1. Seoul (featuring Killagramz)
3. White snake (featuring Los)
4. Unknown Track (featuring Absint)
5. Love Me (featuring Killagramz)
9. What Doesn’t Change (featuring Los)
10. Diamond (duet with Lee Juck)
The legendary Lee Hyori is back in ‘Black,’ her first album in 4 years. The LP has 12 tracks, including 2 instrumentals. She’s returned from her 2-year hiatus Taking charge of both the songwriting and production, ‘Black’ is Lee Hyori’s sixth studio album.
I have to say I’m not Lee Hyori’s biggest fan. Most of her back catalogue doesn’t resonate with me — notable exceptions being “Hey Mr. Big” and “10 Minutes.” Here, however, she seems to have re-invented herself. And the nice thing is that it’s more alternative and experimental, similar to Ha:tfelt’s musical transformation.
The first track, “Seoul,” is meandering and calming, swapping more traditional pop beats for drum machine sequences. The interim beats are rapid-fire, belying the easygoing melody. She uses that wonderful voice to good effect, and I can almost feel a relaxing walk through the city. Killagramz comes in with a short but awesome rap. What could have been out of place was kept there by Lee Hyori repeating the chorus behind his delivery.
“Black” is where things really get interesting. She adopts a sort of country blues sound here, and there’s a distinct chorus. It also reminds you of its pedigree at that time, with a dubstep breakdown afterward. I like how the song ends — with a sharp guitar sound, but I could have done without the repeated chorus — eventually, I just got tired of it.
“White Snake” (featuring Los) is experimental as well, though completely different from the others. Here, she prefers to let the music do the talking, but it’s also odd. The languorous synths threaten to drown out her voice, which is kind of a shame. They wash this way and that, and you’re guided more by the music than by her vocals, and the effect left me unsettled.
The middle of the album is where it really starts to fall down. “Love Me” is just a mess. It’s upbeat and lively, and it really starts to get on your nerves. The repetition is almost too much, and there’s a frantic nature to it that’s just so unlike the rest of the album. It’s like the other tracks lulled you to sleep and this one just set the alarm bells ringing. There’s a ballad on here, “Rain Down,” which is also bland and forgettable. It was meant to be tender, and I like the production. But her low-key delivery made it less than it could be.
The other ballad on here, “Diamond,” failed to do anything for me. The voices are okay, but it sounded so old-school I felt old just listening to it. Not a diamond in the rough, it’s just the latter.
So, did the experiment succeed? Well, yes, and no. The music felt more mature, even as she herself has matured. At age 38, she’s come a long way from the pop princess that she was with Fin.K.L. And I think she’s trying to carve new territory. But all the songs are way low key. I like the production, but a lot of the delivery is simply flat. There are no flourishes to liven things up, and sometimes she sounds almost disengaged. As a long-awaited comeback, it lacks dash.
The MV packs a punch that the song itself lacks. When Lee Hyori sheds her urban surroundings for more rural environs, the camera zooms in sharply, and she twirls around with seeming abandon. The scenes switch between country and city effortlessly, and there are parallels between each.
There’s some symbolism here, almost as if she’s running away from Seoul, but realizing that no matter how far you run, you can’t outrun yourself. This may be what her self-imposed hiatus taught her. There are some striking scenes here, as traffic passes her by, and the country looks rather inviting. The scenes are painted differently — the city is all in cool colors, where the lake is bathed in warm colors.
There’s very little dancing here, only a peep, and that’s largely the point. The MV has a message to send, and it’s not good to get bogged down in distractions like a few dance moves. So they remove those, and the MV does not suffer as a result. On the contrary, there are some nice flourishes here, and it’s certainly not hard to watch.
So, while I’m not the song’s biggest fan, I have to say they made a pretty good MV out of it. It doesn’t have a huge budget or expensive CGI, but it doesn’t need it. As a matter of fact, it’s a little stripped down, as there are really almost no costume changes either. But as I said, that’s not the point.
This was highly enjoyable. I got to see some things I don’t get to see every day. Besides Lee Hyori, there’s a city I’ve never been to and a little cozy lakeside spot. Not to mention some interesting camera tricks. Yeah, this is definitely one good video.
In this MV, Lee Hyori is out in the desert. She apparently has to drive to a water tap, which she doesn’t look too happy doing. In a world where “water is more precious than gold,” this seems to be a necessary evil. She meets a dog, plays with it, and pours the last of her water into his bowl. Meanwhile, the dog digs up a second tap in her yard, and they both live happily now that there’s more water.
There’s dancing in this one, and the dancing seems to kind of mirror what she does when playing with the dog, making you wonder exactly what’s going on. Though Lee Hyori is pretty mesmerizing here, with fluid movements that make you wonder how she’s going to move next.
The costumes themselves, well, some of them had to be as hot as they look. But she still dons those with style and grace. There’s even an interesting shot of here with a cowboy hat, and she wears it better than any actor in a spaghetti western. I like how when she’s dancing she’s wearing one thing, but when she’s with the dog it’s ripped jeans.
Is it good? Oh yes. Very dynamic. The scenes with the car juxtaposed with her dancing create a really fantastic scene and the dog is just too cute. This is one of those MV’s I can give an enthusiastic thumbs up to.
Scores are averaged across both MVs
SEE ALSO: Lee Hyori shares how her mother-in-law reacted to her tattoos
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