Since their debut in 2009, BEAST have fought in and increasingly competititive field in the South Korean music industry – the field of idol boybands! After four Korean mini-albums, one Japanese album and many singles, the group were given a chance to record their first full-length studio album: Fiction and Fact. They released one digital single and one regular single from this album, re-inventing themselves into an idol group that means serious business. The question is…was it worth the effort? Check out our review below the cut.
Track 1: The Fact
This song is a perfect start to this album, and creates a soothing introduction with a mellow melody that is also a little bittersweet.
The vocals match well with the sound of the song as they are consistently soft and gentle throughout, including Jun Hyung’s rap which contains the only English words in the song which are ‘It’s a fact’. Without needing to understand Korean it’s obvious that phrases in the lyrics are repeated and reused throughout the song. This is done to great effect as it seems like the members of BEAST are trying to convince themselves of this fact that is stated by Jun Hyung and that is apparent to them, but perhaps they don’t really want to believe. It’s probable this fact is a little too obviously a relationship ending and they don’t want to acknowledge the fact that it’s over.
I really enjoyed that this song leads straight into Fiction and always makes me think that even though they know the truth of this situation they’re in, they can’t help but make up a different reality for themselves, as I’m sure this is something many people can relate to. When confronted with a truth we don’t want to face (The Fact), we pretend it’s not happening (Fiction). This is a romantic notion, and I feel it encompasses the feel of the album perfectly.
Despite not being an overtly powerful song and perhaps not single-worthy without Fiction for it to lead into, The Fact is full of promise of the slightly nostalgic quality and wistfulness of the songs to come on the rest of this album.
UK potential: 3/5
Track 2: Fiction
Fiction is the lead song from this album. BEAST released a music video for this track in mid 2011, a short while after releasing an enigmatic teaser.
The MV’s sleek style, with use of two different performance settings AND a dramatic love-story narrative featuring member JunHyung manages to fit this song’s emotion perfectly.
Nowadays, K-pop choreography has become almost as important as the songs themselves; agencies work to give their artists complicated dance sequences to master, but also strive to give the moves a memorable quality that may also be imitated by fans. Fiction’s choreography manages all this with a fun-looking “foot-shuffle” dance during the chorus – it may make you laugh when you first see it, but you will probably find yourself giving it a go by the time the video is over!
The slow, tink-tonk opening to the song prepares you for a mellow and perhaps upsetting follow up. However, JunHyung’s rap verse follewed by BEAST’s incredibly powerful vocals ensure that you don’t want to fall asleep after 2 minutes. The member’s voices pull you in and fully express the pain that the song’s character is feeling. Member Yoseob does what he does best and belts out some notes that almost leave you feeling a sense of relief for him after his huge expression of emotion.
One thing about this song that first caught me by surprise, (apart from the infectious hook) was its overall high pitch which is often something that is steered clear away from by many idol groups – male especially. However, BEAST have the ability to take on the challenge and the resulting sound is pleasant to ears.
The English used in this song is only one word – the title. The pronunciation is great (it would be shocking if it wasn’t) and it cleverly works its way into your head even if, like me, the Korean language is not your forte!
Fiction is a song that sets the concept for the whole album: professional, sleek and emotional.
I feel this song would do quite well in the UK, as it offers a powerful and infectious vibe to its listeners, it offers something familiar to western pop, but it remains fresh enough to make its own statement and stand out among the crowd.
UK potential: 4/5
Track 3: Back to You
This track is quite an upbeat song that contrasts a little with the slightly darker feeling of Fiction. It still has quite an electronic sound which is in-keeping with the songs that precede it, but doesn’t have the same emotional quality to it with a distinct lack of Yo Seob’s or Hyun Seung’s high notes (only one drawn out note in the entire song), not to mention that the rap part of the song is pretty chill and a fair amount of auto-tuning is used in the chorus which detracts a little from any kind of emotion being portrayed.
There are more English phrases in this song that leads me to believe, without understanding the Korean lyrics, that this album is following a story of sorts, at least so far. We started out with the songs persona coming to terms with a fact, a breakup, and then goes on to wish and pretend that this breakup never happened in the next song. By this third track, Back To You, we get the feel from the title and English lyrics that the persona wishes to come back to the person they are no longer with, and by the sound and melody of the song is perhaps a little hopeful that this may happen.
