Not listening to One Voice? You should be.
One Voice is Super Junior Member Kyuhyun’s first full length Japanese solo album. It has five brand new songs, two Japanese versions of his Korean hit title tracks, At Gwanghwamun from his first album “At Gwanghwamun,” and Blah Blah from his third album, “Waiting Still,” as well as his first three Japanese tracks that came out on his first Japanese single, “Celebration ~Bridge to You~,” last year, one track is titled the same as the album name, then there’s “Lost My Way” and “Beautiful.”
Kyuhyun is the nearly undisputed lead balladeer of South Korea, and his branching into the Japanese music industry came naturally and explosively; so far he’s dominating the daily and weekly charts since One Voice released on February 8th. His new album has been accompanied by his second Japanese Tour, and with the arenas flooding, the radios and televisions playing the album non-stop, he’s had to add several new radio and television broadcasts to his schedule. He’s taking Japan by storm, and they’re loving it.
In Korea he’s known as a “lonely Autumn man” with his albums always arriving in Fall, being Fall themed, and having a purposeful sense of keeping you company during the cold Autumn months. The albums are ballad filled, soulful, and generally a mix of melancholic and warm. One Voice differs from his usual sound by starting and finishing with a sickeningly sweet and cheery disposition, but there’s a few rich ballad roots carved in if you decide to listen.
So let’s dive in together and analyze this new aural experience.
|1.||“僕のまじめなラブコメディー” (My Serious Love Comedy)|
It starts off with a pop, instrumentally and genre-wise. Bright bells and chimes with hard, fast, rhythmic keyboard chords and high range vocals. It’s immediately cheery enough to bring a small grin to your face and vibrantly different from the songs you’ll hear on his Korean albums. There are solid strings through the chorus and his voice nearly matches the synthetic keyboard chords. His voice is softer during the bouncy, percussion filled verses. The long bridge brings in a sweet and catchy “la-la-la my love” lyric bit, and there’s a gentle key build up into a keyboard and chimes crescendo. It’s a bit frantic until the next “la-la-la” bit, but leaves you feeling satisfied. His vocals are as strong as ever and he’s obviously trying to match the overpowering instrumental, but they backed him out too much during the leveling process.
Overall: Pro: Incredibly enjoyable and fun. Con: Poor leveling.
The first thing to stand out is his incredibly high vocal range. It lowers quickly into a nice valley of even high notes and of course, here come the chimes! The chimes lead into a quick and happy string of higher notes and lower dubbing. It’s more balanced by far than the first track. The pretty keyboard during the melody has some slight percussion behind it. The bridge has almost rap-like vocals with plenty of sparkling chimes that lead us up into percussion-less piano and soft, almost pale sounding vocals before dropping us off with a wonderful vocal smack back into the chorus. There’s some strong dubbing throughout the track and the keyboard can be overpowering if you focus on it. The song ends with three distinctive and rather unnecessary keys.
Overall: Pro: Sweet, pleasant, easy-listening. Con: Overpowering keyboard.
Long instrumental lead into breathy but rich vocals, with A LOT of reverb attempting to enhance but instead distracting from his voice. Piano and soft acoustic guitar; you can hear the crisp sound of steel strings sliding from chord to chord. His vocals are soft mid-range with a light increase in volume every several words for emotional conveyance. The drum-kit comes in about halfway through. The reverb is even heavier later in the song, making him sound like he’s in a small empty stage room (which is usually a great thing but in this case it makes his voice sound closed off.) The song ends with a steady fade. Comet could be one of his strongest songs on the album with his powerful vocals – if the mixers hadn’t decided to literally eat his voice with the levels. There are obvious drop outs/cut offs of vocal potential, including cutting some of his long notes short. The piano and percussion are discordant and there are parts of the song where you can hear the thwap of his voice hitting the digitally produced walls of compression.
Pro: Strong, rich vocals. Con: Compression levels.
My favorite song out of the five new songs. It starts off a tad confusing. Is it J-Rock… is it Christmas? But it quickly turns into a pop/rock ballad that feels akin to taking an aural journey. His voice sounds too quiet within the mix from the start, and somehow the instruments also sound too quiet. His voice is in his more casual range and it makes you feel very cozy. The hook before the chorus is mellow but catchy. The bridge strings are fluid and tender with almost unnoticeable backing vocals but you notice them when they start sounding off-time with his high, cherub sounding voice as it leads you into the end of the song. The song ends with a nice grand piano but doesn’t fade out well.
Pro: Enrapturing vocals, aural journey. Con: Backing vocals, uneven mix.
|5.||“Lost My Way”|
Loud, strong piano as a start. His voice feels like it’s lulling you into the music. It’s hard not to sway and sing along to this song. There’s plenty of reverb and echo but it is used refreshingly well to bring you the different layers of his vocal depth. There’s a sudden and sharp stop before the second verse where everything just cuts out for a fraction of a second, and honestly all the transitions are really sharp, but it almost blends with the style of the song to lend to the rhythmic sway. There’s a mellow downfall into the bridge and his voice actually stays above the music, with the non-stop midi strings and gentle percussion throughout. You are made to pay attention to his voice and it makes you ignore any of the instrumental slip-ups. His voice shines with a creamy ending note.
