[Album Review] Savage (1st Mini Album) – aespa

It felt like it has been a while since I posted an album review. When in reality I wrote one last weekend (for another SM Entertainment group). Today, I am focusing on the newest addition to the company. Almost a year after their debut with Black Mamba, and months after their Forever and Next Level comebacks earlier this year, aespa has returned with their first mini-album, Savage, which is also the title of the lead track off the mini-album. The mini-album features an additional five tracks in addition to the title track, all of which will be reviewed below.

Savage Album Cover

1. Aenergy Aenergy highlights the group’s vocals potential, showcasing the group in a bold and powerful manner. Winter’s high note and NingNing’s ad-libs at the end of the track were epic and floored me. The chanty anthem style chorus for this track was very catchy. The song also throws in a bit of paced rapping into the mix (which intrigued me and pulled me into the song). Interestingly the instrumental was rather consistent, diverting away from the mashup styled background we hear in the title tracks, but I quite liked the depth and bass it had. The only thing I would change within Aenergy are the cheesy lyrics and the nonsense English we got at the mid-point of the song. (8/10)

2. Savage (Title Track) Click here to read the full review for Savage. (5/10)

3. I’ll Make You Cry I’ll Make You Cry is another strong song. It too is heavy on the synths, but stays consistent throughout the song with no crazy changes or mismatched styles attempting to follow up each segment. I quite liked this, as it isn’t overwhelming and allows the focus to be diverted to other elements within the song without the overarching wariness that the instrumental would change and sound completely different within the next few seconds. Again, the vocals are awesome throughout and the rapping was very edgy. I particularly liked the flip-flop set-up between vocals and rapping in the chorus. It felt dynamic and kept me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the song. (9/10)

4. YEPPI YEPPIYEPPI YEPPI is a welcome change from the group’s edgy sound, with the song leaning into a fun and bright pop sound. It is definitely a song that standouts on this album. However, there are some similarities with the rest of the album. YEPPI YEPPI does seem to go back to that mishmash style within its electronic instrumentation. So, there is a lot going on, but it still comes off cohesive and is tied together nicely by the energy that is exuded from the chorus. I did enjoy all the textures which kept the song interesting. The weakest point of the song was the slowdown in the bridge. To me, it felt like a big gaping hole in the song. (8/10)

5. IconicIconic is within the same realm of YEPPI YEPPI, with a pop sound infused into the chorus. Though the pop influence is charmful and unlike the name suggests, Iconic is not as iconic as it could be. It is a bit plain and didn’t really pull me, unlike some of the other sidetracks. The metallic percussion that made up the instrumental for Iconic felt clunky and clanky, and such descriptors can be applied to the rest of the song. Even the vocals and rapping felt plain in this song. (6/10)

6. Lucid Dream (자각몽) Lucid Dream shows a different side of the group. While everything thus far has been heavily synth-based, Lucid Dream is a further indication that aespa can do more. R&B felt more prominent compared to the synths, hence my observation. That being said, the EDM we did get in this song felt pretty elegant, aesthetic and gave off a mature feel that is fitting for the R&B genre. Their husky and raspy vocals, especially in the chorus, was very good and also well-fitting for the song. A nice ender to the album. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.3/10

Savage Teaser Image

[Review] Savage – aespa

Another comeback yesterday was made by aespa, who returns with their mini-album since debut (titled Savage). The title track of the mini-album also shares the same name. This comeback follows the successful release of Next Level from earlier in the year. If you were to flick to that review, you may find that at the time of writing that review, I wasn’t much of a fan of Next Level. Fast forward a few months, and Next Level has grown considerably on me. I still don’t think highly of it as the rest of the world seems to do, but I have warmed up to the song through a lot of replaying. Let’s see how Savage fairs (keeping in mind that it may change down the track).

