B1A4’s Sweet Girl Album Review
I love talking about B1A4. I have lots of thoughts about them, but not in a way of fanfiction or how handsome each member is (but if you’re young or in this stage, nothing wrong with that at all!). After all the spazzing that happens during teaser time before an album comeback, I am at the stage in my fandom that’s more reflective of why KPop is still relevant in my life.
This is my first attempt to write an album review, but I thought back and forth whether I should write about this or not for the following reasons: (1) I am not a music professional or fully conscious about technicalities in vocals and instruments; and (2) My review would sound to be a biased one because I am a BANA. However, I tend to be a little underwhelmed with reviews about B1A4’s albums in general because more often than not, the song descriptions are limited to whether the reviewer liked the songs are not. As a biased fan, there’s a part of you that would want to read or hear objective thoughts about the group that you care about. However, if the person is not a BANA, they would not really care or know how much a group like B1A4 worked hard for this album, how they grew as an artist, or how much can be improved. With that being said, this review is an attempt to rather try to discuss how Jinyoung and CNU progress as music producers and B1A4’s development as it shows in their 6th mini album entitled Sweet Girl.
- Sweet Girl (Composed by Jinyoung, ZigZagNote // Lyrics by Jinyoung, Baro // Arranged by Jinyoung, ZigZagNote)
When I first heard this during the Guerilla Concert, I already liked the song right off the bat. It didn’t need to grow on me, instead I just wanted to hear it one more time. Before I knew it, I became addicted to the music. It is said that the backtrack was done by using a live orchestra and a live band. It has the 70s-80s disco, funk rhythm feel to it that makes you groove or at least move your head from side-to-side. The melody presents itself as sort of laid back, but the different instruments (piano, drums, electric guitar, etc.) and smooth vocals made an interesting progression from the verses to the chorus, rap, bridge leading to the last minute of the song. My favorite part of the song would be the electric guitar solo following the bridge. Those chords were just gorgeous and provided the peak that the song needed, plus add-in Sandeul’s strong adlibs played off well with Jinyoung’s smooth vocals in the last chorus. No pun intended, but “Sweet Girl” put a sweet taste in my mouth.
I know some fans needed to warm-up to it because it’s not an intense, upbeat type of summer song or “more” was expected this time around since it’s been over a year since B1A4 made a comeback. I was receptive to it at first listen because the song didn’t try to be anything that it wasn’t. As we know, Jinyoung has been composing B1A4’s title tracks ever since “Baby I’m Sorry” and he loves to compose what he coins as “reversal” songs. An example would be “Baby I’m Sorry” where the lyrics depict heartbreak and longingness, but the melody is a dance track with rock instrumentals. Jinyoung did not do a reversal this time around. “Sweet Girl” is a mid-tempo song and the melody conveyed the lyrics pretty well. It’s about the feeling of a love at first sight and the guy wants to charm his “sweet girl”. [If I am going to be overly biased here, I would say this song is for BANAs. They have not seen their fans for over a year, so the feeling of meeting them again on stage makes them excited, kind of like what love at first sight feels like. For crying out loud, “BANA” is a derivative of 반하다 (Romanization: banhada), meaning B1A4 and BANA have fallen in love with each other.]
As much as I have the highest praise for Jinyoung for his authentic ear and impeccable composing skills, I do worry a lot about Gongchan’s voice and doubted if Jinyoung can actually pull off a song where Gongchan’s voice shines but still make it a title track. Often, the criticism would always be that Gongchan doesn’t have a lot of lines in the song, unequal distribution, etc. in B1A4’s title tracks. What many fans do not realize is that Gongchan has a unique, soft voice perfect for ballads. The reason why Sandeul or CNU sings the chorus parts is because they have strong voices and would want to exude energy and build momentum. As opposed to Gongchan’s voice that has a calm, soothing effect. This is where Jinyoung as an arranger, not as a composer, kicks in. If Gongchan’s voice is not placed right, you risk making the song sound weird or not hitting the right emotion that you would want to invoke to your listeners. In “Sweet Girl,” not only was I pleased that Gongchan had better distribution of lines, but he actually STARTS the song. Starting a song is a big risk because it sets the tone and lays the foundation of the vocal music progression. Having Gongchan sing that first line sets up the dreamy atmosphere of the song effectively. This makes me appreciate this song more because it tells me that Jinyoung cares where Gongchan fits in his songs, and he’s learning how to be a better arranger (with the help of ZigZagNote) in using Gongchan’s voice. B1A4 may not be the most vocally talented group (Sandeul is an exception), but Jinyoung knows how to blend his members’ voices together to create beautiful harmonization and “Sweet Girl” showcases that aspect.
