“CN Blue: Can’t Stop” – an album review

by: Raine


CN Blue has come out with a new album, Can’t Stop, and this album was written by them (Yonghwa and Jonghyun) and they had a heavy hand in the production. For a band around since 2009 in the Korean music market, that’s pretty cool! They have learned really understand their strengths as a band and as songwriters. They play to their vocal and instrumental strengths, which shows true musicianship and is a major reason I really like this band. Rock on musicians who are involved in the musical process!

First of all, this album is totally worth the investment. It’s strong overall and the organization of the tracks on the album is smart, book-ended by two solid songs. Plus, the clock/bridge imagery of the promotional material is pretty cool. Time keeps going, can’t stop the man running with time despite a sad breakup! Also, crossing a bridge and moving forward is a pretty obvious piece of imagery. I’m liking the maturing sound and the more mature concept.

Abbreviations I use:

V – Verse

C – Chorus

B – Break

IB – instrumental break

Can’t Stop

Lyrics – read them!

This is a song about a man who has broken up with a woman who he can’t forget and whose memories still hold beauty. He can’t stop loving her. Although the song is about breaking up, the way the lyrics and the music are written infuses hope into love, even in love that has past. Live with faith in love.

Instrumentation includes the core band with Yonghwa playing keys and then there are added strings to fill out the choruses and the bridge and occasionally adding a touch to the melancholy verses.

This song comes in three parts as is typical of any rock song ( V C V C B C) and has a few telltale CN Blue touches: Yonghwas’ awesome ability to sing in a breathy head voice; the deceiving chord changes when the vocals first come in; the totally banging higher register choruses.

It opens with Yonghwa’s keys that bring in the melancholy verse tinged with a subtle hope that he can keep loving his ex and things will turn out for the best. It’s just Yonghwa and the piano here. Then the strings bring in minimal Jungshin on bass and Minhyuk on the set. The build gets stronger as the hope in the lyrics grows bigger and we change from emphasis on every other beat to a jubilant four beat and a full string chorus. Heaven Light (producer or composer or something. Anyone know who he is/they are?) arranged the song and did a great job in the instrumental transitions between the melancholy verse and the happy, happy, happy chorus!

This chorus is catchy as hell, as CN Blue choruses tend to be. The lyrics tell us that the man is reveling in his happy memories and his love of his ex. We can’t stop him from loving, no we can’t. And neither can we stop the happy. Until that is, the memories of breakup hit and there is a full stop before transitioning back to the melancholy chorus. The full stop is really effective to bring back the lowered mood of the chorus.

One of my favorite musical tools is to bring in a new section with just vocals and then have the band come in full force afterwards. That’s how the chorus in this works. So awesome!

Also, there is also a very effective use of echos in the verse that is wonderful for aural imagery.

The bridge that leads back in to the last chorus is begun by Jonghyun’s fuller voice and a thinner texture in the instrumentals, which is awesome, then Yonghwa comes back in with no accompaniment and the band joins him for a roaring ending chorus. I admit, that ending of the song is a bit jarring, but after a few listens it grows on you.

Can’t Stop is one of the strongest songs of the album and is definitely worthy of being the single. It makes me happy.

You should watch the video, too. I hopefully will post a reaction on it!

Diamond Girl

This definitely keeps up the energy of Can’t Stop and begins with brass blaring out a funk accompaniment while the entire band acts as the rhythm section laying down driving, syncopated rhythms. This song is all about the mood laid down by the band. It’s just badass and the arrangement of the song gives the band plenty to do from the intro, to the instrumental break before the last chorus, to the various way the band accompanies each verse and chorus.

The lyrics are about a man fascinated by a beautiful woman, his “Diamond Girl”, who he can’t stop obsessing over. It’s kinda sexy in the understated kinda way. The song format is Instrumental Intro V C V C IB C.

The song allows Yonghwa to really show off his vocal chops. It goes from low key, low register, to really exploring his upper range and ability to jump huge intervals (from low to suddenly high or vice versa). It’s all about energy and playing with the minor key. It’s kinda got a Matchbox 20 feel to it, which just gets me. As the song goes in, there is also the addition of vocal harmonies and a few little trumpet jamming sections. In fact, this is just a jamming song. Live, I can see the horn section just taking a go and improving the hell out of the song. Even in the break Minhyuk is beating the shit out of his drums and Jonghyun’s solo is badass. None of it reinvents the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. It has CN Blue flavor.

