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Music Review: BoA – BoA: Deluxe Edition

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Boa Kwon has been racking up record sales in South Korea and Japan since she was 13 years old. After being offered a contract at the age of 11 when accompanying her brother to a talent show, Boa Kwon put in two years of training before releasing her debut record in South Korea. ID; Peace B went to the tenth spot on the Korean album charts and, since then, she’s been using her command of Japanese, Korean and conversational English to achieve mass appeal.

With the release of BoA in March of 2009, Boa Kwon hit the shores of the United States. Using her stage name, BoA (Beat of Angel) uncorked her brand of standard pop and dance music for American audiences.

While the 22-year-old may have been popular for achieving popularity at such an early age, there’s little to BoA that hasn’t been seen or heard before in the pop world. Her sound is well-produced and cleanly manufactured, as though the songs were pieced together in a lab somewhere before being committed to CD.

The release of a “deluxe” version of BoA provides more opportunities to explore Boa Kwon’s American debut with the “soft comfort” of a couple of bonus tracks and the radio edit of the decidedly languid “Energetic.”

With production from Sean Garrett, Brian Kennedy and Bloodshy & Avant, BoA doesn’t stand out from the crowd in any way, shape or form. It’s dreary vocoder stuff written by a team of writers and performed by an inexpressive, plain vocalist. Nothing particularly stands out, apart from studio sheen, and BoA certainly doesn’t prove herself to be a performer to take note of with this U.S. debut.

The effects-filled “I Did It For Love” features the aforementioned Sean Garrett and pulses with an irritating stab at a club vibe and one of the most egregious uses of Auto-Tune I’ve heard on a pop record. It simply zaps any and all importance from the track, leaving a shell of a song that could have been performed by any subpar pop singer.

BoA leaves listeners longing for the likes of Britney Spears with passionless tracks like “Look Who’s Talking” and the corny “Dress Off.”

BoA’s deluxe edition isn’t overly deluxe, even for fans of the original U.S. debut. The addition of a paltry two tracks, neither of which are any good, won’t have people reaching for their wallets and the radio edit of “Energetic” is, well, a radio edit.

BoA is a sub-standard album from a Korean superstar who could have brought some of her culture and flavour to American shores. The record is tasteless and completely unadventurous, relying on the use of studio magic to shine light away from the fact that Boa Kwon just isn’t very gifted as a 20-something pop singer.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    When I hear the letters BOA I automatically think of Black Oak Arkansas. God bless you Jim Dandy, wherever you are…

    -Glen

  • tweenqueen

    I beg to differ. BoA is great

  • KaiserRoll

    Are you implying that she doesn’t have any talent? From that last line I think you are. Just because her US Debut isn’t all that great, doesn’t give you the right to claim she’s talentless..

  • vickasaur

    I disagree with you completely, I think you’re wrong. She has a lot of talent and its hard for her cause she’s just a normal person like us with an extra gift, you shouldn’t call her talentless! Would you like it if someone said you were talentless and biased on your criticism? Just because one album is not good doesn’t mean everything else is. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

  • No way, Jose.

    I have to disagree as well.
    To begin with, how can you use an album to decide whether or not an artist is gifted? It’s pretty obvious that autotune is the trend, BoA needs to cover her accent, and since this is dance music, vocoder and all the effects fits perfectly. I agree that there was way too much autotune on this album, but that alone is not enough to decide that she “isn’t very gifted as a 20-something pop singer.”
    Moreover, since this is so obviously a dance album, you should have watched some of her dance videos before making this review. I say this because you didn’t extend your OPINION to just her album and vocals, but you mentioned her being untalented as well. If a singer releases a dance album, it’s obvious their strength is dancing/performing, which then should be taken into account when making statements of their talents.
    Plus, you skipped over Girls On Top, which DOES bring Korean flavor and some of her vocals (although the original Korean version is by far more powerful).
    Regardless of personality, originality, and vocals, this album does provide plenty of danceable and enjoyable songs. It’s nothing like Miss Spears’ Circus (since you mentioned Britney in your review), which are all hits-and-misses. These songs are catchy, radio-friendly, and if BoA was signed under a major recording label, she would be getting major radioplay.
    That being said, I do agree with the major points in your article, about the lack of originality in this. I just have to disagree that she’s untalented. I’ve known her for years now, and she is far from untalented. There’s a reason why her dancers (American dancers, mind you) praise her as the Korean Janet Jackson.
    Suggested listening: Ain’t No Sunshine (live), Girls On Top (Korean version)
    Suggested dance videos: Energetic, Eat You Up (Cha version)

