[Album Review] The Piece OF9 (12th Mini Album) – SF9

SF9 made their latest comeback in January of this year with the release of Puzzle (the title track – link below) and The Piece OF9 (the group’s 12th mini-album). Today’s album review focuses on this mini-album release. The Piece OF9 features a total of 6 tracks (including the title track) and seven of the nine SF9 members, as Youngbin and Inseong had enlisted into the military last year and Rowoon rejoined the group’s lineup after missing the promotions of SCREAM and The Wave OF9. Following this comeback, Jaeyoon also enlisted into the military.

The Piece OF9 is a particularly strong album release from SF9. I gave two songs a perfect 10/10 score and ranked the rest of the songs on the higher end of the spectrum. Find out how each song on The Piece OF9 ranked by continuing to read this post!

The Piece OF9 Album Cover

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

2. Love Colour – The second track on the album is a really neat and rhythmic R&B pop piece. I liked the layering of the instrumentation, which was full of texture and felt subtly groovy. And yet, Love Colour manages to still be quite smooth thanks to the flow of the song and the members vocals, which were enjoyable. I also enjoyed the vibrant feel of the song, which allows this R&B piece to be more appealing than other R&B tracks out there. (8/10)

3. New WorldNew World is quite the shake-up following the likes of Love Colour. I get an epic revolutionary or an adventurous cinematic journey vibe from this anthemic dance track, which makes sense given the title of the song. The vocals and rapping were amazing, and gave off a sense of accomplishment, which was a great complement to the aforementioned vibes. A minor suggestion, but I think some more pronounced electric guitar riffs during the final chorus to electrify the end would have made New World even more epic. (9/10)

4. FighterFighter is the song on the album that you really need to turn the volume up and blast out loud! There is some serious charge to the song that comes off so subtle. The chorus is super addictive and gets the adrenaline pumping throughout your body. Even the verses had some momentum, and the rapping that featured in the verses was fire. The pre-choruses were appreciably smooth and another strong aspect of the song. A clear 10/10 for me. (10/10)

5. Tight (꽉) – We enter groovier EDM territory with Tight. The bass is also quite something. The marching drumbeats in the pre-choruses were a really nice bridge between this and the preceding song, and also built great momentum towards the choruses. The choruses were doubled down on the grooviness, and also had a fun tinge when the whistles kicked in. Again, the rapping and vocals are on point in this song, particularly Hwiyoung’s expressive rapping and Jaeyoon’s stunning high note. Another 10/10 song for me. (10/10)

6. Stay With Me (Jaeyoon Solo) – From a mile away, I could tell Stay With Me was going to be the balladry song on the mini-album. Stay With Me is also a solo single from Jaeyoon. It is a nicely instrumented with the traditional piano and band instrumentation. I quite liked the electric guitar in the background, which helped give it a less typical ballad feel. Jaeyoon vocals were heavenly, and you can feel the emotions that he poured into and out of the song. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

The Piece OF9 Teaser Image


Returning to the stage is DREAMCATCHER with their latest release, BONVOYAGE. It is the title of their 8th mini-album, Apocalypse: From Us, and serves as the final major song from their Apocalypse trilogy. This particular trilogy started off in 2022 with the release of Apocalypse: Save Us and MAISON, followed by Apocalypse: Follow Us and VISION. It is also the group’s first release since the news all members renewed their contract with Dreamcatcher Entertainment a year in advance to end of the usual 7 year contract that most KPOP idols sign to debut and the release of the special single Reason to commemorate their 6th year as a group under the name Dreamcatcher.

For a number of DREAMCATCHER’s reviews, I have mentioned the “this is their most intense comeback to date” comment quite a bit. We have definitely seen an upward trajectory, in terms of intensity and power, from the group over the years. And while BONVOYAGE is probably one of their most blastful and boastful efforts yet when it comes to the choruses (which undoubtedly are the highlight of BONVOYAGE for me), I do feel like BONVOYAGE could have been more balanced between the verses and choruses. It didn’t occur to me until I started writing this review that the brief pauses at the start of the choruses did some important work in drawing my attention back to the song. The verses exuded a much calmer sensation with its softer approach, all of which I would describe as ‘nice’. But there isn’t much going on within them. Nothing is memorable from the verses, which I guess is why the song didn’t pull me in until we got to the choruses. Even Dami’s rapping in the second verse was on the softer side, and admittedly, well woven into BONVOYAGE. However, there was a missed opportunity to explore something more dynamic with Dami, especially since we all know what she can do from previous DREAMCATCHER songs. Anyhow, back to the choruses. It makes complete sense that the vocals were super powerful in order to be heard over the instrumentation of the choruses. I liked the way they ended the choruses with a slight melodic touch to ease us out of the intensity and helped give the song a memorable ring. And if you enjoyed the choruses of BONVOYAGE, you probably also enjoyed the continuous momentum of the bridge and final sequence of the song, which focuses on the latter halves of the aforementioned choruses. This continuous momentum propel Siyeon’s high note and helps end BONVOYAGE on a super climatic note. Overall, another great DREAMCATCHER release.

As mentioned above, the music video for BONVOYAGE rounds out the Apocalypse trilogy. In the song, the members sings of a farewell to a special someone. In the video, this may be due to the Apocalypse events that occurred in the MAISON and VISION music videos. There appears to be a bit of symbolism and imagery going in this video, and I don’t really have time to make sense of it all. So, maybe if the connections between the video are strong enough, I might consider the Apocalypse series as part of a future Music Video Theory segment, which DREAMCATCHER’s Horror series previously featured a part of. Aside from plot line, I really liked the crispness of the music video in all aspects, including the post-production. I also liked the action scenes in the video, and the members looked amazing in the video.

The choreography for this comeback looks pretty good, as a whole. While no moves stood out, I quite liked their energy on stage whilst performing BONVOYAGE. It made the entire performance worthwhile to watch, even though there was nothing mind-blowing in the choreography. The performance was also all smiles, which looked quite genuine and tells me that they really enjoy being on stage/with each other. It also helps put an even more positive spin on the song.

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

[Review] ICKY – KARD

Last month’s Without You was just a pre-release single for KARD. I don’t think there was any indication of this at the time of Without You‘s release, so to hear the co-ed group was returning with their 6th mini-album and new title track was a pleasant surprise. Both the new mini-album and title track are titled ICKY. As mentioned in their Without You review, this is KARD first official comeback since RE: and Ring The Alarm.

