[Critics Review] A boy, Taeyang’s, good start…


This is a fantastic analysis/review by Cha Woo Jin, a popular music critic. It’s pretty in depth and long and he kind of goes off on a tangent but worth a read 🙂


Critic by popular music critic, Cha Woo Jin

Earlier this year, the webzine that I belong to, decided to select important domestic/overseas albums from the last 10 years (from 2000 to 2009). Personally, I contemplated which albums to pick beforehand, just for fun. I’m not interested in rankings, but spent more time thinking of standard. Above everything, I based my choice on positions and contexts of the albums rather than the musical execution because I wanted to break away from the prejudices like “must listen albums in the history of Korean popular music”. Actually, the point is, Taeyang’s HOT album is among them.
Taeyang is an interesting person. Because he has the precarious position of being a solo musician even though he is in an “idol” group, he is facing the dilemma of producing “authentic” music rather than imitating, that most popular Korean musicians encounter. Taeyang combines the “natural things” and “trained things” in his voice, in a harmonic and successful way and that has formed the basis of why people have so many expectations from Taeyang. I wrote on my personal blog, at that time, that “depending on his success or failure, the prejudice and concepts we’re are reminded from typical Korean singers (including songwriters, authenticity, management companies and idols), will be changed” and my thoughts have not changed from this yet.

It is the same about SOLAR, which he recently released. I hoped that there would be more songs like “Look Only at Me” but even though there weren’t, I can’t say I haven’t understood what he’s trying to put forth with this album. There is a strong impression that he tried to maintain a balance between what the company (or people0 wanted and what he wanted. Growing up consistently is more important than shooting up too fast. So this is a good start.

But there is also another reason Taeyang is interesting. I think the common impression people get from him is that hes a “polite and prudent boy” and “a many who has never dated” and I think these two images make “idol authenticity”. Of course,  “Idol Authenticity” is a word I made up. This is strange (I don’t mean if idols are authentic, but I mean just the word “authentic” is strange). Actually, I accept this strange word because in essence it’s Taeyang. Even though he is an idol, people consider him to have a “musically earnest” attitude and a singer who has much potential and growth. Taeyang even changes our popular beliefs about idols by stating in an interview, “But I want to go out [date]”. Normally, it seems this boy’s only hobby is music, and who has never had the chance to go out and “flirt” and most people really believe this is so about him and about idols. Whether its just the public’s imagination or its actually so, the pureness and innocence we get from him, cause us to regard him as a different singer from any other idol group members. This authentic aura about him doesn’t only make Taeyang’s musical outcomes seem like an extentsion of his pureness, but also works as the basis of making people expect him to grow exceptionally as an artist and overcome the limitations of idol members. It may be only my personal thoughts (because I, too, am a personal fan of Taeyang’s pure smile and earnest attitude). Nevertheless, the reason I pay attention to Taeyang’s path and music, personally and critically, is because he is synchronous with a ‘boy’s face’. That is, he synchronizes a popular music with being an idol. So then, criticizing popular music may not be possible with the naked eye.

Reviewed at Hankyoreh 21
Translated by MYOKOON@ALWAYSTAEYANG (do not remove credit)

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21 thoughts on “[Critics Review] A boy, Taeyang’s, good start…”

  1. This was an interesting read. Nice to see that CWJ realizes just how hard it is to walk that fine line between being an “idol” and a “musician”. I imagine it was really hard for YB to make music that reflected his RnB style ( which we all know isn’t that popular in Korea) while also making the songs into something the public will also like. Everyone expected Solar to be like HOT, just in-your-face amazingness. But Solar is more subtle. We’ve all remarked how it takes a couple of listens to actually realize how great an album Solar is. Solar is about YB becoming more comfortable with himself. It reflects his journey to finding himself and his musical styles.

    “This authentic aura about him doesn’t make Taeyang’s musical outcomes seem like an extentsion of his pureness, but also works as the basis of making people expect him to grow exceptionally as an artist and overcome the limitations of idol members. “-I never seen YB’s innocence viewed like this. Maybe that’s why critics love him so much. It’s his innocence and earnest feelings that he puts into his music that makes him more than just a regular idol.

    1. I actually figured “Solar” would be nothing like “Hot” other than having roots in RnB. Seeing as he’s stated in interviews that he liked hot but felt a lil lacking since he didn’t contribute to the production process, I thought well guess that’s not really him. When they said He helped with production composition lyrics and such on tracks for “Solar” I felt now that he’s more involved this would show what he truly wants to do, and his real first step to being a “artist”. Those who would have kept a open mind like that vs thinking it would be the next HOT may of been less disappointed/underwhelmed initially, IMHO.

