Next album review on this blog will be for aespa, who returned with Girls – the title of both their latest lead single and second mini-album. Both dropped in July of this year. Girls features a total of nine tracks, making it feel just like a studio album. But the idea of the mini-album might be the fact that the physical version only features 6 tracks (including the pre-release Illusion, the English and Korean versions of Life’s Too Short and the title track Girls). The digital version bumps the tracklist to the 9 to include the singles Black Mamba, Forever and their Dreams Come True remake. All the links to the releases/reviews can be found down below.
As alluded above, since I have access to the digital version of the album, I will be counting all the tracks as part of the album rating (but only count the two versions of Life’s Too Short as one song). With the housekeeping out of the way, here is my overall remark of the mini-album. And I think some people might not like it. I consider Girls to be a fairly safe release. Out of the new songs, we have a balance of strong and weak songs that cancel each other out. Hence, I don’t feel one way or another about the release. When I factor in the past releases (unsure to why they are included on this mini-album), they do help boost up the rating of this mini-album. I wonder if SM Entertainment was trying to strengthen the album with the presence of their remake and debut singles.
1. Girls (Title Track) – Click here to read the full review for Girls. (8/10)
2. Illusion (도깨비불) (Pre-Release Track) – I liked the fact that Illusion is more paced and felt more refined, yet still maintaining an EDM-based and a somewhat intense atmosphere. However, I did think aespa and their producers were playing it safe with this song. I felt they could have snuck in a few punches into Illusion just to give it some oomph and power. I feel like the song potentially could have been taken to the next level (pun unintended) had this been the case, whilst also still maintaining the pace/refinement it had opted for. The line “Yummy Yummy Yummy in my Tummy” was a bit off-putting, simply because it felt too childish. (7.5/10)
3. Lingo – Lingo is even more paced than the previous song, and I was not a fan of it. It resulted in Lingo coming off as sluggish and dry. However, the producers kept it interesting by including a harmonica riff into the instrumental. As far as I can remember from the top of my head, I don’t think I have ever heard of a harmonic riff in KPOP before. It is an interesting colour, and one I would love to dive further into. Just with a more upbeat tempo next time around. Their vocals and raps were quite nice in this song. (6.5/10)
4. Life’s Too Short – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. I will not be reviewing the Korean version of the song, as a result, and will not factor the Korean version into the final overall album rating I give at the end of album reviews. See the English version of Life’s Too Short on this album for a link to the review of the song.
5. ICU (쉬어가도 돼) – ICU is a soft pop ballad that I thought was stunner. It follows on nicely from Life’s Too Short and features a sweet vocals and melodies that just feels warm and inviting. The instrumental was quite balance and brings a smile to my face, with the soft acoustic guitar being my favourite part. I also love the bolstering of the “and ICU” parts of the song. It is a nice amplification that fits in with the rest of the song, and also helps leave a strong impression on you. My favourite (new) side track on this mini-album. (9/10)
6. Life’s Too Short (English Version) – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. Click here to see that review. (8/10)
7. Black Mamba – Click here to read the full review of Black Mamba. (9/10)
8. Forever (약속) – Click here to read the full review of Forever. (9/10)
9. Dreams Come True – At the end of 2021, aespa made a special comeback as part of SM Station, where they remade Dreams Come True, a single previously released back in 1998 by S.E.S. They kicked off the song with a more prominent hip-hop vibe, which is a neat way that makes the original pop song relevant to the younger group. As the song progress, aespa continues to make Dreams Come True their own by infusing a light touch of EDM into the song. What I like is that the producers did not change the iconic melody of the instrumental and chorus, so it maintained resemblance to the original song. They also maintained the gibberish bridge from the original version of the song. If you have not yet, I highly recommend you check out the music video for this release. It was produced by BoA and was so beautifully done. (9/10)
Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10