K-Pop Music Reviews: CN Blue – I’m a Loner

Title: 외톨이야 (I’m a Loner)

Release Year: 2010

Awesome guitar riffs for the win!

CN Blue is a 4-member band that debuted in South Korea in January 2010, although they had actually debuted in Japan the previous year – which makes them one of the few idol groups, if not the only, to have their debut in Japan before Korea. The leader, and main vocal, is Jung Yonghwa; the other main vocal is Lee Jonghyun. Lee Jungshin plays the bass, while Kang Minhyuk is the drummer.

L-R: Jungshin, Jonghyun, Yonghwa, Minhyuk

CN Blue is notable in that it is one of  the few “non-dance” idol groups  active in the industry today, and able to be considered a “band” in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, the only other groups I can think of that are actual “bands” are F.T. Island and TRAX; it seems as though real bands are rare in the K-Pop industry – who knew?

In any case, CN Blue made their Korean debut with their lead single, “I’m a Loner”.

There are many good things I can say about this song – let me start with the bad.

This track lacks one very important thing that I look for in every song, K-Pop or otherwise: progression.

“I’m a Loner” lacks a clear buildup, climax, and denouement. In my opinion, a song should be like telling a story: a beginning that lays down the basic outline of the song, gradually building up to the bridge section, and finally reaching the climax.

The most important thing in the concept of progression is the instrumental. Again, there are many good things I can say about the instrumental, but it also lacks a clear sense of buildup and layering. A perfect instrumental should start off, again, with laying down the bare frames, and then steadily pile on layers upon layers of complications and appoggiaturas until the track blossoms into a full-blown piece of its own. However, with “I’m a Loner”, there’s no clear sense of when or where the instrumental begins its ascent, and where it begins its descent. In a word, it stands still – it remains the same at the beginning and at the end.

That one quibble aside, however, I enjoy this track very much, and it’s one that I play often. It’s very easy to sing along to, and has a familiar chorus that anyone can pick up and instantly start humming to themselves – it’s addictive, it’s well-crafted, and it works.

The voices of the two main vocals are great, as well. Jonghyun and Yonghwa have their own strengths in their vocals; Jonghyun’s voice is the more classical description of a “singing” voice – excellent modulation and control, soft, smooth, yet serenely powerful when it needs to be. On the other hand, Yonghwa’s voice is more rough, gutteral, and unrefined, but it has a strange sense of power that can draw you right into the music. His voice is also perfect at rapping; listening to him rap is like watching the different colors of paint mix together on a white canvas – they don’t exactly “flow”, but instead, manage to slowly mix itself into the music. It’s like watching butter melt on a stovetop.

Even though I gave the instrumental some flak earlier, it should be mentioned that it has an amazing foot-tapping beat. No wonder they were reluctant to mess with it; the guitar riffs complement the background drums perfectly, and the occasional cymbal crash works as it should, drawing attention the the voices without burying them. There’s absolutely no problem at all with the quality of the instrumental – the problem lies in that it lacks a clear subconscious storyline.

4 out of 5 stars.


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