edge of sadness, but it isn’t necessarily a ballad, not in the typical sense. It has the sound of a rock ballad with a steady guitar and sweet high notes that Kim hits beautifully, but it’s a little simple because he doesn’t really start to stretch into his range or emotion until toward the end of the song. It’s a safe track, similar to the previous ones, but in a ballad a push for more emotion is necessary.

The namesake of the album “Love, Love, Love” dips into more of a pop sound, but as the promotional single, it makes sense. It starts off simple and crisp with a guitar alone. Then, it adds piano along with the guitar and percussion to fill out the track more, a necessity with the repetitive lyrics.

The repetition works in “Spring, Spring, Spring” because the Korean word for “spring” (bom) is an onomatopoeia so it actually adds to the musicality of the song. It seems lacking in creativity for lyrics to repeat the word “love” though. While love is notorious for its difficulty to explain, repeating it over and over again leads to it losing its meaning, just like with any other word.

The music video is different from the typical K-pop music video, but it’s clear that Roy Kim isn’t trying to be a K-pop idol. It actually reminds me somewhat of Super Junior-KRY‘s music video for “Fly” with the set of a performance in a public space though the songs are very different.

Plus, Kim seems to be having more fun since he interacts with his swarms of fans much more — he shakes hands and high fives them throughout. It also has a sense of whimsy with all of the color and use of the word “love” as a prop. They even seem to have a parade as the fans all march with him as he plays his guitar and walks around singing. It all builds the song more, giving it a sort of anthem feel despite its simplicity.

We lean back into the country genre with “Grandpa’s Camera,” a light, sweet track that seems to be an ode to his grandfather. He promises to live life to the fullest and capture it on his camera for his grandpa. The track with Kim’s voice staying in the higher end of his range definitely has that sound that seems to have left behind something bittersweet for positivity, a recurring theme on this album.

A more romantic song, “I Know Nothing at All” is a John Mayer-esque track with its use of a soulful electric guitar. The track tells the story of a guy on a date with a girl, and he’s so nervous he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. It’s incredibly adorable lyrically, but the song itself isn’t, giving it an even balance.

Roy Kim really picks up the pace with “Follow Me,” a gospel-influenced track about following your heart, even in the trivial things like deciding what to eat. It’s a fast and fun song that makes you want to bob your head. With it switching instruments frequently and Kim fully using his range from the lower powerful sound up into the higher notes, the song makes for a highlight in an already bright album. I just wish we could hear more of the lower end of his range since it’s so captivating.

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We end at “12 O’Clock,” a slower, more ballad-like song. Probably the most subdued track, it echoes the intro with its more raw sound. It not only strips down the music to simply a guitar, violin and Kim’s delicate singing, but it also has that same intangible nostalgia to it.

The album is a great listen, each song transitioning into the next well, but it could use more variety. Roy Kim has fully developed his country sound and even incorporates other influences such as folk and gospel, but he could afford to expand and push more into pop and rock for just a track or two, just to give some more variety.

But the album works the way it is as well. It’s cohesive with consistent style and just enough diversity in style. It makes for a solid first effort from Roy Kim, especially since he wrote every song himself, quite the feat for a debuting artist.

Rating: 4.25/5

What did you think of Roy Kim’s debut album, readers?

(Sports Donga, MTN News, 10Asia, YouTube, CJENM Music)