[Album Review] Drive To The Starry Road (3rd Studio Album) – ASTRO

ASTRO’s full length studio album from mid-May is the next album to be reviewed on the blog. Titled Drive To The Starry Road, the studio album is ASTRO’s third one since their debut back in 2016. It features the title track Candy Sugar Pop and ten additional side tracks. In those ten side tracks, six of them were solo tracks from each of the members. This album does feature all six members, but promotions only consisted of five members, with MJ sitting out due to his military enlistment prior to the comeback.

Like the last album review, there appears to be a common description between most of the songs on Drive To The Starry Road. And that particular word is ‘pleasant’. I tried my best not to repeat it over and over again in this review to avoid repetition, but I could have gotten away with using it alongside most of the songs on this ASTRO album. There are two standout tracks, in my opinion, on this album. More particularly, two solo tracks. Have a read below to see which solo track I had given a 10/10 to (and to find out which one of the two that I strongly recommend overall)!

Drive To The Starry Road Album Cover

1. Candy Sugar Pop (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Candy Sugar Pop. (8/10)

2. Something SomethingSomething Something hovers somewhere between a pleasant pop track and a groovy number. I don’t think Something Something leans towards any side in particular, and was balanced enough to still be engaging. The vocals paired well with the pleasant pop side of the song, bringing the song’s nice melody to life. The rapping worked tandemly with the groovy side and it too brought forth a dynamic touch and kick to Something Something. (8/10)

3. MoreMore concentrates and intensifies those funky vibes from the previous song without going down the usual vibrant route. As a result, I feel that More comes off as quite refined and mature. Their vocals and rapping follows suit, going with a more serious tone which definitely meant business. A more memorable melody or hook would have taken More to the next level, but what we got was pretty good. (8/10)

4. Light The Sky (하늘빛) – ASTRO continues their pleasant run with another pleasant pop track. Light The Sky goes down a pop ballad route with a very delightful instrumentation that feels quite atmospheric and definitely makes you think of a clear sky – either during the day or at night where the stars are shining brightly. The vocal work was soothing and brought a smile to my face. The rapping was low-key but works well with the softness that is Light The Sky. Overall, a comforting number. (9/10)

5. Story – We enter solo track territory with the first one belonging to MJ, who unfortunately didn’t get to promote the album due to his military enlistment. It is definitely nice that we still got to hear from him on this album. Story is a ballad really brings out MJ’s raw vocals. He was definitely stunning. The instrumental starts off minimalistic with just guitar, which brought your attention straight to his vocals. The second verse featured a rapid build in instrumentation, bringing in classical and synths into the mix. It eventuates into a stunning and epic backing piece. (10/10)

6. All Day – JinJin follows with his solo track, All Day, a hip-hop track. It is such an upbeat number that brings the energy of the album right back up. I liked the vibrant nature of the song, as it isn’t a profile that we have yet to hear on the album since the title track. JinJin adds a dynamic front to the song with his cool rapping and anthem-like chorus. Unfortunately, All Day does lack memorable elements, which pulls the song towards skippable territory. It is decent, but I kind of wanted more. (7/10)

7. First LoveFirst Love continues the brightness that featured as part of the previous solo track. But Eunwoo’s solo track is much more mellow and lovely. Both the instrumentation and Eunwoo’s breathy vocals were incredibly soft and fragile, but not in a balladry sense. Instead, First Love felt lovable and touching. I did quite like that brief guitar solo in the bridge and the swayable melody that First Love brings. The latter brought a smile to my face. Overall, another decent solo track. (8/10)

8. Let’s Go Ride – Moonbin brings R&B to the album with his solo track, Let’s Go Ride. I honestly did not expect anything else from Moonbin, simply because his solo performances and fancams from their recent concert show him pushing a sensual and mature agenda. And well, Let’s Go Ride definitely brings those descriptions to fruition. From the instrumentation to even Moonbin’s vocals, everything just oozed sensual energy and charisma that I am all for. His smooth approach to the song’s bridge was on point. (8/10)

9. S#1 – Out of all the songs on the album, Rocky’s S#1 is my favourite. I remember being in awe with the song and Rocky when I first vetted the album for an album review. His vocals were amazingly passionate, expressive and emotive. That high note was spectacular. S#1’s pop rock ballad instrumental was also quite riveting. Digging into the song, S#1 tells a full story of when a love first began between a couple and the breakup point of said couple. It was an interesting piece as a result. If you want any recommendation from this album, Rocky’s S#1 is what I will be recommending to listeners. (10/10)

10. 24 Hours (24시간) – The final solo song on the album belongs to none other than the maknae of ASTRO, Sanha. I feel Sanha was slightly disadvantage, following on from the likes of Rocky’s song. But 24 Hours is still (yet again) pleasant and soothing piece. Sanha’s vocals were nice, while the toots in the instrumental (can’t tell what instrument it was) helped give 24 Hour a unique profile. Not as captivating like the other tracks on the album, but still a nice listen. (7/10)

11. Like Stars (밤하늘의 별처럼) – The six members of ASTRO regroup for the last song on the album, Like Stars. It was a nice ender to the album, and rounds out the entire album in a heartening manner. The synth pop of the song’s instrumental brought a nice upbeatness, with certain parts of the song diverting to an atmospheric feel as well. Both the vocal work and rapping were fine, with the latter also bringing a bit of intensity to the song. I did wish the melody was more memorable. But what we got works absolutely fine. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

Drive To The Starry Road Teaser Image

[Album Review] REFUGE (2nd Mini Album) – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

The next album to be reviewed is Moonbin & Sanha’s second mini-album, RFFUGE, which dropped mid-March this year. It features the title track WHO, and four additional singles including Ghost Town, which served as the mini-album’s pre-release single. Moonbin & Sanha’s comeback follows the debut of ASTRO’s second subunit, JinJin & Rocky, who made their debut with the single Just Breath and mini-album Restore. Their comeback precedes ASTRO’s Candy Sugar Pop comeback and the group’s third studio album, Drive to the Starry Road (which I will be reviewing at a later date).

