[Review] Ay-Yo – NCT 127

Kicking things off this week is NCT 127, who returns with Ay-Yo – the title of both the group’s newest title track and the repackaged version of their fourth studio album. Ay-Yo follows the group’s 2022 comeback with 2 Baddies, which was the title track to NCT 127’s fourth studio album when it was released in September 2022. You may notice that I have yet to review 2 Baddies (the album). The plan was to review it at the end of last year, but I sidelined the album review upon hearing a potential repackaged version was coming out. With the rumors officially true and the album dropping today, I will be fast-tracking an album review for 2 Baddies/Ay-Yo this coming weekend. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts on Ay-Yo.

I found Ay-Yo to be an intriguing song. It is in the standard realm of hip-hop dance, which is where most of NCT 127’s songs do find themselves in nowadays. Personally, nothing too interesting from this department within Ay-Yo. However, instead of the usually loud, sometimes obnoxious, bold synths; an undeniable powerful energy from the instrumentation; heavy reliance on rapping; and strong hooks, Ay-Yo takes on a different form of power. The new song opts for powerful vocals, which is a slight change to how NCT 127 usually presents their song. This is the first time that I have heard a title track from the group that is so vocally driven, yet still consistent with their current output. As a result, Ay-Yo feels more subdued and ‘held back’ than usual. And I quite liked it. I also feel like the scales between rapping and vocals are more balanced in the song. We do still get the usual dose of powerful rapping from the rappers. Nothing feels in your face with Ay-Yo, with some of the rapping feeling quite sleek as some members opted for lower registers and it allowed them to come off as ‘mature’ sounding. But at the end of the day, it is the vocals that steal my attention in Ay-Yo, and I happy NCT 127’s vocal line is getting their moment to shine. Hook wise, the “Ay-Yo” we get at the start of the chorus does have its impact. On the melodies front, I feel that Ay-Yo has a nice ring to it, particularly Taeyong, Mark and Yuta’s respective opening lines in the choruses. But while the intriguingness and different take does win me over, Ay-Yo does have issues. My biggest one with Ay-Yo is the abrupt ending. Maybe an attempt to keep the song within their usual territory, but it just makes Ay-Yo feel unfinished – not exactly the feeling I want to finish a song on.

I am not entirely sure if there is a concept with this music video. I kind of wished there was more to it. Everything feel quite urban and there are some strong and stunning visual solo shots (i.e. Jaehyun and Doyoung) in this video. In addition to that, Taeyong’s super spikey hair-do is probably one of the boldest looks I have seen in KPOP for a very long time. However, I did get dizzy watching spinning tunnel and I wish the lighting was better during some parts.

From what I can see in the music video, the group still maintains a strong performance piece even for a subdued song. The moves are less punchy, but that is expected with a song like Ay-Yo. I liked the slow movements during the verses that we saw in the video. I also liked the synchronization the members pulled off during the slightly more intense moments from the chorus.

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

[Review] Sugar Rush Ride – TXT

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Small Things – YESUNG (SUPER JUNIOR)

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

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

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

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

[Review] Cotton Candy – Jinyoung (GOT7)

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Aurora – cignature

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Love War – YENA ft. BE’O

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Stamp On It – GOT the beat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Step Back – GOT the Beat

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

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

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

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

[Review] PRESENT – Moonbyul (MAMAMOO)

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

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

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

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

[Review] Beautiful Liar – MONSTA X

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] Puzzle – SF9

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

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

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

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

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

[Review] HALAZIA – ATEEZ

ATEEZ is nominated for Best Male Group, Best Stage Presence, Best Ballad (for Turbulence) and Best Electronic Song (for Guerrilla) in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support ATEEZ along with your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today. Be quick, as voting closes tomorrow night!

The final major comeback of 2022 belonged to ATEEZ, which dropped two days prior to the new year. Whilst everyone was busy preparing for the new year celebrations, ATEEZ is sliding us new music. The new single is titled HALAZIA and forms part of the group’s first Korean single album, Spin Off: From the Witness. This is also the group’s first musical release since Guerrilla in July 2022 and their third Japanese single, Paradigm, in November 2022 (which has yet to be reviewed).

