About a week before Jay Park‘s second studio album was released, he made a post on Instagram. In it, he said that the reason he’s only released digital music post-New Breed was so each song could be put on his second album, that he was a real artist whose music wasn’t disposable. As much as I respect Jay, that seemed like a justification to not write a full album of new music. The songs on Joah and I Like 2 Party are good, but what artistic reason could there be for including 10 remastered or remixed tracks compared to 7 new ones? Then Evolution dropped. Mr. Park, consider my words eaten.
The first track is “Evolution”, featuring Gray. This is Jay Park’s victory lap; the song where he is able to reminisce on all he’s done. He’s gone from a Seattle kid who couldn’t speak Korean to a top star and a dope lyricist. The song is very simple, a basic synth piano beat backing Jay and Gray’s killer performances. That said, the bare-bones beat really works for “Evolution” because it puts the emphasis on the lyrics. These words cemented my respect Jay Park. “Evolution” is about Jay’s journey from someone down and out to them founding a record label in four years. He has every right to claim he got there on his own, with no help, but he doesn’t. Jay Park, in the song celebrating his personal successes, has the chorus of “we did it”. This is a guy who values the people around him as much or more than himself. The inclusion of Gray on such a personal track seals that.
Beginning with “Joah”, listeners are treated to a barrage of excellent R&B numbers. “Joah” is one of the previously released tracks, having been remastered for Evolution. It sounds cleaner and crisper, but other than that, there aren’t any alterations between 2013 and now. That said, Jay Park crooning is not the sort of thing that gets old.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THq-kiZy0m0]
“So Good” has been previously described as having been “vomited on by Michael Jackson“. I’m okay with that, both as a description and a song. Yet, despite the obvious influence of the King of Pop, “So Good” is still uniquely Jay Park. The baseline, courtesy of funk band Common Ground, is killer, and when combined with Jay’s equally sweet and seductive voice, creates a truly infectious dance song.
One good throwback deserves another, thus “Let’s Make Up”. “So Good” is the seventies funk homage, but this here is a little more 90’s pop. It’s a bit atonal, with lot of post-production work. Jay’s performance accomplishes something of a minor miracle by insinuating he’d like some make-up sex without coming across like a dick. It’s very much in the vein of “let me show you how much I love you.” “Let’s Make Up” is a fun little ditty, but it’s definitely one you have to be in the mood for.
“The Promise” is a gold-star, A++ song of baby-making. Take notes, because this is how it’s done. Jay’s voice just oozes over the track like melted chocolate. The piano is slow and dramatic, punctuated by drum trills and some excellent jazz horns. The whole song is long and drawn-out, giving “The Promise” a very sensual feel. The lyrics, full of declarations of love and tender sweetness instead of raunchy innuendos, are the cherry on top. “The Promise” will make fangirl (and boy) panties drop like flies.
For all the love songs K-pop produces, almost none of them mention the fact that dating an idol would require intense secrecy. “Secret” is not one of these songs. Jay Park pleads with his girlfriend to be understanding about not being able to tell anyone about their relationship. He tries to reassure her that he does love her, but clearly understands how being someone’s dirty little secret would kill anyone’s self-esteem.
“Welcome” is one of the cockiest songs in existence. It’s a pure and unadulterated sex jam. Just . . . no shame or subtlety at all. It has the same slow, drawn out sound as “The Promise”, only where that was sensual, this is sleazy. You can practically hear Jays’ shit-eating grin as he croons out “Welcome to my bed”. Yet it works. Jay Park can charm anyone by saying anything, and this is proof.
So, those raunchy lyrics that weren’t in the “The Promise”? They’re right here. “Ride Me” is the single most explicit song I’ve heard in ever. And I have a lot of respect for it, or rather, it’s type of explicitness. “Ride Me” is one of the few songs that seduces via skill. Jay is wooing his latest conquest on the grounds that he will give her mind-blowing sex, and details just how he’ll do it. I respect that brash openness of opening with “I’ll melt you with my tongue.” Not many would have the balls to do it, let alone the charisma to pull it off. The subtle guitar riff running under everything is just the icing on the cake.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrHZ6LUBMsA]
Listening from “Joah” to “Ride Me” straight through is kind of an ordeal. None of the songs are bad, far from it. It just that if you have any attraction to the male gender, the onslaught of crooning and sensual and charm and sex will result in your drawers dropping so hard it leaves a crater in your floor. And that onslaught is exhausting. “Metronome” is like getting cold water dropped on you in the most glorious way. Jay, Simon D, and Gray break the hazy spell with a very hip-pop song about difficult and failed relationships. It serves as a midpoint, shifting from the more smooth side of Jay Park to his harder side.
“GGG” the first real hip-hop track on Evolution. Built on the back of Cha Cha Malone‘s best works, this is one hell of a banger. The beat is hypnotic, and Jay is glorious as he paints a picture of himself as a humble braggert. Jay Park doesn’t boast, he states. He is the best. He doesn’t chase money or women; he’s so good that they come to him. Jay Park and AOMG will party like there’s no tomorrow. Get it? Got it? Good.