I can’t remember the exact reason why I chose to review REFUGE, as it has been a while since its release. I just have it down as ‘TO REVIEW’ in my notes. It has been bumped up slightly, however, as I don’t think I can handle another full length album review this weekend, but thought it would be nice to still put out an album review. And REFUGE was the first mini-album on my list to review. Overall, REFUGE was a decent album with some good and weaker songs. It is still worth a listen, as you may find something you like, as I did.

REFUGE Album Cover

1. WHO (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of WHO. (6.5/10)

2. BOOBOO takes on the R&B genre. I personally like the beat, the brighter tone, the clear vocals and the intriguing nature of the twangs we get in the instrumental. But beyond that, I find BOO to be just a decent track. Unfortunately, the melodies or hooks weren’t as memorable as they could be. And compared to the other tracks on the album, BOO easily becomes the forgotten single. (7/10)

3. DIADIA is more of my jam. The disco influences in the crunchy instrumental brought a more dynamic profile to the song (which I find to be extremely memorable), and I find myself having a boogie in my chair every time this song comes on. I really liked their vocals throughout DIA, with this song showing off their vocals in the best on this album. There is no standout hook in this song, as the instrumental really dominated the track for me. But I feel there is enough in terms of melodies to help boost the song’s memorability factor. (8/10)

4. DistanceDistance brings forth balladry energy. Distance starts off with an acoustic centric instrumental which I thought was really soothing and nice, before developing into a more bolstered instrumental that somehow maintains the acoustic roots it began with. I find myself swaying along to the song, as the pair delivers very captivating vocals and melodies. I am not entirely keen on the siren-like synths, but they do help fill up the background of the song, creating a heftier number. (8.5/10)

5. Ghost Town (Pre-Release Track)Click here to read the full review of Ghost Town. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.4/10

[Review] Candy Sugar Pop – ASTRO

ASTRO kick started the week yesterday with their third studio-length album, Drive to the Starry Road, which is lead by the single Candy Sugar Pop. This is ASTRO’s first comeback in nine months, following After Midnight and Switch On from last year. Since that last comeback, a lot has happened with the group including the solo debut of MJ (who also enlisted into the military at the start of the month and hence will not be part of promotions of this new release), the debut of the JinJin & Rocky subunit and the return of the Moonbin & Sanha subunit.

Candy Sugar Pop is an upbeat and energetic dance track that dips into pop through a mix of old school funk and disco influences. I like how the song maintains its energy throughout from start to end, never really slowing down. The mixture of synths were bright and surprisingly sweet sounding, which makes perfect sense, given that the song is titled titled Candy Sugar Pop. And this also makes Candy Sugar Pop extremely satisfying to listen to. I did think there was some room for improvement, in that Candy Sugar Pop could have been more dynamic with some extra oomph or bass to take it to the next level. However, that doesn’t mean this song was not dynamic. I felt that the dynamic nature of the song comes through via the rapping, particularly during the pre-choruses. I really like the alternating lines between Rocky and JinJin, just as it cuts the smoothness that the vocals brings to the song. It adds texture and I felt they added punches to the song that helped heightened it. As for the vocals, I really like how the vocalists sound, simply because they complement the song’s instrumentation and adds sweetness to Candy Sugar Pop. However, I do think the hooks and melodies in Candy Sugar Pop could have been more memorable, even though the Candy Sugar Pop repetition is slowly growing on me. The song’s best part comes at the end, where we get a mix of abrasive (but fun) retro synths and tidbits of rapping and vocals that we heard earlier in the song to end off Candy Sugar Pop. It felt just right and incorporated the best bits of the song, in my opinion. Overall, Candy Sugar Pop was fun and a great single to add to ASTRO’s portfolio.

Not exactly sure what the concept for this music video is. But I like the idea of the candy, sugar and pop taking the members to a whole new world that is more colourful, fun and probably also a bit crazy (based on the candy themed Rainbow Road scenes). It make sense, given that the members singing about that but likening the candy, sugar and pop to their lover. I did wish the dance sets were a bit more lively, just because they seemed dull and empty. I wish they had more of that colour, fun and craziness I just mentioned. The members themselves look great, with strong visuals from all members!

Rocky pulling those high notes was definitely impressive. The choreography was good and decent, and encompasses how I described the song (energetic and upbeat). But unfortunately, I didn’t see anything stand out.

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

[Album Review] Restore (1st Mini Album) – JinJin & Rocky (ASTRO)

The next album review covered this weekend is Restore, the debut mini-album for ASTRO’s newest subunit, JinJin & Rocky. Restore, which is another album that dropped in January, features the title track Just Breath and four side tracks, three of which are solo tracks from the two members (one for JinJin and two for Rocky). The remaining side track is another single from the pair.

Compared to the other subunit under ASTRO (i.e. Moonbin & Sanha, who also recently came back), JinJin & Rocky have a very different and unique vibe that is more fun and bright. It comes as no surprise, given their witty and funny personalities and a title track that is as fun and outrageous. Let me know if you agree with my thoughts below and the summary of the album I just gave!

