Friday, November 9, 2012

[album review] Block B - BLOCKBUSTER

October 17, 2012

1. 11:30
2. Interlude
3. 닐리리맘보*
4. Mental Breaker*
5. 장난없다 (No Joke)*
6. Movie's Over
7. 넌 어디에
8. 로맨틱하게*
9. 했어 안했어
10. Halo
11. 닐리리 맘보 (inst.)
12. Mental Breaker (inst.)

*recommended tracks


Yes, I normally don't listen to idol albums. With idol groups, I tend to just check out their singles and don't bother with their albums. But based on my limited familiarity with such albums, Block B's latest album BLOCKBUSTER is probably one of the best idol albums I've heard in recent times. Even when I just consider singles, the title track "Nillili Mambo" takes the cake. It's seriously one of the best idol songs to come out this year, and definitely tops when I narrow it down to male groups. But more on that later. There's lots to dig through in this album.

BLOCKBUSTER is full of different colours that aptly showcase the group's charms. The opening track of the album "11:30" is a suave R&B-influenced hip-hop track that is solid and really showcases the talent of the group. Taeil sounds pretty good, but it's Zico that really owns the track. Zico is hands down the best idol rapper out there right now and he shows it in this opening track, bursting into the scene with a speed rap verse which is just fantastic. He is clear, his lyrics are witty enough (I especially liked the reference to the London Olympics fencing incident. Very fresh.) and he has great flow. And then there's P.O, who probably has one of the most attractive voices in k-pop at the mo'. This song is sexy, and it's definitely a solid song that shows a different side to the group that the audience might not be familiar with.

Although "11:30" is an excellent song, I did feel that it wasn't suited to be the opening track to the album. Especially since the song following "11:30" is the "Interlude" which basically opens for the title track "Nillili Mambo". The sheer epicness of the "Interlude" and the anticipation it induces makes it far more fitting to be the opening track to the album, and it's a shame that it isn't. Nonetheless, the album has now come to the real deal.

This is the shit right here. "Nilli Mambo" is just brilliant. It's perfectly executed, with fantastic string arrangements that fuse so well with the electronic beats of the song. It's extremely similar to "Nalina", but "Nillili Mambo" is a mind-blowing upgrade from their previous single. The song blows my mind with its attention to detail every time I listen to it. There are so many hook elements in the track, aside from the main hooks; from P.O's growl that connects the instrumental opening to Zico's introduction, to the shouts of "얘들아!(guys!)" during the chorus, to the FX of the gun shots, to P.O (again)'s great ad-lib that finishes the song on a flourish... This song is meticulous and it's just choke full of details that make it such a catchy track. As if that wasn't enough, Zico's rap verses, full of punches that fit so well with the beat of the song, are so much fun with great flow and a catchy melody. Kyung follows suit pretty well, although there's that one line that seems oddly rushed which throws me off every time. The vocals aren't anything amazing here, but they fit so well into the song. And, of course, P.O. Jackpot. His voice is just so attractive in this song and it's definitely one of the best parts of the song. I want to applaud whoever thought of giving him so much lines because he fucking shines and now I have a newly found fascination with this oddball and the drug that is his voice. Putting my pyo feels aside though, "Nillili Mambo" is one killer of a track, flowing seamlessly and never boring. And just so many layers without sounding messy or painful, which is later proven by the amazing instrumental track. Seriously, the instrumental is great by itself. That's how awesome this song is. Simply brilliant. I want to give it all my loving.

"Mental Breaker" is a really fun song. Nowhere close to "Nillili Mambo" but it's got a great electronic tune and an extremely catchy chorus. I even found myself singing along to it. Kyung's rap here is much better than his in "Nillili Mambo", and Zico's bit of singing is spot-on. I love P.O's rap here as well. Seriously, at this point, this boy can do no wrong to my eyes.

My boy P.O opens the next track, "장난없다 (No Joke)", which is a daring hip-hop track featuring the rappers of the group. An okay hip-hop track, amazing idol track, "No Joke" stands out because of the context of the song and the subject matter of the song which deals with the group's comeback after the Thailand fiasco. The next track, "Movie's Over" is another smooth R&B-influenced track which showcases Zico's impressive vocal skills. With a bit more training he'll actually make a pretty decent vocalist. "넌 어디에" is probably one of the weakest songs on the album. It's nice to hear Taeil sing, but it's an extremely generic ballad track that doesn't bring anything new to the table. And I can't help feeling that Taeil's more suited to be an R&B singer than a ballad singer.

"로맨틱하게" is some jazzy fun, and P.O (never enough!)'s rap is perfect for the mood of the song. There were some vocal elements of the song that are weaker than others (I'm not sure who, but it might be B-Bomb and/or Jaehyo) but overall, another solid track that's a real joy to listen to. I'm not sure whose scatting that is near the end of the song (I'm assuming Taeil?) but it's really impressive. Definitely the highlight of the song for me.

