In their eighth Japanese single EP, FTISLAND comes back to J-rock with a unique sound. With a title track that is upbeat, edgy and sexy all at the same time, this single EP can make a listener forget for a moment that this is still a band barely at the beginning of their 20s.
FTISLAND also deviates from co-composition responsibilities on this record, co-composing only one song out of the EP. This is certainly a move away from the tradition they have kept alive for the past few Japanese releases. Instead they rely on their hitmakers to challenge them to play and make music in fusion genres on this record.
The first track on the album is the title single "Top Secret" wherein FTISLAND makes hot music with very seductive lyrics. The grunge sound that makes up the DNA of the track is fairly new to FTISLAND. The uniqueness is achieved as fans find the music something that needs to grow on the group's typical listener. After a few plays, and succumbing to the change in song style from previous releases, "Top Secret" easily becomes a memorable song.
Leading the listener to greater depth, the second track "Beloved" happens to be the ballad-rock track co-penned by bassist Lee Jae Jin. The song maintains its own feel, while keeping the same grunge feel via the percussive emphases found throughout the song. To be fair, this track sounds typically and very FTISLAND, as opposed to the more mature, cleaner and more crisp sound found for the other two songs in this EP. Although a bit rougher than its counterparts in the set, "Beloved" still gets points for the effort. If anything, it was a reassurance that although the band sounds a bit different than their previous releases, they remain the eager-to-learn while already precocious musicians their fans and listeners have grown to appreciate.
Before capping the EP with the instrumental version of the title song, a mellow yet emotive rock track precedes it. "Here" is a slow rock track that features the powerful combination of Lee Hong Ki and Lee Jaejin's voices. Song Seunghyun can also be heard singing a few bars. The subtle addition of Seung Hyun's voice to the mix gave the song the poignance and sincerity it expresses and warrants from its moving lyrics.
As a whole, FTISLAND's Top Secret EP is mysterious yet refreshing. Fans are treated to a whole new experience. Newer listeners are able to give it pause and multiple plays, like shiny copper on a pavement catching one's eye. While only one song was co-composed by an FTISLAND member, the EP achieves the feel of originality. Comparisons to other music acts who also carry somewhat a similar musical gene, such as CNBLUE or One Ok Rock, as sounding similar to this record do not quite align. A listener is made to think, "Hm, this sounds like... But Hm, no not really..." This validates this EP as being able to generate a sound that is uniquely FTISLAND. By taking the back seat in the main creation process, the band was able to step back, unravel their top secret ability as well-rounded musicians, able to play music that pushes the envelope for them. Now having proven to themselves that they can play this type of rock, this experience is sure to color FTISLAND's future music, especially those that will be self-composed. It is conservative to expect a more grown up, controlled, and exceptional sound from here on out. Unique by its own merits, Top Secret is the key record that secretly transforms FTISLAND to a band able to shift within their own genre. Such ability is necessary to win new audiences for each record, while also maintaining the newness required to keep existing fans interested. This transformation will be instrumental in the band's longevity.
Top Secret may be one of FTISLAND's underrated records to-date and of late. Its impact, however, will be significant.
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Review by: Dorothy A. @KPopStarz