ICKY is another decent track from KARD. Not exactly one of their best, but the repetition of the title which makes the song super catchy, Latin beats and groovy aspects of ICKY do come off striking enough. There are some things that I don’t particularly like with the track, such as the dragged out ‘ICKY‘ (which ironically feels icky to me) at the start of the song and the reversion to trap for BM’s rap sequence. For the latter, the contrast here is jarring and unsettling for me. Though I did think the whistle in the background was a nice way to blend that sequence somewhat with the rest of the song. The vocals and rapping were quite strong and I appreciated the members’ effort in ICKY. However, I did feel like they were holding back. But the issue didn’t lie with the quartet. To potentially take it all to the next level (and hence ICKY), I felt there was opportunity for the instrumental to go harder. Some bass or bolder elements in the instrumental would have been ideal for both ICKY and KARD, given that I feel they thrive on intensity as a group. Other than that, I enjoyed the new release from the group.

As for the music video, it was pretty good. My only criticism is that the usage of the chroma key could have been a bit more polished. Aside from that, there is a bit of a story line to the video. Not entirely sure of the meaning or symbolism of this story. But it is clear to me that Jiwoo is some sort of monster (given that she is slimy and seen in the green liquid from the start of the video. The three other members have somehow been trapped. We see Somin in a continuous hallway. J.Seph is sucked into the liquefying floor. BM is falls into a never-ending pool of green liquid. Each of these three ends up in Jiwoo’s lair, who ultimately corrupts the trio (as depicted by the green glow each member gives off and BM’s changed eyes at the very end). Very interesting indeed.

As for the choreography, I have always liked how charismatic the group is on stage. And the choreography for ICKY proves just that. They all have really nailed the whole idea of showing a balanced and uniform amount of charisma throughout, even whilst performing a routine like this. It all translate to an intense routine. No moves stood out in particular, but I did like stomping factor they had going on, along with the hand motions, which gives the choreography a bit more complexity.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10


ENHYPEN makes their comeback this week with their new darkened tone single BITE ME and their fourth mini-album DARK BLOOD. It follows the group’s third mini-album MANIFESTO: DAY 1, the lead single from that release – Future Perfect (Pass The MIC), the group’s Japanese debut and their first world tour which wrapped earlier this year.

For me, BITE ME is an underbaked title track. There is a bit to enjoy in this track and there are some parts that could have been improved upon. In some cases, some parts could be removed entirely. It is a mixture that leaves me a bit confused. Per usual, let’s start on the positive aspects of BITE ME. The chorus instantly comes to mind. I really liked the more melodic approach that was taken in this comeback, which brings on a smoothness in the song that makes BITE ME appealing. The “Oh My, Oh My God” sequence within the verses was a highlight in my opinion, and gives the plainer verses a bit of a coolness to them. As for the vocals, I felt the members did a decent job. I liked the character they give the verses and the mini uptick drag at the end of each second line in the choruses. More could have been done, but I would put the vocals on the side of being a positive aspect of BITE ME. Moving onto the parts which I think could have been improved upon. I felt the song needed a more prominent rap sequence, something to really intensify the track and give it a bit of an edgy factor. Likewise, BITE ME could have used a bolder instrumental to give the song some flair. To me, they play it very safe with BITE ME, and I don’t think that is what the title of the song calls for. It is a bold title, and the momentum or direction of BITE ME just doesn’t get anywhere near what I had expected from the track. As for the parts that I think could have removed, there are two. The first is the ending/outro of the track. To me, it brought no value to BITE ME. I get that the track is an extremely short one – spanning just over 2.5 minutes for a title track. But it just doesn’t give BITE ME much. The second, and the one part that I feel most strongly about, is the chanting pre-choruses just before the choruses. It is a jarring change to the song that does not fit the rest of the song (but I guess they were trying to make it feel ‘ENHYPEN’) and disrupts the flow of the otherwise decent track. The song would have been so much better off without this part. Overall, there is an air of disappointment over BITE ME. I am hoping more listens will help convince me otherwise.

I really enjoyed the dark vibes that the music video had. I did expect something darker, based on the teaser images that were released in the lead up to the group’s comeback. But what we got fits the bill quite well without being too creepy. There were some really nice imagery, such as the members turning into coffins, the use of shadows and silhouette. The sets were cool, such the choreography set that had a stage that light up and colosseum-like walls. The lighting was well used in this video, as well, which goes back to the good use of shadows and silhouettes that I already mentioned. My favourite part of this entire video is that short sequence in the second “Oh My, Oh My God” segment, where the members faces transitioned into the next member. It literally spanned for two seconds, but it left a very strong impression on me.

A darker concept comeback can mean many things. But with a more melodic track like this one, the creation of a sensual atmosphere makes for a strong pairing and that comes through in the choreography. I really liked that they went with this direction. From what I can see in the music video, the chemistry between the members and the female dancers was spot on. I also enjoyed the edgy side of the choreography, which comes through that dreaded chanty pre-chorus.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Album Review] Incense (3rd Mini Album) – MOONBIN & SANHA (ASTRO)

One of the first reviews I wrote this year was for Moonbin and Sanha’s Madness, which at the time, no one knew would be Moonbin’s final release before his unfortunate passing just a month ago. I contemplated for the last month whether I would write an album review for Incense, in case I had some negative things to say about one of the songs on the album. It wouldn’t seem respectful to the late artist (and likewise Sanha, who I am sure is still hurting over his friend and bandmate’s passing). But I am sure that Moonbin would want to enjoy his music even after he left. And I indeed enjoyed this mini-album release. Incense follows the release of WHO and REFUGE from last year.

Incense Album Cover

1. Perfumer – Kicking off the mini-album is Perfumer, which takes on the sexy side of the R&B genre. It is a short track, spanning only two minutes. But it is neat opener and it captures this side of the R&B quite well. The atmospheric instrumentation and the very sultry tone that the pair exudes through their vocals brings the sensual energy to life in Perfumer. I would have liked a more memorable ring to the song or maybe a memorable element, just to give Perfumer more of an edge. (7.5/10)

2. Madness (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Madness. (7.5/10)

3. Desire (이끌려)Desire is the first of two solo tracks we get from the members. Desire belongs to the late Moonbin, and ventures back into R&B territory. This time around, some pop influences also peek through, bringing more of an upbeat and playful vibe to the song. Moonbin’s vocals are really nice and clean in the track. The chorus also has a memorable ring, which emphasises that fun side to Desire. (8/10)

4. Wish (바람)Wish is Sanha’s solo track and it is a stunner. It is pop-rock ballad in which Sanha expresses his gratitude for the fans/AROHAs. The instrumentation had some really beautiful moments in its calmer moments and soared to some spectacular heights as the song progresses and a more prominent pop rock ballad sound could be heard. As for Sanha, his vocals were very captivating and you could feel how sincere he was. (10/10)

