It has been 10 years since PSY went viral with his infamous hit, Gangnam Style. Since then, he made a string of comebacks (Gentlemen and Daddy, amongst others) that were quite successful both domestically and internationally, though I would say that his popularity has soften over the last few years. Late last month, PSY made his grand return with That That, a single off his 9th studio album, PSY 9th, and a song that is both produced and features SUGA from BTS. In addition to that, SUGA continues PSY’s tradition of having a famous idol joining his comeback via the music video, joining the ranks of high profile artists such as HyunA, Gain from Brown Eyed Girls, CL and more recently Suzy (who features in the recently released Celeb music video – review for that coming soon).
No matter many times I have listened to That That since its release two weeks ago, it has yet to let up from its fun, playful, silly and childish roots. And I quite like that. Usually, I am not a big fan of silly or childish. But going into a PSY comeback, it is expected and I liked that he didn’t disappoint. Sure, That That is repetitive, and I am quite sure it would have done my head in if it were another song that only had the repetitiveness going for it. But with That That, there is a lot more to the song than repetitive hooks. I quite enjoyed the intensity that the song brings, particularly during the chorus. The pounding beats and the tooting brass in the instrumental made That That feel so lively and punchy. I liked how it doesn’t take a break and is quite relentless. The fun atmosphere that the song has is just infectious and addictive, and the hooks adds to that. PSY gave it his all and is pretty much on par with the instrumental throughout the That That. But the best moment of the song has to be attributed to SUGA, who did not disappoint. When the song was first announced, I wondered where the track would go with SUGA featuring, as it didn’t seem apparent to me how PSY and SUGA would work together. But in That That, SUGA matched PSY’s energy effortlessly and his rapping brought a very dynamic oomph to the song that just makes That That even more enjoyable. When I replay the song, I do it often to relisten to SUGA’s section. Though some of That That‘s hooks, particularly the ‘Do What You Wanna, Say What You Wanna‘ shouty hook do end up distracting me.
As mentioned before, SUGA also appears in the music video. And I am quite happy with this. It definitely made everything a lot more fun and interesting. I liked how SUGA even participated in the choreography and some of the acting scenes. My favourite bit has to be the scenes where PSY (in his Gangnam Style suit) is punching/slapping SUGA and vice versa. It was definitely a fun scene. Their chemistry was great, and I did not feel any sense of awkwardness. Aside from that, I see that PSY is up to his crazy antics throughout the video (loved how he entered the music video – reminds me of when work gives out free food and I enter the room ready to grab the food) and I quite enjoyed the wild western theme. That suspenseful moment when SUGA appears was pretty cool, as well.
The choreography is exactly how I described the song. Fun, playful, silly and intense. It definitely suits the portfolio of choreography from PSY’s past comebacks. I like how the routine encapsulates the energy from the song, and shows it off with flair. I also like how PSY doesn’t hold back on stage, which makes the stages even more fun to watch.
Song – 8.5/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.6/10
My Universe is nominated for Best Collaboration and Best International Song By A Korean Artist (Western) categories in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Award. BTS is also nominated in the Best International Song by a Korean Artist (Western) for Butter. Support either My Universe or Butter by clicking here to vote today!
Today’s reviews will be focused on the songs that I have not reviewed yet from the Best Collaboration category from the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. One of the songs that I will be covering is a very big release that I should have reviewed when it was first released (end of September 2021), but haven’t gotten around to it. Until today! I am obviously talking about My Universe, a collaborative single between Coldplay and BTS. My Universe ended up being a single on Coldplay’s most recent album release, Music of the Spheres.
My Universe is one of those tracks that I found myself singing along to and that is thanks to its simple melody. When you consider the melody side of the song, you find it very straight-forward, simple (as already mentioned) and extremely pleasant. While these are limiting factors in some songs, I find these aspects to be big wins for My Universe. I also find this to be vital and clever, as My Universe draws together English and Korean lyrics. It may not be a mind-blowing idea, especially since we get a lot of English in Korean songs in KPOP on a day to day basis now. But I feel the execution of the two languages in this song in particular to be a substantial effort. And having the one singular melody throughout manages to pull the two languages together and creates a seamless song to enjoy. I also find the same melody to work with the message of the song, which is about bringing us all together no matter what world we are in. This is such a relevant message to give today. As mention before, My Universe is pleasant to listen to. Part of this comes from the melodies, but the other part comes from the vocal work. Both Chris Martin and the members of BTS pretty much maintain a soft approach. Even when the music hits hard for the chorus, they don’t really stray away from this idea and keep it fairly consistent throughout. Even the rapping from the members of BTS had that pleasant vibe and kept a low profile. The band and synth instrumentation was also a nice combination and enable My Universe‘s pleasant vibe. We get a slightly heavier, rougher and more intense synths in the final sequence of the song, which definitely helps complete the song (based on how the song supposedly finished off) in a fun celebratory manner, which I guess wraps up the song’s message nicely. Overall, I quite enjoyed My Universe, and found it to be a collaboration that I did not think I needed in 2021.
I quite like the premise of this music video. Coldplay, BTS, robots and aliens are all on different planets and seem to have a smashing time together, vibing to the music in hologram form. I will admit some scenes looks a bit cringy, but it definitely all relayed the same message of how much everyone enjoyed their time with one another. At the supposed end of the song, silencers came through to stop the music and everyone was forced to stop their jam session. But the final instrumental sequence proved that they can’t be stopped, and even though we might be apart from one another in current times, we can always still have a good time as ‘we are all in the universe’. That’s my take on the video, I wonder if there are any others out there? Other than that, I quite enjoyed the production side of the video. The CGI looked super cool and very detailed (like movie budget style).
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.4/10
Back again with the International Song Review. I think I did flag that I might do a weekend of these a few weeks back, and I have enough releases to write two of the same post. For those who don’t know, this segment on the blog is where I cover songs released by Korean artists that are in other languages other than Korean. These songs are predominately Mandarin, Japanese and English. For this particular post, we will be checking recent international songs from TXT, MONSTA X, Kun & Xiaojun (from WayV), CN BLUE and BTS.
