After an unplanned hiatus, B.A.P are back with their second full-length album, NOIR, which was released on 7th November and features thirteen new tracks with two instrumentals. Like a noir-detective novel, the album takes us with the group as they search for the mysterious killer ‘X’.
As a group, B.A.P are known for their heavily hip-hop influenced sound. Yet, where they truly shine is their experimentation with different genres – and how they make it work. Listeners can immediately hear this in the intro track of the album, Le Noir. Co-produced by B.A.P’s leader, Bang Yongguk, and featuring world-famous jazz pianist, Song Young Joo, Le Noir will transport you back into a world of cobbled streets and rainy nights. This serene vibe is soon broken with the album’s second track, Skydive, an electronic pop song with hints of alternative and trap. With traces of the unflinching Warrior (2012), classically dangerous Young, Wild and Free (2015) and the intense One Shot (2013), Skydive is characteristically B.A.P, while simultaneously bringing something new to their discography.
The music video is another story entirely. A ten-minute mini-action movie, the style is reminiscent of One Shot: full of guns, vivid blood spray and plenty of shifting alliances and danger. This is where we unveil who X is – and it’s the one who you will least expect. There’s no happy ending either – though, if you’ve watched the music video for One Shot already, then you’re just a little bit prepared.
Killer, on the other hand, is different. It doesn’t quite fit, but it does provide a brief respite from the fierce rap of Skydive and soaring vocals of Ribbon in the Sky. Slightly misplaced in the darkness that pervades Noir, Killer is closer to pop, and tells a story of femme fatales and enraptured love. A juxtaposition against the title, Youngjae stands out the most here – his sweet vocals charming their way into your heart. In this sense, maybe the title, Killer, is accurate after all. If the whole album is a story, then this song is the plot twist.
Meanwhile, if B.A.P were going for danger, then they’ve got it with주소서 [Pray]. With what sounds like Gregorian chants haunting the background, Bang Yongguk’s almost taunting verses and Zelo’s leisurely rap, Pray captures the rap-line’s trademark fierceness through a non-traditional structure and smooth but threatening sound. I Guess I Need U, on the other hand, is a slow R&B jam and this is where Daehyun’s velvety vocals shine the most as he reaches high notes effortlessly. This track returns us to the slow, elegant vibes of Le Noir, a sharp contrast against the intensity of Pray but foreshadowing the chill, chic vibes of tracks like Walk and 지금 [Now]. The latter song is particularly special – written and produced by Jongup himself, Now showcases his prowess in song-writing, singing and even rapping, as well as Jongup’s growth as an artist since his debut with the group almost five years ago.Kingdom is powerful in every sense of the word. The track opens with Himchan’s musings of: “Power, wisdom, patience, and innovation. Do you possess all these? Thou who wishes to wear the crown, shall bear its burden. This is our Kingdom.” This empowering, orchestral song was originally a Japanese track from B.A.P’s first Japanese album, accompanied by another cinematic music video and epic choreography. It talks about fighting for freedom, about fighting for and never giving up on your dreams. Kingdom is a call to arms. It showcases B.A.P’s determination to conquer the industry against adversary, while at the same time, beckoning others to do the same. And with lyrics like “there’s no such thing as giving up”, who will deny them?
Throughout their career, B.A.P have consistently explored new genres and sounds atypical to the ‘K-pop’ box. NOIR is no exception. Co-produced by leader Bang Yongguk (who is currently sitting out promotions due to health reasons) and spanning sounds from hip-hop to R&B, this album perfectly captures B.A.P’s flexible musicality.
If people thought B.A.P will be forgotten after their hiatus, then this album will stamp their name on the music industry (and across the charts). If people thought B.A.P will slowly fade after a short break, then NOIR will prove them wrong.