The following two tracks of the album, "했어 안했어" and "Halo" are both rehashed songs from previous minis. "했어 안했어" is a well-polished love song, but it's nothing new and forgettable. "Halo" is better than "했어 안했어" with its hip-hop heavy beats. The rapping is smooth and easy on the ears throughout the track, and although I'm not the biggest fan of Park Kyung (I find him to be a boring lyricist), he sounds really good in this song - his voice cuts through the bass and the low notes quite nicely. The "raise your hands if you hate me" lines near the end could have been brought out more, though.

I've already talked about the instrumental track for "Nillili Mambo" earlier but I simply can't recommend it more. It's such a great track on its own. It almost sounds like a soundtrack to an awesome action movie. The instrumental for "Mental Breaker" is less interesting.

Overall, BLOCKBUSTER is an exceptional first album for an idol group. Although at this point, it'd be an understatement to call Block B just an idol group, as I believe they're something more than that. I'm glad that they seem to really know their fortes now - Zico's flow and clarity, Kyung's light tone and style, P.O's voice - and it's admirable to see how they're constantly trying to improve in their more weaker areas. And even with the filler tracks of BLOCKBUSTER that are just average, there are a couple of songs on this album that make up for it with their brilliance.

Block B - Nillili Mambo music video.


  1. Great review! I actually really liked kyung's part in almost all of the tracks; i thought his verse in nillili mambo was a great way to play with the beat, just to spice things up a bit, but I do understand how it can throw people off a bit sometimes. Generally i find him lyrically superior to zico, but now with the release of zico's new mixtape tracks I think zico might take the crown again. I think mental breaker succeeds as a song mainly because of its simplicity, so I wouldn't mind if the inst. is a tad boring:)

    1. thanks for the comment! :) I love Kyung's tone but I always found his lyrics a bit too trite. like enough with the batman references, that's getting real old now.
      yeah, mental breaker is really good because it's just a solid pop track with some great vocals (and god, I love their little snarky ad-libs!) and doesn't rely too much on the instrumentals.

    2. yea, I appreciate kyung's snarky light-toned raps; for me he stands out amongst kpop rappers who mostly rely on their 'speed rapping' and deep voices (or by artificially lowering their tone) to pull off something close to convincing. And yes, the batman reference is a disappointment, i've seen him execute much better punch lines in 'LOL' (best zico & kyung rap track to date imo) and his other predebut tracks/featurings.

    3. ah, I love LOL! Such a great track. I was hoping that they would do something that would live up to that song (or be even better) but No Joke is not quite there.

  2. oh right, just to add on to the article, the weaker vocal parts of 'romantically' actually consist of u-kwon (the nasally one) and park kyung (the breathy part somewhere in the middle of the track) lol. All of them have to 'audition' for each song i.e. perform the entire track to get their parts so for the most part whatever segment each member gets suits them best. From what i know that's how zico got his parts in mental breaker and movie's over cuz even though he's not a great singer he has the attitude and emotions to pull of certain songs. Jaehyo did alright, and B bomb's voice is actually spectacular in this track. His tone fits the song perfectly and blends in with Taeil's voice so sometimes you don't even realize there was a transition between his part and Taeil's segment. But of course regardless the scatting by taeil totally stole the show^^. Both of them sang a small bit of their parts recently, b-bomb during some fanmeet and taeil on show champion, and it was just lovely. And I have to agree that P.O has indeed improved a lot over a short period of time. He used to be just the 'extra rapper with a sexy voice' but now he can actually hold his own next to zico & kyung and he writes pretty good lyrics too.

    Having just read your review on the Epik High comeback, I have to say that they really disappointed me too. I'm fond of both block b and epik high and initially i was pretty worried about their comebacks being so close tgt, even though i was looking forward to their return. On one hand its great that block b isn't being overshadowed by epik high's return, but then it sucks that epik high came back with a crap album chock-full of the usual YG nonsense

    1. wow, thank you so much for explaining the voices to me! I can still only tell apart taeil and the rappers in this group :< and sometimes jaehyo but not always. this helped a lot :)
      yeah, I was not initially a huge fan of block b's music but they really won me over with this album. I honestly would still listen to this more than epik high's latest, seriously. I just hope they did more promotions for Nillili Mambo, I felt like they were not on music shows at all! I'm wondering if it's because of what happened in Thailand (are they.. banned from certain channels? :S) but I really wanted to see more performances of Nillili.

  3. You're welcome! Their previous mini-album got me officially interested, so I've been checking out their pre-debut stuff since then, which includes some pretty solid tracks as well. Even though they're not promoting as much this time (perhaps music shows are still not comfortable with having them back, or mayb its harder to get on there because of so many rookies debuting), at least their stages are not getting cut and MOGEF isn't screwing around with them by banning their songs. Their live performances are always fun to watch, i agree, but even if they're not on live stages as much, they're album is still doing well and they're still charting in top 10 on music shows that they don't attend. And plus they have a variety show called Match Up airing now so that makes up for everything lol.