HALAZIA is another one of those songs that I would describe as ‘interesting’. For the most part, the track does sound very ATEEZ-like, with its intense dance style. We are given a solid display of vocals in the first verse and more rhythmic and upbeat rapping in the second verse. The group goes full steam ahead towards the chorus with a strong pre-chorus, with a great stomping incline and church organs that builds suspense towards the main centrepiece of the song. The interesting aspect of HALAZIA comes via the chorus, which I am not exactly sure of. I love the concept of the breathy cult-like chants and instrumental that kicks it off. It stilled HALAZIA in a way that felt aesthetic and unique. But when you consider the pre-chorus was built up towards what felt like could have been a powerful and intense chorus, what we got felt like a loss of momentum and just didn’t live up to expectations. The second half of the chorus brought forward a completely different atmosphere, with a rapid intense rush of electronic element driving the song forward. Personally, I felt the two halves of the chorus did not cohesively come together and the mad rush of the second half felt like the producers was trying to make up for the lost momentum of the first half. However, I did think both halves had charm in their own way. The most impressive part of HALAZIA comes during the bridge, in the form of rapping from both Hongjoong and Mingi. I really liked the impact and force they brought to their parts in the bridge. This then led to the final sequence of HALAZIA, which was a blast of EDM and a shouty delivery that reminded me of Guerrilla‘s chorus. Overall, HALAZIA had great promise and almost got there. I just think the song needed to be better focused and cohesive in its central sequence to be more effective.

What really gets me with these music videos of a shared universe that spans over multiple videos is the amount of planning that must have already occurred to ensure the full story is told once the plot wraps up. And factoring in music, a unique concept that enables the storyline to be told, these comebacks must be planned many months (even a year) in advance. I applaud the people behind this, as this is something I cannot even imagine in my mind. Anyhow, the music video for HALAZIA connects to the world that was introduced as part of Guerrilla, where the emotions were stolen from the people (which really made them all creepy and I quite liked this chilling aesthetic). But the trailer to this comeback tells us that the world population was awaiting the return of ATEEZ (in the form of the infamous black hats they donned during their early days/concepts) to give them hope. But instead of that form of ATEEZ, a new version of ATEEZ has popped up instead. We are unsure this new form of ATEEZ brings, but they rally up the population to take back gravity (one of the other things they lost). What this all means, I have no clue whatsoever. And that ending with the ball dropping onto San like that is very suspenseful and mysterious. Hopefully, we will find out more in the next video.

ATEEZ once again impresses with the choreography. The intensity and power the members channel through was just so riveting to watch. In addition to that, the pre-chorus routine felt so sleek, while the cult-like profile of the first half of the chorus came through the choreography in a very captivating fashion. A routine I highly recommend you watch!

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

[Review] Madness – MOONBIN & SANHA (ASTRO)

Moonbin & Sanha are nominated for Best Subunit in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support Moonbin & Sanha, along with your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today. Be quick, as voting closes tomorrow night!

This week also sees the return of MOOBIN & SANHA, one of the two currently active subunits from ASTRO. If you can’t tell by the name of the subunit, the group consist of Moobin and Sanha, and they debuted with in 2020 with Bad Idea. Last year, the pair returned with the title track WHO and their second mini-album REFUGE. Yesterday, the pair dropped their third mini-album, Incense, and the title track Madness.

Madness features a funky and groovy energy to its dance pop profile. But before you assume, the track isn’t necessarily colourful like most funky and groovy songs. Madness also features a serious and a subtle powerful tone to it throughout its run that prevents a colourful or vivid tone to form, which actually allows the sound to fit neatly into the unit’s discography. I found this to be create a decent listen and a definite improvement from their last comeback. Madness features a solid set of vocals from both members, though I wished there was more of a zing to their delivery to make the song a bit more interesting. They were not competing with the instrumental in anyway, but I think a bit of volume (and even some definition) would have worked really well in Moobin and Sanha’s favour to allow them to stand out in Madness. A more interesting melody or delivery some sort would have great as well. There were some moments in which Madness could have built itself on, such as the pop start to the pre-chorus and rapping from Sanha (and briefly from Moobin). But ultimately, Madness joins the long list of songs that lack something memorable. The final aspect of Madness that disappointed me was the repetitiveness. I did like the repetitiveness at first, but with multiple listens, the song is drying up quite quickly. The final chorus doesn’t offer anything new to the song that the first two runs of the chorus had already offered. Overall, Madness is an appreciated step in the right direction for the duo, in my opinion. It just needs more to it.

