[International Song Reviews] Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, The Boyz, AB6IX & Why Don’t We, Jun.K, WAYV

It is time for another post International Song Review segment. As promised last time, I would write the post as soon as there are five songs eligible for review (i.e. any song by a Korean or KPOP-related artist who has released a song in a non-Korean market). In this post for this week, I will be reviewing the collaborations between Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, the remix collaboration between AB6IX and Why Don’t We. I will also look at The Boyz and Jun.K’s recent releases in the JPOP market and WAYV’s return.


Should’ve Let Go – Jackson Wang & JJ Lin

Should’ve Let Go is a collaboration between Jackson Wang (member of GOT7) and JJ Lin (a famous Singaporean artist) and was released at the end of 2020. The biggest asset in this song are both Jackson’s and JJ Lin’s vocals. They sound stunning throughout the song with their raspy vocals. The melodies in which carry their vocals are so smooth and this makes the song even more impeccable. And don’t get me started when they harmonise with one another. Those sections are just blissful. Another really great aspect of the song for me is the R&B instrumentation. While I do describe the song as a ballad, the R&B roots are very prominent and give the song a little bit more appeal than a usual classical instrumented ballad would. Oh, and per usual, the ballad makes me sway along (Props to you if you know what that means). The music video shows two love stories. The first is a couple who have been together for some time. The male partner gets into college or a job that requires the pair to go into a long distance relationship. The female partner does not like this idea and chooses not to kiss him one last time before he leaves. The second story is of a high school crush. The male partner has a crush on the female and hesitantly tries to get close to her. One day, she drops a necklace and he picks it up. Using this as an excuse, he plans on confessing to her through a letter. But when he is on his way to the next day, he witnesses his crush accepting flowers from another guy. At the end of the video, we see what should have happened (i.e. the guy moving away hugs his partner as he leaves, and the younger guy makes his move earlier on). I have an interesting theory that suggests Jackson is the guy who moved away as all his scenes are on the bus (which was the mode of transport the guy was taking to move away), while JJ Lin is the high school guy as he is seen holding the necklace that the female character in that story dropped. I liked how the stories felt fitting for the emotional side of the song, and the ambience of the scenes that involved JJ Lin and Jackson were optimal for a ballad like Should’ve Let Go. (10/10)


Breaking Dawn – The Boyz

The Boyz made their return to the Japanese market at the end of February with Breaking Dawn. However following the confusion caused by Tattoo (their first original single in the Japanese market), I still feel like The Boyz, their company and their producers are a little confused with the Japanese market. Three quarters of Breaking Dawn is prosed in the Korean language, with the other quarter being in Japanese (and is limited primarily to the end of the song – i.e. half of the bridge and the final chorus). Moving away from the language confusion, Breaking Dawn is a okay dance track. It isn’t one that I am super excited about. It doesn’t really offer us anything different to what we know The Boyz for. The only observation I made in regards to the song that I felt was a substantial difference was that the vocals and rapping sound a lot rougher in Breaking Dawn, compared to their other releases. While I usually would be praising this modification in sound because I really enjoy textures in my song, its instrumentation is plain and doesn’t provide any dynamic backing to these vocals. The chorus was also okay. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t necessarily terrible. I would have enjoyed it more with better hooks and maybe a punchier instrumental piece to liven the song. The ‘Breaking Dawn‘ deep toned whisper that kick starts the chorus doesn’t really do achieve any of that. I feel like its whisper really sets the tone for the chorus, which resulted in it not being as dynamic as I thought it could potentially be. For the music video, I really like the visuals that we got. This includes both the visuals of the members and the sets in general. I really like how they used fluoro colours as the main colour palette of the video, which looked stylish and trendy. The choreography was pretty good. To me, it felt like a continuation of the same themes and style as their The Stealer choreography. They show off their performance skills in this routine and there is also that tinge of sexiness in the performance, thanks to the bending back move that kicks off the chorus and the outfits worn by some of the members. (7.3/10)


