Rookie group VIXX is back with their first mini-album Hyde. The six members came together as finalists on MNet‘s reality show Mydol, and even though they debuted last May, with the rather weak (but promising) “Super Hero,” they’ve upped the ante with each single since then. And Hyde is no exception.
After announcing a return with a more “powerful visual,” VIXX has somehow managed to top “On and On.” In Hyde, they use a dark angel concept as an overarching metaphor for the darkness in a relationship.
The album kicks off with “Light Me Up,” a song about a guy who feels like he is about to suffocate in the darkness. The guy in question is distressed over a girl he loves, who is out of reach; she’s also his only way to survival. He calls her his “ray of light” in all of the darkness of his world. Except for the random English phrase “work your body” that they repeat more for catchiness than lyricism, this is definitely the most figurative track.
The music itself is a slower electronic hip-hop track that had me bobbing my head from the first listen. The electric guitar in the background immediately made me think of Framing Hanley‘s cover of “Lollipop,” but this song is completely different as it relies heavily on the vocals of the group. The higher tones that they use here are mixed with the beat machine, and this combination works wonders to create a catchy — albeit not too different from what’s out there — club beat that belies its dark meaning.
“Hyde,” the single off the album, continues with that metaphor of dark versus light. The lyrics are about a guy who has a dark side, who treats the girl he loves badly. Basically, he abuses her, but he claims that he has no control over it — a Hyde to his Jekyll — hence the name of the song. The music video confuses me a bit with the concept of dark angels combined with this Jekyll-Hyde theme, but it’s still a great visual experience.
The synthpop track is the typical sound for VIXX, but it showcases their vocal skills better than their previous singles. I’ve had difficulty liking their other songs as I’ve found that they haven’t been good enough for their talent and thus become forgettable. Here though, the electronic music with the catchy hook actually sticks in my head as it showcases their vocals; the verses also hold their own.
“Stop Enduring” again continues with this theme of difficulties in a relationship like in “Hyde,” though obviously to a lesser degree. The song is about a couple who have been having trouble because of moving too fast and are trying to take things slowly instead. Minah of Girl’s Day joins them on the R&B-influenced track, and — love her or hate her — her voice suits the style wonderfully.
Her high range contrasts nicely with Ravi‘s deep voice and rapping, which I for once thoroughly enjoyed. Even VIXX themselves have voices that go with the R&B genre perfectly, making this song a definite highlight on the album. I just wish they’d make more music like this.
The next track “Chaos” switches gears musically. The more bass-heavy song is about a guy who has fallen hard for a girl, and the thought of her drives him crazy. It reminds me somewhat of the meaning of Shinee‘s “Lucifer.” The track has a great retro edge with the bass and drums, but it also retains VIXX’s signature synthpop sound. I can’t tell what it is, but it feels like something is missing in the song, leaving it a little flat for me. But I also must admit that the repetition of “dangerous” in the chorus is incredibly catchy, and I find myself repeating it.
“Love Letter” is a lovely break among all of the faster paced tracks. The title is quite literal as it is a letter of confession. Their voices soar over a simple arrangement of guitar, piano and drums. While they sound a bit whiny in certain parts, they show that they can actually sing, which isn’t always apparent in their more synth-driven tracks. I simply wish it had come sooner in the album, to give us a real breather in between rather than at the end.
While I find their English in just about every song unnecessary and distracting — especially that in “Hyde” since they say essentially the same thing at the beginning of it and the immediately preceding track “Light Me Up” — I think my chief issue with the album is the track arrangement.
With such a distinct concept, it could’ve been stronger had the songs been ordered to follow a story, even if was somewhat of a stretch. I would’ve preferred an opening with “Chaos,” which would then have led to “Light Me Up,” and “Love Letter.” “Hyde” would’ve provided the perfect climax before ending with “Stop Enduring.” Giving the album more of a narrative would’ve elevated it to a different level.
While this album is a step in the right direction in regard to the material VIXX has, their potential still goes beyond it, and this is evident in my favorite track “Stop Enduring.” This happens with many rookie groups though, and especially with those from smaller companies. While the fault would logically fall on VIXX’s management, Jellyfish Entertainment, the company’s history is filled mostly with work for ballad artists; this makes their work with VIXX a new experience. VIXX has improved considerably since their debut. Let’s just hope that they continue to do so.