[Review] KARMA – KINGDOM

Before I zip ahead to review KINGDOM’s comeback tomorrow, I thought I take a time to finally review KARMA, the male rookie’s first comeback that occurred back in July of this year. For those who missed it, KINGDOM is a new seven-member male group under GF Entertainment who debuted at the start of the year with Excalibur. After KARMA, the group made their second comeback in their careers with Black Crown today, which I will review tomorrow.

I feel that KARMA is a bit of an improvement for KINGDOM. But I do think the song is still in lukewarm waters and hasn’t grown on my much since its release mid-year. I found the base of KARMA to be pretty much similar to Excalibur (i.e. the EDM in the chorus felt the same and the powerfulness of the song in on par with their debut song). It isn’t necessarily a bad thing for this song, but I guess was hoping for something a lot more different to what we have already from them. But that is only the background of the background. I was actually quite satisfied with everything else. I quite like what the producers did in the foreground of the song. I am referring to the traditional oriental influence that KARMA has, and I quite liked its ongoing presence in the song. Again, it isn’t original, but it definitely adds a memorable factor to the song. My only critique here was to tone down the powerful dominance of the plain EDM in the chorus, just so the traditional elements could also be heard more cleanly. The mention of improvement at the start of this section of the review also extends to the vocal elements. I thought the vocals were a lot more dynamic this time around, even though someone sounded slightly screechy. The rapping in this song had a very cool factor to it, which I quite liked. Overall, a definite improvement. I haven’t listened to Black Crown just yet, but I hope it is another step in the right direction for the group/

In my Excalibur review, I did mention I was worried they were going to redo the same music video for each king that the members are supposedly based on. While it seems like they essentially did just that for this music video (with focus on the Chinese Emperor, Chiyou), it actually came off as a stunning visual piece and I am not bored of it. Maybe by the last king, I would be bored. But for now, I will backtrack on that comment. Overall, this was a really captivating video. I loved the traditional elements that featured in the video, from the sets to the outfits. The members definitely look amazing and aesthetic in their traditional gear. I am definitely looking forward to next king (possibly the Snow King, based on clues from the ending?). On a side note, I am not keen on their choreography outfits. They looks bulky and tiresome to deal with.

Adding to the traditional feels, I really liked the use of the fans in the performance. They added both a wow factor and a pretty element to the routine. I also liked the moments in which the members were being carried, namely the bridge of the song and the ending. Not only did they add height to the performance in the literal sense, I felt it was a fitting way to end the performance, given their regal concepts.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Love Cut – CNBLUE

CNBLUE returns after a year with their new single Love Cut and mini-album, WANTED. The last time we heard from the band as a whole was their grand return to the music industry after military enlistment late last year with Then, Now and Forever. Since then, CNBLUE had been fairly quiet, with a Japanese release mid-year, titled Zoom.

This seems to be a week of pleasant songs. Love Cut is another addition to this list. For me, Love Cut tethers between the the sides of pleasant. For those who don’t know, I have used the word ‘pleasant’ in both a positive (the song indeed has been blissful and sounds very nice overall) and a negative manner (the song is limited at just that and doesn’t go beyond being pleasant). The instrumental features the iconic wild west whistle and acoustic guitar, and ultimately develops into a mid-tempo rock track. If I am being honest, this sound profile that the band has gone for isn’t original, but it does come off somewhat refreshing as it has been a while since we have heard a song that features such sounds. But I find it very catchy and I personally don’t mind it. I liked the kick that the rock gives Love Cut in the choruses, which makes the song more appealing to me. However, like many songs that I describe as ‘just pleasant’, I think there is room for the band to go a little harder. I wished there was more to the rock, especially during the end to give the song the bold ending that would have set it part from the rest of the competition. I also desire CNBLUE to return to their more powerful rock days, as that is what I prefer, and an amplified rock sound in this song would have been enough to satisify that craving. Similarly, I wished there was more character and profile to the vocals. I will touch on this more in the music video section, but I just feel like the Yonghwa’s vocals were just a bit dull. Overall, Love Cut is a pleasant song that could go either way.

The music video was one of those ones that started off good, but didn’t end good. With the wild west influence in the song, it made sense for the video to take on a wild west concept. Set in a saloon bar, it seems like the members are after the female bandit. She does a good job of distracting them, and ambushes them after a card game. All three members are tied up, but the members escape with scissors. I guess this a a visual way of saying that the members are severing the ties between them and the female bandit (i.e. their relationship). But I just thought the way they shot everything and made it all a tad too dramatic looked a bit too funny for my liking. I wished the guns were still there in some capacity, as I don’t think I would trust cowboys with scissors in a fight. My other issue with the song was the poor lip-syncing on Yonghwa’s part. When I mentioned that he sounded dull in the song, the video made it worse.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.7/10

[Review] be – Eunhyuk (Super Junior)

In preparation of the upcoming return of Super Junior’s most active subunit, Super Junior D&E, with their first studio-length album (which also marks their 10 year anniversary as a unit), Donghae and Eunhyuk have released their first major solo songs since their debut over 15 years ago. Today, I will be reviewing their solo releases ahead of their official comeback in November. Now, it is Eunhyuk’s be.

