Following my last album review (BLACKPINK’s BORN PINK), I thought I also review another YG Entertainment album that I have been holding onto. The album, as you can tell from the title of this post, is TREASURE’s THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER TWO. It is the group’s second mini-album and was released in October 2022, and it features the title track HELLO, along with four additional side tracks. THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER TWO follows the group’s earlier comeback in 2022 and first mini-album, THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER ONE (title track JIKJIN). It is also the first release to not feature Bang Ye Dam and Mashiho, who were on hiatus at the time of the mini-album’s release and subsequently left the group following the mini-album’s release.
2. VolKno (CHOI HYUNSUK, YOSHI & HARUTO) – Following the more pop-centric title is a surprising mix of hip-hop and rock. It is purely electrifying, intense and just so powerful. Everything I ever wanted from a rock release in KPOP is in VolKno. The track is delivered to us by the three rappers of the group, so it is safe to say that their delivery falls into the rap/hip-hop style. And I don’t mind that, as their trio’s delivery just amp up everything else in the song. The best part of the song is when they get chanty during the bridge, which is a nice bright change in direction. I found to be a great head-banging sequence, before the song goes back to its intense rock body. (10/10)
3. CLAP! – CLAP! returns to the mini-album to the bright and pop-like profile that featured in the title track and kicked off the mini-album. There are some added reggae influences to certain parts of the song, which differentiates the song from the title track. The rapping was nicely done and gave CLAP! some much needed oomph. However, the element that really prevented me from enjoying the song are the vocals, which I found to be disappointing. The vocals took on a more standard melody, which ultimately dulled the song for me. I wished the members were more expressive and the melody line was a bit more exciting, just to give CLAP! a much more substantial edge. (6/10)
4. THANK YOU (고마워) (ASAHI & HARUTO) – HARUTO is definitely a busy person as the only TREASURE member to appearing in all five songs on this mini-album. In THANK YOU, HARUTO join forces with ASAHI to give us this pop style song. At first, it sounded more like a pop rock song. But it ended up settling for more on the pop side as THANK YOU progressed along. In the end, I found this song to be quite a pleasant listen and I really did enjoy it. (8/10)
5. HOLD IT IN (물 어둡다) – Ending the mini-album is the album’s most subdued mix, opting for a more prevalent R&B vibe for the most part. But there is more to HOLD IT IN than what meets the eye. For example, we get some relatively soft pop dance backing for the chorus, jazzy ballad styling in the second verse and marching drums in the bridge. Altogether, TREASURE delivers another pleasant ender to the album that just had the right dose of pretty much each of the different styles mentioned whilst also managing to stay cohesive somehow. (7.5/10)
Welcome to the first official album review of the year. All the other album reviews I posted so far this year were drafted last year, and my review for BORN PINK is the first album review I have written this year. Woo! There is plenty more album review coming your way, but I thought I start off with a big release from 2022 that I hadn’t looked at just yet. BORN PINK is BLACKPINK’s second studio length album and was released mid-September 2022. It features the pre-release single Pink Venom and the title track Shut Down, alongside down another 6 side tracks. It follows The Album from 2020. Personally, my biggest takeaway from this studio album is that BLACKPINK and their producers could have done more with majority of the side tracks on the album. Despite that comment, there are still some standout and solid tracks on the album to enjoy. So continue reading to see which songs I thought were great and which songs could have been better.
3. Typa Girl – Typa Girl had some potential with the opening synths. It gave off intriguing vibes which I was all excited for. Given BLACKPINK’s consistent sound with majority of their promotional tracks, intriguing is definitely something good. Unfortunately, the intriguingness isn’t worthwhile. Once we enter the verses and choruses, we get that familiar sound profile that we all associate with BLACKPINK. Despite going down the same route as their previous track, Typa Girl’s instrumental continues to disappoint, as there just isn’t a whole heap going on. It does place the focus on the members. But clear vocals and fast rapping just doesn’t make up for the rest of the song, in my opinion. (5/10)
4. Yeah Yeah Yeah – I am glad the disappointment is short lived. Things start looking up for BORN PINK’s side tracks with Yeah Yeah Yeah. I really liked the retro tinge that the song had, especially when the chorus comes along. It is a centrepiece that I look forward to on this album. The vocal work was solid and presented the members in a pleasant light. My only gripe about the song is how cliché the main hook of the song is – just simply being “Just say Yeah Yeah Yeah”. (8/10)
5. Hard To Love (Rosé Solo) – The only member of BLACKPINK to have a solo song on this album is Rosé. The pop feel of the Hard To Love and the guitar work in the chorus were highlights, along with Rosé’s vocals. I particularly like that emotional pull that Rosé subtly provides to Hard To Love, which makes it more riveting to listen to. (9/10)
6. The Happiest Girl – Stealing my attention away from the entirety of this album is The Happiest Girl, which is a stunning and beautiful ballad. This is not exactly a style of music that I associate with BLACKPINK, but it was so well done. Repetition is the song’s biggest and only problem, but that can be easily overlooked when you consider the orchestration and the emotionally fragile vocals of the members caused by the breakup that is imagined in the lyrics. My favourite part of all, if I had to pick, would be Jisoo’s harmonic line “I can stop the tears if I want to”. (10/10)
7. Tally – For me, Tally is a skippable song. It is a decent display of potential from the members themselves and there is a neat swaying melody to the song. But apart from that, there isn’t much to remember about Tally. It is probably more because Tally follows The Happiest Girl – all of my attention is directed towards the previous song and I don’t have much more to share for Tally. But I felt the instrumental was plain, while there isn’t much of a hook to the song other than the aforementioned melody. (6/10)
8. Ready For Love – Final song on the album is Ready For Love. It is another pre-release single released back in July 2022 which I had not reviewed as the song was marketed to us as a promotional single for PUBG Mobile at the time. But its inclusion on the album allows me to finally review it! I quite liked the EDM chorus (definitely the highlight of the song) and the house pop style the rest of the song opted for. BLACKPINK themselves sound quite good in the song, but the hooks again were repetitive and I wished there were more to the hooks of Ready For Love. (7.5/10)
Xdinary Heroes is nominated for Best New Male Group and Best Band Performance in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support Xdinary Heroes, and your other favourite artists, songs, and performance by clicking here to vote today!