Magic – TXT
For those who visit my blog, you probably have seen Magic on my Weekly KPOP Charts, featured as the non-Korean KPOP Release of the Week corner of the segment for two or three weeks now. And it is obviously a song which I have really been dying to review for a while now. Magic is TXT’s first full-English track, featured on the group’s latest mini-album, The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE. There is so much to enjoy in this track. The upbeat, groovy and funky energy we get in the instrumentation, the energy that comes off said instrumentation, the catchy and repetitive hooks that we get. All of these are reasons why I cannot stay away from the track. The chorus is an exceptional peak for this song, encapsulating all of the above into sequences that are literally keyed into my mind. I also like how the members deliver the chorus in a falsetto matter. I also like the addictive chanty ‘everybody clap your hands‘ lines that follows the second and final choruses. For the music video, I liked the futuristic concept and story that was being told. TXT are humans, sent from the white spaceship to rescue their fellow humans who were held captive by the robots. TXT ended up getting caught and information was being extracted from their while they were in captive. But being clever (and I think they were of a high status), the members escaped captivity and spread their message or ‘magic’ throughout the robot population (i.e. the robots went from robotic mannerisms to becoming very freeing, dancing along to the music). In the end, the members ‘freed’ the robotic population and were zapped back to their spaceship. Aside from the plot line, I liked the white sets (looked sterile, which is fitting for the robotic theme for some reason). But I also liked the use of the colour of blue, which really popped out. Choreography-wise, TXT really shows off their stamina with a routine that just keeps on going. I really like the ‘Oh, Oh, Oh‘ part in the choruses and how only one of them moves and then everyone joins in. It is a simple move, but it looks really cool. (10/10)
Flavors of Love – MONSTA X
Flavors of Love is the title of both MONSTA X’s most recent title track in Japan and the title of their 3rd Japanese studio album, released in May 2021. If you are looking for that intensity that MONSTA X, then this isn’t the right song for you (I recommend WANTED, which is also on the same album). Flavors of Love is more of a casual song, consisting of a mid-tempo pop acoustic guitar instrumentation and a light-hearted tone. If you are an avid MONSTA X fan (or Monbebe), you will realize that this is very foreign territory for the group. But it is a nice change of sound for the group, whose songs tend to be harsh and intense (as mentioned previously). The members vocals also reflect this change. I do find their voices to be more pure in this release, with less processing and autotune applied to it their voices as usual. They also sound much sweeter than usual. The rappers (Joohoney and I.M) also tweak their sequences to be softer and warmer. The song has a decent melody and hooks, making it a nice addition. I do prefer their harsher sounds, however, though this would be a nice b-side. The music video is cheerful and shows the members chilling and enjoying some free time as their leisurely record the song. Nothing really that interesting in the video, other than the fact that the video reflects well with the song. As far as I know, there isn’t a choreography for this comeback. There is a performance version, but they sit on chairs and happily deliver Flavors of Love to the audience. As a result, this wasn’t reflected in the final rating. (8/10)
Back To You – Kun & Xiaojun (WayV)
Next up is Back To You, a ballad performed by Kun and Xiaojun from WayV (which is a NCT subunit, for those who are wondering why I am reviewing a Chinese group). It is an extremely nice ballad, instrumented with classical instrumentation typical of the ballad genre. There is a bit of deep brass (tuba, I think?), which is different from other ballads which are usually piano and strings oriented. I really liked how the instrumental built upon itself. This is always a good sign, as it means the song is developing as it goes and the ballad isn’t just a ‘straight line’. But that is one half of the song. The other half is Kun and Xiaojun, whom brings beautiful vocals to Back To You. They helped make Back To You into a captivating piece. It followed the same development as the instrumental, with their vocals building as the song progressed. Kun and Xiaojun also do a good job of giving the group a slightly different spotlight. I am more used to WayV’s dance tracks and I wasn’t known that the group had vocalists had capable vocalists who could handle stunning songs like this. It definitely makes me more aware of WayV’s skillset. The music video was good, but not as stunning as I hoped. We see the pair hang out in the forest and along the shoreline. A lot of the video has been edited to be slow, which made sense. I liked the views of the setting they gave us (particuarly that night time shot in the forest) and the pair looks good. I feel the video could have included more breathtaking shots of the scenery, as this would have provided a slightly different dynamic but still keep true to the ballad style. (8.6/10)
Zoom – CN BLUE
CN BLUE makes their first Japanese release since 2017’s Shake. This is their first work since the release of their most recent Korean comeback, Then, Now and Forever. Zoom is the group’s first upbeat track in a while, which is very refreshing and more captivating that their ballad comeback in November 2020. That instantly says a lot already. I like the brightness that the song has and the lighthearted energy that it emits. Though I do think it is the least captivating track out of the bunch I am reviewing today. I do yearn for something more meaty from the band, though I guess I have wait some more for that. I do like Yonghwa’s vocals in this song. I miss his voice and am happy that I am hearing his vocals once again. I am also glad that Minhyuk and Jungshin also leant a hand in the vocal department, providing backing vocals for the chorus’ hooks and Jungshin rapping that sequence in the second verse. I wish there was more of this, especially in their Korean releases, as CN BLUE is not just a one-man band. Though sometimes, it feels that way with just Yonghwa singing. For the music video, we see the members alone and this is rather frustrating for them. They all get invited to something, but we don’t see the resolution of the frustration. I wished we got to see that, so that the video had some sense of closure. I did feel the lighting in this video was a bit much and wished it was toned down a bit. It made the video look a bit glary and took away the effect of the colours. (7.3/10)
Permission To Dance – BTS
The release everyone is talking about. I liked the message and energy they are spreading with this song. But out of their Western releases thus far, I feel Permission To Dance is their weakest. I really liked both Dynamite and Butter as they had that heftiness that helped make them catchy and addictive. Permission To Dance is nothing more than a lighthearted piece and pretty much side-track material. They could have been more intense in some parts, but I felt the song had too many ‘soft edges’. There are aspects of the song I did like, however. I liked how the instrumental didn’t rely on much synths. Rather, a hearty selection of ‘classical’ instruments were used to form the backing of the song. I find this to be different and gives off a unique appeal. It also enables the presence of various percussion effects in the song , which added a nice textural flair. The vocal processing is something that I think could have gone out the door, once again. It feels so heavy and icky. Knowing BTS’ skills, they don’t need it whatsoever. So I wonder why the producers feel it is necessary to process their vocals in such a heavy manner. There were some decent hooks, though they don’t have that same level of appeal as Dynamite or Butter‘s had. Though I do hear they added a bit of the Dynamite hook to the song (the ‘Da na na na‘). I liked how the music video had inserts of ordinary people ripping off their masks and dancing along to the music. It reflects well with the message of being free and able to do your own thing. I also liked how the music video isn’t in a ‘set’. It isn’t as fake as their previous music videos, which is a good thing. Choreography-wise, I liked how BTS brought that lighthearted feel to the routine. It looks relatively simple and it looks like the members have a bit of fun in the performance as well. I also like the inclusive nature of the choreography, as they incorporated internal sign language into the choreography. Not exactly the first time it happened, but definitely something that should happen more often! (7.7/10)
It is time to look at another five songs from outside of Korea by some of our favourite Korean artists. Last time (way back in February), we looked at songs from Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, The Boyz, AB6IX & Why Don’t We, Jun.K and WAYV. Today, we will be having a look at SEVENTEEN, TWICE and CIX’s latest Japanese releases. Alongside those three songs, we will also be looking at BTS’s Japanese single Film Out and their highly anticipated Butter release, which officially dropped on Friday. A lot of get through, so let’s get going!
Not Alone – SEVENTEEN
The other day, I was reading comments for SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese release, Not Alone, that said something along the lines of “SEVENTEEN’s Japanese releases are quite aesthetic sounding”. This is a statement that I agree for the most part and is quite evident through the release of Not Alone. The song has this atmospheric style instrumental that was very calming and soothing to listen to. To aid this, SEVENTEEN strays aways from harsh synths, piercing effects, heavy beats or vibrant colours in the song. Instead, SEVENTEEN opts for a graceful sounding instrumentation that floats about. There are still synths in this song (enabling the song to still include soft yet delicate sounding dance breaks following each chorus), but they give Not Alone a melodic push and hence that aesthetic vibe that I quoted from above. This allows the members to showcase their vocals in a more touching and delicate manner, which is slightly different to the usual style in which we hear from the members. Even the rappers get into this mindset with softer deliveries. We favourite part is Hoshi’s lines in the bridge. They stick out for me and sound so smooth. There is also this inspirational and uplifting tone to the song that comes through via the members. Overall, a really nice and touching song form the members. The music video for Not Alone is quite fitting for the past year, in which we all spent seeing our family and friends through laptop, computer or phone screens. We see the members do the exact same at the start of the video. They were alone and then joined one another to celebrate DK’s birthday. The second half of the video see the members regroup to hang out and have some fun. While this isn’t a reality yet for some of us, the hopeful tone of the song really gives us hope that is the future that we will be returning to soon. Fitting to the song and MV suggested, the choreography for this comeback is a lot softer and delicate. It is actually nice to see something different from SEVENTEEN that isn’t so energetic and upbeat as their choreographies usually are. The lifts they incorporated into the performance added a nice touch that emphasised this. (9.4/10)
Kura Kura – TWICE