If I had to compare the solo tracks from both Donghae and Eunhyuk, Eunhyuk’s be is definitely my pick. I find this song to just be more captivating to listen to. Eunhyuk may not be the Super Junior that is most known for his vocals, but he does an amazing job in be. We get some good vocals from Eunhyuk throughout the song, with him slipping into falsetto territory when we get to the chorus, which helped made the song stunning and aesthetic. When I heard be for the first time, I thought the song was going to be rather monotone. But I judged too quickly and the parts that we did get that were neutral contributed to the overall aesthetic of the song. For the instrumentation, the song falls within the pop domain. It was quite atmospheric to listen to, and also contributed to the overall aesthetics of the song. be‘s strongest part (and highlight) has to be the instrumental break. In the midst of the song, you get this rather choppy and random assortment of synths that forms the instrumental break, which pulls back your attention to the song. I really enjoyed how fitting it was with the overall aesthetic of be, and how cohesive it felt. It also added a level of dynamism and edge to the song, which made be even more captivating. It isn’t original technique, but it was definitely a well-used one.

I really liked the message behind the song, which was to his younger self (but it can be applied more broadly to everyone else). It was a simple message to not give up and to push forward, and that his adult self (present day Eunhyuk) would also be a part of his younger self. It is a bit of an abstract idea. But it simply says that your successful self is within you, you just need to push forward to discover that form of yourself. In the video, we see Eunhyuk dance (and is interchanged) with a young boy often, giving a visual representation to his message. At the end, we see Eunhyuk present self ascend to the sky, who looks back and smiles in such a proud and caring way. For the choreography scenes, I quite like the shots with the white stairs, as it felt complimentary to the message. But the one in the carpark and Eunhyuk dressed in green just didn’t fit the aesthetic in my opinion.

The choreography for be looked very cool and interpretative to a degree. I particularly like the swirl that is made with his and the dancers arms at the start of the choruses, and the dance break.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Review] California Love – Donghae (Super Junior) ft. Jeno (NCT)

In preparation of the upcoming return of Super Junior’s most active subunit, Super Junior D&E, with their first studio-length album (which also marks their 10 year anniversary as a unit), Donghae and Eunhyuk have released their first major solo songs since their debut over 15 years ago. Today, I will be reviewing their solo releases ahead of their official comeback in November. First up is Donghae’s California Love, which features Jeno from NCT.

California Love is another one of those songs that is riddled with a case of excessive autotune. For this R&B pop track, it didn’t feel needed. Donghae has proven himself to be a capable singer without the autotune in other tracks, so I am not sure why all his vocals had to be autotuned throughout the entirety of the track. Sure it could have been used to be an intriguing element, but at least use it sparingly. It just sticks out for the wrong reasons. It is interesting to note that Jeno, who features in the second verse, isn’t as autotuned as Donghae. His rapping does have a bit of filtering to it, but it isn’t as excessive. And I find Jeno’s part to be more appealing as a result, thanks to both the lower degree of the autotune and also the mature vibes he gives off in the song (which compliments the R&B side of the song). For the rest of the song. California Love doesn’t ping as a memorable track. I did like the smoothness of the song overall, and enjoyed the melodies we got from Donghae’s lines (despite the autotune), especially when we got the choruses. It was all enough to make the song pleasant and appreciable, but California Love is not a mind-blowing song.

I think the video does well in the visual department. It definitely shows off the handsome features of Donghae via his closeups (his pink hair just sticks out and is quite a memorable feature of this video), and the city landscape behind him while he drives and dances looks stunning. But I don’t see it being any more than a visually appealing piece. It is definitely nice to see Jeno feature in the music video. As mentioned many times in the past, featuring artists don’t really make it into the video due to unavailability etc. But when they do, I quite liked it. And I feel Jeno does a good job here.

The live performance definitely makes the song much better. On stage, his vocals are not as filtered, and this made the song smoother and pleasanter. He does a good job handling the rapping sections, as well. I guess with the song’s style, we are restricted with the routine’s opportunity to be creative. But it was definitely fitting for the music and pleasant to watch, nonetheless.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 6.5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating –
6.4/10

[Review] Calm & Passion – Nam Woohyun (Infinite)

Also making his comeback today is Nam Woohyun! Calm & Passion (the title track) and With (the fourth mini-album) is Woohyun’s first comeback since completing his military enlistment and the first time we have heard from him since Hold on Me in 2019.