- You Are a Girl I Am a Boy (Composed by Jinyoung // Lyrics by Jinyoung, Baro // Arranged by Jinyoung, Yun Cheong Gyu)
When I first saw the title, I admit I was a little apprehensive about it. How can this song not be borderline sexist? Then, when I heard the preview for this track, I laughed out loud with my brother. It wasn’t a song that I was looking forward to in the album. However, when B1A4 performed it at the Guerilla Concert, they reminded me so much of the Beach Boys. I know I must have heard Beach Boys somewhere since my dad plays 70s music, I just don’t know which songs are theirs (turns out, “Surfin’ USA” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”). I just knew that the Beach Boys vibe is what I was feeling from this song. I checked out the lyrics, and it actually tells a story about a guy and a girl who I presume are best of friends. The guy is falling for his best friend, and he can’t help how he feels about her. I can relate to that scenario, and finally the title made sense. I just can’t help to cringe a tiny little bit when the title is sung in the chorus.
Overall, this song is the most upbeat in the album with the strong use of drums and rhythm guitars. One interesting thing that was done musically in this song was that Jinyoung slowed down the beat in the second chorus by like at least half a count or one count. This leads to the softer bridge break with none other than Gongchan singing before Baro’s rap sequence. Slowing down the beat was not necessary, but it provided that little extra musical detail that Jinyoung would’ve thought of anyway.
- 10 Years Later (Composed by Jinyoung // Lyrics by Jinyoung, Baro // Arranged by Jinyoung, ZigZagNote)
Warning: Long review ahead!
Jinyoung’s greatest talent of composing is also his biggest weakness. Before anyone panics, I say that because he has such a good ear about different melodies; it’s insane for someone who did not have any formal composition training. He had an interest in playing the guitar before he became a trainee, but the reason why he wanted to compose for B1A4? To just contribute to the group – that’s it. Undeniably, Jinyoung is a composer – first and foremost, then a songwriter second. Usually, an artist would find a story they want to tell through a song, then compose a melody that would be suitable to it. For Jinyoung, it’s the opposite. He has the talent to compose the melodies first before he can come up with the lyrics to tell the story that he wants. But because of this talent, the scenarios he often depicts in his title tracks come off as having reversals because songwriting obviously comes second. As such, you have crazy situations like in “Baby Goodnight” as the guy cheats on the girl by ‘dancing in the moonlight’ or “What’s Happening?” where the girl cheats on the guy and he asks her to be honest. Not saying that these scenarios do not happen in real life, but there are other important things in life aside from romantic love.
When Jinyoung introduced “10 Years Later” during the Guerilla Concert, he said that he focused mainly on the lyrics, wherein he imagined what life would be like for him 10 years from now. I thought, “Wow, Jinyoung is improving in his songwriting.” Sure enough, the melody somewhat stayed in the mid-range throughout the song, only bringing it down a bit for Gongchan’s second verse. It has an alternative rock feel to it and less variations in the tone. It’s not to say that the arrangement was neglected, but compared to Jinyoung’s other works, there’s less layering in this song. However, the progression is still there and the blending of voices, particularly in Baro’s bridge rap partnered with Jinyoung’s falsetto was well done.
I have been thinking a lot of what this song means because Jinyoung did say to focus on the lyrics more than anything else. The song starts with a yawn from Baro, then the first lines go “When I open up my eyes it’s March 2025.” The speaker is imagining that he woke up in the year 2025, and he does the usual things in the morning – brush his teeth, wash up, and get ready. He asks himself if he should go drink with his buddies that day. The song then goes to the refrain: “Falling and falling and falling and falling/Even when I look, no one is waiting for me/No matter where I look, I’m alone/I’m alone here.” Jinyoung expressed that these were his thoughts during their year hiatus. It shows that even if thoughts of “no one is waiting for me” and “I’m alone” might happen in a ten years’ time, this is a situation that may be very real now to them as idols. A lot can happen within a year in the KPop scene – young fans might look to another group or be busy with school and forget about B1A4. That’s why during the Guerilla Concert, CNU and Sandeul couldn’t hold back their tears when they saw that the venue was filled. There ARE people waiting for them – that they belong on stage in front of BANAs, performing and interacting with them.
Sandeul sings the chorus: “Even after 10 years my heart is still the same/There’s no one that waited for me/I can’t lift my head because of embarrassment/Even after 10 years I’m still here/Everything is leaving me/What should I do about now?” I particularly love these lines. It shows that the members still want to be in a point in their lives where they can dream. It’s just frightening because the people they were once with when they were making their dreams come true, they’re either leaving /the fandom/ or not anticipating them anymore (i.e. busy with their own lives). I’ve been thinking about the whole “embarrassment” line because it definitely pertains to “not making something out for yourself”. I don’t think it’s so much because of “shame” but more of disappointment. You had an opportunity, and you let it slip by.
