Shortly after the hopes of an early 2014 Wonder Girls‘ release were destroyed by Sohee‘s departure, JYP Entertainment announced former member Sunmi‘s comeback. In summer 2013, the solo singer topped the charts with her debut hit “24 Hours.” Now, she’s looking to do it again with her new mini album, Full Moon. Two teasers were released before the unveiling of the title track’s MV, all of which paint Sunmi as a vampire loving a human. Do the new songs on this mini make you thirst for more? Maybe not for blood, but my appetite has increased.
Full Moon opens with its eponymous title track featuring a current trainee, Lena, who’s in the lineup of JYP’s upcoming girl group. As you’ll find out within 10 seconds into the song, this is the first collaboration of JYP and Brave Sound. Producer Brave Brothers is responsible for many title songs of groups such as Teen Top to 4Minute, and this song embraces his signature of a strong and steady drum beat in the background.
“Full Moon” isn’t one of those songs that grabs me immediately. The first time through, I was actually slightly bored by it, but after a few more listens, it grew on me significantly. The smooth melody and “eh eh eh eh eh” make the song an easy listen that’s difficult not to sing along to, and the overall tone offers a haunting aspect to the song, which complements the vampire concept of the MV to a certain degree. “Full Moon” does a decent job at presenting Sunmi’s vocals, but compared to some of the later tracks, the wow factor isn’t completely there.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BBF3vRY85M]
Now, let’s spend a line or two on Lena. Her appearance in “Full Moon” is simply a strategy for JYP in marketing his upcoming girl group. Lena’s beat and flow were certainly fine. The rap, however, sounded immature. Not much about her stands out to me, though perhaps twenty seconds isn’t enough to judge a rapper’s skill and talent. But until this new girl group debuts, I hope she’s collecting a lot more charm to impress audiences with.
As listeners continue to ponder over whether “Full Moon” is as memorable as last year’s “24 Hours,” the mini album greets you with the familiar ticking of the latter track. Despite its undeniable success, I personally have never been a big fan of the song. The monotonicity of the verses and repetitiveness of the chorus, for me, lack the excitement that others seem to have easily found, and it never grows on me like “Full Moon” does. Nevertheless, the only JYP-produced track on the mini album acts as a firm reminder of Sunmi’s effective solo debut.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UmDrsMlXXg]
Devoted fans of “24 Hours” perhaps are pleased with the next track, “Burn,” as well, although I certainly was not. The song, which embodies the anger of a woman who was hurt by her previous lover, starts off with minimal notes to match Sunmi’s vocals. They’re joined by overly heavy beats that gradually add in to prove that this song was created for the club. The minor key and recurring “burn baby burn” echo the style of “24 Hours,” but something about “Burn” seems incomplete. Just as the instrumentals seem as if they’re about to go into full dubstep mode, we’re surprised with an array of singular notes that act merely as fillers in the score. Sunmi’s strong tone in the first half of the song also disappear in the bridge to make way for a few weaker lines that fade into the typical girl group pop genre. Even though it’s a fast song, “Burn” dropped the excitement of the album down a notch, making it my least favorite piece on the album.
Sunmi fully departs from the mystical quality present in the beginning of the album with “Who Am I?” Her lower notes in the verses are gorgeous, reminding me quite a bit of Lee Hi‘s bold voice. In addition to the lower ranges, the much higher chorus packs enough power to linger in your mind as the song moves along. Two thirds of the way through, Wonder Girls’ Yubin lends her voice to a short rap sequence. Did she do a good job? Of course. Yubin’s rarely disappointed me with her commanding raps in Wonder Girls’ own songs. But I believe I would have enjoyed “Who Am I?” without the rap section. Even though I can’t deny being a fan of Yubin, her segment did nothing much except break up the natural flow of the vocals. The rap just didn’t seem to match the energy behind Sunmi’s parts, but “Who Am I?” is still a highlight of the album.
Following Yubin, we get to meet rookie group GOT7‘s Jackson in “Frozen in Time.” In this song, Sunmi’s voice returns to the light, airy texture she started the album with. From my limited knowledge of GOT7, Jackson’s actually one of the lead rappers of the group, so I was surprised by his non-rap segment in the latter half of the song. Although his autotuned voice didn’t exactly amaze with chilling ad-libs or anything of the sort, there’s a soothing quality about it that meshes well with the mellow melody to add another dimension to the lyrics which describe the desperation of missing a past lover. The constant hollow-sounding beat and Sunmi’s later blurred background vocals add to the unreal quality of actually pausing time as well. I would gladly label “Frozen in Time” as a slightly-above-par filler track.
To finish off Full Moon, we have a piece penned by Wonder Girls’ Yeeun. Yeeun has quite a number of songs under her name, so it’s no surprise that this track offers nothing but pure contentment. “If That Was You” departs from the up-in-the-air feel of “Who Am I?” and lands us solidly on a greatly satisfying and melodious conclusion. Sunmi has a Younha-esque sound here, which bumps up her points as a solo vocalist by a ton in my book. Out of Full Moon‘s six songs, “If That Was You” seems to possess the least amount of supernaturalism both in terms of composition and delivery. This makes it a close-to-perfect ending, as if Sunmi has escaped her vampire form to become fully human by the end of her musical journey.
Overall, Full Moon impresses with its range of styles and tempos. Sunmi’s able to showcase her diverse voice through the various love songs centering on waiting for love, renouncing it, and reflecting on it. The whopping number of collaborations that appear in this mini album — in half of the songs, or two-thirds if you count Yeeun’s participation — originally had me worrying that the overall flow would be carried by the guest features. Fortunately, Sunmi managed to keep the attention on her own vocals and I ended up wishing that she could have gotten the chance to perform all the songs by herself (perhaps Jackson can stay). As someone who wasn’t completely wowed by Sunmi’s solo debut with “24 Hours,” I’m happy to say I’m excited to hear what else she has in store for the future. Now, is it too much to hope for some live performances of “If That Was You?”