On June 9, 2015, MBLAQ released their 8th mini album, Mirror. Melodic, sophisticated, jazzy and mature, it is a clear departure from their earlier works but it is with good reason: they are different.
The men of MBLAQ have never rested on the laurels of their past work, nor have they repetitively churned out the same kind music over and over. In fact, those groups in the Korean pop world who tend to stay musically stagnant seem to all have one mission in mind, and that is to maintain and remain steadily in the idol realm. The beauty of MBLAQ is that they refuse to follow suit. Okay, perhaps in the beginning, when they debuted, it was all about idol-making. But over the course of their career, MBLAQ has proved that it is not about adhering to the idol structure, regimen or life, but rather about making quality music – regardless of risk. More importantly, it is all about evolving as musicians and that is exactly what their last three albums have shown, and particularly so with Mirror.
The concept that builds the foundation of Mirror is emotional and intelligent. In the press call prior to their June 9th showcase, the men of MBLAQ expounded a bit about the events of late last year, the departure of two of their members, and the resulting difficulties each of them had navigating through that loss and change. I look at Mirror as an exercise in healing. I have always felt, at least for G.O, that music was a sanctuary. It is the very nurturer a broken heart can find solace in. It is the best friend always there to provide support, hope and true unconditional love. It is a receptor to receive all of the anguish, uncertainty and loss that one feels after a tragic event, or in this case, a break up. Music is a healer on so many levels and I believe that the eight reflective pieces on Mirror offer Seung Ho, G.O and Mir each the healing and strength they needed to move on.
The beautiful concept of this album is that each of the vocal songs has a mirrored instrumental companion. I wonder who came up with this idea…seriously. So smart. And although I would have loved to have 8 vocal songs, the concept here works, and works well. Each instrumental piece sets up its vocal counterpart with perfection. Once you have a listen, I think you will agree. I think you will also agree that MBLAQ stands worlds apart from their contemporaries today. They are different and this is what makes them so incredibly special (at least to this biased fangirl)! It is worthy to note that they all have producer, composer and arranger credits on this beautiful album.
Emerging from the quiet of writing, composing, and healing, the men open Mirror with the gentle and beautiful instrumental waltz, Resurrection. Tender and quiet, I listen to this piece and visualize the three gorgeous men of MBLAQ walking towards me amid a light misty fog. As they get closer, that mist begins to slowly dissipate and they come into full view. They look strong, healthy and at peace. Their hearts may not have completely healed, but…they are still beating strong. Perhaps those quiet beats of a heart monitor at the end of the song are significant of just that. Yes, they are very much alive and well and ready to return to us. Yes, they have resurrected themselves from the darkness and are ready to move forward. Seung Ho’s exquisite piano is a perfect intro that is laced with a hint of mystery of what is to come and pulsates with life inviting us to partake in this new dance.
There has been so much speculation as to the underlying meaning of this song. Is it simply a break-up song? Or, as some have surmised, is it a blatant discussion of the absolute hurt and betrayal our three remaining members of MBLAQ have weathered as a result of the departure of Lee Joon and Cheondung, after having loved, committed and poured all of their energy into building a relationship (a brotherhood) that was apparently doomed from the outset?
Another meaningless day is passing
Even smiling feels awkward now
Everything feels empty . . .
My heart trusted you so much but it broke down
I’m still hurting
Because I trusted you more than anyone else . . .
I suppose you can take it either way, and it would fit IF, in fact, there was discord and animosity between them. It’s a hard call and, frankly I am on the fence. I cannot wrap my heart around the fact that there may have been problems between them that were so severe that the end result was the departure of Joon and Thunder.
This rhythmic ballad ebbs and flows with contemplation and intensity. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and yet musically sounds so romantic.
But, the pain is palatable. Moreover, we hear the pain and resignation in the lyrics and in the way both Seung Ho and G.O sing. And, in Mir’s rap, we hear defiance, even a little anger.