Gongchan sings the second verse about the speaker’s parents – how much they’ve changed throughout the years – increasing amount of wrinkles, soft voice, and delicate hands. This is an interesting perspective because the Korean culture looks up to the elderly with great respect. I’m sure that more than anything, B1A4 don’t want to disappoint their parents or to see them unhappy. Like them, their parents have to endure hardship of not seeing their children when they become trainees in Seoul. I can imagine them constantly worrying if their children are being treated well or if they’re eating well, that sort of thing.
The song then moves on to Baro’s rap section. His rap goes: “The growing emptiness and the past days strongly come to me/The people that return crazily/Different from the unhappy events that match me/A day goes by and goes by like that again/Live as much as today, don’t look back/Hope flies uh/If this is a dream, I want to dream again/Even though the night comes I don’t want to fall asleep.” I’m honestly confused about what he wants to say – is he going from the imagined later years and realizing that emptiness so that he’ll live life to the fullest in the present time? I guess it’s up for interpretation but from this is what I understood from these lines: Since nothing is happening, you’re more pressed because you’re not doing anything (meaningful) in your life. You see other people who you’ve met or became close with. They’re in a much better situation, and it seems as if you’re the only one left behind. Finally, that frustration kicks in and snaps you out of depression. You tell yourself, live your life and don’t look back. Sometimes, knowing the importance of having a dream is better than chasing a dream.
After CNU’s refrain and Sandeul’s chorus, the bridge immediately comes on, sung by Jinyoung “If everything is a dream/I want to start over again/I want to go back.” I’m imagining like a time warp happening in this bridge line – taking them to the present, keeping that “rookie” mindset of having a dream and starting over again. After which, Baro’s last rap sequence comes on and his vocal tone is almost “upset”: “It doesn’t erase, it doesn’t disappear/It’s not forever, it doesn’t return/Even if I try it all I’m anxious/I walk above the blue sea and rough waves.” Rather than describing his rap as “upset”, I would say that his rap in this section is filled with strong conviction that he’s determined to make the most out of this opportunity, even when he’s unsure of the outcome. He’ll cherish the beautiful moments yet embrace the challenges that comes along with life.
In an interview, Baro said that he particularly likes this song because it makes him “reflect in the present” and to stop being lazy and get back to work. They may be younger than me, but this song speaks to me as well. When I was fifteen, I thought I’d get it all figured out when I become 25. My 25th birthday passed, but was STILL trying to make sense out of my life. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but if I approach life with a more positive attitude, my perspective changes. I’ve always been obsessed of what my future would look like and that brings only apprehension if I think about it too much. These days, I found out that life is more enjoyable when you take it a day at a time. This song could’ve have come in a better time.
- Wait (Composed by Jinyoung, ZigZagNote // Lyrics by Jinyoung, Baro // Arranged by Jinyoung, ZigZagNote)
“Wait” is my favorite song off this album. Hands down. I admit, I’m biased due to my undying love for ballads. This is a perfect good old ballad song. It’s magical and emotional at the same time. When I first heard the small snippet in the pre-listening track, I knew right then that this was going to be my favorite. I just didn’t have a clue that every part of this song is going to be gold.
The first verse is sung by Baro. Take note, Baro SINGS in this song – not the slow rap he would use like in “Wonderful Tonight (Unplugged).” In other B1A4 ballad songs like in “Smile” from the Ignition album, it was basically A4 who sang and he was left out because that song didn’t need a rap break. I kept wondering if Baro will ever sing in a ballad, and I commend Jinyoung for valuing Baro’s low voice to set up the tone for this song. Baro’s voice and the piano chords create this solemn atmosphere that sets up for the refrain of “If you come to me, If you come to me…”; it’s almost haunting. I kept thinking what synth or instrument was playing before the refrain. Was it a flute or a violin? I can’t tell exactly, but it was a good transition from the feeling of solemnity to magical. I need to watch a live performance of this song because the harmony is really good in the refrain that it’s hard to differentiate if CNU and Gongchan actually sang some parts of it, although I can definitely tell when Sandeul comes on. If you listen a little more closely, someone’s singing in falsetto along with Sandeul, which is most likely CNU and the blending was a seamless one.
We move into the chorus sung by Jinyoung, partnered with the same “magical” synth in the background with guitar accompaniment, then it ushers to the piano chords when it’s Sandeul’s turn to sing the lines: “Wait…wait…” Then, my absolute favorite part of this song is the second verse…of just the harmonica and the guitar chords playing. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. No need for words, just go along with the feeling of pure music. Just like that and it takes care of the whole second verse to bring us back to the refrain. I just love the sequence during the bridge part into the last chorus: Gongchan comes to sing the first half of the bridge and it’s calm, then Jinyoung’s part where it builds crescendo and the culmination, which is CNU’s falsetto. There’s something very raw in those vocals from CNU, which tugs the heart. He actually continues with his falsetto adlibs along with Sandeul singing the last chorus. I think a lot of people take for granted how much B1A4 have freedom in doing adlibs for their songs. When B1A4 do their adlibs, I’ve noticed that it’s to mix and match their voices or to throw in a falsetto once in a while. It works because all of their voices complement each other.
