CIX has quite a busy year already with their early 2021 comeback, Cinema andHello Chapter Ø: Hello, Strange Dream, Japanese release All For You and their Universe track Tesseract (which I will review, one day). But the year is still young. So why not add a studio album to the mix? Well, that is exactly what CIX did. Earlier this week, the five member male group from C9 Entertainment made their official comeback with their first ever studio-length album, Ok Prologue: Be Ok, which is headlined by their new single, WAVE.
WAVE is a fine song. However, it is another example of a song where more could have been done to really make it more appealing. WAVE starts off as a standard and light EDM song. Nothing more, nothing less. This isn’t much an issue, though I would have liked it the song was more exciting from the first second. But I won’t let that get in the way of enjoying WAVE, as the song has to start from somewhere. The issue with WAVE was more so the pre-choruses. I felt the rapping segment would have been fine as the launching pad into the chorus and it felt like the instrumentation behind the rapping segment was gearing up for that launch. However, for some reason, the producers of the song felt it was necessary to delay and suspend that obvious building momentum by inserting another vocal part just before the actual chorus, which in turn fizzled out any momentum the song had. I felt like they could have forgone the vocals (sorry Yonghee) and used the vocal sequence’s instrumentation as a backing for the rap sequence to drive us forward into the chorus. Similar comments can be said about the second verse. Thankfully, the chorus managed to compensate for that fizzled and lackluster pre-chorus that WAVE opted for and I like how much swing there was to the momentum within the chorus. I do think the chorus’s EDM could have been more impactful and intense, but I still enjoyed it as it is. What we got was rather pleasant, which seems to be odd given the song taps into the rougher forms of EDM, but that is how I would describe the chorus. The second and final choruses are followed by ‘Like Thunder, Thunder‘ hooks, which I quite liked. They were catchy and relatively powerful moments in WAVE that stood out. It also continued the chorus’ momentum which I had pointed out earlier in a very satisfying manner and didn’t stray away from the pleasant side of WAVE. Similar comments can be made to the vocals and rapping, as a whole. Overall, WAVE was enjoyable. There were some issues with the structure of the song, but that didn’t really ruin the song.
WAVE is all about going forward at your own pace while going beyond rough waves (i.e. the various experiences that try to stop you from moving forward). In the music video, we see the members build a boat and prepare for the adventure together. The members then embark through the rough waves mentioned just now and battles them together. Beyond the rough waves, there is this calmness and ethereal place that the members were aiming for. Regarding the ending, I am assuming it is connected to Numb, one of their earlier works, based on the school uniform. Though I am not entirely sure what that has to do with this music video and how everything thus far is connected (because they are all connected somehow, if I remember). I also like how the choreography scenes and the brighter atmosphere brought on Summer vibes, matching the current season.
I like bursts of energy and intensity in the choreography for this comeback. It makes it an enjoyable stage to watch. Visually, I feel like this is a good look for the group in terms of outfits, aside from the sailor outfits, which makes them look like overgrown kids in children outfits.
Song – 7.5/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 7.8/10
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)
The second album that I will be reviewing this weekend is CIX’s most recent album release, Hello Chapter Ø: Hello, Strange Dream. This is the group’s fourth mini-album and was dropped at the start of February. Featured on this album is Cinema, the title track for this album. It is also one of five songs on the album. Previously, I have reviewed all of CIX’s albums with the exception of their third mini-album, Hello Chapter 3: Hello, Strange Time (I simply just waited too long to review it, hence I removed it from the Coming Soon list). However, I have flagged the album for future review in the Past Album Review segment, which I should have started back in early March, but obviously that is fruitless for now. In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy my review of CIX’s latest release.