Restore Album Cover

1. Just Breath (숨 좀 쉬자) (Title Track)Click here for the full review for Just Breath. (9/10)

2. Lazy (ft. Choi Yoojung (Weki Meki))Lazy is JinJin’s solo songs on this mini-album, and it features Weki Meki member Yoojung. Lazy is a fairly simple song, consisting of a consistent piano and hip-hop based instrumental that comes off as lighthearted and fun. This lightheartedness and fun vibe is important in Lazy, offsetting the repetitive nature of the song. JinJin’s rapping is a bit heavy with the autotune, but is balanced out with Yoojung’s higher pitch vocals. Overall, a fair effort. (7/10)

3. Lock DownLock Down is my pick for best side track on this album. It is extremely dynamic, thanks to the bass and funky rock guitar that is present in the song. It almost felt like a stomping effect – quite effective in grabbing one’s attention. Both JinJin and Rocky showcased power in this song in their own way. JinJin obviously did it with rapping, while Rocky showed power through his vocals. I liked how both peaked at the end of the song, giving the song a strong ending that was unforgettable! (10/10)

4. Complete Me – Rocky’s first solo song comes in the form of Complete Me. Complete Me is quite a textured hip-hop dance song, with textures coming from both the instrumentation and vocals. It might be overwhelming for some (it did at first for me!), but repeat listens have helped lessen it. Now, I find Complete Me to be quite robust. Since Complete Me is a dance track and the textures gives it interesting potential, the song probably lends well as a performance piece, which is something that is definitely up Rocky’s wheelhouse. (8/10)

5. CPRCPR is the second solo song from Rocky, and it also closes out the mini-album. It is a pop ballad that explores more of Rocky’s vocals. I liked the energy, passion and power Rocky puts behind his vocals for this song. I was thoroughly impressed with him in CPR, especially when it came to the ad-libs and high notes that we got. I want to hear more of Rocky like this in ASTRO’s work, as he has proven himself to be a capable vocalist. I also enjoyed the 90s instrumentation that CPR had in the background. Not spectacular, but definitely nice. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] WHO – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Also making their comeback this week was ASTRO’s subunit consisting of Moonbin & Sanha. The pair returned with the single, WHO, and mini-album, Refuge, on Tuesday. It follows their unit debut back in 2020 with Bad Idea and is the second subunit from ASTRO to release music this year (the first being JinJin & Rocky’s Just Breath). Moonbin and Sanha were also quite lucky in making their comeback as schedule, as both were diagnosed with COVID-19 a week prior to their comeback. Many groups are delaying their comebacks or postpone the start of promotions due to COVID, whereas Moonbin & Sanha managed to just dodge this potential impact and recovered just in time for their scheduled comeback. However, ASTRO’s fan meet event, which was scheduled for 13 March, had to be pushed back to April.

It is clear from this comeback that Moonbin & Sanha (the subunit) was formed to showcase a very intense and more mature side of the group. Bad Idea definitely had mature vibes, while WHO has adopted a darker profile. And at the helm of this ‘darker profile’ is a powerful dance track. It is also quite minimalistic throughout – to the point where WHO felt very bare. But the powerful and intense nature of WHO helps offset the bareness of the song. Part of me likes that. Unique and innovative in a way. But another part me of felt like it wasn’t enough. And sadly, I am leaning more to that latter side. While the powerful rock influenced flair we get in the chorus definitely gets WHO into the memorable category, I fear its stay would be short-lived. In other words, the intense beat is enough to get it there, but WHO didn’t have anything to keep it there. The chorus could have been backed up by a hook, through a two part chorus, and this (provided it was executed properly and fitted in with the rest of the track) could potentially have ‘sealed the deal’ for WHO to stay in the ‘memorable category’. It also could have potentially helped offset that bareness that I had mentioned in a more satisfying and fulfilling manner. When I turn to the verses and bridge, there are some good vocals in there and there was a really bone chilling ‘Who you looking for’ line. But nothing captivating or strong enough.

The dark side of the pair is definitely shown throughout the video. The video takes on a religious concept, which I think is a bit of a unique concept in KPOP. Some scenes of the video seems to depict the idea of hell and possession, which is a pretty cool topic to portray. It also fits in with the lyrics of the song, which is about express the confusing emotions between evil that cannot be escaped and the desire for healing (taken from Soompi). Both Moonbin and Sanha’s visuals were definitely top notch in this video, with the mature look really shown off in this video.

The powerful nature of the song lends well to the performance aspect of this comeback. It allowed them to show off their performance skills, coolness and fierceness on stage. Definitely a performance I recommend you watch.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Ghost Town – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Last month, we saw the debut of ASTRO’s latest subunit, JinJin & Rocky, who partied it up with their Just Breath single. It was later confirmed following JinJin & Rocky’s unit debut that ASTRO’s first subunit, Moonbin & Sanha, would be make their comeback in March, with a pre-release single dropping in February. Well time flew by as we waited, and Moonbin & Sanha’s pre-release single, Ghost Town, officially dropped yesterday. Now, we will be counting down to the day that Moonbin & Sanha returns as a duo, making it their first release since Bad Idea, their debut single from 2020. In the meanwhile, let’s have a deep dive into Ghost Town.

Ghost Town is another stop along the mature path that Moobin and Sanha has sent us on with Bad Idea. It is not a grand stop of any kind, as there isn’t anything big or groundbreaking within Ghost Town that gets me excited or is a ‘must see’ attraction. It is just more so like a rest stop you stop at before going on with the last leg of your trip to the real destination (that is, their March comeback). After all, that is the purpose of a pre-release single. Ghost Town is pretty straight forward track with a pleasant blend with its acoustic instrumentation and trap/hip-hop beats. There was potential at the start, however. I found the acoustic guitar to be quite striking, but it was soon lost to the heavy hip-hop beats that is heavily present throughout the rest of the song. In the end, it does make Ghost Town repetitive. But not to the unbearable extent where it drains out the energy of the song. This is why I still found it pleasant. As for the duo, I don’t have much else to say other than that Moonbin and Sanha sounded quite satisfying throughout Ghost Town. They fitted in nicely with the instrumentation, and complimented the hip-hop vibes. The melodies were quite pleasant as well, but as mentioned at the start, not memorable. Overall, Ghost Town is basically your typical side track/pre-release single that just isn’t title track material. I sure do hope that whatever Moonbin & Sanha unveils in March, it is ‘title track material’.

