Monday, September 8th, 2014

Winner – Empty

As far as names go, we side with that of the title over that of the artist…


Sonia Yang: Oh look, a song with more uncomfortable falsetto than “Chandelier”! Between the familiar synths ‘n snaps, the hollow-faced posturing, and abuse of Instagram filters, “Empty” leaves me just as empty as these boys are supposed to feel, so I guess I’ll give it that at least.

Madeleine Lee: Winner started as the scrappy, artsy Team A on a reality show called YG’s WIN: Who Is Next, and were chosen by audience vote to debut over the more hip-hop focused Team B. Team B generally performed better on the show, but for the most part were not very memorable, and Team A had an X-factor in their blend of personalities and musical styles (three members are songwriters; one likes rock, one likes rap, and one likes electro) that audiences preferred. But you wouldn’t know it from the boringly competent “Empty.” It could be that it wasn’t written by them (in fact, it was written by two members of Team B, but let’s save the favouritism accusations for the message boards), but the Winner-composed second title track, “Color Ring,” is just as bland, only it’s bland rock melodrama instead of bland laid-back beats. Honestly, “Empty” is better with the (self-choreographed) dance; as goofy as the moves are, they lighten the otherwise drab mood of the song and bring out its sweetness.

Alfred Soto: This contest winner sounds like K’naan given a per diem and recording budget. The hooks are cloying and explicit though.

Brad Shoup: On the face of it, it’s a JT-style ballad, light blue and weightless. But that falsetto chorus is finely wrought and a lot less performative; it sounds like a reverie. I’m still not a fan of the basic form, but Winner throws a lot of voices at it; I’m sure some will stick.

Thomas Inskeep: You know those annoying Justin Timberlake tracks where he busts out the acoustic to prove… whatever it is he thinks he’s proving — that’s he’s a “musician” or something? Imagine one of those with T.I. rapping on it, only the track is in Korean, and you pretty much get what this sounds like, i.e., not a damn thing special. 

Maxwell Cavaseno: “Empty” attempts to plunge one knee into R&B as a simple dip, and thuds a little heavier than it seems. The “da-da-da-da” bridge and the toybox hiccups seem a bit too cartoony, and brief geysers of organ and somber rapping keep the song in a glum rut. There’s too much of a tug of war here to convey true seriousness or dissolve into poppy delight, so instead we get a sort of half-melted grey crayon, both too soupy and chunky to mean much to anyone.

Patrick St. Michel: It does just enough sonically to be interesting, and all of the best details come via messed-around-with voices. Yet a handful of unorthodox sounds isn’t enough to elevate this beyond what it is: a standard-issue ballad that’s not all that special.

Katherine St Asaph: A little like the “My Sweet Summer” of R&B, except even less substantial.

Reader average: [2.8] (5 votes)

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One Response to “Winner – Empty”

  1. I appreciate it when Kpop producers try to write about depression, since it’s not a mental state that lends itself to the difficult creative work of pop songwriting (or doing much of anything for that matter). And that’s even more true of “pure” depression, i.e. not the angry/euphoric mixed-state of most Kpop breakup songs.

    Of course, outside of Kpop, there are many pop songs about depression. However, they generally take the long view – performing a self-therapy or therapeutic-disclosure that discusses the personal history of the author as it relates to long-term habits – while on the other hand, outside of something like EXO’s “History” Kpop songs generally aren’t concerned with the past or the future – instead their goal is to find novel ways describe how the author feels RIGHT NOW.

    As a purely descriptive track, then, this is all right, but instrumentally it doesn’t capture the feeling of total emptiness as well as 2NE1’s Missing You, and lyrically it isn’t novel enough in its descriptions of what it feels like to be depressed. It’s too straightforward to be really engaging, but as one of very few idol songs on this topic I can totally understand why this is popular in S. Korea. It’s also not bad at all for the first attempt of a rookie songwriter, but of course we don’t award points for that stuff around here. [6]