LKL Critics’ Choice 2007: Jenny Wu

2007 was not an outstanding year for Korean music to be brutally honest. I found myself liking this song here and that song there, but only a few albums as a whole have commanded my attention this past year. The following are my top 5 picks for best Korean albums of 2007. My criteria for inclusion on this top 5 list are as follows: listenability, consistency, and variety. Listenability = I enjoy listening to the album. Consistency = the album contains very few, if any filler tracks. Finally, variety = the first song does not sound exactly like the second song, the second song does not sound like the third song, and so forth. All of these criteria are highly subjective of course, but that’s what made writing this article fun. It’s purely opinion.

Evan - Hard to BreathMy choice for 2007 album of the year is former Click-B member, Evan‘s (Yoo Ho Suk) debut solo album, ‘Hard to Breath.’ If you ignore the grammatically incorrect album title, this album comes pretty close to being flawless. Produced by former H.O.T/jtL legend, Tony An, it is a brilliant gem in a sea of dull, uninspired albums the Korean music industry has cranked out this year. It’s definitely the best pop album I’ve heard in a while. Evan’s vocals are soothing, sincere and never pretentious while delivering a refreshingly varied mix of R&B and modern jazz-influenced tunes. This album is simply a breath of fresh air.

Que Sera Sera OSTFilling in the #2 spot is the Que Sera Sera OST. This has to be one of the best Korean drama OSTs I’ve heard in a while. It features some of the best names in Korean music such as Alex and Horan of Clazziquai, Loveholic, and My Aunt Mary. Newcomer W & Whale’s contribution is especially not to be missed. Most of the songs on the album are moody, but ‘Wolgwang (Moonrise)’ is sleek, shiny, stylish, and exciting. No, it’s not a fancy sports car. It’s just a really good song. The one thing that ties the whole album together though is an unspoken air of sophistication.

Fly to the Sky 7th albumI don’t think you can call yourself a true fan of kpop if you haven’t heard of Fly to the Sky. Brian’s crystal clear vocals and Hwanhee’s rich powerhouse pipes are a winning combination. Ballads are a staple in Korean music and when it comes to their execution, Fly to the Sky is pretty much as good as it gets. That’s why Fly to the Sky’s seventh studio release gets my vote for the #3 spot. Since their baby-faced debut in 1999, the duo has grown tremendously and subtly reinvented their sound with each album release. Change has done them good. Be on the lookout for a couple of soulful blues-inspired tracks in addition to their signature R&B ballads on their latest album.

Rumble Fish - Open the SafeMy next pick is Rumble Fish‘s third album, ‘Open the Safe.’ It’s pretty safe compared to the bolder and louder sound of their previous two albums. Nonetheless, it deserves a spot on this list for being such a solid well-rounded album. You’ll find a mix of rock ballads, upbeat rock tracks, big-band styled tunes, as well as jazz and bossa nova influenced tracks in ‘Open the Safe.’ Can you say versatile? In addition to variety, Rumble Fish also has Choi Jini’s commanding yet feminine vocals. I have yet to hear a ‘bad’ song from these guys.

DonawhaleRounding out the top five, we have Donawhale‘s self-titled debut album which is a mix of alternative rock and soft pop with an ethereal feel. Their sound is light, dreamy, and slightly eccentric without ever being boring. Gentle female vocals that seem to echo from a distance add to the effect. Let Donawhale take you to another world. The band truly possesses a sound that they can call their own. This album may take a little time to appreciate; but it’s the perfect CD to spin after a long stressful day at school or work.

After 2006’s impressive string of good releases, 2007 was a bit of a slump for me when it came to new music. Thankfully, there were a few exceptions. I’m hoping for a better 2008.

6 thoughts on “LKL Critics’ Choice 2007: Jenny Wu

  1. Thanks for the reviews, doesn’t sound like I’ve missed much decent music this year (left Korea at the start of 2007). I don’t know how many of the more credible pop artists have put albums out this year – Clazziquai, Lee Sang Eun, any others??
    I have to add that I completely disagree with you on Fly to the Sky – they started off with a couple of decent albums of American-style R&B but have since been moulded into pure K-pop cheesiness – the big ballads, ‘cute’ TV ads for lemonade, and appearances on those silly celebrity panel games. Yuck!

  2. Stay posted for more recommendations on 10th December from Anna. She casts her net widely, but steers clear of pop. Someone who I think is probably more in the mainstream is putting the finishing touches to third set of recommendations, and if all goes according to plan those will be posted on the 15th. I’m looking forward to those. There’s maybe a fourth article coming, but I’m not counting my chickens.

    I’m not a huge FTTS fan myself, but they’re certainly more substantial than many of the acts around. As for Clazziquai I was disappointed by their 2007 release.

  3. I had missed the Que Sera Sera OST completely! Thanks Jenny for bringing it to my attention 🙂

    Simon, though I haven’t had the time to listen through it more than once, I’d say that Lee Sang Eun’s 13th is probably as good as her 12th. Unfortunately it was released a couple of days too late to be included in the choice of this year’s albums.

  4. @ Simon: regarding FTTS, that would be true if you only gave the singles (or the songs that were promoted) a listen. There are a few songs in the album that aren’t your typical Korean ballad: the bluesy #5 Miwohaejwo and the nice acoustic track #3 Gieokhanjum. But then again, I’ve been a fan of theirs since I started listening to kpop, so I’m bit biased when it comes to them.

    And… I have to agree with Philip on Clazziquai’s 3rd. There are like only 3 good songs on that album. Completely disappointing.

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