As flagged a couple of weeks ago through my review of the side track Strawberry Cake, I will be reviewing Xdinary Heroes’ first mini-album since their debut. The mini-album is titled Hello, World and was released back in July of 2022. Alongside Strawberry Cake, the mini-album also features the title track Test Me and 3 additional side tracks. More recently, the band returned in November with a second mini-album, Overload, which I will be returning to review some time in the near future! In the meanwhile, here is my review for Hello, World. It explores more of the band’s potential that they displayed through their debut single (Happy Death Day) whilst also exploring more of the rock genre. Both of which highlights the force that Xdinary Heroes could become in the future.
2. Knock Down – Knock Down is an awesome rock track. The verses showed promise, but the highlight came during the chorus. The chorus had a beat that had head-nodding potential. It is then followed by some really memorable and catchy ‘Na Na Na’ and some interjections from the members. The bridge had some amazing hype energy that allowed the song to reach a cool and fantastic beat. (9/10)
3. Sucker Punch – If the previous song had head nodding potential, then Sucker Punch had some foot stomping potential. This created a really strong atmosphere, and it also showed off some great vocals. Then they took a pause to make way for the pre-chorus, before launching into the satisfying chorus that goes in hard. We do get some ‘Na Na Na’ in this song, as well, but they were not as in the previous song. The bridge, however, was the highlight of Sucker Punch. It also had some great hype energy in the first half. We go into acoustic-like territory for the second half of the bridge, which served as a nice stilling moment, before an instrumental moment comes to launch us back into the final chorus. (9/10)
4. Strawberry Cake – Click here to read the full review for Strawberry Cake. (8/10)
5. Pirates – Out of all the songs on this mini-album, Pirates is probably Xdinary Heroes’ best foot forward in their vocal department. Their vocals (despite being autotuned to varying degrees) in this song were super impressive, especially during the soaring pre-choruses and at the end. I thought the slower tempo and paced instrumental was very interesting and creates a somewhat tense but unique backdrop, while the brass was a very intriguing addition to the song. (8/10)
Kep1er is nominated for Best New Female Group in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support Kep1er and your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today.
Kep1er is one of the busier groups this year, with back-to-back activities including their debut in January with WA DA DA, their appearance on Queendom 2, their comeback with Up!, their Japanese debut with Wing Wing, and now their latest comeback with We Fresh (their latest title track) and Troubleshooter (the title of their latest mini-album release – which is the focus of this review). Kep1er definitely deserves a break! The latter releases officially dropped mid-October of this year, and there is an additional four tracks on this mini-album, including a remastered version of THE GIRLS (Kep1er’s Queendom 2 finale release).
Fun fact: I started off 2022 with a review of Kep1er’s debut single WA DA DA. I didn’t realize it at the time until I was actually finalising this album review, that I am also closing out 2022 with this album review for Kep1er. What a coincidence!
2. Lion Tamer – Lion Tamer is a bit on the typical side of KPOP in today’s standard, but this doesn’t stop it having a cool chorus. To me, it sounded like there was a bit of attitude to it, which gave Kep1er to offer something with a bit more personality which isn’t cuteness. I enjoyed the whistles in the instrumental and the very subtle use of synths that reminded me of a safari or the wilderness. I did think the track could have gone harder and honed in all of the pop energy that Lion Tamer was already exuding. We just needed that oomph to take this song to the next level. (7/10)
3. Downtown – Downtown continues that ‘different side to the group’ idea that I just touched on. This time around, Kep1er goes with an even more mature pop sound that I am totally digging. So much so, I think this is the mini-album’s highlight, and it should have been picked as the title track. It is a smooth mid-tempo number that just exudes so much sleekness. A cool concept idea is having the members strut down the city streets, and this track would have been an ideal backing to that idea. The members did a wonderful job at owning this style and I would love to see a performance of Downtown in the future. (9/10)
4. Dreams – The final new song that the mini-album has to offer is Dreams, even though it was performed once before prior to the album’s release. It is another nice synthpop track, with a dreamy set of synths and some neat beats in the background. I liked Kep1er’s delivery within Dreams, which opted for paced vocals that complemented the dreamy instrumental quite well. The rapping was rather straight-forward and worked, but they should have gone with something less one-dimensional for this department. Altogether, however, Dreams pretty much reminded me of past KPOP hits within the dreamy realm of pop. Nostalgic. (8/10)
5. THE GIRLS (Can’t Turn Me Down) (Remastered) – I previously reviewed THE GIRLS through my review of the finale of Queendom 2. I will carry my song rating from that review over for the final album rating below. Read my thoughts on THE GIRLS by clicking here.(7/10)
SEULGI is nominated for Best New Female Soloist and Best Solo Choreography (Female) in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support SEULGI and your other favourite artists, songs and performance by clicking here to vote today.
SEULGI made her solo debut weeks ago with 28 Reasons, the title of both her title track and her debut mini-album. Today, I will be reviewing her mini-album, which features an additional five tracks alongside 28 Reasons (the title track). More recently, SEULGI has returned with Red Velvet for their latest release, Birthday. But this particular review is for SEULGI and her high calibre solo debut mini-album, so let’s go!
