Spotlight: T – YOONMIRAE

First, a little plug. I’ve recently started to write for Korean music site hellokpop (you can check out the archive of my writing here). This does not mean that this blog will get any less frequent posts, since it’s a little hard for me to post any less frequently than I do now anyways. Specifically, my writing on hellokpop will usually be on the new or up-and-coming stuff, while this blog’s Spotlight feature will continue to cover everything and anything I feel like. While reviews will usually be posted on hellokpop.com only, I’m probably going to post any editorials that I do over there on this blog as well. And of course, the non-music writing isn’t going anywhere.

Today’s Spotlight features an album from one of, if not the, greatest female artist in Korea. Yoon Mi Rae, also known as Natasha Shanta Reid, Gemini, Tasha, Jordan’s mother, and most commonly just T, made her debut at the age of fifteen as the only female member of influential hiphop crew Uptown. The following years saw her steadily gain fame and fandom, become a solo artist, and establish herself as one of the elite R&B/hiphop artists in the nation–regardless of gender. T’s reflectively titled third studio album, Y O O N M I R A E (spaces seem to be mandatory), was a tour-de-force. It wasn’t what catapulted her to the top of the scene–that was already done. YOONMIRAE (screw it, I’m not gonna do the spaces every time) was more of a homecoming for T, showing expectant fans and budding rookies alike why she was still queen.

It’s a very balanced album, through and through. T follows the law of averages here: she is all over the place in terms of genre, style, and level of craziness (in this album, it ranges from “sullenly calm” to “Lady Gaga”), which keep YOONMIRAE on that balance. This approach doesn’t really work if the album’s standout song or songs is/are on one side of the scale, but what’s most impressive about this one is that its standouts are so numerous and so well spread-out. Album opener “Black Diamond”, which happens to be so good that it was my 26th greatest song of the last decade, is an energetic, massive piece that blows the roof off from the outset; “Pay Day”, performed with Tiger JK and Lady Ann, is a party tune with exquisite sampling and exhilarating performances. On the other hand, title track “잊었니…” (“Did You Forget…”) is a melancholy pop number, “Honeymoon” is a soul-shaking true R&B track, and “Good Bye Sadness, Hello Happiness” is an emotive, sweeping ballad. The autobiography of “검은 행복” (“Black Happiness”), one of the few rap tracks on the album, is inspirational and uplifting.

And this is only half the album. I can’t think of very many albums that have had as many standouts as this one; it’s a testament to the level of effort that went into crafting YOONMIRAE into a showcase of everything that T had to offer. T is a soulful singer, and the third album does focus more on that–more ballads and R&B tracks where she’s wonderfully emotive and moving. But her rapping isn’t neglected, and when it shows up it’s as clean and powerful as ever. (Only qualm being that she didn’t write all the lyrics herself as she usually does.)

It’s been four years since the homecoming; since the majestic magnum opus that was a legitimate contender for Album of the Year 2007 (and may well be it). We’re still waiting for the fourth album that will supposedly drop in 2011; it’s expected to be one of the year’s biggest events when it does. And YOONMIRAE shows you why.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)
1. Black Diamond – Featuring Tiger JK
2. What’s Up! Mr. Good Stuff
3. 잊었니… (Did You Forget…)
4. Honeymoon
5. Gimme Gimme!!!
6. Pay Day – Featuring Tiger JK, Lady Ann
7. 시간은 눈물과 흐르고 (Time Flows With Tears)
8. 나니까 (Because It’s Me)
9. 검은 행복 (Black Happiness)
10. Who
11. Good Bye Sadness, Hello Happiness

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