100% certainty that this post was going to happen. All I can spare is a friendly warning to find something to hold onto because the metaphorical depth of my emotional attachment to Beast is the Mariana Trench and I’m sure there’s enough crying and heavy feelings in this post to drown the entirety of the internet. Possible hyperbole, but also probably not.
Do I need to preface this with a “I LOVE BEAST SO MUCH I DONT KOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF,” because rest assured, I DO even though the following words might not seem like it. Trust me, you’ll see confirmation of my undying love by the end of this. In any case, here’s a week’s worth of listening to Hard to Love, How to Love broken down into a track by track review:
Already, I wish I had a better song to start off with than this HA HA HA. I love the slow chanting because it totally sets the mood for Shadow, but then the realization dawns on me that it’s entirely a gurgly English rap from Junhyung and I laugh nonstop till the end. “Some people hate me and some people love me.” Well, sometimes I hate you!!! (no jk) (or am I?)
MAN I LIKE THIS SONG SO MUCH. It’s a great choice for a title track and it’s just so distinctly Beast. I’m so relieved that they’re still consistent with the style of their music even without Shinsadong Tiger’s musical direction. I love the way the way Hyunseung sings his verse and how Yoseob’s vocals are layered underneath at the end in order to build up the chorus. Which, speaking of, I have so? many? questions? about why the chorus is missing ONE ONE-LETTER WORD when the English in the verses is done so nicely??? You were so close this time! Never been much of a fan of falsetto, but I’m impressed at how well everyone’s making it work. I also love how the continuation of the chanting from the intro during Gikwang’s verse is middle is a nice touch; it’s quiet and adds to the ~suspenseful haunting nature~ of the song which is reflected in the super dark and gritty MV. It’s a creepy mv, but I respect their willingness to experiment even though the tarantulas were a TERRIBLE IDEA and that one moment (you know which) had me leaning back so far from my laptop I almost fell out of my chair.
The choreography for Shadow is … okay. I feel like Prepix hasn’t been on top of their choreo game for a while and I would love to see Beast work with someone else for the next promotion, but I don’t know how likely that’ll be since they’re so close. Each member getting some solo dance time is an interesting concept, but the group dance is a little weak. They’re GREAT DANCERS and I really want to see them try something a bit more intricate and/or hard-hitting. I think the choreo is much better when Beast does backup themselves – it takes away all the awkward standing and smoldering that they do in the background.
How to Love
How to Love is the highlight of the whole album for me – it’s earnest and yearning and it’s what I wished the rest of the album sounded like. My favorite part is where the backing fades and it’s just Yoseob and Dongwoon singing. It’s achingly lovely and it breaks my heart :( The lyrics are so sincere it actually hurts me: I hope that you trust me like I trust you / Don’t think about other things / it’s hard enough being happy :'(( I wished there was a track titled “Hard to Love” since it’s actually in the album title, but I can understand that it might not need to exist if it’s already implied in this one. The relationship is strained, calculated and in need of constant validation because they themselves believe that they’re difficult to love and it hasn’t been the first time that they’ve been let down: To be honest, I met others as well / and every time, like a definite thing, in front of the farewell in front of me. It’s a love story with a tragic twist – like a doomed romance novel where you root for flawed characters because they’re at least fighting for it. Favorite song off the album and I can’t wait to hear them perform this live.
Be Alright is … alright. AHAHAHA. I really do like this track, but a lot of the points go to the lyrics rather than the song itself. There’s something poignant and realistic how the protagonist is convincing themselves that they’re okay and I think a lot of people can sympathize with this song. Being sad is only momentary / I will go back to the times before I met you / As if everything was like nothing / Everything will be alright / Nothing will happen to me just because you’re not here. I think the complexity of emotions in the song is interesting – there’s anger, resentment, a pretense of nonchalance and even arrogance: “Everyone says that the way you get over a girl is through a new girl / We’re strangers now but at my anger, I meet a girl that I don’t even like.” My first reactiong was “Damn, that’s kind of an asshole-ish thing to do,” but hey, sometimes people do selfish things as a coping mechanism. It’s okay to both feel that way and to acknowledge it. There are things you do to put yourself back together in the face of heartbreak and loss even if not all of them are honorable. So, lots of props for lyricism, but the song itself still is a bit bland for me.