2. Dead Man Runnin’ – Dead Man Runnin’ is the track that sticks in my mind the most from this mini-album. It is haunting to R&B listen to, but it just remains with you. It might be the due to the soaring chorus that inclines out of nowhere but manages to do so in a stylish manner. It might be due to the lyrics, which expresses the vengeance one intends for the person who caused them pain. But I think it is because of SEULGI’s vocals, which leaves my jaw hanging open and complete floored each time I listen to the song. (10/10)
3. Bad Boy, Sad Girl (ft. Be’O) – In a completely different style, SEULGI brings to the album a hint of cutesy vocals in this otherwise R&B number. For the most part, Bad Boy, Sad Girl was a fine song. But the issue for me comes about when BE’O starts. I felt the way he started his featuring was a bit too overpowering for my liking. While his featuring does settle down and does allow SEULGI to come back into the song, I am still not keen with that shock. But we do get some good harmonies from the pair. (7/10)
4. Anywhere But Home – Anywhere But Home is a pleasant track to my ears, featuring an upbeat and funky backdrop (thanks to the bassline). There is also an atmospheric undertone to the single, which helps the single come off as dreamy. And SEULGI’s smooth vocals complement this dreamy aspect so well. The melodies were catchy and memorable. The electric guitar riffs at the very end of the song were really cool. My only question is regarding the start, which didn’t add much value to Anywhere But Home in my opinion, aside from reiterating the title. (8/10)
5. Los Angeles – I really enjoyed the suspense the verses of Los Angeles had going on. It brought a clubbing beat to the track that felt sensual and flirty in a way. I like how the song gears towards the chorus, before the beat drops into EDM territory. The whole journey was really exciting and cool. It does repeat and the rest of Los Angeles doesn’t offer anything new in the lead up or during second or third rounds at the EDM drop. But it is still a blast that I would gladly put on my playlist. (9/10)
6. Crown – Crown returns us back to the haunting vibes that we got at the start of the mini-album (and also ends the album). There is also a regal vibe and tone to Crown, which is just so fitting for the song and SEULGI herself. SEULGI again wows me with her vocals, especially during the chorus, where she serves us with upfront and backing vocals. As the song progresses, the instrumental gets heavier and heavier, and I feel like SEULGI follows through with her vocals. Altogether, it is an amazing end to the album. (9/10)
One of the final album I am looking at the end of this year belongs to CIX. OK Episode 1: OK, NOT is the group’s fifth mini-album to date, dropped in August of this year and features a total of four songs (including the title track 458). It is a mini-album that I knew I had to write a review for once I vetted the album to see if it is worth writing an album review for. Wonder why? Keep on reading to see my thoughts on this amazing and mind-blowing release.
1. Without You – For me, the blend of hard and soft tones really makes Without You stand out for me. The verses were predominately the softer moments of the song. It was delicate and fragile at times, which the members did an amazing job of showing. The choruses are obviously when the song goes in hard, with the pop rock side of the song coming to life in the main chorus while a splash of EDM comes through during the post-chorus hook (which was quite catchy). The dynamic between this makes the song super interesting. A standout from the beginning. On a side note (and this doesn’t factor in with the rating that will follow), but I felt the performance aspect for this song went in too hard and felt mismatching for the overall piece. (10/10)
3. Bend The Rules – Bend The Rules brings together groovy guitar and intriguing synths to create an unexpected mix. If you were to pull the two sides of the instrumentation apart, you would not think they would work well with one another. But somehow, they come together quite well and I really enjoyed it. Bend The Rules is definitely well delivered. The vocals brings a smooth element to the song, while the rapping gives Bend The Rules a more intense feel. An interesting combination that works well on many fronts. (9/10)
4. Drown In Luv – Closing up the mini-album is Drown In Luv, which has an amazing instrumental arrangement. It is a combination of classical instrumentation and soft pop rock. Again, a combination that doesn’t sound like it works. But you got to give Drown In Luv a try, because it does! Vocally, it is stunner and puts CIX on full display. Interestingly, it is when the members come together to repetitively deliver the title that was the ultimately highlight, with the rest of the song following through. (10/10)
j-hope is nominated for Best Male Soloist, Best Rap Performance (for Arson), Best Rap or Hip-Hop Song (for MORE) and other categories in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. BTS is also nominated for Best Stage Prescence and Best Special Performance. Support j-hope and BTS, along with your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today.
Another long overdue album review is finally here. Cast your mind back to earlier this year when BTS confirmed that they would be focusing on solo ventures in the foreseeable future. Soon after, j-hope was confirmed to be the first member to release new solo music following the announcement. Come June, j-hope released his first studio-length album, Jack In The Box, featuring the title track Arson, the pre-release single MORE, and 8 other singles. I was a bit hesitant about reviewing this album, as I am not a big fan of rap or hip-hop music, which is what j-hope has released in the past. But after deciding to just do it, Jack In The Box proved to be much more than rap or hip-hop music. Continue reading to see what else j-hope had to offer in Jack In The Box.
1. Intro – The intro to the album isn’t an instrumental piece like most other introductory tracks. Instead, for Jack In The Box, the intro was a segment of the narration of the mythical story of Pandora’s Box. The narration zones into the part of the story, where after releasing all the darkness and evil from the box, Pandora discovered hope. Soon after, the narration cuts out.
2. Pandora’s Box – While on topic, Pandora’s Box is the next track on the album. And it is a hip-hop track that goes in hard. There is a fair bit of angst behind j-hope’s delivery in the verses, which equates to a very passionate and intense track about his life as an idol. The chanting chorus was definitely the peak of the track, and leaves a deep impression on you in the final moments. (8/10)
4. Stop (세상에 나쁜 사람은 없다) – Stop follows on neatly from MORE, continuing that urban-like feel that was present in MORE. When I listen to this track, I can imagine a music video of j-hope rapping whilst walking down the street. The track explores the topic of human nature, and I liked how he included audio of an arrest going on in the background. Going back to that idea of a music video, it sounds like he could walk past the situation and observe it play out in the music video. Other than that, Stop is a lot more laidback and finishes up quicker than you expect. (8/10)
5. = (Equal Sign) – Equal Sign flaunts both vocals and rapping over a hip-hop instrumental that I found to be quite refreshing and easy on the ears. I also like the funky undertones Equal Sign had, thanks to that bass. I really enjoyed how smooth yet deep j-hope’s vocals, which contrasted really nicely to the rapping in the first half of the song. The way he sung reminded me of the chorus of Where is The Love, an equally (pun unintended) hopefully track. (10/10)
6. Music Box: Reflection – Heavy breathing, which I presume is j-hope was catching his breath, is played alongside the music box tune and some scratchy and dark synths. The music box tune and synths are two clashing opposites, but they come together to really create what felt like a deep interlude for the album.
