It's been a full 5 years since Kpop's original Hot Bloods debuted* with “Heartbeat.” That's right, I'm talking about the beastly idols themselves, 2PM. There is no doubt that JYP Entertainment helped to produce one of the most popular Kpop groups in history and Go Crazy! is proof that Jin Young Park's immense talent has rubbed off on these six talented men. It's been more than a year since 2PM's latest Korean-release, Grown, but, ironically, Go Crazy! is the album where we can hear 2PM maturing in style and substance.
*[Editor's note: debut referred to is of 2PM in their current incarnation, without Jay Park.]
The album's opening track is “Go Crazy!”, an ode to what being young is all about. The song itself is reminiscent of a ‘70s disco track that is just so groovy that you can't help but shimmy when it begins to play. "Go Crazy!" opens with an electronic beat, but soon gives way to the pleasant surprise of a funky guitar melody in the background. Eventually, it melds so well into the overall personality of the song that it becomes indistinguishable. The infectious chorus call out of “Go crazy! Go crazy!” and “aniya” makes "Go Crazy!" a great example of the quintessential Kpop dance song: not only can you dance to it, you can also sing along without having to worry about what the lyrics are all about. This is very much a grown-up pop song, as the tempo is rather slow without being overpowering and fierce. The melody sometimes even has to catch up to the vocals! Producer and member of 2PM, Jun.K shows off his talent as a composer and lyricist by producing a song that is unique to this era of 2PM: sure, you're likely to hear this song at a club, but you can expect to see well-dressed young adults there, instead of rowdy teenagers.
The next track is “Like Tonight.” On first listen, I kept wanting to skip this one. Although the production is tight and the synthesizers fit into the general theme of the album, the song itself is unremarkable. It even sounds slightly dated and like something I could hear on any Kpop album.
“She's Ma Girl,” the third track, is a refreshing take on modern Kpop. It opens with a saxophone solo, which is not unheard of in Kpop, but swiftly takes off into a swing-inspired ballad. While it remains a slow song, it does give us a chance to really hear the unmistakable vocal talents of 2PM, and showcases what a successful, brassy, big band pop song sounds like. “She's Ma Girl” proves that even the hod-blooded 2PM boys can grow into crooners.
Up next is “Awesome!”, a song, for me, that doesn't live up to its title. After listening to this tune a few times, it sounds as though the melody and pitch of the vocals are out of whack. Again we hear the falsetto and high-pitched vocals accompanying a synth that sounds rather gimmicky and heavy-handed. I can appreciate the idea behind the song, but the execution seems half-hearted and unfortunately, this ranks as one of the worst songs on this album for me.
“Rain is Falling” is your typical boyband ballad. It isn't terrible, or amazing, and remains fairly mediocre. I will note, however, that the use of a sitar in a Kpop ballad is not something I have heard too often and in this case, it works. But then again, I've never been a fan of ballads to begin with.
“Boyfriend” is a surprisingly good song. It opens with heavy piano chords and a whispered opening verse. Unexpected, yes, but when the rest of the song begins it all clicks together. “Boyfriend” is another song that pushes the boundaries of typical Kpop fare. It's part West Side Story, part Motown. The song carries itself on the strong vocal harmonies juxtaposed over a rhythm of heavy synthesizers and sound effects. I can confidently say that this song oozes a “cool” factor and I'd like to see more artists take on unconventional styles like this.
“Pull & Pull” is another all-out ballad. Unlike “Rain is Falling”, there is no use of interesting instruments or tempo changes. Nothing special here. Let's move on.
Way at the end of the album is the hidden gem “Goodbye Trip.” This is another track written and produced by Jun.K that just screams ‘80s glam...but in a manly Kpop way of course. This is definitely a song I found myself going back to time and time again. Right from the introduction, we are taken on a “trip” with what I can only hope is a keytar and shoulder pads. The beat is tight, complete with a crisp retro drum machine sound, and a powerful chorus where the vocals take control of the whole melody. From verse to chorus to bridge, the tempo changes rapidly, but nothing sounds out of place. “Goodbye Trip” is complex and boasts a lot of sounds happening all at once, but it stays true to a consistent sound through a Capella melodies and a barrage of electronic sound effects. Do not pass this song up!
The last two tracks on Go Crazy! are “Beautiful” and “I'm Your Man,” two songs that originally appeared on 2PM's Japanese albums. Both have been re-recorded into Korean but essentially remain the same songs. “Beautiful” retains a heavily-influenced Latin style, and is a solid pop song, although it feels out of place on this particular album. “I'm Your Man” is also a strong song that carries JYP's style of intricate melodies and electronic sounds scattered all through the song. Plus, the “I'm your ma-aaa-aan” part is also very fun to sing.
Overall, this album receives a B. It's clear that veterans of the industry, 2PM, are on their way to exercising their own creativity as the members were responsible for writing and/or producing more than half of the songs on Go Crazy!. The blend of disco, funk and R&B that are present on this album make it an enjoyable and fun listen, but some songs bring the overall experience down a notch or two. Go Crazy! is an example of when what is good is great, and when what is not is mediocre at best. For an extra treat, pick up the Grand (extended) version of Go Crazy! for the unit songs that were completely written and composed by the members themselves. It's an excellent chance to hear the unique styles and progressions of what's to come in Kpop. Of special notability is Jun.K who is well on his way to establishing a name for himself as one of JYP's top producers.