Review Summary: America stunned by Korean invasion
Korean pop, commonly stylized as “kpop”, has taken over the youth of America by storm, for better or for worse. Globalization has resulted in several notable demographic shifts in kpop fanbases: bloodthirsty Korean fangirls are now joined by equally bloodthirsty American fangirls and fanboys, with the fanboys there more for the synchronized butt-twerking of sexy Korean women than for anything else. Those familiar with pop music are unlikely to find too much of a difference between the likes of One Direction and their numerous Korean counterparts. In fact, the decadence and sexual exploitation of American pop music are even reproduced tenfold by the Koreans, something which Psy satirizes in his infamous hit “Gangnam Style”.
But with any music scene, the shallow and the standouts will exist. As expected, in kpop, there is a huge quantity of sound-alike artists who regurgitate the same mishmash of rapped love verses, pitch-perfect choruses, and cheesy electronic beats. But as the “pop” moniker only refers to music that is at the moment popular, many worthy groups are also part of this unfortunate umbrella term. CNBLUE is one such group, and Bluelove is their second Korean "mini album".
What distinguishes CNBLUE from the likes of popular kpop giants Bigbang or B2ST is that CNBLUE is an actual band. They play real instruments, and proficiently at that, which allows them to cater to a broader range of tastes. Their defining trait, however, is their comparatively higher skill at songwriting. The songs on Bluelove have a certain groove which is created by particularly jazzy guitar solos and stellar vocal hooks. “Sweet Holiday” is a prime example of what they can do, with very memorable and danceable guitar lines and a passionate chorus. “Love”, the leading track on the EP, also showcases the band’s affinity with rhythm, featuring tasteful acoustic guitar to accent the drumming, well-placed bass lines, and a trademark irresistible chorus. Lyrically the band deals almost exclusively with matters of love, but as the majority of US fans don’t speak Korean, any lyrical cheesiness is absent.
Fans of their previous “mini-album” Bluetory and the critically acclaimed hit “I’m a Loner” will find much of the same material here, but that does not detract from how infectious the melodies are; CNBLUE is a vastly welcomed departure from the rest of the scene, a breath of fresh air, if you will; the band’s brand of “pop-jazz” has carved its own niche. With CNBLUE comes the promise that the scene is not merely a carbon copy of the American pop scene. CNBLUE’s vibrant musical personality contrasts with their presentation, which is as important as the music itself in Korea. They present themselves much more seriously; complete with suit jackets and black ties, CNBLUE is a definite class act, and their musical maturity definitely warrants them a listen before their makeup-caked contemporaries do.