Review: Crush Crushes Debut Album

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief

 

In 2011, you probably wouldn’t have seen the likes of Crush on a weekend countdown show. Mainstream music in Korea has grown in variety over the past few years, and as listeners’ interests have begun to grow outside of the K-pop box, the previously underground R&B, hip-hop, and urban-influenced sounds of Seoul are rising above ground and to the tops of the charts.

Crush made a splash in the Korean hip-hop scene in 2012 when he independently released “Red Dress,” and since has been making even bigger waves. Having collaborated with Zion. T on his single “Two Melodies” and Supreme Team’s “Stay Still,” Crush has proven his capability as both a vocalist and as a producer on more than one occasion.

Making his official debut with his first full-length album Crush On You, Crush has once again proven his talent. With a diverse set of tracks that showcase his vocal range and validate his skill as a songwriter and producer, Crush solidifies his own signature sound on his debut album.

 

1. I Fancy You

Those who were familiar with his work before he officially debuted under Amoeba Culture will know that Crush’s “I Fancy You” is one of his earlier tracks. While I like it, compared to the rest of the album it definitely sounds like one of his earlier works in that compared to the quality of all the other tracks on the album, this one falls a bit short. This is to be expected of early work from artists, and I’m sure that as one of his more popular songs from when he was an underground artist, this is a record that is near and dear to both Crush and his fans, and I can thus see why he decided to include it on the album.

 

 

2. A Little Bit (feat. Lydia Paek)

This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. As the only track featuring a female artist, “A Little Bit” really inserts some more depth and variety into the album as a whole. In a lot of ways, the verses of this song have a very similar vibe to “I Fancy You” (another potential reason for using “I Fancy You” as the intro track), but the highlight of the song comes at the chorus when the beat goes double-time and becomes a bit more poppy. Lydia Paek absolutely kills her part when it comes time for the breakdown; not only does she have a great voice, but it compliments Crush’s vocals very well, resulting in a song that sounds balanced and put-together.

 

 

3. Hey Baby (feat. Zion. T)

“Hey Baby” is a throwback track if I have ever heard one. With an ‘80s drumkit driving the song with that signature shallow snare sound and plenty of “digga-da-digga-da-doong” fillers on the tom drums, this song is a dance party waiting to happen. The track is an obvious tribute to Michael Jackson – at one point Zion. T even says “MJ Baby” and follows it up with a few very MJ-esque “shickah-duh-OOH!” accents. The break of this song could have been written by Michael himself. With ‘80s pop synth hits and a dirty pop guitar straight out of Jackson’s “Black or White” music video, the break turns this song from a cool record into a certified jam. “Hey Baby” is a standout track that lends some welcome diversity to the album by straying from the R&B slow jam style that has dominated the album thus far.

 

 

4. Whatever You Do (feat. Gray)

This record is very romantic. With a lush string section softly playing and chords being stroked out on vibraphone-simulating keyboard (a sound that seems to be becoming a signature sound of Amoeba Culture’s), the song sets a sweet and mellow tone of amour. The lyrics further reiterate the charming nature of the song, as Crush croons in the chorus, “Whatever you do, whatever you feel, whatever you see, you can just stay by my side.” The song does a good job slowing down the pace of the album without being too abrupt – the light, melodic, charm of “Whatever You Do” is a great transition from the pop banger that is “Hey Baby.”

 

 

5. 밥맛아야 (feat. Kumapark)

This song is absolutely a song I would want to see Crush perform live. Like “Whatever You Do,” this track is a bit lighter in instrumentation than the others, but is a bit more up-tempo, once again diversifying the pace of the album and keeping the listener from being bored. The song’s live performance potential is most likely courtesy of the feature on the track, experimental jazz band Kumapark. At one point Crush and the members of Kumapark take turns soloing, which gets a little chaotic and ends with some very in-the-moment seeming screaming from Crush – it is these sort of improvisational opportunities in the song that would make it very cool to see performed live.

 

 

6. 아름다운 그대 (feat. Choiza)

So far this album has gone from R&B to pop to experimental jazz, and now with “아름다운 그대,” disco is getting thrown into the mix too. With a groovy bass line and a funky guitar pluck driving the track, the song certainly has a flavor of the ‘70s. Crush does a good job blending the retro sound of this track with a more modern R&B sound through his vocal melody. Choiza’s rap is another great highlight on the track that makes the song feel less antiquated and more relevant to today’s musical tastes.