Fallin’ (Adrenaline) – AB6IX & Why Don’t We

While there is no music video for the collaborative remix for Fallin’ (Adrenaline) by AB6IX and Why Don’t We (one of the criteria a release usually must have to be reviewable), I still want to write a review for it. While the main differences between the two versions is simply the multi-language approach of the lyrics, I have classed Fallin’ as an International Song because it was previously released as Western single and this particular version still involves the original singers of the song. Why Don’t We’s version was already really captivating, thanks to its instrumentation. But I also have really enjoyed AB6IX Remix for a number of reasons. Firstly, I enjoyed the instrumentation of both. They are effectively the same background piece, with really thrilling drumming that really get the adrenaline pumping. Secondly, I really liked how AB6IX really fitted into this song and alongside Why Don’t We. There synergy really made it feel like this was the original version of the song. Thirdly, I really enjoyed the addition of the rap sequence that Woojin contributed as part of the bridge. It continues that momentum from the chorus and it didn’t ruin the integrity, structure or overall feel of the song. I wish that one day (after this pandemic) we will have the opportunity to see a live performance of this collaboration. Just imagine Why Don’t We playing their instruments in the background and bringing us a live performance of that adrenaline rush, while AB6IX throws in a bit of choreography that taps into that energy and vibe. Already sounds like a performance to watch out for. (10/10)


Hide & Seek, 1995 – Jun.K

A release that has probably gone under the radar for a lot of people is Jun.K’s most release Japanese release, Hide & Seek, 1995. The song dips its toes into that groovy trend that has been ongoing in the KPOP music scene, however still keeps a R&B profile. I quite like this combination. It might be a bit typical in hindsight. But it is a good listen, nonetheless. I really like Jun.K’s vocals in this song. His husky tone is used really well and his vocals in general feel really lively and upbeat. Interestingly, his more recent Korean release (30 Seconds Might Be Too Long) actually has a similar sound. But yet, Hide & Seek 1995 seems to sound like a complete turnaround in sound thanks to his brighter sound. The music video for Hide & Seek, 1995 actually looks nice. Through the short previews that you get when you hover your mouse over the thumbnails on YouTube, I thought it would be a dull video. But the post-production, including colours and effects, all really helps the video work in harmony with the song. It is also a stylish manner to make the video appear more energetic. Jun.K also had good chemistry with the camera, which also helped as well. I quite enjoyed it in the end. (8/10)


Kick Back – WAYV

Kick Back is the latest release from WAYV, the Chinese based unit of NCT. Kick Back starts off like your typical male group dance track. I did like the hefty momentum of the song and the percussion in the background. The song then progresses into the pre-chorus, which brought in some dramatic flair. They merged some classical instrumentation into the song and I found this part of the song to be the most engaging. Just before the chorus, we get a long note from Ten, a bit of rapping from Lucas and what I would describe as ‘sparks’ in the instrumentation. This transition felt quite smooth and really connected well with the catchy and repetitive chorus simply. I really like how amped up everything felt in the chorus, but I think it could have gone an extra mile (more on that in a second). Moving along, I also really liked the bridge of the song. The focus is more so on the vocals, which I think was a very strong aspect of Kick Back, and I really like it how the instrumental felt like an extension of the pre-choruses (which I have already mentioned that I enjoyed a lot). The rapping in Kick Back was more forgettable. I felt like this was a missed opportunity to have the rappers deliver a sequence with a little more power and dynamism to offset the ‘neutral gear’ that the song was stuck in. And that is something that I must admit really stuck out at me. While the song was good and what I have described Kick Back is quite positive, I can’t help it but think the song was ‘safe’ for the group. We did get a tease of an octane sequence at the end with a dance break sequence at the end. However, I would have preferred it more if the producers somehow integrated this into the song, rather than just sticking it at the end. I think this would have helped make the song a lot more appealing in the long run. Based on what I am reading, WAYV’s music video for this release is connected to past NCT and WAYV music videos. Watching the music video a couple of times for this review, I didn’t really catch any references to those videos. But maybe my mind isn’t working right today. But the video has good cinematography, which made the video engaging for me to watch. The sets also looked good. Their outfits felt questionable for me. Their choreography routine looks really cool. I really like the footwork that you can see throughout the video and their jelly leg move during the chorus. While the footwork does look easy, I am sure the balancing act they had to do at the same time on the other foot made it really hard. I also liked the subtle tinge of aggressiveness in the choreography. (7.6/10)

