Album Review: MUST – 2PM Comeback After 5 Years

Album Review: MUST – 2PM Comeback After 5 Years

When people think of K-pop, they immediately think about BTS. While I love BTS, I was introduced to K-pop before BTS and I’m a firm believer that K-pop has many other gems, as well. One of these gems, and one of my first introductions to K-pop, is 2PM which recently made a comeback after 5 years. Before we talk about their comeback album, MUST, for those of you who don’t know about 2PM, I’d like to quickly introduce you to them and talk about their 5-year hiatus.

Who are 2PM?

The members of 2PM was originally a part of a larger, 11-member group, One Day, formed by JYP Entertainment which was separated into two sub-bands, 2AM – a four-member ballad band – and 2PM – a 7-member (currently 6) hip hop band. All of the members were chosen through auditions to be trainees of JYP Entertainment, except Nichkhun who was scouted. 2PM debuted in 2008 with their song ‘10 out of 10’ which showcased their signature acrobatic dance styles.

With one member, Jay Park, leaving the group in 2010, the boy band now has 6 members: Jun K. Nichkhun, Taecyeon, Wooyoung, Junho and Chansung.

While many old kdrama fans know Taecyeon and Wooyoung from Dream High, many newer kdrama fans know Taecyeon, Junho and Chansung as Jang Han-seok from Vincenzo, Seo Yul from Good Manager and Go Gwi-nam from What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?.  Taecyeon and Junho have recently been recognised as two of the Top 200 actors in South Korea.

Nichkhun, who fans like to call Thai Prince as he is not Korean but from Thailand, also acted in Korean, Thai and Chinese shows.

While Jun K., the oldest in the band, never had an acting career like his bandmates, he had a solo singing career.

5 Year Hiatus

After the release of their 6th Korean studio album (11th with the 5 Japanese albums), Gentlemen’s Game in 2016, they had a series of final concerts before the members enlisted in the military (Taecyeon: September 2017 – May 2019, Jun K.: May 2018 – January 2020, Wooyoung: July 2018 – February 2020, Chansung: June 2019 – January 2021, Junho: May 2019 – March 2021). As a Thai citizen, Nichkhun wasn’t subject to Korean military enlistment but the military draft lottery of Thailand in 2009 and received an exemption from military service (so he was waiting with the rest of us for this comeback).

At their final concert before the hiatus, they made a promise to their fans (HOTTEST) a comeback. While Taecyeon not renewing his contract with JYP Entertainment like the rest of his band members in January 2018 and signing with 51K later in that year worried the fans, 2PM kept their promise and announced a comeback after Junho, the final member in the military, was discharged.

Their 7th Korean studio album (12th in total) was released on June 28, 2021. So, without further ado, here’s what I think about the album.

MUST

I think this is the best album they have ever released. While I loved some of the classics in their previous albums like ‘My House(우리집)’, ‘Go Crazy (미친거 아니야?)’, ‘Heartbeat’, ‘A.D.T.O.Y (하.니.뿐)’ and ‘I’m Your Man’, I adore the whole album of MUST.

With their earlier albums mostly written and produced by J.Y.Park (JYP) of JYP Entertainment, the members collectively wrote and produced their later albums. This album is no exception with 2 songs written by Wooyoung, a song by Taecyeon and 4 songs by Jun K. However, for the first time, the title track, ‘Make It (해아해)’ was written and produced by Wooyoung who received a lot of praises from his bandmates during their comeback show.

‘Make It’ could be my favourite song of 2PM beating my love for ‘My House’ which was written by Jun K. Fans recently described the distinctions in songs written by Wooyoung as ‘unplugged instrumental bass drenched in jazz’, as opposed to Jun K.’s ‘fancy, yet groovy arrangement’ which is a very clear distinction between these two title tracks. Though I love the songs both of them write, with this album, I’ve realised that I like Wooyoung’s jazzy style a little bit more.

The music video for ‘Make It’ is also a hit that received 10M views in less than 24 hours. It’s packed with the sexiness their fans love, as well as a fun and charismatic dance choreography. I’ve already watched the MV more times than I can count, it’s addictive for people who are familiar with the boy band. I must admit that I’m particularly obsessed with Taecyeon’s parts.

One of my favourite things about ‘Make It’ and the album itself as a previous fan is that Taecyeon has more singing parts. In the past, he mostly stuck to his rap parts while we hear more of his vocals in this album. I especially love his parts in ‘Make It’.

