20150525_seoulbeats_historyHistory continues to work on trying to find their voice.  They’ve taken cues from more classic and older music and dabbled in typical K-pop (both new and old). Now, they’ve once again changed their game. History’s latest mini album, Beyond the History, is best described as mentally disruptive. While “Mind Game,” “Might Just Die” and “Ghost” are pleasing to the ears, “Slow Down” and “1 Century” leave you reeling.

The first track is “Mind Game,” which is aptly titled as parts of this album will surely mess with your brain. The actual song is about how a girl has messed with a guy’s head and rotates between sexy and cheesy lyrics. Fortunately, you can get past the cheesiness due to the music. The music combines a bit of R&B with the pop sounds of the ’80s and ’90s. “Mind Game” seems to build on the overall sound the group dabbled in with “What Am I to You.” Because of this, “Mind Game” also becomes a solid track from an instrumental standpoint, which is only furthered by a strong, slap bass line. The smoothness of the performance adds to the overall quality of the song.

Title track “Might Just Die” is an instant attention grabber. The strong string introduction is a good indicator of where the song is going: dramatically right in your face. Off the bat, the chorus takes center stage. Parts of the song also create a strong, desperate sentiment. The sudden drop off at the end of the song — “Might Just Die” ends with just one line refrain — creates the impression that the group itself has died. Additionally, the short “rap” transitions between verse and chorus are an extra element. Not so much rapping as exasperated expressions, these parts by Kyung-il and Si-hyoung provide further angst to the song. Even the electronic music is grimy, like the feelings being portrayed.

While generally not a big fan of the use of breathing in the background, in “Might Just Die,” it makes sense. The guys are on the verge of death due to losing so much in a relationship. The breathing signifies the life leaving them, so there’s no strong objection to its inclusion.

If nothing else, History may have managed to garner more thirsty fans after the dance performance: we’re looking at you, Kyung-il.

So, did History die like they thought they would in the previous song? Not quite, as “Ghost” is about the girl being a ghost, not the guys. The girl in question has driven the guy crazy, but he doesn’t want it to stop. There’s a mixed message: does he want her or doesn’t he? Is she good or bad? The song ends with “Please girl, don’t stop it,” appearing that guy is trapped in a never-ending cycle of pain.

Musically, the initial reaction to “Ghost” was, “Is this a Shinee song?”  I’m sure those who avidly listen to Shinee may hopefully be able to understand why the thought came: “Ghost” has an intriguing eclectic, electronic sound.

20150525_seoulbeats_history1Next up is the repetitive “Slow Down.” The lyrics are monotonous; many of the lines are repeated consecutively during the song. While this makes it easy to sing along with, it seems a bit lazy from a lyrical standpoint. The real problem with “Slow Down,” however, lies in the music. There’s a disconnect between the lyrics talking about slowing down and the chorus actually being upbeat. There’s a smooth nature through the verses and bridge that disappears at the chorus. Also, there’s the appearance of a pet peeve: superfluous background electronic noise. Just what exactly is happening in the chorus? It’s a droning noise that sounds like a space ship is descending to destroy the earth. The following laser sounds only furthers the image.

The one good thing about this song is the electric guitar. If the guitar had taken the forefront, “Slow Down” would have been greatly improved.

Last is “1 Century:” member Yi-jeong‘s solo track and his first attempt at rapping. No, he’s not great, but he’s passes better than several. You can tell he’s a singer first because despite the rapping, there’s still a more mumbled, vocal quality. Overall, the song presents as daring, from the music to the lyrics. The hypnotic beat running throughout and the distorted chorus transition twist the mind.

If I appear, the underground hides
If this is a gold ring, you’re a stone ring
You think it’s funny right? Such a rap rookie
Whether you understand or not, I’ll do it my own way
If you hate on my rap yes sir, I’ll just sing
I’m too fucking lazy to read the state of your ears so just go away
(I don’t wanna talk with bitches)

20150525_seoulbeats_jangyijeong

Is this the same guy who featured on IU‘s “Friday?” Yi-jeong is talking a big game and isn’t afraid to do so. He deserves some recognition for having the guts to say such things, even if he can’t quite back it up, yet. “1 Century” is clichéd, but ‘A’ for effort.

The unpredictable nature of History’s releases should be applauded. They are unwilling to settle into one particular style and work to keep their music exciting with their versatility. As for Beyond the History, for the most part, the album is good. While the last two songs aren’t likely to be played on loop, the first three are strong and enjoyable. You can also see Yi-jeong’s evolution as a member because he takes part in both the composition and lyrics for three of the songs. Si-hyoung has also taken part in three of the songs through formation of the rap lyrics. History is definitely making strides to stand out and improve, so let’s hope these strides continue.

Album Rating: 3.5/5

(YouTube, Images via LOEN Tree, lyrics via pop!gasa)