It has been a while and I am definitely excited for a Woohyun comeback. But unfortunately, I am left disappointed with this release. Calm & Passion just doesn’t live up the standard that he had set himself through his previous comeback, Hold On Me, and the new song felt flat. Calm & Passion is a sleek R&B track that taps into the funky trend that KPOP has been riding lately. While it does sound great in writing, Calm & Passion isn’t as fleshed out as you expect. Take the chorus, for example. The song definitely picks up in the pre-choruses, and so I expected the song would approach a meatier drop. But instead, we are treated to an anti-drop that makes Calm & Passion remain in neutral gear. It does pick up slightly in the second half of the chorus, but I am still recovering from the disappointment from the first half. The second verse continues the momentum from the second half of the first chorus, so I expected that momentum to continue build and snowball from there. But the chorus just repeats its lackluster form which is a bigger disappointment. The song had a perfect sound platform to build momentum with, as rock elements clearly make themselves known in the instrumentation as the song progresses. But Calm & Passion doesn’t pick up on that hint, unfortunately. When it comes to the final chorus, this was the energy that I was after and it felt satisfying then, but I wished they had it happening earlier in the song. Aside from the instrumentation, it was great to hear Woohyun’s vocals after so long. This was not a disappointment like the music, as he sounds good in this sleek manner and I liked how his vocals pierced through when the instrumental was more relatively robust and dynamic. Overall, Calm & Passion had potential but failed to captialise on the mentioned potential.

The music video faired a bit better. Visually, it was okay. It isn’t the best, but at least the video was clear and you can see Woohyun well. For the plot, Woohyun is kind of stuck in this limbo when it comes to his relationships. Everything is slow paced and just doesn’t work out, contrary to the relationship that he seeks (which is calm and passionate, if you haven’t picked that up from the lyrics). It was kind of interesting piece and I liked how they purposefully made the video feel stagnant to reflect this story.

While I was disappointed with the song, it definitely enabled Woohyun to take on a sensual and mature vibe with his choreography, which he nailed. I really liked watching the shoulder movements, and I think the choreography made better use of the rock elements than how the song did.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] strawberry moon – IU

IU makes a surprise comeback with the release of strawberry moon earlier today, which adds to her list of releases for 2021. This follows her solo February 2021 comeback release with LILAC (title of both the lead track and her fifth studio album) and Celebrity (a pre-release single from the same album). It appears that IU is making up for her year long absence from the music industry in 2020 with these releases throughout 2021.

strawberry moon is a pleasantly beautiful song. Like most tracks released by this digital queen, I was captivated from the get-go, largely in part to IU’s heavenly vocals and the calming nature of the song. In strawberry moon, her vocals took on a purer and youthful tone. It is lovable and light, with the latter characteristic helping her vocals soar as the song progresses. The youthful tone that she adopts also reminded me of her earlier works, which was a nice walk down nostalgia lane. I will admit that the the melodies aren’t the most memorable piece of work from the soloist and hence it lacks the appeal to get me going back to the song compared to a catchier track, but IU’s vocals did a fantastic job of bringing them to life and making them charming to listen to. strawberry moon‘s instrumentation falls into the pop genre and features a presence of electronic instrumentation. Everything is quite light, as well. For me, it is the instrumentation that makes strawberry moon pleasant and contemporary, compared to other releases out there. And altogether, the vocals (especially the harmonies we get throughout the song) and the light instrumentation come together to create a calming atmosphere that makes this song an ideal casual listen, such as when you are unwinding after a long day or just as something pleasant in the background while working or going about your day.

Like the song, the music video is also pleasantly beautiful, The music video tells the tale of IU and her lover. While it wasn’t clear to why, it has been a while since they both have seen each other. IU spends some of the video reminiscing about the past with her partner (i.e they playing video games with one another, taking pictures and him giving her the necklace). I also think other parts of the video is based on IU’s imagination of what they could be doing. Piecing together the start and the end, she had set up a time to reunite with him (i.e. when the Strawberry Moon occurs), with the necklace that he gifted her as being a key to them reuniting. Based on their behaviour, she has been keen to return to his side, and he was genuinely surprised that she waited for him. And I guess from there on, they lived happily ever after. Aside from the sweet story, I quite liked the visuals of the video and IU looked stunning throughout.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] Work Work – Lee Jin Hyuk

Kick starting this week is Lee Jin Hyuk, who has returned with a new single, Work Work. This new single is the title track off his fourth mini-album, Crtl + V, which also dropped today. This is Lee Jin Hyuk’s first solo release since his April comeback with 5K and SCENE26. Lee Jin Hyuk also made a return to acting since his April comeback, which ahs kept his 2021 busy.