1. Stairway to Heaven – The album starts off with a breathtaking and stunning ballad. I find the move to put this song first on the tracklist to be quite interesting, given ballads are usually toward the end of the album. But like all songs that sit in the opener position, Stairway to Heaven does pull you in. To me, Stairway to Heaven reminds me of EXO’s Miracle of December. While I am unsure how the lyrics and deep meaning of the two songs would compare with one another, I found Stairway to Heaven to be quite gripping on the emotional front. There is a beautiful classical instrumental piece for its background and the song showcases the vocals capabilities of CIX. The harmonies were to die for and the melodies were very heartfelt. It is hard to say another bad about Stairway to Heaven. (10/10)
3. Round 2 – Round 2 delves into the R&B scene, but in a more downtempo fashion. While Round 2 has it all with a nice melody, decent hook, upbeat instrumentals and good vocals from the members, I just can’t seem to fall for the song. It is one of the songs that I would describe as ‘pleasant at best’. But I also don’t see anything wrong with it. I guess it isn’t my personal cup of tea. The acapella-like change in the bridge was interesting and I wished they somehow explored more of this. Maybe that would have me falling for Round 2. (7/10)
4. Young – The guitar work in Young is exceptional. It started off almost with a country influence, before developing into a full-fledged pop rock sound. This alone makes the song very interesting and has me sticking around. I wished their vocals did pop out a little more, as it felt like they were competing with the instrumental. The rapping, on the other hand, is top notch and feels perfect for this style of music. (9/10)
5. Everything – The album ends with an acoustic pop song, which once again, highlights the vocals of the members. I really enjoyed how smooth the vocal lines were when it came to the chorus of Everything. As a result, I found it quite easy to become lost in the song. Similarly, the rapping roughened up the song with its delivery and also its intense trap backdrop. Usually, I would think the song didn’t need that. But it was good choice this time around. (8/10)
The winners of the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards, voted and chosen by you, have been announced! Find out who won by clicking here.
CIX is back with their brand new mini-album (their fourth to date), Hello Chapter 0: Hello, Strange Dream, and the title track Cinema. And so am I after a week’s absence from the blog! This comeback (CIX’s comeback, not mine) comes months after their re-scheduled promotions for Jungle and their third mini-album, Hello Chapter 3: Hello, Strange Time.
The first noticeable element of the new song is that is very much different to what we have heard from this male group in their repetiore of title tracks. We have heard stylish flair and intense electronic-based sounds from the group already. Cinema differentiates itself from that pack with its lightness that stems from its use of synthpop instrumental. And it is quite enjoyable and refreshing at the same time. I also really liked how they were committed to the sound, with no stray or unexpected changes to throw us off the direction of the song. I also like how they started off the song, adding to the concept of the song and comeback in an audio manner. But what I really enjoyed more about this song is how seamlessly it felt as it flowed along. Usually, each section (i.e. verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse etc.) feels very distinct and you can differentiate between them. But in Cinema, they feel blurred. Not in a bad way, but rather a really nice artistic manner which makes the song promising. Both the seamlessness and the lightness really benefits CIX when it comes to the vocal departments. I feel the falsetto and breathy vocals really show off some of their skillset. I also really like the melodic nature of the chorus, which is gives the song that enhances the flowy vibes of the song and gives the song that really nice smooth hook. And overall, Cinema was definitely catchy and a well put together song.
My understanding of the lyrics is that the members liken their developing relationship with their lover to filming a movie/tv show. Memories created in their relationship feels like episodes that they can replay. In the video, we see the process of a movie being filmed with the members acting as lighting directors and just the standard director as well. Adding to the concept was the primary setting of their choreography shots, which was appropriately in front of a cinema. I am not exactly sure what is going on within the living room scenes. Maybe they are part of that movie they are shooting. They do feel a bit wacky, but felt fitting for the concept overall. I also enjoyed the golden aura that comes off the video.
I really like the start of the performance with how the choreographer got all the members to contribute to the clap that coincided with the voice over yelling ‘action‘. As the song is light in nature, the choreography has to fit with that hurdle. I found their moves be a lot more relax, fluid and carefree, which is obviously what you would want with a light track like this one. But when I watch the performance, I admit I do want to see that more intense side of the group. But Cinema‘s choreography was still enjoyable to watch.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 8.3/10
Reviews for this week are coming a day late, as you can already tell. The first song that I am reviewing today is CIX’s Jungle, which is featured on the group’s third mini-album, Hello Chapter 3: Hello, Strange Time. Originally, this comeback was scheduled for the end of June this year. However, Bae Jin Young became injured in the lead up to the comeback and their company decided to postpone the comeback til yesterday. Regardless of when the group was due to make this Jungle comeback, it was still their first comeback of 2020 and their first comeback since the release of Numb.
