Benyamin - “88”

Avaye Nakisa/Taraneye Sharghi (Iran)
2009 (1388)

Benyamin Bahadori’s follow up to the best-selling debut “85? is finally released, after years of postponing (you can search my blog for the history of excuses and explanations) due to him reportedly having felt pressure and wanting to digest the overnight success. The new album is just like its predecessor named after its year of release, namely “88?. The album’s track-list is longer than average with 17 tracks, but many titles are short “demos” that might or might not be developed into full-lengths at a later stage. According to the artist himself he wasn't able to develop them any further than these, but felt that they would fit into the collection even as they are. All music are composed by Benyamin himself, the lyrics are written by his friend and longtime collaborator Farid Ahmadi and for the entire arrangements Benyamin has collaborated with Payam Shams who is best known for his work on Mehdi Moghadam’s album. The album is released on the sibling labels Avaye Nakisa and Taraneye Sharghi and comes as both regular and limited edition. Both graced however with the same awfully designed cover!

The album opens with an intro called suitably “Shenaasnaame (shoroo)”. The arranger Payam Shams makes TIMBALAND-ian shouting sounds and introduces a singer who very humbly starts by underrating his various features in order to prepare the subject of affection for an album-long serenade not worthy of her!lol

“Kojaaye Donyayi?”, which is an obvious titular reference to his MEGA-HIT “Khaaterehaa (Donya)”, kicks off the album with a new specimen of the man’s catchy TRADEMARK style. I’m easily annoyed by this kind of vocal performance but the music enjoys updated elements which make it sounding FRESH!

Next song continues in the same path of repeating the old style of “Loknat” yet with new refreshing sound elements and an electrifying HI-NRG beat! “Man va Tanhaa” manages to shift back and forth between the two paces rather smoothly, before climaxing into the chorus.

“Assheghi Baa To” doesn’t fall too far from the tree and keeps up with the familiar pace and style. I however am starting to show some kind of physical reaction to all these word-repeating and rhyme-spitting! Overkill-warning!!

And the next track doesn’t really help my case! “Ahaay To” makes my eye twitch!lol Many tasty sounds and crispy beats but the vocals are simply unbearable for me! I’m sorry, but there is only so much I can take of such songs in a row. This song basically takes the price of being vocally annoying, super catchy but equally annoying!

The first case of copying-without-crediting on this album! “Eshghe Aadamkosh” makes an appreciated, although slightly overdue, shift of gear to mid-tempo but it also rips off the beat of Santana’s “Maria Maria”!

Next comes one of my personal favorites on the album. “Bia Aashegham Kon” is another mid-tempo song, this time with an RnB vibe. I can’t help but to think that think song reminds me of an older Western song which I can’t put my finger on! If you happen to know what I am thinking please drop me an e-mail, thanks in advance.

“Ey Vaay Delam” slows the pace down a bit more and delivers a rather smooth and soothing ballad. Mid-tempo and bluesy mellow. According to my good friend and our fellow forum member Pedram, who happens to be something of a Benyamin expert (well, you are Pedram jan! hehe), this song also features a “cheeky tribute” to the debut album’s "Yaadam Miaad”! See if you can detect it!

Have you missed the up-beat songs already? Would you be surprised if I say I haven’t!lol Nevertheless we get another one delivered which because of the preceding calm doesn’t feel annoying at all but rather pleasant! Especially since it delivers a slightly different up-beat flavor by Benyamin than what we are used to. “Sedaaye Ghalbe To” is packed with exciting goodies!

When listening to this song for the first time I found the music strikingly familiar, but no matter how I tried I wasn’t able to locate the source in my memory! It was driving me and Pedram mad! Finally after a hundred replays and many sleepless nights I came to find which song's music “Khaab” had copied! Thanks to the local radio coincidently playing the song (cosmic forces at work?lol). It is “Let Me Love You” by the American RnB singer Mario. A song which Benyamin has copied the music of and yet claimed to have written it himself! In other words a classic case of plagiary! Benyamin had, as I wrote in my review, plagiarized his “Donya” song as well, but in this case we deal with copyrighted material from the Western industry! Lately this Iranian tradition of unethical/illegal conduct has been brought to Western companies and publishings’ attention and they have started several investigations. Being someone who has always stressed this critical issue, I have also been contacted in regards.