Another song that drives attention to itself with Taecyeon’s vocals (as well as Jun K.’s rap), is ‘Champagne’, which Taecyeon wrote himself. The band revealed that initially Taecyeon and Jun K.’s parts were reversed but Jun K. found the beginning too low for his voice. While Taecyeon was joking about whether Jun K. wants to do rap instead of the beginning part, he really ended up doing it, which gave us the current version of ‘Champagne’. I think it’s just perfect. Both because Taecyeon’s voice fits perfectly to the song and because we like this freshness of the new reversed roles for this song. It’s also probably my second favourite in the album, followed by ‘The Café’, which is another song written by Wooyoung (he is really killing it in this album and I’m so proud). ‘The Café’ Music Video (and its track film before the release of the album) is quite light-hearted and have a sunny weekend vibe which makes me feel happy. The members themselves also look very happy to be together. Especially the final part fills me with immense positivity in a way I find hard to explain. With two amazing MVs released, I’m definitely hoping for one for ‘Champagne’. I really hope we get a live performance of both soon, as well.

‘Hold You’, both the song and the performance at the comeback show, made me emotional. ‘Hold you’ is different from the fast-paced dance pieces we’re used to hearing from 2PM and is quite a slow piece. It was apparent that it was a rather more emotional piece than the rest of the songs in the album, however, it gained more meaning when I checked the translated lyrics. The chorus goes: “I’ll hold your hand tightly and never let go I’ll listen to you deeply by your side, no matter what tries to separate us, I’ll hold you tight, I won’t let go”. The performance of the song at the comeback show starts with Nichkhun on stage waiting for the others (the way he waited for them during the hiatus with the fans) and respectively, Taecyeon, Jun K., Wooyoung, Chansung and Junho joins him on stage (which is in the order of their discharge from military). Together with this performance and the rest of the lyrics, I interpreted this song to be written by Jun K. for the whole band and the fans who’s been waiting for them for the past 5 years. For that reason, this song has a special place in my heart. With this album, a new special bond was formed between the band and the HOTTEST. The fans are grateful to the band for keeping their promise and the band members, as they’ve expressed multiple times during their comeback show, are grateful to the HOTTEST for waiting for them all these years.

‘OK or Not’ creates this clear feeling of trying to act like you’re okay and keep on telling yourself and everyone that you’re okay when you’re not okay at all. While as most foreign songs, this is clearer when you check the translated lyrics, you truly get that struggling feeling from the music, as well.

‘On My Way’ is the song that stood the least to me among all the rest. The lyrics are quite repetitive but not in a catchy way that we’d get from most Jun K. songs of the kind. Or at least, it’s not for me yet though it seems to be a fan favourite. However, as I previously said, I find this album to be more successful than their previous albums so I still love this song above most of their previous songs.

‘Two of Us’, like ‘Hold On’, is rather slower compared to the 2PM songs we’re used to but I’m definitely enjoying this balance of dance songs and slower songs. I never quite understood why 2AM got all the ballads, while 2PM got all the dance pieces. I got the initial split but now that they are known as two separate bands, the balance makes an album much more enjoyable.

I will never get tired of saying this but, again, in ‘Moon & Back’ the best part is hearing Taecyeon’s vocals. He has a deeper voice than the others which makes a pleasant contrast and really touches me. It’s like hearing the bass among the crowd of instruments. I don’t know about you but I quite enjoy the songs with a subtle but distinct bass sound that supports the composition.

Finally, ‘My House (Acoustic)’. I’m both surprised and not to see the comeback of this song. ‘My House’ has been the most successful song of 2PM until now. And My House the album was more memorable than their final album during the hiatus. Its success makes it not a surprise that it’s a song they want to bring back with the comeback, though it’s still a bit of a surprise that an acoustic version of this song is included in a new album after 2 albums instead of within the album it was in or the one after that. I’m not sure if I like it more than the original but without making that comparison, I can say that I really enjoyed the acoustic sound and the quite jazzy sounds in the second half. It has a feeling of Jun K.’s style mixed with Wooyoung’s, as well as a grown 2PM – new in a way but also the same 2PM – which might be the idea behind this being the closing track.

The light-dark concept of the promo material, for me, represents the duality of 2PM with their bubbly personalities (you got to watch their videos on YouTube, they are hilarious and they have a beautiful friendship) and the quite cool and sexy image they present. In any way, this album feels like they have found themselves more, as well as got to understand and connect with their fanbase more.

It’s amazing what they have accomplished, especially the members who are actively working on other acting and ad projects while working on this album.

I can’t wait to see their upcoming performances.

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