Jungle continues the groups intense style in a very unexpected and unconventional manner. The song starts off with a mixture of piano and organs for the background. It is chilling, haunting and just downright atmospheric. It also doubles as a unique start to a song and it impresses. The instrumental proceeds to add in a simple beat to the first chorus. It adds a calculated amount of definition to the song to keep it interesting. Not too much that it throws the rest of the song off balance or changes the song’s momentum. But not too little that it practically added nothing to the song. The chorus is then followed up with a brief pop instrumentation (that was also well calculated) that adds even more intensity to the song before leading into the second verse. The second verse is more so a continuation of the developments thus far and the momentum doesn’t really change until we get to the second chorus. It does manage to incorporate a pre-chorus, which brings back some of that organ from the first verse. For the second chorus, they bolster the first bit of the chorus by adding a more dynamic and bouncier beat to the mix. Yet it still keeps everything in frame and doesn’t change up the song too much. The bridge features the rap, which is played over top that dynamic beat that featured briefly at the start of the second chorus. I liked that they didn’t change the rapping ‘fit the song’. Instead, they made the instrumental fit the rapping, allowing the rapping to add a kick ahead of the final moments of the song. When it comes to the final chorus, I felt they missed the opportunity to amplify the chorus one more time to really bring Jungle to a dynamic and fulfilling close. One thing I have touched on yet are the vocals. I felt that the vocals as a whole was stealthy and artful, fitting perfectly with the subtle intensity that oozes from Jungle.
This is another elaborate video that I just can’t wrap my head around. There seems to be a lot of symbolism throughout the video. The entire video had these creepy yet captivating scenes and images that draws you into the music video. Below this section of the review is quite a lengthy explanation of the concept, connecting both the music video and teasers released prior to the actual comeback to Dante’s Inferno. It was quite interesting and helped me put a lot of context to the video. It also provides a few connections to their previous music videos. Aside from the plot, big ticks for the choreography and post-production scenes as well.
I am not too sure if the music video didn’t do a good job of showcasing the performance, but the moves looked overly powerful for the first chorus. It was such a distinct and noticeable mismatch. I guess we will find out tomorrow once they perform their comeback stage. As the performance progressed, the moves fitted in with the music more neatly and felt appropriate. It is just that first part I wasn’t keen on. The setup for the rap sequence also looks really cool.
Song – 8.5/10 Music Video – 8.5/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 8.2/10
For the first time ever, I am putting together two songs by two different sets of artists into a double review format. For today’s double review, I will be focusing on Zico and Kang Daniel’s collaboration, Refresh, and Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han’s collaboration, I Believe. The reason why I am group these two songs together is because they form part of the 2020 Pepsi and Starship collaboration, which has been occurring lately. Refresh was released back in April of this year for the For The Love of Korea part of the collaboration, while I Believe was released two weeks ago as part of the Heritage Project part of the collaboration. The four artists join a long list of other popular KPOP artists who have participated in the Pepsi and Starship collaboration, including Eunha and Ravi, Ong Seong Woo, and Hongbin and Hyungwon.
Not only does Refresh features the likes of both Zico and Kang Daniel, the song is also co-produced by Steve Aoki. That in itself means that this is a pretty star-studded lineup for a two and half minute song. Both Kang Daniel and Zico sings during the verses, with Zico adding some raps to the song later on in the second verse. These parts were decent, but they don’t really scream out Zico or Kang Daniel in any way. The pre-chorus hook was pretty decent as it gives the song some life and memorability, before dropping a half squeaky and half screechy type of synth in the chorus. Not really the most likeable synth out there, but it has its charm. The saving grace of Refresh is the heavy thumping bass. It probably shows how easily you can satisfy me, but the thumping really added momentum to Refresh for me and accented the right parts at the right times for me.
I Believe is actually a remake of a ballad OST by Shin Seung Hoon, which was released for My Sassy Girl (who remembers this movie?). Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han’s version gives it a trendy and fun retro spin, featuring a heavy amount of 80s synthesizer in its instrumental. I have no issues with this style as the instrumental brought a smile to me. They keep the melody from the original and also incorporate some raps, which genuinely surprised me. The song ended up being quite memorable and catchy for me, thanks to the collaborative nature of all the song’s elements. Aside from all the positivity that I am writing about the song (and the positivity that the song brings), I have nothing else to say about the song (and this is a good thing).
