Album review: Wonder girls - Reboot

Album review: Wonder girls - Reboot | Random J Pop

Whilst the Wonder girls have long been the darlings of K-Pop, the ones destined to go the furthest and break the most barriers, they have continually been plagued by false starts, sitting on opportunities for too long, personnel changes and a crisis of identities. Reboot could not be a more fitting title for a Wonder girls album off the back of all of these things. Whilst the Wonder girls history should be remembered with adoration, everything truly starts with this album. Signalling a new energy, a new focus and the best representation of the group to date. The Wonder girls have finally arrived.

Reboot is a concept album. But one which takes itself so seriously and seamlessly, that any notions of a gimmick are quickly dissipated upon listening to this album off the back of "I feel you". The Wonder girls and the roster of producers that pulled this album together are not just giving their take on 80s music. They are giving you legitimate 80s jams. The production on this album is stellar. The girls own the 80s concept completely and it suits them. The entire thing feels genuine to the point where you could play songs off of Reboot to somebody and tell them they were released in the 80s and they wouldn't question it.

The 80s embodied much of what steers music nowadays. It was about the production and the look. Being able to sing people under a bus was a bonus, but not a necessity. So the loss of Sunye doesn't affect the music here. You would think that Yeeun would take the Lion's share of vocals on the songs following Sunye's departure, but it's far from the case. The vocals feel much more balanced now with just 4 members, and there is no one clear member of the group who is the lead vocalist across all songs. Hyelim in particular doesn't feel as out of place and oddly distinct as she did before. I always found it strange how she and Sohee used to get given large chunks of vocals on songs when they had the weakest vocals. But because of the 80s vibe of the songs Hyelim adopts a soft, breathless coo as opposed to sounding like she's schoolgirl chanting over beats. As for Yubin, she sings on a couple of songs, but it would have been great if she sang more, because she has a nice voice that would have suited certain sections of songs better than that of the other girls. I'm also an advocator of not every K-Pop song needing to feature a rap, something that could be remedied within Wonder girls by the rapper singing instead of rapping - something of which Yubin is capable of.

Aside from the title song "I feel you", the songwriting is split evenly between each member of the group. Each girl takes on a song and their characteristics and musical preferences really come through. Yeeun's contributions ("Baby don't play" and "One black night") are very bubbly and upbeat. Hyelim's ("Candle", "Back" and "Oppa") are very rap heavy and playful. Yubin's ("Loved", "John Doe" and "Gone") are slick and funky. And Sunmi's ("Rewind" and "Faded love") and ice cold and melancholic, very reminiscent of her debut Full moon. It's great to see each member of the group shine. Even with their clear preferences for particular styles, their contributions come together to form what is one of the most consistent and cohesive albums to come out of K-Pop in quite some time.

Album review: Wonder girls - Reboot | Random J Pop

As near perfect as "I feel you" is, it is actually the song I listen to the least. "Baby don't play" and "Loved" get most of my attention. But the songs themselves flow so well, that I often find my self starting with "Baby don't play" and just letting the album run through from start to finish. Unfortunately Reboot doesn't ditch the typical K-Pop pastiche of featuring sickly ballads. Whilst the seductive "Gone" is completely in keeping with the 80s theme, "Remember" is your average run of the mill ballad. As nice a song as it is, it is an anti-climactic closer for album which started with such a bang.

Reboot starts strong and ends well, but it hits a patch in the middle where it loses a lot of steam. These songs sit well aurally, but lack the impact of the songs which come before and after. "One black night" feels like an 80s take on Wonder world's "G.N.O" (which Yeeun also co-wrote and produced). The song doesn't have a strong enough structure and its chorus doesn't anchor itself enough. "Oppa" and "Back" are pretty much Hyelim solo songs. I don't know why this girl was given such opportunities on this album after her dismal, cringe-worthy solo contribution to Wonder world that was "Act cool". But here we are. With two solo Hyelim songs. "Oppa" isn't completely terrible as it's fun, tongue in cheek and has a good song structure. But I don't get why it had to be a solo song. Having Yubin take a verse and Yeeun and Sunmi handle the chorus would have made this work much better. "Back" feels like such a playground affair and is stripped of any cool factor what-so-ever. This is the only song on the album where I feel the 80s vibe is taken for a joke with no punch line. If there is one song that should have been left off of this album, it should have been this one. I would have taken a Sunye and Sunmi-less version of Wonder world's "Stop" over this, as it would have fit the album perfectly.

Aside from the messy patch in the middle of the album, my only other gripe with Reboot is the lack of vocal production; something which seems to plague quite a few K-Pop releases. Whilst the vocals between the girls intertwine nicely, there aren't many instances on this album of group singing section together or harmonising. It's strange.

The Wonder girls title songs have always been very era specific and they've touched on the 80s with the likes of "Tell me" and "2 different tears", so the decision to delve back into this decade feels very natural. It works in their favour, because the sound suits them to a tee and has resulted in their best album to date. This was one of my favourite releases of 2015. Even if you're not into K-pop, but are open to some good pop music, I would highly recommended this album. It features some great stand out tracks.

I was not expecting this album to be this good, but Wonder girls knocked this one out of the JY Park.

RATING: 7.5/10

Album highlights:
■ Baby don't play
■ Candle
■ I feel you
■ Rewind
■ Loved ★ J's fave
■ Gone

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