The constant drive in the song matches the need of the lyrics: he needs this sexy lady who he can’t stop thinking about. The entire instrumental part of the song drives forward, like that need. Really great choice of the funk/rock style.

If you couldn’t tell, hands down my favorite song on the album. *sings* D.I.A.M.O.N.D. GIRL!

독한 사랑 (Cold Love)

This song tones down the energy levels of the first two song and exchanges the heavy rock feels for a more Coldplay-like sound in the verses and a rock ballad feel in the choruses. The lyrics center around a love gone cold and the around the man who regrets how that love has changed. Kind of like the energy shift that just happened between Diamond Girl and this song. This is a very effective album organization tool that reflect the song and lyrics well.

The song opens with piano and some synth work and then in comes Yonghwa sounding sad. It follows this format: Instrumental Intro V V B C  V V B C  IB  V C Instrumental Outro. Basically the same as every other song. Only this song isn’t quite as gripping just because of the way its pieced together. It’s a simpler instrumentation and follows a more traditional rock format in terms of drum beat, guitar strums and bass line. Not that that is a reason for it not to be as interesting, but it is a factor in my personal enjoyment. I like for music to have a little flair, even if it’s quieter.

The best part of the song for me is when the bridge transitions into the chorus with the drum build and the harmonic change under it. (It goes from minor to major briefly in simple terms.) It’s a nice little transitional hook. And that may be it, this song doesn’t have something  “catchy” for me.

The lyrics, or the translations I read and what little Korean I understand, are quite poetic and beautiful. I imagine if my Korean was better than I might like this song more. It’s not terrible by any means, but after the awesomeness of Diamond Girl, it just wasn’t strong enough.

잠 못 드는 밤 (Sleepless Night)

This song reminds me of Oasis, anyone with me? It’s a lowkey rock style full of little rhythmic compliments by the guitar and piano and drums and bass. Then the Jonghyun and Yonghwa sing the story of a man suffering a sleepless night over a woman he’s fallen in love with at first sight. It could be take in the sexy and not sexy way. I personally like to mix the two because what’s a little romance without some sexy times?

While also a slower song, this is much more interesting to me than Cold Love because of the little points of interest thrown in. Format: V C short IB V C 1/2V C. The rhythm section (bass and drums) get more intense as time goes on.

The contrast between Jonghyun’s husky vocals and Yonghwa’s straight forward vocals is awesome. Jonghyun delivers the verses while Yonghwa takes on the choruses. It’s a great pairing that I wish for more often on the album as a whole. Just the timbre quality of the voices creates a huge point of interest for the song.

I really love the “hooooo” parts, where they vocally jam in a way that reminds me of some 60s/70s ballads and throws me into my childhood when my parents would play me records from “back in the good ol’ days.” There is a lot of focus on vocal harmonies that are also paralleled in the guitar lines.

Great nostalgia song!

Love is…

You know what I’m going to say about this, right?! CELLLLLOOOOOOOOO! I was so a sucker for it the second the cello came in within the first bar of the song. HOORAY CELLO! CN Blue WIN!

Okay, so lyrics are kinda noble idiot ish. Basically, the dude can’t let the girl go, so he tells her to wash herself clean of him. Breakups suck, love sucks. It always ends badly. Sounds like he’s been burned.

To create the mood we have uri cello solo and a guitar playing a duet until Jonghyun starts singing. Man, he has such a lovely voice. And, it’s in harmony with uri cello and Yonghwa. Gorgeous. It morphs into the chorus where the full band joins in and I fall a little less in love with the song. It sounds generic. What I mean by that is that although all the songs on the album follow a general formula and already established styles, they’ve all had a little somethin’ something’ that makes them special. This chorus seems to cater to all of the typical broken heart song stereotypes without doing anything with it. At least not during the choruses.

Then it gets interesting when the vocals switches from Jonghyun’s chorus to Yonghwa’s verse. He gets to sing noble idiocy and then he gets his version of the chorus, which has a nice cheesy key change (it gets higher). Then there is a nice cello/violin duet to make it a little cooler as they accompany Yonghwa with the guitar. The last chorus is actually more effective because of it.

One of the best endings of the entire album. It sorta sounds like a song used for an OST.

I think I like Sleepless Night the best in terms of slow songs.

