[Review] Sugar Rush Ride – TXT

The biggest comeback of the week is undoubtedly TXT’s, who returns today with their fifth mini-album, The Name Chapter: Temptation. The new mini-album is lead by the title track Sugar Rush Ride, which also dropped today. This comeback follows their fourth mini-album, Minisode 2: Thursday’s Child, which was released last year with Good Boy Gone Bad as its title track.

Sugar Rush Ride starts off quite good. It kicks off with this really promising funky and upbeat dance pop instrumentation (courtesy of some really good rhythmic guitars and a consistent and constant beat) that has this brightness and life to it. There was a section in the verses that had a tinge of Blue Hour to it, which I personally thought was a cool callback to their earlier days (that was from 2020!). The pre-chorus gives us some stunning vocals and melodic work, with some of the members going into falsetto mode for the pre-chorus. We then approach the chorus, which felt more so like as if someone had slammed on the brakes very suddenly. This is because of the flute-y anti-drop that Sugar Rush Ride features as its centrepiece. Personally I am not too troubled by said anti-drop, as it enables the group to opt for an unexpected sensual kick (which I personally found to be a charming characteristic of the song) which also felt slightly hypnotic. Also, the anti-drop sets out what it is intended to do. However, I do agree that it does take too much away from how the beginnings of Sugar Rush Ride, and interrupted the flow of the song considerably and in a disappointing manner. The more troubling aspect of Sugar Rush Ride is the “Sugar Rush Rush Uh” that follows the anti-drop. I can’t take this part seriously (My first impression was to laugh at this section) and felt it was completely jarring and abrasive relatively to the rest of the song. The retro beginnings makes their return in the second verse, but the second chorus is also a repeat of what we heard the first time around. The bridge combines elements from each section of the song (i.e., “Sugar Rush Rush Uh“, the flute-y anti-drop and the funky guitar work), which I thought was clever way to ramp up to the final chorus. However, I am questioning whether the elements work together or not. It literally combines the best and worst elements of Sugar Rush Ride. The bridge leads into the final chorus, which is a better mashup of the sections before it (sans the “Sugar Rush Rush Uh” hook), allowing Sugar Rush Ride to finish on an upbeat and a somewhat explosive note. Sugar Rush Ride might grow on me with more listens as each section becomes more familiar to me and I know what to expect. But for now, it is an interesting song indeed.

The mini-album is titled The Name Chapter: Temptation, and it definitely looks like temptation is the concept of this music video. It appears the members are washed ashore onto an island that tempts them with pretty flowers. But the pretty flowers are devious, acting likes drugs that takes them away from reality and into a different world that comes off as euphoric, pleasurable and more desirable than the situation they are in. In the end, we see the members return to their normal state and decide to leave the island. But HeungingKai appears to be tempted once again. Of course the lyrics can’t talk about drugs (otherwise it be banned in Korea), so the lyrics make reference to sugar high instead. Other than that, I thought the video was really cool. The producers definitely chose very pretty scenery for this video.

In addition to pretty outdoor shots, the members do embrace and show off an amazing sensual energy in this video that is surely going to attract fans. I felt they didn’t hold back whatsoever for the chorus, which is definitely a strong aspect of the performance. As much as I don’t enjoy the “Sugar Rush Rush Uh” part of the song, I do like the abrasive and roughness that it brings the performance. I also liked the extra push they give the moves for the final chorus, to match the newfound energy that comes through during said part. And as a cherry on top, great stage presence and camera chemistry. Overall, a great performance.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] Small Things – YESUNG (SUPER JUNIOR)

As flagged yesterday, I will be reviewing two new releases today. There hasn’t been too much this week, so you probably know which ones already. First up is YESUNG’s solo comeback with Small Things and his first studio length album, Sensory Flow. The release occurred on 25 January (this week’s Wednesday), and follows YESUNG’s solo comeback Pink Magic from 2019.

There isn’t much to Small Things, if I am being honest. No matter how I draft this review or how much I listen to the song, I can’t seem to write any more than a couple of lines about YESUNG’s new song. This might be a good thing, but it is also a not-so-good thing (more on that later). Small Things is another pleasant track, this time delving into an indie form of soft rock. It is also subdued and laidback, as well. Small Things brings a huskier tone to the audience, with YESUNG’s vocals being in this huskier mode for majority of the song. It definitely sounds amazing and I do find it warm and enjoyable. Paired with the slight swaying melody that brings Small Things to life, Small Things pokes you in the right spot. However, apart from all of that, I didn’t find much else to pull me into the song. All of the above is great, but without anything captivating or alluring, I just don’t see myself searching up this song on YouTube or my music app. If Small Things pops up, awesome – I will listen to it then. But at this stage, there isn’t anything driving me towards the song. This is the ‘not-so-good’ thing about pleasant songs with little to talk about.

The music video is just as pleasant as the song. YESUNG is depicted as an indie singer who performs in small bars and such alongside his bandmates. He falls in love with a girl who also has the same passion as him. In the song, he says it is the “small things comes together, gonna shine so bright”, whilst also explaining the small things can be a small smile or footsteps. In the video, it is the fact that they have music as a common element, that she passes him a cassette to listen to and that she comes to his performances (although late). It is small things like that makes him like her. Overall, a nice video. Just nothing riveting in this video or story. I did like the home style video shots we get throughout the video, which compliments the indie style I mentioned about the song and the setting of the video.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Album Review] Absolute Zero (1st Mini Album) – BAEKHO

Apologies for the lack of song reviews – it has been a slow week in KPOP due to the Korean New Year. I will be reviewing two comebacks from this week tomorrow. For now, here are some album reviews I have pre-written, but for some reason failed to pre-schedule.

