Music Review: Block B "Blockbuster"

The comeback of Block B is so exciting to me! I loved them since they came out with NalinA, and have been a fan since. They have been consistent and stuck to their style since their debut, which I can really respect. Instead of trying to be like other artists, I've always seen them as truly unique. So once I knew they were releasing another album, I instantly added it to my wish list, right at the top! I couldn't wait to get this review done, even though so many other bands released albums this month. Onto the review!

Block B's 1st Full Length Album, Blockbuster, released October 17th 2012!

Block B is back, in style, and have released their first full length album! Most K-Pop CDs are Mini Albums, with 3-5 songs usually, so it's terrific when they release a longer one, especially for the fans. This is a Hip-Hop band to the core, and all of their songs reflect this. The band debuted under Stardom Entertainment in 2011, and has been steadily releasing music ever since. The members in include Zico/Woo Ji Ho the leader and rapper born in 1992, Taeil/ Lee Tae Il who is the main vocalist born in 1990, B-Bomb/Lee Min Hyuk the sub-vocalist and main dancer of the group born in 1990, Jaehyo/ Ahn Jae Hyo another vocalist also born in 1990, U-Kwon/ Kim Yoo Kwon the other vocalist who was born in 1992, Kyung/Park Kyung who raps and was born in 1992 as well, and finally P.O./Pyo Ji Hoon the final rapper and Maknae of the group! This is a larger group, with 7 members, but they do a good job of balancing out the different roles. The members all have experience dancing, composing, singing, and rapping. They were formed for the "Creating Korea's Eminem Project" by Korean Hip-Hop producer and performer Cho PD. They were mentored by many famous Korean artists, like Verbal Jint and Skull. All of these things gave them an edge in the K-Pop world, and they did not disappoint!

Something interesting about this album is that, before their official debut, they were under the name "Blockbuster", and later changed it to Block B. So I like the album name because it reflects on who they are. The album art is also great, it has that raw, graffiti look to it, which matches their style and music. The album was released digitally on October 17th, and released physically in both Special Edition and Normal Edition a few days later (at least if you're ordering them online). They released a Music Video for one of the songs on the album, and there is only one out so far. Now, on to the album itself! There are a lot of songs, so I'm going to attempt to be brief when talking about each of them.

- 11:30

The album starts off with a slower song that reminds me of older Hip-Hop from the '90s era. It's really smooth, with a slow paced rhythm to it. This song makes me feel like driving through the city, real slow, while looking out the window and enjoying the nightlife. I love the chorus with the "Ay-yo" throughout it. It's because of this classic sounding song that I can tell that they were influenced by experienced rappers. It has that old flavor, with a newer twist to it. The synth is light, and it focuses more on the beat and their voices. While the rap, in the bridge, seems to be the focus you also get a taste of their vocal talent right at the beginning of the CD. Even though it's a full length song, it makes a really good intro. It's almost like they are easing you into their world, before things pick up more later.

- Interlude

Instead of starting off with a shorter song, there's an interlude between the opening and the "main song" of the album. I like the addition of this, and it makes it unique to most Korean albums on the market. It sounds like the intro to an intense action movie, which will  make more sense when you get to the next song. I love the orchestral sound to it, and how it sounds so theatrical. While others may say that the album could do without it, I think it takes the next song to the next level.

- Nillili Mambo ( 닐리리맘보 )

This is the song that they made their MV for, so I'll talk about that first. The video is like a Korean/Chinese Mob movie, but instead of trying to make a serious video that's action packed, they're making fun of it. They try to steal diamonds, and end up being chased by several different people. Each member is "picked up" throughout the video, and at the climax they get caught by the other people. They all run away, leaving behind one member to fend them off, and it goes on to a hilarious ending. The whole thing is really funny and clever, and the lighting, makeup, sets, and clothes are perfect for it. I won't say too much about it though, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. They also performed it  live for their comeback, and I loved the dance for it, and their stage presence as well. (You can watch the live version Here.)
This song has so much swagger that it's almost ridiculous! You can hear it in the music, but seeing it takes it to a whole other level. They have so much confidence when they sing and rap, that you can't help but be drawn to them. This song only took about thirty seconds for me to fall in love with it. After the first listen, I decided that I needed to own the song, if not the whole album. It's instantly addictive, and you can sing along to most of it the first time, before it even ends. It's really playful, and makes you want to dance as well. As for the lyrics, it's a "bragging song", about being the best and how they are going to conquer the music world. Even though it flows together really well, the lyrics are a mash up of different phrases from the different members, such as "No matter how strong you come against me, you're like nothing", "All you bad dancer with stiff bodies, watch and learn", and "The gritty guys have come back, so blow the trumpets". When I listen to this I don't feel "offended", but I just kind of laugh a bit and agree with them, especially about me being a bad dancer compared to them! This kinds of songs are really fun, and they fit the attitude of Hip-Hop really well.
The chorus is my favorite part, it reminds me a lot of NalinA, as you move from the verses to the chorus especially. They kept their same style, so without saying anything I could tell you this was a Block B song. I also loved the "go left, right, left" part, it reminded me of Captain Jack (those who played DDR should know this song well). The differences in their voices add the most character to the track, I love the balance between the raspy and smooth singers, as well as the high and deep notes. That alone would be enough, but the music for it is also really well done. It's like "Urban-Orchestra", with a mix of strings, heavy bass, and synth. It's really strong, and only people with their talent could match the power of the instruments for this. If you can't tell by now, this is my favorite track off of the album and made this an incredible comeback. This song expresses the character, style, and swagger of the band in under 4 minutes, and I don't think another band could make something that's just like this. It's truly Block B unique.