The music video is pretty basic and isn’t too fancy. This felt right for the song, which was of a similar nature. All of the video was the pair in front of a screen that was showing static, red tinge cloudy backgrounds or was simply off some portions of the video (these parts were extremely dark and it was hard to see the two of them). The pair interacted with the camera in a way that reminded me of 90s R&B music videos. I personally thought the video was a bit dry and isn’t something that I would find myself revisiting. It is a fitting video for the song, but not my cup of tea.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 6/10
Overall Rating – 6.6/10

[Review] Just Breath – JinJin & Rocky (ASTRO)

I end the working week with the review of the final Monday release. I did not expect to take five days to review all the releases from one day, but here we are. The final release is Just Breath, which is the debut single for ASTRO’s newest and second unit, JinJin & Rocky. It is featured on the unit’s first mini-album, Restore. This is ASTRO’s first release of the year, following 2021’s ONE and After Midnight. The unit also follows in the footsteps of the group’s first unit, Moonbin & Sanha, who debuted back in 2020 with Bad Idea, and MJ’s 2021 solo debut, Get Set Yo (which I have not reviewed yet).

Heading into Just Breath, I was expecting something edgy, and potentially hip-hop aligned or rap heavy at the very least. This expectation comes from the idea that they are ASTRO’s rappers. So, I was genuinely surprised when I started hearing old school funky pop music coming from the speakers when I checked out the release on Monday. Just Breath (which is a mildly annoying title, as it should be Just Breathe, just to be grammatically correct) is definitely loaded with exciting and fun energy. And it is the type of upbeat energy that keeps you on your feet whilst listen to the song. Everything from the percussion to the brass in the instrumental breaks were on point and an absolute blast to listen to. There were some moments within the song, like the marching sequence and a few of the exclamations, that I feel would be most effective to Korean speakers. As a non-Korean speaker, I don’t get them as much, but I didn’t mind them. Aside from the marching sequence, the exclamations added to energy of the song. As expected, Just Breath did consist of rapping from the pair. JinJin definitely had great momentum and kept the energy up throughout the song with his vibrant and energetic delivery. Rocky did participate in some rapping with a rap-speak delivery, but his main contribution to the song were vocals. I was thoroughly impressed with his showcases of vocals capabilities in Just Breath (and may have taken the honor as the standout member in Just Breath. Both brought great character and personality to their parts, making this another impressive release from the day. The chanty end to the song was also a nice way to cap off the song, giving off an inclusive vibe. Unfortunately, Just Breath does lack a solid melody, and I felt the autotune in the bridge to be a bit much (despite fitting in during that moment). But overall, Just Breath is a fun and energetic song with a few nice surprises.

Just like the song, the music video was very fun to watch and had some comedic moments that even I chuckled at. It appears like JinJin and Rocky are both bachelors and have their own struggles. But at the end of the day (well during the day, given how early they started drinking), they know how to really enjoy themselves and realize that it is best to be with others. They were pretty wild, and this made the video extremely enjoyable and captured the vibes of the song very well. Their acting (I am going to assume some of it was acting, though their natural personalities would definitely be at play in this video, as well) was superb. I liked how their energy was inclusive of everyone, and they even got the old lady at the food stand to have a bit of fun.

Their acting in the video is one thing, but the fun and party vibes they showed on stage is just pure confidence. That alone has really earned them a a lot of praise from me. From their expressions to the way they moved about on stage, everything felt free and fun. The best parts had to be the brassy sequences of the song, where the pair and dancers do their mini skips and jumps. It was definitely the peak moments in terms of energy. Rocky’s split was a surprise and him holding the soju bottle in the music video while dancing was also a memorable highlight.

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

[Album Review] SWITCH ON (8th Mini Album) – ASTRO

In this weekend’s album review blitz, I am hoping to review a bunch (and by a bunch, I mean 8 albums) of albums that have been on my plate for a while. First up is ASTRO’s SWITCH ON, which dropped at the start of August (making this one of the more recent album releases to be reviewed this weekend). It features the titled track After Midnight, which also dropped on the same day. SWITCH ON and After Midnight follows the release of All Yours and ONE in April of this year.

SWITCH ON Album Cover

1. After Midnight (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for After Midnight. (8.5/10)

2. Footprint (발자국)Footprint is a favourite of my on this mini-album. It taps into the tropical house, but the members’ vocals incorporate a laidback tone into Footprint. I particularly liked the autotuned lines that as part of the chorus, given they were quite sleek and provided a refreshing element to the song. In the first verse, it served as more a pre-chorus with no instrumentation in the background. For the second, it was blended into the chorus with the use of instrumentation, giving the chorus added definition and refreshing colour. For the third chorus, its deliver was a mixed approached, acting like your typical launcher into the chorus but also forming the body of the chorus. This kept Footprint interesting and non-repetitive. (9/10)

3. Waterfall – If you were like me and found Footprint to be laidback, then Waterfall is even more so. The initial few seconds of Waterfall felt like the song was going to be a ballad. But after that surprise high note, Waterfall emerged as mid-tempo pop track, even though their vocals went into a balladry direction. This slight mismatch doesn’t deter me from enjoying the song, however. The harmonies and melodies were really nice, the instrumentation was beautiful and the members really put their vocals on full display. (8/10)

4. Sunset Sky (노을 그림) – Another nice sounding track. Like what the title suggests, I can definitely see myself listening to Sunset Sky while watching a sunset or whilst on a walk outside during a nice pleasant evening. I liked the acoustic side of the song, which (to me) gave the song a nice golden hue. The vocals complimented this and the rapping fitted in well, as well. The melodies within Sunset Sky were also quite warming. Altogether, I felt everything contributed towards Sunset Sky’s soothing and laidback atmosphere. (8/10)

5. MY ZONEMY ZONE returns the album to the EDM front, tapping into trap sub-genre. MY ZONE is another strong song from the group, especially after a number of laidback songs. I particularly enjoyed the chorus for this release. I liked the deep and breathy start to the chorus, and the energy that the chorus ended up developing into was quite fulfilling. While it was very electronic-based, there was a bit of a funkiness to it as well, which made it even more enjoyable. I also feel that MY ZONE really let the rappers of ASTRO (JinJin and Rocky) show off some flair and energy with their delivery. (9/10)