Honestly, I don’t think the song will grow on me whatsoever. I don’t think I have listened to a song with such a straight face before and where I had to dig my way through the song to figure out any positive aspects. So, it isn’t good at first glance. I did find some, but I think Savage is case of the bad outweighing the good. It is another song that seems to jam a lot into the four minutes of air time. There is so much change throughout the song, with each sequence feeling very different to every other sequence in the song. It is quite overwhelming. Savage begins with the most eye-rolling toned introduction in KPOP that I have heard. I hope this was intention, as it fits in with the title. Otherwise, I would be concerned. Metallic twangs and heavy bass form the basis of the first verse, with Karina and Giselle rapping. The verses were largely forgettable. Then, the pre-chorus comes in, bring vocals and (admittedly) a suspenseful energy that I liked. I like the rock influences (though I think they are more synths) we get here. While the climb to the chorus was good, I was utterly left down by the chorus. The anti-drop and the lackluster (and excitement killing) hook just didn’t work for me. We get more of a hip-hop influence in the second verse thanks to the added instrumentation and rapping, though there is that similar backing as the first verse. The second pre-chorus remains the same, while the second chorus adds extra percussion to ‘change it up’, though I am left with the same disappointment. We then get a vocally driven bridge, before we are lead into a very abrasive EDM dance break, an unfitting (but well executed) high note, and finally a messy and over complicated layered sequence to end the song. A prime example of how doing too much at once doesn’t look good. I have to say that the vocals and rapping throughout Savage definitely showed talent. That’s one of the positive aspects that I concluded with. And I feel the bridge and the rapping in the verses definitely showed this (despite the latter being unmemorable). Pity the music just didn’t come together cohesively (especially that ending).

While I don’t like the song, I did enjoy the music video. SM Entertainment has managed to outdo themselves with the production and quality of this particular music video. My favourite bit has to be any scene with the Black Mamba (the snake, not the song in this case) in them. The detail of the scales and the wrap around the members was so good. The rest of the music video was also riveting thanks to the post-production, CGI and camerawork. Aside from visuals, there is also the plot side to the video. Personally, I am not too sure of what the story line is, though my best guess is that the aespa members are still on a mission to reunite with their virtual counterparts. It is obvious that we are still in that SM cinematic universe, given that aespa are the main drivers of that universe. But it is quite confusing where the story is at now.

I liked the performance for this comeback as well. Firstly, it has attitude, which made complete sense to me given the title of the song. Secondly, it had intensity, which matches up with the song’s own intensity. But the best part has to be the dance break. The intensity and hand/arm work looks really cool and is definitely the peak of the performance.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7/10

[Review] Next Level – aespa

Taking their careers to the ‘next level’ today is aespa, with their third comeback since their debut with Black Mamba in October of 2020. You may have missed their first comeback occurred earlier this year and through a remake single titled Forever. Interestingly, it didn’t attract as much attention as you would have expected for SM Entertainment’s newest group. But don’t fret, aespa has a long career ahead of them. And that next step comes today with the comeback Next Level. It is another digital single from the female group (no album release just yet). But hopefully they will get one for their next comeback. But in the meanwhile, let’s check out Next Level.

Next Level is the type of songs that jams a lot of styles into one song. Sometimes it works fine, but other times, it doesn’t. For me personally, Next Level falls into the latter category. The individual styles themselves all sound great in their own right. But the issue is when they are all strung together. It is a bit of a reach to make it one whole piece. I personally feel these parts differ in a very distinct manners. Let’s break down the various parts of Next Level. The song starts and ends with this electronic background that reminds me of the soundtracks for those scenes in action movies where the main character is riding the motorcycle in a very cool manner (we will call this Part 1). This makes sense as the original version was from one of the Fast and Furious movies. Part 1 also features the chorus – the ‘Next Level‘ repetition hook, which is a really simple chorus. But one that works extremely well and catches on. While I did enjoy Part 1, the enjoyment unraveled briefly when this cutesy and innocent ‘Lalalala’ sequence was brought in. The original version has this sequence, but it kept it at a low tone. I think aespa’s version pushed for a more innocent style, which didn’t fit the cool sounding profile that kickstarted and ended the song. The atmosphere and style of Part 1 returns briefly, before we are handed the ‘Watch it while I make it out‘ repetition. To me, aespa’s version of this sequence fits with the cool side of the song. But because of ‘Lalalala‘ still fresh in my mind, this repetition carries the same effect which is unfortunate. aespa’s version of Next Level starts to divert from the original here. Part 2 seems to be a transitional piece and maintains the cool thumping beat of Part 1, but features a bit more percussion and textures. In addition to the instrumental change in Part 2, we get a greater focus on vocals, which were powerful and well executed by the members. Ninging and Winter’s vocals here reminds me of S.E.S’s Bada’s vocals (which is a huge compliment). Part 3 comes soon after with more peppy backing that is full of colour and brings forth urban city vibes. The result is an instrumentally light and cheerful sequence. It seems to merge both the strong rapping from Part 1 and the powerful vocals of Part 2 together. But while I really like this part, I feel this is miles away from the coolness of Part 1 (which returns to end Next Level following Part 3). Overall, I just wished Next Level didn’t flip the switch to suddenly change to Parts 2, 3 and back to 1 out of nowhere. It needed a bridge to glue it altogether and make it more cohesive.

