Jewelry, probably best known for their countless member changes and for being the longest running girl group in K-pop history, has recently come back with mini-album Look At Me. While in technicality, the name Jewelry is the longest running brand in K-pop, many consider the Jewelry of then and the Jewelry of now completely different beings, and justifiably so. While the Jewelry of the past was known for its charismatic combination of sex appeal and class, the new Jewelry just fails to deliver, tarnishing the name of the once royal group.
Most are familiar with the group’s most notable lineup, consisting of Park Jung-ah, Seo In-young, Baby J, and Eunjung. I was originally attracted to the group through Seo In-young and her countless variety appearances, of which included SBS‘s Heroes and We Got Married. I subsequently fell in love with the group’s undeniable charisma and charm, and their album Sophisticated, previously described by Johnelle, remains one of my absolute favorite K-pop albums ever. However, following the departure of previously mentioned Seo In-young and leader and last remaining original member Park Jung-ah, my interest with the group dwindled tremendously.
My interest in the group was rekindled upon hearing of new member Yewon‘s participation on Invincble Youth 2. Immediately, the endearing girl grabbed my attention with her good-natured attitude and lively humor. I swear, she’s one of the few things actually worth watching in the very flawed and inconsistent show. But even if Yewon was able to get Jewelry’s name back in circulation, as a whole, the new Jewelry just failed to connect with the updated K-pop scene. Their returning single “Break It Up” can only be described as mediocre at best, and “Pass” is definitely not the best song out there, to say the least. Many former fans, this author including, would have preferred to let the name Jewelry rest and let this new line-up start fresh, since it wouldn’t have created such an impossible standard for this virtually new group to try to keep up with.
One of the reasons many were disappointed in the new Jewelry was due to the group’s disregard of the original concept the old Jewelry solidified. Jewelry’s music was always sassy and bombastic, yet also femininely refined, to the point it became a niche in K-pop during the group’s prime. However, “Break It Up” and “Pass” were huge steps away from this already established niche that it basically isolated most former fans of the group. Both singles were notably more childlike and less substantial, and to say Jewelry didn’t mesh well with that concept is a pretty big understatement.
While the group’s lineup is significantly different now that what it used to be, I still believed that the essence of the group could be revived. And thus, one of my wishes for this most recent comeback was for the group to embrace their roots a bit more and cater to that niche their precedents strived to solidify. Thankfully, Look At Me attempts this feat, but is it really able to live up to the original Jewelry’s fame?
The album starts with a small intro, “Rhythm HA.” The song is a simple one, with a minimalistic stable beat framing Baby J’s rapping. Baby J’s (at times admittedly incomprehensible) rapping has always been charismatic and a treat for the ears, and she showcases it well through this song, being the sole attraction of the song. Her tone changes keep the song intriguing to listen to, and while she’s borderline screaming during some moments, her intensity keeps the song from getting boring. The perky track starts the high pacing of the album straight way, pumping up the listener for what’s to come and starting the album on the right foot. In that sense, “Rhythm HA” fulfills all the requirements of an effective opening.
The mini’s title single “Look At Me” follows, and it’s the perfect choice as a lead single for this Jewelry. The funky instruments, the spunky vocals, and the flirty nature are all reminiscent of the old Jewelry but crafted in a way to accommodate the newer members and recent trends in K-pop. There’s attitude and an intensity in the vocals of the girls, particularly in the verses and the (glorious) pre-chorus, that’s highly representative of the girls’ potent vocal ability. However, while being impressively serious when needed, the song in its entirety keeps an air of fun and enjoyability. Even Baby J’s rap is perfectly transitioned into the song, serving as a refreshing change of pace. My only real complaint is the notable hook of the song. While certainly catchy and addicting, it’s also a bit of a mouthful, disrupting the flow of the otherwise melodic song.
The next song in the album is “Party Rebel,” a song so deliciously influenced by the sound of the 90’s. The bass, drum beats, and the harmonies give the song a very old-school vibe despite the song’s abundant vocal processing. The song is very reliant on its hook, and there are moments where the vocal processing could potentially get grating. But while this is true, the fluidity of the song balance these more grating moments out, creating quite an intriguing listen. Furthermore, the change in pace seen during the song’s bridge and later in Baby J’s rap were wonderful applications, surprisingly matching perfectly with the context of the rest of the song.
“Me Too” serves as the mandatory ballad in most K-pop albums. However unlike most other K-pop ballads, the slower song avoids the filler label due to its more interesting Jamaican vibes. The melody and vocals by themselves are far from remarkable. While Semi, Yewon, and Eunjung are more than capable singers, the uninspired progression would have kept the song from standing out. However the arrangement and the previously mentioned exotic vibes not only keep the song more distinctive than other K-pop ballads, but it also helps the song keep up with the perkier mood of the rest of the album while providing a much appreciated relief in pace. While certainly an enjoyable listen, my complaints lie in Baby J’s rap. I usually love her raps, though in this song, she sounded a bit too intense compared to her group members that she clashed with the mood and tone of the rest of the memorable song.
The last song of the album is “Single, Single,” a song with a very fun electro sound that perfectly complements the girls’ lighter and smoother voices. It’s a perky laid-back song, but it keeps from being too annoying, holding back when it needs to. The slight dubstep employed wasn’t that atrocious or disruptive, actually coinciding with Baby J’s rap tastefully. The song itself is definitely nothing new to K-pop, actually employing almost all the recent trends present in the genre lately. However, while slightly unoriginal, it’s an acceptable closer for an overall consistent album, ending the album with a perky and feel-good note.
Overall a highly enjoyable listen, Look At Me presented everything I wanted from this new Jewelry and more, fully showcasing the potential of the reemerging group in a very cohesive and consistent album. All of the songs in the mini complement each other so well, matching thematically, musically, and progressively. Cohesiveness is a rare sight when it comes to K-pop albums, so Jewelry gets credit where credit is due. With this effort, I believe Jewelry has found — or more accurately found again — its footing, and I hope they stick with this path since it could take them pretty far.
So Seoulmates, what did you think of Jewelry’s comeback? Did they get your attention? Or are they still as desperate as before? Nevertheless, I give the album a 4.1/5 for its cohesiveness and for the wonders it has done for Jewelry. Feel free to give your rating below!
(Star Empire Entertainment, OCLipstick)