Work Work is another one of those songs that just come off as just pleasant. I do find it fun, bright and light-hearted, but I don’t find it exciting as what 5K ended up snowballing into becoming, which seems to be his best release thus far. I like the melodic style of this new song, which was the main driver of why Work Work received that pleasant descriptor. While the song does still fall into the hip-hop genre, I do feel like a pop vibe really creeps up in the song’s instrumentation and also adds fuel to that pleasantness. I will admit that all of this styling does make Lee Jin Hyuk’s rapping style in Work Work more approachable, light and enjoyable than usual, but I do prefer a bit more edge when it comes to rapping in general. We do get a bit of oomph as the song ramps up to the final chorus, with Lee Jin Hyuk giving us that mentioned edge with a faster and stronger delivery. I think this was what the song should have gone with from the get-go to really grab my attention and (hopefully) shake off that ‘pleasant’ styling. I do like the extension at the very of the end of with a dance break instrumental sequence. Lee Jin Hyuk had something similar in Bedlam, which I noted to be the best part of that song when it was released. I liked seeing that being replicated here and in a fitting nature of Work Work. Overall, Work Work is a pleasant track, especially when you consider what else is out there at the moment.

Work Work is all about the imbalance caused by work and love, and how it is hard to find that balance between the two. In this video, I think the love aspect is portrayed by the fun he is having. The cute gummy bear in the video doubles up as a lover, but also adds to that playful vibe that the song and video had going on. We also do see a bit of the work-side, with Lee Jin Hyuk busy in the recording studio and on set as assistants and staff continually follow him. It was a nice colourful video that works well with the song.

A decent routine for this comeback. It fits the bill and works tandemly with the song, with some good moments throughout. Though, still notably standard. I did wish the dance break at the end offered something more than a repeat of what we saw throughout the rest of Work Work.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.5/10

[Review] GLASSY – Jo Yuri

Another IZ*ONE alum made her solo debut more recently. Upon the disbandment of IZ*ONE, Jo Yuri signed on with Wake One Entertainment (formerly known as MMO Entertainment and is home to To1 and Roy Kim) to become a soloist. She ended up making her solo debut with the single GLASSY (title of both the lead track and her first single album) two weeks back.

GLASSY was pretty a forgettable release for me. Even after two or so weeks since its release, I can’t really say I am excited to review this release. To me, the song had this dullness to it that really prevented it from being more than just ‘pleasant’. There is a tinge of retro air to GLASSY, but it is isn’t that strong or memorable like most other retro tracks. There is also a disco influence when we hit the chorus, and it did help add a bit of energy and colour to the song. But it wasn’t enough to really save GLASSY for me. The melodies that we got weren’t that memorable. On the hook front, the ‘La La La‘ was decent but not strong. And the song just kind of felt like a repeat of what we had just heard in the first verse and chorus, so there isn’t much else to mention. I think the most positive aspect of of the song was Jo Yuri’s vocals herself. I really like the nasally tone she brings to the song and I hope she can better utilize this to her advantage in subsequent releases. But overall, GLASSY was a miss for me.

The music video GLASSY has a similar effect as the song. I don’t remember much from it, despite just watching it just now to write this review. The idea of the giant glass heel falling from the sky was definitely intriguing, but it was pretty much forgotten once it had landed. There were references to glass shoes throughout the video, but they were simply placed there for aesthetics and nothing else. I could be missing a key detail that would make everything make sense. But given the lyrics are about falling in love and moving forward, I don’t think I did.

I liked how pretty the performance started off, with the flowers. It was a nice entrance and beginning to the routine. The rest of the performance was quite pleasant to watch, with the first half of the bridge being my favourite part of the entire routine to watch.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 5.4/10

[Review] Door – Kwon Eun Bi

Time to knock off one of many reviews I should have written ages ago. As you can tell from the title, the focus of this review will be Kwon Eun Bi’s solo debut with Door (the title track) and Open (the mini-album). For those who do not know who this particular artist is, she is a former member and leader of the now disbanded project group, IZ*ONE (she was also part of the short-lived group Ye-A prior to Produce 48). Upon disbandment, Kwon Eun Bi returned to her home company, Woolim Entertainment, and made her solo debut as a solo artist at the end of August.