The song is about seeing someone whom you have strong feelings for, like he/she can be your destiny – only to see that person go. You wonder if you’ll ever see that person again, but all you can do for the meantime is wait. I read in a tweet that Jinyoung said that he thought about a scenario of seeing someone you like in a cafe when he was composing/writing this song. I thought that that scenario was a little bit superficial considering the emotional rawness presented by their voices and harmony in this song. There was a longing of someone you loved, but because of circumstances, you’ve got to let her/him go and all you can do is wait if ever he/she will come back in your life again. I noticed that I’ve attempted to critique a song that’s left an emotional imprint on me and the worse thing I can do is to try to explain logically why I favor this song so much.
- Love is Magic (Composed by CNU // Lyrics by CNU, Baro // Arranged by ZigZagNote)
If there’s a Side B track that deserves to have a music video of its own, it should be “Love is Magic”. It talks about a guy who can’t sleep at night because he keeps thinking about the girl that he likes. He then decides to go out for a walk, hoping to see her – just to see her smile for him will do. There’s a lot of imagery in the song, mostly in Baro’s raps. Lines such as “The street looks brighter today…It’s hotter than usual tonight/My energy is drained/Should I wipe my sweat and wait for you?” makes it relatable because it’s summer, and I can personally cannot take the heat sometimes. The speaker then went to the convenience store and bought everything the girl likes. Suddenly, he sees her and all the fluttering feelings came rushing in. I don’t know if CNU contributed to the rap section along with Baro or CNU just guided Baro on what lyrics should go in there. Either way, the lyrics have a flow in them due to the effective use of imagery.
Onto the music itself, “Love is Magic” is light on arrangements, not much layering involved in the backtrack. It’s just smooth on the drum beats and strumming on the guitar, which is a good thing because this song is “heavy” on rap sequences from Baro. There are three rap breaks for him, but it doesn’t sound plain as I thought it would be when I first heard the snippet in the pre-listening track. The transition from the first verse of Baro’s rap to the chorus sung by Sandeul sounds really well done. His vocals sounded smooth and contrasted really well with Baro’s low bariton/bass voice. For the second rap break, CNU added his groovy adlibs along with Baro. It gave that verse an interesting sound texture than it would’ve been if CNU didn’t add those adlibs. After CNU sings the chorus, there’s this second or two silent break that at first listen, I literally thought the song was over at that point. Then, there’s that “rewind” sound that pulls you back in and tells you there’s more. This second part of the song is livelier because there’s more adlibs and falsettos. Some days, I love those adlibs but there are days when I do think it’s too much. On the rap break for the bridge, is it just me or does Baro sound like Iggy Azalea? That was interesting because Baro got to play around the rap on that part and starts to let loose which leads to the jam part on the last minute of the song. I think it’s my favorite part because CNU and Jinyoung are just throwing adlibs. I just hoped that that melody can be stretched out for a little bit longer because I love jamming along to it (“Love is [a] magic…).
“Love is Magic” is CNU’s fourth composition in B1A4’s albums. We first saw him release his compositions for Who I Am album with the songs “Drunk with Music” and “Seoul,” which I talked about extensively. Then, he composed for the Solo Day album as well with “Drive”. One thing about CNU’s compositions is that you know that he’s heavily influenced by R&B. That’s the music genre that he’s most interested in, which I always welcome because of my preference for this style of music. If you compare CNU and Jinyoung as composers, Jinyoung is more experimental with the melodies that he creates, while CNU tends to stick to R&B (for now) and mastering it. I love that both of them are involved in composing and songwriting because even if fans don’t see it, I think there’s a lot of discussions about music between the two.
I’m really happy that I chanced upon a group that actually composes their own music and writes their own songs. Not saying that it makes them better idols/musicians than the others 5nor do I believe that that’s the case of this essay, but because it tells a lot about their music influences or thoughts at a particular time in their lives. As a fan, it makes me appreciate more about the work that they put in. In B1A4’s case, I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than seeing and knowing that BANAs liking and enjoying the music that they’ve created. For WM Entertainment to allow that to happen – to risk their possible finances in letting B1A4 have that type of creative freedom, I commend them. It’s hard to believe that B1A4 is just in their 4th year, but Sweet Girl is the group’s 6th mini album…6th! Throw in a couple of studio albums and a repackaged one. The ironic thing is, B1A4 haven’t reached their peak yet. If anything, this album not only shows their progress, but also provides opportunities to continue improving their music and songwriting skills. I’m blessed for the music and with a group of individuals who make it their mission to spread happiness and love not only through their songs but also their lives.