seoulbeats_20130304_speed circus coverIt’s hard to believe that the SPEED that just had a comeback is the same SPEED that released “Pain, The Love of Heart.” It’s even harder to believe that it’s the group behind “Lovey Dovey Plus.” Despite a bit of an uphill battle, SPEED has been able to reinvent themselves with their first mini album, Speed Circus. It’s a reinvention into a group with the promise of greatness.

When they debuted, SPEED had to live with the history of Co-Ed School. It’s one thing to form a subgroup, but it’s a whole other thing to not know if the full group will ever make its return. In between fans that were new to SPEED and well-established Co-Ed School fans, SPEED was probably in a very difficult situation: make a new image or stick to the old one.

Releasing another version your label-mates’ song sure couldn’t have helped either. Despite Core Contents Media (CCM) branding 2013 as their debut (membership changes mean nothing), SPEED actually debuted in 2012 with “Lovey Dovey Plus.” I get that it brings attention by piggybacking off another successful group; however, it also risks pigeonholing the group as “the male T-ara.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, CCM also has this annoying habit of featuring other artists in the songs for groups — which, to me, just spells a lack of confidence. Yes, SPEED was new, but at the end of the day, the group will have to stand on their own and prove themselves. CCM short-changes a group that was seemingly good enough to debut to begin with.

Then there’s “Pain, The Love of Heart.” Admittedly, it was progress in the right direction. However, it was a Brave Brothers song. Notorious for copying himself, Brave Brothers produced a song that sounded awfully similar to everything else he’s released. SPEED shamefully became a victim of the “they sound like Teen Top” curse from fans.seoulbeats_20130304_speed don't tease me

Regardless of all these missteps along the way, SPEED took a big leap forward with Speed Circus. It was like a whole new group had been created (thankfully those new member rumors didn’t come to fruition.) SPEED has begun to separate themselves from a typical boy group, and even from a typical CCM group.

SPEED made a major image change, and not just with their new visual styles. The group breaks away from the mundane dance group, into an acrobatic group. Groups that use acrobatic moves are largely few and far between — I can only think of about 4 or 5 – so this was a pleasant surprise. The group flips and flies high.

SPEED also released three MVs, none of which was a drama version. Finally — no 15 minute-long of video that I have no interest in sitting through just to hear four minutes of music. The MVs aren’t the typical flashy, large budget MVs, either. They are largely simplistic and focused, as Taewoon asks the listeners to be with the first MV (and his solo), “Focus.”

The MV for the soft hip-hop track “Why I’m Not” was a delight. I’m a big fan of the low key, one-shot style of MVs, so I was thrilled when I watched. Additionally, there’s no sharing of one girl. It’s a relief to see a group of guys actually helping their friend save his relationship.

“Don’t Tease Me” was such a huge disappointment, MV-wise. It could have possibly been the best MV this year if they had capitalized on the circus theme. Instead, it was just showcase footage. The song, however, is fun and catchy.

Their musical style also changed, and for the better. SPEED has gone hip-hop, but not in a contrived manner. If anything, the group has finally found what they have always been and effectively using their talents.

Having a group member who can legitimately create music is important in a group’s development. When it comes to truly creating character and style, having a say in what you create and promote is vital. It defines how the public views you as a group.

A big instigator in defining SPEED is the group’s leader, Taewoon. For Speed Circus, Taewoon participated in the writing of the lyrics and the music for all the tracks. For three of the tracks, he was the sole lyricist. He also reminds people that he’s actually a rapper, not just a “playing-pretend idol-rapper” and raspy-voiced hook singer.

Of course, this has created another predicament for SPEED. Taewoon is one of the Woo Brothers, along with younger brother Zico. The two are incredibly similar; from their voices to their musical styles. Comparisons between Block B and SPEED are now abounding, and hopefully, those comparisons will stop.

Despite CCM being arguably one of the worst companies at managing artists, SPEED is going in the right direction. The group has effectively begun moving from CCM’s shadow and finding their own color.

Ratings (MV and song):

“Why I’m Not”: 4/5

“Don’t Tease Me”: 4/5

 (CoreMidas, YouTube)