With nearly 15 years in the entertainment industry, BoA has little to prove in Korea, where she’s widely regarded as a pioneer in K-pop’s modern-day international platform. After delving into multiple genres throughout several territories (including a self-titled English album that charted on the Billboard 200), the 28-year-old’s Korean releases are less frequent, but have seen the star getting increasingly more involved with their creation. Her latest, Kiss My Lips, is almost entirely written by BoA with the singer also landing production credits on each song, producing six completely on her own.
The question then comes: Does one review BoA as a veteran pop star or as an up-and-coming singer-songwriter? While Kiss My Lips has standout moments that reestablish her as one of the top divas in the pop world, there are moments of musical blandness that may come as a result of BoA’s nascent skills as an up-and-comer. But whatever context we judge her in, the LP is a solid, enjoyable and feel-good piece of work that shows promise of not only BoA’s lasting and continuing star power, but also a bright future as a well-rounded multi-hyphen artist.
1. Kiss My Lips – The album’s title track is sophisticated, sultry synth-pop track that mixes BoA’s honeyed vocals with robust, dark electronic beats. The production isn’t particularly intricate, but it goes down super smooth with the listener catching subtle embellishments like guitar strums, 808s and electronica flourishes upon further listens. Despite the diva’s eternally youthful vocals, she adds a breathiness on the chorus and rasp on various belts that give the song a new, more mature layer that was missing on recent releases.
The music video adds another element of sophistication that, despite being filmed on a boxed video set, feels much more expansive with the different mood lighting, backdrops and props. BoA reminds us of her incredible dance skills here, making complicated moves look easy, remaining subtle in her approach altogether. While it would have been fun to see the starlet completely slay a hardcore choreography routine, the song’s seductive feel calls for more sensuality than athleticism.
2. Who Are You featuring Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko – This breezy R&B track fits right into K-pop’s hot idol-rapper collaboration trend, but this is a letdown given BoA had already conquered this sound on past releases. “Who Are You” is extremely reminiscent of her 2013 release “Disturbance” and feels like a generic R&B-pop track even with Gaeko’s animated guest appearance.
The accompanying video for the song, a buzz track leading up to Kiss My Lips, is also somewhat of a letdown with very little BoA in it. The song had potential to redeem itself with a video similar to “Only One,” but BoA’s involvement is just via green screen.
3. Smash – Subtlety quickly becomes the name of the game in Kiss My Lips, with soft, funky guitar and a couple horn blasts swirling around this string-laden disco track. There’s a super-fun, synthesizer-laden breakdown at the 1:45 mark, one of several highlights packed into this all-too-short song that, at 2:33, is actually a crime for being so short.
4. Shattered — The type of track that Kylie Minogue would kill for, “Shattered” was likely going head-to-head with “Kiss My Lips” for the LP’s lead single. In the midst of the dark groove and sexy tone, BoA confidently howls on the haunting hook. Produced by The Underdogs (who have been hit or miss on past with their past K-pop releases), the production duo outdo themselves here.
5. Fox – Compared to “Smash,” the synths are a bit livelier and the guitar is a little funkier here. But when we already had “Smash” what was the point of “Fox”? The subtle organ and xylophone towards the end are nice touches, but this one remains mostly forgettable.
6. Double Jack featuring Eddy Kim – A lovely, feel-good collab that feels, again, very on-trend given K-pop’s love of R&B duets, but it’s ultimately another passable tune in the grand scheme of things.
7. Home – At first, “Home” sounds like a generic R&B ballad, but listen closely for understated harp and synths that highlights BoA’s voice, which sounds beautifully fragile here. Another cut helmed by The Underdogs, the superstar producers likely have found a new muse (or co-producer) in the K-pop queen given the strength of this and “Shattered.” Fingers crossed for more joint works together.
8. Clockwork – Another powerful performance that reinforces BoA’s K-pop queen title, here the star owns a the tango-driven dance track with an addictive chorus that swerves into unexpected piano and violin lines throughout. The 28-year-old is one of the few K-pop stars that could easily pull off tango-inspired choreography and a it feels like “Clockwork” will be a bit wasted as an album track given how strong and catchy it is.
9. Love and Hate– An acoustic guitar ballad based around the line “If I only could hate you, but I can’t stop loving you.” The line sticks with the listener while also emphasizing how strong BoA’s English has become too.
10. Green Light – Opens with (what else?) synths and a funk guitar. The ’70s disco motif sounds very reminiscent to “Smash” too. Regardless of its redundancy when listening to the album straight through, there’s a very catchy and airy hook that gives “Green Light” some legs to stand on.
11. Hello – One of those sweeping piano ballads we know BoA always trounces. Her vocal timbre shines here with her youthful fragility cooing, “Every moment I need you…every time, every time” on the rushing chorus.
12. Blah – A fun, guitar-driven, sassy pop song to close out the album about being about “in the center of controversy.” The 28-year-old repeats on the chorus, “Who’s talking about me? I don’t care” — a declaration that one needs years of life experience to be able to say confidently. It’s reminiscent to Christina Aguilera‘s fun-but-somewhat-childish closing track on 2012’s Lotus, “Shut Up.” Yet, the light production and happy vocal styling on “Blah” makes more of a statement that BoA’s moving on to bigger and better things which, in this case, hopefully means writing and producing more intricate songs, more frequently.