The next album to be reviewed on this blog is BAEKHO’s solo debut mini-album, Absolute Zero. This mini-album dropped in October 2022, over 10 years after BAEKHO made his debut as part of NU’EST (which sadly disbanded earlier this year). Featuring the title track No Rules and five additional side tracks, this mini-album made me think about why we didn’t get a solo release from BAEKHO sooner. This entire mini-album is testament of BAEKHO’s artistry and potential, and it is truly disappointing to know that it has taken 10 years for his company to give him an opportunity to shine and put himself out there. Absolute Zero has some really great tracks, many of which I would recommend to people who want to discover a new artist. Hopefully, there are more great tracks from BAEKHO on the way, as PLEDIS Entertainment definitely has a strong artist in BAEKHO. For now, continue reading my review to discover some gems from BAEKHO.

Absolute Zero Album Cover

1. Festival in My Car – While it has been a while since we heard from BAEKHO, I am sure he did not sound like this in the past. Festival in My Car brings out a raspier and huskier tone and lower register from BAEKHO that I am absolutely digging. This paired with the rock guitar (that creates a wonderful centerpiece in the instrumentation) and the band instrumentation creates such a piece that has soaring potential. Also soaring is the momentum and intensity once Festival in My Car hits the chorus. All of this helps create a strong number to kick the mini-album off with. (9/10)

2. LOVE BURNLOVE BURN is next up on the mini-album. Synth-pop and guitar riffs come together to create the backing piece of LOVE BURN. While I am unsure what came first, the instrumental pairs extremely well with the melodies of this track, which I think is the highlight of the song. The melodies just give LOVE BURN so much character and personality, which I think is enough reason to say that LOVE BURN edges out the previous song. Throw in passionate and husky vocals from BAEKHO, and you have yourself another strong and captivating track to enjoy. (10/10)

3. No Rules (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of No Rules. (8/10)

4. We Don’t Care No More (ft. June One of Glen Check) – Collaborating with June One of Glen Check, We Don’t Care No More delves into groovier and funkier territory. But the track still falls into the synth-pop realm and features guitar riffs, just like the other side tracks on the mini-album before it. Both BAEKHO and June One brings something different to the song during their respective verses and choruses. BAEKHO has a nasally tone in this track, whereas June One brings out a hollower tone to his vocals. Yet when they sing together, they blend really well with one another to create what felt like one person singing. Melody and hook-wise, I felt We Don’t Care No More definitely excelled. (9/10)

5. BAD 4 U – Taking the album into R&B territory is BAD 4 U. I did like the beat to the song and how natural the song felt for BAEKHO. The melodies and lines just flow so smoothly from BAEKHO. However, it is the most standard sounding track on this mini-album. It isn’t really the most innovative track out there. I am also not a fan of the ending, which felt abrupt for my liking. (7/10)

6. WANNA GO BACK (ft. Sik-K) (변했다고 느끼는 내가 변한 건지)WANNA GO BACK is the mini-album’s most powerful track, bringing forth a punkish rock sound to the mini-album. I liked how BAEKHO’s vocals becomes hoarsely, which really compliments the punkish rock influence. Sik-K’s rapping is autotuned, which I thought was interesting initially. But his rapping definitely adds an even rougher texture to WANNA GO BACK. I do wish the instrumental went a bit harder into the rock influence, just to give that wow factor. The guitar solo at the very end is definitely a step in the right direction. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

Absolute Zero Teaser Image

[Album Review] GASOLINE (2nd Studio Album) – KEY (SHINee)

Apologies for the lack of album reviews (and reviews in general) over the weekend. I opted to not post anything during the festivities of the Lunar New Year, instead focusing on family (although through video calls and group chats this year) per tradition. I will reserve my wishes to you all that celebrate Lunar New Year in the Weekly KPOP Charts post that will go up tomorrow. For now, I leave you with the album review I had originally intended to post on Saturday – KEY’s 2nd studio album, GASOLINE. The studio album was released at the end of August 2022 and features the title track of the same name (and 10 other side tracks). GASOLINE follows KEY’s first mini-album, BAD LOVE from 2021, which many people can agree on it being a very successful solo album. While I don’t think GASOLINE reaches the heights of BAD LOVE, it definitely continues to show KEY’s individuality and potential as an artist (not that he really needs to prove that – BAD LOVE for sure cemented that confidence into anyone who had doubts about KEY).

Gasoline Album Cover

1. Gasoline (가솔린) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Gasoline. (7.5/10)

2. Bound – Following the title track is Bound, a dark and sexy pop track that I personally feel is fitting for KEY’s style, brand and personality. The pairing of deep vocals that KEY brings to Bound via the verses and the higher pitched he gives us in the choruses shows off KEY’s vocal capabilities, but also creates a captivating atmosphere. The sassy attitude vibe that the instrumental is so unapologetic dark and alluring, with the instrumental breaks we get being so charismatic. (9/10)

3. Villain (ft. Jeno of NCT)Villain joins the forces of both KEY (as this is his album) and JENO (from NCT) in a really cool and funky sounding track. There is also a dark vibe to the track, but not as much as the previous track, which allows it to both follow on and ease us away from the first two tracks of the album. I liked the back and forth between both KEY and Jeno, and the differences between the two idols musically and with the lyrics (which were about a villain wanting to be a main character). KEY’s vocals bringing smoothness whilst Jeno’s vocals/raps were rough and raspy. Together, they melded with one another to create a nice ‘icing on the cake’ scenario for the song. (9/10)

