[Review] FIRE – EXID

An artist whom we have not heard from for a while now is EXID. Their last Korean release was back in 2019 with ME & YOU, which followed the news that some members would be leaving their company at the time (Banana Culture) and an agreement between the members that EXID would go on hiatus to focus on solo endeavours. The group did remain active throughout 2020 in Japan, however. Last week, EXID regrouped to release the single album X and the title track FIRE to commemorate their 10th anniversary as a group since their debut back in 2012.

For those are not aware, I am a very big fan of EXID – even for releases that pre-dates their viral Up & Down. So to hear news that the group would be returning and releasing new music was quite exciting for me. However, FIRE is not like their any of their past hits. Instead, it slips back into pretty mediocre territory, which is slightly disappointed with. It would have been nice to hear music that reminisces over their past hits like Up & Down, Ah Yeah, I Love You etc. But given that this is their first release in three years, I am still pressing the replay button to the song. FIRE starts off with (and features prominently throughout) an ethnic influence, which I personally find to be a dated trend in KPOP. Hani and Elly (formerly LE) leads the charge into FIRE with an underwhelming interchange of vocals and raps. I wished their parts were more bolstered and defined, just to add some dynamism. Hyelin and Solji’s melodic pre-chorus comes next and this was by far the best part of FIRE. Then FIRE‘s chorus comes into play, which is is set up to be only instrumentation with the minimal lyrics. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but I felt a title like FIRE would have alluded to something more ferocious or electric. And I wished that the chorus, of all places, would have reflected this. At least the ‘Burning Up‘ sequence of the chorus does pick up the song to a degree to just add a bit of dynamic flair to the song. Junghwa’s main part occurs in the second verse. If you have not noticed from Hani’s vocal delivery (or the chorus sequences of the music video), FIRE is a mature comeback and Junghwa’s part really reiterates that. The amazing pre-chorus repeats, before we are taken to the 1st bridge, 1st half of the chorus and then 2nd bridge (which probably featured the cringiest set of lyrics in the song) and ending it all with the second half of the chorus (i.e. the ‘Burning Up‘ sequence), which helps end FIRE on a more dynamic note. Overall, FIRE is definitely not their best song ever. But it is still bearable and I would still take the song over no song any day.

As mentioned before, the concept for this comeback is sexy and mature. And this is a major selling point to the comeback in my opinion. The member’s visuals were charming and alluring throughout the video, and I am loving all of it. The only questionable element of the comeback is the prison location. I assume it was part of the producer/director’s vision for this comeback. Aside from that, I was burning for some fires in this video, probably due to the lack of energy I was getting from certain points in the video. This wish was fulfilled when that car exploded in the background. Some dynamic camera work at the end helped add energy to the video. I would have liked more, but what they did at the end was satisfying and fulfilling enough.

When it comes to EXID and their releases, you think of their key dance moves. If you were into KPOP in early 2015, you would know all about EXID’s Up & Down hip thrust move. And each subsequent comeback had a key move like so. FIRE does have that potential, with the hip movements in the first half of the chorus. I also quite liked the way the members were spaced out for the final sequence of the song, as it forces the camera to zoom out to capture everyone. And with the dancers circling Hani, Solji’s high note, LE’s vocals and Hani, Junghwa and Hyelin fast arm movements, it all comes together to look epic.

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

[Review] Drip N’ Drop – MIRAE

Next up on the blog is the review for MIRAE’s latest comeback, Drip N’ Drop, which dropped last week on Wednesday. Drip N’ Drop is the title track off the group’s fourth mini-album, Ourturn, which also was released on the same day. This is the group’s first comeback since their Marvelous promotions earlier this year.

Following the likes of Marvelous is going to be a tall order to fulfil in my opinion. That is a song that really kicked off the year on a strong note for me, so there is high expectations for Drip N’ Drop. So the big question is – do I think Drip N’ Drop lives up to the expectations? Unfortunately, my answer is no. I think Drip N’ Drop has a few weak points that takes it down a notch when compared to Marvelous (and I will explain which ones in a bit). Despite that, let me iterate that Drip N’ Drop is in no way a bad song. I actually enjoyed the deep house and a funky underlay that makes up Drip N’ Drop‘s instrumentation. They are trends in KPOP that we have heard before and the combination of both is not new unexplored territory. But I liked the powerfulness behind the instrumental, which helped add a bold factor to Drip N’ Drop. Talking about making things bold, I also really enjoyed the way the song bolstered up the title of the song to make it the main hook. The layering of the vocals was quite simple, but it also felt clean. I am also a big fan of the percussive effects used to launch the song from the bridge into the final chorus. It added a really dynamic factor to the song and also ticks the box of including something different to keep the song from feeling neutral and/or repetitive. The lack of melody in Drip N’ Drop is what disappoints me the most me. I feel the producers could have really used melody to add more hooks to the choruses to make Drip N’ Drop more appealing. As with the lack of melodies, this left the members with not as much opportunity to shine in Drip N’ Drop. But aside from these factors, I still enjoyed Drip N’ Drop.