The first of the so called demos is “Mane Lanati”, which works as an epilogue to “Khaab”. It also features the album’s arranger Payam Shams as guest vocalist. Payam has previously preformed a couple of theme songs for the television, such as the IRIB series “Majnoone Leili”.

“Rafighaa Migan” is another one of my favorites, a soft and bluesy song perfect for the dozy hours of the lazy summer days.

Followed by my favorite demo namely “Parse”, I love the whole concept and composition. And the “twist” of the lyrics is just perfect!

"Leili Dar Paeiz" which is the last upbeat song on the album, starts off with a massive Modern Talking influenced drum-loop to match that Modern Talking-ian title! The song frequently slows down and then picks up the beat without the slightest disturbance in the experience. This is also a formula which I would like to see explored further by Benyamin, rather than his “Loknat” style which has become overused already! 

Another short demo called “Hafte be Hafte” is on the list.

Next comes a song with a refreshing musical approach. It incorporates the marching beat of a formal funeral to create an air of mournfulness as we approach the end of the album and its love story! You get a lot of choked up words and wailing in this track called “Shoomine”. Much of the drama act put up to make this sounding authentic sounds instead faux and pretentious! It could have done better if it was toned down a bit.

What you came to hear in the previous track was to set up this melodramatic outro called “Tamoom Shod (paayaan)! I do love the overall concept of the lyrics, its charming, so cheesy it hurts but still charming!lol Even though if I was the girl he was talking to I'd say: would you make up your frickin’ mind for God's sake!!! What do you want me to do???!!!!!!!lol Again, I would have liked a more subtle twist like in “Parse”, but when an album opens with that kind of pretentious intro it may as well end in a similar fashion.

Benyamin says that he realizes that people’s preference has changed in these past three years that he’s been absent, but so has his preference he claims. I’m not completely sure that it has though! “88” is a GREAT collection, it’s rich and generous. Surpassing its predecessor by far and comes through with flying colors as a follow up. The quality is crisp and there are enough new sounds and groove elements to earn it a standing ovation for the innovation alone! However the dominant majority of this collection are of the same style that once made Benyamin famous, became his TRADEMARK style and has since then been imitated by several domestic artists such as Saeed Molki (Asayesh). That is not a flattering feature for an opus of such high caliber. Benyamin does provide us with a variety of beautiful mid-tempo songs and sensual ballads which each stand out because of their unique and individual properties! The upbeat songs however sound very similar, mainly thanks to his signature style of singing, and get hectically clustered in an infinite mass due to a badly planned track-listing. “88” would have benefited from a more even mix of pace and space, giving the upbeat tracks a room to breathe and the listener a chance to recover. I personally liked the so called demos most of all on this album, since these remind me of my own style of mini-poems. These tracks could have provided the necessary breathing room in such a long album, too bad this property wasn’t used properly.

In the end I just have to say that the cover of this album is hands down one of the worst covers I have seen on an album! I’m not even going to go near his attire, obviously he is making some kind of fashion statement with that hat which I seem to be too fashionably illiterate to comprehend!lol Then we come to that catastrophic design! The composition, color combination and coordination are so terrible that they don’t even qualify as amateurish! There are so many things wrong with this cover that I don’t know where to start. The ironic part is that this album comes even in a limited edition digipak which is said to contain tens of pics, of which presumably this has been the best choice for the cover!lol

Note: thanks to Pedram.

Overall Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: +++
Commercial Potential: +++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: ---
Ethical Adherence: ---
[ +++ > --- ]


Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!