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
As you may be already aware, I am currently on a break from the blog to spend some time with family and friends this Christmas. But this does not mean I can’t celebrate the holidays with you, as well. And I do this by sharing a whole bunch of festive themed songs that our favourite and beloved KPOP artists (and companies) have released this year.
Again, I wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays full of joy, laughter and the company of family and friends. If today is business as usual for you or you don’t celebrate the festive season, then I hope today goes seamlessly for you.
And given that from tomorrow we are in an awkward limbo state between Christmas and New Years (honestly, what do we do in during this period?), I will also wish everyone a happy new year.
Red Velvet is nominated for Best Group Performance (Female) for the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards, while aepsa is nominated for Best Female Group of 2022. Support Red Velvet and aespa, along with your other favourite KPOP artsists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today.
If you have not been made aware of it yet, we are currently in the festive month of December. So it is time to put those Santa outfits on and bring out the Christmas tree. Red Velvet and aespa have the right idea. They have joined hands for a collaborative single Beautiful Christmas, which dropped last week. This new single serves as the title track of the upcoming 2022 Winter SM Town: SMCU PALACE album that will drop the day after Christmas. I guess some of the songs are not exactly Christmas themed, which I believe was the case for last year’s SM Town album.
As per most Christmas-themed songs, Beautiful Christmas exudes a lot of that festive energy that brings a smile to my face. And you know me, I won’t say no to an upbeat track that makes me want to get up and have a boogie, which is also what Beautiful Christmas makes me want to do when it comes to the chorus (more on that in a second). It has the classic tropes of the Christmas holiday such as sleigh bells, Christmas carol references in the lyrics and twinkling percussion. But Beautiful Christmas also features some brass and some deep piano notes, which to me, added a fun vibe to the song. Going back to the chorus, I really enjoyed the sing-along shouty style of the first half of the chorus. It was simple to get right into and just radiated so much positive energy. But it is the second half of the chorus, with the shouty chant that wins me over. I also like how they broke it up between groups for the first two line, before coming together for a third line. Elsewhere, great vocals featured throughout the song, with Wendy and NingNing delivering the peak of Beautiful Christmas with their high notes. The rapping (in the second verse) was a little standard for my liking, but it still fitted into the song. As for the rap-speak in the bridge, that was cringy. My only other gripe about this song is the lyrics. Not something I usually pay attention to, but ‘To my friends and to my family, You mean to me the Christmas time” just doesn’t make any sense and sticks out a sore thump as it is the line that peaks off the song. And given that it delivered to us by Wendy who is a native English speaker, it is a bit embarrassing. But that is just me being picky. Overall, the upbeatness and energy of Beautiful Christmas just wins me over.
Christmas and Winter Wonderland are the two themes running throughout this video for quite obvious reasons. And it is a nice video to compliment the likes of Beautiful Christmas. I did notice a few things (both positive and negatives) that I want to point out. I found Yeri’s “I Like Winter” to be quite cringy when she sings that Winter. It is such an expected pun knowing that aespa was involved in this release, so it came as no surprise to me. NingNing really needs to loosen her facial muscles, particularly for that high note. It looked like she was disinterested from the whole thing at the point. It is quite disappointing, as she was pretty much all smiles throughout the video. Similarly, not too sure why there were some serious facial expressions throughout the video. It was not the time nor place for that! On the most positive side, I really liked the sets that were built for this music video. It all looked really cool and super detailed. I also liked the red dresses that both groups donned during some of the choreography scene. It looked very cute.
I don’t think the choreography for this release is supposed to be taken too seriously. But it is a simple routine that expressed the positivity and upbeatness of the song quite well. I pretty much enjoyed it.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8/10
Next album review on this blog will be for aespa, who returned with Girls – the title of both their latest lead single and second mini-album. Both dropped in July of this year. Girls features a total of nine tracks, making it feel just like a studio album. But the idea of the mini-album might be the fact that the physical version only features 6 tracks (including the pre-release Illusion, the English and Korean versions of Life’s Too Short and the title track Girls). The digital version bumps the tracklist to the 9 to include the singles Black Mamba,Forever and their Dreams Come True remake. All the links to the releases/reviews can be found down below.
As alluded above, since I have access to the digital version of the album, I will be counting all the tracks as part of the album rating (but only count the two versions of Life’s Too Short as one song). With the housekeeping out of the way, here is my overall remark of the mini-album. And I think some people might not like it. I consider Girls to be a fairly safe release. Out of the new songs, we have a balance of strong and weak songs that cancel each other out. Hence, I don’t feel one way or another about the release. When I factor in the past releases (unsure to why they are included on this mini-album), they do help boost up the rating of this mini-album. I wonder if SM Entertainment was trying to strengthen the album with the presence of their remake and debut singles.
