Album Review: Dal Shabet – Naturalness

Release Date: 2016.01.05

Tracklist:

1. Stay With You/지긋이

2. Someone Like U/너 같은

3. From Head to Toe/머리부터 발끝까지 (Subin/수빈 Solo)

4. Beautiful Liar/착한 남자 (Feat. SIMS/심스) (Serri/세리 Solo)

5. Dreams Come True (Ah Young/아영 Solo)

6. Love Hurts/사랑한다고 해서 (Woohee/우희 Solo)

7. Someone Like U/너 같은 (Instrumental)

Total Runtime: 00:24:14

 

Recommended for: Lovers of retro dance pop and/or ballads

NOT recommended for: Fans of EDM, rock, or rap-based music

Dal Shabet is back with their 9th album Naturalness in celebration of their fifth anniversary as a group since their debut in 2011. Even after the departure of two members Serri, Ah Young, Woohee and Subin are still as strong as ever. Their newest album is a mixture of sweet and quirky with an emphasis on these four ladies’ vocal abilities. Naturalness contains seven tracks with two group tracks, a solo song for each member and an instrumental version of their title track, “Someone Like U”. There seems to be an overlying theme of independence present in some of the songs in this album, as if Dal Shabet were slighted by their lover and are stronger because of it. The group is embracing their identity as confident women rather than the love-struck young girl persona adopted by many Kpop girl groups. Considering Dal Shabet are seasoned Kpop veterans, this concept suits them and stays true to their more mature, yet still lively, sound.

  1. Stay With You/지긋이

The album begins with the Dal Shabet’s first song “Stay With You,” a dreamy ballad track that demonstrates the members’ impressive vocal abilities. It begins with a piano rift and then the vocals enter with string instruments and a subtle drumming in the background of the song as it builds in complexity. There are some really lovely harmonies and vocal overlays that happen in this song, which provide the track with its ethereal, almost angelic sound. You won’t find any rap in this song, which would be incredibly out-of-place. The bridge instead slows down to sweet, near acappella singing before the group’s collective vocals enter again for the final chorus. Even without an understanding of the lyrics, the sound of the song suggests a pure and devoted love, something you’d expect from a typical Kpop girl group. It’s soft and comforting – a song that has just enough jazz to be interesting but not enough to overwhelm the rather relaxing vibe of the track.

    2.  Someone Like U/너 같은

The title track of the Naturalness album, “Someone Like U,” follows the recent trend of 80’s inspired Kpop girl group comebacks with this retro sounding pop song. With its classic 80’s synth beats in the background of the track, it’s definitely the catchiest song of the bunch and the one that begs to be danced to. In this song, the ladies of Dal Shabet hope their ex-boyfriend meets someone like himself that mirrors his ugly personality traits, because they are done with his antics. The song, while fun and playful sounding, does have a power to it that suggests this independence after the end of a bad relationship. It’s repetitive “Just like you baby, just like you baby,” will have you singing along as you mock this foolish man. There is a lot musically going on this song, but all of the transitions from verse to chorus to bridge flow effortlessly as it retains it’s 80’s sound. Serri’s rap in particular fits seamlessly into the song; often times it feels to me that rap verses are thrown into songs in Kpop on principle even if they don’t fit stylistically. However, Serri’s quick, rhythmic rap coupled with her girlish voice suit the song and add a fun little interlude into the otherwise powerful vocal performance.

    3. From Head to Toe/머리부터 발끝까지 (Subin/수빈 Solo)

“From Head to Toe,” is Subin’s solo song and the strongest vocal performance of the entire Naturalness album, as expected of Dal Shabet’s main vocal. It starts with similar 80’s synth beats but takes a completely different direction than “Someone Like U,” and instead turns more mature than quirky. My favorite song on the album, this track is more subdued in the verses with Subin’s soft vocals but upon entering the chorus, she demonstrates the powerful singing  she is capable of. There is a particularly nice section of the chorus where her rapid singing synchronized with a building drum beat add a dramatic flair to the song that grabs your attention, only to softly sink back into Subin’s more subdued vocals. She uses a wide range of her vocal talent in this song from her low, “meoributeo balkkeutkkaji, oh baby” to her more breathy, high notes she hits throughout the song. This song is everything a solo should be: a demonstration of her ability without other members as distraction and a utilization of a the scope of her talent.