THE CLASSIC HEARTBREAK SONG OF REGRET. I feel like my love for this song is exponentially large because the video associated with it is from B2UTY PARTY and then I associate the “I wish I said ‘I love you’ more / I hope it’s not too late to bring you back” to all the ways that Beast feels about their fans and the year-long wait for their return¹ and my heart can’t deal with this!! I’m NEGL – I cried a fair amount when the video played Doojoon’s Thank You message :(((((((( I love so much that the line “Will you at least hear my excuses? And will you hold my hand again?” is what it is because it could have just so easily been “will you kiss me again” or “will you hold me again,” but it’s not. It’s so much sadder this way :( Easy song to listen, but to be honest, I can’t say I like it more than the first I’m Sorry from the Shock mini album because that one was perfectttt.
¹SO RELEVANT I WILL DISCUSS THIS LATER READY YOUR TISSUES
Will You Be Alright?
The better of the two pre-released songs IMO! The melody! The bridge! The chorus! Dongwoon singing?! I have so many doting mother-hen feelings about Dongwoon and how much he’s improved :'((( sweet maknae :((( The emotions in this song are expressed so well and EVERYTHING HURTS. I didn’t know how I felt about the lyrics when I first heard it, because you without me makes me more worried / because you’re not good at doing things on your own sounds KIND OF PATRONIZING, but I realized that in the context of the rest of the song (and perhaps in the context of the album itself) it’s less about the autonomy of the other person and more about coming to terms with someone no longer wanting or needing you anymore. There’s a complexity to the lyrics and it goes back to the point I had in Be Alright that there’s a self-awareness to them; it’s the person who is singing who’s been left behind so maybe it’s this same person who is clumsy, lonely and broken without the other, but is afraid to admit to it. If it’s okay with you… / think of it twice, think it through again / (If you leave me) Will you really be alright without me? I’m reminded of situations where people say things they don’t mean because they’re too frightened at what being truthful means and I love it because it’s relatable. How many songs exist where someone sings about needing a lost love back in order to function/live/breathe? And yet, how many people can admit something so raw and honest out loud? AM I READING TOO MUCH INTO IT? Maybe. Maybe JH is a just a jerk and a terrible boyfriend!! But I just have so many feelings :'(
On the other hand, I have close to no feelings about this song. LMAO. Again, LYRICS! – being resentful about still caring so much about someone! projection as a coping mechanism! But unfortunately the song itself does absolutely nothing for me. I’ve listened to it a total of 3 times and I still don’t remember how it sounds like minutes later. OOPS.
This song is SO MUCH FUN. I think everyone expected it to be an outro, but surprise it’s a full-length track!! The rap bit is questionable, but the verses are SO GOOD it’s worth sitting through the mediocre parts. The non-rap chorus is SO CATCHY. This would make an amazing actual encore song because it’s so high energy and also I love the idea of chanting for an encore and getting an actual song called Encore. AHAHAHAHA.
FINAL THOUGHTS FINAL THOUGHTS!
My overall impression of HLHL is that it’s a comeback I’m thoroughly excited to have, but it’s definitely not the comeback I was expecting. I’m so thrilled that Beast is back to focusing on their music after a year of solo work. Performing is really what they do best and they create so much magic on stage when they get to do it together. It was such an excruciatingly long hiatus that when Cube announced a comeback, fandom collectively lost its mind and my own expectations were so! high! I carved a pedestal with my bare hands to set them on! It’s not that the album is bad, because it’s a great valiant effort. I just can’t help but feel like it isn’t enough. Like it isn’t second album enough. Fiction and Fact was such a masterpiece that I almost feel bad comparing HLHL to it. It’s become this untouchable standard of what a really cohesive and fantastic album is that HLHL just pales in comparison. I think it would have been a much better idea to call HLHL an extended EP or mini-album instead and I chalk that up to the terrible promotional plan that Cube’s laid out for Beast’s comeback.