While TWICE is gearing up for Korean promotions next month, the very popular female group made their Japanese comeback last month with Kura Kura. Kura Kura starts off with epic percussion in the background, which gives the pop song a unique and memorable colour, and really promises great things to come. Soon, the song reverts to a more typical pop setup. It was nice and pleasantly upbeat, but it was not as amazing as the epic percussion that started the song off had promised. And this disappointed me slightly. I wished the melodies and hooks in this ‘between’ part were more memorable and impressive enough to continue that initial impression. The epic percussion does make a return two more times in the song (i.e. before the bridge and at the end of the song to close it off). I did like the vocals work, which again can be describe as pleasant and sweet. I did like how they didn’t change their vocals as much when it came to the Kura Kura‘s bolder and more memorable moments, finding a balance between their pleasant and sweet profile to the instrumental’s more grand nature. For the music video, I am not entirely sure what they are trying to depict. There seems to be a mixture of really happy scenes in the video (i.e. when the nine members catch up) and a mixture of loneliness and sadness (i.e. their solo scenes which seem to show this). But I might be reading to it wrong, as the lyrics of the song don’t really give off that impression. But it was still a visually appealing video to watch. I really like the emphasis on the colour blue in the choreography scenes, which gave a nice artistic and calming appeal to the video. I really liked the choreography for this comeback. I enjoyed the imagery of the flower at the start, which was fitting for the music video which had a heavy emphasis on floral decorations. I also enjoyed the choreography for the chorus, which had a definite tinge of matureness to it, despite all the members having really big smiles – which both felt fitting for the image they are now pushing for themselves and the song’s upbeatness. (7.2/10)
All For You – CIX
Like their earlier Korean release this year, CIX’s latest Japanese release also takes a step away from EDM and their serious tone that they had adopted when they first started out. All For You is another pleasant listen that looks to replicate the easy on the ears nature that Cinema succeeded in achieving. And while CIX has done just that, I can’t help but have to point out that other parts of the song is lacking. Aside from the funky instrumental which I think is the song’s main highlight, All For You lacks memorability. This includes hooks, melodies, vocals and rapping. All of these contribute to the song’s undeniabley pleasant and easy going nature, but none hits it hard. I am not seeking any hard drops or intensity that is reminiscent of their earlier works, but rather I wanted to hear elements that had a stronger backing or substance to them. For the music video, All For You was colourful, fun and enjoyable. I liked the carefree nature the members brought to the music video, which was fitting for the overall style. It also shows a different side of the members. I did find the opening few seconds a bit cringy, but it definitely wasn’t the cringiest thing out there in the Korean/Japanese music scene. For the choreography, I liked how they fully embraced the groovy and funky notes of the song in their routine. As a result, the entire performance feels ‘just right’. That being said, All For You‘s choreography still contains their signature sharpness to it. In addition to that, there is also this light atmosphere to the routine, which also works well with the music. (7.4/10)
Film Out – BTS
The first of the BTS releases in this post is Film Out, a single off BTS’s upcoming Japanese compliation album. The single itself was released back at the start of April. so apologies for the long delay. Film Out taps BTS back into the ballad genre, with a (once again) pleasant ballad that is a bit generic for my liking. Film Out has this rich and sentimental tone to it. It would also side nice as a side track that I would tune into if I had a craving for the album. But in comparison to their more well known ballads (such as Butterfly), Film Out falls short of hitting the mark (for me, at least). I think it is mainly because the vocal processing that their voices were put through and hence they don’t sound as pure like in those past ballads had sounded. That being said, Film Out did have its moments. I really liked the beat when the rappers were brought into play. I also liked it when the vocalists were brought in to back each other up. The subtle rock and (more obvious) orchestral influences were also quite nice and added some additional heft alongside the vocals to prevent the song from falling into more into that generic ballad trap that Stay Gold fell into. You always feel like you are watching a cinematic release when it comes to BTS’ music videos and Film Out is no exception. While I have no clue on what is going on in this video (my best guess is that the video is about the members’ reflecting upon past memories that once brought them joy, but now brings them pain – represented by the explosion), I must acknowledge that the music video for Film Out brings out the emotional factor to a whole new level. On top of that, the cinematography was exceptional. (7.8/10)
Butter – BTS
BTS’ most recent release, Butter, dropped on Friday. And since it is the biggest release in the global music industry from this week, and with its strong ties to the KPOP industry, I had to take some time out of my own personal break to have a listen and review it for you all. First impression, I liked it. I wasn’t keen on how it started off at first, but once the groovy and funky instrumentation kicks into gear (plus the pre-chorus melodies presented itself), Butter instantly threw all of its catchy and dynamic energy right at me. Before I knew it, I was nodding along to the music! The chorus is quite addictive, thanks to the melodies in the section. I really like the breakdown, which really concentrated the song’s grooviness into a simple yet ear-catching synth. Vocally, I think Butter really shows off what we know BTS is capable of. The vocalists all gave us solid vocals (and I am super happy that Jin recieved more lines in this song, compared to his limited lines in Dynamite. Hopefully, the remixes that follow this release keeps that trend up!), while the rappers packed a punch when they came into play towards the end of the song. I think Butter is a logical step up/forward from Dynamite and definitely has me reaching for my mouse to press replay! For the music video, I really liked how classy it looked. At the start, the sleekness that BTS’ visuals brought to the video with the black and white filter. When the colour comes into play, all of this fun energy infused into the video, making this a fantastic watch. In addition to the classiness brought to us via their suits, I really liked the colourful and casual trackies they wore in subsequent parts of the video. I also liked how each member that their moment to shine with their dance moves on the elevator and how they brought their individual colours to the video throughout all their solo shots. But visually, the best part of the music video has to be that epic stage they perform on with the lights coming through from underneath. For the choreography, I really liked how BTS kept the energy and momentum going with their moves. I like how fitting the routine is with the title, as the chorus actually looks like smooth (i.e. like butter). We won’t be able to see a full choreography until the Billboard Music Awards tomorrow, but it definitely looks like BTS’s live performance will be amazing without a doubt. (9.5/10)
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
If I were to put BTS’ latest album on the usual agenda for review, I probably won’t get around to it until the start of the new year. And I feel that timeframe for a BTS related review would be too late for posting. Hence, I have decided to fasttrack the album review for BTS’ fifth studio album, BE. The album features both Life Goes On as the title track and the international hit Dynamite at the very end of the album, alongside five other new tracks. In total, there are seven tracks on this studio album (including the non-musical skit), which makes it one of the shortest studio albums I have ever seen. But that does not meant the quality is reduced! Continue to read to see what my thoughts for each of the songs were.
2. Fly To My Room (내 방을 여행하는 법) (performed by Suga, V, Jimin & J-Hope) – Fly To My Room follows the group’s softer approach from the title track. At first glance, I actually enjoyed the song by the four member unit. But that was when I was occupied with other tasks. When I sat down to write this album review today, Fly To My Room didn’t really stand out for me (compared to the other songs on the album). It is still a nice and pleasant track to listen to, especially with the pop-centric instrumental. I really like the use of the keyboard in the song and there was an enjoyable display of falsetto and low tones. The best part of the song has to be when all the members are singing together for the chorus, as the happier tone that the song brings forth calls for this. The rapping seems a little too punchy for my liking. They just shoot out of nowhere and I didn’t like how they didn’t take the opportunity to match the vocals and the tone of the song. (7/10)
3. Blue & Grey– BTS’ ballads have always been the most captivating side tracks for me. And I am glad that there is a ballad on this toned-down album. It is a perfect excuse for a ballad if you ask me. Blue & Grey draws me in with stunning vocals from all the members. V is probably the standout member if I had to pick, with his husky and raspy tone starting off the song and infusing an amazing sense of texture. The rest of the members did an equally stunning job as V, especially with that bridge where each vocal-line member had a line. The rapping in Blue & Grey is much better and cleverer than in the preceding track, with Suga (in a separate section) and J-Hope easing us in with a really soft rap sequence before moving to RM’s slightly more powerful tone/delivery. This all over a really atmospheric slow-paced instrumental, starting off with acoustic guitars and later slow-pop influences. (10/10)
5. Telepathy(잠시) – While the first half of the album consisted of mainly a toned-down atmosphere and slower paced songs, the latter half of the album is more upbeat territory. Kicking off entrance into the upbeat territory is Telepathy. There is a feel-good vibe to this song that I really enjoyed. It is the type of song that I would hope for a performance for as it sounds like it can be a very fun stage. I love the retro nature of the instrumentation, particularly the cow bells (which instantly makes this sound so better). The vocals and rapping are really good, fitting in with that feel-good vibe that I mentioned a moment ago. It may not be at the level of Dynamite, but its great enough. (8/10)
6. Dis-ease (병) – Dis-ease has this super catchy old-school hip-hop to it. The energy that comes off Dis-ease is pretty infectious, so much that I really want to boogie along to it. Given that the song falls into the hip-hop genre (and that they also participated in the production), the rappers shine the most in this song. I really like the “Byeong” sequence that finishes off the choruses. That paired with the disc scratching was pretty memorable and is my favourite part of the whole song. The vocal-line do a splendid job themselves. I really liked how they used the same technique in Blue & Grey (i.e. giving each member of the vocal line a section in the bridge) and having the song build towards a slightly more amplified final chorus. It is what I personally hoping for when I heard the song and I am glad they delivered! (10/10)
7. Stay (performed by RM, Jungkook and Jin) – Stay tackles the future house sub-genre of EDM. It is a very clean track and it doesn’t have any crazy surprises to throw us off. In other words, I find Stay to be straightforward. While that could be a flaw in other songs, straightforwardness in EDM is a blessing as it doesn’t get complicated (and hence obnoxious). It doesn’t drown out the vocals and rapping sequences, which allows us to hear RM, Jungkook and Jin clearly throughout the song. I particularly like how satisfying the drop was and the mixture of acoustic guitars in the second verse and piano at the end of the song. I also like how smooth the vocals and rapping were. To me, the ending of the song isn’t as satisfying, as it gave me the impression that something should have followed it. That, or I just didn’t want Stay to end. (10/10)
BTS continues to reach new heights with their latest comeback. Earlier today, the iconic male group made their comeback with Life Goes On (the title track) and Be (the title of their fifth studio album). It comes after BTS released their fourth studio album, Map of the Soul: 7 (headlined by On and Black Swan), their Japanese comeback single Stay Gold and their super catchy all-English track Dynamite. The group has also featured on Lauv’s Who and a remixed version of Jawsh 365 and Jason Derulo’s Savage Love. They have definitely had a busy year.