The helmet from Marvelous music video makes an appearance in this video, and I had previously theorized that the members were all friends on Mars once. Based on the ending of this video and what I just expressed, it appears MIRAE are going home. This connection is only a small one, however, as the members send messages to each other throughout the video, presumably to converge to that final spot for the spaceship off-screen to teleport them away. Aside from that theory of what is going on in the video, I actually quite enjoyed the prominent colour theme of the video – blue. I thought it was going to be much, but they kept it refined and aesthetic. I also enjoyed that moving background for the main choreography shot.

The choreography was pretty good. No particular move or section stood out for me, but the performance as a whole is still worth watching.

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

[Review] PARTY ROCK – CRAVITY

Next up in my pursuit to review the releases of last week is CRAVITY, who returned with their fourth mini-album, New Wave. Leading the mini-album is the single PARTY ROCK. This comes after CRAVITY pre-released their first English single Boogie Woogie and their Adrenaline comeback from earlier in the year (featured on the second part of their first studio album – Liberty: In Our Cosmos).

PARTY ROCK embraces CRAVITY’s upbeat and fun side of funky pop once again, following a similar sound profile to the likes of Adrenaline. However, when you compare the two tracks together, you definitely feel a noticeable difference. Adrenaline comes off as a much tighter and hefty compared to this new release. On the other hand, PARTY ROCK comes off as much lighter and looser, which makes that fun and upbeat feel so much more natural and easygoing. And this just nudges PARTY ROCK forward on the rating scale for me. The chorus had great bright and appealing energy that brought a smile to my face. The members do a good job of bringing all that energy to life and makes the central piece of PARTY ROCK vibrant enough. I do feel there is potential for the members and producers of PARTY ROCK to have taken the chorus to the next level with bolder delivery and a more concentrated instrumental to just make the chorus a more prominent peak to the song. But what we were given is sufficient enough, as it managed to still get me to enjoy the song. I am loving the “We go jumpin’, party rockin’, never stoppin’” line, being my favourite and pick of most memorable line out of the whole song. That hook (and the rest of the hooks throughout PARTY ROCK) were super catchy and definitely ups the fun factor. The weakest aspects of PARTY ROCK were the verses, simply because they didn’t have much of a memorable zing to it. Had this been the case (and the chorus was just a little more leveled up), PARTY ROCK would have been a top notch song. As for now, it is still a great single for CRAVITY.

The music video that accompanies the release of PARTY ROCK was decent to watch. But there wasn’t much to really talk about from it. From what I could see, it is just another video where the members are having a bit of fun. Throw in some choreography shots and solo shots, and that is pretty much the video for this release. Even the usual elements that I do mention or touch like post production, sets, outfits or visuals were all pretty standard. In other words, it feels like a video which concept has been seen and done many times before.

The choreography for this comeback is just like the song – fun. Nothing too mind-blowing or innovative here, but everything feels lighthearted and easygoing. My favourite move out of the entire routine coincides with my favourite line that I mentioned earlier (also my favourite moments in the music video).

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.4/10


[Review] Brand New – XIUMIN (EXO)

As you might have noticed, I had not posted any reviews for any releases from last week. So this week will be an extra big week to catch up on those outstanding releases from last week on top of reviews for the new releases this week. Only then will I be able to review the even more outstanding releases that have been stockpiling. First up is XIUMIN with his solo comeback with the Brand New single and his solo debut mini-album that shares the same name as the lead single.

Whilst XIUMIN’s solo ventures have primarily come from OSTs or SM Station releases (i.e. Young & Free with Mark from NCT and You), Brand New encroaches onto new territory for the relatively new solo artist. Brand New is super upbeat dance track, kicking right into gear from the very start with the catchy and vibrant chorus chant that features prominently throughout the single. I like how this same chant brings forth old school vibes in the song and adds a energetic dimension to Brand New. The lyrical component of the chant is a bit questionable for what Brand New is trying to achieve in terms of the song’s meaning, but I like it more for the addition of much needed oomph to the song. XIUMIN was in charge of the rest of the vocals in the verses. And his vocals sounded so pleasant throughout Brand New. I did wish the melody was a bit heftier and had more body, just so that XIUMIN himself could have stood out more prominently. Alternatively, the bass could have been turned down a fair bit. It drowned out XIUMIN a certain parts of Brand New. But overall, Brand New is a fun and cool track at times, but also pleasant and soothing during other times.

Based on the song’s description, what I could get could out of the lyrics and the different scenes throughout the music video, my guess is that the video depicts the creation and delivery of a present that is XIUMIN himself. But apart from that, it is a fair video to watch and accompany the likes of Brand New. Nothing too mind-blowing, but not terrible in anyway where it deters me from watching it. It also has been a while since we have seen XIUMIN in the public eye (at least it has been a while for me), so it is great to see him again (and be reminded of his stunning visuals).

The choreography was pretty good. I really enjoyed the chorus of the routine, when the energy of the song and routine is at its peak. But I also enjoyed the smoothness of the dance choreography during the verses, as well.

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

[Review] BEAUTIFUL MONSTER – STAYC

This is another review for a song I should have reviewed sooner and closer to its original release date. This one, in particular, was a surprise to me that I had missed it when I was going through my list of releases to review/catch up, since the artist in question has been on a roll with their releases. STAYC made their comeback in July of this year with BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, the title track from their third single album We Need Love. It follows the release of RUN2U from earlier this year.