For Refresh, the theme was loving Korea (i.e. it was the ‘For The Love of Korea’ project) and there was a lot of traditional influence in the music video. The production value for Refresh was extremely high based on the visual effects that were utilised. I think it was a very suitable music video for Refresh, given the concept of the project and the appearance of both Zico and Kang Daniel in the video. I also liked their outfits and the product placement of Pepsi felt light and suitable. Kang Daniel makes a second appearance in the Pepsi and Starship collaboration project at the start and end of the I Believe music video. While we hear a bit of the Refresh instrumental, Kang Daniel starts a game on an old arcade that segueways into the main body of the music video that features the actual artists of the song. As for Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han, the video depicts them having fun whilst alone. I like how they incorporated the 90s filter of a circular frame and the white-washed lighting that many might remember from 90s KPOP music videos. Even their fashion looks like it could have been from that era (though some of it has been modernise to fit the current 20s). I also noticed that both videos acknowledged current events, with a little nod to face masks and elbowing in place of a hug or high-five.
Both songs are quite danceable. However, only I Believe has a proper choreography routine. Based on the music video, it looks pretty good but isn’t anything impressive. The pair do put in a lot of effort for an one off performance and that really lifts the look of the choreography by a lot.
Refresh – Zico & Kang Daniel Song – 8/10 Music Video – 10/10 Overall Rating – 8.8/10
I Believe – Bae Jin Young (CIX) & Kim Yo Han (WEi) Song – 9/10 Music Video – 8.5/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.7/10
It is time for another review of non-Korean songs, a usual review theme for Saturdays prior to the start of 2020. For those who don’t know, I have decided to cover more than just Japanese songs by Korean artists and I do this through this segment, International Song Reviews. This posts focus will be on MONSTA X’s latest Japanese and Western releases, Seventeen and CIX’s Japanese comebacks and Jackson’s recent Western comeback track. I have stuck to five songs per post as I think this is an reasonable number. Let me know what you think in the comments section!
Wish On The Same Sky – MONSTA X
We start off the review post with something a little easy on the ears. MONSTA X recently returned to the Japan with this pop ballad, Wish On The Same Sky. The song itself is one that won’t benefit when we dissect the song under a microscope. With just one listen, anyone knows that Wish On The Same Sky is to be taken in as a whole. The instrumental builds into something quite grand and extravagant. The loud thumping during the bridge is direct proof of this, giving the pop sound an uplifting boost. This gives the song a very alluring appeal. The vocal work is definitely the main focus of the song and it is also built upon to match the music, with Kihyun definitely shining in this song. The song also features Jooheon, who sings and raps throughout the song, despite being on hiatus for health recovery at the time of filming this music video and release. The only thing I dislike with the song is the shouting by I.M in the background, echoing what the Hyungwon and Minhyuk were singing during the pre-chorus. Moving to the music video, I found the breezy feel of the song was well reflected in the video. I liked how the music video didn’t take on any trends to give it that modern feel. What we got in the visual department was nice, simple and blissful. I also like the pale colour tone they opted for, as well. (8.6/10)
You Can’t Hold My Heart – MONSTA X
The second MONSTA X song, You Can’t Hold My Heart, is a pop-rock for the Western music industry and features the return of Jooheon, who was absent from their above Japanese release. I was lowkey expecting the song to drop or go into a dance overdrive, as that is is the usual style with MONSTA X in Korea (at least). But I also like how they aren’t staying with just that sound in their international releases. You Can’t Hold My Heart brings the spotlight over the group’s vocals talents, where the singing about the fact that love doesn’t stay around forever. Even I.M and Jooheon, the fierce rappers, sing over a nice band-like instrumental. I like the subdued nature of the song, soothing and peaceful in a way. The music video is quite simple as it is simple shot in a red box. The video gets a little complicated once you see members sitting on top of each other, walking upside down and even emitting coloured clouds that match colour of thier outfits. The simplicity and complexity comes together in a way that doesn’t over complicate the song and makes it worthwhile to watch. There is no choreography for this comeback single, as the group simply sings the song with microphone stands in a recent performance. (8.7/10)
Fallin’ Flower – SEVENTEEN