5. Chup Chup Chup Chup brings the two members of the unit back together through another pop R&B track. Chup Chup is also a start of the album’s more light and endearing side. The synths makes this a very bright and friendly track, while the duo showed us a more light-hearted and carefree tone. The hooks were cute and had a ring to them, thus tying the song together quite nicely. (8/10)

6. Your DayYour Day is the probably the most concentrated track, in terms of upbeatness and fun vibes, on this side of the mini-album. The pre-choruses pack a punch, while the chorus features a super nice and bright rhythmic disco instrumentation that I just want to dance to. Both Moonbin and Sanha make sure their vocals are bright and vibrant, giving the track an even more fun vibe. What I felt was lacking in Your Day was a more prominent hook, which could have taken the track to a whole new level. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

Incense Teaser Image

R.I.P Moonbin. You will be missed.

[Album Review] REASON (12th Mini Album) – MONSTA X

Welcome to the first 2023 album review of the year! Yes, I know it is May. And yes, this might technically not be the first 2023 album release to be reviewed this year. But it is the official start a more focused look at the 2023 releases. Starting my ‘focused look at 2023 releases’ is MONSTA X’s REASON, the group’s 12th mini-album, which was released in early January 2023. It is also the group’s first release since most of the members renewed their contracts with Starship Entertainment (with the exception of I.M, who chose to look elsewhere for solo promotions, whilst continuing activities with the rest of the group). The main single off the mini-album is Beautiful Liar, which also dropped on the same day. REASON follows the release of their SHAPE OF LOVE mini-album from 2022.

REASON Album Cover

1. Beautiful Liar (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Beautiful Liar. (8.5/10)

2. DaydreamDaydream features a creepy and haunting instrumentation, a complete shakeup if you were expecting something daydreamy. It is quite unsettling, but the track stands out because of this. As for the members, they do a decent job. I like that they do lean into the eerie vibes the song gives, telling us their desire to not wake up and realize their lover had left them. But I was expecting them to really kick Daydream up a notch. While they do go in that direction at certain moments, it doesn’t get Daydream anywhere, which is a bit of a disappointment. (7/10)

3. Crescendo (춤사위) Crescendo is your typical hip-hop track with a traditional Korean twist to the instrumentation. It is a really cool mash of traditional and modern, with both sides feeling very balanced and harmonious with another (as far as a hip-hop track can go). There was never a dull moment in the song. Alongside the instrumentation, MONSTA X kills it with the rapping and vocals, always bringing an unexpected surprise as the song progresses. A personal highlight on the album. (10/10)

4. LONE RANGER LONE RANGER incorporates a Wild West flair, giving the song a strong sense of character from the get-go. I like how it is more subtle than other songs that have the same influence, who tend to have it more in the forefront and in-your-face usually. The flair is paired with a relentless stomping beat, giving LONE RANGER intensity and propels the song forward. The vocals are very clean and deliver the catchy hooks effortlessly. Kihyun ended the song off amazingly with his ad-lib. The rappers of MONSTA X also do an amazing job as well, with Joohoney’s second verse rap sequence having a bit of a grow and an impact oomph in the song. (9/10)

5. DenyDeny tones down the album with a smoother approach and a jazzier undertone to its instrumentation. The song falls more into R&B territory. I like the glow that radiates from the vocalists, while the rapping gives Deny a really sleek vibe. It was an enjoyable track to listen to, overall. (8/10)

6. It’s Alright (괜찮아) – Ending on a happier tone, the album ends with the single It’s Alright where they talk about going back to their lover. The track keeps true to MONSTA X’s hip-hop roots. But this time around, they go with an old-school 90s vibe. And this makes the track so likeable. The melodies in this track are amazing, especially the English lines in the choruses. There is some really nice piano work in the background, which just adds a classy tone to the song. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

REASON Teaser Image

[Review] Crazy Like That – VERIVERY

Another group to make their comeback this week was VERIVERY. Tuesday saw the release of the group’s 7th mini-album,  Liminality – EP.Dream, and their new title track Crazy Like That. This latest comeback follows the like of their fun and catchy Tap Tap comeback from mid-November 2022.

Crazy Like That is quite a subdued dance track. Each time I listen to the song when it was first released, I hoped for the song to take itself up a notch, but that hope is never fruitful. But with the more listens I give to Crazy Like That, the less of that hopeful thought crosses my mind and the more I find myself enjoying the song. Sure, there are definitely moments in which I still think the song could have incorporated more into itself to make it a bit more captivating. And part of me still feels like the song is fairly dry. But for the most part, I find the track to be enjoyable. The already mentioned subdued nature of Crazy Like That does emit a dreamy and mature vibe, and there is a smoothness to the song that is appreciable. The instrumental is still very textural despite also being minimalistic. But it does run into the problem of being repetitive. The members do a neat job with their vocals, keeping their tone minimal to complement the instrumentation, but there was still some variation that gives Crazy Like That some interesting moments. And it is this variation that really helps the song from falling into a stagnant and repetitive piece. The brief use of autotune following the first chorus gives the song a moment of extra texture and flair. The bridge was my favourite sequence of the entire song, as it gave me something different to experience that wasn’t like the rest of the song. The producers do this by stripping away Crazy Like That‘s minimalistic instrumentation to the bare minimum, giving us a moment that was not similar to the repetitive instrumentation in the verses/choruses. Overall, an interesting atmosphere is created within Crazy Like That, that I ended up enjoying.

While the song side of the Crazy Like That comeback was quite minimalistic, the music video was not. There is a lot going on in the video, in terms of a possible story, sets/locations etc. all of which I am not sure is about. My best guess is that the group are showing they driven to achieving their goals and dreams (there is some imagery of this). And in the end of the video, they celebrate their success. However, I strongly believe I have completely misinterpreted the video, and am open to hearing about other interpretations. Personally, I kind of wished they took a minimalistic approach for the music video as well to better complement the song. Maybe the producers could have done something that felt artsy and more aesthetically pleasing to match up with the dreamy and mature vibes that the song had going on.

As for the choreography, I liked how they found a balance to making the performance quite intense without going overboard. This helps makes the comeback more appealing, and gives VERIVERY a chance to show more of themselves on stage.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] Queencard – (G)I-DLE

After a super successful year with TOMBOY and Nxde, (G)I-DLE is back with their new title track Queencard and their 6th mini-album, I Feel. It follows the pre-release of the single Allergy, which is also featured on this new mini-album. Unfortunately, once again, I have not yet reviewed the pre-release, which the accompanying music video for it actually set up the events in the music video for Queencard. I will definitely return in the future (ahead of the album review) to review the pre-release. But for now, here are my thoughts on Queencard.