I was low key expecting a dance track for this comeback. Or even better, a darker and maturer song that takes further steps towards that style direction than On and Black Swan did! But after listing all their comebacks and releases throughout 2020 thus far (and this list does not even consider their solo works), I feel like a mellowed out and softer approach is more appropriate and less overwhelming for them at this current point in time. Life Goes On is still a fantastic song. It features an alternative hip-hop sound that relies heavily on really comforting and soothing guitars. While the song is softer than their previous title tracks, the music actually still fills hefty thanks to the heaviness that And this softer approach allows for the members to really focus on their vocal and rapping work. RM is the only member to actually rap in Life Goes On and his part was well tweaked for this alternative sound. Suga and J-Hope rap-sing their parts and they bring a nice energy in their respective parts. The rest of the members sing wonderfully throughout the song, helping drive forward that comforting and sentimental vibe and message. Jimin stands out with his higher pitched vocals and based on the way he starts the chorus, while V’s ad-libs shine thanks to the huskiness in his voice. I thought the autotune for the final chorus was a nice textural change, which helps keeps interesting from how I see it. Overall, Life Goes On was not what I had expected from BTS as a title track. But nonetheless, I still enjoyed it.
Based on what I am seeing for this music video, BTS and Big Hit had stepped away from their complicated and gripping storylines that require a lot of time to interpret. Life Goes On is shot in a more relaxed manner, feeling almost like a home-video style. It practically shows the members going about a day in their life where they get to hang out and travel, which suits their message that ‘Life Goes On‘ even in the most difficult of circumstances. I did like the ending, where the video applies a black and white filter and we see the member sing with microphones with their backs to the empty audience. That scene looks really pretty and aesthetic despite being so simple.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
It has been a while since I have posted a review for non-Korean songs by KPOP artists. The last post was published back at the start of July and this mainly featured Japanese releases. With several KPOP artists releasing songs in English over the last two weeks, I thought it would be a nice to sit down and review them now, rather than wait a few weeks (as the original intention was to knock out a few other reviews from my ‘To Review’ list. Joining BTS, Sunmi, Wonho and WayV’s English releases from earlier in the year and EXID’s very recent Japanese release.
Dynamite – BTS
The first release to be reviewed on this list is also most recent release. Without a doubt, you probably have already checked out Dynamite despite it only being dropped yesterday. Dynamite is a funky pop track, tailored for the Western music industry. It is a fun and vibrant song that focus purely on the members’ vocals. Jimin’s high pitched vocals were amazing and even the rappers showed off their vocal capabilities effortlessly. It is super addictive, with the ‘Like A Dynanana‘ replaying constantly in my head. I have no problems with this track, given that they hit all the right notes and made it super appealing – not just to Western audience, but also the average KPOP listener. As for the music video, we are thrown back into pastel land and similar sets to what we saw in Boy With Luv. I don’t mind that we have a similar copy to a past music video, given the current global pandemic. I just don’t want it to be the default for BTS’ happy, energy filled and funky releases. The choreography isn’t a central piece of this comeback, but it looks fiting for the funky side of the song. It is a little different from what we get from BTS usually, but given the vibrancy of the song, it works like a charm. (9/10)
BORDERLINE – Sunmi
Sunmi dropped the unexpected music video for BORDERLINE earlier this week, as well. While the song has been known for a number of years now (Sunmi has previously performed BORDERLINE at her solo concerts and released its lyrics in 2019), the song has yet to be formally released. It seems like Sunmi is keeping this song to herself for the time being. BORDERLINE is a self-penned English track, that has this slow churning momentum that plays on the more sensual side of R&B. This is definitely new ground for Sunmi and it is nice to hear something different from her usual retro sound. The lyrics also zone into her personal stuggles over the years, making this an extra powerful song for her and her fans. Her vocal style were an excellent delivery mechanism for these lyrics, as you can hear how much emotions are behind the song. For me, it also made the song more thought-provoking. The music video is quite simplistic. Sunmi and her dancers are dressed in black and perform a very aesthetic interpretaive dance routine. The background was simply shadows projected into a wall. Everything was dark and it was hard to make out their faces, which I would say is suitable for the meaning behind the lyrics. Overall, a captivating and immenseful informal release of a song. (9/10)
Losing You – Wonho
Ahead of his solo comeback next month, Wonho pre-released Losing You last week as the start to his solo career. It is all in English, which is why it is being reviewed here instead of its own review post. Listening to the song the first around when it was released last week, I was speechless. It is a very emotional number, so prepare yourself. Lyrically, Losing You is all about him willing to putting another person (lover, friend etc.) ahead of himself regardless of the situation. Whether the song is directed to a former lover, his fans or to his former group members is all speculation, but damn these lyrics are definitely heartbreaking and very moving. The song is a R&B ballad, made up of the simple combination of piano and soft percussion. Wonho’s voice stuns and leaves me in awe. You can definitely hear the emotions behind his voice. I really like the extended ‘You‘ that features in the bridge of the song. The autotune seems unnecessary, but it is bearable. The music video is another dark video, but it was quite captivating to watch. Throughout this video, he is very emotional and lost. Every setting we see him in depicts the reflective road he took while he was on hiatus. At the end, we see two different scenes. Wonho standing in front of a car, telling us that he is still willing to sacrifice himself no matter what happens in the future. But we also see him standing in the midst of a sea of lights, which looks like mobile phones, suggesting that he will return to the stage soon (with the support of his fans, WENEE). (10/10)
Bad Alive – WayV
Despite being a subunit of NCT members, I have actually yet to review any WayV releases. That should hopefully change when I do a dedicated International Song Review post for just WayV and their 2019/2020 Chinese releases (some time in the future). In the meanwhile, WayV did release an English version of Bad Alive, one of the songs from their first Chinese studio album. And since that is a predominately English version (with some Korean and Chinese mixed into it), it has landed itself on this list for a review. Aside from the question marks that I would like to throw against the lyrics, Bad Alive‘s instrumental backbone definitely has a lot of potential. There are a lot of textural synths and high intensity in this trap-influenced piece. There also seems to be some hip-hop influence in the song as well. When it comes to their vocals, I feel that their voices are rather tame. I wanted more intensity and growls from the members to match the harshness and roughness of the instrumentation. What we got was decent, but not that powerful. I did like the layering, as that was differey. But amped up vocals and raps would have been appreciated. As for the music video, it is definitely overloaded with amazing visual of the members. The emphasis of red shows the fierceness of the members and I think that aligns with the image that I have come to associate with WayV through their most recent comeback in China. The sets were boxes, but they seemed fine in this video. The worst aspect has to be the white/gold jackets they wore over casual wear. They don’t go together. As for the choreography, powerful and masculine. Definitely going hand-in-hand with the fierceness mentioned before. (7.5/10)
B.L.E.S.S.E.D – EXID
The werid thing about EXID is that while they are considered inactive in South Korea, the group still needs to regroup for Japanese promotions as they are still under contract as EXID. This is a very interesting situation. But I am not complaining, since we get to hear more releases from EXID! B.L.E.S.S.E.D is an enjoyable pop track filled with a feel-good vibe. I like the slghtly jazzy vibe that the brass brings to the song. When the chorus comes into the play, there is a little kick to it and it feels like an cute anime OST, which adds to that enjoyable factor. I also like how all the member’s voices compliment the style choices. This also applies to LE, who is known for her nasally and harsh texture. But she fits into this song fine as her approach isn’t too serious, matching the song’s feel-good vibe. However, I do wish that some of the hooks/melodies that were just spoken/shouted in the chorus were more dynamic. I just wished they were a little more melodic and sung. The music video just shows the members doing some ordinary things while looking pretty. Nothing that really captivating and interesting to be honest. The group shots were nice, but that was essentially it to the music video. (7.2/10)
It has been a while since I stuck my head into the world of Japanese releases made by Korean artists. So today, I will be reviewing Japanese releases from BTS, Stray Kids, TWICE, Dream Catcher and Lee Jun Young (from UKISS). Some of these are recent and some of these dates back to the start of the year. Early this year, I reverted to a bulk review post for International releases by Korean artists as they go global. If you would like to see the two bulk review posts that I have released so far, you can do so by clicking here and here. If you know of any other international releases (that have a music video), please comment them below so that I am aware of them!