Door‘s most notable element has to be its instrumental. It is what stood out to me the most since its release. It takes on a jazzy electro swing sound that exhibits a cute bounce and a colourful tone thanks to its brassy elements. This isn’t necessarily a new sound/style in KPOP. But it has felt like it has been a while, and so Door actually comes off as quite refreshing and different. I liked the boldness of the instrumentation when it is vibrant, resulting in a dance track that pops out of the crowd. Me reviewing this way after its release might suggest otherwise, but I can assure that Door does stand out a lot thanks to this sound. Kwon Eun Bi’s vocals were quite nice throughout the song. I liked how she whispers the opening line to the choruses at a low tone. This combined with the delayed drop, makes it a very impactful and memorable element of the song. It does come second to the instrumentation, but not by far. The rest of her vocals and melodies were quite pleasant, and I quite liked the elegance her vocals exuded in Door. But before you think I am singing praises for Door and Kwon Eun Bi, I must admit that I have this really burning feeling within me that says Door is missing something. Personally, I don’t where this feeling is coming from and I am not too sure what this lacking element could be. I thought the instrumentation was great, her vocals/melodies were nice, and my go-to suggestions just don’t feel like they would fit in this song. But yet, Door just feels incomplete somehow.

Visually, I find the music video for Door to be quite stunning. It definitely highlights Kwon Eun Bi’s visuals and the classy styling of this music video (in terms of sets) was pretty cool. I found the entire ending sequence (i.e. the choreography scene with gold confetti falling down on the stage) to be quite memorable. Kwon Eun Bi’s stylist also managed to a fantastic job of showcasing Kwon Eun Bi in both elegant and cutesy spotlights. Personally, I am usually drawn to the classy side of things, but it is hard to not like the cutesy style in this video. I am also sure there is a story somewhere in this video, based on the bunny ears she wears. But I can’t figure it out.

For the performance, the choreography went with a more mature vibe, which was absolutely fine. But the choreographer kept it fun and vibrant throughout, just like the song. I also enjoyed the jazzy influences that the choreography had at the end as well. The most memorable aspect of the performance has to be the floating move, which was cool and unique.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.9/10

[Album Review] NOEASY (2nd Studio Album) – Stray Kids

As you may have seen, I was busy in the latter half of the week reviewing some the sides tracks off their second studio album. And now it is time for the album review! Stray Kids released their second studio album, NOEASY, back in August of this year. It is lead by the title track Thunderous, and is accompanied by an extensive promotional campaign. Both The View and Domino were also promoted alongside Thunderous, while a bunch of music videos were released for a handful of other tracks (some of which covered earlier this week). The album also consist of WOLFGANG, the group’s original release as part of Kingdom: Legendary War, and the single Mixtape: OH. And there are still a few more tracks on the album that I have yet to mention. To get my thoughts on those tracks and more, continue reading below!

NOEASY Album Cover

1. CHEESEClick here for the full review for CHEESE. (9/10)

2. Thunderous (소리꾼) (Title Track)Click here for the full review for Thunderous. (9.5/10)

3. Domino – I was very disappointed to find out that there wasn’t a full music video for Domino. I had high hopes for one, especially after the cool choreography we saw in their follow-up promotions. But anyhow, Domino is a super dynamic track. It is catchy and fun, but also quite serious and heavy with its electronic instrumentation. I particularly liked the domino synth they had going on in the chorus, and the vocalist’s sequence in the pre-chorus. Relevant and refreshing! The rapping slayed and definitely added a lot of power behind each sequence. The dance break was also freaking cool and added a trendy change to the song. (10/10)

4. Ssick (씩) – Four songs in and it seems like Stray Kids is not shying away from this element, nor noise, throughout this album. Ssick had some of the strongest moments of intensity and noise on this album. While this could really be a powerful tool to get reel listeners in, I find it not to be as cohesive as some of the other tracks of a similar nature. And as a result, it was the most forgettable for me (of all the intense electronic tracks on this album). I don’t know why, but the song just didn’t stick with me. I wished the group stuck with the playful nature that we got at the start of the song as I feel that would have been a unique take. But I feel the intensity and ‘noise’ takes hold of Ssick and overdoes it. It isn’t a terrible song, but it sounds more like flair than anything else. (7/10)

5. The ViewClick here for the full review for The View. (10/10)

6. Sorry I Love You (좋아해서 미안) – The first ballad of this album. This one takes a hip-hop approach, which was an interesting combo. The instrumentation is quite a bore for me, and I wished there was something within the background that drew me into the song. I like the intensity that the rappers bring to the song, with their parts being the most memorable. The vocals were nice and the melodies caught on, but I don’t think they were the most impressive element of Sorry I Love You (the rappers take that honour). It was an okay song, as a whole. But it isn’t the best track on the album. (6.5/10)