  • That last sentence

    I agree with you for the most part. BoA’s US album was a rather experimental on her part, and lacked that something extra to make her shine in the US market. However, I very much resent that last sentence you wrote because you clearly did not do a thorough background on BoA.

    Watch this (superb dancing while lipsyncing in Korean. The only reason I’m noting the lipsyncing is because she is absolutely AMAZING at dancing with live vocals).

    And this (singing a ballad live in Japanese).

    Her English “Eat You Up” MV (again, great dancing).

    After watching those, I don’t possibly see how you can say that BoA isn’t gifted (and entirely deserving of her success in Asia).

  • Andres

    It’s hard for me as a MAD BoA Fan to admit you certainly have more than one point with what you’re saying, but I have to stand for BoA talent… I don’t really think it was her fault, she DOES have talent, she has done a lot of amazing stuff in the past and keeps doing great songs… I think the problem was trying to sell her as a product as Britney, not as the full artist she is, she does have a voice but “BoA” doesn’t show us that, you have to see her live to discover what she can give…

  • The last sentence 2

    By “rather experimental on her part,” I meant that BoA usually releases ballads and mid-tempo songs in Asia. This is the first time she has released a dance music album filled entirely with autotune.

    Secondly:

    Dancing with live vocals of Girls on Top and Moto.

    Two of her performances at Springroove 09: Dancing and live vocals.

    Look Who’s Talking “Behind the scenes” MV (my favorite choreography from her US album).

    I dare you to think that BoA isn’t talented.

  • uhre

    Who are you to say that BoA isn’t very gifted…

  • Josh

    While I respect and agree with some your views on this record, I’m going to have to go against a few things you said. She is NOT talentless.

    This album doesn’t really demonstrate her real vocal abilities (I’m sure you checked her out on her older works. If not, do so please). She is definitely one heck of a performer on stage. She is a powerhouse dancer and vocalist when she needs to be. She can also do both incredibly well. Again, just listening to this album alone doesn’t really display her talent.

    I’m fine with you saying you don’t like her music but to stress again, she is NOT talentless. She’s an artist that should be taken note of in today’s industry.

    And Energetic isn’t just a ‘radio edit’. It’s a reworked track from the original album version with something new, not just a cut-down short song alone.

  • Rin

    I think it’s great that you gave a spin of BoA’s American debut album.

    It’s pretty clear amongst her fans and non-fans that this album was not meant to make her appear to be the super-talented vocalist of the century. Rather, as she herself said in an interview, the album (BoA) was made to give a guilty-pleasure kind of danceable music, one that you can just have fun in listening to without going into musical analytical mode on every single track.

    Obviously, her vocals aren’t going to stand out with auto-tune reigning throughout the album (please don’t call it vocoder, that’s the wrong use of music production term). However, turn the radio on to your pop station – what do you hear? Auto-tune.

    Auto-tune has been proven to be the new “in” for the pop music industry. Even artists who don’t need to lean on it for covering up their vocal abilities are using it these days (Mariah Carey, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, etc.)

    With that said, I think sometimes we just need to take a step back and look more closely at WHAT the music is trying to do – give us some ear candy.

    I’m sure if BoA wanted to prove herself as a great singer (which I think by her ballad capabilities she is), she would’ve put some ballads on her album. The fact is, SHE knows that this album is meant for just a guilt-free fun dance time, her FANS know that, and I think it would be great for her non-fans and critics to realize that as well.

