For those who may not know or remember, Saturdays used to be when I dedicated a review to a Japanese release made by a Korean artist. This year, I made the move to expand to more music releases that aren’t Japanese based and now the segment includes music releases by Korean artists in other languages such as Chinese and English. Since we find ourselves on another Saturday, and now that found enough releases to post two International Song Review posts (this one and another one next week!), it is time to revisit the segment. The releases in this post are more of the recent releases including SEVENTEEN, SNUPER, Taeyeon, NU’EST and Jackson Wang.
24H – SEVENTEEN
Two days after I published my last ISR (i.e. the 24th August 2020), SEVENTEEN dropped their latest original Japanese single, 24H. To me, 24H impresses with its refined take on their Korean releases, opting for maturity in the way they deliver 24H, without necessarily using an ‘edgy’ and dark concept to relay this maturity. The start of the song, which features S.Coups’ vocals, opens as if it was a Western pop song. I particularly like this as its allows the song to kickstart with something different than what we are used to. As the song progresses with acoustic guitars at the forefront of the background, the song gets heavier with its beat. The chorus feels rugged, with the guitar used here moving the song forward with a chugging momentum. The bridge amps up the chorus with what seems to be the song version of going ‘all out’, before returning the song to how it started before launching us into the chorus once again. Over its structure, the more vocal-centric side of the group appears, allowing that refinement to be taken to the next level. 24H‘s melodies and hooks are quite strong as well, giving myself an excuse to return to the song.
24H‘s music video continues the aesthetics from their Fallin’ Flower music video, albeit more darker. However, it doesn’t look like the members opted for a dark concept, just more serious. They do end up showing more of a masculine energy through this video, something I would love to see them show off in their Korean releases. Not exactly sure what it going on in the video plotwise, especially with S.Coups’ scene at the end with that metallic floating wire attacking him. I haven’t seen a theory for this video just yet, though I can tell it is going to be interesting. The choreography also carries some of the aesthetics, especially the sequence in which they form circle around Hoshi and The8. Overall, a strong Japanese comeback for SEVENTEEN.
Overall Rating – 8.8/10
Oxygen – SNUPER
It has been a while since we have heard from SNUPER. Domestically, the group has not released anything since 2018. On the Japanese front, the group was more active in Japan with releases in 2019 and now Oxygen in 2020. Oxygen is a song that is driven by a deep house club beat. We don’t get that deep house club beat until the chorus hit. At first glance, it was thrilling drop that felt wholesome and quite pure. But the more I listened to the song, the more I felt that the chorus could have been a little more ‘spicier’, if you understand what I mean. What we get in Oxygen leans slightly to the more generic and unimaginative side. The verses that surround Oxygen were pretty lackluster and failed to really bring anything more to the song. Even the rap sequences opts for a trap-based background, which is pretty generic move.
With the lack of promotions, it seems like SNUPER no longer has a substantial budget for their music videos. While the visuals were quite crisp and high definition, the uninspiring sets and location really dulled the music video. The dark lighting was probably done so to make the group feel more mysterious. However, it was a poor choice as we couldn’t really see the members in the poor lighting. For the moves, I thought they mismatched the upbeatness of the song, especially when it came to the chorus. The moves felt sluggish and could have been snappier.
Overall Rating – 5.7/10
#GIRLSPKOUT – Taeyeon
Taeyeon made a surprise drop earlier this month with the release of the music video, #GirlsSpkOut, the title track from her upcoming Japanese mini-album release of the same name. It is pretty disappointing that SM Entertainment haven’t done much promotions for this MV release. It literally dropped out of nowhere. That aside, when I first heard the song, I thought it was going to be a 2.0 version of Taeyeon’s Spark due to its use of acoustic guitar. However, #GirlsSpkOut ended it being quite different. It sounds a lot funkier and it had more of a substantial pop feel to it. And as you listen to more of it, the song builds into something decent. If you were to judge the song by listening to only the first chorus, you are listening to it all wrong. It isn’t an active representation of the latter choruses, which both have more of a kick to them. Unfortunately, this extra energy never actually amounts to a peak, leaving #GirlsSpkOut as a somewhat flawed release. #GirlsSpkOut also features Japanese rapper, Chanmina, alongside Taeyeon’s nice (and well-known) vocals. This is something new, Korean artists have never really collaborated with someone from the Japanese music industry as far as I remember for a release. Chanmina’s featuring in #GirlsSpkOut was needed to give more energy to the song and help build the song. But her delivery was something I was not a fan of.
