It’s a point of argument that former producer Brave Brothers made U-KISS sound particularly bad in their first years as a boy band, but it’s a general consensus that they sound a trillion times better now with him out of the picture. Their previous album, “Neverland“, cemented U-KISS’s new, clean musical style into the K-pop history books, and, for the first time, established their presence with an ounce of credibility as a musical unit.
U-KISS’s overnight evolution from a cheesy electronic boy band to a cheesy electronic boy band with finesse was an unpredictable move, but today, it’s a mutation that couldn’t have been more vital for their survival. With their musical reboot, U-KISS is now at a point where they’re (re)building a brand new body of work that reflects their newness and their fresh sonic configurations, i.e., erasing all the things from their crappiest days as the old U-KISS. In doing so, they’ve dumped their hindrances and turned to a new set of producers to guide them down this new path.
Last week, U-KISS released “DORADORA“, their sixth mini-album. As the follow up to the great “Neverland” and their equally thrilling Japanese work, “DORADORA” unfortunately underwhelms like a poorly directed sequel.
The album’s strongest moment comes in the form of the title track. Instrumentally, “DORADORA” is built around an electronic focus (as expected), with a set of bright high hats and guitar interludes that give the song its groove and its flow. The song builds in a series of catchy hooks and pre-choruses, but the finality to the lead up is a bit more ho-hum than anticipated.
Having watched “DORADORA” live a few times, it becomes clear that this song only feels fulfilling when it’s paired with aggressively distracting body rolls (Kevin, call me) and funny foot work. Granted, all music feels better when you’re in tune to it with all your senses, but it’s considered a common success when a song is a winner as a song, not a song plus distractions.
The album’s title track is the type of song that would have sounded ten times more exciting had it been a B-side track to something greater, like “Neverland”. Instead, the album fights itself to see which of its four new forgettable songs is least forgettable. “4U“, composed by Jay Park, is a campy pop song that would have worked better for 2PM, preferably as a jingle for a male cosmetics commercial. “Amazing“, probably the closest thing to U-KISS’s old music, is a playful electro-pop song with fun verses and hilarious ad libs. The only point of the song that fails to stick is the chorus, which is as unremarkable as “사랑이 멈출 때“, the ballad on the album.
While U-KISS sound beautiful on “사랑이 멈출 때”, this song doesn’t really do the trick. Crafting perfect ballads for pop artists is difficult already, but doing so for a boy band that is as high-energy and intricate as U-KISS is virtually impossibly without giving in and slapping them onto something average. On the whole, I think “사랑이 멈출 때” is a nice song, but it’s not necessarily the right fit for U-KISS, old or new.
“DORADORA”, while not a bad album, isn’t exactly memorable. It almost feels too safe, which is a frustrating turn of events after the group reinvented themselves with hopes of impressing the masses, and it just makes this latest effort feel a bit empty. The title track is the best thing to seep out of this album, but overall the music on “DORADORA” feels more like the television programs on Saturday afternoons: purposeful, but excruciatingly dull.