Stay Gold – BTS
Out of all the releases on this list that I have chosen to review today, Stay Gold has to be the most generic. While the song does shine a golden light onto their vocals and rapping, the pop ballad just doesn’t have much to hold my attention. The lyrics of Stay Gold directs the song down the inspirational path, but the overall atmosphere of the pop ballad did not have that same feeling. And no amount of good vocals can compensate for that. The instrumental felt very mostly linear and the titular hook was just repeated too much throughout the chorus. Obviously, this is intentional to get the hook stuck in your mind. But by the time we get to the pre-chorus, it just feels too overdone and dried out. Lights (last year’s Japanese release) is quite similar in terms of its ballad direction, but there was a soothing feeling and attractive instrumental. The music video seems to show that no matter what dark place you in, there will always be light somewhere in it. At the end of the video when V touches the tree trunk, the golden lights that come from the tree and into the dark hallways may symbolises that is BTS is the guiding light for their fans (which I am sure is the truth for most fans). It was a nice video, with a good meaning. (7.2/10)
Top – Stray Kids
Top is Stray Kid’s first original Japanese single and since its release, we have seen a Korean and English version. It is also used as a theme song for the Japanese anime, Tower of God. When I listen to Top, I get this really cool epic vibe to the song which leaves a very strong impression on me. It starts off with some dramatic violins before adopting a rough and heavy synth base for the chorus. And it is this combination that really helps makes Top become one of their most powerful releases to date. The rappers benefit with this rough style of music, with both their rough textured delivery and angst shining throughout the song. The vocal moments were meh, in my opinion. But the slowdown we get to give way to the vocalists do help make the drop more epic. For the music video, I really like their spaceship premise. It is fitting with the epic vibes of the song. Standlone, it is still pretty cool setting. It is a song all about gettng to the top, no matter what. We see the members struggle as the road to get to the top becomes difficult, but they always perservere. I do wonder what Seungmin and I.N were meant to represent as they walk into the light. Are they the ones that gave up? Not too sure. As for the choreography, powerful and epic, just like the song. (9/10)
Fanfare – Twice
TWICE’s recent Japanese release is Fanfare. The song’s instrumental just keeps coming for you and it might be overwhelming for some. Even I had to debate whether I should say the instrumental assaulted us with its noise or was just very overpowering but bearable. For the time being, I am leaning towards the latter, as it doesn’t seem to much as everyone else is saying. But if you caught me on a bad day, I might be going with the first option as my description of Fanfare. I really like its energy and powerful upbeat nature, which is all highly suitable for the Summer season. The marching band adds a fun and robust feel to the song. It might be overpowering, but the members bring a bright tone to the song to help level it out. The song’s hooks were catchy and I would gladly add this to my playlist if I wanted to infuse some energy into my day. For the music video, it looks like a bunch of ill-fitting closeup shots and a stage-like set up for their choreography scenes, where the members are dressed in marching band gear. I assume those closeup shots are meant to give off a happy and joyful impression to match the lyrics of the song. Though, I do question Jihyo’s scene, which is a world full of laundry. No one ever enjoys laundry, it is such a chore. For the choreography, I thought it was pretty good. Not their most impressive routine, but still fun and bubbly. (7.4/10)
Endless Night – Dream Catcher
Endless Night is one of the older releases in this post, dating back to March of this year. While Dream Catcher has been long associated with bringing the J-POP rock sound to K-POP, Endless Night feels like it brings a Western rock influence to the Japanese industry, which was rather unexpected. It is also a lot moodier than any of their other title tracks. But while these are different directions, Dream Catcher makes it work. I do just wish their vocals and rapping had a little more oomph to them, which would help make the song more appealing. Aside from the chorus, everything else was rather forgettable and dry. For the music video, I really liked the use of colours. It just makes this otherwise boring music video pop, which definitely helps with the video’s appeal. Wait, but why do I find the video boring? Well, the video takes on that typical closeup and choreography formula that I have grown to dislike. I do admit the closeups seem to try to be aesthetic, but they don’t just hit the mark like other music videos. The choreography looks pretty good and works pretty well with the song. The chorus has to be the best part of the routine for me. (7.4/10)
Come Alive – Lee Jun Young (U-KISS)
Lee Jun Young is probably more known as an actor, rather than UKISS member. At the end of 2019, he reminded fans that he is a singer with the release of his first single album and Curious About U. Right after his domestic promotions, Lee Jun Young also released his first mini-album in Japan, featuring a number of solo singles from the second half of 2019. It also featured Come Alive, which was formally released at the start of 2020. It is a fun hip-hop dance track, that is both bass and brass-heavy. It is quite addictive that I am always nodding or tapping along to the beat when it appears on my playlist. The song is pretty dynamic when it comes to the verses. His rapping is quite captivating and alluring. I really like how the song punctuates some of the lines with the added emphasis of the ‘You‘ and ‘Do‘ (and associated Japanese words). His vocals are also quite good. There is a good beat to this section to help give it a club feel. At first, I didn’t like how dragged out the ‘Come Alive‘ felt. But after multiple listens, it has definitely grown on me significantly. The music video has this urban feel to it, which was nice. It just didn’t have anything more to it worth talking about, unfortunately. For the choreography, it fits in with the urban hip-hop feel that both the song and music video had. I do like how clean and smooth it felt during some parts of the choreography. Other than that, it is just another case of not his best, but still good. (7.5/10)
You take the digital queen of KPOP. You take one of the members of the most popular KPOP group in KPOP. You put them together in a room and apparently that equates to Eight. If you couldn’t tell about the title of this post, I will be having a looking into the collaboration single that came about when we combine the likes of IU and Suga from BTS. And that collaboration single is set to dethrone every other song at the top of the charts, given the power of the two in the industry. After all, they have already debuted at the number 1 position for two of the domestic charts and they are rising fast on the rest of them. After all, it is what IU and BTS does best.
