20130219_seoulbeats_aileeIt’s no secret that Ailee has talent. She has amazing vocals, great control over her register, and a strong, charismatic stage presence. Her second mini-album, “A’s Doll House,” further explores her abilities and is an improvement from her solid but bland first mini-album, “Invitation.”

“U&I” is the single from the album and it exceeds expectations. The song is not only catchy but it exudes Ailee’s style and confidence. The song sounds exceptionally well composed with its brass line-up and funky, showtune-like sound. The high energy only adds to the powerful feeling of the song and it suits Ailee’s voice extremely well. Although Ailee is talented enough to adapt her voice to different styles, none of her songs so far have complemented her voice as well as “U&I.” In addition, the lyrics are empowering as Ailee sings about wanting to end a relationship that only brings her down. The only complaint I have about “U&I” is that Ailee’s voice tends to get a bit lost during the chorus when the brass instruments kick in. Despite that, the song is masterfully composed and few singers could pull it off as well as Ailee.

“No No No” continues the trend of empowerment as Ailee rejects a player’s false love. The music tones down for the verses and rises for the chorus in a minimalistic way that allows the focus to still be on the lyrics. This also highlights the chorus lyrics in a more powerful way than the verse lyrics. It’s a great song — catchy with a good message — but coming after “U&I” on the album, it pales in comparison.

“Rainy Day” uses Ailee’s vocals in the background as a complement to her singing, similar to “Heaven,” but whereas “Heaven” was hopeful, “Rainy Day” is troubled. Ailee embodies the desperate lyrics best during the bridge but her pain is also evident throughout the song. The song starts off subdued but builds up naturally before falling into the chorus. “Rainy Day” is perfect for when you’re looking for a sad song that’s not a ballad. And if you’re feeling dramatic, you can mix it with Rainy Mood.

“How Could You Do This To Me” is the requisite slow tempo song but Ailee saves it from being boring with her superb vocal control. She keeps her voice mostly soft but her pitch changes are still distinct and she restrains her high notes so they don’t overpower the rest of the song. I like the decision to stay restrained because too often idols go for that high note at the peak of the song just to impress. Everyone already knows Ailee can hit high notes- she doesn’t need to prove it here. Even when Ailee hits the highest notes of the song, she doesn’t drag them out and the song is better for it.

“Scandal” seems out of place between “How Could You Do This To Me” and “I’ll Be Okay” but I like the song so much that it’s not a big deal. The song starts off lightly but when the piano and drums kick in, you feel the song start to take another turn. The drums building up give it an epic feeling but the song doesn’t go all out and overwhelm. Instead, the song plays it smart and holds back, making the listener want more. This is wise because it makes Ailee’s voice the focus of the song instead of the instruments. Right when you think the drums and piano should crescendo, Ailee’s voice takes over and becomes the core of the song. In addition, the lyrics are resentful without sounding bitter and Ailee sings it amazingly well. This song would make a great second single.

I can see why “I’ll Be Okay” is the ending song of the mini album but it just doesn’t deliver for me. It’s meant to be another empowering song to end off the album but it falls flat. I think my biggest problem with this song is that it doesn’t use Ailee’s voice smartly. As I said earlier, Ailee can adapt her voice to many styles, but that doesn’t mean she should. Most of the tracks on A’s Doll House suit Ailee’s voice and even complement it but this song fails in that regard. Ailee’s singing is messy except for when she harmonizes with Bigtone and the song itself is better suited for a girl group than a solo singer.

Although not perfect, this mini album is a step in the right direction for Ailee. “U&I” not only showcases Ailee’s vocals well, but it stands out from the electronic pop that currently dominates K-pop. The album contains well-composed tracks and manages to demonstrate Ailee’s vocal versatility. “A’s Doll House” makes up for the disappointing message of the MV of “I’ll Show You” with empowering lyrics that still manage to convey the pain, hurt, and desperation that often come with love. Ailee has tremendous talent but will only succeed if her company continues to give her good material like they’ve done with A’s Doll House.

Rating: 3.9/5

(YMC Entertainment, YouTube [1],[2],[3])