Pro: Good leveling, rich voice. Con: Sharp transitions.
|6.||“Love to Love”|
Undeniably cute song from the second it starts. Absolutely perfect in time for Valentine’s Day. It starts off with loud drums and guitar and there are a lot of vocal and instrumental dubbing tracks going on but it manages to stay less busy than some of the other songs. It’s hard to describe this as anything less than “sickeningly sweet” with the staccato piano, cute assortment of instruments and the “I love to love to love you” chorus. To me, there’s not exactly a distinct bridge, but there are about seven seconds of Jazzy “Milkshake Bar” (You know those American 50s-60s milkshake bars? Well, it sounds like that for about 7 seconds) that digresses into a softer version of the chorus that was the intro to the song, and brings us right back into the next sugary voiced verse. It’s repetitive and not much changes throughout the song, but it’ll have you singing it for days.
Pro: Cute, catchy, perfect timing! Con: Slightly confused jazz breaks.
|7.||“ブラブラ (Blah Blah)”|
Right off – 90s pop ballad. Soft instrumental. Piano with electric guitar, and percussion with backing vocals in the far back of the soundscape. His voice is in his medium range with a purposeful push or strain on his voice during the higher notes, keeping them rich but giving the song a “holding back tears” sense. The Japanese version is, personally, better than the Korean. The softer syllables of Japanese fit the sound of the song better than the original and is definitely suited well to the rest of One Voice. There’s a soft echo on his voice, but it’s well balanced and not overpowering. There are 90s electric guitar breaks between the verses. (Seriously, go watch any 90s rom-dram.) There are backing vocals near the end that are unusually loud in the mix compared to the rest of the song. Echo-y finish with long chimes.
Pro: Soothing and well balanced. Con: Backing vocals get wonky near the end.
Starts with a swelling feeling of anticipation for a bright future, and it delivers it swiftly with the hopeful sounding vocals and the bright acoustic guitar and drum loop. The second verse has a beautiful string arrangement. His voice is comfortable and rich, and he sounds as happy as the song makes you feel. The percussion is slowly taken out to lead into a strong but sweet vocal oriented bridge. The last chorus is much brighter and louder than the others, especially in comparison to the instrumentally quiet bridge. It ends with a gradual and delightful fade of vocals, and a long electric guitar riff that stops a bit short after such a long drawl.
Pro: Happy and hopeful. Con: Drawn out ending.
|9.||“光化門で” (At Gwanghwamun)|
You’re immediately soothed by the soft piano and strings, met by his delicate voice. It’s sung more softly than the Korean version to fit with the airy quality of vocals he has throughout the entire album. The strings feel like they pull on your chest, bringing you closer to the song and his voice drives that sensation home with its long vibrato. His voice is a bit weaker in this version compared to the original and he doesn’t hit the notes as strongly, but it blends with the soft percussion. I feel like the syllables aren’t as natural in Japanese. They’re a little bit awkward, which is the opposite of how “Blah Blah” felt. The track is well balanced. He falls a little bit short on the bridge, but the chorus and verse vocals pull you in and make you forget about any of the track’s shortcomings. It has a very gentle and refreshing fade.
Pro: Gentle and captivating. Con: Falls short in comparison to original.
|10.||“めぐり逢う未来で” (In the Future We Meet Again by Chance)|
It starts extremely loud and poppy after the ballad we were just listening to. It’s higher, more nasally, and “cute.” It sounds like a J-Pop anime opening theme. The mix is solid but messy and it builds up into an even messier instrumental. His voice is swallowed by the mix – it’s over compressed, the midi strings are too high pitched, and it sounds like the producers tried to find every bell and chime available to them in Japan. But it’s really catchy! The whole sound is extremely uplifting and makes you bounce along to it. His vocals are honestly incredibly strong and bright despite having to stay so uncharacteristically high, but it’s really hard to decipher what you’re hearing because the instrumental levels that are fighting his voice are all-consuming. The bridge has lots of even messier backing vocals on top of the frantic guitar that just drowns out his voice when it was meant to be the focus of the bridge, and they cut his long vocal belt short. The finish finally offers you a chance to hear his voice but it’s still covered by the midi strings, about 40 (not really, but like about 6 or so) bells, chimes, voices, and instruments that come to a sharp end along a lovely but smothered held out vocal note.
Pro: Uplifting and bouncy. Con: The mix. The entire mix.
Disclaimer: I had some harsh criticism towards the producers, engineers, mixers, mastering engineers, and well, pretty much everyone involved in the process. I know from personal experience that making an album is extremely long and arduous, but when you’re given a voice as versatile and talented as Kyuhyun, do not cover it up with anything you think might sound good. His voice speaks for itself. Also, I’m looking at you engineers – I know how tempting the chimes are with his quality of voice, but just – hold off. That being said: all of this doesn’t stop me from listening to One Voice at least three times a day. I thoroughly enjoy this album and I would and have recommended it to my friends and family. You should definitely give it a try.
You can stream it on Spotify or buy it on iTunes/Apple Music.
There’s only one video for the album so far; it’s the title track “My Serious Love Comedy” and it is a promotional video for the album. It’s super cute and worth a view!
Do you love to love the album? Let us know your opinion below!