If we view the album as a story, this song serves well to move the story along into the next stage of a break up, but it probably doesn’t have the characteristics of a song that would be successful if released by itself. It is a song that is enjoyable to listen to but it is not as catchy as Fiction or some other songs, and also lacks the emotional vulnerability of slower, ballad style songs to make up for it.
UK Potential: 2.5/5
Track 4: You
The relatively fast-paced beat of Back To You is followed up by the sound of DongWoon’s sweet vocals, which leads into a slower, but undeniably happy song that will leave you smiling.
You is the type of song that most girls would love a boyfriend to serenade them with (if you’re into that kind of thing, that is! :P) Once again, the members’ strong vocals help you to feel the sense of happiness and elation the songs’ persona is feeling towards the one they love.
There are quite a few lines of English in this song, all of which are well and clearly pronounced with great fluency.
The songs sticks well to the concept of the album – flowing from the last song to the next very well, but it still remains unique in its style.
I think this song would do quite well in the UK, but it is understandable why BEAST did not release this track as a single in South Korea. It lacks a certain power that I think would mean it also wouldn’t be good to release in a effort to break into the UK’s mainstream.
UK Potential: 2/5
Track 5: Freeze
This song was co-written by BEAST’s very own Jun Hyung, and is much more upbeat and happy-sounding compared to some of the other songs on the album. This song has a fair amount of quite accurately pronounced English sprinkled throughout the lyrics.
There is a slightly more urban feel to this track than the rest of the album which serves almost like a break halfway through an album of emotionally charged songs and ballads. This interjects a little bit of light-heartedness and breaks the album up nicely while still keeping a good flow between songs and matching the tone of the album.
The only problem I have with this song, even after reading the translated lyrics, is that I cannot understand why they are telling someone to ‘freeze’ all throughout the song. If you think about the times you actually use the word ‘freeze’ in a sentence, it’s probably with reference to food or even stopping what you are doing, which is what I’m guessing they are talking about. But even with the context of the lyrics, talking about getting back the person that you love, I can only assume they mean stopping still for a while to appreciate what they have, but if you can’t understand Korean and hear this out of context I suspect it will sound a little strange to people in the UK.
UK Potential: 2.5/5
Track 6: Virus
Personally, before listening to this album Fiction was my current favourite song. However, after listening, Virus was pushing its way to the top of my list.
Just as emotional and powerful as its predecessors, something that sets it apart from all else is the consistent and simple drum beat maintained throughout the track.
Again, listeners are treated to shockingly long-lasting and high notes carried off with expertise. JunHyung’s rap part of this song, whilst usually fast and strong, is very relaxed here. It offers a great contrast to the rest of the song.
Something I love about this song is the electronic sounds; giving it a western retro 80s feel underneath the surface that, interestingly, works very well and give it a distinguishing quality.
Again, the use of English is reserved mainly for the chorus and provides another infectious hook.
Virus would have some good potential in UK release. The likening of love to a virus is a potentially relatable concept and its electronic sounds give it a unique level.
UK potential: 3/5
Track 7: 불러보지만 (Even Though I Call)
This song is another slightly emotionally charged song with a steady yet solid beat, a genre that I feel BEAST excels at.
There are quite a few phrases in English, not all of them were immediately obvious to me in this song as the pronunciation was a little off on some words, but coupled with the English translation of the title they really allow non-Korean speakers to get a feel of what the song is about.
This majority of this track features Yoseob and Hyunseung hitting some heartfelt notes while singing the bridges and choruses of the song, and Jun Hyung delivering this rap parts in a couple of places. You might think you’d be bored of this slightly predictable song recipe by now with the mixture of strong vocals provided by the lead singers and fitting rap segments but it’s still as satisfying as in Fiction. The only slight drawback that I have found is that with these three members being so prominent in this song, and most of the other tracks on the album, it allows the distinctive and unique vocals of Doo Joon, Ki Kwang and Dong Woon to take a backseat and they are only allocated small singing sections in most songs. I felt this was highlighted quite well in Even Though I Call as after hearing Doo Joon’s small part near the beginning of the song, and despite his voice suiting this song well, I was disappointed to hear that he didn’t sing again for the rest of the track.
This track also features Jun Hyung delivering a more powerful rap than in most of the songs in this album which makes it sound a little more interesting and memorable, and helps set it apart from the other songs on the album with a similar tempo.
The theme of this song matches well with the rest of the album, seeing as it is another one about a breakup but perhaps again it isn’t strong enough to be released as a single. It is a reprieve from the slightly slower songs on the album which stopped me from thinking of this album completely as a ‘ballad album’ which can sometimes be a little boring to listen to.
