20141126_seoulbeats_halo1Peppy, rookie group HALO is back with their mini album, Hello HALO. The group essentially puts a K-pop spin on common styles in Western teenage/young adult music.

The album can be divided into two different styles: Western Boy Band and K-pop Boy Band. For the Western style, there’s “Hello HALO” and “California.” While, for K-pop, it’s title track “Come On Now” and “Let’s Play For 3 Minutes.”

“Hello HALO” is the introductory track, naturally. Even from the title, HALO is clearly saying “Hi! Listen to us!” Which is also in the actual lyrics as well.

Hey, hello hello, hello
The weather’s so nice today
We are HALO HALO, hello
Let’s hold hands and fly

Close your eyes and listen to this song
A song just for you

Confusingly, while most of the song seems to speak to everyone, the rap bridge appears to be more directed. The lyrics speak to being curious and liking someone’s shirt, their voice, etc. It gives the feeling of a love confession. This disparity takes away from the overall aesthetic of the song being a call for ears.

Musically, “Hello HALO” is a bright song. With its acoustic upbeat instrumental, the song would fit in well with the more summery tracks.

Title track “Come On Now” initially left no impression. Neither good nor bad, it sounds like just another K-pop song that’ll quickly be forgotten. However, after the second listen, the song is clearly catchy. It’s easy to start singing the hook — Over, and over, and over again. The scratching breaks between the chorus and verse are a bit out of place and the break before the rap portion could have been left out. It’s relatively unneeded and adds nothing, but could have made sense if the aforementioned scratching had been included. The electronic aspects of the instrumental are kept relatively clean, and don’t completely overpower the guitars which is a big plus for this song.

The lyrics for “Come On Now” are a bit aggressive, in the sense that there is no coy conveyance of feelings. The guys are turned on by the girl and are asking for the girl to come to them. Given how mature such lyrics are, the juxtaposition against using such words as “boo-boos” is a bit comical – this fits in with the rather comical MV.

Despite the superficial shortcomings of the song, “Come On Now” is easy to dance to and have a bit of fun listening.

If you are going to go for a Western sound, may as well title the song “California.” California is seen as a dream-like paradise for some, where the sun is always shining and people are as happy as happy can be. So, the lyrics reflect this happiness and dreamy aspect in relation to love. The group is so happy that they think they are actually living in California. At the end of the song, they have a rude awakening and realize it really was all just a dream.

“California” takes a bit more rock direction than “Hello HALO.” The piano portion was particularly enjoyable. Paired with the electric guitars, the song grooves along quite well.

The final track is the most like a K-pop song. “Let’s Play for 3 Minutes” lives up to its name. The song serves as an outlier, musically, from the other songs. It lacks that acoustic sound and sweet, poppy groove. It’s an electric dance track about partying. You do want to play and dance around while listening to the track.

Unlike most party songs, “Let’s Play for 3 Minutes” isn’t about partying in general. Instead, it’s about partying with some mysterious girl. The lyrics are a bit creepy. It seems that the girl in question is just a random girl from the street that the guy is following. The fact that the request to party is a desperate plea due to boredom makes it seem even more suspect — it’s a bit overly aggressive.

20141126_seoulbeats_halo_hello haloOverall, Hello HALO brings nothing new and exciting. It’s not that the mini album is bad — it’s really not, the mini is an enjoyable listen. I even found myself bobbing my head occasionally — but it is rather unimpressive. It sounds like what I’d typically associate with the saccharine Disney boy-band style of music. This makes sense since their agency likes to make a connection with One Direction. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of 1D (sorry, Directioners), so it took a few listens for the album to grow on me. But it does indeed grow on you.

In HALO’s defense, given the sudden tidal wave of “hip-hop” boy groups, they stand out and offer a softer sound. Although the group does have the requisite rapper, they don’t have the same tough image of other groups. Instead, they are more gentle. HALO has the bright image that groups like B1A4 and Boyfriend had upon debut, just with a bit of modern Western boy-band flair.

It should be interesting to see how HALO matures in sound and continues to combine K-pop with Western boy band.

Rating: 3/5

(HALO, Youtube [1], images via HALO, lyrics via pop!gasa)