To me, Queencard had the slightest essence of TOMBOY. Drawing upon one of KPOP’s hits last year is a smart move (not whatever Nxde had attempted to do). There are some key differences between the songs that make them individualistic from each other and there are some aspects within Queencard that weakens the song from my point of view. Let’s start off with those differences, as they are also the more positive aspects of the song. Queencard is clearly more upbeat and suited for the incoming Summer season. The more melodic pre-chorus was really nice and pleasant sounding. The energy the members bring to the song and the grungy pop rock influences really gives Queencard a strong and resounding glow. Queencard‘s main hook were repetitive, but the repetition felt punchy and bouncy, which helped win me over in the end. The weaker aspects of the song come in two forms. The first are the lyrics. I get that Queencard‘s message was of self-confidence and self-love, and I do see the intention of the lyrics. But “My boob and booty is hot” and “I’m twerking on the runway” is quite cringy. The second aspect that weakens the song is whatever the second verse was. It was a poor attempt of changing up the momentum of the song, and slows down Queencard to a sluggish affair. I could totally have done without the second verse, and substituted a similar approach to the first verse with different lyrics. That would have been more interesting and exciting to my ears. Overall, Queencard doesn’t top TOMBOY or any of their other title tracks that I personally still enjoy from them. But it a neat follow-up to the 2022 hit.

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, the music video for Queencard follows on from the Allergy music video. In case you were not caught up with Allergy, the opening to this music video has a “Previously on…” introduction which reminded us that Soyeon was not confident in her current looks and had decided to go under the knife for a new look. In this music video, the other members show us what it is like to be confident and to be the centre of attention at a party. Meanwhile Soyeon comes to the realisation that she is already a ‘queencard’ and opts out the surgery. She is immediately rewarded by the attention she gets on social media at the end of the video.

With the choreography, the literal less than a second move done by Soyeon and Yuqi that is causing it not as big of an issue as the Korean netizens make it to be. I understand that Korea is a more conservative country, but it is not as bad as other performances that already exist in KPOP and the content of Western media (which I grew up on). Overall, I thought the choreography for Queencard was fun and upbeat, just like the song.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10


ONEUS made their comeback last Monday with their 9th mini-album PYGALMON and their latest lead single, ERASE ME. This is the male group’s first release since September’s 2022 MALUS and Same Scent. It is also the group’s first official comeback as a five member group, following Ravn’s hiatus and subsequent departure during and after Same Scent/MALUS‘ promotion. As part of the promotions of new mini-album, ONEUS did pre-release a side track, titled UNFORGETTABLE. I have yet to review that single, but will definitely do so in the future ahead of PYGALMON‘s album review.

There is a fair lot going on in ERASE ME and I will admit that it was quite overwhelming the first couple of listens. But a week on from ERASE ME‘s release, the track has definitely grown on me a fair bit. The idea with having a strong and dramatic orchestral influence in combination with the synths was a really amazing idea. The intensity was definitely gripping and made for a unique listening experience. The jerkiness of instrumental, especially around the choruses, might be a bit unlikeable to some (and I can completely understand why!). But I personally thought the jerkiness nature of ERASE ME was a charming aspect of the song. The boldness of the synths used in the chorus probably contributed that overwhelming impression I mentioned at the start of the review, but it does now leave a more memorable impression now. As for the members, they did a decent job. Seoho with his piercing high note at the start of the final chorus and Xion’s lower and huskier tone that opened up the second chorus were probably my favourite aspects of ERASE ME. On the other hand, Leedo and Hwanwoong’s rapping was underbaked for such an intense song and their rapping segments could have used some oomph to bring to the same level of boldness as the instrumentation. ERASE ME also lacked a strong melody and hook, but I think the instrumental just took away any opportunity for something strong to develop in these departments. We do have a “Da Da Da” hook and some pop melodies that were promising, but something more striking could have been delivered in this song. Overall, I like the direction taken by, and the final product that is, ERASE ME. But I think improvements to the song could have made it even better.

To say the music video was stunning would be a complete understatement. While it is just choreography and closeup shots, every single shot and scene just leaves such a strong visual impression on you. The quality was so crisp and the members looked so good because of this. The clever cinematography and lighting definitely emphasised the boldness of the music and made me go wow on so many occasions. The concrete stairs and the dance break sequence of the song/music video were prime examples of these moments. The colour palette was rather limited, but the producers did an amazing job of ensuring that those colours look so fresh and stimulating. Whatever RBW is doing here needs to be replicated across all of their music videos in the future because it makes the entire video dynamic.

It should come as no surprise that such a song like ERASE ME would lend towards a very strong performance. ONEUS definitely delivers this and shows off their performance skills with such an intense and complex routine, as a whole. However, I just cannot commit to saying that this is their most impressive effort to date. But don’t get me wrong, the choreography for ERASE ME is definitely up there.

Song – 8.5/`10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.1/10

[Review] TRICKY HOUSE – xikers

Just like last year, the lack of reviews for newly debut artists looks like I have neglected the rookies of KPOP. A number of groups have already made their entrance in the industry this year and they all equally deserve to be checked out. After all, you will never know when you will discover your newest favourite act. xikers is the newest male group from KQ Entertainment, which is also the home of ATEEZ. xikers feature a 10-member lineup, consisting of Minjae, Jumin, Sumin, Jinsik, Hyunwoo, Junghoon, Seeun, Hunter, Yujun and Yechan. They made their debut on 30 March of this year with their debut single TRICKY HOUSE and their first mini-album, HOUSE OF TRICKY: Doorbell Ringing.  