      1. Its interesting that many people think “HOT” was in your face amazing. I on the other hand thought “SOLAR” was initially attractive because most tracks were catchy and easy to like, but had this emptiness that “HOT” didn’t have. “HOT” for me was great, but I didn’t realize how great it was until I listened and re-listened, read the lyrics, watch his performances. For me ‘HOT’ was such a complete album…from head to toe, inside and out. It made a lot of big statements.

        However it doesn’t mean ‘SOLAR’ wasn’t a sufficient follow-up. I think I’ve come to grips with what ‘SOLAR’ is…a growing album, exploration, not as bold, but doesn’t mean it’s not making a statement. I think Cha Woo Jin felt the same because he said he didn’t find a “Look Only At Me” in ‘SOLAR’ but his thoughts and expectations for Taeyang are the same.

        1. I think HOT was so popular because they still managed to infuse a sort of ‘pop’ feel to the songs. They weren’t just really straight RnBish, which is how I feel the songs on Solar are. I feel like a lot of people loved HOT because it didn’t seem like a strictly RnB album.

        2. I guess YB is in a happy place right now so Solar makes sense given that context, especially since his music is supposed to be an extension of his personal life (all that “authenticity”)

          I found that the qualities I like in HOT are different from what I like about Solar. Enough has been said about the awesomeness of HOT so I don’t need to explain – the unique sound, cohesive theming, variety, sophisticated layering. Solar in contrast, may be less sophisticated (or even unique, especially in an international context) but is an easier listen and I will probably replay it more than HOT in the long run. (But time will tell…) Solar has a lighter, more positive energy overall I think and that helps – this is TY doing his version of catchy music. And I have a bias for old school R&B and soul to begin with, so yeah…that may explain why I like it so much. I think Solar is a good complement to HOT since their moods are different and comparing the unique vibe in each album helps you appreciate the other album even more. The two albums make enourmous sense as a set (at least to me.)

    2. I think its interesting as well~~ when you consider his celebrity fans, I feel like its this authenticity that draws people to consider him as an artist more than another idol. I think that’s the phenomenal thing about him, despite having barely any variety shows to promote on, or any other gigs besides solely singing, he’s made such a concrete name for himself though simply music…..he re-defines “idols” if you could ever even call him that

  2. I sneaked a peek at this article last night when it was still a draft. (Bad girl I know!) But I’m still kind of gushing over it. For Cha Woo Jin is apparently know for being very critical and hardly ever takes note of mainstream kpop, so it’s almost an honor for Taeyang to be reviewed by him nevermind being so greatly spoken of. I particularly liked it because it really gives a different perspective on Taeyang – it’s speaks about his career rather than just an album.

    I wrote on my personal blog, at that time, that “depending on his success or failure, the prejudice and concepts we’re are reminded from typical Korean singers (including songwriters, authenticity, management companies and idols), will be changed” and my thoughts have not changed from this yet.

    Goodness what a statement! And what pressure Taeyang has right now. CWJ is expecting Taeyang to pretty much change the mainstream Kpop industry to give it credit, integrity, musicality, and “authenticity,” as he puts it. This is something very bold to say considering what Kpop is. It’s great that very important people in the industry, think so highly of him (CWJ is one of many) yet I can’t help but feel extremely nervous for Youngbae. He almost can’t make a mistake at all.

    Even though he is an idol, people consider him to have a “musically earnest” attitude and a singer who has much potential and growth.

    ^^Yes! I feel the same. Because R&B is such a challenge to promote and be successful in Korea, it makes Taeyang standout. His “earnest” is evidence that he wants to make a statement with his music rather than just producing something that’s easy and just sells. I find it intriguing that so many critics are so interested in Taeyang’s growth rather than just “greatness.” They expect him to achieve greatness eventually, but the journey there is more fascinating. As a fan, I’m with them. Taeyang has so much potential. Over and over again, I’m astounded what he has achieved and what he puts forth. (Like iTunes!) There has been disappointments, but nonetheless, I’m sufficiently intrigued.

    LOL That’s it for now! Yeah…love this article for so many reasons!

    1. The critics recognize YB for the artist he will be, rather than just the artist that he is at this point. Like you said, they have such high expectations of him that I hope he will be able to fulfill. His integrity, authenticity and lack of desire to change himself for the sake of changing himself, his heartfelt emotions you can feel through his music, his love for music and everything it represents, and just the amount of hard work he puts into everything makes him an artist capable of producing change that will be revolutionary to the music industry.

      I’m just happy that we were able to say that we witnessed all of this!