[International Song Reviews] MONSTA X, NCT 127, TREASURE, Mark Tuan, Jackson Wang

BTS’ Dynamite was voted by you to be the Best International Song By a Korean Artist. All songs in this review will be eligble for the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Check them out and remember to vote for your favourite at the end of the year. In the meanwhile, check out the winners for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards.

Last week, I covered some 2020 international releases that occurred in November through to January of this year. This included Chungha’s Dream of You, Baekhyun’s Get You Alone, Dream Catcher’s No More, Jung Daehyun’s Amazing and TWICE’s Better. This week, I will be covering another five releases including Japanese songs from MONSTA X, NCT 127 and TREASURE, and Western songs from Mark Tuan and Jackson Wang. For those who are wondering, I will be covering The Boyz’s Breaking Dawn in the next edition of this International Song Review segment, which will be whenever I can fill up the next post with five songs. Let me know of any comebacks by KPOP artists in international markets, so that post can be published sooner! (However exclude songs that already have a Korean version).


Wanted – MONSTA X

I personally didn’t enjoy this latest release from MONSTA X the first time I heard it. It felt like it was missing the surface of the instrumentation because nothing really stuck out at me. However, listening to the song a couple of more times really helped the song grow on me (which is the usual case for me) and that initial thought has left my mind. The song pretty much fits in with MONSTA X’s works. The verses actually felt very typical for the group, though I must say everything had a melodic tinge to it and is not as aggressive (but it was getting there). Even the rapping had that tinge. The chorus is where Wanted becomes quite dynamic and more interesting, thanks to its impactful bass and heavy synth usage. I really like the consistent thumping and the vocal work from Shownu and Kihyun throughout the section. Joohoney and I.M follows up with a bit of their usual rapping abrasiveness, before the focus moves onto Minhyuk and Hyungwon, and then it moves back to the already mentioned members. I do wish there was a bit more heft, especially when it came to the verses to make the song even more appealing and bring it up to par with their Korean releases. But overall, Wanted was a decent song to add to their choreography. The music video for Wanted was quite simple but cool at the same time. I really like how the video embraced an industrial look for the first part when the members are dressed in black outfits. The video becomes a little more sleek with their outfits infusing a little more colour that really stands out amongst the flashing lights and black outfits. The camera work is also commendable. The choreography looks good, but I didn’t see anything new or dynamic within it. (8.1/10)


Gimme Gimme – NCT 127

Gimme Gimme taps into what seems like a more intensified version of the EDM that NCT 127 is known for through their Korean songs. Just this version mixes in a more prevalent form of hip-hop, but also feels a little annoying thanks to that one whiny squealy synth that just sticks around for what pretty much felt like the entire song’s length. There was just so much of this synth throughout the song, it was pretty to not to notice it. In some of the parts that didn’t have the squeaky synth, the rest of the instrumentation made up for it by reincorporating the same sound just with different synths. If we were to take away the EDM and squealing synth, the members sound pretty good. They had to do a lot of competing to be heard over Gimme Gimme‘s instrumentation, but they handled it just fine. The rappers were super aggressive, but this worked out well as it gave the some some additional edge. Taeil, in particular, stood out with his vocals from the rest of the members, especially with that high note that just took the song to a new level. As for the music video, I felt it was pretty plain. SM Entertainment’s music videos have been quite top notch lately. But this felt like a let down. I am not keen on their outfits as it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it could have been with the warehouse like setting they are in. They do like stylish, but they just stick out. I did like the solo shots of the members and the various transitions between them. As for the choreography, Gimme Gimme lives up to the expectation that NCT 127 had set for themselves. It is very impactful, intense and powerful all at the same time. The dance break is definitely the peak of it, showing us exactly what we hoped to see from this high-octane song. (7.1/10)


