Album Review: Ailee – “Invitation”

This is Ailee’s first mini-album under YMC Entertainment. It was released on October 16, 2012.

Very pretty cover. I like the thing in her hair although I wish we got to see her face more, as Ailee is really beautiful.

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To say I was impressed by 보여줄게 (Boyeojulke; I’ll Show You) would be an understatement and a disservice to Ailee and the song. A quiet piano leads us into the verse where Ailee serenades us with her surprisingly soulful voice, first softly and then in a huge belting chorus, establishing Ailee’s status as a true diva. All cards on the table, this would be a fairly unremarkable song if it anyone else sang it, but Ailee has a brassiness and depth to her tone and vibrato that give the melody its dimension. However, I have to say one area this song majorly fails in is lyrics – basically, Ailee is singing about how you need to be pretty to find love and if you’re less than attractive, you better start working to change that. Not exactly a great message, especially in South Korea which places tremendous value on physical appearance to the extent that girls undergo plastic surgery at really young ages. So obviously that’s a big drawback to the song, but in terms of vocal performance, Ailee has got it in the bag. All I have to say is, you better SANG.

폭풍속으로 feat. Verbal Jint (Pokpung sogeuro; Into the Storm) takes us into some lower-key R&B. Verbal Jint is the first on the mic, and although he’s obviously a skilled rapper I’m not sure I’m feeling him as the first thing I hear. Once Ailee comes in, though, the song really starts, and her lovely mezzo takes us places. Like 보여줄게, I get the feeling that this would be a really boring song if it weren’t for her. The power and flexibility of her voice work wonders on this simple tune, to the point where Verbal Jint is totally outclassed. Again, almost all the praise here has to go to Ailee.

I’m surprised it took us this long to get to a ballad, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with 저녁 하늘 (Jeonyeok haneul; Evening Sky), a simple affair. The verses are nice and soft but build up in intensity until the final chorus, a tempestuous flurry of electric guitar, plaintive strings and vocal acrobatics. Okay, you guys know how much I usually hate K-Pop ballads, right? Which is why it is a BFD that I really like this song. It’s the voice. Ailee knows exactly how to place her voice and when, and it totally changes the tone of the song. Suffice it to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Next we have My Love feat. Swings, a relaxed if dated R&B track which calls to mind the stuff BENI is best known for, what with breezy synths and a simple English hook. The song is pretty standard, and Swings’ rap is really good (although I hesitate to praise him because he is an asshole and a homophobe irl). I’m not quite feeling this song as much as I was the other ones, if only because this is probably the most boring track so far. But again, Ailee’s voice is lovely, so that makes it more bearable.

Shut Up feat. Simon D is, thankfully, a lot more aggressive, featuring a somewhat surprising rock arrangement and a really fierce performance from Ailee. This song is really fun and has a great groove, and to be honest, Ailee is serving it up so much here vocally that I don’t think Simon D’s appearance was entirely necessary. It didn’t exactly detract from the song but it didn’t add anything substantial either, in my opinion. In any case, this is probably one of my favorite songs on the mini and I really enjoyed listening to it.

Finally we have Ailee’s debut song Heaven, the track that introduced us to Ailee’s powerful, graceful vocals. In my opinion, this is probably Ailee’s best song, due in no small part to the unusual melody that lends itself to a great vocal performance. Though this is the last song on the mini-album, it is not to be missed.

Summary: I’m a sucker for a diva and Ailee totally fits the bill. Vocals-wise, there are very few people out there in K-Pop right now who can match what Ailee can do. Her voice is truly one of a kind and breaks the mold of what a typical female K-Pop voice sounds like. I guess my issue with this release is that, although these are all good songs, they totally rely on Ailee to save them from being average. Technically, that is enough, but I think if Ailee were given something really innovative and fresh to work with, she’d be off the charts. I guess it’s up to her to decide if complacency or adventure is where her path lies.

Album Grade: A
Recommended Tracks:
Heaven 보여줄게 Shut Up feat. Simon D저녁 하늘 폭풍속으로 (feat. Verbal Jint)

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Ailee – “Invitation”

  1. Another good review, I believe Aliee is one of this year’s best solo artists. I really love the song Shut Up, it stands out the most for me.

    • I was actually one of the last ones to hop on the Ailee train, only having listened to “Heaven” for the first time a few months ago. I really dig her, though, and I’m pretty sure she’s a shoe-in for Best New Female at MAMA this year.

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