After a breakout year in 2013, the boys of Vixx have expanded their reach with a couple of key releases this year. Including Error, Vixx has made two comebacks in Korea this year. 2014 also marks the year that Vixx has expanded into the Japanese market with their debut album Darkest Angels dropping in July.
Vixx is a group associated with the supernatural concept. With Eternity, they side stepped supernatural and dealt with a broader sci-fi element of time – possibly attempting to appeal to a wider audience. The group’s collection of songs often deals with love, loss, separation, and relationships. These topics, while not the most novel subjects, become more fantastic with the inclusion of the unconventional supernatural elements sprinkled within the lyrics and some electronic experimentation in composition of the songs. Error does a great job of taking a sci-fi concept of the cyborg and running with it throughout the mini-album. Some of this can be attributed to the utilization of producer Melodesign who helped to produce two songs along with the intro track. Error sees the group refining their package and adapting a concept that is more science fiction than mythical.
The opener “Steel Heart” is an intriguing forty nine seconds. It immediately sets the mood for the album. There are sounds of machinery, possibly in a factory, that immediately fills the space. A melancholic piano and bass line take over the noise before the buildup shifts to a dubstep breakdown. It smartly juxtaposes the machinery sounds with dubstep — which is a genre that is highly computerized — to produce a futuristic effect. Also, the ending of the intro builds towards the next song “Error” by adding heavy breathing to close out the track, introducing a stirring human component to the mix.
A similar piano line starts in “Error.” This song was chosen as the title track and was composed by Melodesign and Hwang Se-joon. “Error” starts off slowly with a hazy landscape. The layered vocals add to the emotional turmoil that is presented in the lyrics. The story being told by Vixx is how they are unable to let go of their previous lover.
“If I hold onto you, it hurts,
But if I let you go, it hurts even more.
This place is deeper than a dream inside a dream.
I have no confidence to escape from it.”
The boys are not just singing about an unwillingness to let go, though – it is also about being unable to escape from their feelings. The pain is something that feels absolute, and that is a heavy idea that resonates through this track. To ease through this overwhelming emotion, the composition adds a danceable beat. The emotional tone still lingers between desperate and heartbroken, but to alleviate an overwhelming sense of depression, the upbeat dance beats and the cyborg theme add different films to view this story under.[youtube https://youtu.be/jmBSrfcxdQA]
“After Dark” is likely my favorite song off the mini-album. It hearkens back to their more gothic title tracks of the past. The song’s lyrics pair the idea of a lover leaving the protagonist of the song before morning comes with the fleeing person being likened to a ghostly apparition that only appears when the sun is gone and the moon is out. Ken stands out in this song as he takes liberties with his ad-libs and singing. Also, Ravi’s rap fits better here than it did in “Error.” His line “I sleep with my eyes open in case you leave me” is chilling and captures this palpable sense of desperation that incurs after darkness creeps away, and they are left alone in the light.
“Youth Hurts” is the standard ballad that is included here. A cracking static breaks the first few seconds — lining the track with a hint of nostalgia. There is a steady drum beat with a few keys of a piano that permeates the duration of the track. A few strings are plucked here and there, but the focus is of course on the vocals. Leo’s higher tone shines as emotion is just flowing out of him. Hyuk and Hongbin show a steady improvement in their vocals during their lines as well. While not a revolutionary song or one that may particularly stand out for any reason, it is still a pleasant ballad that shows some growth in the group’s ability to emote during a song.
If “Youth Hurts” lyrics are a wistful glance at the past, “Time Machine” plays like a happy look back to one’s childhood. The song sounds like a mixture of “G.R.8.U” and Owl City and Carly Jepsen’s “Good Time.” It is overtly pop and is likely one of the happier sounding songs you’ll hear from the group. Personally, it is not the type of song that appeals to me. The production feels completely unoriginal, and I would not have minded if this was left off the mini-album. It’s a fluffy filler that sticks out on the album for unfavorable reasons.[youtube https://youtu.be/7g5LNYWHydM]
The last song is one that Ravi both wrote and composed. “What U Waiting For” lyrically deviates from the rest of the album with its thematic usage of time being distorted to function not as a glimpse of the past but rather as time running out for their female interest. In this song, they are the impatient, self proclaimed ‘bad boys’ who wait on a girl to accept her destiny (spoiler alert: they are her destiny or at least they insist on it). The production is sleek and also heavy with a variety of synths and bass. I especially like the vocal effects that are used to distort some of the singing at the beginning. N is much more intriguing in these darker roles because he seems to put forward a stronger persona that seeps through his singing. My favorite part of the song is the short falsetto bits after the chorus because it feels like a personal plea, where the pitch of a voice often goes higher under duress. “What U Waiting For” is a great closer that shows off Ravi’s ability to craft an intriguing song.
Error is a collection of songs that does not feel the need to shy away from Vixx’s strengths. A couple of tracks keep the mini-album from being free of flaws, but the themes and lyrical thread tie together this solid showing from the group. There were some great moments that showcased why Vixx is able to stand out amongst their peers. Their ability to take a typical love song and add interesting themes and elements help them to shine. It’s also great to see Ravi take on more production, and with more time and experience, he’ll only grow to be a greater asset to the team. I would give Error a 4.3/5.
How do you feel about Vixx’s latest? Do you think the group continues to be compelling figures in the K-pop space or are you growing tired of their concepts?