4. BurnBurn begins as an emotional break up song, with KEY’s passionate and soaring vocals delivering the start of the song. But as the song progresses, Burn ends up falling into the funky and groovy territory of pop music, which was a pleasant surprise in terms of trajectory for the song. This gave the song character and a uniqueness to that I personally enjoyed. However, to keep the Burn interesting, I wished the second verse was a bit more creative and not necessarily a repeat of the first verse. I appreciate that it snaps back to the roots of the song (i.e., the emotional feeling from the first verse), but the second verse just didn’t feel as interesting as it could have been. (8/10)

5. Guilty Pleasure – You could expect Guilty Pleasure in the clubs! I really enjoyed the consistent drive of the retro house synths, which just makes it idea for that club environment. I do feel that KEY’s vocals and Guilty Pleasure’s melodies could have been a bit more captivating and interesting. But it is a solid track, nonetheless. (7.5/10)

6. G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) G.O.A.T stands out with its atmospheric and bubbly synths that make up the song’s instrumentation. KEY sounds really pleasant throughout G.O.A.T, with the melodies having a swaying effect, similar to the ones I tend to mention when I talk about ballads. At the bridge of the song, the producers insert an orchestral touch to heighten the peak of G.O.A.T, which I personally thought was a cool and unique twist to a synth-filled track. While I do think it was successful, the final chorus should have followed through with a better drop, just to carry on that momentum more naturally. (9/10)

7. I Can’t SleepI Can’t Sleep is one of my favourite side tracks on the album. I just feel like it is the most straightforward and simple song on the album that also manages to speak volume. There is also a fun and vibrant tone to it. Another reason to why I picked it as one of my favourite because it also feels nostalgic to me, thanks to the song’s pop instrumentation. (9/10)

8. Ain’t Gonna DanceAin’t Gonna Dance is a lot more complicated, but still sits in the pop realm. It starts off atmospheric with balanced and measured vocals from KEY. But this is short-lived, as the percussion comes in boldly, making a statement to what is come with the rest of the song – textured trap beats and funky undertones, all of which feels miles away from the start of Ain’t Gonna Dance. KEY sounds amazing in this track, showing off falsettos in the chorus that allows the textures from the spacious instrumentation to do some of the speaking alongside his vocals. Altogether, it creates an interesting energy that I would gladly replay over and over again. (10/10)

9. Another Life – Based on my understanding, Another Life was previously performed as part of KEY’s first solo online concert from 2021 – Beyond LIVE – Key: Groks in the Keyland. It is also an all-English track. Another Life kicks things off with a synthwave instrumental that gets more intense and bolder during the chorus. It is quite a strong instrumentation, and so I am quite impressed with how powerful KEY’s vocals come off as. There was also some good hooks and moments that bumps up Another Life in my books. The choreography for Another Life is also remarkable and showcases KEY’s performance skills very well. (9/10)

10. Delight – The piano at the start was misleading, suggesting for a second that Delight was going into ballad territory. But in a matter of seconds, the track picks up with very bright/vivid vocals and ultimately progresses towards disco-pop territory. I love how breezy KEY’s vocals sound in the track, especially during the falsettos he delivers in the chorus. Altogether, Delight is a purely fun and playful track that I have definitely been replaying since the album’s release. Aside from the first few seconds, Delight can also be described as straightforward and simple. (10/10)

11. Proud – Ending the album is a track that delves into a genre that hasn’t been heard elsewhere on the album just yet. Proud kicks things off with a prominent hip-hop beat and reflects on his career so far. I do like the tone and energy that KEY puts into the song, but I felt the melodies were a little dull for my liking. But still a neat ender to the album which quality is consistent with the rest of the album. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

Gasoline Teaser Image

[Review] Cotton Candy – Jinyoung (GOT7)

Last time I reviewed a release from a GOT7 member (i.e. JAY B’s go UP), I apologized to Yugyeom for not writing a review for any of his solo releases since he (and his fellow GOT7 members) departed from JYP Entertainment. I start off this particular review with another apology to Yugyeom, as it is not his time yet. Instead, today’s review will be focusing on Jinyoung’s solo debut with Cotton Candy, which dropped on Wednesday of this week. Jinyoung is the final member of GOT7 to make his solo debut on the music scene, opting to focus on his successful acting career. Cotton Candy is the lead single from his debut mini-album, Chapter 0 – WITH.

If I had to sum up Cotton Candy in one word, it would be pleasant, just like how cotton candy is to me. And I feel like that statement alone is enough for me to end the review right here. It literally and succinctly describes Jinyoung’s debut single. But of course, I will break the song down further. Cotton Candy delves into soft pop territory, with a slight groovy underlay that comes from the synths and bass that are present in the song. Jinyoung’s vocals were very smooth, with a subtle husk that just feels warm and comforting. The melodies further emphasises the smoothness of Cotton Candy and were quite enjoyable, though maybe they could have been a bit more riveting, just so Cotton Candy is more captivating. I did like the post-chorus hooks (i.e. the “Oooh” that felt almost like whistles at certain points), which helps gives Cotton Candy a more memorable tinge. Without that hook, I could have potentially used ‘plain’ and ‘ordinary’ to describe the song. But it was enough to pull Cotton Candy through and make it come off as pleasant instead.

I suppose the music video is alright. I don’t think I can get away with describing the video as positively as I did with the song. While the video is also quite pleasant, I am not entirely sure of the dark filter placed over the video. My guess is that it is meant to come off as aesthetic and cloudy-like. But I don’t think it needs to be that dark. Other than that, the video is full of shots of Jinyoung dancing, closeups and looking handsome – this I am not complaining about.

