Note: Seoulbeats writers reviewed their picks for the best and worst albums of 2011. We are only posting the portion that mentions JYJ. To see their other picks for the best albums of 2011 as well as their picks for the worst, please visit Seoulbeats.
In Heaven won second place in the official album poll, which kind of blows my mind because JYJ fans are notorious for making sure that JYJ wins every web poll that’s ever been created. Or maybe that just applies to Jaejoong fans. Who knows.
Snark aside, however, In Heaven was probably one of the strongest albums I’ve encountered this year, and I’m not just saying that because 2011 was a weak year for full-length album releases as a whole. For starters, every song on the 10-track album was composed by one or more of the JYJ members themselves, which is a rare and impressive occurrence amongst most mainstream K-pop artists. Half of the tracks on In Heaven were previously released via JYJ’s Music Essay minialbum in January of this year, but they were remastered for the In Heaven rerelease. But in my opinion, the most impressive tracks on this album were those not previously included on the Music Essay minialbum. “Boy’s Letter” starts out as a relatively unassuming track, but it’s an extremely strong ballad that boasts an elegantly composed melody and a well-structured climax. “You’re” is a punchy but nonetheless smooth midtempo song that features some great vocal coordination between the three members. “Get Out” is a powerful dance track that’s both amplified and softened by the members’ voices. And, of course, “In Heaven” is the crown jewel of the album: overdramatic, but beautifully so.
JYJ is often accused of being repetitive and unoriginal with their musical style, and after listening to In Heaven, I’m beginning to understand this claim. As composers, the JYJ members are fond of certain sounds and beats, and they use these same sounds and beats over and over in their music. This, combined with consistency in personal compositional style, can cause JYJ’s music to come across as being repetitive or unoriginal. Now, I’m a person who generally likes JYJ’s musical style, so this so-called repetitiveness is far from a problematic issue for me. But even as a fan of JYJ’s style, I think it’d be wise for JYJ to consider collaborating with other composers for their future releases, just to keep things fresh. But of course, this might all be easier said than done, especially considering the amount of legal red tape JYJ has to deal with in order to merely exist in the Korean entertainment sphere.
I really wish the best for JYJ and I hope they succeed, moreso than any other group — not only because they are talented musicians, but because by producing such consistently high-quality work such as In Heaven without the help of a giant entertainment company, JYJ is showing that they have the power to enact change within the K-pop industry for good. But until that day comes, I’m content with JYJ so long as they continue to make good music.