BoA is an extremely well-known name on the K-pop scene, with many referring to her as the ‘Queen of Korean Pop’. She has been doing her thing for twelve years and has still remained one of the most familiar faces of the genre.
BoA has grown up in the industry and has become a very strong woman with many achievements under her belt. She has not only had a successful run as a singer in South Korea, but also proves to be a formidable powerhouse across the borders in Japan – even managing to keep up with native superstars like Kumi Koda and Ayumi Hamasaki.
Many were upset when her foray into the USA failed to take off, but were glad to see that, despite this, BoA’s presence in Korea was maintained.
She has been a judge in SBS’s programme K-pop Star alongside the CEO’s of JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment as a representative for her agency SM Entertainment and has even had a role in a film – COBU 3D – due for release later this year.
After quite a while away from the Korean music scene, she has recently made a summer comeback with her 7th studio album ‘Only One’. The question is, has she still got the skills to produce the music of a Queen?
Track One: Only One
This song was BoA’s comeback track and, even though I would have expected her to return to the scene with an energetic dance song, I can now see why this was chosen instead. I think she wanted to show her fans that she is continuously growing and maturing and that her music follows suit.
The song itself is very emotional, with the lyrics telling of someone that has let go of a relationship because they know that it is what the other half wants. She sings of saying goodbye to this person even though they will always remain the one true love.
The song is very sad, but manages to give a more relaxed, rather than depressing feel with its very stripped back and almost acoustic sound. You are once again reminded of BoA’s great and distinguishable vocal ability which I feel has been lost in some of her previous productions in favour of a more electronic sound.
The MV for this song mirrored the very ‘natural’ feel. However, what I think will have impressed most people (including myself) was the absolutely amazing choreography. All the moves were so creative and flowed so well. The way that BoA and the backing dancers manage to work so in sync with one another results in them almost becoming an extension of her body rather than separate entities.
I also loved the fact that SM Entertainment decided to feature four different male agency mates to dance with her during her live performances. Taemin (SHINee), EunHyuk (Super Junior), Yunho (TVXQ) and Sehun (Exo K) each managed to executed the dance part perfectly, but still add their own personality to it.
This touch added a little extra excitement to each live show and let the SM Entertainment artists show their closeness.
UK Potential 3/5: If BoA wanted to break through into the UK; I don’t think this would particularly interest British listeners enough to make her mark. It is a lovely song, but perhaps too soft and emotional to smash into the mainstream here.
Track Two: The Shadow
As the second single to be released, I was sure that I would hear a crazy club tune as BoA has managed to do them so well over the years, however, whilst still a quite upbeat affair, this song is a lot deeper than what you would expect from a typical dance track.
Personally, I see the ‘Shadow’ that BoA sings of as her inner demons. She seems to be saying that she has been through a lot of pain and hardship throughout her career and has sometimes submitted to this ‘shadow’ and fallen into sadness and perhaps doubted her abilities. She moves on to state that she has risen from this dark place and, rather than push these demons away, she has accepted them as a part of herself and has used them as fuel to work even harder whilst she sings of being able to feel the ‘shadow’ watching her.
As to be expected from a prolific K-pop icon, the song has as very usual K-pop flavor. In the MV, BoA shows off a more girly side, but still hits hard with some good choreography.
I have always thought of BoA as a female K-pop singer that flies the flag for female dancers as I am of the opinion that there is many better male dancers than female in the genre, However, BoA shows great power and fluidity in her moves that never fails to impress.
UK Potential 2/5: As I said, this song is very typically K-pop and I do not think has anything particularly different or fresh to offer a Western audience. The song has a great message, but I am inclined to think that it would not be appreciated by newer fans.
Track Three: Hope
Here we have another very emotional track that carries a great message. BoA sings of enduring hardships, about being ridiculed and put down by others and about not fitting in but still having the hope that she needs to keep going.
I feel that this is a very personal song for the singer, as she has tried to launch her career in many foreign countries and has probably had times were she felt like a fish out of water.
I particularly enjoyed the use of a metaphor in the lyrics; “Pointy and good-for-nothing, square wheel, if you cut of adversity, it will become round” – I believe this is saying that, if you don’t let anyone put you down and stop you from doing what you want to, then you will eventually move on and get to where you want to be.
BoA’s strong vocals are shown once more and I believe this helps an already heartfelt song get to the level that it deserves.
UK Potential 3/5: This song has a very relatable message. After all, I think everyone has gone through hard times were they have felt like giving up something that they are doing when it has become difficult. I think BoA would have the potential to do well with this song if she created an English version. However, one hopes that the depth of the message would not be sacrificed for this.
Track Four: Not Over U
This track is another that talks of a lost relationship. The persona is walking through her memories and sees herself together with the one she loved. She is stuck in this time and too scared to live in the present as she knows that the relationship does not exist there.
The song’s initial acoustic sounds gives way to a more electronic and heavy beat when the chorus drops. This gives the listener the idea of being completely overwhelmed by emotions, or, perhaps, overwhelmed by the lack of control over changes that take place in life. Again, BoA puts a lot of emotion into the lyrics which give the message of the song the gravity it needs to be communicated well to the listeners.