As mentioned above, Cotton Candy‘s music video features choreography. We haven’t seen a live stage for the release just yet, but he does show off his performance skills. There are a few spins and a bounce to the choreography, which matches with the song quite well. Nothing mind-blowing, but that is expected with a pleasant song like Cotton Candy.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] Aurora – cignature

cignature was absent from 2022, having no promotions and no comebacks in the last year whatsoever. Their last comeback was Boyfriend, and that was released in 2021 – a comeback that I never got around reviewing (can’t remember why). But earlier this week, cignature re-emerged back onto the stage with their newest single Aurora and their 3rd mini-album, My Little Aurora.

Aurora is a pleasantly cute single. The song takes on a bright and perky profile. A bit of sweetness was added, especially when it came to the chorus. But it wasn’t anything unbearable. The instrumentation takes on the pop genre with your usual synths creating quite an upbeat and bright atmosphere. It isn’t anything mind-blowing, but I quite enjoyed the bounce and charm that it came together to create for Aurora, which helped make the song more appealing. I also quite enjoyed how the song started, which a nice lead in and clean start to Aurora. If anything, I would have liked a centerpiece synth to the song, just to give it something that stands out. The vocals showed promise and a solid effort from the group. That high note we get at the end of the bridge was pretty good. Some of it does come off as cutesy (particularly during the choruses), but there really isn’t enough to really give the song that saccharine or over-the-top description that cutesy songs tend to overload and be associated with. Talking about the chorus, it delivers Aurora‘s very addictive and fun hooks. I basically have the song on repeat just for that aspect. The weakest moment of Aurora, in my mind, is the entire second verse. It just couldn’t didn’t have much momentum and failed to really give Aurora drive until the pre-chorus. Overall, nothing makes me go wow with Aurora (relative to other tracks out there at the moment). But as the song has a pretty infectious chorus and hook, considered me sold on the song.

It is a music video full of fresh smiles, brightness and energy, which no doubt definitely fits in with the song. The video looks like it transports the members from an ordinary place to a much brighter and more colourful location that has auroras in the sky. In this universe, pink and blue are the main colours of this alternative location, which I am so-so about.

Similar comments can be applied to the choreography, as it too is full of fresh smile, brightness and energy. While I enjoyed their performance, I am not entirely sure of that shaking move at the start of the chorus. It looks funny and a bit over the top. It also doesn’t feel like it fits in the elegance of the rest of the performance. However, it is also my favourite part of the routine.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Love War – YENA ft. BE’O

Following her solo debut in January 2022 with SMILEY and subsequent comeback in August of 2022 with SMARTPHONE, YENA is officially back with a new song release. The title of the new single is Love War, and the single also features rapper BE’O (who gained popularity through his participating in Show Me The Money 10 and his subsequent music releases since then).

What a drastic change to YENA’s sound. Last year, it was all about bright and addictive pop rock energy. This time around, YENA has gone for a much more mature sound, delving into the R&B genre. While I enjoy a good switch up and don’t mind YENA’s change in direction with Love War, I do think Love War could have been a bit more appealing. Personally, YENA could have gone with a more memorable melody for the chorus. I just can’t seem to pinpoint a strong melody in the first half. Luckily, Love War‘s main hook (“Oh My Lover, Its a Love War“) does have a memorable factor, though it is rather plain upon reflection. I also felt the choruses was too similar to YENA’s verse, with the only difference I personally could detect was some amplification. On a more positive note though, I really love YENA’s vocals in Love War. The soft and husky tone she brings just sounds so good, and brings a sense of fragility and vulnerability to the song, I also love her falsetto that she reaches following BE’O’s rap. That was perfection and handled really well. BE’O’s rap was a bit interesting. Part of me feels like he overpowers YENA’s presence in the song with his stronger oomph he puts behind his delivery/verse. But listening to Love War a few more times since its release has warmed me up to his sequence a bit more. I do like how both YENA and BE’O come together to deliver the final chorus, which I found to be a nice touch. Overall, I do like the change in direction (despite also missing the pop rock phase that YENA debuted with). Though more could have been done with Love War.

Love War (which is a play on the word Lover, as both sounds similar) describes the precarious point in the relationship where the couple are fighting with one another. They used to be in love, but that same spark just isn’t there anymore. In fact, a much different spark is present. This video depicts both YENA and BE’O having that fight. It is a tense and dark atmosphere at the dining table (with literal storms in the background). We see scenes of her storming away, setting the place on fire, throwing things about to express her frustration. On BE’O’s end, we see him in the corridor, as if he just left the apartment after a verbal fight to cool down. In the end, we see YENA takes extreme measures and approach BE’O in the streets with a gun, further highlighting the lyrics of Love War. Overall, I think this video nails the message behind the song and the lyrics. I also commend the pair on their acting.

I quite enjoyed the performance. There was a bit of choreography, but it was kept to a minimum. Instead, the focus was on the delivery, which I appreciate. It starts off with a couple (not YENA and BE’O involved) having a fight. It is a short one, but it sets the scene for this performance. We then get some dancers doing their thing, while YENA joins in during the key and doable parts that doesn’t distract her from her live vocals. BE’O joins her on stage for his rap. But the concept of this whole comeback is that they are angry with another and they do a good job of showing that. I quite liked the ending, where both YENA and BE’O separates and walk in different directions, ending the video in a very cool but fitting note.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Review] Stamp On It – GOT the beat

As mentioned last week in my long overdue review for Step Back, GOT the beat will be making their official comeback this week with their newest single and first mini-album, both of which are titled Stamp On It. The group previously performed Stamp On It at SM Town Live 2023: SMCU Palace at Kwangya on the first day of this year. Today, the music video and album officially dropped, which now calls for a review.

