As promised in the previous International Song Review post to increase the frequency of these reviews, I am back with a new International Song Review post for another six releases by our beloved KPOP artists. In that previous post, I reviewed non-Korean songs released by Momoland, BM (from KARD), Mark Tuan (from GOT7), THE8 (from SEVENTEEN), JAMIE and SEVENTEEN. In this post, I will be focusing on releases from ITZY, Mark Tuan, Jackson Wang, CIX, Golden Child and WOOSUNG. Let’s go!
Voltage – ITZY
Back in April of this year, ITZY released their first original Japanese single, Voltage. One of the aspects of Voltage that I really enjoyed was the electrifying energy that came from the song for me. It isn’t as in your face as it could have been, but holding it back definitely helped make it more impactful from how I see the song. The pop rock influence was very cool and fulfilling. The brassy synths were cool, as well. The vocals and rapping were substantial and definitely added bit of attitude and sass to the song, which took Voltage to a different level for me. I have no qualms with the eventuating girl-crush vibe that comes from Voltage, mainly because it is was well executed. My only criticism I personally have is that Voltage lacked a centric hook – one that usually makes their Korean releases more memorable and addictive. Had Voltage found a centric hook like that, this would have been a 10/10 song for me.
There were some good editing and post-production throughout the video. You might even call it seamless. It, combined with the motorcycle rider concept, helped create an edgy and cool vibe, as well. However, there were some questionable examples of post-production, as well. Namely Lia’s solo scenes with that glassy and snowy background was pretty awful. I don’t know what was the purpose of her scenes, given that the other scenes involved the night time or some sort of darkness in the background. The choreography was pretty cool and definitely worked well with the energy coming off from Voltage. I wished there was a more angsty vibe from the choreography and stage performances, just to give Voltage more oomph.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
lonely – Mark Tuan (GOT7)
Mark Tuan is going to be a recurring artist in this segment over the next few posts, as he has been quite busy with his solo releases. lonely was released back in March of this year. It too jumps on board with the rock trend, though it steers away from the current pop rock trend of KPOP. However, I am not talking about an electrifying form of rock with headbanging potential. Instead, lonely is quite an emotional song, where the singer realizes his true feelings for his lover following their breakup. You can definitely feel the emotions from his vocals as well. There is still a degree of charge from the rock influence, which helped made lonely quite impactful, particularly since since it emerged out of nowhere. Usually you can tell from the pre-choruses of emerging influence, but Mark Tuan just skips the pre-choruses altogether. The combination with the synths and bass gives off more of a trendy vibe. Altogether, lonely is a strong solo track without the need of using a powerful backing.
The music video is quite simple, with a white backing, some fog, some black paint marks (couldn’t tell what the paint marks were trying to show/say), a black couch and Mark Tuan dressed in a black outfit. The video itself was almost a one-shot video, but there was some editing part way and in the bridge. But with such a video, the focus is on Mark Tuan and the passion he puts behind the delivery of the song within the music video. This, along with the fact that I am a sucker for simplicity, makes the music video for lonely very appealing to watch.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Blow – Jackson Wang
Fellow GOT7 member Jackson Wang has also been busy this 2022 with a few new solo singles under his wing. Today, I am reviewing Blow, which was released at the end of March. Blow is an example of my personal favourite style of pop rock genre combination that I am into. The beat is just so stompy, while the actual rock components of the song give off a grungy vibe. The pre-chorus has that head-banging potential, while the chorus really concentrates that stompy factor that I already mentioned with everything else instrumentally. And this is on top of being memorable with the background ‘Oh-Oohs‘. The bridge featuring Jackson’s falsetto was very sleek, while the follow-up autotuned ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star‘ provided a different colour yet familiar atmosphere that came about from the preceding sections of the song. I think it is safe to say that I am still digging Blow, after all these months.
Blow is about being addicted to and unable to escape from a toxic partner. And I feel we get an abstract showing of this idea. The music video depicts an old style roadshow (maybe of the circus variety, and thus The Greatest Showman vibes). Jackson, along with the dancers, are performers of the show. The conditions are quite dusty and old looking, suggesting these are the victims of the toxic partner (which I am assuming the grand show person of the roadshow). It is one massive interpretative dance party, before Jackson leaving, suggesting that he realizes and leaves the grip of the toxic partner. I found the use of smoke to depict the ‘blowing’ to be quite clever and fits in with the rest of the video’s concept. I also like how the choreography within the music video really picked up on the energy of the song and how the space was used.