7. Silent Cry Silent Cry is an interesting track. It starts off with a haunting intro, before electronic music emerges from the darkness. And from there, the instrumental gets abstract at times and ultimately intense as the song progresses. This all results in a very cool track that pushes you to the edge of your seat. What really stood out for me over the cool instrumentation was the vocals and the subsequent melodies that they brought to life. They were super loud and very clear despite the different and relentless nature of the electronic. Similar things can be said about the rapping. I would really like to see a performance for this song, as I think there can be many creative paths taken for a song like this. (9/10)

8. Secret Secret (말할 수 없는 비밀)Secret Secret is a decent balladry track from the entire group. But it was pretty typical and didn’t really attract my attention as much. The vocal work was quite nice, but I felt like the typical instrumentation held back the vocals from their full potential. I did like how the rappers kept true to their skills and worked their rapping into the song using a lower tone and slower delivery.  Usually, I am not a fan of rapping in ballads, but I think it was well done here. (6.5/10)

9. Star LostStar Lost combines the likes of pop melodies and electronic music to create an awesome track. As a whole, I quite enjoyed this song. Most of the elements felt just right and extremely pleasant in Star Lost, aside from the instrumentation. I do think they could have toned down the electronic side in the instrumentation at certain times of the song, like the EDM drop that we got. It wasn’t necessarily off-putting and I liked the idea behind it. I just felt to was a bit over the top for the song. But apart from that, great song. (8/10)  

10. Red Lights (강박) (Bangchan & Hyunjin)Click here for the full review for Red Lights. (8/10)

11. Surfin’ (Lee Know, Changbin, Felix)Click here for the full review for Surifin’. (7/10)

12. Gone Away (HAN, Seungmin, I.N)Click here for the full review for Gone Away. (9/10)

13. WOLFGANGClick here for the full review for WOLFGANG. (8.5/10)

14. Mixtape: OH ()Click here for the full review for Mixtape: OH. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

NOEASY Teaser Image

[Review] Gone Away – HAN, Seungmin & I.N (Stray Kids)

The final side track that I will be reviewing separately from the upcoming album review for NOEASY is Gone Away. This side track is performed by the three remaining members who have yet to appear in a unit track, HAN, Seungmin and I.N.

Gone Away is a beautiful ballad. It too takes us on a different direction from the other tracks on the album, but it isn’t a new direction for Stray Kids, who have put out ta few heartfelt songs in the past. Due to the nature of ballads, the vocals of all three members were on display throughout Gone Away. Seungmin, the group’s main vocalist, takes my pick for outstanding members as his voice resonated the greatest for me. HAN and I.N did a great job themselves. HAN manages to surprise me every time he sings. Every time he sings, I forget that he is one of the rappers on their team. I.N vocals are extremely pure, and this aspect of the youngest members’ vocals are definitely highlighted in Gone Away. For the instrumentation, the piano and classical elements really helped concentrate more of that emotive side of the song. I also liked how Gone Away‘s instrumentation builds and progresses. The change up for the bridge was probably my favourite bit in the whole song, as it allowed the members to add some power behind their delivery and give the ballad the peak it needed, whilst also allowing HAN (and Seungmin to a lesser extent) to add some emotional rapping to further this peak. Overall, the trio presents with a stunning ballad that sounds so good.

The song is about letting go someone who loves someone else. In this video, the three members are all interested in the same girl (though at different points in time). I.N wants to confess to the girl by buying flowers. HAN becomes shy when she enters the store and buys the top she was looking at to gift to her. Seungmin is staring at her lovingly while on their field trip and pulls the blanket up on her while she naps away. But each realises that she is with someone else, so each member makes the decision to not pursue her. I liked how the members are shown to be older at the end, reminiscing over the memory. It is a bittersweet moment for them, but it was what felt right and ultimately a decision made with the best interest of their crush in mind. I feel the acting from the three members in this video was really good, with Seungmin standing out, particularly during his closeups around the campfire.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Review] Surfin’ – Lee Know, Changbin & Felix (Stray Kids)

Next up on my way to review Stray Kids’ second studio album is Surfin’. This side track is performed by members Lee Know, Changbin and Felix, and is the second unit track from the studio album.

Fun, light-heart and care-free are the words that I would use to describe Surfin’. Once again, it is a different dynamic to the other tracks on the album, But this time around, it isn’t necessarily new territory for the group overall. This doesn’t harm the song, as Surfin’ does have some charm. But unlike the other side tracks, I am not drawn to Surfin’ as much as the other side tracks I have/will be looking at. The song’s upbeat nature definitely suits the Summery season, and definitely has this undeniable bright energy within it that I feel would fit the group’s overall personality. But apart from that, I don’t find anything that memorable within the song. The vocal work and rapping felt like it had too much autotune applied to it, which really distracted me. While there is some appeal to it (I assume its main intention is to make the song fun, which kind of came through), I just didn’t like how it was used to style the vocals/rapping in this song. I am usually fine with Stray Kids’ usage of autotune in other songs, but it just doesn’t feel the same in Surfin‘. But Surfin’ still a decent listen, especially if you are looking for something fun in the midst of the loudness that the NOEASY album.

