20141107_seoulbeats_zhoumi2Woohoo! Zhou Mi is out of the dungeon! It doesn’t matter if this is deflection; this is Zhou Mi’s time to shine. And shine he does with his first mini album, Rewind. Although the album does have some shortcomings, it is pretty solid and Zhou Mi is able to show his different musical sides.

Zhou Mi was the lyricist of all the tracks, and from what I gather with the limited translations found, he’s quite skilled. Although his skills have been used in the past, perhaps it’s time to allow him to write lyrics beyond just a Chinese version.

First on the mini is title track, “Rewind.”

In general, the composition of “Rewind” is pretty nice. Yes, there are some ridiculous sound effects in the chorus – for whatever reason. But, I do expect that in an SME song. If you take those away, the music flows well and is a strong pop tune.  The simplistic nature of the verses and “stop, rewind” parts add a tiny bit of differentiation and prevent obnoxious assault from the ridiculous sounds.

“Rewind” does suffer from a new-found annoyance that artists, and not just those in SME, are using: unnecessary backing vocals.  Are the “hey, heys” in the verses really needed? It adds nothing to the song: it’s not making it more “hip,” or adding impact, or anything else. Zhou Mi’s voice is enough; which I’m sure most will agree with.

As for the rap parts of EXO‘s Tao and Chanyeol , well, there was no expectation for greatness. They at least weren’t completely out of place on the tracks.

When the Korean version of “Why”  begins, my initial reaction is “This is a C-pop song.” This is why I’m glad there actually is a Mandarin version of the song.

Just as with other songs on Rewind, the electronic instrumentation is overwhelming.  It drowns out the other instruments used – which sound good when you figure out they are underneath all the other things. The piano and syncopated guitar add character, yet they are hardly audible except during the bridge.

Speaking of the bridge; this is the best section of the song. By combining harmonizing backing vocals and the piano, the melody takes on a sweeter notation and allows the color of the song to push through. Too bad it waited till the end of the song to do this. Perhaps if they entire track had been produced like the bridge and conclusion, it would be more outstanding.

“Without You” is the first Mandarin track, and had the potential to be a great ballad. However, once again, the heavy-handed electronic use brings it down. It starts out very promising, with the lovely piano and light percussive instruments. But then the chorus kicks in, and well, there’s a feeling of being let down.  At least it’s limited to mostly chorus and bridge, which saves the song.  Zhou Mi’s vocals are pretty on point during the track. His clear high notes are impressive, and don’t seem like he’s struggling to produced the higher octave just to fit into the “pop” realm.

What “Without You” spread on heavily, “Lovesick” makes up for; it is simply beautiful. The orchestration is so smooth and subdued, which matches well with Zhou Mi’s vocals. For “Lovesick,” he sings in a softer tone, almost like a whisper, which creates a more intimate feeling to the song. He’s not exactly belting out some opera, but Zhou Mi also sings wonderfully when he’s putting more power behind his vocals. Overall, the clean instrumentation and smooth vocals make “Lovesick” the best song on the mini.

Shippers rejoice – Zhou Mi and f(x)‘s Victoria are collaborating. Composed by Zhou Mi, “Loving You” is a sweet sounding duet with Victoria. It is nice how Zhou Mi backs off his vocals in order to allow Victoria to shine during her parts. They were able to find a great balance with each other.

Musically, “Loving You” backs off the use of electronics a little bit. They are still there, but are more subdued than other songs.  It is very much a pop ballad: upbeat, yet still sounds emotional.  It does show that Zhou Mi has promise in terms of composing.

“Love Tonight” is essentially Michael Jackson with a heavy SME spin. It has that groove and attitude commonly associated with MJ, but is a bit overproduced with the electronic instrumentation.  The music itself isn’t bad, but the instruments used could have been better. Leave out the heavy synths, and this song would have been pretty awesome. Except, the song sounds like something Henry would have released, largely due to the higher octave that Zhou Mi had avoided the rest of the mini.

Unlike “Rewind,” Tao’s rap doesn’t truly fit in, and could have been left out.  However, the guitar and taps during his section was nice and would have been great throughout the song.

20141107_seoulbeats_zhoumi1Truthfully, outside of “Rewind,” the entire mini album seems to be more C-pop than K-pop. This makes sense, since Zhou Mi probably has a stronger market in China. Also, for personal preference, the Mandarin versions actually sound better. The only thing that really keeps it in the K-pop world is the aforementioned overproduction.

Perhaps I overemphasized – to the point of being rather annoying about — the overproduction, but its use strips away some of the excellence Rewind could have achieved. Without this, Rewind would have been a rather outstanding album, and would have separated itself from the other music coming out of SME this year. Hopefully, his next releases are less SME, and more Zhou Mi.

Album Rating: 3.5/5

(SMTOWN, MumbleBeatMusic A, YouTube [1][2], images via SM Entertainment)