It seems that SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese single, Fallin’ Flower, follows that mature and aesthetic sound that their Korean releases have opted for in the past year. Initial impressions of the song is that it has a very beautiful, refined sound and there this also this glowing vibe. The song has a nice melody that places emphasis on the vocal capabilities of the group, which puts a different limelight on the group. The falsettos we get for the chorus puts the song on a whole different level. The rapping was well mixed into the song, as well. The song’s ‘Fallin’‘ hook was also very flowy and catchy. The music video is extremely aesthetically pleasing, complimenting the aesthetics in the song. There is a fair amount of imagery in this video – most of which is a bit above me to understand, so I would love to hear your theories on it. But a very beautiful video nonetheless. For the choreography, I like their flower formation that they started off with. I also like the performance still remains quite powerful despite the song bring a lot more subdued than usual. It looks great as a result and definitely a showing of Seventeen’s talents. (8.9/10)
100 Ways – Jackson (GOT7)
GOT7 may just have returned to Korea with their first comeback of the year. But Jackson (and other members – I shall get around to Mark’s release in a later post) returned in March as a solo artist with 100 Ways. By the far the most catchiest song in this review post, Jackson really delves into the hooks and beats that no doubt with thrive in the Western industry (and has already proven to as the song had topped iTunes charts in multiple countries). I also found the song very easy to get into. On top of that, the music was very robust and there seemed to be a slight funky vibe. Both ended up making me groove along to the beat of the song. The thumping beat drives the song forward, while the synths form a concoction that is very addictive. Jackson’s raspy vocals shine through this song as well, adding to that dynamic appeal. The music video was equally as good as the song. The set design of that forest was awesome. I also really liked how Jackson and the female character rose from the grave and how Jackson went down with her at the end. The costume that Jackson donned also looked cool, but that armour sequence really looked looked epic. The other part of the music video has to be the cleverly choreographed hand motions. That was on a whole different level and very epic. Definitely as song, music video and choreography that you must check out. (10/10)
Revival – CIX
CIX’s main songs, while they have only released a few title tracks so far, have been of the intense EDM dance nature. But what CIX does differently is that is conforms to the trend of incorporating an epic drop into the song. Revival starts off slow, as a medium tempo ballad. But the instrumental they used opted for electronic synths, which foreshadowed the epic drop. But I liked how the vocals keep on that slow ballad-like feel. Then the chorus comes out of nowhere. And well, if you haven’t noticed so far, it is pretty epic. Not in the sense that is just throws every single synth known to mankind to make a ‘loud’ drop. In fact, it is more of a tropical based drop and is done so in a manner that sounds so refreshing. The rest of the song follows something of the same line, but they managed to do something slightly different every time. For example, the second verse added more of a beat to it, while the bridge took everything away. The second chorus added more synths to the tropical drop, while the final chorus incorporates violins to make it even more epic. The music video is filled with a lot of different closeups that look cool and interesting. I wonder the screen full of fire in the desert, the ball of many balls and the many other objects and effects in the video mean anything. The rest of the music video is made up of choreography shows, which shows CIX performing with string. There is a fair amount of tangling happening this music video. But that is just one of the complexity of the performance. Their individual moves also look quite cool and definitely features that intensity that CIX has associated with them. (8.9/10)
Welcome to the very first International Song Review post. This segment will replace the Japanese song review that I publish sporadically on Saturdays. The segment will also allow me to cover more of those Japanese releases, which was an issue I previously had (I used to post once a week and this would mean some releases won’t be reviewed until many weeks after – which is the case for all of the songs to be reviewed today). On top of that, I wanted to keep up with the KPOP advancement into the Chinese and Western music industries, a niche that I was not reviewing as I could not dedicate more time. By putting these all together, it saves time and it allows me to cover more songs. The artists I will be focusing on today include EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X and CIX.