2. Illusion (도깨비불) (Pre-Release Track) – I liked the fact that Illusion is more paced and felt more refined, yet still maintaining an EDM-based and a somewhat intense atmosphere. However, I did think aespa and their producers were playing it safe with this song. I felt they could have snuck in a few punches into Illusion just to give it some oomph and power. I feel like the song potentially could have been taken to the next level (pun unintended) had this been the case, whilst also still maintaining the pace/refinement it had opted for. The line “Yummy Yummy Yummy in my Tummy” was a bit off-putting, simply because it felt too childish. (7.5/10)
3. Lingo – Lingo is even more paced than the previous song, and I was not a fan of it. It resulted in Lingo coming off as sluggish and dry. However, the producers kept it interesting by including a harmonica riff into the instrumental. As far as I can remember from the top of my head, I don’t think I have ever heard of a harmonic riff in KPOP before. It is an interesting colour, and one I would love to dive further into. Just with a more upbeat tempo next time around. Their vocals and raps were quite nice in this song. (6.5/10)
4. Life’s Too Short – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. I will not be reviewing the Korean version of the song, as a result, and will not factor the Korean version into the final overall album rating I give at the end of album reviews. See the English version of Life’s Too Short on this album for a link to the review of the song.
5. ICU (쉬어가도 돼) – ICU is a soft pop ballad that I thought was stunner. It follows on nicely from Life’s Too Short and features a sweet vocals and melodies that just feels warm and inviting. The instrumental was quite balance and brings a smile to my face, with the soft acoustic guitar being my favourite part. I also love the bolstering of the “and ICU” parts of the song. It is a nice amplification that fits in with the rest of the song, and also helps leave a strong impression on you. My favourite (new) side track on this mini-album. (9/10)
6. Life’s Too Short (English Version) – I have previously reviewed Life’s Too Short in an International Song Review post. Click here to see that review. (8/10)
9. Dreams Come True – At the end of 2021, aespa made a special comeback as part of SM Station, where they remade Dreams Come True, a single previously released back in 1998 by S.E.S. They kicked off the song with a more prominent hip-hop vibe, which is a neat way that makes the original pop song relevant to the younger group. As the song progress, aespa continues to make Dreams Come True their own by infusing a light touch of EDM into the song. What I like is that the producers did not change the iconic melody of the instrumental and chorus, so it maintained resemblance to the original song. They also maintained the gibberish bridge from the original version of the song. If you have not yet, I highly recommend you check out the music video for this release. It was produced by BoA and was so beautifully done. (9/10)
Finally getting around to another International Song Reviews post. I originally had intended to post one of these every fortnight since the start of September, but I have failed to keep up. So, I am hoping to smash through some of these as fast as I can, especially since I feel like the songs that I cover in this segment of the blog have been really forgotten (on my part) this year. In the last International Song Reviews post, I covered ITZY, Mark Tuan (from GOT7), Jackson Wang (from GOT7), CIX, Golden Child and Woosung (from The Rose).
This time around, I will be focusing on ONEW (from SHINee), Jackson Wang again (from GOT7), MONSTA X, aespa, TXT and Stray Kids.
Life Goes On – ONEW (SHINee)
Life Goes On is the title of both the lead single and first studio length Japanese album from ONEW, the leader of SHINee. It dropped officially back in July of this year. Life Goes On is a cheerful summery track that has a simple message – even in the most boring or hardest times, life will continue. It features a bright and up-tempo acoustic instrumental that really sets the mood and makes you look/think in a positive light, which is the whole purpose of the song. ONEW’s vocals were dreamy and light, and worked well with the brightness that radiates from the song. My only issue (and it is a minor one!) with the song is how it transitioned from the pre-choruses to choruses. The buildup in the pre-choruses was done well, but the chorus slowed down just by a tiny hair. It isn’t much and doesn’t ruin the song for me. But it is one of those things that now I have noticed it, it just stick out me every time I listen to the song.
As mentioned before, the song is quite bright and gives off positive energy. ONEW’s solo scenes are all shot on a beach on a very sunny day and the ocean is just so blue, a perfect setting for the song. Elsewhere in the video, we see actress Hinako Sakurai come face to face with a few hiccups in her day (knocking over a plant, bumping into people, nodding off, dropping her lunch). But while she does become upset over these events, she manages to still enjoy her day, as depicted by her bright smiles and dance scenes. We also see some sadness, so the video covers all bad moments that are possible, but her ongoing dance parties are a nice resolve to get through to the next day. Even the ending, where the world had disappeared, is passed off by her as another day or something to worry about later.