6. Don’t Worry – Ending the album is Don’t Worry. The start made it feel like it was going to be a dance track. But I was left wondering where that feeling went during the first verse, which felt rather plain for me. But as they started driving towards the chorus, you could hear the synths to kick back in. The chorus was just how I had expected it, with a strong hook and vivid instrumentation. The rest of the song continued the momentum of the first chorus, allowing Don’t Worry to be another strong release and ender for the group. I also liked how it had a tinge of reassuring emotion, which complimented the lyrics of Don’t Worry. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

SWITCH ON Teaser Image

[Review] After Midnight – ASTRO

The final major comeback to occur on Monday was ASTRO’s After Midnight. This comeback follows ASTRO’s earlier 2021 comeback, ONE, and second studio album, All Yours. The new title track is featured on the group’s 8th mini-album since debut, titled Switch On.

After a string of mature and powerful title tracks, After Midnight takes a step back to ASTRO’s earlier roots of bright and fun pop songs. While it might not be as apparent, I actually prefer the darker and mature releases of many groups. And ASTRO is no exception to this preference. So naturally, I gravitate towards ASTRO in their more recent light. But I do like the occasion brightly energetic and fun track, which After Midnight definitely ticks the boxes for. I really like how After Midnight retains a bit of that matureness and isn’t as sugary as their more youthful and earlier works. It just doesn’t sound like a song released in the early years of one’s career! The funky instrumentation of After Midnight keeps on coming, never really stopping until the bridge to make way for a soft break. But Rocky manages to ramp up the song back to the song’s funky energy before the slow down with his rap sequence. Elsewhere, I liked Jinjin’s rap sequence following the first chorus, which continued the momentum of the first chorus into the second verse. I also like the final sequence of the song. It was definitely a concentrated form of what we heard throughout After Midnight and a well-done last ditch effort to really sell After Midnight (and it worked, as I was definitely thinking of the sequence after the song wrapped up). For the other members, their vocals helped add extra life to the song, and definitely made the hooks catchy. But I feel that these two elements could have gone further. I have two primary wishes for this song – the vocalists were a tad louder and the hooks were more dynamic. What we got was quite satisfying, catchy and works really well already. But I felt that the vocalists were masked by the chorus instrumentation just by a hair, and so I wished they were more appropriate balanced with the consistent instrumentation. For the hooks, I kind of wanted more dynamism and hefty hooks. I think both wishes would have made After Midnight even bolder. But overall, a great return to their earlier days, but also a great addition to their growing discography.

The song is all about wanting to spend time with their lover all night. While we don’t see that, we do see a similar concept between the members. Eunwoo starts off with a battery sign on his wrist which was low. But after spending time with the members, Moonbin’s battery was filled. This basically means that their time spent together throughout the night was enough to recharge their batteries. As for the rest of the music video, I really liked the the different places they shot at (not sure if they were sets or locations, but they looked really cool). I also liked the colours within the video. They don’t pop out or seem that bold. But they had this certain definition to it. And obvious, Summery usually equals colours.

As expected with the song being fun and upbeat, the choreography was equally as energetic and fun. I also really like the member’s facial expressions (all very happy and smile), which made up a lot of the atmosphere of the choreography.

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

[Album Review] All Yours (2nd Studio Album) – ASTRO

It has actually been three weeks since the last album review. But it has felt like an eternity. That might be due to the fact I have so many albums that I want to to really sit down and review. I just haven’t found the time to do so. But I am hoping to sit down over the next two days to smash out some and get them scheduled for the rest of the month. Good luck to me! For today, I have decided to review an album released over two months ago! That album is ASTRO’s second studio album, All Yours, which featured the title track ONE. The album was quite a success, going on to winning three awards from the Weekly Music Shows (MTV The Show, MBC Show Champion and MNET MCountDown). And it is long overdue for a review. So before I delay it anymore, let’s move forward with the review!

All Yours Album Cover

1. Dear My Universe All Yours starts off with Dear My Universe. It is a pop song that kicks ASTRO’s second album off with a pleasant tone. While many albums kick off the album with powerful energy and high intensity, ASTRO opts to ease us into their album instead. I like this tactic, as it holds no surprises for me. The pop instrumentation has this really chilled and soft approach, which makes it an easy listen. This lightness extends to their vocals and rapping, which compliment the instrumentation by not off-balancing the song in anyway. I really like the melodies and the track is quite enjoyable overall. (8.5/10)

2. Butterfly EffectButterfly Effect takes the pleasant pop tone of the previous song and amps up the energy with a more upbeat instrumentation. It really like the aesthetic that is present in Butterfly Effect. This aesthetic comes through the contrast between the verses and chorus. We have pretty nice vocals throughout the verses, before the song ramps up to the chorus. It is preceded by a simply spoken ‘Fly’ before the drop kicks in, adding a level of dynamism and depth to the song. I do like how the vocal and rapping both remained light, as like in the previous but at a level that felt appropriate for the upbeatness of Butterfly Effect. (9/10)

3. ONE (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for ONE. (8/10)

4. Someone Else (JinJin, Moonbin, MJ) – The first unit song features the three members listed in the bracket next to the song’s name. Someone Else adds a funky flair to the album, that fits in the album. When the song first started, I expected a hip-hop song for odd reason. But the track ended up tapping into the pop genre. I liked the combination of the soft jazzy style and the intensity brought on by Jin Jin’s rapping that makes up the two halves of the pre-chorus. The chorus also had a really catchy hook, thanks to the melodic repetition of the title. (7.5/10)