I’m so busy, so much work to do
I have no time to think about you
I took off all the dirty clothes
Finally I know what’s me
I’m finally starting a bright tomorrow
So you probably wanna come back to me
But now I don’t need you . . .
Ok, here is where everything shifts gears in both mood and tone. The album may have opened with reflection and sadness, but it certainly was not going to continue on that path and become definitive of MBLAQ’s future course. No. With Every Day, they seem to pause after that reflection, take a deep breath (a sigh almost) and then pick themselves up by changing both focus and tune with this track, the third on the album. Every Day is an airy and upbeat instrumental replete with a groovy jazz guitar at its foundation. Soooooo smooth!!!
When I first heard this piece my mind immediately found itself recalling the Intro, Interlude and Outro on Tykey’s album Ty Project No. 1. Here, the lithe musical interlude mixed with real-time sounds of a place where people are busily going about their day, have me fondly pondering if there are still some remnants of Tykeys lingering in the depths of G.O’s tender soul. For once again, he finds himself in a trio consisting of a fellow vocalist, and lone rapper. Even though I am saddened by the departure of Joon and Cheondung, I am finding a gentle beauty in the synchronicity at play here. Kyaaaaaa…life and its sweet mysteries.^^
Every Day is the perfect set up for the breezy Hey You.
We are just your average guys, going about our days, you know, just tooling along. No biggie. We’re single, it’s cool. Errrrrrrr…well maybe, just maybe we’d like to be in love. Maybe we’d like to find that special someone – maybe we would like to be cheesy, you know, have couple rings, etc. Yeah so….why isn’t there a girl for me??? Hehehehehe…
I so love the gentle tug-of-war going on in the psyche of this song!!!! On one hand scoffing at the idea of couple-hood and then contemplating that very wish to be in love. The lament, “Guys who are worse than me are in relationships, I thought I was pretty alright, I say; I want to be the other shoe in a pair,” is a true admission that our hero wants all the cheese he can possibly consume because, “I wanna fall in love now.” The retro and funky guitars on this song are a throwback to the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire and Sly & The Family Stone. That feel good soulful R&B of the early 70’s. LOVE!!!!
The sweetness in this song is as potent as the joy in G.O’s voice as he sings it. The pep in Mir’s rap is sharp. And Seung Ho’s voice has a light and easy flow. Hey You is a refreshing reminder that the road may have been rough getting to this point for our lovely men, but through it all they have hope. Moreover, they still have a playful happiness in their hearts that they want (or need) to share with us. This song confirms in its simple way that everything is okay, that they are ok.
Eyes On You
Oh dear lord…………….
Sultry, sexy, seductive. This is 39 seconds of pure unadulterated sexy Byung Hee. His golden voice heavy with temptation and dripping with sensuality. I can only hope and pray that somewhere there is video footage of him recording this one. PLEASE!!! Even though this mirror instrumental counterpart breaks the instrumental rule on the album, I am totally ok with that!!!
As a prelude to I Know U Want Me, G.O uses Eyes On You to set us up with this seductive R&B tidbit wherein he simply croons, “I know you want me….I know you want me…I know you want me….”and then a breathy Seung Ho adds, “to the left, to the right, duribeon daji ma moreun cheok hajima” and G.O capping it off with a few final, “I know you want me…” Straightforward and to the point, they basically say, ‘girl, I know you want me, don’t look around, don’t pretend you don’t know, I know you want me.’ I think the last time we came close this kind of heat was possibly on Sexy Beat and for certain, I have not then heard G.O go there since the steamy Get Down from Tykeys.
When this interlude hits my playlist, I have to stop everything that I am doing to just listen and savor. It is short but absolutely delectable!
