[Album Review] Arcade: V (6th Mini Album) – GHOST9

Next album to be reviewed this weekend is GHOST9’s Arcade: V, the group’s 6th mini-album since their debut. It was released back in April of this year and features the title track X-Ray. X-Ray is largely the reason why I checked out this mini-album and decided to put it on the reviewing list. Also, my goal to review more albums from artists whom I don’t usually write album reviews for had a play in my decision to review Arcade: V, as well. (I actually have not reviewed a GHOST9 mini-album before).

Overall, it is a decent mini-album. I do think the title track is the strongest track on the mini-album (spoiler: X-Ray actually grew on me substantially and even topped one of the Weekly KPOP Charts post since its release – see below). However, the side tracks do follow through well. The mini-album predominately visits pop through the side tracks, as well as EDM via the title track (and intro track). Let me know if you agree with my thoughts of the mini-album and individual tracks down below!

Arcade: V Album Cover

1. Dot (닻) – Launching us right into the mini-album is Dot, an introductory track spanning just over a minute. The bass and accompanying EDM is quite alluring and kept the song dynamic. The rapping had a punch and brought expressive energy to the song. However, the vocals were the weakest aspect. For some reason, majority of the vocals approached Dot is a very low manner, which in turn allowed Dot’s instrumentation to really take over and dominate. Some refinement would be beneficial to the song, especially since the melodies were good. (7/10)

2. X-Ray (Title Track) – As already mentioned, X-Ray has grown substantially since I had last reviewed it, thanks to the chorus. It has grown so much that it went on to top the Weekly KPOP Charts for the 2nd Week of April 2022. As a result, I have decided to bump the rating to a 9/10 and will return in the future to explain why the rating has gone up. Click here for my initial thoughts of X-Ray. (9/10)

3. CHAMPIONCHAMPION features a combination of dramatic and punchy electro synths, a subtle groove and some common boxing sound effects. Altogether, we get a thrilling dance track that is bound to get some adrenaline coursing through your veins. I really liked the consistent intensity that features throughout the song, which helps take everything to the next level. The rapping adds a dynamic and serious touch to the song. The vocals bring a smooth inclining melody to the song via the pre-chorus, whilst also bringing a memorable melody to the chorus. (8/10)

4. T.Y.T (Take You There)T.Y.T changes up the mini-album by infusing some pop into the tracklist. It is more vocal centric, giving the vocalists a chance to shine on the album. I appreciate it, as the vocals sound really nice and sweet throughout. The chorus has a nice fast tempo backing to it, amping the existing instrumental up in a typical but also satisfying manner. The anthem-like post-chorus hook that we get was a bit traditional, but really concentrates everything I really mentioned thus far. My only problem with the song is the not so exciting second verse. It just felt flat and didn’t live up to the rest of the song. I wished that the second verse kept the first’s atmospheric start but built on it to make it more stunning. (8/10)

5. Always, All Ways – Continuing on with the pop direction is Always, All Ways. However, Always, All Ways is not a repeat of T.Y.T. Instead, the producers really gave the song some strong and some unique moments that helps it stand out. The whispery like ‘Keep me fly’ rapping in the verses was quite cool. The subsequent rapping that follows to lead us to the chorus was definitely a nice ramp up the song’s central piece. The chorus has a dynamic kick to it and that squeaky muted brass synth was quite cool. I do think Always, All Ways could have been a bit bolder in some respects and this would have taken the song to the next level. But overall, a strong side track from the group. (9/10)

6. StrangerStranger has a neat backing piece, complete with pulsing beats, robust trap elements and a harp-like synth. On top of that, solid vocals and rapping throughout and a recognisable melody. Altogether, Stranger comes together to form a wholesome track. However, it is more so a typical R&B/pop dance release. I was kind of hoping for a change of momentum, ever so slightly to make Stranger more dynamic and appealing. But it was a decent track, overall. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

Arcade: V Teaser Image

[Review] X-Ray – GHOST9

One last review for this week before I head off for the long weekend (Happy Easter to those who celebrate!). For this review, I have decided to bounce back in time to last week to review GHOST9’s X-Ray, which dropped last Thursday. It is the title track off the group’s sixth mini-album, Arcade: V and is also the group’s first comeback since the release of Control in November of last year.