Beautiful – TREASURE

This release caught me out of the blue. At the time when I discovered the song, I only found out that this was a soundtrack for the anime, Black Clover. Upon some further research, I found out today that TREASURE will be making their official debut in Japan at the end of March with Japanese versions of their title tracks and Beautiful. Beautiful taps into a more refreshing side of EDM, opting for lightness and pop, rather than going heavy handed with the synths and other instrumentation. In many ways, Beautiful aesthetically feels like an extension of TREASURE’s more pop centric Korean releases. The vocal work and rapping sounds pretty good. Nothing impressive from the group this time, but it works really well with the pop sound. There is no official music video or choreography for Beautiful that features the members (though this might change with an unannounced release of a music video between now and the end of March). Instead, the music video that was released was a little over a one and a half minute long video of the anime. So I don’t have much else to say about the video. Because of this, I have only decided to give a song rating for Beautiful. (8.5/10)


One in a Million – Mark Tuan & Sanjoy

We move away from JPOP for the remainder of this post, with the next artist is someone whom I haven’t actually reviewed any solo work for yet. I am talking about Mark Tuan, who has previously dabbled in solo work through a Chinese single (Never Told You, 2020). The song I am focusing on today is his most recent release, One in a Million, which features Sanjoy. It is also his first release since leaving JYP Entertainment. One in a Million delves into R&B, mixing up the genre with a bit of dance electronica. Together, the two genres combines to make the new song feel quite sleek and subtly upbeat. It is quite a pleasant combination and outcome for the two genres. I find Mark’s vocals to be quite interesting. He draws out his lines, giving the song a slow pace. That on its own isn’t my cup of tea. But in combination with the subtle upbeat touch, the vocal work surprisingly comes off as quite hypnotic and drives me to wanting to replay the song as there is an alluring charm to it. The music video that is released alongside One in a Million is a cute animation that fits well with the song’s lyrics and features two people who some might say are fated for each other. The video shows the girl leaving behind an umbrella behind at a convenience store. The guy recognizes the umbrella as hers (as it was the one that was opened in his face) and rushes to the station to return it to its owner. But unfortunately, fate at this instant does not want them to be together. When he arrives at the platform, she has already boarded the train. They get off at the same station and recognize one another. But this time, the rest of the city’s population doesn’t want them to be together. They both then run into each other a bar, with a happy relationship blooming from that point I presume. Mark and Sanjoy also feature in the video as the artists playing in the bar, and they seem happy to the new couple they are witnessing. (8.4/10)


Alone – Jackson Wang

Shortly after his departure from JYP Entertainment, Jackson Wang made the announcement of a single release unexpectedly. The single was titled Alone and is actually a Mandarin pop single. Based on the tone of the song, along with his vocals, you can tell that this is a hefty song. Alone lyrically shows his feelings about his life and journey thus far. Musically, it shows off Jackson’s versatility. Most of this songs thus far (that I can remember) have been dance centric songs. His works as a GOT7 member has been primarily in the hip-hop or pop domains. Alone is more so a ballad, mixed with some synths to give it is a modern and trendy feel. It remains consistently paced and neutral for the entirety of the song. The momentum comes through his vocals, which sounds really emotive. The raspy nature of his voice really shines and this just elevates the song to a whole new level. is also quite easy to get lost in this song, especially since it gets me swaying along quite early on (swaying is my self-made indicator of a good ballad for those who don’t know). The music video reflects the tone and lyrics of the song quite well. For the entirety of the video, he is alone. This makes perfect senses, especially as he sings about being alone on this journey. I am not completely familiar with Jackson’s life story. But it seems like there are references to a warming family (the table with an abundancy of food) and his time has a fencer (the Olympic rings), to which he left behind to pursue music and his career as a singer. His face is scarred and bruised, testament to the hard journey he had to endure along the way, as it isn’t an easy path. The end of the music video gives a little bit of advice to never give up on our own journey. It will be lonely and it will be hard. But if you enjoy what you are doing, it will turn out fine. (9.6/10)