  • Carmen

    I come form HK. I really want to say, this is not her best sound. What do you want her to do? A powerful sound with dancing in live? She can do it easily. I cannot understand why don’t give her good point come out? Anyway, talent or not, I think she have talent. She can dance that is a talent ok?
    Everyone have their talent, if he doesn’t, he will not a human.
    People who cannot accept her, they will say something which they don’t like. Just see it and let is be a good point. She can do it. But if you only cannot accept people form Asia, It is not her problem and it is your prejudice. I believe American will not let it happen, becasue USA is a international city, right?

    P.s I am sorry for my bad english. I hope you all can understand what I say.

  • http://www.bostonsos.org James

    I really disagree with this review and it sounds really biased. I picked up the album myself and LOVED it. It’s a DANCE album with some really fantastic dance tracks. Nearly every track is single worthy *if you like pop and dance music* which the reviewer probably doesn’t. I didn’t like the two “bonus” tracks for the deluxe album though. They were more electronica dance than hip-hop dance, which isn’t fitting with the rest of the album. It’s too bad this didn’t get the backing of a major record label by being released by a startup. Hopefully she’ll go on a club and radio station tour to get awareness that way.

  • Eh

    Where does he call her talentless? He doesn’t, that’s just what you guys are taking from it.
    He’s right though, this album was horrible. It blends right in with mainstream and doesn’t allow her to stand out and shine.

  • http://nazakawasadako.wordpress.com Nazakawa Sadako

    I think you are wrong in some points of this review.
    BoA is an AMAZING singer. She cant do a hard dance and sing at the same time… Miss Spears can’t do this.
    Her American Album wasn’t too good, but you can’t say that she is talentless or that a singer who sangs through her noses is better than BoA.
    Her USA debut fails… But this doesn’t mean that she is a bad singer or something like that.

  • Pinkpanterchen

    I don´t admit with this review. Boa is a very talented singer and dancer. You have to listen to her older music. At first I listen to her US-album. And I really enjoyed it. Yes it´s right, you can´t recognize her beautiful voice because of using auto-tune but it´s mentioned as dance -lp, so what do you expect? Auto-tune is used in almost every single in US dance charts…
    I hope she will be successful with her music in the US. Does anyone know if she also wants to publish a CD in Europe, because I´m from Europe, but I don´t think that she will be successful here with that kind of music like in the USA.

  • Douglas Vialli

    Ronaldo

  • Tamiris Regine

    Como ousa dizer que a BoA não tem talento? Você não passa de um ridículo sem cultura, desprovido de qualquer senso! Antes de criticar, faça melhor seu otário! A BoA é excelente, uma linda e maravilhosa cantora! Ela é super esforçada e sabe cativar!! Falar desse jeito sobre ela só me prova o quanto você é invejoso e infeliz!
    ——————————————–
    How dare you say that BoA does not have talent? You’re nothing but a ridiculous uneducated, lacking any sense! Before you criticize, do your best sucker! BoA is excellent, a beautiful and wonderful singer! She is super hardworking and knows captivate! Talking that way about her only proves to me how much you are jealous and unhappy!

  • Tori

    Considering most music labels have complete control or most control over what their singers put out on their cd’s, if the songs are subpar, then it is not BoA’s fault. She just has a shitty music label. But I don’t think this cd is bad. It’s not perfect. Her voice isn’t always showcased to its best advantage, and it’s all dance and no ballad. But her dancing is most certainly showcased, if you’ve seen the music video for “Eat You Up.” (The one with the Korean director, NOT the other one. That video is absolutely awful.) One reason this cd was pretty much hip-hop dance beats was also to showcase this dancing talent. Which she most DEFINITELY has. As far as Britany, being a singer myself, I can tell you that she most definitely sings through her nose which is DEEPLY frowned upon in the music world (at least the intelligent part of it, maybe not so much in Hollywood). So in short, your gripe should not be with the singer, but with the way she was showcased to America. And its the music label who takes care of that. So go gripe at them.

    • Dominica Mount

      exactly!!! someone with sense!!! she does sing through her nose but i think its because her forte is dancing when they were training her the first 2 years they signed her she had to learn to really sing. but it gives her a signature sound lol

  • Blackooze

    Richardson is right. This debut sucks and I want my money back for this crappy cd. I see this year after year. Asian pop superstars try to crossover and they fail. They try too hard to target the US market that they lose themselves. The result is a passionless album that is overproduced and doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The most successful to date is Seiko Mastuda (“The Right Combination”) and CoCo. IMHO the reason that they’re so good back home is because they’re “innovative” or “fresh” because they mix western/American styles in their music. But when they make an American album, they fail to add enough Asian style in their music to make them unique.

