Of all the days you could pick to release information about a new album, April 1st isn’t the wisest choice, with its reputation for foolish pranks worldwide. But that’s the date Inspirits were told about a new release from Infinite courtesy of Woollim Ent and SM Culture & Contents.
Quite apart from the date, what differed greatly about this new release was enough to make any K-pop fan wonder – is it for real? Because The Origin, released April 10 in Korea, is an album that features no vocals from, or images of, Infinite. It’s a completely instrumental album: the first of its kind in the K-pop world.
Some genres we expect instrumentals from – movie soundtracks, for example, where carefully placed background scores have the ability to heighten emotional scenes. And of course the pop music world has seen many an ‘acoustic’ or ‘unplugged’ album, where singers change the tempo or arrangement of popular songs. But The Origin is neither of these (and more’s the pity, because leader Kim Sungkyu has proven time and time again he has a voice well suited to acoustic performances.) Instead, their songs have literally just had the vocal track removed.
The lack of vocals or new pictures certainly didn’t stop Inspirits pre-ordering this Limited Edition release. Only 30,000 copies have been issued, and by the evening of April 1, Woollim Ent issued a press statement saying pre-orders in Korea had sold out. On April 2, pre-orders were made available for Japanese Inspirits – and a version is still available at Tower Records and HMV in Japan.
There’s no denying it’s a nicely presented package: a chunky black cube-shaped box, it has three themed discs – black, white and gold – featuring most of Infinite’s back catalog, printed scores, and a collectable coin.
A Woollim Rep told the Korean media: “This is a new challenge for INFINITE, who have reached success and growth through the strength of their music during a period in which the prevalent prejudice is that idol music is something that is only enjoyed during that moment and forgotten about later once the fad fades.”
So the idea behind this instrumental album at least, is setting out to prove that isn’t not just about the pretty faces or the fancy dance moves – fans really do love the music they hear. Or, this cynical fangirl has to ask, is it more about testing how a label can create and sell Limited Edition releases even without the band’s direct involvement?
I must confess that I love Limited Edition releases, especially boxy sets with photobooks and the like. There’s a sense of triumph when you can get your mitts on the sold out stuff instead of the same one any casual fan can pick up off the shelf. But an Instrumental album by Infinite took me a little by surprise; while I’ve seen them play instruments sometimes on stage, this is something I could more imagine someone more like FT Island or Lunafly doing, as live music is so essential to their act.
It has to be said that both the artist and label really has a win-win with this kind of release. Labels know that fans dig Limited Editions, and artists can be using the time to do something else – working on a new comeback, say, recovering from sickness, or even fulfilling military service duties. Perhaps this kind of release hints at the idea that idols are never really out of action (or out of our wallets).
A newly-edited MV was even released to promote the album: Before The Dawn was originally released in January 2011 and has two existing MVs, one being a complete dance version. This latest version has removed the dance entirely, and cut in previously unreleased footage of the guys. Check out all three versions below.
Before The Dawn Instrumental version
Before The Dawn original version
Before The Dawn dance version
What do you think about the idea of instrumental K-pop releases? Which artists would you or wouldn’t you buy an instrumental album from? Feel free to comment below.