The song likens the spread of one’s charm to the addictiveness of a scent, resulting in another person to be driven to a point of madness or insanity. And the two charms that we need to be wary of, based on the music video, belongs to both Moonbin and Sanha. In the video, we see them developing scents and breaking into a piece of ice that containing a bouquet of flowers, which might be the ultimate scent they are trying to achieve. I really liked the darkness of the sets, especially the choreography and solo sets we see at the end of the video. I also enjoyed how well timed the video is. When the song launches into the second chorus, we see the pair desperately breaking their way through the block of ice. It plays into the idea of madness slightly, which I thought was clever.

I liked the choreography, but there isn’t much that stands out in a memorable sense. Instead, I appreciated the smoothness that the choreography had, which worked well with certain moments of the song and gave a nice contrast during the song’s more jagged moments (i.e. the chorus).

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] OMG – NewJeans

NewJeans is nominated for Best New Female Group, Best Group Choreography (Female) for Hype Boy and Best R&B Song for Attention in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support NewJeans and all your other favourite artists, songs and performances before voting closes this Friday by clicking here to vote.

As mentioned in the previous review for NewJean’s Ditto, I will also be covering the group’s first official comeback single, OMG, which officially dropped two days ago. This comes after the group debuted with Cookie (and pre-releases Attention and Hype Boy) in 2022, contributing to what has resulted in very intense battle for new female groups and debuts this award season in the KPOP industry.

It has been a couple of days since OMG‘s release and this short gap between release and review have really allowed me to evaluate the song and consider my thoughts on it. To me, OMG is an ‘alright’ song. I liked how NewJeans have forged themselves a unique sound in KPOP and this sound does comes through in OMG, despite the track gearing towards more mainstream pop and hip-hop influences. I enjoyed the upbeat nature of the instrumental, which comes to life as a result of the percussive and trap elements. NewJeans also sounds quite nice throughout the song. Their vocals really show off a youthful appearance compared to their previous releases and the brightness really cuts through the over-consistency that OMG was potentially heading in. What really held OMG back, for me, is the lack of a memorable element of some kind. Despite the number of listens of OMG over the last few days, I have failed to notice anything that really capture my attention and makes the song stay in my mind once the song ends. This is quite disappointing given the hype leading to OMG. Had the song had something more memorable to it, OMG could have ringed through. But because there isn’t a memorable ring or tinge to the song, I am not convinced that this is their greatest track. That being said, OMG had some pretty big shoes to fill following the likes the Attention and Hype Boy.

When I watch the music video for OMG, I can’t help but wonder whether the friends who Heesoo supposedly lost from the Ditto music videos (according to my theory) were sent to the asylum. When I wrote that storyline up based on what I saw, I hadn’t considered the events of OMG. But now watching the OMG’s music video and also considering how the school scenes were included as part of the performance videos, I am leaning towards a change my storyline – that Heesoo’s friends were sent to the asylum. The video also includes a bit of a twist towards the end, with the friends reminding themselves that they are actually NewJeans, which might also further alter the story theory I wrote for the Ditto music video. I quite liked the rewind montage that follows and the addition of a snippet of Attention to the video. Apart from that, I liked how they tackled the topic of mental health. It can be quite touchy topic, but my first impression of NewJean’s take was that it is light, felt liberating, and refreshing, which is much different to the more usual serious tone mental health garners in Western media.

