Volume Up is the third EP to be released by South Korean girl group, 4minute, and their comeback EP following on from their 2011 début album, 4minutes Left.
Lead single from the EP (or mini-album as they are often called) is a track of the same name, the most excellent ‘Volume Up’. Not since the halcyon days of the Sunset Beach opening credits has a sultry saxophone riff been utilised so brilliantly. In conjunction with the sax appeal, ‘Volume Up’ features strong performances from lead vocalists Ga Yoon and particularly Ji Yoon. It’s a superb slice of pop, containing a stomping chorus laced with MC-ing from the effortlessly cool HyunA, that will undoubtedly fill the dance floor wherever it is played.
The associated video (see below) is a lush visual experience, tinged with Gothic, almost vampiric sensibilities, and all the girls look stunning and ladylike. The dance routine may not be quite as complex as perhaps those performed by say, Girls’ Generation, but the 4minute girls do get a bit manhandled by their female back-up dancers, which is rather risqué for an act from South Korea, where homosexuality is still quite a taboo subject.
Back to the EP, the only song that could be classified as a ballad is the track ‘I’m OK’, which is a lovely mid-tempo number about a necessary, yet amicable breakup. The male backing vocals complement the girls’ vocals pleasantly, giving a beautifully layered sound throughout the song. It’s a shame that the girls seem to treat ballads in a rather tokenistic fashion, as they are always lovely additions that only enhance their albums.
A particular highlight, in addition to ‘Volume Up’, is the superb ‘Dream Racer’, which plays like a song with a split-personality. The verses feature an unusual bit of prominence for 4minute’s youngest member, So Hyun. Here she casually sing-speaks over the rolling bassline, which effectively mimics the sound of a revving engine. When we enter the chorus, the song changes gear entirely and unashamedly to a much poppier tone, allowing Ga Yoon and Ji Yoon to once again sing with great panache.
The EP’s closing track, ‘Black Cat’, while good, doesn’t quite match the calibre of the preceding tracks, though this is a minor quibble of an otherwise excellent EP. The five girls continue to go from strength to strength, managing to produce EPs and albums with a far higher proportion of killer than filler.
Go Get It: ‘Volume Up’/'Dream Racer’
Forget It: ‘Black Cat’
Volume Up is available to buy from iTunes now.