Following the visuals of Black Mamba, I had high expectations on the visual front of the music video. And they delivered! A lot of the stylistic choices from Black Mamba were carried over, which I quite like and it allows the music video to appear connected to one another. (which I believe is intentional as the videos are under one universe). The fantastical colour scheme and some of the sets (the big tree and the rocky set) felt similar to the ones we saw in their previous music video. But Next Level makes sure to be its own standalone music video as well, bringing in a sci-fi futuristic concept, which I think was suitable for the song’s various parts. Also returning are the other four members of the group (i.e. the “æ” members). I liked how they were worked into the video and the transitions between the doppelgangers. I wished they played a bigger parts, especially if they are considered an additional four members. In terms of plot line, Next Level shows us snippet of their travels to “Kwangya to hunt down Black Mamba that estranged us from our avatars”.

Performance wise, I think the routine for this comeback looks awesome. I don’t think there is an iconic move like in their previous dance routine (i.e. the drop lunge). But this performance looks cool and full of confidence nonetheless, which is fitting in with the song.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.3/10

[Review] Forever – aespa

aespa was voted as the Best New Female Group of 2020 in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Congratulations to aespa. Click here to find out who else won in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards.

aespa made their first comeback at the very end of last week with Forever, a remake of a song from the year 2000 of the same name by Yoo Young Jin. I am quite sure we are all familiar with aespa, who are the newest edition to SM Entertainment’s lineup and they made their debut at the end of 2020 with Black Mamba. The other half of this project (i.e. the original singer) is Yoo Young Jin and he is a song-writer and music producer under SM Entertainment. He has been writing and producing songs for many SM Entertainment artists since 1996.

Forever is a ballad that feels appropriate for the colder weather. While I do think this is the case, I do want to argue that the song seems better suited it was released around the Christmas/holiday season, rather than the backend of the coldest season. It just feels more appropriate for that time period, compared to the final weeks of Winter. But that might just be me. At first glance, Forever is definitely on a different level compared to Black Mamba. Their debut song was powerful and fierce. Most notably, it was a dance track. Forever, given its status as a ballad, is more delicate and warming. It features an instrumental that is a mixture of classical and acoustics, which is a really nice and balanced combination. Forever is another example where consistency is a positive aspect of the song, maintaining the feelings that I already mentioned from start to end. It makes the ballad quite appealing. What helps prevent the song falling into a rut are the members vocals. aespa definitely showcases a different side to themselves with this song. And they sound stunning. The melodies that carry their vocals really make the song flow along and they add that level of sweetness to the song that makes it more pleasant to listen to. I really like their harmonies when they sing the title of the song, especially at the end. Those harmonies and repetitions really encapsulates all the descriptors that I have used throughout the review thus far.

The music video seems straightforward. Closeups and choreography combination once again. I really like the set design and how everything reflected Winter quite well. Its pace matched the pace of the song and I am glad there wasn’t any change in the cinematography of the video as it progressed along. That would have been distract and off-putting. I do want to say that it is a great video. And for the reasons above that I have listed, it definitely is. But it isn’t one that I would replay constantly as there wasn’t much to it. Still a nice display of visuals regardless.

