Those who follow music reviews closely on allkpop may be surprised to see two reviews for the same group appear within a relatively short timeframe from one another.
Recently, I reviewed the Olympics-themed release of Sunny Days‘ ‘Glory Korea‘ to add to the excitement of the upcoming events. While the timing was appropriate, I found the album to be radically underwhelming and reviewed it as such. However, this release is clearly not representative of the group, because they possess a unique vocal talent that is unseen in many emerging K-pop artists. In hopes of further sharing this unknown gem with a wider demographic, I am writing a follow-up review for the group’s subsequent single release.
Growing up as a musician that focused on the jazz idiom for the majority of his now-concluded performing career, I have grown a particular fondness towards the qualities of the voice of the jazz, blues, and early R&B singer. Be it anyone from Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald to Marvin Gaye or Ray Charles, there’s something about the sheer soulful expression and downright pain that is weaved through the timbre of their voices that feels just oh-so-right. While there are certainly exceptions, I am rarely presented with such qualities in this day’s apex of the progression of mainstream popular music. This lack, to me at least, is mildly upsetting.
While K-pop does have its share of truly talented vocalists, none have hit me strongly with the fuzzy feeling I get upon hearing the aforementioned quality of voice. I concluded that this simply was not the genre to have such a voice shine through. While twentieth century Korean history is arguably the most depressingly horrible story that one could possibly imagine, the production and performance method of K-pop doesn’t reflect these decades of pain and hardship. This assumption changed immediately when I heard Sunny Days. I could hear remnants of these elements in their recent, highly lackluster, ‘Glory Korea‘. I could hear it even moreso in their first single ‘Take Away‘. I became increasingly excited at the thought of them performing at their imagined potential, and hoped like no other that, should the group be lucky enough to release another track, their company would get something right and flaunt this rare gem that they have in their hands.
Lordy, lordy did they ever come through with their most recent song “Don’t Touch Me“.
Now, I’m certainly not attempting to compare Sunny Days to the artistic status of the aforementioned artists by any means. Nonetheless, the collective nature of the voices present in this group are perhaps the closest depiction of this sound that I’ve yet to hear in the recent wave of K-pop. While I am not familiar with each individual voice of the group, due to various reasons out of my control, one can immediately identify that soulful huskiness of a voice in Sunkyung, thanks to a practice video that went viral. Her clear depiction of anger, dejection, and resentment towards a man who departed the song’s protagonist for another woman and appeared to be asking to get back together is especially prevalent in her heavy-breathed, almost cry-like, lament during the refrain. This mood is portrayed overall throughout the track rather well from a vocal standpoint.
Despite the robust vocal talent that is evidently portrayed throughout the song, “Don’t Touch Me” is certainly not without its faults. Primarily, the background musical track is simply a mess. Luckily, the packaged single included just the instrumental version of “Don’t Touch Me“, so I can hear this uninterrupted to justify this claim. While I can understand the decision to make this song moderately uptempo, as it demonstrates on a musical level that the woman has garnered a new sense of power over the scumbag of a former lover, the other methods they use to portray the perturbed emotions the lyrics connote are quite bewildering, to say the least. Should we look at the refrain again, we notice this section lyrically presents a threat to the man to not touch, hold, or harass the protagonist. Clearly this is a dreadful situation, and one would think that the musicality would reflect that to some point. Nope. The music modulates from its previously somber setting to an unnecessarily joyous orchestral string impromptu. Seriously, this is just about as happy as music can get. It would be far more appropriate to put this following that stereotypical joyous first kiss in a K-Drama. Luckily the listener is distracted by the dreamy vocals of the group to not notice this to any extent. Furthermore, while I do appreciate the use of non-traditional sounds in pop music, such as the flute loop in T-ara‘s recent release ‘DAY BY DAY‘, the synth’s peppy Peruvian pan pipe patch just seems grossly out of place. Ultimately, it’s musical decisions like these that make one want to hit their head on a wall in agony as it ultimately demotes what could be an overall solid track to something that can truly irritate the attentive audience. Yet again their producers aid in somehow holding back their truly gifted collective of voices from truly shining.
The next track on the release is the acoustic version for “Don’t Touch Me“. I’m not sure how this technically constitutes as an acoustic version, as the same annoying musical features are present over the same vocal track. The only difference in this version is the lack of a drum track. If this constitutes as acoustic, then shame on me for thinking otherwise.
The next track, “Take Away“, is re-released on this release, but it was technically the group’s first single release, if that makes sense. The inclusion is likely a wise choice as it’s better than an uninspired filler. Though at the same time, it is worrisome to a degree that the group couldn’t include another original track. It’s even more worrisome that the lyrics between these two songs essentially were on the same subject matter, leaving the album rather bland from a lyrical standpoint. As I alluded to in my review of ‘Glory Korea‘, it again seems that the company is putting minimal effort into the quality of their releases in favor of a timely release. Like I mentioned earlier, who releases two completely separate singles in only one week? But I digress.
The vocal swag isn’t as present as it was in “Don’t Touch Me“, but there are definitely elements that again prove their strength in vocals. The individuals all take part in wailing out their soul in the ending chorus of the track, after the song is completed on the stereotypical whole step modulation-or as I like to call it, one step closer to the heavens. Honestly, there are very few lead singers in K-pop that can pull this trick off effectively, and many who attempt but seem to fail-the most recent example of this is the attempt by Wonder Girls’ Sunye in their recent release “Like Money“. Having the entire cast pull this off effortlessly is quite the feat.
Despite the obvious talent of the group and their efforts to make the best of what they’re given, their show of vocal aptitude just didn’t hit me with the same effect “Don’t Touch Me” did. Before, I was like “Mmm…sang it gurl(s)“, but here, as impressive as they are, I wasn’t overcome with that same fuzzy feeling. Perhaps there was slight inhibition due to this being their debut. Though I couldn’t help shake the feeling that the track is forgettable, in a sense; it’s somewhat boring, victim to the same plight of nonsensical musical features and compositional techniques present in the group’s other releases. This again forces one to fight irritation that the group is not living up to their potential. I almost think that the company is trying to hard to be as musically relevant as possible, and thus are pulling out as many random tricks from the hat-o’-K-pop-ideas as possible and splattering them at random against a canvas of musical space.
Overall, I am absolutely thrilled by the direction the group is inching towards. While the flaws are numerable still, they continue to demonstrate their expertise in their vocal ability. While I’m ultimately not sure how far this group can currently rise in their given situation, those who are lucky enough to become acquainted with their voices in this release absolutely won’t go away disappointed, if you tolerate everything else that is.
Pros: Among the strongest vocal talent in K-pop in some time; talent of group is becoming more evident in each release; ending of “Take Away”; fuzzy feeling that certain vocal qualities give you.
Cons: Nonsensical musical background; relatively boring and unoriginal outside of vocals; Peruvian-style pan pipes synth patches; intent of production company.
What are your thoughts on Sunny Days′s ‘Don’t Touch Me’? Leave an honest rating and your thoughts in the comments below.