 

 

7. 원해

“원해” is probably the most mellow song on the album. The piano intro and first verse kind of sounds like something you would hear on Taeyang song, but as the track moves into the chorus, it becomes less of a ballad and more of a head-bobber. With lyrics like “I want you before the night ends,” the track is what one might call a “baby making” jam – it’s a song that you would imagine if performed live, would probably have a lot of body rolls in the choreography. Personally, “원해” is not one of my favorites on the album, because I find the chorus to be a bit awkward. To my ear, the melody line of the chorus just doesn’t really mesh well with the backing track, and while I think that pairing of an R&B melody with a gangster rap beat is an innovative idea, when the chorus rolls around the two sounds are dissonant enough to leave me feeling unsettled.

 

 

8. Hug Me (feat. Gaeko)

Where “I Want You” lacks in completeness, “Hug Me” makes up for it. The single is superb; not only is it perfectly definitive of Crush and his sound, but the song exquisitely fuses R&B and hip-hop together in a way that allows the listener to immediately recognize that signature Amoeba Music sound. “Hug Me” showcases Crush’s musical spectrum by combining both a mellow, smooth sound in the verses along with a much more gritty, hardcore, and in-your-face sound in the bridge and chorus. The record walks a very fine line between sounding like a radio hit and sounding like an underground R&B/hip-hop song that only an exclusive club of music appreciators would know, and Crush’s ability to walk this line so well is what makes him organic and authentic as an artist, while maintaining a mainstream appeal. Gaeko’s rap verse fits snugly into in the song and does so without stealing the spotlight – Crush is definitely the star of the show.

 

 

9. Give It To Me (feat. Jay Park, Simon Dominic)

“Give It To Me” brings the album right back into slow jam mode. Jay Park was a fantastic choice of collaboration for this track – his and Crush’s voices blend very well together, and the seductive nature of this song is right up Jay Park’s alley. Park even alludes to his 2013 single “Welcome” by pulling his first few lines of “Give It To Me” from his own song. Overall, the song is a better slow jam than “원해,” but I almost feel as if having three slow jams on one album (“I Fancy You,” “원해,” and “Give It To Me”) might be a bit excessive – especially since “Hug Me,” arguably the best song on the album, is sandwiched between them. In the end though, it’s a decent track and serves as another good pace-change in the album.

 

 

10. It’s Friday (feat. Jinbo)

“It’s Friday” signals a drop in the intensity of the album. As the second-to-last track on the album, the song brings about a sense of relaxation and sort of starts to wind down the album. With that signature vibraphone/electric piano sound and simple beat, it’s a catchy enough song, but not necessarily a stand-out on the album. “It’s Friday” is a great B-side track that you would probably listen to on a chill night out with your friends at an empty lounge or bar.

 

 

11. Sometimes

“Sometimes” was a great choice for Crush’s first single. Its instrumentation very well reiterates what has become Amoeba Music’s signature sound: funk bass and simple drumkit-driven rhythms with electric piano accents and a lush string section to add glossy layers and depth to the song. The single was a safe soft introduction for Crush as a new Amoeba artist – it shows that Crush is aware of musical trends and of his own color as an artist, and leaves the real stand-out track of the album, “Hug Me,” available as the next single for his big album debut. It was a good decision to leave this song for the end because it has a very conclusive sense about it – it wraps up the album on a solid note, instead of letting it just sort of fizzle out with a mediocre B-side.

As a whole, this is a very good album, especially considering it’s Crush’s first.  Despite the fact that he incorporates many different genres, the album maintains a certain consistency that allows the listener to establish a familiarity with Crush as an artist; after you listen to all of the tracks, you know who Crush is, what he sounds like, and what he is all about. The ability to establish a unique and authentic identity as an artist on your first album is not an easy feat, but Crush, well, crushed it.

 

To learn more about Crush, visit his moonROK artist page, and stay tuned to moonROK for more reviews and editorials like these!

All visual and audio media courtesy of Amoeba Culture
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