7. What If … – I really liked how the piano/keyboard starts off striking (which is a sample from Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol’ Dirty Bastard) and is slowly incorporated into the background of the grungy hip-hop beat. It was quite a smooth incorporation. Given the grungy hip-hop, What If… brings back rapper j-hope, who goes down low and brings us a raspy tone to the mix. (8/10)
8. Safety Zone – j-hope brings soulful R&B to the album through with Safety Zone. And it makes sense, as the lyrics expresses j-hope’s desire for a ‘safe zone’ where he can clear headed and step away from his stressful life. I really liked the ‘Ooo’ in the background and the soulful vocals that come through at the end of the song. It makes Safety Zone a lot more emotive and yearning. His rapping was slow and paced in this song, which helped him expressed his confusion over where his ‘safe zone’ is. Overall, a well put together track that made me feel for j-hope. (10/10)
9. Future – Future was quite a change up in terms of sound, when you compare it to the rest of this songs on it. Future is a lot more upbeat, cheerful, playful and vibrant. And this works really well with the song’s more hopeful lyrics. I also like how j-hope sounds like he has a smile on his face whilst recording the song. There is a bit of a child’s choir in the background, which was a nice touch to the song. (8/10)
TEMPEST is nominated for Best New Male Group and Most Underrated Song (for Can’t Stop Shining) in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support TEMPEST, and your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today!
As mentioned yesterday, my album review for TEMPEST’s SHINING UP is the next album review coming your way. And here it is. SHINING UP is the second mini-album from TEMPEST, following their debut earlier on the year. The lead single from the mini-album is Can’t Stop Shining. And alongside the title track, the mini-album features Young & Wild and two additional new songs. Following this comeback, TEMPEST more recently returned with the track DRAGON and their third mini-album, On & On. I have yet to decide whether On & On will be the focus of a future album yet, but I will make that call in the neat future. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts for the SHINING UP, which end up delivering on the promising start we got through both Young & Wild and Can’t Stop Shining.
3. Only One Day (하루만) – Only One Day is a pleasant pop track. I enjoyed the way the song started with the piano and the soft atmospheric tone, before we incline to the pop chorus. I really liked the soft airy approach of vocals in the chorus and the guitar that peeks through. I like how the rappers balance out the track by providing a bit of intensity to their portions of Only One Day. Overall, a pleasing and enjoyable track. (8/10)
4. START UP – We enter funky territory with START UP, and this is fun and energetic track that I am digging. And at this very point in time (this review is being pre-written at 1 am in the morning to post over the holidays), I am definitely appreciating this injection of energy and dynamism that just really makes you feel alive. I love the groovy guitar work and the other details in the instrumental. TEMPEST also make the song feel very animated and entertaining with their energy-filled delivery. A very bold but awesome way to end off the mini-album. (9/10)
The next album to get a review on my blog is P1Harmony’s HARMONY: ZERO IN, which was released way back in July of this year. This mini-album is lead by the title track Doom Du Doom, which I finally got around to reviewing earlier this week. It also features an additional five songs. The release of HARMONY: ZERO IN follows the group’s comeback from earlier on in the year (DISHARMONY: FIND OUT and the title track Do It Like This). More recently, the group returned with their fifth mini-album and the single Back Down, which I have already reviewed and will be posting said review on a nearby date. As for now, here is my review for HARMONY: ZERO IN.
2. Black Hole – Black Hole follows the title track with heavy and intense hip-hop energy. The rappers had amazing delivery, whist their segments appeared to have bouncy undertone (which I enjoyed). As for the vocals, there was solid display throughout the verses and the bridge. What really stole the limelight for me within Black Hole are the chanty choruses (which I thought was charming and playful), and the ‘Na Na Na’ hooks. Very memorable elements that stay in your head even after the song is completed. (8.5/10)
3. Yes Man – Yes Man continues on with the fun sound from the title track through the pop genre. The instrumental was zomewhat memorable, with that flute-like synth really coming through during the chorus as a nice instrumental centrepiece. Aside from that, I quite enjoyed the simplicity of the song’s hooks. It really speaks volume. The raps were playful (I am sensing a theme). However, I felt like Yes Man could have done more. (7/10)
4. Swagger – Swagger was a pretty cool song. I expected it to just zone right into the hip-hop genre (just based on its title – I really should stop judging the book by its cover). But Swagger also features a bit of soul influence, which made Swagger to be quite high-spirited and continue this fun theme that is coming through each track in its own way. The addition of brass (the instrument of fun) was also a nice touch to highlight this. Overall, quite a clean and groovy track. (8/10)
5. Mirror Mirror – If you want to know what part of Mirror Mirror should be iconic, I point to the delivery/drag of the title in the chorus. Definitely an impressive display of vocals from the vocalists. The rest of the song follows through. Strong raps, smooth vocals elsewhere, a groovy instrumentation that all makes Mirror Mirror another cool and strong track on this mini-album. I really enjoyed the hype energy that the members contributed to in the chorus, and the epicness of the bridge of Mirror Mirror. (8.5/10)
6. Different Song For Me – Ending the album is Different Song For Me, which is very much a different song to the rest of the album. I would argue this is the album’s most ‘serious’ sounding track. All the tracks on this mini-album have been fun or playful individually, while Different Song For Me takes the form of a pop rock ballad. Different Song For Me definitely had some great instrumental moments, such as during the pre-chorus. The vocals were superb and captivating. An amazing end to the mini-album, if you ask me. (10/10)
CHUNG HA’s Killing Me is nominated for Best Music Video and Best Pop Song in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support CHUNG HA and your other favourite artists, songs and performance by clicking here to vote today.
Another long overdue album review is finally here. CHUNG HA made her comeback in July earlier this year with the lead single Snapping, which features as the title track of first part of her second studio album, Bare&Rare. Alongside Snapping, there are seven other tracks on the album, all of which will be reviewed today. It follows the release of her first studio album Querencia in 2021 and Killing Me single from late last year. More recently, we have seen CHUNG HA in collaborative singles like When I Get Old (with Christopher) and Color Me (with JUNNY). This first part of the second studio album proves to be top-notch and continues the strong impression that she left on me through her first studio album. More on the songs below.
