Album Review: 2PM – “Don’t Stop Can’t Stop”

Tracklist:
1. Don’t Stop Can’t Stop
2. Without U
3. 마자 (Maja)
4. 목숨을 건다
(Moksumeul Geonda; I’ll Give You My Life)
5. Without U (Explorer Mix)
6. Space 마자

This is 2PM’s third mini-album, which was released on April 19, 2010.

I really like how mature and refined this cover is. Grown-up 2PM > hip hop 2PM.

~

The title track off this mini-album, Don’t Stop Can’t Stop has a very dramatic atmosphere, with layered synths, a rockish drum track and looping synths. The boys give an earnest vocal performance here, and the rap sections (in Korean and English courtesy of Taecyeon and Nichkhun, respectively) help maintain the intense mood of the song. The lyrics seem to be a big “F you” to the controversy surrounding the departure of 2PM’s former leader, Jaebeom. They say they’re stronger than ever, and with this song, I’m inclined to believe them. Great track.

Without U begins with the sound of thunder and rainfall, and then leads into a melancholy piano line. The song picks up from there, and it’s very similar in lyrical content to Don’t Stop Can’t Stop. All in all, this song is pretty much your standard 2PM sound, but it still has a very enjoyable melody, and I couldn’t help but love that key change. Perhaps not the best of 2PM’s singles, but definitely a good listen and sure to bring the guys plenty of accolades.

The first few seconds of 마자 make it sound like it’s going to be a primarily electronic song, but then the verse becomes this lounge jazz thing – weird. The electro sound comes back in the chorus, which is pretty much the catchiest part. I didn’t care for 마자 very much because the transitions between the jazzy verses and up-tempo chorus were too abrupt. Eh, well. They can’t all be winners, can they?

I have but four words to describe 목숨을 건다: predictable ballad is predictable. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I suppose it has something different about it because the music has a prominent synth line, but the rest is viciously dull. It pains me to say this about any artist, but I don’t think I can recommend this song to anyone. At all.

I really enjoyed Without U (Explorer Mix) because it gives the song a dance-y, upbeat club arrangement without doing much to change the original vocal track. The slick beats and synths blend seamlessly with the boys’ vocals, which is really nice. In  layman’s terms, if you liked Without U but felt like you could have done without the weepy, sad music, this remix is 100% for you.

Hmmm. The thing about Space 마자 – it gives the original a more consistent electronic sound, which makes it significantly better than the first 마자. The house-inspired music suits the vocals much better. Still not my favorite song on the single, but definitely an improvement.

Summary: 2PM have just emerged from what was probably the worst controversy of their career as a group. According to them, they’re back and stronger than ever with a handful of new songs to prove it. Despite all the pomp and circumstance, I could bring myself to believe it – only three of the six new songs are noteworthy for good reasons, and one of those is a remix, so it shouldn’t even really count. However, the songs that stand out for the right reasons are indeed very good, and testaments to why 2PM are popular in the first place. So are 2PM back and better than ever, like they say? Well, maybe not. Are they reaffirming their status as K-Pop juggernauts with songs reminiscent of their biggest hits? Definitely.

Album Grade: A-
Recommended Tracks:
Don’t Stop Can’t Stop
| Without U | Without U (Explorer Mix)

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