Truthfully, I hadn’t checked out Stamp On It when the performance was first uploaded onto YouTube. So everything I say today is actually my first impression (or so). Spoiler alert: things don’t look too good for Stamp On It. For Stamp On It, I found the song to be very incohesive. Each part of the song was distinct and stayed distinct. In no way did I feel Stamp On It attempt to blend or meld together the different parts to make it feel like one whole song, rather than three separate songs mashed together. The first part (i.e. verses and choruses) did work with one another, but there was the recurring obnoxious and annoying vocal synth (“Goo Ooo“) in the background that really gave me a headache. It was overwhelming, and just distracted me from the the vocal work. And that is saying quite a bit, given that Stamp On It continues the powerful vocals that GOT the best also put on display through their Step Back release. To even be able to distract me from that is quite alarming! Following the first and final choruses, we get this “Baby Baby Baby” sequence that I don’t feel add much substance to the song. The synths here, whilst not as annoying, do head in that direction. The bridge was probably the most promising and likeable aspect of Stamp On It, as it didn’t feature any loop of synths. It brought a bit of smoothness via the vocals to the song, which I also really appreciated. It was then followed up with an instrumental break and powerful rap sequence. Said instrumental break could not escape from that same recurring synth, but that rap sequence showed promise. Overall, Stamp On It is not my cup of tea. I do like my mashes, but Stamp On It is too much. But my biggest issue with Stamp On It is that the unit has such a strong lineup, but yet the song choices for promotions have been a total letdown.

I believe the music video gears towards a heist concept. I am not entirely sure, but that was the impression I was getting with the museum type of setting and the presence of the diamond and expensive art around them. Other than that, it was a strong video in terms of style and visuals. Each member looked amazing. But the standout moment from the video has to be when Seulgi brushes her hair backwards at the 2:30 mark of the music video. That definitely left a strong impression in my memory bank.

I am a bit disappointed with the choreography for this comeback. I feel like the moves were all ‘soft around the edges’, which was a mismatch towards the harsher and heavy synths. I wished there was more boldness to the performance and the moves appeared to be sharper.

Song –
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 6.5/10
Overall Rating –

[Album Review] MALUS (8th Mini Album) – ONEUS

ONEUS is one of the many artists whose album I look forward to. Their most recent one is a decent one. ONEUS’ 8th mini-album, MALUS, is their most recent one and was released early September 2022. This is the group’s final release to feature main rapper Ravn, who voluntary left the group at the end of October following some controversary. MALUS features the title track Same Scent (in both Korean and English), an introductory track and four additional side tracks. This mini-album follows ONEUS’ earlier comeback with Bring It On and TRICKSTER.

MALUS Album Cover

1. Intro: Eden – Kicking off the mini-album is Eden, which serves as the mini-album’s introductory track. The instrumental to Eden is quite a beautiful one, starting off with some stilling piano, before electronic elements are brought in to create quite an atmospheric and scene-setting piece that leads quite well into the title track. The members do a neat job in the intro, as well. (8/10)

2. Same Scent (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Same Scent. (8/10)

4. STUPID LOVE – Following the title track is STUPID LOVE, which brings forth a pop-rock colour to the album with its instrumental. The highlight of STUPID LOVE has to be the surprising rock centric chorus, which steals the show for me. While the verses do hint towards the pop rock direction, I just like how much more intense the chorus got. The crunchy electric guitar and consistent foot-tapping beat somehow catches me off guard (in a good way). (9/10)

4. Gravitation (두 눈 빠지도록) – Swapping out the electric guitar for acoustics is Gravitation, which is an amazing ballad piece. The vocals were stunning and so emotionally charged, especially with the high notes we get at the end of the choruses. The rapping from both Leedo and Ravn were weaved in so well and didn’t take us away from the balladry feels of Gravitation. You know I like my ballads, and this one definitely hit the right spot for me. (10/10)

    5. Mermaid – In a further change to the album’s sound, Mermaid opts for more upbeat vibes, opting for some bass and retro pop. I like how the track doesn’t hold back and gets right to it, with the bass and retro touches coming right to the front of the song. I did find the vocals to be a bit distant (the bass might be the cause of this) but the members still put in a lot of effort to make sure they were heard. It doesn’t hurt the song terribly and it is a fun listen nonetheless. (8/10)

      6. FULL MOON (원어스)FULL MOON brings forth sensual vibes throughout the track through the R&B genre that the song falls under. But it isn’t just a simple R&B song. No, FULL MOON throws in a lot more than just sensual R&B vibes. Trap elements come into play as part of the chorus, giving a tonne of texture to the song. Ravn explodes during the second verse to give us a powerful rap sequence. And I think we get touches of traditional Korean instrumental in the bridge. The most surprising element comes from the rappers (both Leedo and Ravn) who really showed of their vocals in the pre-choruses, catching me guard and forcing me to replay the song time and time again so I can relive their pre-chorus vocals. (9/10)

      7. Same Scent (English Version) – Refer to my review of the Korean version of Same Scent above.

      Overall Album Rating – 8.7/10

      MALUS Teaser Image

      [Album Review] I LOVE (5th Mini Album) – (G)I-DLE

      Another weekend is upon us, and you know what that means! Album reviews! First up this weekend is (G)I-DLE’s 5th mini-album, I LOVE, which was released in October of last year. Leading the mini-album is the title track, Nxde, and five side tracks. Both I LOVE and Nxde follows the group’s immensely successful hit TOMBOY and I NEVER DIE comeback from earlier on in 2020.