    2. Actually I think Cha WooJin does follow mainstream kpop (since its his job after all), but it may not necessarily reflect his personal preference in music. Which makes it an even bigger deal to me that he has selected YB as someone to take note of, since CWJ follows kmusic on both the mainstream and indie levels and has a broader context than most.

      I like how the article and comments point out that we have to look at YB in the context of a career rather than a single album. Each succeeding work will reveal different facets of himself and will reflect his growth as both a person and an artist. YB has a lot more of himself to reveal and is doing it slowly, taking his varying context (his being an idol, the readiness of the market for R&B pop etc.) into consideration. Because I think that YB has a real personal vision of what he wants to become and do, his musical evolution will be more gratifying as time goes by as he builds a body of work and develops his own “authentic” voice.

      I truly believe he is an artist we as fans can grow old with in contrast with a lot of kpop which many fans grow out of as their musical palates become more sophisticated. So exciting….

  3. This is irrelevant to the article, but does anyone else see some kind of small smileyface at the right top of the site( in the gray part?) I’ve been wondering what that was x]

  4. “There is a strong impression that he tried to maintain a balance between what the company (or people) wanted and what he wanted.”

    My thoughts exactly.
    Personally, I found it easier to like Solar (as opposed to HOT) precisely because of what Cha Woo Jin said in the above statement. This album simply balances so well those heavy sounds YG is well known for producing (and that HOT, in my opinion, had) with those much softer and simpler that YB seems to like and that my ears totally adore.
    Yes, Solar is not as grand as HOT was/is, but it is still classy and exquisite in its own particular way.

    And I do too have high expectations from YB. He is now able to put much more emotion in his songs and has better control of his vocals as well, but he is only at the beginning of his path as a soloist. That is what makes me feel even more curious and excited as to what he and his music will become a few years from now.

    I know he will keep working hard to improve because he is a perfectionist, so I can only wish him the best and hope for him to always stay true to his convictions. 😉

  5. Taeyang must have been looked up by music critics more than i think they did. i used to think all they are impressed about are the fact that Taeyang is an idol who’s doing a fringe music in Korea and also the fact that he’s never dated(this is not valid now) but he is always able to to express such feelings like someone who has been heartbroken.

    I’m happy that they are seeing him so much more that being a mere idol who’s doing popular kpop music. Wish more of his countrymen could think the way this reporter did. I can’t say anything else.. you guys have said everything i need to say. thanks Myokoon and ATY for letting us read this great peace of article.

  6. i am so glad taeyang is becoming more and more interesting as an artist. a lot have recognizing his skills and talent. I don’t want to compare Hot with Solar because I get pure enjoyment listening to both albums.

  7. It’s really hard for me to compare HOT and SOLAR – it doesn’t help that HOT was a mini-album and has 1/2 the song SOLAR did. If I took what I consider are the 5 best songs on SOLAR (which will be different for everyone) and compare it to the 5 best songs on HOT (intros don’t count), I couldn’t pick which one is better. I personally would pick SOLAR because there was definitely more emotion there, however HOT was amazing too. I don’t think it’s possible to pick which is better. I do think HOT was more coherent (but again it’s easier to make a story when you only have 5 songs). The only thing I can say is that Taeyang is making me really proud and excited to see where he goes next.

  8. Loving the comments as usual.

    Since for me both Hot and Solar are “classics” I am not going to compare. I feel like YB will be that kind of artists, that you feel confident preordering the albums without “previewing” tracks first. Dixie Chicks are like that for me, Kanye West (may not like his off-stage personality but his albums are good stuff), Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone others who I am forgetting lol. You may not love every song, but they put out complete albums. Which I just love to pieces. Solar to me solidifies my first impression of YB as a soloist who takes care with every track, there is no throwaway songs in his work. Each song is a work of art, I look forward to walking together with him on his musical journey, wherever it takes him.

    I especially liked the quote “he is synchronous with a ‘boy’s face’. That is, he synchronizes a popular music with being an idol. So then, criticizing popular music may not be possible with the naked eye.” It seems like the critic scoffs on mainstream music, assumes it will be crap and moves on. However, TaeYang makes him take pause and give a double take. What an honor for such a young artists, an idol no less, to have that kind of effect on jaded critics and on mainstream music in general. I am slightly worried at teh pressure that is to put on someone. Just accept good music regardless of where it is “categorized” if its good its should be good no matter what.

  9. wow…a critics praised at YB^^ awsome^^…to me, his charming voice, smile and his sweet and true personality that’s what makes me love him and continue to listen to his music… cause even from his first solo debut until now, YB always bring something new and special inside his music that has always been inspired me…that’s why i will always support him even for the year to come^^ YB FIGHTING!!!!! ^_^

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