Our 2016 End-of-Year review of albums got a bit intense, and so we bring to you the second half of the discussion — the mini albums, which has quite a bit of overlap between our writers, Camiele, Leesha, and Lo.
|1||Dean — 130 Mood: TRBL||Dean — 130 Mood: TRBL||Luna — Free Somebody|
|2||Crush — Interlude||Crush — Interlude||Rainbow — Prism|
|3||Luna — Free Somebody||Block B — Blooming Period||Ailee — A New Empire|
Camiele: We both have Dean and Crush‘s EPs at numbers 1 and 2, respectively. What about those minis spoke to you, Leesha?
Leesha: With Crush, I have to agree a lot with you. Crush on You is still in heavy rotation for me, but the difference between that and Interlude was growth (which is what I based most of my lists on anyway). Crush on You was good, but Interlude showed the willingness to take risks. It was grittier than expected and I appreciated that it showed more than just the same old, same old.
Dean’s mini had me doing the old lady church wave. There are R&B albums, and then there’s 130 Mood: TRBL. Like, I go the feeling that I’d been missing something until I heard this album. His voice was magical and the range… all around this album was just exquisite. There’s just so much soul and none of it is overwhelming. It’s hard to believe that his career is really just getting started. It kind of brings to mind Bruno Mars, where you hear him on other people’s songs, you know he wrote for other people, but hearing him do his own thing full out is just mind-blowing.
Lo: My issue with Blooming Period is actually the same as I had with Dean and Crush, which you two loved and I was more meh on: I don’t remember these albums. Like, I listened to all three, and three hours later, I couldn’t remember a single musical interlude, except the first half of the main chorus of “bonnie & clyde”. I remember reviewing Blooming Period, the frustration, the disappointment. I really liked the lyrics of “Toy” but put a gun to my head and I could not recall a single note. They’re all so slick they slid right out of my head, no texture or momentum to truly grab my interest. Dean and Crush in particular, I can see and respect the objective quality, but I got bored listening.
Camiele: A New Empire is a well put together album, sleek and pretty. It definitely should’ve gotten more attention, I’ll most certainly give it that. But what I found with it, as with Ailee herself, I was bored. It’s one of those things that, yes, I’ll gladly acknowledge and proclaim to the heavens Ailee’s got pipes, but her voice bores me to tears. While I believe this is her most mature work to date, nothing on this mini grabbed me, nothing touched me in a way that would leave much of an impression.
As far as I’m concerned, this was a studio representation of what typical R&B is to mainstream audiences. Which is fine. But for me, there’s no depth, no nuance, no legitimate soul in the music. Not even Tasha featuring on the album could do anything to stir emotions in me. It’s R&B that’s easy, accessible. There isn’t that grit, that earthy soul that makes R&B what it is. And on the flipside there isn’t anything interesting musically, nothing that I’ve not heard before, or at least an intriguing take on common R&B conventions. Unlike many people, I hold all artists to the same standard, male or female. Ailee never quite seems to reach it for me. I always just feel so underwhelmed with her work. This one was no different.
Lo: Oh, god, yes to everything you said about Luna. I am the resident househead both at Seoulbeats and in my civilian life, and Free Somebody is why. Moody, edgy, filled with the layers and repetition that characterizes electropop but not repetitive to the ear.
In a year when most popular EDM fell into the tropical house vein — which I like, but I’ve got a limit — Free Somebody was a tornado of fresh air. It’s vibrant and passionate in a year where most music was minimalist and sterile. “Keep On Doin” is a flawless mix of R&B and EDM, “Galaxy” is filled with soaring heights of instrumentals and vocals, with Luna sounding beyond smack-dizzy in love, “Breathe” is a tense, emotional mass that rivets me in place every time I hear it, and then there’s “Free Somebody” desperate and wild, balanced against some serious groove and a very precise arrangement, with a killer drop that I want to force a certain duo to listen to as educational material. Then there’s Luna herself, who gets to flaunt her technical and emotive range in a way she’s never been able to in the past. Free Somebody is everything good about my favorite genre, and if anyone has ever wondered why I have such a low tolerance for lazy, hackneyed EDM, this is why.
Leesha: Let me go listen to Rainbow before Lo shows up at my door…
And on that note, our mini album discussion has come to a close. With such overlaps, many mini albums have been left off the list (though there are also Lo’s honorable mentions — BAP‘s Carnival, Winner’s Exit:E, Wonder Girls‘ Why So Lonely). What mini albums from 2016 would you have on top?
(Images via: DSP Media, Amoeba Culture, Seven Seasons, YMC Ent., SM Ent.)