Rookie girl group CLC (Crystal Clear) had a lot of buzz surrounding them, but not as much as Lovelyz, Sonamoo, Laboum, or GFriend. Their album, First Love, in exception of a few songs, hardly feels like a rookie album. The CLC ladies have a different level of maturity combined with the youthful hopes of a brand-new group. As each song unfurls, it’s crystal clear that CLC has potential to make an impact on the industry even though there are areas that need work.
First Love has a good mix of ballads, dance tracks, and pop music to effectively show off CLC’s flavors starting with the disco-esque “Café Mocha Please.” The rappy introduction does a nice job welcoming listeners to the song. It’s not annoying even though the voices aren’t typically ones I enjoy. The song quickly became an addiction because it has a good beat and the chorus is just a straight shot of enjoyable singing. The instrumentals at the beginning sound like a cross between Celtic Thunder’s version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and CNBlue’s “Coffee Shop” before going in its own direction. I also caught some Prince vibes as the song moved forward, creating a pleasant experience.
“Pepe” was a good track for CLC to use as their debut and promoted track. While it’s not a daring track, it has a good amount of singing, rap, edginess, and cuteness to show CLC’s distinct facets. The piano backing the vocals along with the rest the instrumentals have a mix of 1950s Doo Wop with 1970s Motown and modern pop to make it an interesting, pleasing track. The rap breakdown in the middle of the song sounds only slightly grating because of the pitch, but after a few listens, it sounds fitting for the song. My favorite part is the “la la las” toward the end because it was cute and wrapped the song well.
“Sharala” shows another side of CLC to where they turn into more of a cute concept group. “Sharala” sounds like a song that was written for APINK or even one of CLC’s fellow rookie groups like Lovelyz or GFriend. The song is adorable and bright and feels like spring and all things pink and full of ruffles. However, the cute concept fits CLC well more than the slightly edgier turn in “Pepe.” With “Sharala,” the youthful exuberance in CLC’s voices shine through and through. The song is just sweet, and like “Café Mocha Please,” it’s one of the best songs on the mini-album.
While “Sharala” sounds like APINK, “First Love” feels a little like SNSD when it starts. The ballad does well featuring CLC’s softer side, but at the same time, it also calls out their weaknesses. At times, the solo moments feel too nasally and more like talk-singing than actual singing. Ballads are an area that needs improvement for CLC because their rookie-ness really shows.
The same issue presents itself in “Opening the Window.” Despite the decent lyrics, the song feels more like talk-singing than actual singing, and voices sound thin. In order to improve with ballads–which tend to really showcase if a group is strong vocally or not these days—their company needs to work on the actual singing elements such as breath control, melodies, and harmonies. Otherwise, CLC will continue to have a rookie-feel.
Overall, First Love is a strong debut album for CLC. While there are areas that need some work, CLC secured attention that will help them survive awhile. The album earns a score of 3/5.
— Joelle Halon