Bad Girl For You – EXID
Bad Girl For You is a very different song from any of the Korean releases. The group’s Korean releases have this level of vibrancy that I feel is noticeable absent from this track. Instead, the song has this mature and sensual feel to it that I think is very suitable for EXID. I liked how the instrumental is very toned down and almost quite eerie. The chorus has a heavier beat to it, which offsets the song from becoming plain and boring. Their oval work complimented the style, which was definitely a nice fit to the song. I do find the use of that laser shooting synth a little random and doesn’t fit well with the rest of the song. The song may not seem much at first, but after many listens, you will be coming back for even more. For the music video, I liked the use of the 5 colours (green, blue, yellow, red and purple) in the background and how each colour is usually concentrated to a particular area of the set. It helps give the video a minimalist feel. The choreography is also quite nice but not really memorable.
808 – ONEUS
I think 808 is a smashing song. The sound of the instrumental was posed in a manner that really caught my attention. I love the strings that feature in the instrumental, along with the intense style they had adopted from their Korean releases. There is an epic vibe to the song, but they do it in a manner that masks it. You think you are getting another typical song, but you will be blown away by the song’s sound. The song is vibrant and definitely knows how to bundle a bunch of energy in a fashionable sense. The vocal work was good and the rapping gave the song a little more edge. The music video looks really artistic. I am not sure if these are music video sets or whether the group filmed their music video in some sort of modern art museum. It looked very cool. The performance looked good with cool moves. Just not memorable like EXID’s performance.
Fake & True – TWICE
I was blown away with Breakthrough when it was first release for its mature and edgy style, something that was a little foreign for the very pop-based and cutesy TWICE. And it seems like Fake & True continues the momentum and extends TWICE’s reach into this new territory. I thought the brass in the chorus was very nice and the rest of the instrumental was very energetic and vibrant in a way that suits the group. I also liked the synths that they employed throughout the song, especially for the dance break bridge. I did think the chorus was a little one-dimensional as it repeated the title of the song all throughout and felt a little awkward. The vocals were good but the rapping in this track was epic. It was also nice to see Mina as part of this November release, as well. The music video was pretty typical for TWICE but I thought it did a really good job of showing off their visuals. The choreography was also very nice and continued that mature vibe that I really enjoyed as part of their previous Japanese comeback.
My New World – CIX
My New World is CIX’s debut track into the Japanese music industry. It is also an extension of their KPOP works, with the group’s intense sound definitely channeled and presented in this song. I like how eerie and dark the song sounds. The dance style is very well suited for CIX, given that this is their title track style for their comebacks in the KPOP industry so far. I also like the kick of energy that the song gives during the chorus, which contrasts neatly with the shout-y style of vocal works. The rapping that dominates the second verse was also extremely promising and intense. I also like the piano that featured very quietly over the top of the dance instrumental. I think the music video shows the members on a new world. Other than that, I am not exactly sure if the video is showing anything else worth mentioning. Their dance sets looked really cool, with the floating stairs and the moving lights. The choreography is very intense and reconfirms that when it comes to the dance side of the industry, CIX might be a group to look out for.
Middle Of The Night – MONSTA X
The final song on today’s reviewing agenda is Middle Of The Night and it is also the very first Western song that I am reviewing on my blog (I am not including English versions that I have done reviews for in the past). Middle Of The Night is different from the rest song on the list as it is also an R&B track. A song that I can finally understand as well. Hahaha… I can really say much else but to tell you to check out this song below as everything felt flawless. It is one of those songs where the main complaint was that it was over so soon! The vocal work was superb from very member. I really love that Jooheon finally got to showcase his vocals that he previously showed off during a performance of Versace On The Floor. The music video was shot with every scene is interlinked with the previous and next scenes. I think that this was a really good way to show off the smoothness of the track. There is no choreography for this song, so this finishes the review.
CIX is one of the groups nominated for the Best New Male Group award in the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support CIX and your other favourite artists!
Unfortunately, I will be ending the album review blitz today and the next album review will be published as per the original timetable (Friday). I think there are one or two more album reviews from the past few weeks that I have yet to touched and I will get to them before the year ends. Today, we will be having a listen to CIX’s first comeback, HELLO Chapter 2. Hello, Strange Place and their title track, Numb (link below). I previously reviewed their first mini-album, which featured their debut track, Movie Star.
