One of the secrets of flourishing musicians is having a "signature sound"—a sound that readily permits listeners to identify a song as that of the musician. In "First Step", CNBLUE shows that they know what the "CNBLUE" sound is and they keep within this winning formula. Some may say that the boys went "safe" but this is a smart strategy as "First Step" is their first full-length foray into the Korean market. At this point, CNBLUE has to introduce its sound and establish its position in the K-Pop market and that they did. The CNBLUE sound is somewhere in the middle of pop and rock which can be termed as the "soft-rock style".
"First Step" starts off with the highly infectious song "Intuition (Step by Step)" which has a rhythmic chorus reminiscent of their two previous Korean hits "I'm a Loner" and "Love". The second track, "Love Girl" features a catchy melody which reveals the perfect complimentary voices of the band's singers. "Love Girl", written by leader Yong Hwa is fresh and head-bop inducing. This track is my favorite from the album. The third track, "Imagine" is a mid-tempo song which evokes the bright sounds of a relaxing day at the beach.
The other tracks in "First Step" are Korean versions of previously released CNBLUE songs in the Japanese and English languages. Singing many of their previous hits in Korean in the album enables the group to introduce their sound in the Korean market but also connect them to their fanbase in Japan and other parts of Asia. Standout tracks include "Love Rides in the Rain"; a classic rock ballad rendered by Jong Hyun about a man reminiscing his lost love amidst the rain, "Wanna Be Like U"; a mid-tempo song with a strong lyrical hook, and "One of a kind"; an English song added in as a bonus track.
Overall, "First Step" is a solid album featuring the talents of all four members. It had to be said, though, that the strength of CNBLUE truly lies in the first-rate singing voices of its two main vocals—Jung Yong Hwa and Lee Jong Hyun. The purity of their voices and their ability to pick up from each other in many of the tracks make for unforgettable melodies. Although I appreciate the singing voices of both singers, I am a little bit biased towards the masculine timbre of Jong Hyun's voice. To show the versatility of CNBLUE, many of their tracks also feature some light rapping by Yong Hwa and Jung Shin. Indeed, all members of CNBLUE bring something to the mix and the resulting brew is definitely pleasing to the ear….and not to forget, the eyes as they are all easy on the eyes.
CNBLUE's "First Step" will be officially released in the Philippines on May 21. Universal Records promised Boices, CNBLUE fans, freebies and other surprises during the special launch at the following record stores: Astroplus The Block, Astroplus Mall of Asia, Odyssey SM Megamall, and Odyssey SM Bacoor.
Check out CNBLUE's official music videos from "First Step" below!