Album Review: 2011 Winter SMTown – The Warmest Gift


2011 Winter SMTown – The Warmest Gift

December 13, 2011

Packaging/Photobook/Appearance:

This album is just about as plain as it gets (appearance wise). It has an undeniable winter motif and has quite a pretty design. Unfortunately though, there is no pizazz, no sparkle. The format is lame and unoriginal. If packaging isn’t something you’re too picky about, this album is great for you; if, on the other hand, you’re one to prefer more intricate designs, this packaging isn’t something you’ll enjoy.

The photoshoot used for the pictures was fairly unimpressive. It was nice to see all of SM’s very attractive artists in cute winter clothing, but it was still drab looking. Some outfits were miles better than others, and it seems poor Shinee was the joke of the day.

Rating: 4

Music:

1. “Santa U Are The One”-Super Junior + Henry & Zhou Mi

2. “Sleigh Ride”- TVXQ

3. “Distance”- BoA

4. “Last Christmas”- SHINee

5. “Diamond”- Girls Generation

6. “For The First Time”- Kangta

7. “Like A Dream”- TRAX

8. “The First Noel”- Zhang Liyin

9. “1,2,3”- f(x)

10. “Amazing”- The Grace – Dana & Sunday

11. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”- J-Min

This album is an eclectic mix of classic Christmas/Winter songs and some new pieces strung together by SM, all sung in a classic FOB manner. It was great witnessing their English though; needless to say, we were really impressed by some and face-palmed because of others. Some groups did get luckier in terms of what song they were assigned to- the older and more experienced SM Town artists were given the more serious and musically challenging songs, while the younger groups got simple bubbly tunes.

I really REALLY disliked most of the songs on this album. In all honesty I bought it for Super Junior’s song. I really did not even know the rest of the track-list, neither did I care to know it.  Obviously with low expectations from the beginning, it came as quite the surprise that about half the songs on this album do not completely blow.  Super Junior’s song about being hot for Santa is a touch swishy, but completely adorable, and really gives a fun and playful light, while TVXQ’s rendition of “Sleigh Ride” is pretty much just funny. SHINee’s version of “Last Christmas” was a little slow for my taste but was still mildly enjoyable.  By far, though, J-Min singing “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is my favorite, though not as much the song than the perfect execution; it was beautiful and simple and heartfelt. Her singing is clear and gorgeous; the best of all the women (and possibly men) on this album.

This is actually my first exposure to many of the people on this album outside of their comeback songs.  And for most of them it was just as disappointing as I expected.  F(x)’s song was just awful; it was not only immature but unbearably annoying. SNSD and Boa’s songs were so boring and uninteresting that I could not even finish either song in just one sitting.

Rating: 7

In my opinion, “Santa U Are the One” was both a great and horrible way to start off this album. The song itself is really great; I really love how cheery and joyous the song is, and Super Junior seemed like the perfect choice for such a merry piece. The reason I felt it a terrible choice to start off this album is because of the false impression it gives. After such a fun and hyper opening, I completely expected the rest of the album to be as great. Maybe it was naive of me to think the rest of the album would be happy and bubbly, but the other songs should have at least been up to par with the wintry feeling. Instead I found myself nearly skipping, and almost dozing off during some of the later tracks.

After hearing both “The First Noel” and “Happy X-Mas”, I am ashamed to report what a horrible person I am. Admittedly, I’ve actually never heard of J-Min before this album, and though I have heard of Zhang Liyin before, I never paid much attention to her, or even bothered to see who she was. And then I heard their tracks. I adored Zhang Liyin’s vocals in “The First Noel”, and felt really guilty: With such amazing talent like hers, you’d think she deserves more than SM gives her. I was personally astonished; to think there was such an outstanding vocalist hiding in SM’s dungeon that I’ve never heard of, and that once I did, I was absolutely floored. J-Min also has a really impressive and melodic voice, but what attracted me even more was her English. Now, once again, I’m not entirely sure who this girl even is, and whether she grew up in an English-speaking environment or something, but her pronunciation is gorgeous. 

Now, as per “Diamond”, let me explain why I both loved and strongly disliked this song: For starters, the instrumental version is beautiful. In my opinion, the song has the perfect mix of a soft wintry sparkly feel and obnoxious jingle bells. I really enjoyed that about the song, and loved the girls’ vocals even more: Taeyeon sounded beautiful, Tiffany sounded precious, and I could actually stand Jessica’s voice for once. What I didn’t like about “Diamond” was the obvious lack of lyrics. This is especially painfully obvious around the chorus, which is literally a few lines long. The song ended too fast, and was much too short for one to actually be able to enjoy the beauty of the music. If the lyrics were more meaningful instead of senseless, the song would’ve been a lot better.

 The main reason I didn’t like “1,2,3” was because of the extreme pointlessness of it. A friend of mine brought up a great point about this album: In truth, a lot of the slower songs were boring, but there was at least merit and meaning behind them. “Santa U Are the One” was alright because, underneath all the holiday cheer are actual sincere lyrics about thanking Santa. Then we have F(x)’s “1,2,3”, which is about… what? Nothing remotely necessary or touching. The worst part is that the song is over 4 minutes long of bad singing; I’m not bashing F(x), and I’m actually a huge fan of Luna, but this song did her absolutely no justice.

Rating: 7.5

Overall Rating: 6.1

♥ P&B

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