By Paris365 on April 09, 2013

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Windmill Media

I was expecting electro-pop, given the name of this Korean group, but it turns out that they're not an electro-pop group at all. They're actually a hip-hop group. But any disappointment that I was experiencing over this not being a nice slice of electro pie went away halfway through the opening song, "Ma Boy 3," which features Nana of Orange Caramel on the hook. It begins with the sound of a dusty record playing while one of the guys says "hey, all I see is you, nothing but you, girl, let's go, let's go." It definitely has a retro vibe, but once the beats drop they're as solid as any hip-hop beats you'll hear this year. But it's not the beats so much as the song's smooth quality that makes it a winner. Even when the guys are delivering the hip-hop verses, they sound silky smooth and lovelorn. There isn't a hint of arrogance here. Well, OK, I suppose there could be plenty of arrogance in the lyrics and I'm just unaware of it, but the tone of their voices never sounds cocky and they mesh perfectly with Nana's sugary sweet delivery of the chorus. An awful lot of Korean hip-hop groups recruit girls from girl groups to sing on their songs and it feels oh-so-formulaic after a while, but this pairing feels like a marriage made in heaven. As for the song's title, it's because the song is the third and final part of a trilogy that started with SISTAR19's "Ma Boy" and continued with Electroboyz's "Ma Boy 2." (I don't know why they didn't call the two parts by Electroboyz "Ma Girl" instead of "Ma Boy" because the guys actually sing "my girl" in the lyrics, not "my boy" or "ma boy.")

The guys collaborate with female singers on tracks two and three as well and both tracks could be considered ballads. (The mini-album was produced by Brave Brothers and they clearly approached the project knowing that the guys work their best magic on hip-hop ballads because most of the tracks here could at least loosely be categorized as such.) Up first is a collaboration with JC Ji Eun on a song called "Ride With Me." Her voice is more high-pitched than the guys' voices, but it's a dreamy, romantic hip-hop ballad and her voice is arguably the most emotive on the track, so that more than makes up for it. That said, it isn't quite as remarkable as track three,"Love," which is a shiny gem of a song featuring Seung Hee from Brave New Girl Group, whose voice is like whipped cream on a sundae on the genre-bending R&B/hip-hop ballad.

Track four also happens to be a ballad. "Oh, baby, good night," the guys sing warmly on "Good Night," the first song on In Love that doesn't feature any guests, proving they can more than handle selling a romantic song on their own.

The direction changes drastically on "Hot," which is, in fact, a red hot dance pop gem. It's quite the club-ready banger, too, the beat punchy if not downright aggressive. It's very catchy and proves that the guys are capable of doing more than ballads, so it's a bit disappointing that they go right back into ballad mode with the next track, "이랬으면 좋겠어" (Google translation: "It Was Like I Wish). It's not that "이랬으면 좋겠어" is a bad song per say, but it does feel redundant when they've already done so many ballads. At least the next track, "No.1," has a slamming, mega-beat. It does have a bit of an R&B ballad vibe, but the sharp piano lines and intensity of the beat ultimately render it more of a normal hip-hop song and it's an irresistible one at that.

The final track is a new remix of "Ma Boy 2," which blends vibrant flourishes of synth with solid, urban beats. It features Hyo Rin of Sistar and she's ultimately the heart of the triumphant song.

All in all, a solid first mini-album from a group that should go far. -Michael McCarthy

Labels and artists interested in being featured here may contact Michael McCarthy at cinema365@gmail.com. Follow Michael on Twitter https://twitter.com/paris365.

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