BEAUTIFUL MONSTER changes up STAYC’s range of title tracks with a more subdued release, featuring a lot more acoustics within its instrumental than usual, with guitars and pan flutes being some of the new instruments that STAYC are playing within this release. If you don’t follow STAYC’s releases, their title tracks have been quite heavy on the synth front. That being said, there was still some electronic elements to BEAUTIFUL MONSTER‘s instrumental, but the acoustics just stand out a lot more this time around. This heavier presence of acoustics allow the song to standout in STAYC’s discography. So far, however, I have been isolating the acoustics and electronic sides of the song. But it was quite interesting to hear the harmony that the two sides created together, and was undeniably a strong aspect of the song. It created a pleasant atmosphere, even during the stronger notes in the chorus. BEAUTIFUL MONSTER was driven by vocals melodies, which all complemented that pleasant atmosphere I just mentioned. However, their vocals were a bit soulless at times, if I am being honest. This did help those melodies pop out. But at the same time, it brought a dullness to BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, which one could describe as an aesthetic or unpleasing. As I like the song, I think it is more aesthetic, but understand why some people might say unpleasing or boring. Overall, BEAUTIFUL MONSTER does a decent job of being different. It may not be a riveting piece for some, but I thought it was a memorable piece for the group.

BEAUTIFUL MONSTER is about a partner, who is both a beautiful person but also a monster, depending on how they treated the members (toxic, if you ask me). The premise of the video focuses heavily on the ‘beautiful’ side, with the sweet closes up of the members and shots of the members longing and reminiscing of their partner. But throughout the video, monsters pop up via the addition of post production cartoons. It was a cute and more pleasant way of showing an actual monster in this video, which works cleverly with the music. I did wish there was a stronger showing of the monster element, just so the messaging is a bit clearer. But a nice video to watch, nonetheless.

Just like the music video, the choreography offers two sides. The beautiful side were the smoother and more graceful parts of the routine. And the monster side, which the members depicted with their claw like hands and poses in the chorus. The contrast was nice and helped create a strong performance routine.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7,5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] go UP – JAY B (GOT7)

GOT7 managed to remain a group, as evident through their GOT7 and NANANA comebacks earlier this year, even after the members going their separate ways. But since the members ventured to different companies, I have dropped the ball when it came to two members – JAY B and Yugyeom. Today’s review focuses on JAY B’s (sorry, Yugyeom fans, you got to wait a little longer) recent solo comeback, go UP, which is featured on his second solo mini-album Be Yourself. This follows his solo debut last year with Switch It Up, later comebacks with B.T.W (ft. Jay Park) and Sunset With You, and the recent signing with CDNZA Records.

go UP deep dives into old-school funk, with what I would describe as a fun and energetic track. To be honest, my knowledge into the funk genre is fairly limited (aside from some Bruno Mars, a few other well known hits that have topped the charts and the use of the adjective ‘funky’ when describing groovy numbers), but go UP manages to succinctly and straightforwardly sum up my understanding of the genre. It features slivers of brass, the plucking of bass guitar strings and an unrelentless amount of percussion to really bring the song to life. I believe this is all pretty standard of the funk genre, but it doesn’t change the fact that go UP is still a fun and enjoyable track, nonetheless. What really attracts me to the song is JAY B himself, who does a strong job of successfully encompassing go UP‘s energetic profile, by going through different vocal techniques to help aid the song’s liveliness. You have his usual raspy vocals that he has shown off in his R&B releases, but we get some really cool falsettos along the way (i.e. the verses) and some cool ad-libs (such as that final ‘yes‘ in the strings of yes’ from the second verse). Together with the instrumental, JAY B definitely makes sure that go UP‘s energy is the star of the track, and makes sure that you emerge from this song having a great time.

JAY B starts off the music video floating in mid-air at a port, observed by an older gentlemen and a younger boy, accompanied with the narration ‘This is how we are getting funky in Seoul, South Korea’. We then cut to the aftermath of a party, which JAY B is waking up from. I can’t help but think the older gentlemen and the younger boy are like some sort of guardian angel for JAY B, as they feel very judgmental with their plain expression as JAY B stumbles around. But they do not say no to a good time, as they join the crowd that JAY B attracts during the day time that gets bigger and bigger as the video progresses. And it is so good of a time that so many people getting high off that energy, causing that barge to lift up from the water, similar to the floating JAY B at the start of the video. Overall, I thought the video did a good job of bringing go UP‘s energy to life in a visual sense. And JAY B looks really good throughout the video. We also get to see some of his b-boying skills towards the end of the video, as well.

The choreography for this comeback was fun. Fun in both a movement manner and a expressive manner. I notice that some movements were stiff and small, but it looks intentional and helps give off an entertaining profile. His facial expressions were on point throughout the performance and gave off the impression that he was genuinely having fun. That shoe toss on the end was definitely just right for the performance, as well.

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

[Review] ParadoXXX Invasion – ENHYPEN

I am gearing up to review ENHYPEN’s latest mini-album, Manifesto: Day 1. But before I can proceed with writing and post that album review, I need to review the second single from the album that also got a music video and promotional treatment, ParadoXXX Invasion. Alongside ParadoXXX Invasion, the mini-album also featured the title track Future Perfect (Pass the MIC).

