Se7en came back this week with the littlest of fanfare with his second mini-album, which coincides with his first Japanese single of 2012. A couple of days ago, my colleague Jessie reviewed the mini-album favorably, but I have to say that I found the mini-album forgettable, and mediocre at best. It actually irritates me how mediocre this mini-album is, because it’s clear that YG Entertainment spends a considerable amount of their resources on Big Bang and 2NE1, but what of their once face-of-the-label-solo-star-who-rivaled-Rain-who-was-good-enough-for-an-American-crossover-attempt? YG, why so weaksauce with Se7en?
I want to preface by saying that I don’t think that any of the songs on this mini are bad. There are plenty of mainstream artists in K-pop who release a lot of full-of-nothing tracks, disregarding actual music for image, choreography, and concept. I don’t think that’s the case here with Se7en, but this album is so much of an easy listening experience that I almost fell asleep during said experience. “내가 노래를 못해도,” the hype collaboration with JYP, just kind of plods along until it’s over, and for the love of god, this is supposed to be the title track, with a shiny music video and everything…!
Unfortunately I think the two most interesting songs off the mini are “SOMEBODY ELSE” and “ANGEL,” which while pleasant to listen to, sound like part 1 and part 2 of the same song. And even more unfortunate is the fact that the mini peaked at those two songs: the rest of the tracks are as forgettable and tonally bland as “내가 노래를 못해도.”
I can’t remember the last time YG Entertainment put out such an uninteresting piece of work. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, find them stale or refreshing, fierce or fun, YG knows how to put out music that gets people talking. This is where I have a gripe with YG Entertainment: it’s obvious that over the years, YG has spent less and less money and effort on Se7en. Yes, you can argue that companies by default spend less effort on acts that have faded in popularity over the years, or spend less money on acts that will bring in less return, but I think the drastic difference in quality of music between YG’s main acts and Se7en is saddening.
It’s obvious that Taeyang is slowly working out to be the next Se7en in YG, and where all of YG’s efforts are concentrated in terms of pumping out the next pop soloist (as opposed to Psy and Tablo, who are sort of the helter-skelter, slightly more artiste types of the company). It’s also obvious that Taeyang may be getting better music overall because he carries popularity as a member of Big Bang and thus is likely to turn all his music into cha-ching.
But consider Se7en’s Korean comeback in 2010, a comeback that one can’t help but compare with BoA‘s: comebacks from solo artists who debuted in a decade earlier, who also promoted in the States around the same time a few years prior. Both were now coming back after considerable absence from the Korean market. I loved “Better Together,” but there’s no denying that this song is not the most impressive or splishy-splashy a three-year absent artist should come back with. “Digital Bounce” had a lot of pizzazz, but it’s hard not to notice the fact that TOP‘s rap and swag is what gives the song its pop and attitude. So you have a comeback that’s too safe and uncomplicated, and then an intro that’s dominated by a featuring artist.
While you wouldn’t call “Hurricane Venus” a huge runaway hit, it definitely made a mark bigger than “Better Together” and it definitely felt like SM put more effort into making sure that K-pop knew that a veteran was coming back.
YG, on the other hand, gave Se7en a mini-album, one song of which is an intro, and two songs of which were originally meant for his American album…that never got made. That’s just sad times, people, sad times.
It’s probably a fact that Se7en’s fanbase has lessened over the years due to activities outside of Se7en, but it just doesn’t feel like Se7en’s skills as are performer are equally matched with the quality of the work that he gets. And that’s a shame because Se7en is a great performer and those qualities he has as a performer are sorely underused. He’s got a great, mellow voice that I feel is universally palatable. He’s not a vocal powerhouse, which is just fine by me, because I feel that people conflate being a good singer with being a vocal powerhouse in K-pop, which just isn’t true. This also means that he’s capable of taking on a large variety of styles: this could’ve just as easily been a Se7en song as a Taeyang one.
On top of that, Se7en’s such a fluid dancer. There are dancers who are good, but look like they have to exert so much energy into their dancing to get it to look right. And then there’s Se7en, who moves like he’s got dance radiating from his body.
It’s sad when you’re performing one of your solo career’s biggest hits on one of the most important stages of the year and two of your hubaes basically hijack your song from you. This is how it should be done, like a pro, six years after first promoting it.
So…can we go back to giving Se7en good music again? I’m not asking for fancy props and outrageous clothing. Just give Se7en some better songs, YG.