Dec 26, 2015

B.A.P Is FINALLY Back With "Matrix"

Back in 2012 there was a huge flood of new groups debuting, in fact it is the year that witnessed the most K-pop debuts ever, and among all those groups there were a few that stood out and stuck around, and B.A.P was one of them. Their debut song and MV "Warrior" caught a lot of people's attention, and for a good reason. They brought something that really hadn't been seen before; a tough, aggressive image with a rock-hip hop sound and six bleach blonde heads. I still think their debut is one of the best ones do date, period, but over the years they've gone through some changes.

I loved all their earlier material, both the title tracks and albums, and up to 2013's "One Shot" I was all on board. Then came "Badman", which I tend to forget ever happened, and later "First Sensibility" that was even more underwhelming. What I'm trying to say is that even prior to their lawsuit and following hiatus I was loosing my interest, so it's been a bit hard for me to try and get back into them with this new comeback even though I am very happy it's actually a thing. Believe me, it's amazing that they're back and I do still like them a lot, but as you can tell by this late review B.A.P's latest release haven't been a priority for me. Still, I wanted to write something about them simply because I love that they're back, and hopefully it will help me ease back into the process of stanning them again.

Their comeback mini album is called "Matrix"and was released November 16, which is, I know, over a month ago. There's been quite a few comebacks in November so the time hasn't been on my side, or at least that's my excuse. I'm sorry! Nonetheless, this album opens up with "Take You There". It's an upbeat pop song with a surprise horn addition in the chorus, giving it more of a jazzy feel to enhance the warmth of the lyrics. This is actually a song that I find that the verses are better than the chorus, and to be honest I'd much rather have it the other way around. I don't know if it's because I think the chorus is a bit too happy and cheerful to fit the vibe of the other parts, but whatever reason it is it makes the overall impression of the song a bit lacking. I definitely think it's a sweet song and they all sound lovely, but as an opening track it should've been more stronger.

After "Take You There" we have "Monologue", which feels an awfully lot like an intro but it's inserted as the second track on the album. It's only one and a half minute long in which Himchan talks for about half of it before Zelo and Yongguk starting spitting words. What this is is basically an introduction to the next track, which is the title track, as they describe their struggles as well their fight to get back on their feet, and how nothing can stop them now. I do have to say that this monologue is powerful because you know everything they say is based on their own story, but this definitely should've been the very first thing on the album because it leads up perfectly to the next track; "Young, Wild & Free"

Now this song is what I would've expected the album to kick off with after the intro, and this is also the perfect song for B.A.P to come back with. What I loved about B.A.P when they debuted was that everything about them was so strong, powerful and aggressive. Their sound was harsh and heavy with plenty of distorted electric guitars, bass and drums, and they fact that they mixed rock elements with rapping was both innovative and unique in the K-pop industry. As I mentioned their most recent releases has kind of taken a different musical direction, but now they've come back with a song that has all of those elements that I loved about their songs in the beginning. "Young, Wild & Free" has a purpose, I think, to serve as a kind of punch in the face. Right from the first few seconds you can tell that this song will show you no mercy, and that B.A.P are re-branding themselves with an even stronger image. And after what they've been through, can you blame them?

The lyrics of the song are just that; the hardships they face cannot stop them and they will, no matter what comes in their way, stop running. They will fight until they achieve their goals and never back down, and along with their fans and each other they will create new history. You get the sense as you're listening to it that this song is just as much for their dedicated fans as it is for themselves, and I'm sure that their loyal fans who've always waited for them and supported them must've been a huge source of strength. The video for the song isn't really anything else but a statement of power, as the boys confidently flaunt their new selves and their new regained status. This is a video for anyone who has ever doubted their abilities, their fighting spirit or their dedication to their work, and it's amazing to watch them in action. I don't think neither the MV nor song for this comeback is their best work but after their controversy and long hiatus this is exactly what they need to be putting out.

After the dark, aggressive and forceful title track we have a much lighter and certainly a much happier song, and it's even called "Be Happy". This is literally a 180 degree turn from the previous track, and if I didn't know this was B.A.P I never in my life would've guessed it to be a song of theirs. This track gives me serious "Uptown Funk" vibes, in fact I'm positive this song was inspired by at least said song, and it's just pure, unhindered joy, "Be Happy" is exactly that, an encouraging song to be happy and look forward, and it's probable that one does reflect back on their struggles that they've now managed to come out of victorious. When I first listened to this song I was really taken back because I never in a million years thought B.A.P would release a song like this, and thus I was a bit disappointed. However when I later watched the live performances of the song I began to like it more and more, mostly because of how happy and carefree the members look as they jump and dance on stage.

The very last track on "Matrix" is "Blind", and I do believe this is the best song on the album, or at least it's my personal favorite. When I heard it I instantly thought of "Save Me" of off their first full album back in early 2014. It has that soft rock sound, electric guitars and a wonderful melody sung in a minor key, but then the unthinkable happens. AGAIN. The exact same thing that bothered me so much about "Save Me" happens here as well; a switch from minor to major that disrupts the flow of the entire song. I don't know why they think this is a good idea, because the sad grunge vibe of the verses led me to think the chorus would be somewhat similar, but instead it only makes for a strange transition.

Nonetheless this song is still by far the best one on the album because despite the switch the melody is really good and the post-chorus part is everything I ever wanted. Additionally I feel like this is the song, apart from the title track, that sounds the most like B.A.P as I want them to sound. It definitely reminds me more of their earlier, and in my opinion superior, material, and that's a great thing.

Overall I would say this album falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to their discography. Their pre-"Bad Man" releases are still the better ones, with "One Shot" being my favorite mini album of the bunch, but it's much better than the underwhelming "First Sensibility" for example. They're trying out some new genres mixed in with styles fans already associate them with, and more importantly the title track is perfect for them to have as their comeback song. I also enjoy the improvement made by Himchan and especially Jongup, Youngjae's lovely vocals and the contrasting rapping techniques between Zelo and Yongguk. However I have to say that above all I have missed Daehyun's voice the most, and boy am I glad to hear him again.

In terms of critique I would say that the mixing of genres, although it's good for them to try new sounds, is a bit confusing. There isn't really a coherent theme and the confusing track listing makes the album feel even more all over the place than it already does. Still I can't deny that no matter what I'm still very pleased to see B.A.P back on the stage again, and I'm as always excited to see where their journey heads next.

Highlights: "Young, Wild & Free", "Blind"
Total Score: 3,45/5

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