Overall Rating – 8.4/10
Cruel – Jackson Wang
Another July release, with Jackson returning with the single Cruel, another pre-release single from his second studio length album, MAGICMAN (which was later released in September). This time around, Jackson Wang delves into grungier rock territory with Cruel. Personally, I prefer the likes of Blow over Cruel, but I appreciate the nostalgia that Cruel brings forth for me (i.e. the grungy styled tracks from my youth). I also enjoyed the fact that the song is vastly moodier and darker than any song he has put out previously – a nice change to his music. The use of his raspy tone and the filtering of his vocals throughout Cruel were one of the highlights of the song. Another highlight was the way the electric guitar acted as nice detailing to the grungy tones of the song, balancing out the song.
The music video probably the best part of this release. And to sum it up, it is amazing. Essentially, Jackson Wang and the people we see in the video are demons who have wrecked havoc on the world. But now it is the fight of the fittest demon, with all of them fighting each other for ultimate power. Jackson, as the main character, manages to succeed in eliminating them all over a well choreographed sequence which also includes playing some of the other demons as guitars. He takes their souls and faces off the one on the throne, who appears to have overpowered him. But that twist ending where he reappears might suggest he has a few tricks up his sleeve. The setting and even their ashy appearances all worked super well in the video.
Overall Rating – 8.8/10
Late Night Feels – Sam Feldt MONSTA X
Late Night Feels was a fun number between Sam Feldt (Dutch DJ) and MONSTA X. I liked the groovy and funky instrumentation of the song, with the disco undertones and brass giving the song extra liveliness and additional colour. Late Night Feels‘ backing is also quite light and airy, perfect for the type of late night feels one might have to just have some fun and escape their troubles. Pairing up nicely with this element are the vocals of MONSTA X, who also add a further layer of brightness to the song with their higher pitched vocals. The simple melody of the chorus definitely caught on and I found myself humming the song to myself quite a fair bit after its release. Late Night Feels all came together to be a straight-forward and enjoyable track.
I recognized a few faces from the video including LeenaDong, Alan Chikin Chow and Brooke Monk. Essentially, they are treated poorly by their bosses, strangers and loved ones. Instead of continually putting up with such treatment, each of person are transported to a different world, where they are dressed in PJs, surrounded by dancers and neon lighting and get to have fun with some carefree (or awkward in Alan’s case) dances. Their peers end up joining them, and they also lose the serious tones we first saw them in and see them in a more lighthearted manner. The video definitely sums up the song quite well.
Overall Rating – 8/10
Life’s Too Short – aespa
aespa released their first English single, Life’s Too Short, back in June of this year. The single later featured on their 2nd mini-album, Girls, which I will be reviewing soon. Life’s Too Short is a mid-tempo R&B pop single with a simple yet breezy melody that draws my attention to the song. I quite appreciate this release, as it is vastly different to their main EDM-based title tracks, which can be overwhelming at times. Even though this is a pop track and doesn’t necessarily pack a punch like those title tracks I just mentioned, Life’s Too Short still manages to showcase potential behind their vocals, especially when they single together. It is all unfiltered and uncomplicated, which allows the listener’s focus to be just on the vocals. The pop instrumentation is quite light and pleasant, which in turn enables the vocals and melodies to do most of the talking.
Despite having seen this side of aespa through their past remake singles, I still find it weird to see the members in a more innocent vibe. I am just so used to seeing and thinking of them in edgy gear/concepts. But it is a neat change of image (even if it is brief). I guess even aespa needs their off days from their KWANGYA travels. I found the teenage-like concept the members take on board to suit the simpleness of the song. However, I did wish the music video was a bit more interesting, just to make it more memorable, as it is pretty dry for the most part. As for the choreography, it is nice. But pretty typical.
Overall Rating – 7.3/10
Valley of Lies – TXT ft. iann dior
Valley of Lies is also another July release, and features the likes of TXT and iann dior (rapper and singer). Together, they form a neat indie pop rock track that is very easy on the ears. There really isn’t much to this song, if I am being honest. I quite like the heavy presence of the strumming guitar in this song. I really liked the husky and raspy tones that both TXT and iann dior bring to the song, as it gave the song some grit and substance. Otherwise, I would have passed on the track and ignored it. But they gave me a reason to listen to Valley of Lies. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to comment on. This lack of talking points doesn’t mean Valley of Lies is lacking or boring. It is just a simple track that I enjoyed and I don’t think I need elaborate further.