아이의 노래 (Like A Child)

What a great book end this song is. It’s start a bit slower, pulling the energy from the last song and it gradually grows more triumphant. Plus, they have strings playing in chamber music style. That makes me happy. The instrumental opening with synths, that literally open up in sound, brings in the more rhythmic piano and band. Then Yonghwa starts singing. It then continues to grow as the chorus plays over and over again. It’s a chorus that works well towards that end. It’s telling the person the lyrics are directed at to smile, the way a child’s song would make you smile, as if the heavens opened up. It’s a bright message that really fits the music well…or maybe it’s vice versa?

As the verse continues, it gets more rhythmic and the build up is cut off by a small string interlude before finally opening up, like the lyrics say, heaven like a child’s song would. This is a pretty long chorus that transitions to the next verse via instrumental break.

The lyrics talk about a child’s song opening up heaven to clear up a horrible mood and terrible fears. The chorus comes back again, and again, reassuring and strong. Going between power, thick instrumental back up and highlighting Yonghwa’s voice just alone, and then with violins playing the melody along with him. It’s not the most creative song on the album, but it definitely makes me feel good and want to have a little dance party in my living room. It, too, has a bit of the Oasis/90s rock feel going for it. And, strangely, it reminds me of the song Aquarius from Hair, probably in the way that it is quite repetitious and high energy.

Final Verdict

I give this album a 4/5. What do you guys think? I feel like CN Blue is really growing into a very polished band who can tackle a number of styles. Their live performances are strong in skill, energy, and fun. They need to come back to the US. COME BACK GUYS!


ADDED COMMENTARY: I’ve listened to the album a bunch since yesterday, especially ’cause I was in the car for 3 hours. Now I feel like the first four songs are the strongest on the album and I’m convinced the transition between Diamond Girl and Cold Love is the best one on the album. I like Cold Love more than I did (I LIKE IT, just don’t LOVE it) but I think that’s from exposure. I still think the structure is rather bland. Like a Child reminds me of Cher now. Don’t ask why. It just does. Anyone else?

8 responses to ““CN Blue: Can’t Stop” – an album review”

  1. Ah sleepless night is like oasis song, stop crying your heart out, but not similar. You will surprise when you listen to Like a Child, beacause the melody is similar with oasis song, The Hindu Times at the verse of the song. But i dont surprise at all because i know that yonghwa is kind of oasis big fan, and it made me like CNBLUE because i like oasis and they got music influence from a legend band like oasis

  2. Ah sleepless night is like oasis song, stop crying your heart out, but not similar. You will surprise when you listen to Like a Child, beacause the melody is similar with oasis song, The Hindu Times at the verse of the song. But i dont surprise at all because i know that yonghwa is kind of oasis big fan, and it made me like CNBLUE because they got music influence from a legend band like oasis. That’s why cnblue members has a good taste of music i think..

  3. I really enjoyed reading your review. It was very informative.
    Though I found it interesting that you seem to like Cold Love the least, while most people think it’s the best song in the album (including me).
    I think you should listen to on youtube while reading the english lyrics. One of the song’s strongest points is the lyrics.

    • AFter listening to the album a bunch now, it’s grown on me and when I say least favorite, by no means do I mean I don’t like it!!! I really like the song. It’s just not my favorite. Diamond Girl still is…hehe.

      I have read the lyrics to every song while listening to it several times and follow how lyrics follow the musical shape. That’s how I prepare a review because lyrical analysis is important. It’s the actual music itself that doesn’t get me. It doesn’t match the lyrics as well as the other songs do, for me. I tend not to follow other people’s opinions when it comes to things. Maybe it’s my classical music upbrining or something…hehe. I dunno. Or maybe I’m weird.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  4. I don’t usually like that much CNBLUE’s music because I have lived my rock period and to be honest their songs are pretty similar, or used to be. This album is something new but with still recognizable as CNBLUE, which is how albums should be. Even this morning when I woke up, I was humming Can’t Stop.

  5. Your approach to albums is totally unique, because no one really thinks about the fundamental structure of a song unless it’s significantly different, and I totally agree that most songs are extremely boring on that front. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with your background as a cellist?

    • It has everything to do with my music background. I have difficulty extricating my enjoyment of a song from the technical elements of it. Not that my pop knowledge is all that great; I’m classically trained. But still, I do have a preference for certain chord progressions and I preferred trained voices to untrained voices. For me, like I mentioned, it’s the small hooks in a song that make it interesting! Hehe.

      Thanks for reading!

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