The music video starts off with some spoken vocals, with Lee Know playfully mocking Changbin, who is in turn mocked by Felix. Based on this, you can tell that the video was going to be fun and non-serious. We then get a snippet of them in the dance practice room, before they are magically (by the power of editing) transported to outside. From then on, it all was a pool-side party. It looks fun and feels fitting for the song.

There is a bit of choreography for this release, and I am have opted to review it in a separate paragraph as it felt secondary to the music video. It more so a simple routine that highlights the lightness, brightness and carefree nature of the song.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7/10

[Review] Red Lights – Bangchan & Hyunjin (Stray Kids)

Next up from Stray Kids’ second studio length album, NOEASY, and the first of the three unit tracks that I will reviewing from the mentioned album is Red Lights. This track is performed by Bangchan and Hyunjin. As mentioned previously, all the Stray Kids reviews I am posting this week are in preparation for NOEASY‘s upcoming album review, which I am hoping to post tomorrow.

Red Lights is quite a surprising and different release. Usually, we get very intense or fun releases from the group, with the occasion mellow song from the group. But Red Lights opts for a mature and sensual vibe that is very different and also quite surprising. I quite liked Red Lights, more so that it explored uncharted waters, and a different side Bangchan and Hyunjin. But it seems like Red Lights offers a bit more than just a change in sound, based on my more detailed listen. The instrumentation is a really cool dramatic but slow piece. I find it to be the most memorable aspect of the song, simply because it is what pulls you in from the start. We get strings and electric guitars throughout the verses, and dubstep in the chorus. All comes together to create a sleek atmosphere that oozes out that mature and sensual vibe that I mentioned at the start. I also quite like the intensity. It isn’t in your face as per their more formal releases, but it is definitely still prevalent and prominent. I feel the vocal work was great, but it wasn’t the strongest aspect of the song. The vocals felt more neutral for the most part, but I did like how Bangchan’s adopted a deeper tone in the second verse, and Hyunjin adopted some falsettos. I find these well balance out the song, and adds flair to the song on top of their usual ‘more standard’ sounding vocals. Overall, Red Lights successfully introduces us to a side of Stray Kids that pushes boundaries in a completely different direction of what we are used to.

That mature and sensual vibe is on display in this music video. Both member’s acting and facial expression definitely take this video to the next level. Based on the lyrics and what I can see in the video, the duo are struggling with the unhealthy obsession that they have of their respective partners. They chained to beds and tables, and are struggling to get out of those chains. Even when they make it out of their rooms, they struggle to get far. The black and white filter heightens those mature and sensual vibes, while the use of red lights made complete sense (as it is the song’s title). I also combined the performance aspect of my review, given that it makes up a very big component of the music video and adds more of that mature/sensual essence to the video. Definitely a choreography to watch, as it is quite captivating and very artistic.

Song – 8/10
Music Video / Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] CHEESE – Stray Kids

Onto the next Stray Kids review. As mentioned yesterday, I will be reviewing some Stray Kids releases from their NOEASY album, where there is a music video. Yesterday, I reviewed The View. Later today, I am hoping I can smash out three reviews for the three unit tracks that Stray Kids have featured on their album, before posting the full album review on Saturday. But for now, here are my thoughts on CHEESE.

My favourite part behind this particular side track is how Stray Kids creatively addressed the hate they have received for their music. I really liked how they took their famous lines from some of their previous hits (I can identify references to Awkward Silence, God’s Menu, Side Effects from the chorus, and I assume the ‘pigeon and magpie’ and ‘A-class vibes’ are references to other songs – not too sure), and revamped them to be stern and serious for inclusion in CHEESE. This is on top of their references to cheese, which seems random and an unexpected topic for a song. But they bring a fun element to the song. The stern and serious tone from the lyrics comes to life via the members’ rapping and vocal work. I quite liked the seriousness that they brought, adding in powerful attitude and showed me that Stray Kids wasn’t going to hold back in this song. I will also say the same thing when it comes to the synth heavy instrumentation, which is very intense, energy-packed, industrial and rough throughout. Everything comes together to help Stray Kids makes a statement and throw punches back at their haters. What also really helps sell CHEESE are the hooks that we get. Definitely made CHEESE memorable for me.