    4. Beautiful Liar/착한 남자 (Feat. SIMS/심스) (Serri/세리 Solo)

Serri’s solo, “Beautiful Liar,” actually features rapper SIMS and is thus one of the few tracks on the Naturalness album to have a rap verse. As earlier mentioned, Serri has a very girlish, sweet voice and the combination of the rougher sound of SIMS’s rapping and Serri’s vocals creates an interesting dynamic to this song. Additionally, SIMS featuring does not include one single verse, but a few sprinkled through the song so it feels more akin to a collaboration then a simple featuring. However, it would have been interesting to hear Serri herself rap in the song, and I think it would have fit well into some of the verses. Her vocal performance is still enjoyable without her rapping even though she stays in a rather high register for most of the song. The pace of the song picks up during the chorus, which adds a certain element of interest to the track that is lacking from later tracks on the album.  However, synths have decreased somewhat in this song so it is more similar to the ballad tracks that are soon to follow in this way.

    5. Dreams Come True (Ah Young/아영 Solo)

Ah Young solo, “Dreams Come True” is definitely the most ballad-like song of the album Naturalness. While other tracks had some jazz and pop elements, this song features none of the conspicuous synth beats of other songs and instead uses more standard instruments to provide the background track such as the piano, drums, and guitar. The song is slow and soft, with Ah Young singing in a very high vocal register for the majority of the song. However this is track has the weakest vocals of the bunch, with a possible voice crack at one moment, and it feels a bit juvenile as a result. The verses and chorus don’t have enough differentiation that I think is needed to add some interest in a slow ballad song like “Dreams Come True.” In my opinion, a more powerful chorus could have done wonders for making the song more dynamic, though it is true that some ballads are meant to simply be relaxing and calm, such as this one. It’s a fairly pleasant song, but not altogether very memorable.

    6. Love Hurts/사랑한다고 해서 (Woohee/우희 Solo)

“Love Hurts” is Woohee’s solo song and is something akin to a ballad; it has a very Boys Over Flowers OST sound to it. Something about this song inexplicably screams 2008 Kdrama soundtrack but it is hard to pin down one single element. I think it may be the combination of the drum beat coupled with a slow piano and subtle string instruments. As for the song’s production  itself, the chorus overlays Woohee’s own harmonies to give it a greater impact then the other verses. However, she sounds a bit strained in the bridge of the song as if she is reaching for a note slightly out of the range she is comfortable in. The song is nice otherwise, but nothing to write home about. Both through vocal ability and originality, this track falls short in comparison to some of the earlier songs on the album. That being said, it is still impressive that each member of Dal Shabet does have their own solo song of good quality, which shows that none of the members of this group lack in talent or are simply present as an extra body in the group instead of a singer.

    7. Someone Like U/너 같은 (Instrumental)

The album Naturalness finishes up with the final track, an instrumental version of “Someone Like U.” Without the powerful vocals of the four members of Dal Shabet, the production of the background track is able to shine. There are a variety of different synth beats used throughout the track that weren’t immediately evident and they are ever-present in the song until the bridge is reached. Here, everything seems to stop as a single clapping beat takes its place before the song revs back up for the final chorus. It’s not a song I would listen to again or again because it does lose some of its flavor without the member’s vocal performance. However, I could definitely see this song being used as the roll-credits song at the end of an 1980’s action flick.

 

Overall, I think this is a really nice album with some standout tracks and a wide variety of musical styles. This diversity, though not providing Naturalness with a very cohesive sound, makes the album appeal to a wider audience and demonstrates the members’ talents effectively. Sprinkled among the more interesting songs are a few forgettable tracks but they don’t diminish the overall quality of  the album too much. It was refreshing to see the girls challenge their typical roles by each singing their own solo songs, which is unusual in a Kpop album. However, I will say the beauty of a Kpop group, or any musical group for that matter, is the opportunity for a number of vocal colors to be present in a single track, which adds an element of interest to songs. In this way, I was slightly disappointed that over half the album was solo songs for each member, simply because I enjoy the dynamic combination of Dal Shabet’s voices. The solo songs did give each member their chance to shine, but differences in vocal abilities made some songs much more appealing and replayable, such as Subin’s track. In the end though, Naturalness is a solid album from Dal Shabet and contains some really fresh songs that are only somewhat degraded by the other slightly lackluster releases.


 

Replayability- GREEN

r21pIbRmost songs are interesting and enjoyable, will definitely be listening to them multiple times

Cohesiveness- YELLOW

kSB8FHywhen played together as a whole, the album songs differ in style somewhat and do not flow seamlessly together 

Originality- YELLOW

kSB8FHythe sound is fairly fresh, but nothing groundbreaking

Wasta
If there's a Baekhyun, there's a way.

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