Based on the title alone, anyone can tell that the song is about female empowerment. And the music video tells you just that. Taeyeon is approached by a guy who doesn’t seem to understand the answer ‘no’. He is involved in an accident (a falling light sign – what are the chances?) just moments after Taeyeon leaves him. He is taken to the hospital in a full body cast. Taeyeon and her female friends band together to teach him a lesson. Chanmina also features in the video, which was also a nice treat. The choreography scenes were okay. They just didn’t show anything impressive or amazing-looking to make me go wow. Her visual game and outfits though looked awesome!
Overall Rating – 7/10
Drive – NU’EST
It has been a while since we last heard a Japanese release from NU’EST. Their last was 2015’s Nanananamida, the title track of their first Japanese studio album, Bridge The World. 5 years on, the group dropped Drive earlier this month, alongside their second Japanese studio album of the same name. Drive is a little different to your standard Japanese release, opting to step away from a choreography-required song. Drive focuses more on the singing and rapping, upfronting a pretty pleasant instrumentation made up of nice rhythmic guitars and an upbeat pop melody. I like this change up in style for the Japanese music industry, which separate the group’s release from the pack for uniqueness. The singing pulls you in and captivates you. It also compliments the instrumentation, adding to Drive‘s pleasantness and softness. As a result, I would gladly put this song to listen to the NU’EST vocalists. I did feel that the rapping was a little mismatched for the song. It could have potentially been more fitting if it was a tad smoother. But overall, a really good display of style and refinement from the members of NU’EST.
If I were to breakdown the music video, it is simply a music video full of a bunch of closeups. ‘There is a storyline embedded into those closeups, with JR approaching each member and pulling them to the circle of chairs we see in the video. I am not sure what this is supposed to mean and whether it represents something in the lyrics or not (I couldn’t tell). My best guess is that it something about coming together after being separated for so long. As mentioned previously, there is no choreography for this comeback. Instead, the group scenes were shots of the members singing into microphones, which was a nice touch that compliments the softness of the song. I liked the golden aura that comes from these scenes.
Overall Rating – 8/10
Pretty Please – Jackson Wang & Galantis
The final song on this list today is Jackson Wang and Galantis’ collaboration, titled Pretty Please. For those who are not familiar with Galantis, they bring the funky and groovy electronic-based instrumental that forms the backbone of Pretty Please to life. It is a really awesome backing for the song and feels super addictive. Jackson brings the vocals to the song. I really like his deep and raspy vocals in this song. He adds some unique colour to the song and the texture is super appealing over the electronic instrumentation. Music-wise, big ticks from me. My only complaint is the song goes by so quickly. Two and a half minutes is nothing. And especially with such a fun, groovy and upbeat instrumentation, it literally blurs by in a matter of seconds. I wished there was more to it, as every time I listen to Pretty Please, I am caught off guard by the unexpecting ending that comes out of nowhere.
The end of the music video gives a bit of context to the idea behind the video. Jackson has always wanted to shoot something along the lines of ’90s Hong Kong movie’ concept. And I agree with him that it is a pretty cool setting to shoot in. The video starts off with Jackson and his friends at a Chinese restaurant, watching a documentary about wolves, emphasising the idea of loyalty of friends and to partners. Enters the actress, the same one who played his love interest in 100 Ways. He notices that she left a pendant of a wolf and starts following her to get her attention down the street in a cool montage. And he doesn’t stop, presenting us with the first of the two loyalties. The second of the two loyalties is shown in the lead up to the dance choreography, where his friends (shown as wolves for a brief moment) come running from the restaurant to join him in the choreography shot at the end of the video. The video cuts to dark and it is revealed at he is still in the restaurant with his friends and he is holding the pendant. His eyes turns white, revealing him to be a wolf and is probably going to go searching for his female counterpart later on. The choreography in this video looks really cool and matches with the funky vibes of the song.
Overall Rating – 9.3/10