While I am big believer that ballads should not have a choreography associated with it, there have been some exceptions in the past. And it seems like aespa’s Forever is another one to add to that list. Their moves don’t distract you from the vocals or the song. It is all very soft and gentle. I really like the bridge sequence. If I were to be critical, I would say the members moving into position seemed a little clumsy. It could have been more polished in that aspect. But honestly, I don’t think anyone cares about that.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Special] 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards – Winners Announcement

Welcome to the announcement post of the winners for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. During the month of December in 2020, I opened up a survey for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Over 1800 of you voted during the month of December, a number that I did not expect to see! I am sure that you all are excited and are awaiting to see which artist has clinched victory in each category. I have definitely made you wait long enough 🙂

Like the previous years, I will announce the winners using GIFs and images. I have also announced the runners up for each category as Honourable Mentions below the GIFs. In addition to that, I have included the KPOPREVIEWED Choice, which is my personal pick for each category.

Unlike previous years, however, all of the winners of the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards (including the End of Year Charts and Best Song of 2020 Award) is included in this very one post! Towards the bottom of each post, you will see some page numbers. You can click on these page numbers to navigate to different award categories and the End of Year Charts. Here is a quick guide to the page numbers:

Page 1 – Artist Categories
Page 2 – Visual Categories, Performance Categories, Weekly KPOP Charts related Categories
Page 3 – Blog related Categories, Song Categories (excluding Best Song)
Page 4 – End of Year Charts & Best Song of 2020 Award

Artist Caregories

The following categories are all fan-voted categories for the artists that were active during the eligible period of December 2019 to November 2020.

Best New Male Group

Nominees:
BDC
CRAVITY
DRIPPIN’

Nominees:
MCND
TOO
TREASURE

Honourable Mention: TREASURE
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: TREASURE


Best New Female Group

Nominees:
aespa
BLACKSWAN
cignature

Nominees:
SECRET NUMBER
WEEEKLY
woo!ah!

Honourable Mention: WEEEKLY
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: WEEEKLY


Best New Male Soloist

Nominees:
Han Seung Woo (VICTON)
Kim Woo Seok (UP10TION)

Lee Eun Sang
Wonho
WOODZ

Honourable Mention: Wonho
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: WOODZ


Best New Female Soloist

Nominees:
Lee Suhyun (AKMU)
Moonbyul (Mamamoo)

Ryu Sujeong (Lovelyz)
Solar (Mamamoo)
YooA (Oh My Girl)

Honourable Mention: Lee Suhyun (AKMU)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: YooA (Oh My Girl)


Rising Star of 2020

Nominees:
EVERGLOW
Golden Child
ONEUS

Nominees:
ONF
The Boyz
VICTON

Honourable Mention: EVERGLOW
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: The Boyz


Most Underrated Group of 2020

Nominees:
A.C.E
APRIL
ASTRO

Nominees:
Dream Catcher
ONEUS
VERIVERY

Honourable Mention: Dream Catcher
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: ONEUS


Best Vocals

Nominees:
AKMU
DAY6
IU

Nominees:
Lee Hi
Ong Seong Woo
Taeyeon (SNSD)

Honourable Mention: Taeyeon (SNSD)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: DAY6


Best Rapper

Nominees:
Dami (Dream Catcher)
Han Ji Sung (Stray Kids)
Jessi

Nominees:
Jooheon (MONSTA X)
Moonbyul (Mamamoo)
Wooseok (Pentagon)

Honourable Mention: Han Jisung (Stray Kids)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Jooheon (MONSTA X)


Best Band

Nominees: CN BLUE, DAY6, IZ, N.Flying, ONEWE

Nominees:
CN BLUE
DAY6

IZ
N.Flying
ONEWE

Honourable Mention: CN BLUE
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: DAY6


Best CO-ED Group

Nominees:
AKMU
CHECKMATE
K-TRIGERS ZERO
KARD

Honourable Mention: AKMU
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: KARD


Best Subunit

Nominees:
BTOB 4U
End of Day
Moonbin & Sanha

Nominees:
NCT 127
Red Velvet – Irene & Seulgi
WJSN CHOCOME

Honourable Mention: NCT 127
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: NCT 127


Best Male Soloist

Nominees: Baekhyun (EXO), Chen (EXO), Kang Daniel, Ong Seong Woo, Taemin (SHINee), Zico

Nominees:
Baekhyun (EXO)
Chen (EXO)
Kang Daniel

Nominees:
Ong Seong Woo
Taemin (SHINee)
Zico

Honourable Mention: Taemin (SHINee)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Kang Daniel


Best Female Soloist

Nominees:
Chungha
Hwasa (Mamamoo)
IU

Nominees:
Jeon Somi
Sunmi
Taeyeon (SNSD)

