CLC – ‘Free’sm’ Review

CLC has been, for quite a while, one of my favorite girl groups in terms of musicianship. When they released the album Crystyle, my breath was completely taken away by the massive change in direction of music that they have taken. From bright and cute to formidable and chic. That was the sudden change they made. How was that even possible? Somehow, CLC made it work. And I am absolutely in love with them for being confident and brave in their music. I like to call CLC the “lab rats” of Cube Entertainment because of the fact that they constantly experiment with new styles and concepts. What have the “lab rats” released this time?

While I still do think that Crystyle is still their best album, Free’sm is close behind. With a different genre at each corner, Free’sm never fails to surprise. One moment you are hearing a slow retro jam, and the next one you are swaying your head to an upbeat pop ditty. This means that the album isn’t exactly cohesive or well-flowing, but I’m quite different from other music critics. As long as each individual song has something to savor, I am perfectly okay. And this album fulfills exactly that.

I am in absolute awe of the title track, Where are you?. Listening to it reminds me of the songs Korean girl groups in the early 2000s and late 1990s, such as S.E.S, used to release, which makes this a pleasant throwback to simple times. With mellifluous tinkles being the main part of the melody, nothing from the song comes out of the blue, so if you are in for calm, peaceful K-pop tracks, this will just be up your alley. But what is best about this song is that it sounds so… different. If you were to watch Korean music shows such as Music Bank or M Countdown, this song might be the one that piques your interest through the sea of uniformity that is the K-pop industry. Ethereal and euphonious, I can’t help but be pulled in by how good this sounds. Definitely their best title track so far.

Bae is a quirky pop treat, but definitely not as good as the title track. A almost-arbitrary combination of tropical sounds and electronic effects, there is so much to take in. Heavily influenced by modern American music, you might want to move along to the fast-paced beat. There is a possibility that this might seem boring and generic when compared to the title track, but it is a great song to chill out to once in a while.

I like I Like It, but only on the first time listening. There’s no denying the fresh breath of air that it brings to the album, with a heavy EDM beat carrying it unlike the previous songs. Nevertheless, after a few listens, it just sounds like something that failed to get on their album Crystyle because of how undeveloped and jarring it sounds. Crystyle is an album that marks CLC’s transition to a more mature, imposing image, and this song embodies that. However, the beat drop in the chorus feels inferior and dull to the ones in Crystyle, making it seem that the producers didn’t really think about this song that much.

Call My Name is next in line, and it’s so much better than I Like It at representing their grown-up side. It would have been a great title track as it is a song that gets you moving. Constantly changing and progressing, there is just no telling where the song would go. It is a summer earworm that will just stick in your head for a while, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Summer Kiss immediately makes you reminisce about the cute and innocent music of Apink and GFriend, who are veterans in that area of music. I definitely understand why this was not chosen to be the title track; it will only cause comparisons to the two groups aforementioned. Otherwise, this tune, with its playful synthesizer sounds and constant hand-clapping, will knock on the door of your heart with each time you hear it. Overall, it’s just a nice throwback to their early discography.

Hold Your Hand finishes this album off grandly with a resounding ballad. I can’t help but think about the harmony of Christmas carols when I listen to this, as this is just so calming and peaceful on the ears. I like how the song slowly builds up to a pinnacle at the end, with the instrumentals gradually getting louder and busier, as well as the girls’ voices becoming more persistent and emotional. Truly an apt and effective closing to the album.

Free’sm is another satisfying addition to CLC’s wide-ranging discography, but not the best. The album sounds unique, but not unique enough, and the uniqueness wears off in some parts of the album. I did my research and one of the main producers of Crystyle, Son Youngjin, took his hands off of this album. I find that to be the main reason this album isn’t an excellent sequel to Crystyle. But I still like it anyway, for it is definitely a great mood-booster.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

What’s very hot: Where are you?

What’s hot: Call My Name, Summer Kiss, Hold Your Hand

What’s in the middle: Bae

What’s not: I Like It




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