To be perfectly honest, I’m a little bit horrified at myself considering how much I’ve come to like this album – especially considering how much I cringed listening to the batch of singles DBSK released prior to the full-length album release. I’m still trying to decide whether this means that Tone was a good album, or if I’m just suffering from some sort of aural Stockholm Syndrome.
The current two-membered DBSK has been striving for the past year to reidentify themselves, despite still holding onto a name that already has a strong identity and legacy of its own. It goes without saying that a DBSK that’s missing three members isn’t really much of a DBSK at all, but are Yunho and Changmin obligated to fill those holes anyway? With this release and their Korean release earlier this year, it’s evident that this isn’t the case. It’s perhaps safe to say that the Tohoshinki seen and heard on Tone is far different from the Tohoshinki of days past.
Everything about the visuals of this song takes itself way too seriously, especially for a song where the main hook is comprised of “doong doong doong doong doong.” Then again, essentially everything about DBSK’s post-breakup image takes itself way too seriously, and it makes me cringe to see SM continue with this “Almighty Ethereal Gods Of The East” kick because it’s not really fooling anyone.
(It also makes me cringe to see that they decided against burning that horrific bullseye fabric from “KYHD” as per the advice of anyone who had ever laid eyes on the “KYHD” video…and instead chose to reuse it in the backup dancers’ outfits. I hope this is a running gag, SM, because it’s a darn clever one. If it’s not, then we’ve got some serious talking to do. But that’s beside the point.)
Truth be told, I had always believed that I preferred DBSK’s Japanese music over their Korean music, but I’ve come to realize that I’m more of a fan of the overall structure and composition of their Japanese albums rather than the individual songs themselves. Ever since Heart, Mind and Soul in 2005, Toho’s Japanese albums have been centered around a theme, whether it be lyrically based or musically based. For this reason, I always found myself loving Toho’s Japanese albums. Although fundamentally speaking, these albums were just compilations of all the singles Toho had released in the past year, it wasn’t obvious. There was still a certain cohesiveness to the albums that allowed me to listen from the first track to the last and still feel as if I were getting a true listening experience, rather than a smorgasbord of songs and themes that weren’t pieced together with any semblance of cohesiveness. Not a lot of other artists’ albums can be commended for the same thing (not even DBSK themselves with their Korean albums), which is why I respect DBSK’s old Japanese albums so much.
So in that sense, Tone comes across to me as being rather ordinary. Not bad, just ordinary. There’s some stuff in there that I really disliked, and there are also some gems. All in all, it’s fairly easy to separate the good material on this album from the bad, which may be a plus for some and a minus for others. Above all, though, the general feeling I’m getting from Tone is that it’s a compilation of all the Japanese singles they’ve released within the past year, and then some. Toho’s old Japanese albums never once gave me that feeling, which is why I guess I’m a little disappointed. But all things considered, there are probably worse things out there.
1. Introduction ~magenta~
Prior to the release of this album, Changmin stated in multiple interviews that he was initially apprehensive (read: embarrassed to death) of recording this song – and I can see why. It’s basically a lullaby, and it’s not exactly the ideal way to open an album by a boygroup that’s been overly touted as the Gods of the East for the past year and a half. But it’s sweet, and even if it’s not to your liking, it’s only a minute and a half long.
2. B.U.T (BE-AU-TY)
Hated this song when it came out, but I’m coming to appreciate it more with every listen – “doong doong doong” and all. In a sense, I feel that this song epitomizes the “new” DBSK (to be discussed later) better than any of their previous releases. Sure, it’s a dance track and it doesn’t feature stunning vocals or an intricate beat, but it’s clear that DBSK is set on pursuing the dance track route, and B.U.T. is a good example of what they’re going for.
3. I Think U Know
This song is good if you like to drive fast. It’s great driving music, but apart from that, there’s not much going for it.
My personal favorite off the album. Musically speaking, it’s rather repetitive and simple and Changmin’s voice does become a bit grating after a while. But the mood of the song just sits in that happy place between heartwrenching, K-drama OST ballad and dumpy R&B-esque dance track – and how often do you find one of those gems these days? To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever fully come to like the sound of HoMin’s voices singing ballad music, but a good song is a good song, and if it’s good enough for me to look past the occasional grate-y-ness of their voices, then I’m happy.
5. Thank you my girl
Dude, who is creating the song titles for these songs?!
I think HoMin’s voices work best on songs like these. There’s always been something a bit nasally and unnatural about Yunho and Changmin’s voices, but light, pop-py stuff like “Thank you my girl” allows their voices to blend and work with the background music, rather than trying to scream above all the noise. On that note, I wish that they would’ve cut down on the synth usage in the instrumental and integrated more strings so as to make the track sound a little less busy.
I feel I’m one of the only people who’s not really feeling this song. I think it would’ve helped so much if they took down the key of the song a few notches; Changmin and Yunho are already wailing at the tops of their ranges by the first few bars of the song, which doesn’t really help to compliment the chilled-out nature of the song.