ParadoXXX Invasion follows the same veins of the title track in that it is a hip-hop track. But I am of the opinion that ParadoXXX Invasion could have potentially been a much stronger title track. Simply because I find ParadoXXX Invasion to be a more well-rounded track. But there would be a need for some changes to make it even better. The song brings forth a very old-school hip-hop type of feel that I feel is quite vibrant and powerful in its own right. The beat got me nodding along to the music and you can feel the unmissable energy coursing through the song. The hooks were catchy (more so than the title track), and ParadoXXX Invasion left a memorable ring in my head after the song is over. And I feel this song is better aligned with the Summer period in which it was released in. However, ParadoXXX Invasion isn’t exactly ready to be a title track just yet. The rapping was definitely executed well, but I think ParadoXXX Invasion could have had more substantial rap sequences to take the song to the next level, just so that hip-hop energy is very concentrated and more impactful. There was no bridge or peak to the song, which was a bit disappointing. The ending was just another repeat of the choruses we heard earlier in the track, with no added ad-lib or intensification to the instrumental (similar to my main complaints with Future Perfect). A bridge would have allowed the song to build up to that. But overall, the hip-hop energy is what sold me on ParadoXXX Invasion and its potential to be a better title track.

Given a few factors (namely the school on a truck beginning), I feel the concept of this music video is a ‘school’s out’ type of scenario. That is my guess. But regardless what is the official concept of the video, the music video for ParadoXXX Invasion did two things quite well. Firstly, it really encapsulated that hip-hop feel in a very cool and a not-in-your-face manner. I quite liked that, and it made it enjoyable to watch alongside the song. The second was that is shows off a very youthful side to ENHYPEN. Their visuals and energy throughout the video was quite refreshing. I feel this thanks to the fact that the music video felt a lot more carefree and freestyle to a degree. Some of the video is shot in a sunny outdoor location, but yet in a very industrial setting. Other parts were shot in the studio (i.e. indoor locations/alleyway) worked well with the song’s hip-hop roots (i.e., back alleyways and thrift-like stores).

The choreography was quite cool and vibrant. The hip-hop influences is also quite evident. The energy the members put in really paid off and made the routine very appealing to watch.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] DICE – NMIXX

Starting off the week is NMIXX, the latest rookies under JYP Entertainment. For those who missed their debut (it was very hard to miss, but just in case you did), NMIXX made their debut with O.O in February this year. Yesterday, they returned with their first comeback – the single album is titled Entwurf, while the title track for the comeback (and focus of this review) is titled DICE.

Given the likes of O.O and hearing that DICE would be of a similar formula, I think the bracing yourself for the likes of DICE would be an appropriate response. The mash up style that NMIXX is going to be known for at this rate begins from the very beginning, with a short-lived and unnecessary theatre-like beginning. I thought it was an opening for the music video, but it made its way into the actual song. Things started to look up ever so briefly for DICE, with the first verse and chorus being perfectly fine. The first verse, which brought a hip-hop tinge to the song, flowed well into the Latin inspired chorus. I found the two parts used similar deep tones, which might have been the common string. The rapping in the first verse was fine and dynamic. The delivery in the chorus, on the other hand, attempted to hype you up by being shouty and loud. While there was some charm to this, it disabled any attempt for a hook to form. Instead, I find DICE‘s chorus to be memorable thanks to the instrumentation. The second verse is where DICE starts to crumble for me and become erratic. At least, they were being explicit with their change with the ‘NMIXX Change Up‘ transition. We are initially treated to a different, intensified and darker rap verse. It had potential to be good on its own (Kyujin’s ‘Big Wave, Big Wave‘ line was quite memorable). But its presence in DICE just didn’t click for me. We then continue back to the Latin influence with an overly explosive set of vocals from Lily. Again, this was pretty good. It is the flick between the rap to the Latin influence that doesn’t sit well with me in this section. The second pre-chorus bypasses the chorus and goes into an instrumental break, which is a whole different style altogether. I am not surprised by this difference, but the synths (one of them reminds me of ITZY’s WANNABE) was a bit sparse and weak. Something tighter, more intense and exhilarating would have served DICE better, just so the momentum of the song is continued. Similarly with the final chorus. I loved that we returned to the Latin infusion, but as it is the final chorus, it needed a bit more to end DICE on a high note.

I quite liked the circus -like machinery at the start of the video. It was definitely intriguing intro and looked very cool. The video then takes us through MIXXTOPIA (another universe in KPOP), which has its own theatre, a colourful Dr. Suess-like outdoor and a dark whirly location. The latter is quite cool, but I feel like this is a bit mixed up. I would expected the hip-hop and rap parts of the song to feature in that dark whirly location, while the Latin influence segments of the song (as they are brighter segments of DICE) to be associated with that Dr. Suess like outdoor set. Not the other way around. But to each their own. Not exactly sure what the ending signifies. But overall, it was a visually pleasing video to watch.

The choreography aspect of this comeback was top notch. No particular move really stood out, but I liked the routine as a whole piece. Just like the song, there is a lot going on. But all showed potential for the group in the performance aspect.