The song is produced by Suga and IU themselves and it all about being 28 (which is also the Korean age of both IU and Suga this year). The song takes the form of a pop rock track, which already sounds amazing. I liked how mellow Eight started off as and how fast it was to ditch that sound to become an epic pop rock song that I could rock out to. That is really big tick in my books. To me, it is like the song mashes up IU’s pop rock Blueming and BTS’ more modern influence. I do think Eight could have used some electric guitar riffs to really give the final chorus a little something different to the rest of the song. Or would this be a little cliche? The song just felt a little too consistent as I was listening to it after multiple replays. Though, this doesn’t stop me from pressing the replay button. IU’s vocals never seem to disappoint, with this song highlighting her vocal abilities in the same way as her ballads and well known hits have always managed to do. Her voice comes off very refreshing and suits this pop rock style a lot. Suga has a very limited section in Eight, but he comes in with a really cool whisper and he continues the momentum of the song without diverting to a new or different sound. The only other flaw of the song is how short it was. But after all, it is a short but sweet song.
The music video starts and ends off with IU in this futuristic world. It seems like the machine that she gets into is a memory machine that replays memories in her dream. The memory that we see on our screen is what I presume to be an experience at the age of 28. She takes care of a lizard or gecko that she really loves. One night, she has a dream that she is on a plane and her lizard is on the outside of the plane. The plane experiences turbulence, waking IU up. IU runs downstairs to find that her lizard pet has gone into the wild. IU, in another dream, goes looking for her pet. But soon realizes that her pet had evolved into a dragon like creature. Knowing that her lizard pet is well and moving on with its life, she moves on with hers as she flies away to her destination. I thought the video was really cool. I liked how they showed four versions of IU without confusing us as they used a different style of each. They used a human form for Futuristic IU and memory IU, while animated 3D IU (which may have included 3D animated Suga) and cartoon IU for the different dreams. Overall, a fantastic video.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.4/10
There is no doubt that BTS’ return is the biggest comeback of the year so far (or even possibly the entire year – and that might be saying something since we are only in February/March). The group’s fourth studio album, Map Of The Soul: 7, features a whole stack of new songs, their pre-releases tracks from January and the tracks from their 2019 Map Of The Soul: Persona mini-album (which features the title track, Boy With Luv). The group has already sold over 4 million copies world wide and have topped the domestic and international charts upon release, as they have been doing with many of the releases. Let’s see how good their latest album is this time around!
Tracks 1 to 5 can be found on the album review for Map Of The Soul: Persona, which I have previously reviewed. The song ratings I gave in that album review were not considered in the album rating (i.e. only new songs contributed to the this album’s rating).
8. Filter (Jimin Solo) – The first of the few solo tracks on the album belong to Jimin. There is a slight Latin feel to the song, thanks to both the melody that Jimin applies over the predominately acoustic guitar in the instrumentation. But rather than being in your face about, the song manages to keep it on the down low, which I thought was interesting. The song has a very smooth run and Jimin’s vocals seems perfect throughout the song. The song doesn’t reach a peak, however. I think that is the only issue with the song as it felt like it was stuck in the neutral gear. (8/10)
9. My Time (시차) (Jungkook Solo) – Similar comments about being stuck in neutral gear can be said about Jungkook’s solo track for majority of the song. But what My Time manages to do in its final chorus was change its gear and give the song a much-needed peak. Jungkook’s song falls under the genre of R&B, while the instrumental is given a modern feel with its synth basis. Jungkook’s vocals must also be applauded as he gives the song a very mature and captivating feel. I mean, look at the way he ended the song with his constant ‘ah’s and ‘ugh’s. (8.5/10)
10. Louder Than Bombs– I was already intrigued with Louder Than Bombs with just the title itself. I had expected a really pop and colorful track (for some unknown reason). But we got something a lot more interesting, much darker and captivating all at the same time. The thumping instrumental and the mysterious vibes we get from the song really draw my attention in. Throw in the higher pitch vocals from the vocalists and the very deep voices that the rappers channeled, you basically have a recipe that will make me return for more. The way the song built up was very subtle and occurred without you even knowing. This is one of the best songs on the album, I can’t emphasis that enough. (10/10)
12. Ugh! (욱) (RM, J-Hope & Suga) – The rap line is the focus in this song, and you can tell that it is going to be something on a different level. The energy that the trio manages to bring to this song with their line delivery and the hip-hop based instrumental really makes this track a strong one. Suga is fast becoming my favorite rapper of the group and his presence in this track really consolidates his position. However, that isn’t to say that RM and J-Hope were letdowns. They were equally as strong, and I enjoyed the part where they passed the baton to each other at the end. Also, the song became quite explosive at the end with all that gunfire. It drew the song to a close in a manner that really felt like icing on the cake. And it makes me want to see a performance this track, as I would suspect it to be lit! (9/10)
13. 00:00 (Zero O’Clock) (Jin, V, Jimin & Jungkook) – When you think of the vocal line of any group, you would expect them to be singing a ballad as it is easier to show of the vocals in that capacity. I guess the case applies even for BTS. But Zero O’Clock is no slow or depressing ballad. There is some light in this track, thanks to the member’s vocals. The instrumental also this inspirational vibe to it, which matches the song’s lyrics of hoping for a happier day. I thought the unit sounded pretty good, especially at the end when the song reaches the climax. The song also has a melody that makes we sway along, which makes it a good ballad in my opinion (as I have mentioned before). (9/10)
14. Inner Child (V Solo) – V, over the years, have been shaped to be the one with the most interesting vocals due to the huskier tone that he brings to the group. And that hasn’t been focused too much on in the past during the group tracks. His huskier voice definitely is full capitalized in this pop track. You know I love a good buildup and Inner Child has this. The chorus is fantastic, giving us that blast of energy that I think is so good. It makes the song feel so fresh and the feeling remains every time I play the song and when the chorus comes around. This is also one of the best tracks on the album and I highly recommend it. (10/10)
15. Friends (친구) (Jimin & V) – This is another track that has a good blast of energy during the chorus. And the way the instrumental manages to perfectly execute the explosive nature of the chorus makes it so addictive. It is a song that I get stuck on each time I listen to the ballad, unable to move to the next as I am so keen on replaying this track constantly. I just want to kick back, put this song on repeat and nod along to it. Jimin and V reflect on their friendship in this track, so there is a lighthearted and fun tone to it. At the end, when they bring the more inclusive feel to the song with the backup vocals, it just makes the song a lot more wholesome. (10/10)
16. Moon (Jin Solo) – With V, Jin is also an underrated vocalist. And I have mentioned this time and time again in past album reviews. Moon continues the album’s momentum with its energy. At the helm is Jin, which pushes his vocals in a manner that suits the song so nicely. The vocals lay on top of a upbeat beat and some guitar beat. It is a catchy number, with infectious energy. I just feel the instrumental drags it down a bit by being a little too consistent. It needed some definition. But it’s a good song from Jin, nonetheless. (9/10)
17. Respect (RM & Suga) – And we get more of the energy through RM and Suga’s collaboration track. The song throws you back to the 90s with its urban hip-hop beat and the many instrumental effects. The way they shout ‘Respect’ throughout the chorus is a very 90s thing, as well. They delivery is pretty good, with autotune weaving in and out of the song. The energy is also quite infectious, and I love how the energy rubs off on me. I mean, this is the track that you want to play while walking down the street on a good day (to make it better, obviously). (9/10)
18. We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal– The album takes a slight serious turn with The Eternal. It isn’t really a ‘happy’ track, as per the energy that preceded the track. But this one encapsulates where the members are at in their career. They are strong, they are bulletproof. And it all thanks to their fans, whom they thank in this track. This track displays amazing vocals and rapping, on top a very warm, trendy and dramatic instrumental. (10/10)
19. Outro: Ego (J-Hope Solo) – The album returns to its infectious and upbeat energy for the outro track. Performed by J-Hope, I love the fast incline to the fast tempo (and the fast tempo, in general) the song had. The entire track was 3 minutes, yet it felt only like one minute. It just makes the song so captivating and groovy. I find the outro track is also be very festival-like, especially in the last few seconds. Because why not end the album with everyone dancing along. J-Hope’s playful side also got to shine through in this track, with the upbeat nature being an excellent platform. (10/10)
We end the week with the return of the KPOP group that is breaking records left, right and centre. BTS has broken more ground that any other artist in KPOP ever in the industry. And yet they continue to do so with every comeback. Today, the group returns with On, the title track from their fourth Korean album, Map of The Soul: 7. The album also features all the tracks from their 2019 mini-album, Map of the Soul: Persona, including Boy With Luv. The album also features Black Swan and Interlude: Shadow, which were pre-releases back in January.