We don’t get a music video for this release. But we did get an official visualizer, which in the grand scheme of things, acts as a music video. In this visualizer, we see an animation of a figure walking through the valley of lies (and at one point, flying through the sky). This appears to be in line with the song, which “speaks about a lonesome journey that one takes towards the end of a relationship, along a trail of countless lies”. I do want to know what the different backgrounds mean, as I feel they add more meaning to the video than meets the eye.
Overall Rating – 7.7/10
Circus – Stray Kids
The final release to be part of this post is Stray Kids’ Circus, their latest Japanese single, which was released in June. A Korean version of Circus featured as part of their latest mini-album, MAXIDENT, which I will be reviewing some time in the future. Circus is a hip-hop dance track that has is centered on a circus theme, which I thought was cool and unique. I quite enjoyed the release, as the members made sure it was dynamic and fun, whilst also trendy and modern. There were many good moments throughout Circus, like the circus theme coming through via the melody during the bridge and the whispery lines at the start of the choruses. There was also a strong showing of rapping and vocals from the members, per usual. But my favourite part of Circus has to be Lee Know’s line in the second chorus. It is super ear catching and goes back to that idea that the song is dynamic. I constantly replay Circus just for that moment.
Like the song, the music video features a circus theme and circus performers, alongside the members. But we don’t see just one set of the members. There are two sets of Stray Kids featured in this video, which instantly bring up the cool factor in my books. One of them are actual circus acts, while the other version of the group sneak in. By the end of the video, the two sides are performing together. Like the song, there are other cool moments in this video, but Hyunjin stole my attention with his visuals. As for the choreography, I liked how they interwoven references to circus acts into the music video. It keeps the circus theme going. I also liked how they kept it punchy and dynamic. I would have loved to see the four members (can’t tell who) do that spinning move they did at the back of one of the scenes of the music videos. That looked cool in the video and would have been super awesome to be pulled off on stage.
I skip forward to Friday (a.k.a. yesterday) to review aespa’s latest comeback, Girls, the title of both the group’s second mini-album and latest title track. This is the group’s first release since their promotions for the remake of S.E.S’ Dreams Come True at the end of last year. Since then, members Karina and Winter debuted as part of the super female group, Got The Beat, who promoted Step Back earlier this year (a release I will make sure to review some time in the future), performed as the 2022 Coachella, and released two pre-release singles for the mini-album Girls (Illusion and Life’s Too Short).
Girls is a lot more palatable compared to Next Level or Savage for me. Those past aespa tracks had a lot within in them, the result of stringing and jamming so many styles into one song. Girls does the exact same, but there is a sense of cohesiveness that makes it feel tighter and flow a lot better in my opinion. Each style that I heard within Girls had a bombastic flair that ties everything together. My favourite is the rock influence we get midway in the verses. There was so much power and kick to it that it woke me up when I was writing this review. Similarly, the dance break that we get in Girls features these super crunchy synths that I find are so satisfying to listen to. They brought so much energy and intensity to the already intense track. Girls also showcases aespa’s vocal and rapping is a very strong light. They brought more power to the song, and I find it remarkable that somehow aespa always emerges on top of the ‘noisy’ instrumental backing in their synth dance tracks. aespa has consistently showed off their vocals, but I feel Girls has done it the best way possible. The high notes are (as always) impressive. When it comes to the flaws of the song, I feel the chorus was probably the weakest aspect of Girls. There isn’t a memorable hook to it, and what we did get as a hook was somewhat flat. I also feel like the chorus took it down a notch and didn’t really match up with the energy, intensity and power that the other parts of Girls was loaded up with.
As with the other aespa’s music videos, this one is clearly connected to Kwangya somehow given that it is set in that alternative reality setting. I haven’t really been following the developments of this SM cinematic universe, so I really don’t know how it fits in with the bigger picture. I just know that it does. But as someone without context, I see that the members (both the human members and the ae members) have found a hideout and have gone into it to destroy a rock like heart object. Obviously, the members had to fight their way through to destroy the rock like heart. Interestingly, from somewhere, a mysterious figure who has a snake as a pet (maybe a black mamba?) was watching the events unfold (and controlling those who were defending the rock like heart object. That figure ended up dying as the result of the rock being destroyed. I liked the action scenes and found the rest of the video to follow a similar cool flair.
As for the choreography for this comeback, I thought it was rather weak and didn’t have enough oomph to match the music. It also didn’t seem to top the iconic Next Level choreography, which I kind of expected with this comeback. Even the dance break didn’t really live up to expectations, and that usual does for other comebacks.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 5/10 Overall Rating – 7.4/10
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.
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)
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 YEPPI – YEPPI 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. Iconic – Iconic 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)
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
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
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
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
The following categories are all fan-voted categories for the artists that were active during the eligible period of December 2019 to November 2020.
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
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