5. SNS (Eunwoo, Sanha, Rocky) – The second unit song is made up of the balance of the group (names also listed in the brackets next to the song’s title). SNS brings back the pleasant vibes from the start of the album, with a pop song that leans towards the R&B genre. It also has this mature but feel-good vibe to it, which is an interesting combination to put together. I feel that SNS could have used a superior hook, but instead focuses on melody and that mature profile to sell the song to us. But even without a strong and memorable hook, SNS still has its own charm, coming off as smooth and sleek track at the end of the day. (8/10)

6. All Good All Good is my pick for best song on the album! I really like the infectious positive energy that the song brings to both the album (and any playlist that you add it to). It also brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but really get into it when it appears on my album. The song’s central part, the chorus, was quite an addictive sequence of the song. I liked the blast of energy it had, along with the super catchy ‘It’s so good, It’s so good’ hook. I also like the layer of the ‘Gonna be alright’ over the top, which added a stunning complexity to the otherwise simple and feel-good track. (10/10)

7. All StarsAll Stars has the difficult task of following the likes of All Good. I think All Stars ended up feeling less energetic and a bit slower paced than the preceding song. However, it did a good job of continuing the positivity and feel-good vibes that are being channeled the album’s songs. There was a nice pleasant showcase of vocals and rapping from the members, and there was a decent hook in the song. I did enjoy the harmonization throughout the song, and the JinJin’s shouty ‘Everything is Okay, Every time is okay, Everyone is okay’ in the second half of the chorus. (7/10)

8. Our Spring (우리의 계절) – Next up on the album is Our Spring, It is the first song on the album that opts for a slower tempo. It is a really soothing song when you think of the vocals. But what I really enjoy is the punch of energy that the song delivery via the instrumentation. It isn’t your typical ballad instrumental as it incorporates electronic synths and drums. The rapping blends the two sides of the song together. You can feel a bit of emotion behind the rappers’ deliveries, but they also have the intensity that is fitting for the instrumentation. It is a good listen, and I highly recommend it. (9.5/10)

9. Stardust Stardust aligns to the ballad genre, more so than the previous song. This is mainly because of the instrumentation we get. It starts off with a piano as the main core, before slowly bringing in some orchestra influences. The orchestral touch is relatively soft when it does come and goes, but you can tell it is there. The vocals work extremely well against the instrumental. But I just really enjoyed the rapping in Stardust. It is gripping and well-articulated to be appropriate for a ballad. (8/10)

10. Gemini (별비) – The final song on the album is another ballad piece. And ASTRO manages to show themselves off alongside a really dynamic instrumental. It starts off in a similar fashion to the previous song with the piano. But when the orchestral influences come into play, it stays. Hence, I find this instrumental to be quite stunning, creating an amazing background for members. In the previous few songs, I have really been drawn to the rapping. But Gemini also shows off the groups’ delicate yet impressive vocal power, as well as the powerful rapping that fits so well into this ballad setup. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

All Yours Teaser Image

[Review] ONE – ASTRO

ASTRO marks the beginning of a new week with their latest comeback, ONE, and their second studio album, All Yours. This is the first time we have seen ASTRO as a group with a new song since their Knock comeback last year. Since Knock, ASTRO launched their first official unit, Moonbin & Sanha, through the release of Bad Idea. The group also released a special single, We Still (Be With You), at the very end of 2020 but this was not promoted. But now the group is back in promotional mode for ONE, so let’s check out out their latest title track.

ONE is one of the songs that you need to listen to a few times before you could really dig it. My first impression of ONE was that it sounded very generic and typical of male groups releasing a song with an edgy sound. But the more I listen to it, the more I find myself diverting away from that first impression and coming to like the song. And within in a day of its release, I am enjoying ONE a lot. It still shares that typical edgy sound profile, but I find ASTRO to really infuse their own charms into the song. The song starts off with the song’s main hook. The backing instrumentals for this hook at this stage of the song isn’t as dynamic as when the hook reappears in the song, but it held out to be a good opener for the song. The first verse brought in their vocals. These vocals were best during the pre-chorus sequence with Eunwoo and MJ bringing in some atmospheric vibes that make me anticipate the chorus. The instrumental builds to the chorus, which its melodies felt like it could easily have slid into ‘back in the day’ KPOP. The song’s main hook returns with a more abrasive and texturally interesting backing. I quite liked this change in style. Firstly, it is definitely more dynamic. Secondly, it brings forth that edgy feel. Thirdly, the repetition of the hook makes it catches on quite easily. The song’s most surprising part is Rocky’s rapping that follows immediately right after the first chorus. Rocky’s really fast and sleek delivery of his part of the rap sequence will be going down as one of the most iconic moments in KPOP 2021. Fast forwarding towards the end, ONE peaks during the dance break just before the final chorus, going for the song’s most robust and heightened intensity sequence. Overall, I found a lot to like and look forward to in my many repeats of ONE. I do think it sits below some of their past title tracks, but ONE is still pretty much up there for ASTRO’s discography.

Aside from the choreography and closeup formula, there isn’t much going on in this video. I wished these was more to the video, such as cool special effects applied in post-production or even during production through lighting and camera work. There was some of each in the video, but not enough to really match the song’s dynamic and intense side. The closeups did capture the best of the group’s visuals and I liked the industrial vibes that the music video’s sets had going on. I just wished there was more to the video.

The choreography looks good, based on the snippets I saw in the music video. I am looking forward to seeing the full routine around the song’s hook. With the mixture of edgy and sensual outfits the members wore throughout the video, I think the choreography of the particular section could easily go either way. The dance break also looks really cool and dynamic, as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6.5/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[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

[Album Review] IN-OUT (1st Mini Album) – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Another album review written over a month after its release. ASTRO’s Moonbin and Sanha formed this subunit mid-September through the release of their first mini-album, IN-OUT. Featured on this mini-album is the title track, Bad Idea, that the pair have wrapped up promotions for. The entire album, aside from the title track, is doused heavily with R&B. Whether I enjoyed this heavy dose of the R&B genre, continue reading to find out.