  • mark lee

    i love boa.
    she already hit her song in japan it mean’s she have a talent.
    anyway i think she can be success in USA too.
    ?

  • marissa abston

    Miss BoA is alot better than most artists that i’ve seen and heard. just because she isn’t plastered all over the front page of magazines in USA doesn’t mean that she isn’t going anywhere and has no talent. She can sing a capella in an album w/ out studio & still top most artists in her genres. just you wait, by 2011 she’ll be on everyone’s mind! >.<

  • marissa abston

    Carmen and all other foreignrs, pls do not let this meany critic be your view of US Americans because from what i know, we respect Asians alot. Listen to some of our music and you can find at least 1 in every 15 songs in hip hop or pop something praising asians in some way ^-^

  • Ste

    To be honest who ever said BoA doesn’t have talent is blind and wrong I been BoA’s fan in the U.S for 6 years BoA has a lot of talent and has a very beautiful voice its just the fact BoA is not used to the U.S music style and plus BoA is still improving her English she did get good reviews on her debut but it was just the Label she worked with they tried to change her image if you look at the video Eat You Up there is the Korean version her manager directed himself and there is the U.S version its a big difference Korean version shows more BoA the U.S version shows more of sexual attention BoA is returning to the U.S so I believe BoA will make a better approach its not over

  • Idiots

    He didn’t say anything about her dancing, he said she wasn’t a gifted SINGER. Which she isn’t. As a singer myself, she definitely sings through her nose (which is why her voice is so high pitched), lacks range, and struggles and strains to hit the notes.

    Her dancing is…good. Not great. I come from a family of peroformers, and go to ANY performing arts school and you’ll see people that are much better dancers than she is. She’s got the BASICS down…only to people that have zero knowledge of dancing does she seem “fantastic”.

  • Kenji

    She could use some vocal lessons.
    and her dancing looks like Johnny’s Jr.
    steps the same all over Japan nothing special

  • lalala

    Blah blah. You 2 obviously are seriously uninformed.To say she sings through her nose simply because her voice is high is stupid. Have you heard most Japanese/Korean singers???They have high voices,And she struggles with he high notes? Hardly. watch her live performances. She can nail high notes as well as dance efficiently. Since your bragging about yourself I think its safe to assume Your just egocentric, and never going to get anywhere with your life.

  • MB

    She’s just a Britney wannabe who’s autotuned to the hilt.Her album is crap.

    [Racist rant deleted]

  • Tara Huang

    People should stop criticizing. (Sorry, not too good with spelling) If you don’t like her, then don’t bother to notice her. :(

  • Dominica Mount

    lets be frank. this critic isnt a BoA expert. He hasnt been following her and heard her previous records. us REAL fans have watched her transformation from her earlier ballads and dances. BoA is amazing and truely inspirational. you do not have to have to be a soaring soprano to be talented. Take toni braxton for example. If you ever bothered to see any of her dance version ( she does drama and dance versions to her newer songs now) you would know that she is also a great dancer. Ever heard her original song moon and sun rise? ever heard her cover of “ain’t no sun shine” ? she isnt these cutesy girl groups she is powerful. Her songs and dancing and made so she can sing AND dance at the same time so of course there are not too many crazy dances in there. COME ON do not be haters. She has been out for more than a decade. There is a reason why she still comes out with chart climbing records and albums. There is a reason why the new artist coming out in korea look up to her. I agree that her USA depute could have been sooo much better. but thats not her fault thats her record labels fault this is new territory and best believe she will be coming back she has die hard fans here, japan, korea,china, and everywhere else. oh and so you guys know i graduated from an art school with my art seal in music. ive been surrounded by talented people since i was 5 ive only been to art schools. there is always someone better out there, but that doesnt mean she is not good. if you dont know her music dont comment.