7. Back To Tomorrow
I’m usually not a huge fan of dramatic epicness when it comes to ballads (a la Super Junior’s “My Love, My Kiss, My Heart”), but I really love this song. It features a really powerful and striking chord progression, and the production and engineering behind the song is top-notch. On top of that, Yunho and Changmin did a really good job ‘performing’ in the recording and it fits their voices very well, but I don’t know how it’ll carry over to live performances as the song in itself has a lot of layering and I’m not sure that they’ll have a way to carry all the intricacies of the song with just two people singing.
8. Why? (Keep Your Head Down)
Sounds slightly less offensive in Japanese. Slightly.
Conversely, this sounded better in Korean.
10. I Don’t Know
I’m still waiting for people to make up clever puns about this song’s title and the title of “I Think U Know,” but I’m starting to get the feeling that the DBSK fandom takes itself a bit too seriously for that. Meh.
Thankfully, Yunho has laid off the nasally sing-rapping for most of this album, but it makes a resurgence in this song. On top of that, Changmin has started to do this weird growly thing when he sings so it sounds as if the notes are too low for him, even though they’re perfectly within his range. The chorus is striking and powerful and it’s a well-written song, but it just wasn’t performed well and is exhausting to listen to.
I think SM bought this song from ABBA. They’re Swedish, right?
12. Flowers with the Color of Happiness
The title of this song is as needlessly long as the song itself.
Look, I don’t doubt that this is a really nice song, but I love ballads and even I don’t have the patience to sit through this one. It moves way too slowly and there isn’t much musical variation within the song itself. It’s like they took “Toki Wo Tomete,” took away half the percussion, stretched it out for six minutes, and then re-released it. It’s a nice song, Yunho and Changmin sound really pleasant on it (which is a rarity when it comes to ballads), but I would honestly rather save some time and listen to “Toki Wo Tomete” instead because they’re almost the same song.
13. Easy Mind
Don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but whistling in a song has become the new hipster trend and DBSK has caught onto it before anyone else. Good job, boys!
This song isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s good for when you’re eking out the last few pages of a term paper or skipping rope or something. Also, the word “crazy” needs to be abolished from the K-pop English dictionary forever.
Firstly, why would anyone ever name a song “Weep” – especially if the song isn’t even sad to begin with? The word “weep” just conveys a really depressing vibe regardless of the context, and I highly doubt that that’s what DBSK was going for when they were recording this song.
Once again, this song is rather forgettable, but it’s not a bad song and they sound nice on it.
15. Somebody to Love (2011 version)
Oh dear, someone needs to get me some Kleenex.
I guess SM figured that DBSK was performing this song at concerts left and right, and thought it best to re-record the song with just two voices so as to avoid any more unnecessary fandom drama. It sounds a little empty with two voices (especially that part at the end of the bridge when the five members would bounce the word “love” off of each other – gah, I teared up a little at that part). I don’t think this song will ever be the same, re-recorded or otherwise – even when HoMin performs this song during concerts, the stage looks so sparse and unenergetic and sad. Bah.
It’s funny, because nearly every single time I write a Seoulbeats post on JYJ, people automatically accuse me of being HoMin biased. Likewise, whenever I write a post on HoMin, people automatically accuse me of being JYJ biased. Truth be told, I have yet to decide where my biases lie – and yet, it’s already been a year since DBSK split and started producing new material as two separate groups. Honestly, I think my strong attachment towards the original five-membered DBSK makes it difficult for me to pick sides, because I’m still trying to reconcile with the fact that neither JYJ nor HoMin hold any resemblance to the original DBSK.
Within this past year, both groups have redefined themselves completely and are essentially two new groups with new styles, new expectations, and new goals. Considering this, I think it’s really difficult for a longtime DBSK5 fan to automatically and instinctively become a fan of either JYJ or HoMin – or even both, for that matter. It sounds counterintuitive, but in reality, JYJ and HoMin should be considered ‘new’ groups – and it’s difficult enough for a relatively open-minded fan to immediately attach themselves to a new group, let alone a jaded DBSK fan who might still be bitter about the whole breakup.
Both HoMin and JYJ have established their new identities and are sticking with them, as evidenced by the material they’ve released and the image they’ve adopted within the past year. It’s tempting to compare JYJ and HoMin’s work with DBSK’s past legacy and wish for “what could’ve been,” but in the end, it’s an unfair comparison to be making in the first place. Ultimately, we should view JYJ and HoMin not as a divided version of the original DBSK, but rather two new groups with new goals and new things to offer.
And as for this album….well, to be honest, I can’t help but be a little sad about it because with every new release, it seems as if HoMin is dropping down to the quality level of any other K-pop artist – they’re starting to follow the same gimmicky visual and musical trends as everyone else in the industry, and it’s starting to become difficult to prove that they have anything special to offer, apart from the fact that they were once part of one of the greatest pop groups to ever hit Asia. But that’s just how it is. I think a part of me will always continue to yearn for the quality of the original DBSK and constantly think of the “coulda/shoulda/woulda-been”‘s, but in the meantime, perhaps its healthier to take this two-membered DBSK and enjoy it for what it’s worth.
Besides, judging from this album, what they’re worth ain’t half bad.