4Minute‘s Hyuna has been a very busy girl since her last solo release, Melting, promoting on 4Minute’s Name is 4Minute, the return of Trouble Maker, appearing on Brave Brothers‘ tenth anniversary album, and 4Minute promotions again for 4Minute World. Now nearly two years later, she’s back with her third EP, A Talk. And it’s very relevant that it’s two years later, as music in 2014 is in the post-EDM phase. Remember that phrase: Post-EDM.
“A Talk”, the intro track, firmly establishes the Hyuna of A Talk as a more mature version of herself than the Hyuna who graced K-pop with songs like “Bubble Pop!” and “Ice Cream”. It’s very slow and stripped down. There’s just the beat, the snaps and Hyuna’s voice. This is Hyuna The Superstar, one who is confident in her abilities and unrepentant about her bold self.
Following “A Talk” is shockingly not the promoted single, “Red”. Instead, we’re treated to “French Kiss”, which carries the Hyuna bold theme. “French Kiss” is clearly molded after the dance club songs that have been dominating American charts for a while. It’s extremely repetitive, both in beat and lyrics. Seriously, there is about one minute of song here repeated three times. And even for a club song, “French Kiss” is an accomplishment in inanity. About 60% of the chorus is “eh”, and between that and the pre-chorus build, nine lines of lyrics make up three-quarters of the song.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msOw45T0yK4]
Now we’re at title track “Red”. It’s not common that the best track on a release is the one chosen to promote with, but “Red” far outshines anything else on A Talk. This is both encouraging and depressing. “Red” is a decent club banger, nothing more. You’ll definitely shake your ass when it’s on, but I doubt you’d remember the name when it’s over. Still, Hyuna’s voice has never sounded this good, and she delivers this song magnificently.
Following two upbeat dance tracks, it’s time for the requiste ballad, “From When and Until When” featuring Yoseob of Beast. Dear lord, what happened to Yoseob’s falsetto? He sounds like he’s both really straining to hit the notes and singing through his nose. AND it opens the track. Other than that, “From When and Until When” doesn’t really stick in your mind. Hyuna sounds decent, but everything else is completely and utterly average.
The mini closes with “Blacklist” featuring LE of EXID. It’s very much in the vein of “French Kiss”. Repetitive beat, repetitive lyrics, only more boring and same-y. Hyuna and LE are almost impossible to tell apart based on the audio alone. Also, a quick note: if someone’s on a blacklist, they’re not on a last chance, they’ve blown their last chance. Being blacklisted means being shut out entirely.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sa1nZJB9Uc]
Overall, A Talk isn’t good or bad; it’s average. Painfully, boringly average. There is almost nothing to say about any of these songs other than noting the fact that they exist. It’s not Hyuna’s fault though. The failure lies in the production. The songs are basic, stripped down, reduced to nothing but her voice over the beat. What we have here is bad post-EDM pop.
EDM, or electronic dance music is a style of music that began regaining traction in clubs around 2010, before breaking into the mainstream in 2012, and then dominating the American pop scene in 2013, which might explain why music was so bad last year. EDM is characterized by complex, semi-repeating beats, a lack of other instruments, and crediting the music as songs of the producer over the singer. Some of the better known EDM producers are David Guetta and Avicii.
Now, the key aspect of EDM is that the beat is the main focus, so there’s not a lot embellishments. Layers, yes. Complexity, sure. But overall, EDM is the beat and the voice. And as it conqured the charts, pop music began to incorporate EDM into the mainstream. One such artist is Katy Perry with “Dark Horse”, which has trap EDM elements. Hyuna’s A Talk is another. The issue is when pop producers began trying to replicate EDM, they mistook “stripped down” for repetitive.
Good EDM, and the pop derived from it, is not repetitive. It has highs and lows, changes keys, and uses powerhouse singers to add the depth to the melody that is often lost. For a great example, check out Ariana Grande and Zedd‘s “Break Free”. Bad post-EDM pop, on the other hand, has a 30-second beat repeated over and over, never changing. This is the problem with A Talk. No beat is good enough that you won’t be bored by the end, and it’s used on. Every. Freaking. Song. Hyuna’s lack of vocal range doesn’t help.
She does the best she can with A Talk, but the production is so dull that she can’t save it on performance alone. In the end, this is a perfectly average mini, with nothing memorable about it, good or bad.