In-Out Album Cover

1. Eyez On You Eyez On You has two major letdowns that really drags the track down for me. The first letdown is the really generic R&B sound that the verses opt for. It bored me, nor did it excite me. The second element is the overwhelming ‘noise’ that forms the basis of Eyez On You’s chorus. It is very jarring and the multiple layers of instrumentals feels very obnoxious. Some might find it a charm, as I have said in the past with some song’s and their respective noise. But Eyez On You’s take on this felt too much and prevented me from liking the opening track. And these two elements overpower the pair’s vocals, leaving them forgotten. All of this is quite a pity, as the pre-chorus managed to successfully change the song’s gears and allude to something fun, upbeat and vibrant. (5/10)

2. Bad Idea (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Bad Idea. (9/10)

3. Alone (섬) Alone returns to that R&B genre that unsuccessfully opened the song. While Alone does take on more of that generic R&B sound, the song instantly sounds better and more refreshing. It is because Eyez On You really left an impression. Anything generic yet is executed well enough would be on many levels higher than the opening track. I did like that Alone had a bit of a spring in its instrumentation. The piano was also a nice consistent touch to the song. What really makes this song even more pleasant and palatable are the vocals, particularly Sanha’s. The way he sings ‘I am so lonely’ in the song was very memorable. The song’s melodies also gives off strong promise. (8/10)

4. All I Wanna Do – To me, All I Wanna Do is their best side track on the album. I really like the instrumentation when it came to the chorus. The bass add definition and dynamism to the strings. And the strings add prominence and a striking element to the chorus. The rest of the song goes down the R&B hold once again. For this song, this isn’t really a problem as the chorus compensates for that flaw. Once again, the song features the stunning nature of Moonbin and Sanha’s vocals. They sound very silky and sweet. I felt that both members were well utilized throughout All I Wanna Do and made the song more appealing. (9/10)

5. Dream CatcherDream Catcher is more of a ballad, though it encroaches into the R&B realm. The song is very calming and soothing, feeling almost like an acoustic-centric track. I say ‘almost’, as the main instrument is an electric guitar that is played softly. The rest of the instruments come in to help lift the song up ever so slightly without disrupting the soft acoustic-vibe of the electric guitar. Their vocals shine in Dream Catcher, adding to that soothing nature of the song. Their harmonies were well used to give the ballad some definition and feel more warming for fans. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

Bad Idea / In-Out Teaser Image

[Review] Bad Idea – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Yesterday, ASTRO launches their first duo unit with Moonbin and Sanha joining forces to bring us Bad Idea, which is featured on the pair’s first mini-album, IN-OUT. This comes after the entire group returned with Knock earlier this year.

It seems that funky is now the norm in KPOP. Bad Idea continues the ongoing trend of reemerging funky and groovy numbers in the industry, a trend that KPOP has definitely experienced in the past. Some of the best and widely known KPOP tracks over the years fall into this category! While Bad Idea does fit in with that particular crowd of songs (based on genre alone), it just needed a bit more to potentially be given that status. And that ‘bit more’ could have easily been a rap sequence. Sure, the addition of a rap sequence would have been cliche move. But I felt that Bad Idea was missing an element to give the song a kick and some additional intense energy. The entire song is vocally centric, which makes complete sense given the vocalist label that both Moonbin and Sanha carry whilst promoting with the rest of the ASTRO members. There isn’t anything wrong with that. I just believe it is missing that oomph to bring it to the next level. But aside from that, what we got was perfectly nailed. Both Moonbin and Sanha did amazing with the vocals, especially when we got to the falsetto pre-chorus. That pre-chorus was super sexy sounding, admittedly. The chorus was quite simple and catchy. The instrumental has a nice bass feel to it and the guitars work very hard to bring the funkiness to life. Maybe that ‘bit more’ could also have been delivered with a bit of a change up in the instrumentation, but it would have been most effective as a rap sequence (in my opinion).

The music video for Bad Idea is super interesting. The pair take on a dark sensual concept with their choreography and solo shots. That itself is something quite exciting, as it takes ASTRO’s previous concepts a step further. But that is embedded throughout a time-loop story line, where Sanha constantly dies after drinking a poisoned drink and wakes up right after. He becomes confused and lost. Moonbin isn’t the centre of this time-loop, so suspicion is on him almost immediately from the start. It is revealed towards the end that Moonbin indeed did poison Sanha, causing him to die. I think Sanha had shot Moonbin in the past, which might give Moonbin a motive. Though I am not sure why. That is just my take on the music video though and I am sure other theories have determined by Moonbin is killing Sanha and how Moonbin better fits into the story line (i.e. I didn’t understand meaning behind the fire and broken glass scenes).

The choreography looks quite good. I liked how they carried that dark sensual concept from the music video into the choreography. I really like the move that did when they repetitively sang ‘Bad’ during the chorus. Their chemistry was also note-worthy during their duo moments!

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

[Album Review] Gateway (7th Mini Album) – ASTRO

I ended up passing on an album review last Sunday as I was a little busy. So today’s album review was meant to be released on Sunday. And that album is ASTRO’s recent album release, Gateway. The featured track on this album Knock, which I rated quite highly at the time of its release. And even though it has been released 3 weeks ago, I can confirm that the high rating still stands. This album also serves as the return of Moonbin, who was noticeably absent from their previous comeback, Blue Flame. The group did release One & Only between the albums, which did feature Moonbin, but that was no album. Let’s see what album has to offer.