      I LOVE Album Cover

      1. Nxde (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Nxde. (6/10)

      2. LOVE – Following the title track is LOVE. I really liked the instrumental mix to this song. For the most part, LOVE felt very pop-like in the verses. But there is a subtle guitar work in this verses that allows the song to neatly introduce a punkish-like electric guitar in the chorus. And this guitar really gave LOVE a refreshing and vibrant vibe that I really enjoyed. I also like how the instrumental, vocals and melody has a sweet component to it, despite the lyrics is about breaking free for an unhealthy relationship. If anything, I wished LOVE’s hook (and (G)I-DLE’s delivery of said hook) went in harder, just to give a bit of definition to the song. (8/10)

      3. Change – The members’ deeper toned vocals stole the show for me in Change. I did like the direction of the instrumental, opting for a fast percussive beat over some slow-paced rock. But I wished there was more to the instrumental, as 3 minutes and 20 seconds of the same instrumentation was a bit of a yawn. Overall, a neat track with great potential. But more can be done. (8/10)

      4. ResetReset is a pop ballad, and it is a very pleasant one. I really liked the acoustic guitar to the verses and bridge of the song, while the chorus features a more prolific band instrumentation. In addition to that, I really enjoyed the vocals in this song as well. It all felt very pure, there was an emotional tinge to it and nothing felt processed. Soyeon’s vocals, in particular, at the start of the song really set the tone of the track and she sounded amazing. She should definitely sing more! (9/10)

      5. Sculpture (조각품) – I liked the old-timey vibes of the choruses of this track and how they followed it up with a dragged out “Sculpture~” at the end of the choruses. Quite a memorable centrepiece, and the latter technique gives off sensual vibe. As for the rest of the song, I liked the beat to the verses, which offsets the old-timey vibes by giving off a modern flair to the song. (8/10)

      6. DARK (X-File) – Finishing of the mini-album is DARK (X-File), which I find to be quite an effective song. This track is really alluring and enchanting, especially when the members get breathy in the backing. It just gives off a very sensual energy, which is the song’s main theme. The paced instrumental and melody of the song also compliments this style. All of this stays with you even after the song and album finishes. (8.5/10)

      Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

      I LOVE Teaser Image

      [Review] VIBE – TAEYANG (BIGBANG) ft. Jimin (BTS)

      It has been a while since we have heard from TAEYANG, with his last album release, White Night, being from 2017. Leading the album were the title tracks Darling and Wake Me Up. Since then, Taeyang had enlisted, got married to actress Min Hyo Rin and both of them had a child together (congratulations!). As for his singing career, things have been rather silent up until the end of last year when it was announced that Taeyang had decided to not renew his contract with YG Entertainment and went on to sign with The Black Label (a YG Entertainment subsidiary label). Now signed with a new label, TAEYANG announced his return to the stage through the release of VIBE, a collaborative single with Jimin (from BTS).

      Now, the announcement of this single was quite a surprise. But it was a surprise that I was interested in seeing, given VIBE joins the forces of two of the biggest acts from the second and third generations of KPOP. VIBE definitely continues the idea of surprises, bringing forth an upbeat groovy ‘vibe’ that taps into retro and new jack swing influences. They help liven up the song and adds a fresh flair to the current KPOP industry. I also enjoyed the subtle presence of electric guitar towards the end of the song. It just gives even more refreshing at the end and helps bring everything in VIBE to a fitting and satisfying close. As for the vocal work, both TAEYANG and Jimin sounds really good throughout VIBE. I liked that TAEYANG doesn’t waste a second, starting off the song with a smooth R&B melody and sultry vocals. Once the instrumental kicks into gear, his vocals drives VIBE upwards and forwards, and he also brings a really vivid tone to the song that just kicks everything into gear. Jimin’s vocals in the second verse brings out a more innocent and young tone to the song, which contrasts really nicely with TAEYANG’s vocals. His higher pitch gave the song a bit of depth and adds to the dynamics of the song. The chorus, to me, was quite memorable thanks to the melodies and the energy both TEYANG and Jimin puts in. If I had to make some sort of complaint about VIBE, it is that I found the to be too short. I think more could have given and I would have enjoyed it just as much. Hopefully, we see more of TAEYANG in the near future!

      When the video opens up and we sing TAEYANG shirtless, I was brought back to his Eyes, Nose, Lips days (back in 2014). That was a nice throwback. We then get both TAEYANG and Jimin, during their respective parts, fill the massive sets with their stage presence. Both TAEYANG and Jimin show off their sleek choreography skills (more on that later) and impressed me with how they carried themselves throughout the video. Watching them do their thing in this video was truly a vibe. I liked how there was the lowering of the stairs structure for TAEAYNG’s solo part and the lifting of a cityscape for Jimin’s solo part. These probably have some sort of meaning to TAEYANG or the song. It just isn’t apparent/obvious. But it was a simple addition to the song that felt aesthetic. When the pair finally came together in the second chorus to the very end of the video, they knocked it out of the park. Overall, I find this music video to be an example of simplicity done effectively.

      As mentioned above, this music video shows off both TAEYANG and Jimin’s skills in the performance department. In TAEYANG’s case, he proves he still has what it takes to put together a riveting and skilled performance. I am unsure whether their solo parts were freestyle or actual choreography. Hopefully we find out through promotions (though I haven’t heard anything about that just yet). As for the chorus routine, that is all choreographed and I really liked the chemistry the two brought together when they performed together. The sharpness with their movements was very cool and memorable.

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

      [Review] Step Back – GOT the Beat

      Needless to say, this review is very overdue. But as the saying goes – better late than never. Got the Beat is due to make their comeback on Monday with their first mini-album, Stamp It Out. So in preparation for that, I have decided to finally write me review for Step Back, their debut single that officially dropped early 2022. For those who may not have tuned for Got the Beat’s debut, the lineup of this super female group hails from SM Entertainment’s female artists and consist of a legendary lineup, including BoA, Taeyeon and Hyoyeon (from SNSD), Seulgi and Wendy (from Red Velvet) and Karina and Winter (from aespa).