TRICKY HOUSE kicks xikers’ careers off with a song with a high intensity and bold electronic sound. Noisy might pop into your mind, and I totally can hear why. The basis of TRICKY HOUSE doesn’t initially standout very much. I was hoping for a cool detail/direction to the electronic sound, but it was all just coming at you with little reprieve. However, as I listened to TRICKY HOUSE more, I came to appreciate some elements that ultimately set them apart from similar songs that go down this direction. The first thing that pops out at me when I listen to TRICKY HOUSE closely is the Bollywood/Moombahton influence that the instrumental carries. It pokes through the electronic elements of the instrumental ever so slightly, so it can easily be missed if you aren’t pay attention. However, I do feel like the two clash and creates that ‘noisy’ atmosphere. Maybe if they weren’t too mashed together, a better appreciation would come about for TRICKY HOUSE. As an element on its own, I felt this brought a unique vibe to the song. It isn’t necessarily a new sound in KPOP, but it does bring something different to the table. Another aspect that stood out for me is xikers’ delivery of TRICKY HOUSE. The rapping was quite powerful and left an expressive impression. Vocals take a back seat in the song, but there is enough there to ensure the vocalists sound good. Altogether, the song helps shows off their capabilities, beneficial for any artist starting out. I do feel like their vocals and raps could have been more attractive with a killer and memorable hook, which I felt is a missing element to help the song stand out further. Overall, TRICKY HOUSE is a good start and I definitely would like to hear something even more unique and individualistic from the group.   

The music video shows a businessman experiencing a world where he lets go of the social norms that he is a part of and to be himself. And this is what the entire song is about – to embrace and be yourself. In the video, the members help edge him on, as does the music that blasts through the headphones. They take him to the arcade, have a dance off with people in cosplay costumes, smash up an ATM, and do doughnuts in a sports car. Pretty much everything he would never do. And the members were all there alongside of him to experience the high he is experience. I really liked the settings of the video, as they helped highlight the edgy profile of the song. And the post-production, such as the train roof splitting open to show gears and the incorporation of the members into the middle of the doughnuts as they were happening, helped make the video look intense and cool.

Their stage presence was phenomenal. I had to check out a few stage performance to make sure it was not a one-off thing, and I am so glad it wasn’t. xikers definitely have a future in front of them, if they keep up the stage presence. Having a super intense and energetic song helps, but the energy they put behind their choreography and facial expressions makes quite an impression and their chemistry on stage was awesome to watch. That backward twist in the final moments of the choruses was super cool and definitely was a showstopper.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.5/10

[Album Review] Indigo (1st Studio Album) – RM (BTS)

It has been a long time coming, but here are my thoughts on RM’s solo debut album. Released at the start of December 2022, Indigo follows the releases of mixtapes from RM back in 2015 (titled RM) and 2018 (titled Mono). It features 10 tracks in total, including Wild Flower and Still Life that I had already reviewed separately in their respective song review posts (links to both are below). The album itself is collaboration galore, with RM seeking the assistance of Erykah Badu, Anderson Paak, Tablo (from Epik High), Kim Sa Wol, Paul Blanco, Mahalia, Colde, Youjeen (from Cherry Filter) and Park Ji Yoon to tell some very deep and powerful messages in the songs that feature on the album. I think that pretty much says it all – Indigo is such an artistic and aesthetic album that explores so much in terms of lyrics, genres (though all come back to hip-hop in one form or another) and featuring artists. This is without a doubt a recommended listen.

Also, as I have previously mentioned time and time again in recent days, this will be the final album released in 2022 in which I will cover. Later this month, I will be turning my head towards the 2023 albums, which reviews are very much long overdue. But until then, here is what I have to say about Indigo.

Indigo Album Cover

1. Yun (with Erykah Badu) – Opening up the album is the single Yun. It explores a very chill, jazzy form of R&B. This track is stunningly smooth and I really enjoyed the glow that comes from the song. Alongside RM, Yun features the late Yun Hyong-keun as the narrator who we can hear at the start and end of the track. The song is also titled after him and whom RM draws inspiration from for this track, which explores the idea of going back to his younger days to rediscover his passion for music and art. Yun also features the Queen of Neo Soul, Erykah Badu, whom I understand does not collaborate with just anyone. Her vocals oozes so much charisma, as does RM in this song. (9/10)

2. Still Life (with Anderson .Paak)Click here to read the full review for Still Life. (9/10)

I couldn’t find the official audio link for Still Life on YouTube, so I have linked the music video here instead.

3. All Day (with Tablo)All Day packs a punch with its instrumentation. I always end up feeling the beat and head-nodding along to the song every time it comes on. I really liked the vibrancy of the song, with the beat and brass adding a liveliness to the song that feels super invigorating. The backing vocals in the chorus also have a similar effect. This alone makes the song one of my favourites from the album. All Day features the leader of Epik High, Tablo, who delivers his part with the same vigor as RM did in the song. The pair are super balanced and make an impact with their statement of fighting social pressures ‘all day’. (10/10)

4. Forg_tful (건망증) (with Kim Sa-wol) – RM trades in rapping for breathy vocals in Forg_tful, a ballad simply instrumented by an acoustic guitar. Folksy whistle also makes an appears, just to give the song just that something bit more. Just like every other ballad I have enjoyed during my time reviewing KPOP songs, the melody of Forg_tful has this subtle swaying effect, which already tells me that it is going to be success in my books. The song features folk singer Kim Sa-wol, who just has a beautifully delicate set of vocals. I really liked how RM bent his delivery to ensure it fits alongside Kim Sa-wol’s vocals, making Forg_tful quite a harmonious track. (8/10)

5. Closer (with Paul Blanco & Mahalia)Closer speaks towards the idea of wanting to be closer to someone who just isn’t the right person. The track comes in the form of an alternative R&B song which features the likes of Paul Blanco and Mahalia, who both sound great in the song. It took me a while to get into the song, unfortunately. Just because it feels plainer than the rest of the album. But once I did get there, it was such a nice track to have in the background. (7/10)

6. Change Pt. 2 – So far, the album has been quite heavy with featurings from other artists (and there are more to come!). But we finally hit the two solo tracks from RM himself. The first is Change Pt. 2, which is quite a unique textural change-up. It is an experimental track that kicks off with quite an abrasive and crunchy set of synths and electronica that was very much unexpected. This transforms into a jazzy piano number, before slowing down completely at the end. The experimental nature of Change Pt. 2 continues through RM’s slurred delivery. There is definitely charm to delivering the track this way and it is quite artistic. But it is quite overwhelmed when paired with the boldness of the Change’s instrumentation. Overall, quite a surprise. But one that I do like. (8.5/10)

7. LonelyLonely is quite an enjoyable pop number instrumentally, with the guitar work being such a prominent feature of the song’s background. The powerful nature of the pre-choruses was quite an impactful sequence and I liked how RM effortlessly switch back to the pop vibes for the chorus. RM’s vocals are amazing and well appreciated in this song. However, don’t let Lonely mislead you. Despite it being of pop vibes, the lyrics are quite pessimistic and weighty on the topic of loneliness. Altogether, it creates an interesting atmosphere, which makes it a favourite in my books. (10/10)

