Jung Hyun Lee / Fantastic Girl / October 10, 2006
Teul / 06. Dallyeo / 11. All In
Since 1999, Jung Hyun Lee has been Korea’s leading lady when it comes to techno. In 2005, she revitalized her career by recording most of her well-known songs in Japanese and attempting a BoA-esque crossover. However, her popularity failed to match its desired reception and Lee returned in 2006 to recording in her native Korean. Best known for her DDR promoted tracks “Wa” and “Bakkwuh”, Lee first captured my attention with the release of these very singles. Her early albums reinforced her quirky, high-pitched vocals that ranged from the smooth to the staccato with use of the industrial techno of which she is now most associated.
Though her third album waned in the genre pigeon-hole, with Lee dabbling in hip hop for the first time, the crux of her work has not changed much aside from influence. Her first two albums focused heavily on Indian influence (“Nuh”), her fourth work used plenty of Native American influence and her fifth (and possibly most terrible album) used a fair share (re: ridiculously enormous amount) of Spanish influence. Although her fifth effort may very well have been her weakest, her newest album, Fantastic Girl, may be hitting rock bottom.
Fantastic Girl is an attempt to resuscitate a drowning career via Lee’s third album with zero success. Gone are the flourishing techno and dance elements and present are the pseudo-hip hop attempts (“FunFun (feat. Double K”)/”Formula”), tuneless pop (“Just Look At Me”), and lots and lots of early 90s Top 40 ballads (all of the slow songs). A look at the song titles is a look at the power of false advertisement. “Men Annoy Women” could be an idiosyncratic battle of the sexes but is one of the weakest links on the entire album and “Love Song” immediately sets itself up for disappointment and satisfies all expectations because unless a song titled “Love Song” is brilliant or fantastically unique, it fulfills its own stereotype with substandard results. The only two songs that stand out are “All In” because it’s of its Magic To Go To My Star factor and “Dallyeo,” a not so subtly “This shit is bananas” influenced pop number that takes us back in time to when Lee was catchy and knew how to use hooks to her advantage.
Although this album seems to imitate her third album most, Fantastic Girl is not a welcome and admirable attempt to criss-cross genres successively. I think if Lee stuck to what she was best at, she would have an album with a higher good-to-mediocre song ratio. Often, there is comfort in the known.