Overall Rating – 9.6/10
Pinky Swear – CIX
Also at the end of March, CIX released their third official Japanese single. Titled Pinky Swear, it is a pop track that is a completely different offering to what CIX puts out in Korea (see the recent 458 for an example of CIX’s Korean work, if you are unfamiliar with the group). Pinky Swear is a lot brighter as a song and falls on the pleasant side of pop music. It is fun and upbeat, but a lot more traditional and typical. Decent melodies, vocals and rapping are also a feature in Pinky Swear. I do like the sweetness the vocal brings to the song, which helps add a cheerful factor to the song. It does lack a memorable hook, relying on a smooth melody to really key the song into my memory bank. As a result, Pinky Swear does slip away from me (and I nearly forgot about it when I was planning the segment). I much prefer their pre-release, Wondering, which I felt would have been a better fit as a promotional track for CIX when you consider their Korean work, as it potentially could have been aesthetic.
Pinky Swear‘s music video is quite colourful and plays well into the pop side of the song. The colourfulness adds a level of sweetness to the visuals of the song. Plus with the presence of sugary visuals (i.e. donuts and candy), I feel like the video almost teethers into the saccharine territory. Thank god, we aren’t seeing sets made out of candy and sugary treats. The members show off cute and loveable visuals, which I am sure fans would enjoy. Though, I do find it amazing that in a matter of five months, the members are seducing with a more sensual and masculine appeal in their recent Korean comeback. The choreography was quite nice and enjoyable. I love the smiles they all bring to the performance, which adds to the song just as well.
Overall Rating – 7.9/10
RATA-TAT-TAT – Golden Child
RATA-TAT-TATA is a more recent release (relative to the other releases in this post). It dropped as Golden Child’s second official Japanese single in May. It is a definite improvement from their debut Japanese single, which was quite cringy when I think back to it. The title of this song also hints at a similar potential for this song, but I am thankful that was not the case. RATA-TAT-TAT is a fast paced dance track, especially as the chorus hits. The instrumental for RATA-TAT-TAT definitely has an oomph factor and feels meatier, which boosts the song and makes it quite badass. But it is still not at the same caliber as their Korean releases. There was a strong showing from the members. The rapping showed a slightly more aggressive side. The vocals were well incorporated into the song but I wished there was more of a wow factor to the vocal line. Joochan’s high note was pretty impressive, though. RATA-TAT-TAT‘s hook was catchy. Overall, I had fun listening to RATA-TAT-TAT.
The music video for RATA-TAT-TAT goes for an edgy concept, but fails to really hit the mark. Shot in an industrial setting and with an underground race car theme, it feels all pretty cliché and ‘done before’ for a male group. I feel like keeping the video simple with the members in leather jackets and dark lit rooms would have done the job fine. I wished there was more to the video. The choreography is a much better fit for the song. While I really did like the fast pace of the movements (which goes well with the fast pace nature of the song), I also commend Golden Child on their sharpness and synchronisation. The fast pace also brings about some aggression, which is a pretty decent addition to the routine.
Overall Rating – 7.6/10
Phase Me – WOOSUNG (THE ROSE)
Another May release, but this time it is WOOSUNG’s Phase Me. Like the song’s at the start of this post, Phase Me finds it squarely in the rock genre as well. But Phase Me‘s instrumental also has a groovy vibe to it, particularly in the chorus. Part of me really enjoys the groovy nature of the song as it brings a uniqueness to the music scene, but a part of me felt the song could have gone with a completely stronger rock sound had it continued the momentum of the rock in the first verse (and not met with an anti-drop). WOOSUNG’s vocals are very clear and crisp throughout Phase Me, which I appreciate. He brings out the husky and raspy nature of his vocals in this song, which felt so alluring and captivating. I also liked how the song is short but sweet. While it does feel like a blur, Phase Me felt very satisfying, fulfilling and complete.
The moth concept was very interesting, but it makes sense. Moths are insects that are unphased when there is light around. In the music video, Woosung plays two roles. One is an actual moth. In the darkness and during the sunset, he emerges to sing the song. When there is light (i.e. that ending), he is attracted to it and just stares at it. I do find the eyes a bit freaky, but Woosung plays a moth well. The second role is where he plays the light, which attract the dancers in a similar fashion to how moths are attracted to light. This section was a lot more sensual. To add to the sensual themes of the video, Woosung spends a lot of time shirtless, but I think it works with the themes of the video.
Overall Rating – 8/10