One of my previous complaints with BTS previous comebacks (they were still good songs) was that it was catered to the Western industry and consequently lost the darkness that I really enjoyed from BTS back in the day. While On isn’t totally a dark track like Fake Love or Blood Sweat and Tears, the song is a step in that direction with its edgy vibes. I love the marching drums in the instrumental. It keeps the song coming at you in a consistent manner, driving the song along with a subtle yet heavy intensity. The subtle voice synths (what is the technical terms for this?) in the chorus that were made to match the style of a rolling drum beat was also quite cool. The dance break took me by surprise when I heard the first time. It takes a slight trap influence and infuses it with brass and some electric guitar, which I think is really cool. The vocal work was superb (loving how Jin got more lines than usual) and the rapping was, as always, top notch.
The music video is awesome. There is an epic feel to the video thanks to the wide shot and the very familiar backdrop. I am sure it has appeared on other shows and videos before, but I recognize it from American Horror Story. The lighting is also quite bright, while everyone else is dressed in black. There is a strong contrast with the backup dancers and the scenery. In the end, the members pop, which I think is really cool. They are in a mixture of black and white, so they do standout in the crowd. I also liked how the video was set up and made to look like the members (for some parts) appear out of nowhere. Whether that is part of the choreography, I am not sure. But it looks fantastic either way.
The choreography was also a standout. The chorus, for one, was pretty memorable by the end of the music video. Especially when it came to the raining lyrics. The circular motions they made with their hands somehow keyed into my mind. The second part has to be the dance break. Intense, edgy and very tough, bringing me back to my favourite eras of BTS releases. I do wonder, with such an extravagant music video and routine setup, how they will pull off comeback stages. It is either going to be mind blowing or over the top.
Song – 10/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.8/10
It is that time of the year again where I announce the winners for the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. In December 2019, I allowed the audience (you all), once again, to vote for their favourite songs and artists for the December 2018 to November 2019 period. Thank you to all who voted and participated in the KPOPREVIEWED Awards this time around. Even more people voted this year, making this year more intense than ever in many categories. This post will focus on the song-based categories, which will also involve the Performance categories, Best Music Video, Best Concept and the most voted song (by you all). The winners for the artist categories will be posted in an accompanying post today, while the Top 100 songs of 2019 will be posted tomorrow.
Here is how things are going to work. Each category (aside from the non-fan voted categories, which are specified) will have a WINNER (the song/performance/video that ranked first), a Honourable Mention (the song/performance/video that ranked second) and a KPOPREVIEWED Choice (my personal choice if I voted, which I didn’t include this year). And let’s go!
Best Special Performance
This is not a fan voted category.
WINNER – Egostistic Cover (AOA) at Queendom
This is not a fan voted category.
WINNER– HIP (Mamamoo)
Best Solo Choreography
Nominees: Blue (Ha Sung Woon); Focus (Kim Dong Han); Gotta Go (Kim Chungha); LALALAY (Sunmi); L.O.V.E (Park Ji Hoon); Twit (Hwasa – Mamamoo); WANT (Taemin – SHINee); What Are You Up To? (Kang Daniel); What You Waiting For? (Anda & R.Tee); Ya (Lee Minhyuk – BTOB).
Nominees: All Night (ASTRO); Boom (NCT Dream); HIT (Seventeen); Hollywood (AB6IX); Humph! (Pentagon); Love Shot (EXO); RPM (SF9); Say My Name (ATEEZ); Side Effects (Stray Kids); You Calling My Name (GOT7).
WINNER – Love Shot (EXO) Honourable Mention – HIT (Seventeen) KPOPREVIEWED Choice – Side Effects (Stray Kids)
Best Female (Group) Choreography
Nominees: Bon Bon Chocolat (EVERGLOW); Boogie Up (WJSN); Butterfly (LOONA); DALLA DALLA (ITZY); HIP (Mamamoo); Pinky Star (Run) (GWSN); Sunrise (GFriend); The Fifth Season (Oh My Girl); Violeta (IZ*ONE); Zimzalabim (Red Velvet).
Nominees: Blossom (Eunha & Ravi); Boy With Luv (BTS ft. Halsey); Don’t Need Your Love (NCT Dream & HRVY); I Wanna Be (Key ft. Kim Soyeon); Spring (Park Bom ft. Sandara Park)
WINNER – Boy With Luv (BTS ft. Halsey) Honourable Mention – Don’t Need Your Love (NCT Dream & HRVY) KPOPREVIEWED Choice – Boy With Luv (BTS ft. Halsey)
Best Music Video
Nominees: Abandoned (Brown Eyed Girls); Above The Time (IU); Crown (TXT); Feel Special (TWICE); HIT (Seventeen); Love Drunk (Epik High ft. Crush); Noir (Sunmi); Snapping (Kim Chungha); You Calling My Name (GOT7); Zimzalabim (Red Velvet)
WINNER – Obsession (EXO) Honourable Mention – Feel Special (TWICE) KPOPREVIEWED Choice – HIT (Seventeen)
WINNER – Time Of Our Life (DAY6) WINNER – HIP (Mamamoo)
Best Non-Title Track
This is not a fan voted category
WINNER – Ten Nights (Mamamoo)
Nominees: Love Poem (IU); Narcissus (SF9); Purpose (Taeyeon – SNSD); The Book Of Us: Gravity (DAY6); Want (Taemin – SHINee)
WINNER – Love Poem (IU) Honourable Mention – The Book Of Us: Gravity (DAY6) KPOPREVIEWED Choice – The Book Of Us: Gravity (DAY6)
Most Voted For Song of 2019
WINNER – Obsession (EXO)
And that brings us to the end of the Song-Based Categories for the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. If you haven’t seen the Artist-Based Categories yet, click here.
Tomorrow, we will get to see which artist ranked on the Top 100 of the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Charts, where the song that ranks first becomes the ‘Best Song of 2019’. Remember this is decided based on the votes for Best Song of 2019 (50%) and the Weekly KPOP Charts that I post every Sunday (50%). Will EXO’s Obsession become the ‘Best Song of 2019’ officially? You can find out by clicking here (hyperlink will be updated once the post is published).
In addition to Interlude tracks, I don’t often review pre-release tracks. The main reason for this is that there usually isn’t any music video (which would reduce my review to a 2 paragraphs. Last week, BTS unveiled Black Swan, the pre-release track off their upcoming album release, Map Of The Soul: 7. Accompanying this pre-release track is an art film, which I have decided to be the music video for this release. Hence, this fulfills the criteria for a review. Map Of The Soul: 7 has been confirmed for release on the 21st of February 2020.
The more I listen to Black Swan, the more I find it to be extremely calming. There is something about the song that just relaxes me. It might be the instrumental, which doesn’t go into any ‘hard’ territory and remains relatively light throughout. The Eastern influences that you can hear in the instrumental give off complexity, definition and personality. All elements that you definitely want to find in a song. The more modern trap beats keeps it grounded and adds robustness to the song. The combination comes together nicely and allows for a flow like water trickling over a riverbed. Their vocals could also help make the song feel calming. Their harsher vocals (for both rappers and vocalists) were not present in this song. Everything was a lot softer and more melodic, which helped smooth out the song even further. The use of autotune usually would have countered this. But somehow, BTS managed to utilize this element without disrupting the atmosphere. If I was to be honest, I didn’t feel this way about the song the first few times I heard it. It felt awkward and I just didn’t get it. But more listens definitely helped out and I am looking forward to the rest of the album when it comes out in February.
The art film contains a slightly different version of the song, where the song features more traditional instruments and a more acoustic profile. And I think this version really helps make the choreography stand out. I find the following explanation to the performance to make a lot of sense and is more detailed that whatever interpretation that I would have made.