Song – 5.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Shut Down – BLACKPINK

Following the pre-release of Pink Venom last month, BLACKPINK is back with their official comeback single Shut Down and the studio album Born Pink. Prior to Pink Venom, the group’s last comeback was back in 2020 with single Lovesick Girls and their first studio album, The Album.

The most memorable aspect of Pink Venom, for me, ended up being the fact that song was just so alike to many of their past singles. And I believe this was a common theme of other people’s thoughts on the pre-release as well. It appears that BLACKPINK and their producers have caught on, as Shut Down sounds vastly different from the group’s past releases. The biggest game changer to Shut Down was the La Campanella strings sample, which definitely gave off a refined and sophisticated feel to the song. But as one would expect with a BLACKPINK and YG song, there is still a strong hip-hop influence. Together, they created an intriguing piece that came out to be quite decent. However, I did wish the instrumental picked up a bit as the song progresses, just to give Shut Down a more dynamic flair. I kind of expected something extra to happen towards the end of the song, as we were given a pretty consistent background piece throughout the first and second runs of the verses/choruses. The bridge does seem to allude at a potential change in momentum and energy, but Shut Down eventuated into an even more sluggish ending. As for the members, I thought they did a fine job with their rapping and vocals. The rapping was definitely exciting and there was some good sequences and flow. The vocals were more on the forgettable side, but it was still appreciable. Good news, the hooks in Shut Down do have a memorable ring to it, and this helps Shut Down loads in my books. Overall, Shut Down is a much better track compared to their pre-release and a much appreciated new sound profile to their discography.

There appears to be a lot of references to their oldest music videos in Shut Down‘s very own music video. Some of the references that I picked up on include the Jennie’s tank, Rose’s light-piece swing and Lisa’s katana from their DDU-DU DDU-DU music video and Rose sitting on top of the planet Earth from their WHISTLE music video. The billboard that Jisoo takes a selfie in front also features a scene from the DDU-DU DDU-DU music video of herself. Aside from those references, I continually enjoy the presence of the black and pink coloured items and themes throughout their music videos. I don’t know why and I feel like it pretty much cliché now, but I still find the references to their name in the video to be quite interesting. I also liked the roller door and alleyway set, as well, for this music video. The colour from their outfits were also a refreshing visual as well.

The choreography for this comeback looks fantastic. It was tough and I liked how they were imaginary smashing or slamming things on the ground or their hands in time with the ‘Shut Down‘ mentions in the song. I particularly like the clock hands that preceded the clap of the hand in the chorus. I would definitely like to see what else BLACKPINK has in store for the rest of the routine.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] 2 Baddies – NCT 127

NCT 127 have made their grand return with their new single and will be dropping their fourth studio album tomorrow, with both title track and album sharing the same name 2 Baddies. This is the NCT unit’s first comeback in the release of Favorite (Vampire) back in October of last year. Since then, we have seen comebacks from NCT DREAM and some of the members undertake solo ventures through the NCT Lab.

2 Baddies feels very comfortable for NCT 127. Described as a hip-hop dance track, this is the main style of music that the group has been putting out for their title tracks and it is pretty much in the wheelhouse of the group. Aside from the questionable main hook of the song (i.e., the ‘2 Baddies 2 Baddies 1 Porsche‘) and the title of the song, I do find 2 Baddies is on the safer side of this style. Just nothing really surprised me with this release. Given that this is NCT 127, 2 Baddies would naturally be heavily rap focused and I believe the song features some pretty decent rap verses. I did think the verses was holding back in terms of energy and dynamism, but each rapper brought their own degree of coolness to 2 Baddies. Per usual, I am more drawn to the vocals and the pre-choruses really showed off the vocal lines of the group really well. The vocals contrasted well with the rappers, allowing 2 Baddies to feel quite balanced. We also get that balance with smooth vocals at the beginning and hype energy from the rappers in the second half of the bridge. However, I kind of wished Taeil’s high note soared higher and longer, as I just wanted a few seconds more of his high note to really give 2 Baddies a wow factor. 2 Baddies peaks with its chorus which is its chanty anthem-like approach and the instrumental does feel relatively more explosive when we reach the choruses. As mentioned, I think the lyrical component of the hook is terrible, but I do find the actual rhythm to have a ring and feel somewhat catchy. And knowing me, this might help 2 Baddies grow on me with more listens. The final sequence of 2 Baddies might also be able to help, as I thought closes out the song on a very fulfiling and memorable note. Overall, 2 Baddies was appreciable for a NCT 127 track and an energetic listen. But it also doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

The whole 15 second intro to the music video was probably one of the best editing works in KPOP to date. The way those individual scenes came together to a flawless sequence was amazing. This amazing editing work continues throughout the video and helps glue the video together. Though, I wished we saw more of that intro style within the video as well. The rest of the music video features neon lights, a lot of car and racing references, fluorescence paint. It all looked pretty cool. All members looked great, with Jaehyun really distracting me throughout this video with his visuals. Some of the members even took off their shirts, which I am sure fans are enjoying!

I didn’t see anything mind blowing or insane in this routine through the music video, but I think the choreography did a great job of picking up the energy and making the song feel more dynamic. Especially that ending, where I felt the routine helped hype up the song in its final moments.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.1/10

[Review] ZERO – DRIPPIN

I also begin this week off with another review for a release that I had missed. This time it is a song and the artist in question is DRIPPIN. They made their comeback back in June of this year with ZERO and the single-album Villain: Zero (which I will be reviewing at a later date). Prior to their June comeback, we also saw DRIPPIN this year through their VILLAIN promotions (and their third mini-album of the same name).