I Know U Want Me
I have to admit that when I heard Eyes On You, I was expecting I Know U Want Me to continue where it left off. I was all prepared to be slaughtered by the sensual side of G.O. Oh, I was ready. Unexpectedly, G.O detours from the smooth and sexy, and the song takes a completely different turn than its instrumental counterpart. The message is the same, but simply presented in the most flirtatious and engaging way. If I have said it once, I have said a trillion times, I LOVE THE WAY G.O LOVES MUSIC!!!! He wrote, composed and arranged this song with his Retrofunkee buddies (a music production team consisting of some pretty incredible vocalist all unto themselves). Theirs is a collaboration that is steeped deep in long-time friendship, mutual respect, and an all-encompassing love of music. I love so many things about G.O (you think?) but one of the things I admire so much about him is the profound connect and loyalty he has to people in his life. Perhaps this is why the departure of Joon and Thunder was particularly difficult for him.
With promotions for Mirror in full swing, the men of MBLAQ have not only been performing the title song on many of the popular music programs in Seoul, they have made a couple of stops on various radio programs as well. This has afforded them the opportunity to talk a little more in-depth about moving forward as a trio, and also discuss some of the songs on the album. With reference to I Know U Want Me, Seung Ho commented that it is a very difficult song to sing and that really, only G.O can sing it. Seung Ho is not a vocal weakling by any stretch, but that he can honestly and perhaps even reverently, recognize the vocal superiority of his bandmate is a testament to the respect he has for G.O as a vocalist.
The song is G.O vocal dominant but both Seung Ho and Mir add to the sexy playfulness of the song. Mir’s rap in particular:
Don’t be shy, you’re already so hot
So different from other girls
Don’t ignore my look
You’re not that rude . . .
1 and 2 and 3 and 4, people zoom in toward us
Our chemistry is pretty good
Slowly follow my rhythm and follow me . . .
Well, hey now.^^~~
According to G.O, he wrote and composed I Know U Want Me a year ago. This little gem has been waiting for the right time to make its debut and I think including it on Mirror was the perfect platform. Encompassing the same retro groove as Hey You, I Know U Want Me is upbeat and thoroughly infectious. What’s more, G.O sprinkled it with English. Seriously, the day this man composes a song completely in English is the day I will assuredly lose my mind!! He is no stranger to English in the music sense. He has covered many songs in English, and covered them well. I absolutely adore that he added some English so sweetly (and strategically well) in this song about giving in to the inevitable – which may or may not be a one night stand….but who cares???? In this song, he is the flirtatious pied-piper and I am duly bewitched.^^
Because he is my bias, I admit that the melt factor is high when I hear him sing, “I need you here, I’ll do anything for you…” or, I know you want me baby, I want you to be my lady…” – in English no less. After a few listens, I guarantee you will be singing along with him. The song is just THAT infectious.
The range and repertoire of music that comprise the architectural structure of this man’s melodious DNA affords him the ability to not only sing within various genres of music, it gives him the incredible ability to write and compose over those vast genres as well. I suppose when music is your calling, this is inevitable. I Know U Want Me is so completely on the opposite end of the spectrum from say, Winter’s Spring Summer Autumn and…. that you would think they were written by two different people. This is the strength and breadth of G.O, the composer.
He is a remarkable talent, and I will never tire of telling the world of that fact.
Four Seasons, 24 Hours
This musical poem is a gentle lullaby that softly ushers in the final and perhaps most heartfelt song on the entire album, Tree.
Following the upbeat Hey You and I Know U Want Me, Four Seasons, 24 Hours, downshifts the flow of the album and slows thing down. Can you see the pattern? The album opens quietly with Resurrection, builds with Mirror, hits a crescendo and climax with Hey You and I Know U Want Me, and then comes full circle back to the quiet. Folks, this album is so intelligently written, assembled and thought out.
Inasmuch as each one of the songs on Mirror are wonderful and unique, it is perhaps Tree that holds the most meaning and importance, at least from a fan perspective. I honestly cannot choose a favorite on this album, but I can single out Tree as being extra special. I had the rare honor to be able to see and experience this live as MBLAQ not only gifted the song to the fans for their ongoing support and love, they performed it live at the June 9th Showcase.
