20141212-seoulbeats-teen top snow candy

Teen Top is coming back this year with a Christmas present for their fans — a digital single albums called “Snow Candy”. The album will include three songs: title track “눈사탕” — which literally means “snow candy” and I have no idea why Top Media translates the phrase into “Snow Kiss”–, “메리 크리스마스” (Merry Christmas) composed by member Changjo, and “겨울노래” (Winter Song) composed by C.A.P.

It is hard to come up with a good Christmas song in K-pop. Not only since there have been dozens already, from solo projects, group projects, and company family projects, but also because a holiday song in Korea pretty much by default has to possess a certain cheerful exciting sound. Idols seem to assume that everyone expects something that sounds happy, tooth-achingly sweet, full of unicorn-and-rainbow stuff and playful. It is not the time for deep, grave, sorrowful rhythms involving longing, pain, or just unhappiness in general. There are different cases like Park Bom and Lee Hi‘s “All I Want For Christmas Is You“, or Exo‘s “Miracles in December“, but they are so rare compared to the huge compilation of Noel melodies in K-pop.

Also, let’s get the facts straight here. Christmas in many East Asian countries such as China, Japan, and of course Korea, is the winter Valentine’s Day, when couples show off express their feelings, date and give presents to each other. Around Christmas Eve, the streets of Seoul are always flooded with couples sharing their loving moments together. Therefore, it should not be a surprise if a K-pop Christmas song equals a love song.

The title track in the album, “Snow Kiss”, is no exception to these formulas. With trumpet and cello creating a pretty retro and upbeat background, we have six members of Teen Top making an ode about their wonderful lover and about the beautiful feeling of being in love:

So sweet, when I give you a candy kiss
So bright, you sparkle all day

Your nose, your eyes, your beautiful lips
Your white skin, your legs, it’s you
From the day I first had you until now
On days I see you, my heart pounds
I can’t even sleep
OK! Darling

It is a fluffy song that embraces the atmosphere of this holiday season, but it is too fluffy to leave a strong impression in the audience’s mind. Judging from the music in this album, obviously Teen Top is not trying to produce a wonder in music industry. The album is released for the mere sake of fan service — a chance where members can just sing without much pressure about sales or promoting their images. In other words, these songs allow Teen Top to submerge in this bubbly atmosphere of Christmas and enjoy themselves. The music video for “Snow Kiss” reflects this thinking, as it mostly consists of hand-held shots portraying the members spending Christmas (a bit too early?) by being all dorky around each other:

Again (and again), another Christmas-themed music video shows us how happy K-pop idols are, or how united their group/company family is. Maybe not all the smiles in those videos are fake, but such an overly happy and harmonious atmosphere sometimes invokes an impression of forced acting, of trying too hard, of unnatural emotions, and of orchestrated dedication. Or maybe it has to do with the same reason mentioned above, there have been way too many similar K-pop music videos about this season featuring idols pretending exhibiting how merry and pleased they are with their teammates. It is like eating a really good kind of food over and over again — as the time goes by, you will get seriously sick of it.

Moving on to the next track, unlike the jovial “Snow Kiss”, “Merry Christmas” is a slow mellow ballad. At the same time, it is a boring, generic, and bland ballad. Teen Top’s fans may recognize a lot of similarities between this product and the group’s White Day present for fans last year, “Angel“. Both have that upbeat lovey-dovey feel to them, and the lyrics are (also) about being in love. Despite the marketing point of the song being written by Teen Top Changjo, I classify it as one of those hundreds of K-pop listen-to-forget ballads produced each year.

The highlight of this album, though, lies in the final track, “Winter Song”, even though it is still not an outstanding performance per se in terms of composing for C.A.P., or just singing and rapping in general for all Teen Top members. “Winter Song” makes you feel like you are so ready to get out of your house on Christmas day, walking down the street, enjoying the snowflakes falling around and the smiles on the faces of people passing by. The beautiful Jazz piano, the relaxing and breathy singing style , as well as the smooth sensual rapping match well enough to bring up this gentle fuzzy feeling that will warm your heart in these cold winter days (no offense to Australian fans!). Also, congratulate C.A.P for having been able to capture this nostalgic, a bit sentimental spirit of year end holiday season instead of sticking with the romantic topic like the rest of the album:

Whether you’ve been good or bad
Everyone turn on this winter song, some carols today
However your year has been like
All the bad and nice adults too
Turn on this winter song, some carols today

“Winter Song” is a good song if listened to separately, but its special vibe fades out once incorporated in “Snow Candy” as a whole. The first try at listening to this album will not leave you much impression, the sound is merely something akin to other fellow K-pop boy bands’ attempt like Infinite‘s “Lately” or MBLAQ‘s “White Forever“. “Snow Candy”, overall, is another piece of evidence why K-pop music producers should move on from their dramatized joyful Christmas images and cheesy love songs already. Anyhow, this release is merely a fan gift, therefore the bar for it should not be too high. Angels may still be amused by watching Teen Top members jumping around in their hotel rooms, and that entertainment alone perhaps should suffice.

Album rating: 2.5/5

(Images via Top Media, Mnet, Officiallykmusic. YouTube [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. Translation via Pop!gasa [1] [2])