UK Potential: 3/5
Track 8: 비가 오는 날엔 (On Rainy Days)
This song was unleashed as a digital single, prior to the release of the album. It found a huge level of success as it rose to the top of many charts. It even won first place of KBS Music Bank instead of the heavily promoted Fiction.
It is clear to see why when you give it a listen. In keeping with the rest of the album, the track is an emotional ballad. You may think that another song of this genre may be slightly boring, but BEAST once again shine through with their amazing vocal ability. It is so heart-wrenchingly sad that it fulfils its purpose completely.
It is a huge shame that a ban was placed on it by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) because of an ‘offensive’ phrase in the lyrics regarding alcohol. But, BEAST’s agency – Cube Entertainment won a lawsuit which removed the ban!
There is no English in this song, however, it would have some potential on the UK market thanks to its great vocals and refreshingly different beat. (Can I hear the tapping of bongo drums?!) I do feel that this song would only do well if it was offered as a single from an already established artist though. I doubt that it’s powerful enough to grab people’s attention.
UK Potential: 3/5
Track 9: Lightless [Unplugged Version]
This song is a genuine delight to listen to and is soft and a touch heart-wrenching. Obviously being an unplugged version, the only instruments used in this track are a softly plucked guitar and some kind of unobtrusive percussion. They blend together to create an almost dream-like quality that helps start to bring the album to a soothing close after a barrage of highly expressive and emotive songs.
It has such a beautiful and poetic title which is also the only English used in this song, Lightless. That one word completely encompasses the hopeless feeling of this song; the acceptance tinged with sadness at the end of a relationship. There are poignant pauses in the song between some of the member’s parts which is almost giving the listener room for thought and reflection.
Maybe not a song to be released individually, but for me it is one of the songs that really makes this album.
UK Potential: 3/5
Track 10: Fiction [Orchestra Version]
This is a welcome extra on the album as the music video’s orchestral opening leads listeners to feel curious the song’s sound with an added classical take. The answer is, it works extremely well. The members’ voices manage to be soft, yet not get drowned out by the orchestral accompaniment. It maintains all the emotion of the original, but you feel like relaxing more than dancing to this one! A great way to end the album.
UK Potential: 2.5/5
The CD comes in a very cool and high quality casing made of plastic and thick cardboard. There is a booklet attached on the overleaf that feature the lyrics of every track as well as many photos of the members. The choice of two A3 posters is often made available with an album purchase. There is a choice between the art on the album cover or a poster of the group (it’s the picture at the top!)
Packaging score: 3/5
Check out the packaging below!
I think that the album has an added layer of interest because it appears to progress through a story line: starting with the persona coming to terms with the fact that they are no longer in a relationship, then going on to pretend that the reality of the situation is actually different. They then move on to trying to get their relationship back during the middle section of the album, but it becomes apparent towards the final songs that ultimately the relationship is over and they seem to come to terms with it by the song ‘Lightless’, which is technically the final song in the storyline.
The song that has been rated the highest in its chances of being successful in the UK is Fiction with 4/5. This could be a little bit of bias coming out due to the fact that this song gained such popularity in Korea, but with such a unique sound and stunning vocals, I think this song could genuinely be a hit in the UK, and it definitely has the best chance of all the tracks on the album.
As to whether this album would be popular in the UK? These kinds of song subjects (breaking up and wanting someone back) are ones that are always relatable, and have been quite popular in the UK recently, for example Adele’s album ‘21’ entirely consists of songs about the breakup of a serious relationship and has a range of upbeat songs coupled with emotional ballads which kept this album at the UKs number one album for a total of 16 weeks (not consecutively). With albums of a similar style to BEAST’s ‘Fact and Fiction’ being popular here, it seems pretty logical that B2ST has a chance of being successful here (once people get past the language barrier).
After averaging out the scores for the songs, it comes to the conclusion that this album has a rating of 5.7/10 chance of appealing to UK listeners and being successful in the UK. So, a greater than 50% chance of being popular, but it is still perhaps not to the taste of the UK music listener. Despite singers like Adele being very popular, I think it’s easier to tempt an audience to listen to foreign music with songs that have faster beats and a more club feel to them rather than slower emotional songs that comprise most of ‘Fact and Fiction’.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to post any comments below. Do you agree with the scores or do you have a different opinion? Let us know!