- Mental Breaker

This song is like a collision of different styles. It starts off with the traditional instruments, and slowly fades in to the song. After that, it moves into the '80s sounding Rap feel, with the use of the bass (it has the same sound as the one for Seinfeld, though that's a lame comparison). As it progresses into the chorus, it has a current pop sound to it with the use of effects. You get to hear the vocalists more than anyone in this one, and it's a good chance for them to "shine". I love the high notes for the chorus, with the quiet, deep, rap in the background. This is probably one of the more K-Pop sounding songs off of the album, while the rest have really strong Rap and Hip-Hop influences this one is more subtle about it. I feel like this is the song that would come on the radio, and everyone in the car would get really excited when they hear it come on. The "la-la-la" chorus is really fun to sing along with, and has a lot of pep to it, without straying from the swagger of Block B of course. The lyrics are about being in a relationship with a person, but you're not sure if that's how they see it. You go out with them all the time, and it's like your dating, but it turns out you may just be friends and they're just playing with you. It's called "Mental Breaker", meaning something like "I don't understand, I can't comprehend" like "you're breaking my mind, I don't know what's going on!" I found it really creative and relatable. For a song about so much mental confusion though, it's pretty catchy and up beat! Part of me also wonders if the "la-la-la's" is a person not listening, either the one this song is about or to, or if it's really just there for fun. That's up to each person to decide, I guess.

- No Joke ( 장난없다 )

This song starts off with a grainy radio announcement, and it keeps that stylized "radio" sound quality throughout it. This one also feels like it was recorded a decade or so ago, but in a good way. It's not that they sound outdated, but they feel like throwback songs. I love the use of the voice effects for this one, how they get high and cartoonish during the really fast parts. The song is really rap focused, with all the different members taking turns, giving it diversity. The contrast of their different tones and style are great, but you can also tell that they have been working together for a while because they know how to make their voices flow into each other, while still maintaining their originality. I really love the bridge, and how fast their rhymes get at that point. Along with the heavy beat, there are Sci-Fi sounds throughout the music as well, giving it a unique sound. While I'm not a huge fan of Rap, I still like this song.

- Movie's Over

There's actually a MV out for this song, which was made private on YouTube after they released it. Soon after, fans took the video and re-posted it, after it was gone. I found it when I was looking for information on this song, and you can watch it Here. It's a simple Black & White, Behind the Scenes, type video that's fun to watch if you're a fan. You get to watch them record it and see the members perform, and also go about their daily life as a musician. The first song was also slow, but this one is a low softer sounding, which is why I think that video suits it. It's like a different genre than there other songs, which makes sense because they had said they wanted to experiment with other genres in the future. Being able to hear a gentler side of their voices is really nice, even the rappers and people with raspier vocals were able to tone it down, while still sounding like themselves. I also love the "Woah-oah-oah-oah" parts, they're really great to sing along with, as well as the "It's all right" ones. There are harmonies throughout the song as well, giving it more complexity. The bridge has to be my favorite part though, I think that the higher notes, later overlapped by the rapping, sound amazing! While I love Block B because of how "harsh" and edgy they are, I still love them doing songs like this, and it shows the range of their talent.

- Where You At? ( 넌 어디에? )

You can also translate this song at "Where Are You". This song is a ballad, which may seem unusual for a band like this, but like I said before, they wanted to be diverse and try out different song styles. I can really picture this being a sad song in a drama, where the two main characters/lovers have been separated. It's a solo song by Taeil, the main vocalist for the group, and it's beautifully done. Since the band is primarily a Hip-Hop/Rap group, the vocalists don't always get a chance to show off their range and passion. Solos like this are great for band, especially ones with a lot of members. (Same as how I really loved the solos in Big Bang's Alive and B1A4's Ignition) If you can't already tell by it's setting and tone, this is a sad song. It's about breaking up with a person out of frustration, but coming to understand why they acted that way after it's too late. When you realize that they were always upset because you made them that way, and then broke up with them because they were upset, it can be a painful realization, and this song translates it well. One of the main lines is, "Your rude tone and past mistakes, I can understand them now. So, where are you? Come back".  The lyrics are beautifully written and honest, and the pain in his voice give life to them. Songs like this always touch me, because I'm a sucker for honest, sad, ballads. There's not too much to say about the music, it sound like a ballad with subtle background music made with piano, strings, and really light percussion, so that you can focus on the singing and the words. It sounds wonderful, don't get me wrong, but it's not about the complexity in this song. A ballad is about listening to their heart through the song, and this one does that really well.