Talk about moving. As we all know, G.O, the sensitive being that he is, sings from a place that is so pure and honest, there is no denying the reality of the passion and emotion he puts into telling the story of the song. The way music consumes him is breathtaking. But here in Tree, I have to pay proper homage to this brothers. Seung Ho has a quiet elegance to his husky voice. His voice has a natural sensuousness to it. In Tree, it is a tender sensual, a comforting sensual, one that buffers the urgency and emotion coming from G.O. Oh, this 87-Line, theirs is truly a sweet synergy.
And then there is Mir. Mir’s vocal styling in Tree is perfection. Quiet, gentle and beautiful, you feel the tenderness that Mir’s heart is truly replete with. Mir has been our constant through everything the fandom has gone through since October of last year. Mir holds our fragile hearts with such gentle protection and love. Here, his beautiful brothers provide their gentle harmonies as a backdrop to the deep, and soft reverberation of his voice. Mir truly shows us that if you give him the opportunity, he can vocalize his heart beyond the realm of rap. I have yet to get through this song without crying and I begin to lose it the moment Mir begins to sing. Who knew the maknae had such power?!
The wind is blowing
Even after several seasons
I’m still at the same place
Even when days and tomorrows pass
It stays the same
To some, you may be just a small tree that they passed by
But to me, you were so precious
You were a big present . . .
When spring comes, you can pick my flower
When summer comes, you can lean on me and rest
I live for you, remember once more
When fall comes, I’ll bring you fruits
When winter comes, I’ll give myself to you so you won’t be cold
I’ll become a giving tree . . .
In the press call prior to the Showcase, Mir explained that Tree was indeed written as a gift to the fans. This tender ballad is everything we have come to expect from the hearts of MBLAQ, especially these three. The song is gentle and heartfelt. It is what a gift should be. For all of the times the fans were there for them, MBLAQ simply wanted to return the favor by letting them know that they are very much like a strong tree, and they have not waivered. And although it may have been difficult, they have remained steady and strong and that no wind, no matter how strong or how hard it may blow, can destroy the power of their appreciation and love. They are here for us.
Even when the strong winds blow
Like a tree, I’ll stay at the same place, even if it’s hard
If you heart is hurting, I’ll be your shade
Will you lean on me, until always?
I’m waiting, I’m waiting for you
Like a tree that you can rest under….
Each member of this remarkable group has a truly soft heart when it comes to the fans. They know the fans have been their strength. I have witnessed the love and admiration, the care and appreciation they have towards their fans. It is genuine and pure. It is honest and forthright. They knew the fans were hurting, worried and scared. This song is their message, a testament to the fans they so dearly love, that they noticed and with this song, say thank you. The fans no longer have to worry as MBLAQ have now returned stronger and ready to protect them. Here is the June 9th pre-Showcase press call performance of Tree.
I love this beautiful song with all my heart as I love these three amazing men.
The men of MBLAQ are intelligent musicians whose exploration into a variety of genres of music keep their sound fresh and eclectic. I absolutely love that they take the kind of risks so many of their contemporaries would never dream of doing for fear of criticism or, god forbid, a loss in fandom. Here is where I believe MBLAQ fully understand and trust their fans. They make music to please their fans. Not the critics. Not other groups. The fans. I trust any direction they choose to take musically because I know that behind those good looks lies an intelligence, appreciation and respect for music that runs deeper than any of us could comprehend. And if you appreciate music in the way that they appreciate it, you will never be disappointed with what they give us, ever.
Mirror is a brilliant album. Wonderfully written, composed, produced and arranged. Each song has its own individual story, but collectively tells a story of renewal, hope, playfulness, strength and promise. Each song is a testament to the talent, power and resilience of MBLAQ.