I quite enjoyed the 90s touch some of their outfits had. It probably will be a case of regret in the future when NewJeans attempts more mature concepts, but it works really well at this point in time. As for the choreography, I really enjoyed the whole chorus sequence of the routine. Dubbed as the ‘OMG and crab dance’ according to the 1theKILLPO video, I do find the second half of the sequence to be more impressive, with the synchronisation and execution leaving me floored.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] Ditto – NewJeans

NewJeans is nominated for Best New Female Group, Best Group Choreography (Female) for Hype Boy and Best R&B Song for Attention in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support NewJeans and all your other favourite artists, songs and performances before voting closes this Friday by clicking here to vote.

The first two official reviews of 2023 belongs to NewJeans, one of the new female groups who literally took over 2022 with a series of releases including Attention, Hype Boy and Cookie. And judging by the digital charts at the time of writing this review, it looks like 2023 is also on their radar for a take-over, as well. The first review tackles their recent pre-release single, Ditto, which was actually released in the final weeks of the 2022. It was released in preparation for their early 2023 comeback, which officially dropped yesterday. And you guessed it, I will be covering OMG in my next review tomorrow.

While I did check out the new song while I was on break, I didn’t pay much attention to it and haven’t formed an opinion on Ditto until today. But I am happy to report upon further consideration today for this review, I quite enjoyed Ditto. The song just feels so atmospheric and dreamy with its lo-fi approach, making it hard to dislike the song. The smoothness of NewJeans vocals pairs extremely well with that same atmospheric and dreamy nature of Ditto, and helped make it become such a captivating piece. The melodies also build on this and have a memorable ring to them, which just adds more substance to the song. And while it was rather subtle, there is enough bass and percussion in Ditto to help keep it slightly upbeat and riveting enough to keep the song itself grounded. I also enjoyed the consistency of the bass and percussion in the song this time around, which to me added a hypnotic effect to the song that does wonders. The only thing about Ditto I am not 100% sure of at this stage is the longevity of the song. I feel like the song is designed to be quite effective in the moment, but repeat listens might just dull Ditto down. I am not tired of Ditto just yet, but it it is interesting thought to have crossed my mind whilst writing this review.

The music videos for Ditto was impressive. That’s right, the plural there signifies multiple version – two versions in the case of Ditto – Side A and Side B. Side A shows the group NewJeans as a group of friends, with a sixth member of their friendship group (Heesoo) filming the group as they go about their high school days. Interestingly, during Side A, Heesoo never appears on camera with NewJeans. As a side plot, Heesoo develops a crush on a male student. But the main story of Side A is that NewJeans might not have existed at all, and that Heesoo was only imagining their existence through the camera. Her not appearing on camera with the others adds fuel to that storyline. As for Side B, we see that Heesoo is imagining the existence of NewJeans at the school. But it is revealed in later scenes within Side B that NewJeans do exist outside of the school, and that Heesoo only watches them afar and had created NewJeans as a fantasy for her school life. We do see her drop her camera from the top of the building in Side B, which signifies the destruction of her fantasy, her growing up, which leads her to date the guy she had developed a crush on. At the end of Side B, we begin with the start of Side A (confusing, I know). The scenes on the video however do show Heesoo subtly on camera with a group of girls (but in a haunting manner, we don’t see their faces whatsoever), which leads me to suspect that the group of friends did exist at one point. But she lost them in some sort of accident (which would explain her cast). She later became deluded into thinking that the group of friends still existed and NewJeans was that friend group, but she slowly comes to terms that is not the case and comes to accept that her friends are no longer with her. It is all a bit confusing, but that is my take on the video. I really liked the 90s/early 00s aesthetic and the creepy factor that underlays parts of the video, which gives an added flavour that keeps the videos interesting.

I really liked how the choreography looks for this particular release. And this comes through many layers. Firstly, I liked how it was weaved into the music videos. Secondly, I really liked how the choreographer really embodied NewJeans youth and made it feel like teenagers were just freestyling and having some fun, rather than a set routine that feels rehearsed and refined. The subtle bounce we got added to this fun nature, in my opinion. Thirdly, NewJeans chemistry was quite cool and the smiles they shared with one another made the performance feel so much more convincing.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 9.3/10