While listening to 4Minute's audacious, brash, and angry Crazy mini-album, the first thing that came to mind was, to reference the very last song of theirs that I've enjoyed: "Volume up." There's no other way to listen to Crazy. There should be a warning label that accompanies every album saying just that. Put on headphones if you have roommates. Or better yet, keep the headphones off; your roommates, though annoyed at first, will thank you later when they add "Cut It Out" to their workout playlist or blast "Show Me" as they shower and brush their teeth in the morning.
Turn that volume up. Crazy has to be heard, and to listen to it in lower octaves is a disservice to the seismic aggression of this auditory experience. Yes, I've typed experience. Yes, I'm using hyperbolic language here because there is very little other recourse to describe an album that elevates Kpop to such an unimaginable degree. I'm not even referring to the quality here. Crazy unleashes Kpop as a burst of scorching adrenaline that, upon first listen, is unnerving.
After a understated start to 2015, with more ballads than one single heart can possibly take, 4Minute's Crazy blasts off at breakneck speeds. Their rocket could very well be called Redemption after their disappointing 4Minute World, with a promotional single so forgettable and lacklusterly quirky in "Whatcha Doin' Today" that the group petered out by the end of 2014, which isn't the worst tragedy, except that this is 4Minute here. Some people put them in the Big 3 girl groups (just below or near SNSD and 2NE1), and just that consideration should put them in the conversation during the completion of every end of the year list. Sorry, we didn't even think about 4Minute by the end of last year.
But while 4Minute World fell flat (except for "Wait a Minute," which is worth a listen), Crazy trades in the decaying quirkiness that they wore down since "What's Your Name" for an energetic pizzazz that the title track embraces. We've said in the past that HyunA is the new Queen of Kpop, but to be more specific, with this release, 4Minute are the Queens of Cool.
The music video for "Crazy" is, at first, so fierce that you'll think that 4Minute is angry, and not just angry, angry at you. And maybe they are. Maybe they're angry that they have to prove themselves, still. "Crazy" somehow feels like a chip on their shoulder, even if the lyrics are inauspicious, albeit accusatory: "People around me call me crazy. You're looking at me and calling me crazy too." Before commanding the listener to join in on the mayhem, "Go crazy, scream, enjoy it."
Well, okay then, 4Minute. We will.
It's a relief to hear Gayoon's soothing voice (as always) after HyunA's hyper-kenetic opening to "Crazy." Gayoon owns many parts of this album, but everyone really has their moments to shine (including Jihyun, who we sometimes forget, sorry). "Crazy" does require the volume to be up, way up, and for a suitable speaker. I had to listen to the song a few times before I fell into the insanity, but when I did, I was better off, and now I'm hooked. To quote 4Minute again: "Embrace it."
It may be dull and simple-minded to complain over an agency's choice of promotional single at this point. The single is rarely the best song in the album, but often the most accessible. But I can't help myself: "Tickle Tickle Tickle" is just that good of a song, and one that I hope that they promote (4Minute is not shy about promoting more than one song from their albums, so there's hope). It has the continuity that "Crazy" lacks, feeling ultimately more cohesive but also retains the manic intensity, if to a different degree. Again, put the volume up. The beats need to be heard and felt, not just with your ears, but with your whole body.
It would be morally wrong to dismiss "Show Me" as well, which stands respectfully next to "Tickle Tickle Tickle" and "Crazy," with a chorus that will lead even the most devoted wallflower to the club floor. Which can be said about every song on this mini-album, sans "Cold Rain," from "Stand Out" to "Cut it Out." "Stand Out," deceptively slows things down but then brings out the jams in spurts, leaving it a touch forgettable under this intense cacophony of energy. It's a shame that "Cut it Out" has been prematurely banned from KBS broadcasts for some vulgar language (apparently), as seeing it live would have been a real treat. But at the same time, the press over the ban gives this album even more cred, as does every song that is affected by a reactionary, conservative institution. Can you believe it? KBS made this mini-album even cooler.
Which is just the type of album we need right now. So many groups seem to have embraced understatement, mellowing out during this dreary season. 4Minute is here to pump energy into our veins and have released maybe the first ecstatic song of the year. What's interesting here is that, concept-wise, 4Minute is employing a look and aggression more in-tune with the hip hop of BTS or Block B, their music video for "Crazy" in an alternate universe could be co-produced by G-Dragon, and there are already Kpop fans out there accusing 4Minute of trying to be "like 2NE1."
These comparisons are valid, but the copycat accusations don't really hold any water, as 4Minute has always had this attitude welling within them. We've just seen it in smaller beats, here and there, like in "Mirror Mirror," "Volume Up," "I My Me Mine," "Hot Issue," among many others. They've just been focusing, with albums like 4Minute World, on trying too hard to be strange, instead of just accepting the fact that they're fierce. Crazy isn't 4Minute being their best 2NE1, Crazy is 4Minute completely unhinged. Finally.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.