1. XXXX – XXXX gives Bare&Rare a bold start, with the deep vibrating synth to kick off the song. This for sure leaves an impression on you. The rest of the song continues its dark tone, repeating the same deep and low vibrating synth, along with some trap beats. CHUNG HA sounds good in XXXX and she delivers her lines in a seductive and alluring manner, which I think makes sense with her intent of the song – which was to tease her haters and those who wrong, whilst also promising to return as a stronger person. (8/10)
3. Louder – Next up is a pop track that has a funky and groovy undertone to it. Louder is simple, its feel-good and its just brings forth a positive mindset. CHUNG HA makes this song a pleasant one with her vocals, while the instrumental has a bouncy dance tinge to it, which I quite enjoyed. Personally, I am not a big fan of the children voices in the background to bulk up the final chorus. I liked the intent of it, but I felt like the kids made Louder feel quite childish. CHUNG HA is a mature artist and I wished she maintained that persona in Louder’s final moments. (8.5/10)
4. Crazy Like You (ft. BIBI) – Crazy Like You is such a moody song, but I am all for it. I really liked the slow swaying melody to this track, and how all the percussion adds texture to the song. There is also a bit of a rock influence to the song, which I would have liked the song to explore more of. CHUNG HA sounds great, and she really shines with this style of music. BIBI, while was great in her portion of the song, was heavily under-utilised. She was ideal for this song and could have brought more to Crazy Like You, but we never got to see what that would have eventuate to as we barely heard from her. (8/10)
5. California Dream – We get another pop track through California Dream, and it delivers funky and groovy undertones once again. I love how subtle this track is, keeping to itself and never overwhelming. It is extremely pleasant and is quite enjoyable on the ears. I am loving the way the ‘반짝반짝한”(which roughly translates to ‘Sparkling’ in English) rolls off CHUNG HA’s tongue and starts of the chorus. This one is a charmer. (9/10)
6. Good Night My Princess – As I had expected, Good Night My Princess is a ballad. And this one has special meaning to CHUNG HA as it is an ode to her mother. With that context in mind, I feel it is kind of rude to say anything other than praises for this track. But CHUNG HA doesn’t give me much opportunity to say anything negative, as it was a breathtaking pop ballad. The instrumental was dreamy and soothing, and I am loving the guitar work. CHUNG HA herself was captivating and sound beautiful throughout Good Night My Princess. (9/10)
7. Love Me Out Loud – Love Me Out Loud returns to the pop focus of this album. But this one is much more profound, going down the dance pop route. I mean, nothing says dance pop more than the piano or keyboard we hear in the song and those hollow synths. I like the way the chorus soars, courtesy of CHUNG HA herself, which (I think) made me go wow the first time I heard the song. She also made me go wow, again, for the bridge. Two wows. I think it is safe to say with such a song in a corner, CHUNG HA is definitely someone who belongs to the pop genre. (10/10)
8. Nuh-Uh – Final song on the album is Nuh-Uh, which is probably the most experimental she gets on this album. The chorus was definitely a scene-stealer, with the flute work, the repetitive beats, trap elements and CHUNG HA’s attitude with some of her lines and a much lower tone delivery. I also found it to be quite intense, concentrating everything around it into an amazing centerpiece. Elsewhere in Nuh-Uh, we also get a deeper influence of traditional instruments and R&B. It is definitely a cool closer to the album. (8/10)
Kim Jae Hwan’s fifth mini-album is the next album to receive an album review from me. Released back in September, Empty Dream features six new songs including the title track BACK THEN. It is an awesome mini-album, in my opinion. showing off the vocal talent and abilities of the soloist. His vocals come up consistently throughout the review, with his vocal performance in one particular song leaving me speechless. Consider me amazed and a fan of this release!
1. ANSWER ME (대답해줘) – Kicking off the mini-album is a lo-fi R&B track. ANSWER ME really pushes Kim Jae Hwan’s vocals outward and I love this display of vocal work from the soloist, especially when he started off the song with a nasally undertone. It definitely starts off the mini-album in such a promising light. When we get to the chorus of ANSWER ME, Kim Jae Hwan adds a heavy dose of emotional heft to the song, which just makes the song so much more passionate and riveting. It is definitely a nice song to get lost to. (9/10)
3. OUT OF LINE (삐뚤어질까요) – Again, I floored by Kim Jae Hwan’s vocals, especially in this song. He just blows me away. Paired with the rock instrumentation, OUT OF LINE leaves me speechless. I don’t I need to say anything more than that. (10/10)
4. OASIS – OASIS brings forth the reggae, which it is a nice switch up from the more standard pop and rock that we keep on hearing. Kim Jae Hwan still brings the band sound to the song, which creates a really cool blend. I also feel like there is a bit of jazz that comes out during the bridge. Again, outstanding vocals from Kim Jae Hwan and I really liked the melodies in this song, which adds a playful tinge to the song. OASIS would probably make for a great performance piece (with choreography as well!). (9/10)
5. LOVE STRIKE – LOVE STRIKE is an upbeat track. It is definitely a bit of a relief from what we have heard so far, which all have been captivating pieces. LOVE STRIKE isn’t as captivating, but it is set up to be that way. It is more pleasant and fun. I quite like the touch of playfulness that Kim Jae Hwan delivers, especially through the chorus, melodies and hooks. It brings a smile to my face. While the track doesn’t feature wowing vocals from Kim Jae Hwan to the extent that of the other tracks on the album, it is still a strong effort from the soloist. (8.5/10)
6. GOODBYE MORNING – The final song on the album is GOODBYE MORNING and it takes the form of an acoustic ballad. I was expecting this to really build up, but we don’t get there. Instead, the song features is predominately guitar and vocals (with the slight addition of other instrumentation, but in minute amounts). The guitar is very profound, while Kim Jae Hwan’s vocals was quite soft throughout. I really liked how his vocals are on display through this song, bringing a different dynamic to the album. (8/10)
KANG DANIEL is nominated for Best Male Soloist, whilst Upside Down has been nominated for Best Solo Choreography (Male) for the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support KANG DANIEL, and your other favourite artists, songs and performance by clicking here to vote today.
After many months, I am finally writing my overdue review of The Story, KANG DANIEL’s first studio album. The album was released back in May of this year and features 10 tracks, lead by Upside Down. The album was then recently re-released as The Story: Retold in November, featuring the addition of 5 new tracks which includes the title track Nirvana. I will keep the introduction short today, in fear that if it goes for any longer, I might end up posting it five months down the track. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on KANG DANIEL’s first studio length album. (Note: in terms of track listing, I have used the repackaged album version of the tracklist.)