Gateway Album Cover

1. Knock (널 찾아가) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Knock. (10/10)

2. When You Call My Name (내 이름을 부를 때)When You Call My Name starts off with a playful tone and features a retro video game-like instrumental, which helps the song develop into a fun number. It reminds me of their earlier works before they adopted this mature sound that we have heard all of last year and through the title track, Knock. If you know me, I really liked textures in my songs. So, the choppy nature of the instrumental, particularly around the chorus was quite enjoyable. The brightness in this song gives it a nice fresh tone and quite upbeat. Their vocals were nice, with MJ’s voice being the most memorable of the group. They were used sparingly during the chorus, which was obviously to direct the attention to the instrumental as that was a centerpiece. But it did mean we didn’t much material from the group. So, I did want more out of the vocals, especially the rappers who were quite forgettable in this song. (8/10)

3. Somebody Like – In comparison to the preceding track, Someday Like is definitely very full. No major choppy instrumentals or sparingly used vocals in this track. Instead, the instrumental falls under the pop domain and feels quite suitable for a nice feel good day. I really like the guitar that is used throughout the song and the funky beat that the chorus features. It is quite energetic and refreshing in a pleasant way. And the group’s vocals bring a nice brightness to the song. I find Somebody Like to be quite catchy, as the hooks were quite memorable. Note how I said there was no ‘major’ choppy instruments at the start. At the very end of the bridge, we are treated to some choppiness in the song. It is quite minute in comparison to an entire song. But it managed to stand out in this song. Talking about the bridge, I thought JinJin’s rapping sequence layered over a trap sequence was another good stand out moment. In comparison to the other songs on the album, it doesn’t feel like the best and hence why the rating is a little less than the higher ranking songs on the album. (8.5/10)

4. We Still – Kicking We Still off is nice piano. This piano piece remains throughout the song, despite synths becoming much more dominant during the chorus. This is something that ASTRO has done before, so unfortunately it isn’t unique in any way. But what I liked about We Still is that it continues that very upbeat and bright feel that the album has been channeling throughout the song thus far. And this allows the song to come off as quite fresh. I find that both the vocals and rapping, despite that latter definitely being a lot more intense then the former, manages to bind the song together quite nice. I was very impressed with both elements and these made the song’s hook quite powerful and memorable. Apart from the title track, I reckon We Still is a strongest effort, even though it took the path of something that the group has done before. (9/10)

5. 12 Hours (12시간) – ASTRO tones it down a fair bit with 12 Hours. It is another pleasant pop R&B track, fitting in with the rest of the album, without the energetic buzz or exciting synths that drive the song forward. Instead, the song features a mellow and soft piano instrumental, accented with various guitars to give the song some small details. Their vocals are quite nice and soothing in this track. The rapping was a bit of a miss for me. I wanted to hear something a little more aligned with the song, but JinJin ended putting too much edge in his section. If Rocky and JinJin made their sections a little more mellow sounding, I think this would be a perfect combination. (7.5/10)

6. Lights On (빛이 돼줄게) – I liked how Lights On started off with. Very soft with the vocals and the ‘Tik Tac Toc’ being a nice accent to that section. JinJin then kicks up the song by bringing in his powerful delivery and rough tone to the song. Unlike in the previous song, it felt appropriate given what was brewing in the background (i.e. the synths that allowed the song to build to the chorus). The chorus of Lights On has the similar aesthetics as the title tracks on their special mini-album releases. If anything, this song’s instrumental is less intense. And the hooks were a lot more typical and boring (aside from that ‘Tik Tac Toc’ detail, which I was glad to hear in the second verse). But still feels the same, in a way. I do note that I feel like I have been a little more critical with the rapping on this album. But I think both Rocky and JinJin shined in Lights On. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Gateway Teaser Image

[Review] Knock – ASTRO

Also kicking off the month of May is ASTRO, who makes their comeback with the title track, Knock, and the mini-album GATEWAY. This is ASTRO’s first comeback since the release of Blue Flame late last year and it is also the first official comeback which marks the return of Moonbin, who sat out of promotions for Blue Moon for health reasons. ASTRO, with Moonbin, did release a special single, One & Only, in March for their fourth anniversary. I am also very glad that ASTRO is coming back today as opposed to a week from now due to the intense competition due next week. It gives ASTRO an opportunity to shine, which will help them immensely in this crazy month ahead.

Knock may be the song that pushes the group further into the spotlight. I feel like All Night and Blue Flame did a fine job at putting the group into the spotlight, but it hasn’t been enough to make them the centre of attention based on the resultant reception that I got from my research. After all, the group is charting higher than ever with Knock. I put my finger on a number of aspects of the song that may be helping with this. The first has to be the song’s robust and very dynamic chorus. I like how the song’s main hook (i.e. the ‘Knock Knock Knock‘) felt like mini jabs throughout the chorus that really reeled you in and grabbed your attention. The second has to the be powerful rapping. Both JinJin and Rocky shined in the verses. But once the bridge came, I wanted more and they delivered with an extra powerful sequence. And as a cherry on the top, JinJin had a final section with was rapping overload for me (in a good way). The third has to be the vocals. MJ, Moonbin, Eunwoo and Sanha all sounded really clear and crisp. The powerful dance instrumentation was very loud and I was concerned that the members would be drowned in the midst of the music. The fourth has to be the instrumental, which I have just touched on. I liked how the chorus contrasted with the instrumentation in the verses, which was a lot more melodic and calmer. Put everything together and you get Knock.

The concept of the music video and comeback is dimension travelling, which isn’t a unfamiliar concept in the KPOP world. I am a little hesitant calling it time travelling, even though their image teasers hinted towards it, as I didn’t see much references to time. But what I think I find very unique about the music video is that they focus on the middle region of this travelling between different worlds, which is often not even shown in music videos related to time travelling or going in between worlds. It was stunning video and you could see how the multiple worlds was accessible in this realm or limbo that they are in. The visual effects for the spiraling staircases and the floating planets looked amazing. Even the members looked very attractive and captivating in this video.

The choreography left a very strong impression on me. In an interview published by Soompi, the group expressed how tiring the choreography. And what I saw in the music video looked really exhausting. But it was a very powerful routine that shows off the group’s dancing ability. Just watch look at each moment where they sing ‘Knock Knock Knock‘. There is no resting period in this choreography and it requires stamina. So props to the members for this powerful choreography, especially in the weeks to come.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10