The Rose’s HEAL album review
By Sara Kabir
In a world filled with such dissonance and chaos, The Rose’s latest album, HEAL, brings a much-needed sense of calm and cathartic healing with ten soothing and self-reflective tracks. The Rose experiments with a unique story-telling style in their first full-length album by blending power-pop, alternative-rock, and indie-rock genres, ushering in a new chapter in their musical careers. The album explores themes of childhood, self-deprecation, coming-of-age, love, healing, and more.
Since their debut in 2017, The Rose hasn’t always had the easiest journey on their way to becoming one of the most recognizable bands in pop culture. After leaving their previous management company and taking a three-year-long hiatus to pursue their individual schedules and participate in the mandatory South Korean military service, HEAL is the group’s much-anticipated first full-length album under their self-made label Windfall.
The heartfelt message of healing and acceptance that The Rose aims to share through this album is such a timeless and universal concept that it transcends languages and cultures, striking a chord with the listeners. The four members of the band, Hajoon, Woosung, Dojoon, and Jaehyung, are credited as producers, writers, lyricists, composers, and arrangers under most of the tracks, making it clear that the album is a product of years of experience and hard work pushed to the limits and four unique personalities coming together to craft a mesmerizing sonic story.
The Intro, titled “~”, starts off with various acoustic sounds from nature playing in tandem with soft-sounding instruments, setting the tone for the rest of the album and allowing the listeners to escape into a magical world of music The Rose has masterfully crafted.
The second track, “Definition of Ugly Is,” jumps right into one of the core motifs of the album – the exploration of self and its perception by society. The song explores hard-hitting themes of what it means to be an outsider and a loner as they plead to be understood, comforted, and ultimately accepted through the lyrics. It is also a testament to how the group has grown together alongside their fans. The song was inspired by a personal story shared by one of the band’s fans as well as the story of the Ugly Duckling. It resounds with listeners who might be feeling insecure and finding it hard to fit in and see their true self-worth.
The lyrics might especially resonate with listeners who felt alone and adrift in the middle of the recent global pandemic. Ultimately, the song reassures us that it is okay to be “lonely” and “peculiar”; there is nothing wrong with being different, “it’s alright” to be unique.
The story-telling in the album is truly immaculate, with each song mirroring a different chapter in the story. The third track, “Childhood,” expands on the theme of self-doubt explored in the previous track. The haunting and nostalgic track delves into the realities of growing up and repenting the time lost in self-doubt on the path to achieving one’s dreams. The group explores how coming to terms with the trauma we experience in our childhood can often be the first step to healing as an adult. The music video accompanying the pre-released single shows the boys getting in touch and healing their inner child by running through picturesque forests and rivers. It makes us yearn for a simpler time and the pure innocence of childhood, urging the listeners to seize the day and live life to the fullest.
The fourth track, aptly titled “Shift,” tonally shifts the pace of the album, adding a more upbeat, energetic rhythm to the rest. Following the light-hearted, romantic lyrics of “Shift,” “Cure” feels like a breath of fresh air in an enclosed space. Out of all the songs in this album, this is the one that sounds the most suited to play in a big stadium with the crowd singing along, creating an anthemic chorus. Being entirely in English, the lyrics are easy for international fans to follow along with. While thematically, it follows the previous tracks on exploring how the healing journey isn’t easy and takes time, tonally, it is more upbeat.
The group’s maknae and sub-vocalist, Jaehyeong, shared in an interview that he relates the most to track 6, “See-Saw,” as it was a story that was personal to him. The emotions and vulnerable feelings shared by the singers are evident in the track as the lyrics seem to bridge the dual cultures and lives they must juggle constantly as artists and individuals.
Just like many of the songs in the album, track 7, “Time” conveys a nostalgic yet optimistic feeling, as the lyrics narrate a story of two people wishing each other a last farewell and letting go of the past, while looking forward to a future where time will have healed their wounds and they can smile with each other again.
“Yes,” the first song in the album to collaborate with another artist, features Filipino-Australian singer-songwriter James Reid, to create an uplifting and cheerful song that allows the listeners to open up their minds and say yes to new experiences and feelings.
The second last track of the emotionally charged album, “Sour,” brings it to a crescendo as The Rose sings their hearts out in a pop-punk-inspired ending. After a tireless journey of self-healing and acceptance, “Sour” culminates the themes and messages of self-love and healing shared throughout the album and reinstates it to the listeners.
And last but not least, the 10th track, titled “-” beautifully brings the album to a full circle by ending the chapter of self-discovery and acceptance with another instrumental track. The peaceful chimes of nature lead the listeners out of the fantasy dreamscape the band created with their comforting and resounding album.
After a long day, music has the power to soothe and heal our weary souls, and that is precisely what The Rose aims to do with this album. The songs serve as a lightning rod for those feeling lost and alone and offer them solace and understanding. True to their roots, the album mirrors the origins of their name – it is full of the sharpness of thorns and the beauty of flowers. The calming and cathartic tracks act as a safe space and a chance to heal, cementing the band’s stance as versatile and multi-talented artists ready to heal themselves and the world with their music.