2. Selfish – Selfish was a nice pop track to ease into. The initial few seconds of the track had me thinking this was going to be a playful and whimsical sound. But as Selfish progresses, the heaviness of the bass and the trap elements say otherwise. But there is a bit of a sway to the song and its melodies that does potentially go in that direction. I also like how inviting KANG DANIEL’s vocals were in this song. (8/10)
4. Loser (ft. Dbo) – Loser is a R&B pop track, which starts off with the melodic chorus. And this chorus definitely was quite promising. The rest of the track follows through consistently, which I am not troubled by. But it does make the track slightly dull, relatively to the rest of the album. Dbo brings a bouncy rap segment to the song, which does help shake up the song ever so slightly. I did like how Dbo kept his presence in Loser ongoing by echoing and providing some ad-libs. Best part of Loser comes at the end when both Dbo and KANG DANIEL approaches the song with deep vocals, which gave depth to the song. (7.5/10)
7. Ride 4 U – Out of all the songs on the albums, Ride 4 U was the one that attracted most attention from me. It is to the point where I am quite surprised and disappointed that it didn’t get the music video treatment like some of the other side-tracks. Ride 4 U opens with some ‘Oooo’ courtesy of the backing vocals, which I thought was quite iconic. The melodies, especially around the title of the song, were quite memorable and is the one thing that I really took away from the album. I quite enjoyed the simplicity of this track with the way KANG DANIEL approaches the song. As for the instrumentation, I really liked the pairing of twinkling detailing and atmospheric synths, which in my view, hits different. (10/10)
9. Mad (ft. Chancellor) – Mad is the first song on the album that really goes hard, in my opinion. I felt the synths were a lot rawer and came together to create something that just got straight to the point. It was also quite intense in its own right. I quite liked how the instrumental was stripped down the track to make the acoustic guitar’s presence more known. This kept Mad interesting, even though you can hear guitar in the background amongst the synths. Chancellor’s featuring and KANG DANIEL do an amazing job to give this song life. Mad’s main hook, ‘Why are you so mad’ is definitely a memorable point of the song that really stays with you, even as we move to the next song. (10/10)
10. 1000x – 1000x serves as the first ballad of the album, but it doesn’t fall into your typical boundaries of a ballad. Instead of the classical tropes of the ballads, 1000x opts for paced synths in its instrumental. It keeps the song interesting, though I feel like the synths were a bit too loud as it almost drowns out KANG DANIEL’s vocals in my opinion. Talking about vocals, KANG DANIEL’s were amazing throughout and you can feel the emotions behind his voice. The chorus, in particular, had heft to it and the melodies were quite remarkable. (8/10)
11. Ghost – Ghost is another heavy bass track. However, there is a bit more to Ghost than just bass, thanks to the atmospheric synths that make up the instrumentation of Ghost. KANG DANIEL’s vocals are shown off quite nicely in Ghost and the melodies just make the song so beautiful. We also get a taste of rapper KANG DANIEL, though I do wish the rapping portion of the song was more substantial, just to give the song an extra layer of appeal. But Ghost as it is, is a stunner. (8.5/10)
12. Moment – Moment is another ballad, and this one is more on the typical side of the balladry genre. Guitar, piano and backing vocals make up most of the instrumental of Moment, and this was another stunning arrangement on this album. Ballads tend to highlight the vocals, and Moment did an exceptional job of this. Again, you can feel the emotions behind his vocals and I really enjoyed the way his voice carries you throughout the song. I am a sucker of ballads, and I feel it is ballads like this that prove my point to why ballads are such an underrated aspect of KPOP. (10/10)
13. The Story – It is interesting to see that The Story got bumped to the fourteenth position on the repackaged album, despite being introduced as the opening track of the original album. Anyhow, The Story is a very cool track. The use of synths in this song really encapsulates that descriptor, which gives The Story a very appealing side. I really enjoyed how the synths were used texturally. The pop-centric chorus was definitely a highlight, especially how it shifted the song’s trajectory. KANG DANIEL’s vocals were shown off once again. Though, my favourite part of The Story has to be the pre-choruses, which added a tinge of playfulness to the song. I think The Story could have used a harder hitting rap sequence, just to give it a more powerful element to it. (8.5/10)
14. Ride 4 U (Remix) – Refer to my comments on Ride 4 U above. This track did not count towards the overall album rating below.
15. Nirvana (Solo Version) – Refer to full review for Nirvana. This track did not count towards the overall album rating below.
ONF’s Goosebumps is nominated for Best Music Video and Best Album in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support Goosebumps and your other favourite artists, songs and performance by clicking here to vote today.
ONF surprised fans with the announcement and subsequent release of Storage of ONF, a special album release for their fans. What made this release a surprise in particular is that 5 out of the 6 members of ONF are currently carrying out their military enlistment. And traditionally, this means that the members are on hiatus and do not release music during this time. But ONF has definitely gone the extra mile. In addition to new music and a new album, the group also prepared and filmed a music vided for the title track. This means that in an already busy last year when the members were heavily promoting Beautiful Beautiful, Ugly Dance, Popping and Goosebumps, ONF was also thinking ahead about their fans (Fuses) and making sure Fuses had their fill of songs for this usually empty period. It definitely puts a new spin on loyalty and shows their unrelentless commitment to their fans! Storage of ONF features the title track Your Song, four additional new tracks, and five remastered versions of previous title and side tracks.