8. Hectic (with Colde) – The city pop instrumentation that features in Hectic is my favourite aspect of the song. The beat is quite addictive, and paired with the synths, Hectic just takes on a groovy undertone. I also enjoyed both RM and Colde’s husky vocal tone, which was another highlight of the track. Another strong track that shows off RM’s versatility and Colde’s appeal. (10/10)

9. Wild Flower (들꽃놀이) (with Youjeen) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Wild Flower. (10/10)

10. No.2 (with Park Ji Yoon) – Ending the album is the more positive No.2, which speaks of looking forward (rather than backwards). It is quite a comforting track, especially since the lyrics feature the line “You’ve done your best”. Park Ji Yoon’s nasally vocals shine in this song for me, while RM himself ensure the song stayed grounded. It is a nice closer to the album, and a nice ‘change of tune’ after the exploration of the heavy and deep messages that RM features on the album. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9.1/10

Indigo Teaser Image

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 3)

What do you mean today isn’t Friday? Apologies for the delay in posting the third and final part of the SKZ-Replay album review. I may or may not have slept when I should have been drafting this post. Anyhow, as started earlier this week, I began reviewing the SKZ-Replay compilation album. The album is split into two sides. The first side, known as the A-Side of the album, features the lead single FAM, a single previously unofficially released through a special YouTube video and 8 solo songs from each Stray Kids member. The second part of the album is known as the B-Side. And it consists of 15 songs from the SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I have now posted the album review in three parts – Part 1 focused on the A-Side. Part 2 will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 (this post) will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

8. Alien (외계인) (Han Solo)Alien begins the second half of the B-Side. Han really pushes his vocals in the choruses, as if he wants to be heard. The song speaks about being lonely, like an alien who dropped down onto Earth (taken from Soompi). Wanting to be heard definitely makes sense in the context of the song. This stylistic choice, to me, feels impactful. His rapping isn’t as powerful in this song, as opposed to his other solo tracks on this album. I felt it was a nice choice to tone down the delivery, given the chorus. Otherwise, it easily could have been an overwhelming and full-on track. However, Han still manages to infuse emotions into Alien whilst rapping. I also enjoyed the chilled nature of the instrumental. (8/10)

9. Because (좋으니까) (Changbin & Felix) – Released on White Day in 2021, both Changbin and Felix adopt more of singing delivery to their rapping for Because, presumably for a softer and sweeter approach for the romantic day. However, this created more of a neutral atmosphere, and this ended up boring me. It doesn’t help that the instrumentation was pretty much bland, as well. The pair is more well known for their intensity and rapping, and if Because demonstrated anything, that is when they are at their best. (5/10)

10. Piece of a Puzzle (조각) (Changbin & Seungmin) – Unlike the preceding song, Changbin’s rapping is more appreciated. He isn’t as powerful like how he is usually heard, but his fast delivery in the bridge was a neat return to form. Plus, his other parts were likeable. Seungmin himself sounds charming throughout the song and does a great job of delivering the melodies of Piece of a Puzzle to us. Unfortunately, the combination of hooks and the instrumental just made the song feel overly repetitive, and this ultimately ended up being a lukewarm track. (6.5/10)

11. Wish You Back (Han Solo) – Han definitely dominates the B-side with his fourth (out of five) solo tracks. And I do think we are in a bit of a rut with another neutral track, Wish You Back. We do get some strong rapping from Han and the bass does help make the track a bit livelier. But the rest of the song was just plain (i.e. the autotuned vocals) and doesn’t live up to the other solo tracks he present us on this album. (7/10)

12. HaPpY (Han Solo) – Wishing a person, who is no longer by your side, happiness is the message behind the track HaPpY. Again, this is another dry track for me. The mid-tempo nature of the song was probably the biggest driver of this. The instrumental was pretty repetitive, as well. However, I did like the last moment’s push Han gives just prior to the song ending. (6/10)

13. Up All Night (Bangchan, Changbin, Felix & Seungmin)Up All Night features the most members, four in total. Latin influences feature in the instrumentation and there is a playful energy to the song that makes it a fun listen. Felix kicks off the song with a very seductive approach. Bangchan brings personality to his vocals, while Seungmin’s vocals had a nice easygoing vibe. Changbin was the weakest member in the song in my opinion, with the higher pitch feeling quite unnatural. The bridge with the deeper notes/bass was my favourite bit in the entire song. (7.5/10)

14. Drive (Bangchan & Lee Know)Drive is the other song that I mentioned in Thursday’s half of the B-Side review that is more recognisable than most other tracks on the album. The undeniable yet iconic sexy lyrics that I don’t think we know who of the pair wrote, the rhythmic and atmospheric hip-hop instrumentation, and the mature tone that both Bangchan and Lee Know brings just makes this a cool listen. I also like the smidge of upbeatness that Drive had, which is another appreciable energy booster during this part of the album. (8.5/10)

15. ice.cream (Hyunjin Solo) – The honour of closing the 25-track album goes to Hyunjin’s ice.cream. I liked the R&B nature of the song and Hyunjin’s husky vocals make the song charming. Don’t get me wrong, however, when I use the word “charming”. ice.cream is a very much bittersweet love song. Hyunjin also raps in the verses, and there is a nice showing of his rapping skills. The abrupt ending is not something I enjoyed and I think the song could have eased out to make the closing of both song and album more palatable. (7.5/10)

Overall B-Side Rating – 7.6/10 (this also includes song ratings from the first half of the B-Side of the album)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Teaser Image from Stray Kids’ God’s Menu era

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 2)

Yesterday, I posted the first part of a three part album review for Stray Kids’ 3rd compilation album, SKZ-Replay. That first part focused on the A-Side of the album, which featured the lead single FAM, a single previously unofficially released through a special YouTube video and 8 solo songs from each Stray Kids member. Today, I post the second part of the album review, focusing on the first half of the compilation album’s B-Side. As mentioned yesterday, B-Side consists of 15 songs from the SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I will be posting the album review in three parts – Part 1 focused on the A-Side. Part 2 (this post) will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

1. Zone (Bangchan, Changbin & Han) – Starting off the B-side of the album is Zone, which was previously revealed four years ago by 3RACHA. Personally, Zone isn’t my cup of tea. But it is decent hip-hop track that shows us who 3RACHA are and what they are about. The powerful energy they channel through this track is quite bold. Changbin, who has been nominated for Best Rapper in a few KPOPREVIEWED Awards, proves to me why he is constantly stands out and worthy of the award. (7/10)