      My impression of Step Back from a year ago is exactly the same today. And it isn’t any good news, unfortunately. While I commend the lineup for their powerful energy and vocals (however, this does become an issue – more later on) that will definitely wakes you up no matter what state you are in, my biggest gripe about Step Back is that it is overly repetitive. Aside from the bridge, which features a very smooth slow down in momentum and an really cool yet unhurried ramp back up towards the final chorus through the use of raps and high notes, everything else in the Step Back‘s instrumental just felt like it was on a loop. The same synths was just on repeat and there was never any new offering (until we got to the bridge). And even the final chorus, which was an opportunity for Step Back to concentrate or offer something new (or do anything more than feature the same loop), just featured the same synths we heard earlier on in the song. The melodies have a nice ring to them, but they do feel slightly monotonous. A major help to Step Back were the vocals, which I have already described as powerful. Standalone, each member really had their moment to shine in Step Back, with the many high notes flooring me. But as I mentioned at the start of this paragraph, the powerful vocals do become a bit of an issue when it comes to the chorus which all (if not most) members of this super female group contribute to. I just felt all of them singing at once created an overwhelming effect, which felt slightly uncomfortable in my opinion. Had the vocals been toned back, just by a slight amount, this effect would not have been apparent and Step Back would have just have repetitive issue as its Achilles’ heels.

      Another reason to why I had not reviewed Step Back earlier on was that I was waiting around for an actual music video to drop. But that never happened. Instead, the performance video that was first release stands in as the main promotional video. It looks cool and all. But I felt a proper music video would have helped made everything feel more dynamic and interesting, rather than seeing the same set and outfits for almost four minutes. The performance video does make do, however. I liked how the lighting in the background helps transform the same set into what felt like a few different sets. The performance itself was pretty amazing. I did like the sassy attitude that the performance featured, which is miles away from the disappointing lyrics. They really put all of their energy and power into making the performance a strong one, and it delivered.

      Song – 7/10
      Music Video / Performance – 8/10
      Overall Rating – 7.4/10

      [Review] PRESENT – Moonbyul (MAMAMOO)

      Another KPOP act to make her comeback towards the end of the year is Moonbyul. For some odd reason, Moonbyul’s comeback with PRESENT felt out of the blue. But I cannot pinpoint why I feel that is the case. It might be due to the fact that she has been quite busy in 2022, with a fairly active start to the year with solo releases LUNATIC and C.I.T.T, participated in MAMAMOO’s first subunit with SOLAR, and she just returned with the rest of MAMAMOO for ILLELLA. Anyhow, Moonbyul’s comeback is titled PRESENT (as already mentioned) and its release coincides with her 30th birthday. Happy belated birthday Moonbyul!

      Just listening to the song alone, PRESENT is, put simply, a pleasant song about Moonbyul’s wishes for her birthday. Nothing more, nothing less. The track falls into the R&B realm, but it does features a bit of funk through some brass elements in the chorus, which helps liven up the song a bit and give it some groovy energy. It isn’t anything major or show-stopping. Rather, it just invokes a happy and gleeful tone that contributes to the pleasant nature of the song. Whilst PRESENT is primarily about her birthday, Moonbyul also adds a bit of holiday flair with the addition of sleigh bells to the song each time Christmas is mentioned in the lyrics, as she makes references to the fact her birthday is just three days out from Christmas. And you cannot really celebrate a birthday that close without acknowledging the upcoming holiday in some manner. Melody and hook-wise, nothing stands really stands out. But I did feel Moonbyul’s nasally tone was quite comforting in the song, and I enjoyed her weaving in and out of vocals and rapping throughout the song. PRESENT isn’t anything spectacular, but it is a nice listen nonetheless.

      Just how I mentioned how it is hard to celebrate a birthday just a couple of days out from Christmas without making reference of some kind to the holiday, this video references both birthday and holiday. In addition to seeing Moonbyul set up and celebrate her own birthday, there are also Christmas/holiday references throughout the video. Overall, it is a cute video to watch and there was a nice warm tone to it. In particular, I quite liked the whole montage during the bridge that brings Moonbyul to the cake. There was something with the spotlight and the idea behind the montage that made it a memorable scene/shot for me.

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

      [Review] Beautiful Liar – MONSTA X

      MONSTA X also made their comeback on Monday alongside SF9. Beautiful Liar is the title of their latest track and it leads the group’s 12th mini-album, Reason. It follows the group’s early 2022 comeback with LOVE (which I nominated as Best Rap or Hip Hop Song of 2022 in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards) and their 11th mini-album SHAPE OF LOVE, the release of Late Night Feels (a collaboration with San Feldt), and contracts renewal where all but one member renewed their contracts with Starship Entertainment (with the exception of I.M, who left Starship Entertainment but confirmed that he will continue to promote as part of MONSTA X).