1. Black Out – Kicking off the album is Black Out, which is a powerful starter. I liked the seriousness that came with this track, the epic intensity that the song channels and the tune gives off the ‘don’t mess with me’ impression. I also like the focus on the rappers, with majority of the song going back and forth between BX and Hyunsuk. The song did lack strong vocal moments, which I think would have been more enticing. I felt Bae Jinyoung’s pre-chorus segment the most awkward in the song and that is why I thought so. (8/10)
3. Rewind – Rewind starts off with really smooth harmonies before launching into a loaded rap sequence. For the chorus, they went with melodic vocals and light bouncy synth-based instrumentation which gave off some hip-hop influences. My favourite part is when Hyunsuk said ‘Let’s Rewind’ before the song throws in a rewinding effect and we launch back into smooth vocals and a bumping rap sequence (similar to how the song started, but with a few changes to keep the song interesting). I thought the chorus was also quite catchy. All of this made the song standout for me. (9/10)
4. Bystander – I found Bystander to be a very smooth number. The vocal work and the subtly groovy instrumentation went very well with one another. It was extremely pleasant overall, and this gave the song an appealing feel. I liked how low this song went, which kind of reminds me of their Movie Star track in that sense. Despite its ‘smooth’ impression, the song is loaded with textures in a very subtle manner. From the rapping to the crunchy instrumentation, followed by the pauses in the music towards the end of the song. Finally, I liked how they all sang together at the end. (8.5/10)
5. Maybe I – The final song on the album is a R&B number that feels extremely chilled in comparison to the rest of the album. I give the group an opportunity to show off their vocal and rapping skills in a more wholesome manner. I feel like BX’s rapping is the cleanest in this song, alongside the vocals, which isn’t hidden or masked by much autotune in this song. The song is about a breakup, but I could help think about the lack of emotion in their voices. I feel like it needed more of that to be more impactful. (7/10)
2019 has been a big year for rookies, particularly the ones formed featuring the members of Wanna One. All of the members have released music in the past year and many have or are gearing up for their second comeback. Joining this list is CIX, which features Bae Jin Young. Alongside BX, Seunghun, Yonghee and Hyunsuk, CIX returns today with Numb, and their second mini-album, Hello Chapter 2: Hello, Strange Place. This follows CIX’s Korean and Japanese debut with Movie Star.
Numb felt like a smooth song at first. The verses give off a nice melodic feel, which made the song feel promising for me and potentially a great followup to Movie Star. But the EDM drop that featured in the song dispelled this quite quickly. It did break that promising feeling and it feels very different to their debut track. But it isn’t all bad news. Instead, it introduces a new level of intensity, which makes the song feel intriguing. It all leads the song into unexpected territory for me (relative to how the song started). I just felt there should have been a transition between the verses and chorus to make the song feel more cohesive. Instead, the chorus is literally detached from the rest of the track. I also felt like the song could have been a little more catchy as I find it hard to identify any strong hooks in the song minus the foreign influence in the chorus. The vocals and rapping are great. The lyrics of the song also seem to add an extra layer of tension, with it looking like the lyrics are taking a stab at modern societal pressures of students in a school setting, around friends, bullies and overall doing well at school.
The music video even goes to that length of depicting a school setting. But in a very dramatic and almost apocalyptic way. I think it shows the members being friends at one point. But I think the way the Korean education system operates is a competition between students to see who is the best, with parents assisting their children in any way possible to place their kids on top of the others. It seems like this drove a stake into the friendship of the members, as seen by the building being torn apart with two students on each half of the building. Using the school logic, if something was to happen to the other then you push ahead to place higher than them. But Bae Jin Young takes a stand in the music video, offering a hand to the friend who would have fallen to their death in the music video, which I think is a subtle way of saying that things should be just that one way. It is a video concept that depicts the problem in an extreme manner. But it effortlessly makes the point clear.
I thought the dance for this was really good. The chorus routine was very powerful, fitting for the EDM that the song opted for in that section. The verses were good but I don’t think they were amazing standout parts like the chorus. I also think the choreographers/company are favouring Bae Jin Younga little too much. He was in the centre of the performance a fair bit, leaving the best of the members with little centre time. Not his fault though, as this would be at the discretion of their company and production team.
Song – 7/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 7.5/10 Overall Rating – 7.7/10
It is always exciting to write album reviews for groups that had just debut. As there is a very high chance that I will be following their careers through albums reviews for as long as they are around. CIX debuted two weeks ago with Hello Chapter 1: Hello, Stranger. They have also won a music show award with their new track, Movie Star. This made them the fastest male group to win a music show award after debuting (i.e. 7 days). Let’s see the album that helped contribute to this win!