- Dreams Come True/Romantically ( 로맨틱하게 )

This song sounds like a jazz club number, which I like a lot! Each member get their own verse to sing throughout this one, so I like the collaboration feeling to it. The best way to describe the music is just "cool and smooth". I want to just close my eyes and melt into a chair with a good drink when I listen to this one, and I think most people would too. I am truly amazed that they were able to make such a wonderful, and classic, sounding jazz song! I didn't doubt their talent, but I just was not truly expecting this on the album, and it was a great surprise! The biggest soft spot in my music genre bias is Jazz, I've been listening to "Smooth Jazz" stations and records since I was a little girl, and when someone does it this well I am really pleased. Yet, while still retaining that Jazz sound perfectly, they have their own distinct sound for it and you can tell that they are influenced by R&B/Hip-Hop by the way they sing different parts of it. It starts off with Taeil, moves into U-Kwon, then to Jaehyo, P.O., B-Bomb, Kyung, then they cycle back with Taeil, B-Bomb, Jaehyo, and the song ends with Zico. (I later found looked it up and found that the incredible scatting was done by Taeil, great job! Fighting!)
I love the different instruments used for this song, from the light synth and percussion to (what sound like) the Cello and Bass. My favorite part of the whole thing as to be the ending though, did you hear that scatting? That sounded amazing, I rarely hear Jazz artists that can scat like that, and it's probably because of their background in rap that they are able to execute it so well. There are a lot of harmonies throughout the song, if you listen for them you'll pick up on it. The crazy thing is that they all aren't labeled as "singers", yet they all sing great! I, as always, love the contrast between their voices for this one. You get to hear each member alone and get to know which voice goes to which person, and really hear what makes their voice unique. The English is also done really well, especially at the end. If it weren't for Nillili Mambo, this would definitely be my favorite song off of the album.

- Did You Do It? ( 했어 안했어? )

After the last few songs being so different to their "usual genre", they return to their Hip Hop roots for this one. I love the brass section sound to this one a lot, it gives it a lot of power right from the start. There's a really gentle sounding synth piano in the background, adding some depth to the song as well. I also love how the harmonies are done to sound like echos of the other voices, instead of just singing at the same time. There's also the classic "Hey" in the background throughout it, which is pretty much a standard for this kind of song. I think that the highlight for this song is the high and deep vocals switching back and forth. It makes them both stand out more, the highs sound higher and the lows lower. I also like the English sprinkled in the song, especially in the bridge, like "Back in the day" and "Baby, I'm so tired". The bridge is great, with the slower tempo, with the use of English and the "never, never, " part. There isn't much to this song really, it sounds great and was really well composed and performed. It's not too complex, it's got a straight and clean sound to it, which is a great way to end the new songs on the album.

- Halo

The last song on the album is actually an older song, from their album "New Kids on the Block". It isn't Halo, like an angel or the Beyonce song, it's like a mix of "Hello" and "High-Low". The song has pretty much the same theme as Nillili Mambo, it's about them being the best and bragging on themselves. The album (pretty much) started with a bragging song, and also ends with one. After you listen to this album, you kind of agree with everything they say, honestly. It's the attitude that they are the best, people are going to try to be like them, but they are the originals. The track is in the same harsh/brash sounding rhythm and style as their past music, and it's something that I expect from them. It's good to have a throwback song at the end of the album, especially since this one is so long that it can afford to put an older song on it (when mini albums have a bunch of old songs, it's more annoying to most people). It kind of shows that they are still the same people, have the same way of thinking as in the past, and are showing that they considered themselves the best in the past and they still do. This is more of a live song or club song, it suits that kind of atmosphere more. It's a good ending to the album, as far as full songs go, and I'm glad they put this one on here.

The last songs are Instrumentals for Nillili Mambo and Mental Breaker. I love when albums give you the instrumentals as well, so you can sing to them yourself or just get a chance to her the music on it's own. The Special Edition has A Capella Versions of those songs on it as well, along with other goodies like cheer flags and a badge, so you can listen to just the music, just the vocals, or to the song as a whole.

Overall, this album is amazing! There is so much swagger on this one, that it's almost not fair. You get to hear several genres and styles all on one album! Block B shows how diverse they could be, and you also get so many songs from them. Full length albums are the best, and they were able to make the whole album great, so you won't be bored at any point while listening to it. I have to say that this could be my favorite album from all of October, and is definitely my favorite from them so far! Would I recommend that you buy it? Of course! You should hear this album at least once, and that may be all it takes to convince you to own it. I liked Block B in the past, but this album made me fall in love with the band and their music. You can buy the Regular Edition Here for about $17, the Special Edition (with all the goodies) can be bought Here for about $50 (I know, it's pretty steep, but you get a lot with it), and if you only want the songs you can buy it on iTunes for $10 Here! You get 12-14 songs for that price, so that's a really good deal, to me at least. I really hope that you enjoy this album as much as I did, please let me know what you thought of it! It diverse, catchy, fun to sing along to, and just makes you feel like a cooler person when it's on.

See you next time you jump down the Rabbit hole,