As I said in another post, I have a special relationship with Taeyang. I firmly believe he has an appreciation for black culture, however do to looking on the outside his views may seem a little skewed, and can veer toward problematic at times. So I stay at arms lengths with his ugly ass hairdo, and his clothes that need to be returned to Asap Rocky.
I tend to affectionately call him Korean Light Skinned. He GIVES vibes that he wants his ultimate form to be a better Chris Brown (not with the whole incident, just musically and such). And you know what…I want him to get there. Just from his interviews he has done, he tends to view music with a more critical eye. However he has limitations, oddly set by the company hyped to be about the artist (Which I saw through when I got into K pop real quick). However I firmly believed that if anyone was going to give me R&B in Korean Pop, it would be Taeyang. It had to be.
I will say that I personally am not getting R&B at a very extensive level. There is shades of it, but overall, no to R&B. Especially the R&B he was talking about (talking about Frank Ocean, and Miguel, and shit…)
I honestly thought we were going to get some The Weekend type shit. Or at least The Future..but alas…
However I don’t even want to pretend that the album did not give me something enjoyable.
Rise (Intro) was a typical intro song. The lyrics are a little meh. I did get a spicy word in fuck (aka my favorite curse word). He sounds nice. I am not a fan of it, especially since it is followed by a ballad. I don’t want to get into how tracklist organization can make or break an album, but it can. At least for me it can. You give me something hype, and then move into this Drake -esque ballad, and I’m just a little miffed. Thankfully the next song is good.
Eyes Nose and Lips is a very semi R&B ballad. This is one of them examples of where it leaned heavily on R&B, but wasn’t there. I think when that beat drop on the second verse I could really hear it more. I do think there was too much going on musically (especially seen in the second verse). A guitar, a piano, that 808. Closer to the end the standard strings for drama are present. I think closer to the end, they work, however at one point it didn’t jibe well for me. Still it was a small moment, nothing more, and the Taeyang was giving me in the feelings singing so I didn’t particularly mind. The content of the song is about a break up, and how he reminiscences over his ex-girlfriend’s everything, and how he fucked up. Standard, but it works. Moving on we go to the song that should have followed the intro with…
Let me say this now. If this had followed the intro and then Eyes Nose lips had come next then yeah. Tracklist organization is very important. The song is about a break up. Actually it is a very standard song in K pop. The I’m confused after a break up type of song. I am trying to move on, but I am can only think of you…though I can have a good day, you make it bad, or good…depending on whatever the song needs. It’s not a very dynamic song, and I kind of just breeze through it. It’s not bad, just not overall memorable for me.
Stay With Me
The GD collab. I really think this song should have not even been on the album. G-Dragon took up a large portion of the song, which is messy because this ain’t his album. With him as active on the song, I could not enjoy it as a Taeyang song. And that is a problem. Do not let anyone upstage you on your own album man. Moving on from that, I do think it is a well made song. I had originally thought sappy ballad, which would just make this album more Drake than I would want, however it is more so about getting it in with some cute girl who on the rebound. Moving on…
This may be the incorrect comparison to make, but when I first heard the song, that was what I heard. It didn’t immediately come to me, but I was picking up very old school references. I may still not have the right song, but I know that someone sampled something. The song is very preppy, and would make a great dance track. Still is, but I automatically assumed we were getting a song about getting on the dance floor and jamming out.
However the chorus…which is in English, is telling us to get together and make somebody. Well damn. There is a slight/not really slight sexual element to the song, which I am always here for. More freak songs in Korean is always a good thing. The song isn’t really that freaky, instead praising this lady’s form he is all into. It’s a cute song. I really don’t have complaints to be honest. It’s a nice song, and I would love to know who the female voice is (more than likely CL, since it kind of sounds like her).
This was his single from late last year, which makes a lot more sense on the album. I never thought it was a terrible song, but it may have needed a little assistance musically. I almost tempted to call this the transition in the album musically. It’s just a dance song to be honest.