      The electric guitar start to Beautiful Liar and the punk rock influence from the electric guitar’s presence for the rest of the song has to be one the most exhilarating starts to a song. It leaves such a strong impression that it makes Beautiful Liar really irresistible to me. I really do want to say similar comments to Beautiful Liar‘s instrumental, but the choruses (which I will discuss a little later) do hold me back from saying that. Anyhow, the first verse (which is actually the first run of the chorus, but it is delivered in a manner that made it feel like a verse) features such a sleek vocal line from I.M, Minhyuk and Hyungwon, while I.M and Jooheon really takes it up a notch with a rap sequence in the second verse that really delivers impact. Each of the verses is followed by Kihyun, who blasts us with his powerful vocals as the electric guitars ramp up the song. The choruses had a neat melody that has a memorable ring and it felt emotional yet charming. However. if I had one complaint about Beautiful Liar, it is that the chorus could have more oomph in the instrumental department. This would forces the vocals to be more powerful, which I reckon would have done wonders to Beautiful Liar. The way the pre-choruses ramped up to the chorus suggested a continuation of that exhilarating start and an electrifying nature, but we never got to see that become reality. It was interesting that in place of a what should have been the second chorus (third, if you count the first verse – I do not), Beautiful Liar skips to a second rap verse before bringing back the chorus for a final run. But this is not a complaint, as this structure gives us a second dosage of awesome rapping from the rappers (which I am all for). I do think there was a missed opportunity for the group to have concentrated the momentum and energy to form part of the final chorus to give Beautiful Liar a more deserving and punchy end (just to end the song on a higher note). But overall, Beautiful Liar is still a strong song, which works really well for MONSTA X, despite the complaint and suggestion around the choruses.

      I am not exactly sure what the video for this comeback is about. But I do have a theory. The cloaked people surrounding the the members throughout the video represent the lies MONSTA X’s partners have told them. At first, the members want to protect their love for said partner, thinking their love is real and the lies are lie themselves. A fight against the cloaked figures ensures. Note their red jackets, with the colour red being referenced in the lyrics through the line “At the end of your red tongue, like the color of red, you got sores, I will kiss, I love your lies.“, suggesting that the love the members have for their partner is still very real. But as the video progresses, we see the members change into outfits that have a black and white theme to them. The white in the middle of the video donned by I.M most likely represents a sense of innocence in their mind, whereas the all-black clothing worn by the other members represents a toxic version of themselves that has come about from the lies. We see the toxicity break loose (i.e. stomping to break the glass) and take over the minds of the members. In real life, this results in the members (once dressed in red) to become dressed in black and white checkered outfits, represents the lies/toxicity are slowly taking over and corrupting the members. And instead of a fight like at the start of the video, the members are hyping up the crowd of cloaked figures (i.e. lies), which may represent to us that the members are now embracing the lies that their partner once told them. And while we don’t see this, I think the members are supposed to become cloaked figures as well, once the lies/toxicity fully takes over. It is a bit of a crude theory and I may be wrong. But if I am right, I liked the idea of the symbolism.

      From what we can see in the music video, the choreography for this comeback looks pretty decent. But as I have yet to see the full performance, I can’t say with 100% certainity whether there is anything that stands out or not. So I will comeback tomorrow or Friday once we do get a live performance to provide proper comments. But for now, accept my interim ratings.

      Song – 8.5/10
      Music Video – 8.5/10
      Performance – 8/10
      Overall Rating – 8.4/10

      [Review] Puzzle – SF9

      SF9 is the first group to make their comeback this week, with their brand new single Puzzle and 12th mini-album, THE PIECE OF9. This comeback follows their SCREAM comeback from mid-last year. It also marks the return of Rowoon who sat out of the SCREAM comeback due to conflicting schedules, bumping the lineup for SF9 this time around to seven members (with Youngbin and Inseong continuing to sit out due to their military enlistments).

      Puzzle is another track that goes down the funky and groovy route. But I personally feel that this route is quite light on. There is still enough of it to be detectable, making Puzzle enjoyable and prevents the song from falling into a ‘standard’ dance pop track category. The way the funky and groovy influences are held back also allows me to feel a sense of refinement, something I tend to mention when it comes to SF9’s classier comebacks. Puzzle features a memorable hook during the choruses, which helps bump up the song in my books. I will admit it took a couple of listens for me to feel that way about the hooks. But now that I am into it, I am completely for it. I liked how the rappers got to participate in the choruses, evening out the line distribution. Chani and Zuho taking helm of the first portion of the first two runs of the chorus, while Hwiyoung takes the second portion of the final chorus. I did feel like the vocals and raps were somewhat plain in terms of their delivery, which is probably the reason why it took me a couple of listens to get into Puzzle. Maybe it was purposely done so to bring a charismatic appeal to the group. But I wished the vocals were more expressive or had some sort of uniqueness to them, while I also wished the raps packed more of a punch to them. Overall, Puzzle was a decent track. It could have done better, but Puzzle still works as a solid addition to SF9’s single discography.

      The members in this video are putting the clues of a puzzle together to work out. I wished the video showed us a reason for the investigative/suspicious actions, like if something was stolen or someone was killed. Without the context, the video doesn’t feel as exciting to me as it is hyped up to be. From what I can understand, there are two version of the group. The investigators are the version of the members that are dressed in suits, while the version dressed in leather are the ones trying to steer the investigators away from themselves. At first, I thought they were all tracking down Jaeyoon (as he had the burn mark on his skin), but the version of the members dressed in leather jackets were doing some suspicious things with files and what I assume is evidence. Whilst the suits and leather jackets talk is very confusing for the story behind the video, the SF9 definitely look very cool in them.

      The choreography is good. I must commend the members on how their moves looked very natural and fluid throughout the routine. I also did like the chorus routine, particularly the first half (i.e. during the “Puzzlin’, Puzzlin’ Puzzlin‘”) line. But other than that, nothing really stood out for me.

      Song – 7.5/10
      Music Video – 7.5/10
      Performance – 7/10
      Overall Rating – 7.4/10

      [Album Review] THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER TWO (2nd Mini Album) – TREASURE

      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.

      THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER TWO Album Cover

      1. HELLO (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for HELLO. (9/10)

      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)

      Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

      THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER TWO Teaser Image