VILLAIN was all aboard the funky train, which most of KPOP was on for a while. Since that comeback, it seems like DRIPPIN moved with the crowd and transferred to the rock train. The rock in ZERO‘s instrumentation is a different to what we have heard so far from the ongoing trend, as far as I can remember. ZERO feels quite intense, but in a more subtle manner. There is also this grungy feel to the instrumentation, which adds a different dynamic. This brings a powerful and hefty energy to the table, but I actually wanted more. I personally felt ZERO could have upped the ante with a more electrifying feeling. And they could have done this by featuring prominent electric guitar riffs as accent pieces in the background for some parts. This would have balanced out the heaviness of ZERO, which there was a lot of. A prime example of the heaviness is in ZERO‘s instrumental break, where the heavy thumping and deep guitar work together to bring about an intense environment. The brighter and more vibrant brass offsets this, makes the instrumental break more interesting and brings a bit of flair to the song. Moving on, ZERO really showed off the group’s vocals. The members who handled the pre-choruses impressed me with their delivery. But the standout is Yunseong, whose vocals following the instrumental break left me in awe. I felt the chorus could have been more dynamic, simply because the hooks that we did get felt weighty to a degree and doesn’t really drive the song forward as much. But over time, they ended up being quite catchy and definitely got me chanting along to the song. Overall, ZERO is a neat comeback for the group despite it following the same trends as everyone else. It could have been better, but what we got definitely suffices.

The music video for ZERO links up to VILLAIN. My guess is that the events we see in the ZERO sets up the events in VILLAIN. We see the origin story of the members, who have been locked away for some unknown reason. But they are closely monitored by cameras and guards, indicating they are dangerous. As the video progresses, the members gain the upperhand and escape from the facility they are confined to, leading the events in the VILLAIN music video. The ending of this video is the start of their VILLAIN music video, in case you did not notice. In particular, we see the origin story of Junho, who has some deep childhood trauma. He is woken up by one of the other members and the memories of his childhood seemed too much to handle, so he released his emotions in an explosive manner via fire (which played a part in his childhood trauma) and escapes from the facility with the other members. That scene at the end as the members watch the burning building crash down (presumably the facility) looked very cool.

The choreography definitely looks good. The members did a great job of looking tough and intense on stage. There was intensity in the choreography behind the different moves and parts of the routine were satisfyingly powerful. I enjoyed the dance break that aligns with the instrumental break in the song.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Review] Same Scent – ONEUS

The other comeback to start of this week is ONEUS’ newest single Same Scent and the group’s eighth mini-album, Malus. This release follows the group’s last comeback from earlier in the year, Bring It On, which was released back in May. I very recently reviewed that release’s mini-album (TRICKSTER) which proved to be a big hit in my books. It won’t be a while before I find time to review Malus. So for now, here is my review for Same Scent.

ONEUS goes for more of a restrained dance track in Same Scent. They are probably more well known for releasing songs, at the moment, that are more ‘in-your-face’ (i.e. Bring It On). But their own repertoire also includes singles that feel more held back (i.e. A Song Written Easily from 2019), and it is this style which Same Scent would fall under. There isn’t anything wrong with this style of music, especially since Same Scent feels aesthetic in its own way and brings out a refined maturity. This alone makes the song quite attractive to me. There is an airiness to the pre-chorus that I quite liked, and the contrast between airiness and Same Scent‘s choruses was quite profound. The vocal work feels smooth and I really liked how the lyrics just glide along during certain parts of Same Scent. The ad-libs were also quite cool. My only concern about Same Scent is that it doesn’t feel like ONEUS did much in it. The chorus is largely empty, with Same Scent relying on the tropical synths to do most of the talking (again nothing wrong with this, especially since I enjoyed the way Same Scent sounded – I am just more concerned that ONEUS didn’t really get a chance to showcase more of their talents in the song compared to previously). We do get a bit of lyrics in the choruses towards the end of the sections, but they aren’t exactly the most memorable hooks. The first verse was also largely unmemorable, as well. But at least the second verse had some strong rapping, particularly Leedo who starts off soft but builds his sequence as it goes on. Ravn’s autotuned follow up and bridge sequence was probably the song’s most textural component. Overall, a pleasing song. But I would have liked ONEUS to have been a bit more robust (in a fitting way) in this song.

The music video doesn’t really add much to this comeback, if I am being honest. It captures of some that aesthetic that I mentioned in the song, with smoother and slowed down choreography shots. And you could argue that some of the solo close ups might also capture some of the aesthetic. But I felt the choreography sets were confined or too dark. Sure, they give off some mature vibes. But not enough for me to really say much about it. The scenes where the members are dancing in a shallow pool of water was probably the coolest aspect of the music video. And while it did have a refreshing vibe as we haven’t seen this recently, it isn’t innovative nor groundbreaking.

