History debuted earlier this year with impressive vocals and a sophisticated image. Their first single album was well-produced and gave fans high expectations for their future comebacks. They’ve stayed active online with their Guess Who and ToryTory Bang Bang web series. History returned this week with mini album Just Now and unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to expectations.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeUEOxTd8IE]

When I first heard “Tell Me Love,” the first song and single of Just Now, the electro/house break after the intro got me excited. I eagerly awaited it’s incorporation into “Tell Me Love” and was sorely disappointed. It only appeared only once more, paired with an awkward talk-rap.

Don’t get me wrong, the transitions to and from the electronic break were done well but it felt like an odd juxtaposition because the two styles are so different. Instead of a sick party beat, I got a bubblegum pop song with teasings of a house beat — it seemed unnecessary.

The rest of “Tell Me Love” is your standard run-of-the-mill pop song. Nothing makes it distinct which is sad considering how well “Dreamer” showcased History’s talent. They boys can sing but this song doesn’t show that.

20130822_seoulbeats_historyWatching a live performance leads me to believe that “Tell Me Love” was produced in order to make History conform to the normal K-pop fare. They dance much more than in “Dreamer.” The live performance also leads me to believe that the electro breaks were put into the song solely for History to show off some dance moves.

“Blind” is the next song on Just Now and it does nothing to differentiate itself from the other tracks on the album. “Blind” starts off decent but after the intro we get another not-quite-a-rap talk part that doesn’t feel cohesive with the rest of the song; I think the song would have been better without it.

“Blind” at least does a better job than “Tell Me Love” at showcasing the boys’ vocals. The boys’ voices are soft and sweet for the verses while the music is subdued. The song naturally rises to the chorus and there is a brief piano background before “Blind” goes to the next verse. Though the chorus is a bit repetitive, it isn’t unbearable and the rap is beautifully restrained.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWXL-pyToSE]

Next is “Ma Red Night” which is easily my favorite track because of it’s groovy vibe. The song talks about a night out on the town and finding that ‘spark’ with another person. It’s structured similarly to “Blind” with mellower verses and an upbeat chorus. The clapping adds a sense of urgency and energy to the song, much like an adrenaline rush after spotting a cute guy (or girl) at the club. Smartly, though, “Ma Red Night” doesn’t overuse the clapping, ensuring that the clapping is enjoyable and not annoying.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8PNrmJWMio]

Last on Just Now is “Why Not,” a cute song about convincing a shy girl(friend?) to kiss you. The best part of the song is the chorus. It’s fun and the pitching of the voices for 나빠 and 여기 (pronounced ‘nappa’ and ‘yeogi’) makes it insanely catchy. The subtle lowering and raising of the notes also adds to its catchiness.

20130822_seoulbeats_historyJust Now isn’t a bad mini-album. For another group, it might even be considered decent. However, I find it mediocre for History because their main selling point is supposed to be strong vocals; Just Now does not promote that well.

Perhaps History has changed their style to fit in amongst K-pop groups — “Tell Me Love” would certainly indicate so. I find that sad because it feels like their talent is going to waste. Although maybe I’m just being hypercritical because I’m not over Dreamer.

Just Now has decent songs but no overall theme. Combined with a lack of showcased vocals, it’s a tad disappointing to current fans. However, it might be just the thing to draw in new fans. Only the future will tell if History will continue upon this more commercialized path or return to their “Dreamer” roots.

Score: 3/5

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