2. Close (Han Solo) – Most of the appealing elements of Close comes from Han himself. The instrumental itself was pretty chill and lowkey. This allows Han to show off a deeper tone than what I hear from him usually, and his rapping was well done. I liked how he varied his delivery in the song, which keeps listeners interested in Close, rather than going from start to end in a flat or consistent manner. The song is about meeting stranger by chance, being drawn to them, and the desire to get closer to them. (8/10)

3. Streetlight (Changbin ft. Bangchan) – You don’t need to know the language to hear the heartfelt message and emotions that Changbin pour into Streetlight. But in case you are interested, you can read more about the song from Changbin himself in the linked SOOMPI article. I have opted to not summarise the meaning of the song into a few words, especially since it touches on the topic of seeking help and is already beautifully explained by the songwriter himself. As for the music, I liked how consistent the drumming is, and how beautiful the piano and orchestral influences are in the song. I also like how the instrumental doesn’t get into the way of the Changbin and the message he is trying to deliver. Plus, his flow and tone are quite impeccable. (9/10)

4. I Hate To Admit (인정하기 싫어) (BangChan Solo) – For this particular half of the B-Side of SKZ-Replay, I Hate To Admit is my favourite track. The way Bangchan delivered this ballad was so captivating and gripping. It is one of the songs where you need to stop whatever you are doing to take it all in. You can feel the heartbreak and heavy emotions that Bangchan relays to us. It practically pours from the song when it reaches its peak. The piano and strings were beautiful yet minimalistic, allowing Bangchan’s vocals to front and centre, which was an excellent choice. (10/10)

5. I GOT IT (Han Solo) – Again, Han focuses on raps in I GOT IT. In terms of instrumentation, it is a repetitive hip-hop background. Nothing really special. But that is not the reason why I like I GOT IT. It is more so the rapping that floors me. He really showcases his talents in this song. He shows off how expressive he can be and the fast tempo he throws at us is literally fire. The autotuned high-pitched rapping at the end of the song was very interesting, but charming in its own way. (9/10)

6. Miss You (꼬마별) (Hyunjin Solo) – This half of the B-Side has been pretty 3RACHA dominant thus far. It is not until the sixth track (this one, in particular) do we hear from someone else. And that someone is Hyunjin. Miss You is a song dedicated to Hyunjin’s first pet, who has since passed away. Miss You is a touching and delicately instrumented song. Not exactly ballad territory, but you can feel the reflective emotion behind Hyunjin’s raspy tone in the song. It is a comforting listen. Personally, Miss You is not a track I have gone back to since its initial release two years ago, but revisiting it was a pleasant experience. (7/10)

7. Maknae On Top (막내온탑) (I.N ft. Bangchan & Changbin)Maknae On Top is one of the two songs from the SKZ-RECORD series that is more recognisable then the rest. I.N is the main character in this one, with the entire song about him. I liked the colour and energy that the Latin influences bring. The combination of the influences with I.N’s playfulness makes this one fun and humourous track. And this effect is pretty much hard to avoid. Bangchan and Changbin also features in this track to help fuel the fun and humour, and the fact they feature in this track also helps reiterate the idea of the song that I.N is in fact the boss of the group. (8/10)

Overall B-Side Rating – 7.6/10 (this includes all songs from Part 2 and Part 3 of the album review, which focused on the B-side of SKZ-Replay)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Teaser Image from Stray Kids’ Mixtape: On Track era

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 1)

As mentioned in my review for FAM song review yesterday, I will be posting an album review for SKZ-Replay. This is a compilation album, consisting of a total of 25 tracks. It is led by the Korean version of FAM, which also dropped as a single on the same day at the end of December 2022 as the album release. Due to the length of this album, it is split into two halves – an A-Side and a B-Side. A-Side consist of 10 songs – the single FAM, a single unofficially released by Stray Kids in a Youtube video and 8 never-heard-before solo singles from each member. B-Side consists of the remaining 15 songs, all of which have previously been released as part of SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I will be posting the album review in three parts – Part 1 (this post) will focus on the A-Side. Part 2 will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

1. FAM (Korean Version) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for FAM (Korean Version). (8/10)

2. Connected (Bangchan Solo) – Bangchan’s Connected is a decent all-English EDM track. The choruses were by far the most likeable moments within Connected, bringing some cool synths and effects to the song. This is in stark contrast to the verses, which didn’t have much going on and was pretty forgettable to me. Even the rapping in the second verse didn’t ping me as a strong element. On the other hand, Bangchan does a good job with his vocals. He shows promise, delving into falsettos during one part of the song. However, I think there is a possibility to strengthen the song with a more memorable hook or melody. (7/10)

3. Limbo (나지막이) (Lee Know Solo)Limbo is the main reason why I decided to write an album review for SKZ-Replay. I was (and still am) impressed by Lee Know’s vocals in this track, mainly because he usually isn’t known his vocals in Stray Kids’ usual releases. However, the push he gives himself in the choruses strongly shows off his vocals and makes the choruses a highlight for me in Limbo. I wished there was more to the instrumental and the verses, as they were more on the typical side and lacked anything interesting. But despite that, it doesn’t change the fact that Limbo is a standout for me thanks to Lee Know himself. (8.5/10)

4. DOODLE (Changbin Solo)DOODLE was a bit of a weird one for me. I remember thinking that Changbin’s solo was going to be an immature and childish sounding track, just based on the title alone. But surprisingly, it ends up being a heavy hip-hop track that shows Changbin’s rapping skills. The track itself has the message of not being set to the rules and being carefree, like a doodle we make on the page. His delivery was quite powerful, and adds to the heaviness of the song. There are some moments where it was quite textured and the intensity just hits you (in a positive manner). I do find DOODLE to be on the repetitive side, which is a bit of a letdown given how expressive the song is already. (7.5/10)

6. Love Untold (Hyunjin Solo) Love Untold is a mix of rock (gearing towards rock balladry territory) and hip-hop. Overall, it was a nice showcase of what Hyunjin has to offer when it comes to both rapping and vocals. However, I do feel like the chorus could have been better had be executed by a stronger vocalist. That being said, Hyunjin does show off his emotive and passionate side, especially when it comes to the rapping. It also helps that the melody of Love Untold is a lot clearer and cleaner. (8/10)

6. Run (Han Solo) – Han has demonstrated that he is an all-rounder over the last few years, and this made me curious to what direction his solo track would take. For Run, he chooses to showcase his rapping skills. I really liked his flow and the minimalistic vibes of the instrumental. It feels trendy and super unique. The deep autotuned vocals during the bridge of Run pretty much can be described the same way. Overall, I was impressed with Run and really enjoyed it. (9/10)