With a mature sound like Same Scent, I am glad their performance stage picks up on this. There is a subtle sensual vibe to the choreography that works well with the song and even their attire at their showcase stage brings more of that sensual energy. There was also a subtle intensity in the chorus routine, which I found to be quite satsifying to watch.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.4/10

[Review] BACK THEN – KIM JAE HWAN

One of the two comebacks to start off this week belongs to Kim Jae Hwan, the main vocalist from the now disbanded project group WANNA ONE. For those who missed it, WANNA ONE reunited at the end of last year for a special stage at the 2021 MAMAs and a special release of Beautiful (Part 3) in early 2022. Since then, the members have returned to their current solo and group activities. Kim Jae Hwan, in particular, made his solo comeback with Snail back in June of this year, which I have yet to (but will) review at a later date. He then made a quick comeback yesterday with his fifth mini-album Empty Dream and the title track BACK THEN.

BACK THEN is another track from KPOP that has opted for the trending rock genre. But Kim Jae Hwan portrays the genre in a manner in which he could excel in, combining it with a more vocal centric genre like R&B. The rock and R&B track that is BACK THEN feels quite balanced between the two genres. What I did like about BACK THEN was how seamlessly it was able to flicker between a softer R&B approach with the verses and the more intense rock sound in the chorus. The bass in the verse appears to be the thread that brings two the parts together, as it sets up the verses to have some momentum in which the rock in the chorus can then carry onwards. Together, I feel BACK THEN as a whole was satisfying and was very appealing. As mentioned before, this combination feels like a no-brainer for Kim Jae Hwan, as it allows him to showcase his vocals quite well. Given his vocal capabilities, he is able to go that extra mile and add oomph to his vocals to match the energy that the rock, but is also able to express his emotions in both the R&B verses and rock choruses effortlessly. I just wish the memorable melodies of the song extended into the verses, just to give BACK THEN a more profoundness that help make the song stick. I also thought the R&B could have gone a step further a feel more ballad-like to really maximize the impact BACK THEN could of have.

BACK THEN is said to capture the feelings of longing for your ex following the breakup (taken from SOOMPI) and I feel that Kim Jae Hwan had captured that essence in his vocals. Though, I feel like he doesn’t completely capture said essence in the music video. The entire video showed the aftermath, but it just felt lacking. As cliché as it might look and sound, I kind of wished the music video had a ‘before’ breakup and an ‘after’ breakup concept. I think this more typical approach would have really captured the song in a visual sense really well. Aside from that desire, I liked that the music video also captured the rock aspect of the song with Kim Jae Hwan rocking out with his guitar to the song in some scenes and having a band in the background. It made sense to include and I am glad that it did.

As seen in the music video, the comeback is able to flick between a band version and a dance version for this comeback. I do hope we get to see the dance version in full during promotions for BACK THEN. From what I do see, the choreography looks decent. Kim Jae Hwan is still for some of it, presuming so he can hit those notes while performing live. But when he is full participating in the choreography, it appears to be full power, and I quite liked how he and the dancers embody this.

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

[Review] CHEERS – SVT LEADERS

I am preparing to write an album review for SEVENTEEN’s fourth studio album (and its repackaged version) this weekend. But in order to review that album, I have get some song reviews out of the way. Prior to the release of Sector 17 (the repackaged version of their fourth studio album) and the title track _WORLD, SEVENTEEN’s leader subunit (featuring S.Coups, Woozi and Hoshi) pre-released the single CHEERS with a special music video. That is the focus of today’s review.

CHEERS makes no hesitation or apologies with diving into the hip-hop genre. I personally would have expected this release to come from SEVENTEEN’s hip-hop team, as the genre is literally in their unit’s name and CHEERS is probably 120% in the realm of hip-hop. But technically, the leader unit of the thirteen member group isn’t really known for a specific style or sound, so the unit has free reign and no specific constraints over what styles they put out. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms with them deep diving into hip-hop this time around. CHEERS is quite a fun track thanks to the catchy flute hook and the dynamic/upbeat energy that comes from the instrumentation. The lyrical hooks were quite strong and leaves a positive impression. The bridge brought on a neat peak to the song and serves as my favourite sequence of the song. Even each member had a stand out moment – Hoshi’s is the ‘Eondeongi pang pang‘ (more on that in the choreography section), S.Coups whispery sequence in the second verse and Woozi’s smoother delivery in the first verse. However, my biggest issue with CHEERS is the heavy autotune that coats the song from head to toe. While I did get the autotune helps hype up the energy, makes CHEERS more dynamic and delivers a degree of charm to the song, there were certain parts that felt unnecessarily autotuned. Some refinement would have made CHEERS a much stronger and less overwhelming track.

The music video undoubtedly goes down the hip-hop path, as well, with a heavily influenced music video that fits in well with the genre and song. There isn’t really any other way to prose this video, in my opinion. It hits all my expectations. With this video, I presume the different scenes we do get have some sort of meaning. Or, it could all be intended to be lighthearted or stylish, and my years of KPOP reviewing has taught me to over think everything. I don’t know. But it was a fun watch and the trio matched the energy of the song really well.

I am not going to dilly-dally over the choreography section of the review and get straight to the point. Hoshi’s hip bounce is the most memorable moment of the entire routine. It was a fun and vibrant move that definitely steals the show. The rest of the choreography was also fun and energetic as the song, but not as much as that two second move.

