January 09, 2014

Brown Eyed Girls – Black Box (2013)


Brown Eyed Girls keep stepping at their own pace on their latest album Black Box. While most other Korean pop idols are still riding the club pop and electro-hip hop waves, this four-woman group have switched up their own style and released an album of cool, funky and mostly midtempo pop/R&B songs.






One of the most pleasant surprises of this album, their fifth full-length release, is group leader JeA proving how strong her songwriting has become. The first three tracks are all co-composed by JeA, and they are probably the best three songs on the album (especially the sassy lead single "KILL BILL"). As usual, JeA doesn't outshine fellow singers Narsha and Ga-In with her own vocals, but only because they are too good to be relegated to backing vocals. If any member of Brown Eyed Girls could be said to be dominating Black Box, it is Miryo, the group's rapper – and arguably the woman with the most street cred for a female Korean idol.

Miryo keeps the hip hop flavour strong throughout the album, even referencing 2Pac's song "How Do U Feel” during one of her verses in the pre-album single “Recipe”. To the songwriters' and producers' credit, her rapping never feels tacked-on as an afterthought. She is given plenty of space throughout the songs which she uses well, which is unsurprising given that Brown Eyed Girls have been together as a group for nearly eight years now and hip hop has always been one of the biggest influences on their sound. Like JeA, Miryo proves her songwriting on this album, having written all of her own raps as well as all of the lyrics for the tracks “Boy” and “Satisfaction”.

After 2011's bombastic release Sixth Sense, this album is a much calmer and more moderate listen. Instead of focusing on the climax, Black Box tends to simmer and seduce. Nearly half of the songs on the album have a shuffle beat or a 6/8 beat, making for a more relaxing groove than the driving rhythms of songs like “Sixth Sense”, “Hot Shot” and “Vendetta” on their last album. Even the four-to-the-floor stomp of “Satisfaction” and “Mystery Survivor” sounds relatively subdued.

The middle of the album isn't quite as engaging as tracks 1-3, but the songs pick up again with "거짓말이야" (He's Lying) and “Recipe”. The latter is a great song written by Korean hip hop producer Primary, but feels like it interrupts the flow of the album a little because of how suddenly it begins and ends; perhaps it would have worked better if it remained a teaser for the album. The album closes with the ballad "Good Fellas", which is a nice conclusion, and much easier to digest than the three-ballads-in-a-row at the end of Brown Eyed Girls' 2009 album Sound-G.

Black Box is a solid release overall, and probably one of the sexiest releases from Brown Eyed Girls, with respect to sound as well as lyrics. With a much more playful and less intense mood, it's as if Brown Eyed Girls are taking the time to relax and enjoy themselves with this album... though it's more likely they've been working as hard as ever to bring a satisfying new sound.

Tracklist:

1. After Club
2. 날아갈래 (Want to Fly)
3. KILL BILL
4. Boy
5. Satisfaction
6. Mystery Survivor
7. 거짓말이야 (It's a Lie)
8. Recipe
9. Good Fellas

Text: Hash

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