2. Runaway – Runaway brings me back to their early days, in particular to their Complete and We Must Love days. The vibrant tone and upbeat energy made Runaway super fun, while I liked the retro tinge that the song has in the chorus. The hooks were catchy and adds a neat punch to the song. The vocal work was solid and on point, while Wyatt’s deep rapping was well-delivered and kept up with the energy of Runaway. The addition of strings to Runaway during the bridge was quite a surprise, but it was very interesting and adds a very different dimension to the song. I think taking me back to their earlier days was enough to give it a 10/10, but everything else within Runaway proves that it is a 10/10. (10/10)
3. Traveler – Traveler tones down the energy and takes the form of a ballad. It is very nicely instrumented and quite piano dominant. As the ballad progresses, you get a very slight jazzy feel to the instrumental, which I thought was a really neat touch. I also liked the use of harmonies and backing vocals to form part of the instrumental for Traveler. The actual vocals were very dreamy and riveting. Everything in this track was a stunner. (9/10)
4. GUCCI – Whiplash is the first word that pops in my mind whilst listening to GUCCI. Following such a slow and peaceful track, GUCCI slaps you (quite forcibly, might I add, but not in a bad way) with its intensity and abrasiveness. It is quite an edgy track for ONF, but still feels like it within ONF’s repertoire. I feel like GUCCI would have been an absolutely cool track to see on stage, with high hopes for a really strong, cool and powerful dance routine to accompany the song. The hooks could have been a bit more fleshed out, but what we got was pretty memorable in itself. I also appreciate the fact that GUCCI managed to weave in quite melodic lines during its chorus. (8/10)
5. My Song – You might recognise the choruses’ melody of My Song, which comes from Your Song (this album’s title track). But aside from that similarity, the two songs have pretty much different. My Song instead is more orchestral centric with its instrumentation. And the different orchestral influences make My Song extremely alluring and captivating to listen to. I also liked how the vocals play into this, matching the orchestral sound for that part of the song. (9/10)
6. On/Off (Remastered Version) – On/Off was released back in 2017 as part of the mini-album of the same name and as the debut single for ONF. While I have not reviewed On/Off (both the mini-album and title track) before, I have decided to omit the track from the overall album score. However, you can still check out the remastered version of On/Off below.
7. If We Dream (Remastered Version) – If We Dream was released back in 2017 as part of the group’s debut mini-album On/Off. While I have not reviewed On/Off (the mini-album) or If We Dream before, I have decided to omit the track from the overall album score. However, you can still check out the remastered version of If We Dream below.
8. 86400 (Remastered Version) – 86400 was released back in 2018 as part of the group’s second mini-album, You Complete Me. I have reviewed You Complete Me before. And by extension, I have reviewed 86400 before, You can read my thoughts on 86400 through that album review. I have decided to omit this version of 86400 from the overall album score. However, you can still check out the remastered version of 86400.
9. We Must Love (Remastered Version) – We Must Love was released back in 2019 as part of the group’s third mini-album of the same name. I have previously reviewed We Must Love, which you can click here to read on my review for the single. However, I have decided to omit this version of We Must Love from the overall album score. But you can still check out the remastered version of We Must Love.
10. Complete (Remastered Version) – Complete was released back in 2018 as part of the group’s second mini-album, You Complete Me. I have previously reviewed Complete, which you can click here to read on my review for the single. However, I have decided to omit this version from the overall album score. But you can still check out the remastered version of Complete below.
Going over my list of album and song reviews that I want to cover, I note that there are a few releases from the first half of the year that I have yet to cover. One in particular is Kim Sung Kyu’s solo comeback from April, SAVIOR, which I am quite surprised I missed. I was a very big fan of Kim Sung Kyu’s solo work in the past and I would always be game to review his solo work in depth. So forgive me that this is almost seven months late, but here is my review of the fourth mini-album from the leader of INFINITE himself.
While it was a while since we last heard from him at the time of SAVIOR‘s release, I must admit the mini-album did a good job of bridging what Kim Sung Kyu is known for from his past solo discography and the more modern elements of today’s industry. I did wish more people are interested in his work, as he has a lot to offer. I personally cannot wait for another release from Kim Sung Kyu, but at least we have five songs to tie us over for the meanwhile.
1. Intro – Kicking off the mini-album is a nice yet short band piece. It is quite nice to hear drums and guitar in a pure form, as it felt like it has been a while since I have heard something straight up like this. No vocals feature in this Intro, but it still definitely did a good job of driving excitement levels up for what is to come. And if you have been a avid fan of Kim Sung Kyu, you know that an intro like this one is something that is right up his alley.
3. My Love Will Be Yours – Following the title track is a ballad. My Love Will Be Yours is nice but it is on the fairly typical side of ballads. It does capture his vocals very well, and the instrumental was classically and orchestrally driven. But I found it to be lacking that captivation factor or a swayable/flowy melody that usually draws my attention to a ballad. It is still a good ballad nonetheless, just not one that I would find myself going back to often. (7.5/10)
4. I Dare You – I Dare You is SAVIOR‘s most interesting track. But it is this interesting factor that makes it good. I Dare You starts off with an atmospheric intro and first verse, which I would collectively liken to a suspenseful piece from a sci-fi movie. Here, Kim Sung Kyu concentrates his deeper tone, before soaring in the chorus alongside to some atmospheric rock. For the second verse, Kim Sung Kyu maintains the momentum from the first chorus, and captures my attention with a brief high note. The bridge is forgone for a dynamic and texturally heavy synth instrumental piece that feels like a performance could accompany this section if I Dare You were to be performed live. To me, I Dare You reminds me of his early solo days where he got to try something different from your typical ballad or dance tracks with his rock-styled tracks. Overall, a standout track that I would be revisiting often. (10/10)
5. Fog (안개) – Fog closes out this mini-album with a song that features a heavier presence of rock. I really like how intense the rock feels, despite it falling more on the softer side of the rock profile. I also enjoyed the upbeatness it gave the chorus, which was a nice change to usual softer rock sounds. For this most part, Kim Sung Kyu sounds quite good. This style is what he is known for, and it is nice nostalgic trip down the memory lane of Kim Sung Kyu’s solo work for me. However, at certain points of Fog, I did find the vocals to be quite soft and muffled. But I wonder if this was intentional to mimic how fog encapsulates one’s surrounding. It will be interesting if that is the case. (8.5/10)
THE BOYZ’s MAVERICK is nominated for Best Group Performance (Male) of 2022 in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. SupportMAVERICKand your other favourite artists, songs and performances in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards by clicking the link here to vote.