1..What You Wanted – Kicking off their debut mini-album is What You Wanted. The song has a very nice sleek feel. The instrumental is very standard and feels very weighted. But this is a good thing as it gives rise of their ‘downward melody’ that they feature in the chorus. And this downward melody was very catchy, meaning the album opened with a memorable tone. Likewise, the vocals were quite good. The rapping was a little hit and miss for me. I thought the first half of the rapping was good. But things got messy during the second half of the chorus. (8/10)
3. Like It That Way – We move to something a little brighter through Like It That Way. The instrumental primarily features a reggae beat. There is a little more percussion to it as the song progresses. But overall, I would consider the track to be light in terms of its tone. Other than that, I thought the singing was okay. It doesn’t really showcase anything new, which is my overall impression of the song as well. The rapping manages to give it a little more definition. But it really isn’t enough to really make it memorable. It is more of a skippable song if I was to describe it in some way. (6.5/10)
4. Imagine – And now we move onto a track with a more upbeat nature, in conjunction with the song’s previous brighter tone. With the way the song directs itself to the pop genre, I already find it more captivating than the preceding track. There are a little disco and groovy influence on the song instrumental, which really helps make the song slightly more memorable. Unfortunately, I did think the member’s vocals were a little weak. I think if they managed to boost their vocals with some sort of definition aid, I think they would have stood out more. With that said, I find the rapping and Jinyoung’s whispering in the bridge to be my picks for more captivating moments of the song. (7.5/10)
5. The One – To me, The One finds itself within a very typical territory. It does have a feel of a ballad, as it does lack loudness and energy. But the instrumental was more dance centred, with synths present and an R&B tone to really bring everything together nicely. I find their execution of the different elements to be very interesting. I have been unimpressed with the vocal work for the last two tracks on the album. But I found the vocal work to be very nice here. Sure, there aren’t new techniques being shown off. But it sounds really well balanced over the synth R&B instrumental. The rapping had some oophm to it, which I thought was very cool as well. It ended the album in a wholesome way, based on its message as well. (8.5/10)
It is time to look closely at a new debuting group! CIX (Complete In X) is a 5-member male group debuting under C9 Entertainment, consisting of Lee Byoung-gon, Kim Seung-hun, Kim Yong-hee, Bae Jin-young and Yoon Hyun-suk. Several of the members are familiar faces we have seen previously throughout the industry. I think the majority of fans will recognise Bae Jin Young, who is a former member of Wanna One (and made his solo debut a few months back). Byoung-gon and Seung-hun were previously on YG Treasure Box but failed to join the lineup of Treasure13 (another upcoming group). They made their debut today with Movie Star.
Two words that I have been using often to describe songs this year is smooth and sleek. Both these words are great descriptions for Movie Star. But I think an even better description is that the song is rather seductive. The way Jinyoung started off the song with his deep voice was very appealing. It is a side of him that we have yet to see, so there is an intriguing side to it. The rest of the song falls in place quite nicely. The song builds up in aesthetics with its rather typical sounding dance instrumental. But there are some small details within the instrumental that draw my attention. The vocals take a soft approach, which I think compliments the seductive and aesthetic nature of the song. Even the melody does the exact same thing. The rapping adds that dynamic touch (its that other word I word too often) that feels like ‘icing on the cake’. I really like the outro, which really draws the song to a close in a fitting fashion for fans who want to listen to just that tiny bit more.
The music video takes what I mentioned above on board and manage to transform it into a very appealing visual aid for the song. Each member is quite handsome, so the music video already has that box ticked. Somehow Jinyoung makes a jumper with many holes in it look fashionable, proving my point. The music video sets look really cool. And with the different camera angles, the video shines quite cool. I really like the use of white and black in the video, along with that one dominant colour when it comes to coloured lighting in the video. I find this is very stylish and modern.
The choreography also encapsulates what is said above. The moves play on that seductive nature of the song. But it keeps it relatively simple, which matches the more aesthetic nature. You don’t need bold moves to really show off style and this proves just that. Well played by CIX and their choreographers.
Song – 9.5/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.6/10