Stray Kids is very carefree throughout the video, not afraid of the haters and are willing it do their own thing. I quite liked that message, as it compliments the idea that they are being themselves and are comfortable with their music. I also liked the sarcastic attitude that the members bring to the video, especially I.N during his solo shots. The video also focuses on the other ‘Cheese’ – that is the phrase you say when you take pictures. I.N in his solo shots is a prime example of this ‘Cheese’ in action, with the other members jumping in as well. We also get some serious photos of the members throughout the video as well, which also brings forth this form of ‘Cheese’ as well.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] VIVACE – LIGHTSUM

Making their comeback yesterday was LIGHTSUM, with their new single VIVACE. It leads their second single album, Light A Wish. This release follows their debut from earlier in the year, Vanilla. Vanilla was a decent debut, but let’s see if VIVACE is any better.

And indeed it does. I quite enjoyed VIVACE, even though it doesn’t strike me as a unique song. To me, VIVACE is quite familiar, as it sound overall felt quite similar IZ*ONE’s sound had created for themselves before their disbandment earlier this year. It seems like CUBE is once again taking the sound of one group and giving it another, like what we saw after the sudden disbandment of 4MINUTE and the change in CLC’s sound. I am not too troubled by this and also feel like it also a step in the right direction for LIGHTSUM, provided if this is just a once off and LIGHTSUM doesn’t continually release similar sounding tracks that all sound the same! VIVACE isn’t boring, thanks to the plentiful vibrant elements from the instrumentation. There is a lot of synths and percussion going on in this pop song. I particularly like the brassy synths that you hear after the first and final choruses, as that brings out a party tune that I quite liked. I think the weakest point of the song are the vocals. While they are as loud as the synths and they do stand out (which I appreciate), I do feel like they lack personality and individuality. I wished there was a bit more to the vocals, as this could have taken VIVACE to the next level. I did like the use of vocals to transition between the second chorus to the bridge of the song. That was rather cool and smooth. Overall, VIVACE a vibrant second step for LIGHTSUM that falls into familiar waters.

The music video could have been better. It is quite plain and wasn’t that memorable. It offered nothing more than choreography and closeups. Yesterday, I did make a comment about how this combination was warranted for yesterday’s video. But remember, this combination should be circumstantial and sparingly. In this video, we see the combination in action. And like many others, it just didn’t work as well. The music video sets felt like your typical box sets, though the colour added a bit of vividness to the video.

The choreography was quite nice and enjoyable. I liked how the routine capitalises on the explosive synths, which helps makes the choreography more vibrant.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] The View – Stray Kids

As flagged on Sunday, I will be posting reviews for the side tracks from Stray Kids’ second studio album, NOEASY, that we have music video for, in preparation for their upcoming album review this weekend. This include two group tracks and three unit tracks. First up is The View. It was promoted alongside Thunderous as a secondary promotional track and its music video was released in early September.

To me, The View was a standout track on the album. It went in a different direction to their other singles on the NOEASY album despite it being in the same boundaries of EDM. It was relatively light and quite atmospheric to listen to, and I find such qualities make The View fitting for the Summer season (in which it was released). I also appreciate the simplicity of the song’s melodies, which gave the song an overall sing-song approach that was flowy, breezy and just easy to get into. Thus, the vocals flourished effortlessly in this song. The View also was a great platform for the rappers. Felix (with his infamous deep voice) took things slow, making his voice more approachable than his usual harsh delivery. Jisung went with a much faster approach, throwing energy behind his delivery but still keeping it in line with the rest of the song. My favourite bit has to be Changbin’s section in the song. His section (in the second half of the bridge) was like a curveball, changing the momentum of the song ever so briefly with the heavier trap sequence and adding a bit of a ‘growl’ to The View. It changed things up, but doesn’t go overboard. His section just stuck out at me and really added a bit of a wow factor (for me) into The View. Overall, simplicity is sometimes key and I think The View is a prime example of this.

To match the breezy feel of the song, the music video was shot in the fields. It was very fitting and the closeup concept felt appropriate. I also quite enjoyed the scenic views throughout the video. However, I did want choreography scenes in this music video. As much as I find the ‘formula of closeup and choreography’ to be unoriginal and generic, I think it would have been a good inclusion for this music video. I also liked the tie in with the other videos at the end (i.e. the scene with Felix blowing out the candle and the other members are surrounding him). It is like a continuation of the events of Mixtape: OH, where he wished for the members to reunite.

I liked the performance, as it was light-hearted. I thought this was very appropriate for the song and match the vibes of the song that I mentioned above. The chorus had a nice bounce and the members looked like they were having fun on stage throughout.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.2/10