It has definitely been a while since the last album review being posted towards the end of October. A month on, I am finally back with the next album review. This one is for THE BOYZ’s BE AWARE – an album review I had started to draft before I had go on my urgent break and the prioritisation of other segments upon my return. Don’t worry, I dumped that draft and have rewritten everything to be a more accurate representation of my thoughts at this current point in time, as thoughts and feelings do change over a period of time. This album was released way back in mid-August and features the title track WHISTLE, alongside Timeless (a pre-release track) and four other side tracks.
Overall, a decent mini-album. Not their strongest, but there were some good moments on there. Do you agree with my overall summary of BE AWARE, or my thoughts on the individual songs? Let me know in the comments below.
2. Bump & Love – Bump & Love is a slower pop track. It has some catchy and memorable moments. The main ones that I really enjoyed were the ‘Woo~’ in the pre-choruses and the ‘La la la’ in the post-choruses. And I quite liked how the bridge double downed and really cut through the overly consistent feel that Bump & Love was tethering with. Since I already mentioned it, the likeness of the verses and choruses for Bump & Love was its biggest flaw. The lack of difference between the two sections and the returning tempo just made the song too consistent for the most part. I did wish the song picked it up a bit, especially for the choruses. This would have really given Bump & Love a bit more energy and colour, which could have potentially made the song even better. (7.5/10)
3. C.O.D.E – Probably the most standard sounding on the album is C.O.D.E. It has a pretty typical set-up of EDM instrumental, and simple and easy-going pop melodies. There isn’t anything wrong with this set-up as C.O.D.E was still enjoyable and palatable. I do think if C.O.D.E tapped more into tropical sound and had stronger set of vocals, this would have been a knock out song. My favourite bit of C.O.D.E is Sunwoo’s rap-spoken “G.E.N.I.U.S” bridge. It was a very memorable aspect of the song that I continue replay the song for. (8/10)
4. Levitating (무중력) – Levitating opts for a darker and more mature R&B profile, which I personally enjoyed. It was a textural song, but it managed to resist the abrasive textures we have heard in KPOP in the past. Instead, the song features a pounding and hefty beat to its instrumental and is accented with some metallic clanging. The latter was pretty typical, and I wished there was something more creative in place. The vocal work was quite sultry and complements the mature vibes of the song really well. The rapping had an equally passionate vibe that was flirty at times. (8/10)
5. Survive The Night – Survive The Night starts off the end of the album, which features a much softer tone to how the album started. This song features satisfying mix of electric guitar, a trap beat and some bass. Survive The Night also features a neat display of vocals from all members of the group. Emotions were also prevalent. Not as strong as other displays of emotions in songs that I have observed before. But enough to say that it helped make Survive The Night captivating, quite soothing, and the best side track from the album. (9/10)
Next album review on this blog will be for aespa, who returned with Girls – the title of both their latest lead single and second mini-album. Both dropped in July of this year. Girls features a total of nine tracks, making it feel just like a studio album. But the idea of the mini-album might be the fact that the physical version only features 6 tracks (including the pre-release Illusion, the English and Korean versions of Life’s Too Short and the title track Girls). The digital version bumps the tracklist to the 9 to include the singles Black Mamba,Forever and their Dreams Come True remake. All the links to the releases/reviews can be found down below.
As alluded above, since I have access to the digital version of the album, I will be counting all the tracks as part of the album rating (but only count the two versions of Life’s Too Short as one song). With the housekeeping out of the way, here is my overall remark of the mini-album. And I think some people might not like it. I consider Girls to be a fairly safe release. Out of the new songs, we have a balance of strong and weak songs that cancel each other out. Hence, I don’t feel one way or another about the release. When I factor in the past releases (unsure to why they are included on this mini-album), they do help boost up the rating of this mini-album. I wonder if SM Entertainment was trying to strengthen the album with the presence of their remake and debut singles.
2. Illusion (도깨비불) (Pre-Release Track) – I liked the fact that Illusion is more paced and felt more refined, yet still maintaining an EDM-based and a somewhat intense atmosphere. However, I did think aespa and their producers were playing it safe with this song. I felt they could have snuck in a few punches into Illusion just to give it some oomph and power. I feel like the song potentially could have been taken to the next level (pun unintended) had this been the case, whilst also still maintaining the pace/refinement it had opted for. The line “Yummy Yummy Yummy in my Tummy” was a bit off-putting, simply because it felt too childish. (7.5/10)
3. Lingo – Lingo is even more paced than the previous song, and I was not a fan of it. It resulted in Lingo coming off as sluggish and dry. However, the producers kept it interesting by including a harmonica riff into the instrumental. As far as I can remember from the top of my head, I don’t think I have ever heard of a harmonic riff in KPOP before. It is an interesting colour, and one I would love to dive further into. Just with a more upbeat tempo next time around. Their vocals and raps were quite nice in this song. (6.5/10)
4. Life’s Too Short – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. I will not be reviewing the Korean version of the song, as a result, and will not factor the Korean version into the final overall album rating I give at the end of album reviews. See the English version of Life’s Too Short on this album for a link to the review of the song.
5. ICU (쉬어가도 돼) – ICU is a soft pop ballad that I thought was stunner. It follows on nicely from Life’s Too Short and features a sweet vocals and melodies that just feels warm and inviting. The instrumental was quite balance and brings a smile to my face, with the soft acoustic guitar being my favourite part. I also love the bolstering of the “and ICU” parts of the song. It is a nice amplification that fits in with the rest of the song, and also helps leave a strong impression on you. My favourite (new) side track on this mini-album. (9/10)
6. Life’s Too Short (English Version) – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. Click here to see that review. (8/10)
9. Dreams Come True – At the end of 2021, aespa made a special comeback as part of SM Station, where they remade Dreams Come True, a single previously released back in 1998 by S.E.S. They kicked off the song with a more prominent hip-hop vibe, which is a neat way that makes the original pop song relevant to the younger group. As the song progress, aespa continues to make Dreams Come True their own by infusing a light touch of EDM into the song. What I like is that the producers did not change the iconic melody of the instrumental and chorus, so it maintained resemblance to the original song. They also maintained the gibberish bridge from the original version of the song. If you have not yet, I highly recommend you check out the music video for this release. It was produced by BoA and was so beautifully done. (9/10)