Honourable Mention: Hwasa (Mamamoo)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Chungha


Best Male Group

Nominees:
A.C.E
AB6IX
ASTRO
ATEEZ
BTS
Golden Child

GOT7
MONSTA X
NCT
NU’EST
ONEUS
ONF
Pentagon

SEVENTEEN
SF9
Stray Kids
The Boyz
TXT
VERIVERY
VICTON

Honourable Mention: BTS, Stray Kids
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: NCT, SEVENTEEN, Stray Kids


Best Female Group

Nominees:
APRIL
BLACKPINK
BVNDIT
Cherry Bullet
CLC
Dream Catcher

EVERGLOW
fromis_9
(G)I-DLE
GFriend
ITZY
IZ*ONE
LOONA

Lovelyz
Mamamoo
Oh My Girl
Red Velvet
TWICE
Weki Meki
WJSN (Cosmic Girls)

Honourable Mention: BLACKPINK, EVERGLOW
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: ITZY, LOONA, Oh My Girl


Select the page numbers below (just above the comments section) to go to the award categories you want to see the most!
Page 1 – Artist Categories
Page 2 – Visual Categories, Performance Categories, Weekly KPOP Charts related Categories
Page 3 – Blog related Categories, Song Categories (excluding Best Song)
Page 4 – End of Year Charts & Best Song of 2020 Award

[Review] Black Mamba – aespa

On Tuesday, we saw the comeback of KPOP groups/bands from two different time extremities. Tuesday’s review was for CN BLUE, who made their comeback 11 years ago in 2009. Today, I will be reviewing a brand new female group, aespa. The new female group comes from the legendary SM Entertainment, the home of well known groups such as BoA, TVXQ, Super Junior, SNSD, EXO, SHINee, Red Velvet and NCT. Four members currently make up this group’s lineup, Karina, Giselle, Winter and Ningning. They debut yesterday with Black Mamba.

One thing that I have continuously mentioned when it comes to debuting acts is that the song they are debuting with needs to be bold enough to get the attention of the industry and kickstart building that fanbase. Most of the time, both female and male groups start their careers with a very generic or standard track that isn’t their best foot forward. Many don’t make it past that first track and very few actually ‘make it’ down the track if they are fortunate to pass a second track. When I listen to Black Mamba, I feel that aespa nails the brief within just this song. It might simply be due to the fact they are under one of the biggest companies in the KPOP industry. But Black Mamba is groundbreaking for the company in terms of a debut track. I really like the dark and mature feel that this dance track brings to the table, giving off a EVERGLOW type of feel for me. I like the song’s grumbling bass and the explosive pow that the chorus brings when we are launched into the chorus. I like the thundering drums, combined with the various synths that make the chorus so dynamic. Vocally, aespa impresses. Catchy hooks that really highlight an appealing side to the group and the song. Both Winter and Ningning’s vocals during the bridge were superb, and the latter’s high note leaves an impression. The rapping could have been a little more punchy, if I was to be critical about something in this song. But overall, Black Mamba ticks the boxes for a solid debut from this up-and-coming female group.

aespa is a unique group, given the fact that the group actually consist of human and virtual members. Each member has an ‘æ’ version of themselves, who also make a presence in this music video. And this idea of virtual members gives way for a new era of music videos and storylines that I am sure SM Entertainment and aespa will indulge us with in the future. For Black Mamba, the video is very digitally aesthetic, colourful in a punk-ish way and almost felt like a futuristic landscape, similar to Avatar (the movie of blue aliens) – just a lot more purple and pink. There is also seems to be a new trend with SM music videos. At the end of the music video, we see a figure emerge from the visual glitchiness and this figure resembles a male person. Fans assume this is Kai, who is due to make his solo debut later this month. Something similar happened at the end of SuperM’s One music video, where aespa’s logo made an appearance at the very end. Interesting to see whether SM will be linking the videos in the future, as I don’t think any company has gone down that route before.

Performance-wise, aespa carries over that boldness from the song to the choreography. Definitely a show-stopping element to the choreography are those drops that they do at the start the chorus and lunging to the other side. The choreography, overall, also matches the mature and darker feel of the song.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.3/10