If the pre-release singles to Bewitch were any indication, Youjeen was being set up for a sophomore slump.
So the bad news first: Bewitch is something of a slump. The good news: it’s not as bad as those singles made it out to be.
No, J and former Foo Fighter Franz Stahl are nowhere to be seen on Bewitch’s credits, and the alternate creepy and dark vibe that imbued most of Youjeen’s debut The Doll is equally absent.
But after a few listens, there’s plenty to like about Bewitch. Get through the forced 50s bubblegum tinge of “Daydreamin'”, and the pay off waits beyond.
“Wait for You” and “Dear My Friend” show Youjeen hasn’t lost the full range of her vocal abilities — growler, banshee, belter, sweet voice — while “Vanishing” puts the digi-punk-hardcore of Mad Capsule Markets on Ritalin.
The femme balladry of “My Treasure” may come across as a bit forced, but Youjeen makes up for it in the vixen rocker “Be Bad!!”. Even the overly Alanis-like “Forbidden Things” is easy to warm up to.
Bewitch reaches its peak with “Sacrification”, a seething song that bursts into rocker half way through. It’s Youjeen recapturing her more ghoulish instincts.
The album ends on an off-kilter note with the incredibly silly “Made in Corea”. It’s a blatant pop song totally at odds with the preceeding darker tracks on the album.
Depending on your perspective, it’s either Youjeen’s biggest mistake or more brilliant move. In the former, it undermines the edge she attempts to demonstrate. In the latter, it grounds her back to reality, making her less self-indulgent.
Still, it’s hard to accept Bewitch when Youjeen has demonstrated she’s capable of far more. The album does a satisfactory job of maintaining a rock sound while taking obvious steps into more pop territory.
And while Youjeen deserves some popular recognition, she needn’t compromise anything to get there.