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

[Review] Crack – Lee Jin Hyuk

I travel back to Monday to review one more song, LEE JIN HYUK’s latest release. The mini-album is titled 5ight and the lead single is titled Crack, and it follows last year’s October 2021 comeback with Crtl + V (his fourth mini-album, which I did not review) and Work Work (his last promotional track).

Crack is another rock based dance track to add to the growing list of rock influenced tracks that have emerged in KPOP. But we are still in the early days of the trend, given that each artists (so far) are still able to make this trend their own and I don’t think I am anywhere near tired of it. For Crack, the uniqueness comes from the drumming. It really gave Crack an extremely dynamic and robust tenacity, especially during the bold and hyped pre-choruses. It was adrenaline pumping and I am still reeling from the excitement the drumming gives the song. Electric guitars are common in rock songs, and Crack is no exception. But as the drumming is already the bold aspect of the song, the electric guitar sits more in the background. The choruses follows on nicely from the pre-chorus, picking up the momentum and brings forth those electric guitars a bit to bring an electrifying profile to the surface of Crack. The hooks were catchy and addictive, even though I did have a laugh when I first heard the ‘I have a crack crack crack‘ hook the first time around. LEE JIN HYUK’s raspy vocals and raps were well utilized and adds a nice textural component to Crack. The bridge smooths out the instrumental, which was a neat contrast to the rest of the song. However, I do think Crack missed the opportunity to have a more substantial peak in the bridge, which (I hoped) would result in a launch back into an intensely energetic final chorus to close out the song. Similar comments can be said with the final instrumental break. It could have been so much more concentrated just to give Crack a literal high point to finish on. But overall, Crack really impressed me, with the instrumental really stealing the show for me.

As for the music video for this comeback, I thought it was fine. Not memorable, but not necessarily terrible, as well. The choreography scenes (sans the leopard print pants) had an electrifying feel to it, thanks to the flashing and spinning lights in the background. There was a lot of cracks in the video, including cracked glass, smashed windshields with cracks in them and even crackers making a crack sound at the very start/end (Hehehehe…). I am sure these serve a purpose other than puns, but I couldn’t piece together what was happening the video.

I wished the sharpness associated with the ‘crack crack crack‘ move was present throughout the choreography. If everything else (aside from the dance outro) felt a lot more snappy, I think this would have made a really cool choreography routine. But instead, it appeared a bit wishy-washy. I make the exception with the dance break outro, as that is what I am looking for and feel would have made the stage better.

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

[Review] Gasoline – KEY (SHINee)

We are still a couple of months out from a year since KEY impressed with his solo comeback. BAD LOVE (title of both the title track and first mini album). But that hasn’t stopped KEY from returning with a new music. More specifically, a new single and his second studio length album, both of which have been titled Gasoline. The new material dropped officially today, even though he did informally pre-release the sides tracks Another Life and Proud and performed Gasoline at the recent SM Town concerts.

But the focus of this review is purely on Gasoline, the title track. The biggest question that I have for myself heading into this comeback was whether Gasoline tops the likes of BAD LOVE (which knocked my socks off last year). Unfortunately, I can confirm that the new release does not exceed the standard that was set by last year’s release. I will explain why in a bit. Gasoline is a hip-hop dance track that really grabs our attention from the get-go with its bold and fanfare instrumentation at the start and during the choruses. Heavy thumping takes over the in verses and the brass elements that contribute to the fanfare influence in the chorus is taken down a few notches. All of this was very good and definitely is very memorable. I quite liked the decision to skip the chorus following the second verse, going straight into the bridge. It was an interesting change of momentum and the thumping beat was quite exciting and thrilling. It definitely got the adrenaline running through my body. My issue with Gasoline was the lack of melody. There was some, but none of it was rewarding or fulfilling like in his previous comeback. Also, the boastful and confident main hook of the song (i.e. the ‘A-List, The Latest, Made It, I’m Ready, Big Rings, Your Scream‘) felt so cringy and was very questionable to me. I see how the first four compliments the idea of being confident and ambitious, but the latter two that I quoted makes no sense. The start-stop manner it was delivered in was also a bit plain and wearisome, and I wished the hook was more gratifying to listen to. KEY’s rapping throughout the track was good, but it is the way Gasoline‘s centric moments were delivered that I find to be a letdown.

The music video makes up for the Gasoline‘s lacking aspects. I am blown away by the quality and jaw-dropping visuals that KEY delivers in this comeback. My guess is that KEY is like a god in this video, with the dancers worshipping him. This would work well with the confidence and ambition that KEY expresses in the lyrics of the song. The golden colour that appears throughout the video (and subsequently becomes a memorable aspect of the video) also helps out with this. Another thing I quite liked about the video is that KEY isn’t scared to show off a completely different style to other idols and isn’t shy of trying unique outfits. It left such a strong impression on me, as a viewer, which works hand-in-hand with the message he is trying to get across. The sets were also grand and imposing, helping to make KEY stand out.

I quite liked the powerful aspect of the choreography, which felt fitting to the way he delivered the track. The routine was definitely quite busy, as well, thanks to the number of dancers featured in this comeback. But I think this helps give the choreography a boastful image as well, which works well with the message the song gives out.

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