Beast Finds Balance on 'Hard to Love, How to Love' Album

Beast

CUBE ENTERTAINMENT

Following their first K-Pop Hot 100 No. 1, the boy band showcases growth on second full-length LP.

It was 2011 when popular K-pop boy band Beast released their first full-length album. Lead single "Fiction" was a commercial and critical success, sweeping up music accolades while finding big chart success. It set up the group nicely for a string of Top 10 hits on the K-Pop Hot 100, which was introduced just as the hype for "Fiction" died down in August 2011.

The list of hits included "Will You Be Alright?," a pre-release single from just-released 2013 album, "Hard to Love, How to Love." It debuted at No. 1 on the K-Pop Hot 100 in June 15, signifying an eagerly awaited return from the Beast boys.

"Will You Be Alright?" brought the focus to the act's impressive vocals and inclination for sweet harmonies. Beast has always been known for its spunky image -- see debut music video "Bad Girl" or the video for 2012 single "Midnight Sun."  "Will You Be Alright?" played off the emotional ballad formula that landed recent No. 1s for Tae Yeon, K. Will, Lee Seung Gi and Davichi. And K-pop listeners responded, landing Beast their first No. 1... for a pre-release track none the less! 

The second pre-release single, "I'm Sorry," brought the BPM up a few notches, but served a similar purpose as "Alright." (Why fix it if it ain't broke?) Again, Beast showcased the scope of their vocal ranges with the mid-tempo, highlighting the boys' ability to hit the low bass and high falsetto notes. Perhaps a bit too similar to "Alright," it peaked at No. 11 on the K-pop charts.

Yet for the official promoted single, "Shadow," Beast looked to play off similar elements that made "Fiction" such an excellent standout. It continues with the same aggressive, piano-laden electro-pop beat heard in the album opening track, "Intro," but "Shadow" is embellished with further electronic flourishes. The boys' harmonize in small quick sections -- which would have been nice to hear more of -- with a held-back vocal approach minus some big falsetto notes from main vocalist Yo Seob.

The accompanying music video to "Shadow" displays an eerie concept with images of a snakes, hawks, skulls and mad dogs spliced among the members in dark formalwear; a nice fit for the boy band that's always been a bit spunkier than the others. The members themselves even take a break away from their heartthrob looks, turning creepy themselves, as Jun Hyung does in his rap bridge. The video is reminiscent to labelmates 4minute's "Volume Up" visual, though with less in-group touching and more dancing.

Ultimately, with "Shadow" as the album's centerpiece, balance is the best word to describe the album.  With the by-the-numbers R&B production of "How to Love," Beast's vocals shine with harmonies hitting the high and low spectrum of the male vocal range. Yet on the electro-disco "Be Alright," the approach is thinner with straightforward rapping, subdued harmonies and a catchy melody in place of vocal acrobatics.  

Four years into their career, the sextet has crafted an LP that highlights the range of their ability. From high-energy, genre-twisting bangers to the straightforward, vocally impressive ballads, Beast continue to be one of most-impressive K-pop acts out there, giving fans what they want while still showing signs of growth.