So Ji-sub is a man of numerous talents. Though he began his career in the public eye as a model, he has since gone on to be probably best known as an actor with side projects in other arts through his photo-essays and unexpectedly large discography. He hasn’t released an abundance of music as a whole, but he has released something every year since 2008, whether it’s a single that maybe contributes to his current drama or extended plays like in 2012 with Corona Borealis and this year with 6PM…Ground. As an avid consumer of hip-hop music, it’s no surprise that the music So has been involved in has reflected hip-hop influences.

So Ji-sub was able to create his latest album as a result of Mnet‘s ‘Collabo One’ project in which they invite celebrities that aren’t musicians to work with professionals to produce music in different styles. Taking advantage of the opportunity, So participated heavily in the production of the album, even participating in the lyrics for his songs. Starting on January 9th, KM‘s Music Triangle aired behind-the-scenes footage of the work done for 6PM…Ground each week, ending on January 23rd, the day of release for the album.

6PM…Ground contains four tracks in total with all but the last song containing featuring artists. For the music videos of these four tracks, a twelve minute drama separated into four music videos was created, starring So Ji-sub along with Yoo Seung-ho and Park Shin-hye. At the moment of this writing, the first two are out for “Picnic” featuring Younha and “Eraser” featuring Mellow.

“Picnic” starts off with the sound of children and So Ji-sub’s rap to light guitar. His rap is rather rhythmic and lulling, albeit in a good way. Younha joins in on the fun a bit later, providing a sweet melody for the guitar to accompany. Each person provides a different perspective of a relationship, yet both are able to relate it to a picnic or excursion for kids: So’s lyrics express fluttering in excitement of the prospect of a trip while Younha’s are of the parting at the end of it, the goodbye. Another interesting touch is the use of whistling to carry on the melody during So’s raps: it corresponds to his lyrics, “Please answer me like a whistle. I get nervous at the words, I love you.” The song as a whole comes together to be light with the vocals contrasting well, ending on a slightly melancholic tone with Younha’s words.

In contrast to “Picnic,” “Eraser” starts off strong with some incorporation of brass and a faster beat. It almost sounds like a showtune primarily because of the stronger sounds and incorporation of effects that seem fitting for a drama. After a pounding delivery for most of the song, the ending is lighter, winding the song down. The fast-paced movement of the song matches the speed at which an already failing relationship just simply ends. Also in this song, like in “Picnic,” there are two distinct sides. So’s portion is hit the hardest by this ending, desiring to ask the woman to come back but unable to get the words out. Mellow’s parts are significantly more willing to let the relationship go due to lost feelings. Both express the need to use an “eraser” to remove the feelings, though, reflecting So’s sentiments, his lines in the chorus relay his desire to not be forgotten by the other. And just a couple of favorite lyrics:

Hold on, this is too quick,
You’re being too one-sided.
You know my occupation is
To cry and laugh like a clown.

If this was a movie, I would be able
To catch you in two hours.
If I had one more chance, we would
Have had more things to laugh at.
But it’s not easy – even when you hold my hand,
Your face doesn’t tremble.
I can be better but I cannot completely change you.

“Rulers” features Takers, the R&B/hip-hop duo best known from their appearance on Superstar K4. The building instrumental is particularly catchy, setting a good background for the rapping portions. So’s rapping shows a different style here, matching the rhythm and feel much better than anticipated. Takers shows off their harmonization skills to add to the depth of the song, with some of their slight syncopation being unexpectedly delightful. The contrast between So’s husk and lower pitches works well with the tenors of Takers, really working the song. The song ends with some snippets of the previous two songs, contributing to the overall sorrowful mood.

Last on the album is “6PM…Ground.” It begins with a phone call to a woman, before launching into a monologue enhanced by the simple piano in the background. The melody is soon taken by synthesizer sounds that help move the track forward before the piano returns. Also returning is the sound of children from “Picnic,” allowing the album to come full circle. This track provides a definitive end to the album, but as music, it misses the mark. And that’s because I can’t really classify this as a song. It’s a monologue, fitting for the 12-minute mini-drama for which the EP provides a soundtrack, with a nice instrumental. Though as the last track of the album, it functions as a good close.

As the first product of Mnet’s Collabo One project, 6PM…Ground is really well made and increases expectations for the next entertainer to participate. The album tells a story, and due to its shorter length, makes a music video for each part actually feasible. Even though I was aware of So Ji-sub’s previous involvement with music, his skills displayed in this album still come as a surprise, especially through the different styles he was able to employ, keeping his track from being one note. The biggest letdown to a non-Korean speaking fan is probably the last track, though, of course, it may hold greater joy for those that can understand it. The use of other vocalists to prop up the singing parts was excellently chosen with the contrast in voices making each song interesting.

Overall Score: 4/5

Seoulmates, did any of you expect this album from So Ji-sub? What did you think?

(eNewsWorld, Kromanized [Picnic] [Eraser], CJENMMUSIC, BubbleFeetGravityCH4, Mnet Media, Images via Giordano, High Cut)