This month long pre-comeback promo has done no favors in creating any buzz for the album because there was so much time wasted between the comeback announcement and actually performing on stage. Organizing B2UTY PARTY as a guerilla concert and then hosting two Beautiful Show concerts just so fans could see them first is just…. THE SWEETEST THING, but also so silliest because so much of the excitement about comebacks is watching that first performance on a music show and everyone saw fancams before the stage performances. This stupidly silly sentimental band who constantly does nice things for B2UTIES!!!!!!!! I hate you but I love you :”(
Speaking of people I hate, but also love. YONG JUN HYUNG. I feel like there’s at least a 50% correlation between my dissatisfaction with this album and the fact that he worked on so much of it. I am so so so proud of how much he’s accomplished and I see this album as a great opportunity to pick his brain and ~understand him~. I admire all of the hard work he’s put into this album, but everyone was already anticipating HLHL to be a post-breakup piece and it doesn’t help that he dominates so much of the album. It means that there are less lines to distribute between Doojoon, Gikwang and Hyunseung who always seem to get shafted. You can’t produce the song, write the lyrics, rap and sing the chorus! It leaves no room for anyone else and I know Dongwoon would cry ugly tears of excitement if he got a rap solo.
At the end of the day, I have so much to say about this album and I’ve taken so much time to do so because Beast means so much to mee. Every time they perform or release new music, I’m reminded of how tough the journey has been for them, of how much strength and determination it took to overcome their burdens and of how proud I am of how far they’ve come as artists and performers. It’s been a joy watching them grow and that’s also why it absolutely shatters my heart when I hear them talk about how much they’ve worried about fans moving on or their nervousness about the album’s reception. That feeling of being underestimated, the trepidation of disappointing others and the pressure of being indebted to someone. It’s such a genuine and humble way to feel and to admit to. Plus this – especially this:
To recap the video: At the 3:20 mark, Doojoon finishes his verse in Fiction and the song stops so that the members can take time out to thank B2UTY. Hyunseung is the one who tells fans that it’s okay and not to cry, but it’s Yoseob who promptly bursts into tears and can barely get through what he’s saying. Junhyung and Hyunseung silently crying along with him with tears rolling down their faces??? Doojoon too choked up to speak at first??? Yoseob running off stage to recompose himself, but starts tearing up again as soon as he makes his way back??? The two youngest, Gikwang and Dongwoon, who are the only ones composed enough to bring the members back together to finish the song. And then Yoseob again who barely makes it through his high note and dashes off stage because he’s so overcome with emotions?! I’m just. I’M DONE WITH THIS FANDOM (I’m not). Every single time they mention that they feel as if they will never be able to repay the kindness, support and love of their fans, but they’ll try their best – I BURST INTO TEARS.
The list of incredibly moving things could go on forever: B2UTY singing ‘You Were Born To Be Loved’ to Beast, Dongwoon burning his hand at BS but still being a trooper, Yoseob tellings fans he’s smiling and “What have B2UTY done wrong to apologize to me for?”, but it’s the thank you video from their win at MCD on Thursday that’s been pulling at my heartstrings – the acknowledgement that their trophy is entirely the work of their fans voting (they were in 4th place and not even up for the award before the show started) and how apologetic, but even more grateful to their fans they are for it. All the tears! I am so excited that they’re back and can only hope this comeback means there will be more fantastic things to come this year.
“Those everyday words of thank you. Those everyday hearts saying I miss you… We love you guys.”