This Ain’t It
One of my favorites on the album. We get this slight pop-country feel with the beat. With the last few songs being more upbeat in a sense, this song comes in as that serve of drama. I love when an album has that moment where they take a left and gives us something on the grander side musically. What I also love is that this doesn’t sound like your standard Korean Pop ballad. Also let’s get into the choir in the back. I wish he would have brought them in for a full on chorus, and him ad libbing. No matter how meh he is as an actual voice, that would have created such a moment on this album.
Let Go follows as another ballad. What bothered me, if only slightly, was how eh the beat was for me. It felt a little amateurish. It’s the drum and high hat. The beat feels like there is something beautiful under there, but it is hidden by that damn drum. I will say the harmonies are beautiful, and I wish I could hear them a little more. And his ad libs were definitely worth it.
Love You To Death
Such a nice song but not a good way to end. It’s another case where I wasn’t a fan of the percussion section, but that wasn’t as bothersome here, as in the previous song. What I like is that this song feels dangerous, and a little wild, and it works with the song’s overall nature of doing too much. Also get into CL (as some believe) giving you vocals near the end. She is the highlight of this song and I wish the song would have really came as hard as that part. She basically stole the show, and she really is not all that relevant throughout the song. She is also kind of heard on the chorus as well. If there is one thing I am not a big fan of is that this really should not have been the end of the album. This Ain’t It is easily more dramatic and has a nice finishing feel to it, more so than Love You To Death.
Rise is a decent album. I enjoyed it for what it was. However it could have been better with just a few things. First to get it out of the way, a few minor production things. More harmonies to fill out certain parts, less of certain elements in certain songs. That whole drumkit in Let Go was annoying to me, in an otherwise good song. Also utilize certain things to its fullest. That random ass choir in This Ain’t It could have been everything and a bag a Lay’s Salt and Vinegar if it was not just for a short amount of time. Give them an entire verse and take it to glory Taeyang. I think most of my issues came near the end where it did not feel that well put together musically, which leads into my next issues.
I think the organization of the tracklist can completely alter the experience for a listener. When I was listening to this album, I immediately had the thought this could have been better right here or there.
For me the album should have went:
- Rise (Intro): No reason for it to not be there.
- 1AM: Just to keep the momentum going. I don’t think a switch should have happened that quickly.
- Eyes Nose Lips: It slows down only temporarily, but I couldn’t picture this anywhere near the other ballads.
- Stay With Me
- Ringa Linga
- Love You To Death
- Let Go
- This Ain’t It
Not the biggest of changes, but in my mind this could actually work better…at least for me. Definitely for me. The beginning of the album I am firm on the change. Eyes Nose Lips does feel like the precursor to 1AM, specifically in the lyrical content. But sonically…it makes more sense this way. Maybe if I spoke/understood Korean, it will be a different story, which then I would be discussing something entirely different. However…it is what it is. Once we get past the first three, the album hits its stride. Taeyang gives you this semi R&B, trying for it, not really getting that sound, but we are going to let him be great. And honestly it doesn’t matter. The music is really good in this part. Body stands out as one of my faves for its possible sample.
Moving on…Body is my high point, however that doesn’t mean there is a low point, or a point where the album just goes sour. Rise is really a good album. The ending I would move around because ending on Love You To Death did not feel good. It just faded out without a good sense of purpose. By purpose, I mean that it did not feel complete. Like that album could have gone like two or three more songs before it should have called it quits if going with Love You To Death. With This Ain’t It, I got a more resolute feeling. It felt so much more complete in my opinion, even with all the little things I nitpicked about, when it ended with him on his falsetto…I could have just ended the album and been done. Let Go could have been a better option to end on.
I will say my least favorite songs had to be Stay With Me and Ringa Linga. Both songs GD had contributed to (total opposite of the situation with Crush, where his song Good To You was my favorite from the entire album). Stay With Me was too much G-Dragon, and Ringa Linga was just an okay track to fill up space, but musically not really much for me to enjoy.
With all this being said, I really did appreciate this album. It wasn’t as R&B as I see many people claim, but that really is a non-issue at the end of the day. One day Taeyang will give us the complete light skinned R&B singer experience he is dying to give us. Until then, Rise will do as a reminder that he is indeed a smart artist, and can make a good album when he is given the chance.