Even though the heavy, constant beat in the background does well to give the feeling of time passing one by when they are stuck in the past, I felt myself losing interest and the lack of variety in the track.
UK Potential 3/5: Although I personally did not find this track very interesting in its composure, I think this sort of message is a standard for pop songs from every culture and I do think that British listeners would enjoy the fact that this song has a slight dance feel along with a familiar concept.
Track Five: The Top
Listeners are greeted with another very electronic sound with this track however; thankfully, BoA’s singing voice is still a dominant factor of the song.
I really love the message portrayed here. We can see an illustration of modern society and its obsession with gaining a celebrity status and fame. BoA sings of people who constantly strive for ‘The Top’ and don’t realize that there is really no such thing.
She says that life is not as simple as this bottom-to-top stratification and that people should look into themselves more and find fulfillment in the things that they cannot buy with money and a good societal position.
BoA also shows of some good rapping skills in this song, which worked to add to that overall edgy attitude of the track.
I think this is a great message for a K-pop idol to be portraying to their fans, it shows that BoA sees the importance of remaining down-to-earth even when she is so famous and has done so well for herself.
UK Potential 4/5: This song is packed full of attitude and a worthwhile meaning that I think could endear her to UK listeners. The electro-sound could also be something that may hold listeners’ attention as it is upbeat and slick in its style.
Track Six: Mayday! Mayday!
Admittedly, I was rather unhappy to hear yet another ballad on the album. Add to that a very 90s-esque boyband beat and you have almost lost me completely.
Yet again though, I could not ignore the deep and complex emotions tackled in the song. The persona is calling out for help and wishing to escape from the life they are currently in. After a relationship has broken down, the character feels helpless and cannot focus on anything else. The daily routine seems colourless to them after what has happened and they see no way out of this.
I think that this song shows BoA’s vocal ability at its real best and I can imagine this song garnering her a lot of praise when she performs it live due to the sheer amount of emotion is gives out.
UK Potential 3/5: Any listeners that have gone through a painful breakup and had the feelings of never being able to recover from it will definitely relate to the idea that this track is communicating.
However, I can only really see this track being one that is confined to an album track only because it is very typically a ballad and not much else. It is very emotional, but may not pack enough punch to get out on its own.
Track Seven: One Dream ft. Henry (Super Junior M) and Key (SHINee)
Before I listened to this song, I was already wondering if BoA would be over-shadowed by Henry and Keys’ parts. Everyone knows that they are both very strong rappers in their respective groups and I did not really see how that would mesh well with BoA’s voice. However, she once again showcases some powerful vocals that maintain the song very mauch as BoA ft. Henry and Key rather than vice versa.
The song is a little bit cheesy though. Again we are given the message that people have to work incredibly hard and face many problems to get where they want in life.
I do feel the sincerity behind the words though, as I can imagine that all three of the singers have gone through a lot in their careers. It’s also nice to think that they have shared these hardships and helped each other out as they all hail from the same agency.
The lyrics “I want to grab on to the hand that I have held out for myself” strike as particularly poignant for me as it really illustrates the idea of individual determination very well.
UK Potential 3.5/5: It’s that classic combination of powerful female vocals alongside a male rappers voice, which is quite commonplace on the UK music scene. As to be expected from the multilingual singer, BoA’s English is very well pronounced.
I do think the song is pushing a little bit on the cliché side in terms of the message, but JLS did a similar thing with their song ‘Proud’ and that did pretty well!
There is a standard version of the album that simply comes with the CD and a poster, but there has also been a limited edition version of the album released.
This version is made up of a CD, poster and a 38 page photobook. Anyone who follows BoA on Twitter will have seen her posing with this album in a photograph and it would be a slight understatement to say that it is pretty big!
As always, the material used to make the packaging is of a very high quality. The physical album is definitely a collectible item for any BoA fan.
Personally, I am very fussy when it comes to ballads – they really do need to be something spectacular to impress me. So, most of this album is not really my thing.
Having said this, I think that BoA really does have real vocal talent and a unique voice that makes the slower numbers a bit more interesting to listen to.
One can really see that BoA has extracted emotions from deep within herself and laid them bare for all to see on this album. The overall concept and feel is very mature and natural.
BoA has been known in the past to sing songs clearly catered for a certain market – be that the K-pop or American music scenes, so it’s great to see her actually produce something that is so obviously personal to her as an individual but can also be given out to her fans.
The album manages to show all of BoA’s talents whilst holding firmly onto a fresh K-pop sound. One can really see that she is an experienced veteran in the South Korean pop area.
I think anyone who enjoys K-pop songs with a lot of feeling and depth will enjoy listening to this album very much. However, I feel that it would need some tweaking if it was to really appeal to a UK audience.
What do you think about BoA’s latest release? Do you agree with our review? Please tell us in the comments.
[Image Sources: Google Images, BoA’s Official Twitter – @BoAkwon].