To me, the level of aesthetics in which the art film reaches is a very fine point on any scale. That takes a lot to do and the producers nailed the film perfectly, capturing everything that needed to be captured. It is definitely one of check out. I highly recommend it.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.4/10
This review contains my personal opinions regarding the song and music video. This is my interpretation and mine only.
This is the first time I am doing a full review for the Interlude track for BTS (or any artist). Why am I finally doing a review for the Interlude track? Well, I have noticed that these are actually tracks worth talking about themselves. The music video that accompanies these tracks also tend to be full of symbolism and hence there is more to talk about. The Interlude track is titled Shadow, courtesy of Suga. It was the first track unveiled after the announcement of their upcoming comeback in February with Map Of The Soul: 7.
There is something haunting with the start of the song in the ‘I Wanna Be…‘ montage. Suga’s signature husky and low tone brings this section to life, making it a memorable part of the song. Suga then start to throw lines at us through the rapping. And it is in this part do we get more of an idea of what the song is all about. Essentially, the ‘I Wanna Be…‘ montage at the start is more like the dream that we keep on repeating to ourselves to help make it a reality. But the verses and chorus paint a darker picture. That sometimes this dream isn’t somewhere we would want to be. In this sense, Suga says as part as of the world’s leading musical act, he is lonely and is often followed by a dark shadow that stays with me no matter whats. He doesn’t want to fly nor does he want to fall from the top. The rock sound in this part was really good and well accented. He then repeats the montage and then the song manages to flip a switch. It becomes a lot more intense and powerful. Suga’s rapping becomes more erratic and chaotic, as opposed to the control at the start. In the lyrics, I think he is referencing that darker side, which I thought was interesting. There is a lot to take in, but I thought Suga nailed this track with a very likable backdrop/instrumental.
I think my interpretation of the song lyrics and the musical intentions of the song reflect well with the music video. Remember that this might not be the actual interpretation. We see shadows at the start, with Suga standing in front of door. I think this foreshadows the shadows that will follow him once he rises to the top. We then see the same corridor with Suga, but no shadows, which shows his desires prior to realizing the darker side of show business. He runs, which shows his climb to the top. This lands him on the stage, with everyone watching. In this era, social media is like a double-ended sword. It help create his career. But at the same time, it allows for the focus to be too much on him. There is a scene in which the camera angles continually changes but the focus remains on him the entire time, further emphasising this part. The more erratic part of the song shows cameras directed at him, similar to how paparazzi tends to get. We see the shadows run after him. But we see human hands instead, showing that some fans can be the shadow. Overall, I thought this was a really cool video. The different ways symbolism was shown in the video was really profound. The post-production also helped out.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.4/10
At the end of each year, the three major broadcasting companies in South Korea (SBS, KBS and MBC) organises and broadcast a very fruitful and dynamic music festival, bringing together the top KPOP acts of the year. 2019 is no exception and with a year as busy as 2019, it is often quite hard to get invited to these festivals. And with each show running for a couple of hours, different stages/performances/remixes of the year’s hits and one-of-a-kind collaborations, it is often hard to keep up with these festivals. Today, I have decided to organise a list of performances from each of these three festivals that I thought were excellent, different and worthwhile in checking out. I have done this before but over the years dropped it as I had very little time. Now that I have some time on my hand, I thought I return to this segment for the 2019 festivals.
SBS Gayo Daejun – 25th of December 2019
When we talk about the SBS Music Festival, we need to address the issue of safety. After all, it costed Red Velvet full group promotions for their Psycho comeback, due to injuries sustained by Wendy due to the unsafe nature of SBS stage. We did manage to get one full lineup of the group performing Psycho on stage as it was pre-recorded. because of that, I put Red Velvet’s Psycho performance on my list of favourite performances from that day. Other performers also had falls on the SBS stage, from what I remember reading. Other stages at stood out for me were:
Stray Kid’s Miroh – I did not know how Stray Kids could top Miroh’s intensity by rearranging the performance to be even more intense.
NCT Dream’s Boom & NCT 127’s Superhuman – Both tracks had a really cool dance addition to it. On top of that, we got to see the same ‘switching of jackets’ that Mark did at the 2018 SBS Music Festival between Dream and 127’s performance. Only this time, it was Haechan!
Oh My Girl’s Bungee (X-mas Version) – Always good to have a X-mas themed remix on Christmas Day. It made Bungee, an already vibrant and colourful track, more suitable for the season.
Mamamoo’s Gogobebe – The rock remix for this performance was superb.
Seventeen’s Home and Snapshoot – We got to see a warmer side of the group and the more joyful side, especially after all the darkness we got from HIT and Fear.
TWICE’s Medley of Tracks – I really liked the band element to their performance and how they tweaked the concept for Fancy and their more light hearted tracks. I just wished the band was DAY6 (where is DAY6 in all of these festivals), which would have made the performance even more worthy of a view.
BTS’s Dionysus – I have always been a fan of BTS’s darker side. This performance is a return this side, which I greatly appreciate.
KBS Gayo Daechukje – 27th December 2019
I personally did not have much interest in the KBS Music Festival as I thought the stage looked really bad and the camera work wasn’t the best. This wasn’t also the only problem that occurred that same night. APINK’s %% performance was cut short, disappointing fans, APINK and viewers in general. If I were to choose one standout stage, it would have Golden Child’s Wannabe stage. Their dance intro was very good and showed off intensity that was aligned with their new look/concept. And I really liked how smooth the transition between dance intro and actual song was. Only a few toehr performances caught my attention and they include:
Song Gain’s Introductory song – Song Gain, for those who don’t know is a trot singer that trended this year. For Song Gain’s performance, she managed to incorporate all artists into her song, which I think would be a challenge.
NU’EST Love Me – It wasn’t so much their choreography or song that caught my attention. But I thought the raised stages for the end really highlighted the good parts of their overall choreography, providing what could be said as an epic end to their stage.
ASTRO’s All Night + Blue Flame – I was waiting for ASTRO to do All Night in some capacity during these festivals. But with Moonbin out of action, it seems like the group would opt for the 5-member Blue Flame instead. So automatically, ASTRO’s stage for All Night alone would make this list. Blue Flame ended up being very epic as well, which is why their entire segment is on this list.
Oh Ha Young, Joy and Yerin Mr. Mr. collaboration – I haven’t heard this song for some time now and I really enjoyed this throwback. Also surprised that they covered the entire song, which usually isn’t the case.
MBC Gayo Daejejeon – 31st December 2019
MBC’s Music Festival is one to always watch. Their stages always have a look that shows that they have been planning for a while. The collaborations for this festival are always something to talk about. And why not watch it live as the year goes out! There is nothing like ending 2019 and start 2020 with KPOP! However, the MBC Music Festival was also plagued with an early termination issue. This time around the victim was Kim Jae Hwan, who only got to perform Nuna (he should have performed The Time I Need as well. For standout performance, I am putting down ASTRO and Oh My Girl’s creepy and jazzy cover of IU’s Red Shoes. It was different and colourful. Other stages to check out:
Stray Kid’s Side Effects – Another intense song that they managed to upgrade and make darker. The creative minds that put together these stages for Stray Kids are killing it (and need a pay rise instantly).
Seventeen & Mamamoo Collaboration – Two of my favourite groups have come together to form one dream team. And this was such an amazing stage.
Seventeen’s HIT – Mingyu shouldn’t be playing with fire. It is dangerous. But one epic opener to the stage. Also, somehow Seventeen managed to insert a dance break in the midst of the stage, which I think earns a mention at the very least.
Hyuna’s Flower Shower – Her choreography is essentially the same as the one she performed in the past. But the chorus instrumental is changed slightly, which I thought made the stage a lot cooler for the end of year festival.
Taemin’s Move & Famous – MBC’s Music Festival had a theme, The Chemistry. And you can’t have a theme about Chemistry without Taemin. While he didn’t do anything special to Move‘s stage, his dance alone is already 100% fitting for a ‘Chemistry’ themed music festival.
(G)i-DLE’s Lion – Another reason to why we need to look out for this girl group is their special stages. Lion is practically a game changer for the group.
Lovelyz’s Beautiful Day – I really like their ballad start to their stage and how they built it back up to the original song in an effortless manner.