“Who The F*ck Is U” is the first not-stellar track on Evolution. And that’s a damn shame, because this is the track that needed to be made. This is a diss track aimed at the entire music industry. Jay, B-free, and Take One launch attacks at just about every negative aspect of the industry. CEOs who commit saejeki, generic music, any idol who co-opts American hip-hop culture without understanding it. The crowner, though is this.
Since the public only wants good looks
This sex traffiking site is dressed up with dance and song
Sadly, the beat is horrific. It’s so slow and dull that no one could rap effectively over it. It’s also extremely long, clocking in at 5:26. Worse than those are the random noises cluttering the whole thing. The most prominent are a gong, a xylophone, and something that’s either the sound of a remote-controlled car being driven into a wall or an elephant. Whoever produced this needs to be shot, or the very least, sent to the music production version of preschool.
Next is “1hunnit (Remix)”. As a rule, most remixes don’t need to exist. They just chop the original in to bits and don’t add anything new. “1hunnit” is the exception. The original, released on Joah, was a lot slower. Cha Cha’s remix adds much needed energy, as well as some good effects that serve to actually improve “1hunnit” instead of chopping it up. It also alters the guest verse. Dok2‘s verse has been replaced by appearances from Loco and Swings. Lyrically, it’s a brag track, but, overall, it’s a pretty good one.
“Success Crazed” is a monster crossover, with guest spots given to no less than four people. It’s got a great vibe, as there aren’t a lot of songs about being a workaholic. Jay, Gray, Simon D, and Loco make it clear that they’ve reaped some nice rewards from the industry, but they worked their asses off for all of it. All four of these men give strong performances with the more inexperienced Loco and Gray managing to hold their own alongside their more established CEOs’. The last guest, though, is Trinidad James, of “All Gold Everything” notoriety. And he sucks. While the others all rap about how hard they worked, he raps about getting laid, uses the word “nigga” 12 times in one verse, and he rhymes “living” with “snitches”, “fuck” with “fucks” and “me” with “nigga”. Jay, couldn’t you have found anyone else in the entire American rap industry to work with? Anyone at all?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpkHmgnWx_U&list=UUK5fO9Q2gitao0M5yQvPnvw]
Luckily, “I Like 2 Party” is perfect for washing shitty American rappers out of the brain. It’s a great change of pace from the rawer hip-hop beats. “I Like 2 Party” is a very slick track, with an odd but enjoyable dichotomy. On the one hand, it’s clearly a party song, encouraging people to let loose. On the other, there’s a calm behind it. Compare it to “Know Your Name”, which was a lot more frantic. Here, Jay is still interested in a good time, but there’s less of a manic need present.
Once you get past the odd intro, “Hot” is just as good of a banger as “GGG”. Scratch that, it’s better. The first verse is a bit slow, but by the time the “work hard, play hard” refrain kicks in, it just goes insane. Rinse and repeat for something that keeps winding you up and letting you go before winding you up again. It carries the same split as “I Like 2 Party”. The beat keeps going crazy, but Jay Park is always cool and firmly in control.
“Hot (Remix)” is the epitome of why remixs don’t need to exist. The build/drop/build is destroyed in the name of repetitive nonsense. It’s choppy, noisey, and you can barely hear “Hot” under it. The fact that this remix directly follows the original just amplifies how much it does not have a right to exist.
The final track on Evolution is “Nana”, with a feature from Loco. Its’ a song for summer nights, with a laid-back piano driving the beat. This is the song, apart from “Evolution”, that really shows Jay’s age. Jay Park is 27, and while he’s retained his thirst for life, he’s also got enough life under his belt to appreciate his party lifestyle. He’s mellowed as he’s matured. “Nana” paints his goal when partying not as “get drunk, have sex” but to simply enjoy the good times while he can. Loco provides the counterpoint of someone who’s not there in his life yet. It doesn’t make Loco look immature as much as it drives home that Jay Park has grown up. And that there is the point of the whole album.
Evolution is a monster of an album, with 17 songs clocking in at over an hour in length. Yet there is no filler anywhere. No song repeats a sentiment or even sounds alike. Evolution is broken down into three stages– which I have dubbed Jay the Player, Jay the Artist, and Jay the Businessman. This makes a lot of sense considering that Evolution is as much a self-portrait as it is an album; detailing Jays’, well, evolution as a person and artist.
While “Evolution” opens the album, it belongs with the final phase of songs. It sets the stage for Evolution to act as a “how I got here” story, with “Joah” kicking off the first phase. From there through “Ride Me” we see Jay the Player. This is Jay Park at his most youthful and free, someone who’s not here for a long time, just a good time. “Metronome through “1hunnit (Remix)” shows us Jay the Artist. This is the rapper who equal parts angry, proud, and skilled, with the drive to match all three. From “Success Crazed” through the end is Jay the Businessman. He has the Players’ passion for life and a good time mixed with the Artists’ drive and talent, plus some healthy doses of calm and maturity. “Evolution” brings it full circle, with the older, wiser Jay reflecting on how he became the person he is.
Evolution is a roadmap to Jay Park as a person, and it shows. He clearly put a lot of work into this album, and excluding a couple bad decisions, there is nothing bad in it. It is an album that demands respect, and who am I to deny it?
(Images via AOMG, Viki, Men’s Digest, videos via JAYPARKOFFICAL)