7. Deep End (Felix Solo) – Out of all of the members’ solo track on this compilation album, Felix’s Deep End was quite unexpected. It takes the form of a ballad. I really liked all the different vocal tones and variations he gives us throughout Deep End. He definitely utilizes his infamous deep and husky tone. But he also shows off so much more – like falsettos, a raspy tone and a set of smoother mid-range vocals. The instrumental is kept to a minimal with piano and the light presence of some other instrumentals, enabling the focus to be placed on Felix and his vocals. Quite a compelling listen. (9/10)

8. Stars and Raindrops (내려요) (Seungmin Solo) – I remember think how Stars and Raindrops felt like it could have been a DAY6 song. And knowing that he is a fan of the band, I do like how he drew upon his influence to deliver a strong track. I like how pleasant everything is, from the synth-featured band instrumentation, to his vocals, to the melodies of the song. The beat in Stars and Raindrops was also a nice change in momentum, given the preceding tracks. (9/10)

9. Hug Me (안아줄게요) (I.N Solo) – At first, I thought Hug Me was going to be an acoustic ballad with the way it started for some reason. But within seconds, as soon as I.N starts singing, the song instantly transforms into a pleasantly brighter and more cheerful number. The guitar work keeps the song grounded, while I.N’s vocals were sweet and loveable. (8/10)

10. #LoveSTAY – The final song covered on the A-side of the album (and this part of the album review) is #LoveSTAY, which is undoubtedly a love song for their fans. Musically, it is a ballad. Beautifully instrumented with orchestral touches and the vocals are so dreamy and touching. I really liked the way they ended the song, reiterating the loving and appreciation message they have for STAYs. Also, the group released a video for the song at the end of 2021, so check it out below if you missed it. As a recap, it features behind the scene shots of the members recording the song and snippets throughout their promotions/award shows. A nice nostalgic walk down memory lane for fans and the members alike. (9/10)

Overall A-Side Rating – 8.3/10

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Stray Kids’ Teaser Image from the MAXIDENT/CASE 143 era

[Review] FAM (Korean Version) – Stray Kids

The Korean version of FAM was released last year as the lead single off Stray Kids’ 3rd compilation album, SKZ-Replay, which dropped as one of the last KPOP album releases of 2022. Since then, the song has risen to the top of my Weekly KPOP Charts segment twice this year – the 3rd weeks of both January and February. It is a bit awkward for a song to have been placed first on my own Weekly KPOP Chart segment to not have a review, so today I will be reviewing the single. This review will then lead into my album review for SKZ-Replay, which I have wanting to review for a while now. So keep your eyes opened for the album review (which will be split into three parts). But for now, here is my review for FAM.

Previously released as a Japanese single, FAM is very much a personalised song made by the group’s in-house production team 3RACHA for the group (and their fans). The entire lyrics of FAM were made of references to the members through nicknames, shouted names, descriptions and praises of each member. For me, fun is the main word I would use to describe FAM, matching up with the group’s personality when they are off-screen and not performing their usually intense title tracks. As for the music, it is an upbeat and lively electronic track. All members, including the vocalists, delivered their descriptions and praises of the succeeding member in the song by rapping. This adds to the fun side of FAM. All members were also heavily autotuned, which adds a bit of a quirky affair to the song and blends them into the electronic profile of the instrumentation. The choruses were also shared amongst the members and were the closest to feature some singing. Again, autotune was present here to match with the rest of FAM. But the choruses had a catchy ring to them FAM. Altogether, I found FAM to be an addictive track. It is light-hearted (despite the song being delivered in a not so light manner via autotuned raps), casual and fun track that pretty much speaks to the bond that Stray Kids have with one another and their carefree personalities that comes about when the members are not on stage.

The music video for FAM was an edited version of their encore performance during the second Seoul leg of their recent world tour. While this isn’t much to go on with, I do want to point out that I liked the post production of the video. It added some fun elements to the video, emphasised parts of the song and brought some much-needed colour. With the stage lighting and denim outfits, everything looked blue. So, the yellow was a nice way of offset and make it more dynamic. I also liked how the post-production also aided in the emphasis of the member that was in the spotlight for that particular part of the video.

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

[Review] Spicy – aespa

aespa is one of the few artists that kicks off this new week, returning with their third mini-album My World and the title track Spicy. This comeback follows the group’s pre-release single Welcome to My World, which dropped last week and is a song that I will review separately in the near future. Spicy also follows the group’s 2022 comeback Girls.

Spicy is quite a change to their last comeback and even aespa’s wider discography thus far. Their main title tracks have been of more of an EDM base thus far, but Spicy manages to spice it up with a more pop-leaning comeback. Despite that however, Spicy still manages to conform to aespa’s roots, featuring textural form of EDM, dynamic bass and heavy beats – all of which still manages to make an intense statement. Not once did I feel the instrumental was overwhelming, which easily could have taken over hadn’t it been for the members (more on this in just a second). I liked the more vibrant and brighter tone the synths take on, while the dynamic profile of the instrumentation felt very suitable for the upcoming Summer season that I keep mentioning about. The pop side of the song comes through via the melodies choruses, which by far is my favourite part of Spicy. I am surprised that Spicy managed to still incorporate such pleasantly executed melodic flourishes in such an intense piece. This is mainly achieved by the members and their powerful vocals, which Spicy undoubtedly puts on full display. Upon reflection, the hooks are a bit cringy in my opinion, but I have managed to overlook this during each listen I have given Spicy so far. The rapping is more contained in the verses of the song. But while they pretty much were on par with the intensity of the song in the verses as well, I personally felt that the verses just weren’t as memorable. Hence I can’t justify giving Spicy a perfect rating. But they were so so close to earning it had it not been for the lesser memorable verses.

For once, aespa is not in their virtual world or a built set. I was prepared to see their a virtual landscape and some super cool graphics. But seeing them in actual sunshine and the real world feels very refreshing. That being said, we do get a virtual reference via the glitchy background. A nice subtle nod to their concept as a group. I really liked the confidence that the members instill on the viewers throughout the video. The music video also features some fun moments, such as a car falling from the sky into a reserved parking spot at the start of the video and the frozen-in-time party (which actually looks quite cool).

From what I can see in the music video, it appears the choreography aspect of the comeback is the weakest. None of the moves that featured in the video highlights their performance skills that the members have shown in the past. The most promising moment in the routine was during the bridge of the song (which kind of serves as the instrumental/dance break). The moves here were sharp and showed potential. But I just feel the rest was a bit plain.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 6.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10