If Superstar K is seen as the Korean version of American Idol, then I guess Seo In-guk is the Korean Version of Kelly Clarkson, having won the first season of the hit talent show. His music following the win tended to follow the typical sad ballad formula, as seen with “”Calling You”” and “Broken”, but a move to Jellyfish Entertainment saw a change in style, first with the release of the mellow mid-tempo track “”Love U,” where Seo also gets to rap, and then with fun dance track “Shake It Up”, which was discussed on Seoulbeats.
His latest release, an EP entitled Perfect Fit, sees a maturation in Seo’s style while still retaining some of the cheeky impishness of “Shake It Up.” Seo has been busy promoting title track “Tease Me” on music shows whilst also appearing in K-drama Love Rain. The album comprises four tracks and an instrumental, and comes with some very nice pictures–let me just say, the guy looks hot in his concept photos–but is this album a perfect fit for the singer?
The album starts of with the slow-paced “Bad.” The beginning almost sounds like a lullabye, but once the clicking kicks in, the song become less sugary-sweet and more smoooooth. Seriously, this is one of those songs made to have playing when you’ve brought a special someone home–it’d make for a great seduction aid. It does get a tad melodramatic towards the end, but the pick-up in tempo works well to lead into the rest of the album, which is decidedly more up-tempo than “Bad.”
2. Tease Me
The title track, “Tease Me” features a guitar riff and a lighter, more laidback feel than “Bad.” The MV for this song is sweet too, with Seo portraying a film stunt driver who has fallen for the lead actress (played by his Love Rain co-star Son Eun-seo). He daydreams about speeding away with her and confessing his feelings, but is also afraid of taking things too fast, as symbolised by the car crash. Setting the story on a film set allowed for the fakeout with the crash to be more plausible, and it also serves to put everything into perspective–it isn’t the end of the world if the guy ends up jeopardising this relationship, but you can also empathise with his concern to not stuff it up. It also matches the feel of the song, which is breezy and casual. Again, hearing real instruments is always a treat, such as the aforementioned guitar and the strings which really come to the fore during the chorus and bridge, but never overwhelm the song.
Seo In-guk’s voice is beautiful, but it truly shines when he sings in a lower register–the best part of the song though is the drop in Seo’s voice when he sings “tease me” at the end of the chorus–and it’s for this reason I prefer the verses to the chorus of the song. Seo has a perfectly serviceable falsetto, but his voice doesn’t really suit high notes here; they come off sounding rather whiny, especially when he’s not belting out an adlib, and it’s really noticeable in this song.
Why do I keep hearing “Drops of Jupiter” whenever this song starts to play? I know that Seo In-guk’s music tends to have a more western feel to it, but the beginning of the song is too reminiscent of Train for me. I hope the lyrics aren’t as convoluted–and I say ‘hope’ because other than “Tease Me”, I have very little idea what Seo is on about in this album (anyone kind enough to translate, please let me know in the comments!) Luckily, rapper Swings kindly informs me that “Time Machine” is about “heart broken people, people who want to ride a time machine,” which is rather sweet of him. I could also describe the song using the same word: sweet, and more like pop music than the previous tracks. Not how I was expecting to describe a song about heartbreak, but there you go. It has an uplifting sound to it,but the instrumentation wasn’t too interesting. Swings’ rap was OK, but one of the more forgettable parts of the song.
4. Brand New Day
The last song of any K-pop album tends to be a curveball, and the right-left-right-left effect at the beginning does throw you. “Brand New Day” is littered with clipped notes and abrupt pauses that give the illusion of it having a slower tempo than it actually does. Rather than sounding disjointed, though, this staccato effect is executed well, giving the song a clean feel to it, and adds something new and different to the album. Seo’s voice is especially nice here, and I enjoyed his rapping here than I did Swings’. The only real criticism would be that the song got a bit repetitive, which slightly lessened the impact of the ending.
Perfect Fit feels more youthful than the image Seo In-guk is putting forth, mostly due to “Time Machine” and “Brand New Day;” But within the context of his career, these songs fit in perfectly with Seo’s musical progression. While I enjoyed Seo’s voice, my lack of Korean language knowledge hampered my enjoyment of the album itself–though this is through no fault of Seo himself. Seo provides some variety in Perfect Fit, which is always a great thing to see; what I would love to see, though, would be more mixing of maturity and youthfulness in Seo’s sound. Even within the album, “Bad” has a more mature sound that starts to vanish in the subsequent tracks; greater consistency in that sense would really pull the album together and make it sound more cohesive.
All in all, it’s a well executed effort, and for that I give it 3.8 out of 5.