When I consider the verses of X-Ray, the song is pretty much your standard dance track. Nothing more, nothing less. I wished the instrumental hit harder, as the song’s intention of being powerful and heavy just doesn’t hit the mark for me. While there are some productions that excel at this style, there is a large majority of releases that tend to fall into the ‘typical’ pile of this style and doesn’t 100% deliver. And X-Ray‘s verses falls into the latter pile. However, X-Ray has its chorus to thank for disrupting this typicalness, inserting a refreshing element and taking it in a different direction. The chorus features Junhyung (standout member alert!) delivering his line at a higher tone, which offsets the intended heaviness of the song. The melody was also quite memorable. Had the instrumental been a bit more innovative (it is fine as it is, just it lacks some sort of punch that potentially could have taken the song to the next level), X-Ray‘s main centrepiece would have been aesthetic as heck. But it is still a standout moment in this song. I like how the song’s main hook’s melody was repeated in a chanty form at the end, which finishes off X-Ray in a neat yet revamped manner, but also keeping it close to its foundations. Elsewhere, the vocal work and rapping were fine. Though, I felt they could have gone harder to infuse and give off more energy, intensity and power. This would have been a big help to X-Ray.

Most of the music video also felt typical. The settings chosen by the producers for the video had that (i.e. the abandoned room, the hallways, the outside of the building scenes) were staged to look edgy, but I necessarily didn’t get that vibe from those scenes. However, the grayscale scenes and some of the editing of the music video (i.e. transitions) looked really cool and had a level of visual aesthetic that was memorable. I particuarly enjoyed the grayscale closeup that focused on hair colour instead. That was the most promising aspect of this video.

I liked the performance’s ‘snap & release’ moves that featured heavily in the chorus. It looked good, and definitely showcased the song in much stronger light. But other that, it was a good performance, but with little else standing out.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Control – GHOST9

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Returning yesterday was GHOST9, with their title track Control and fifth mini-album Now: Who We Are Facing. This is the group’s third comeback of the year, following the releases of SEOUL in March and Up All Night June of this year. This is also the group’s first comeback as a seven member group, following the sudden departures of members Hwang Dongjun and Lee Taeseung.

Despite such a promising and interesting start to the song, GHOST9’s Control ended up developing into a pretty generic and tasteless song. I hate to be crude, but I just didn’t get much out of Control. I saw the start of Control as very intriguing, thanks to the Erlkönig sample that the producers opted to use. It isn’t the first time we have heard dramatic piano work in a KPOP song, but its presence in this song promised potential and definitely could have been a start to a theatrical or dramatic song. I liked how they kept the vibe throughout the first verse, backed up with some powerful rapping and melodic vocals in the pre-chorus. However, once we get to Control‘s chorus, the song just felt flat. They kept the same elements as the verses (which I was on board with), but the song failed to really build on it. We get the slightest amount of bolstering possible for the chorus, but it was not nearly as satisfying as I had expected. Control could have gone for a harder and bolder feel to be memorable and impactful. But it just didn’t work out. Similarly, the rest of Control then felt like a repeat of what we heard at the start, and didn’t offer anything more. I didn’t feel like a peak was reached, nor was there any considerable development in the instrumentation, vocals, rapping etc. So why I do I feel this way about Control? I partly blame this on the trap-based instrumentation that paired with the piano throughout the song. I gave it the benefit of the doubt at the start, but it became tiresome and dry very quickly. But it isn’t just the instrumentation. There were other opportunities for the song to be bolster or develop that Control didn’t really grasp. The vocals and rapping had hints of aggression throughout the song which I tend to like. But in this song, they never really amounted to anything substantial. The melodies, especially the what should have been the centerpiece, was lackluster. Unfortunately, whatever potential Control had at the start was lost, and so ultimately Control just felt plain and underwhelming in the end.

I find the rest of the comeback to be much more promising than the song. The music video opted for a dark concept and a twist that I thought was rather clever. We see the members confined and trapped by a masked individual, who seems to have the members under its control (i.e. the masked individual was the dominating presence). And while the members are shown as victims throughout majority of the video, the twist at the end was that the members were the ones in control the entire time and were the masked individual. This is an interesting play on the lyrics, which urged the listener to wake up from the ‘dark’ control to be with them. I guess we do get hints of this twist throughout the video, with the member at the start waking up by the word ‘maestro’ written on the ground, and that very disturbing smile from another member from one of the group scenes (see feature image for that smile).

The performance was actually quite good. I liked the ripple effect they paired with the piano at the start of the song. I also liked the start of the final chorus, where the members formed themselves into two groups and pulled themselves into one. There were so some really great synchronized moments, and also some more calming moments in the choreography as well.

Song – 5.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance -8.5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Up All Night – GHOST9

Last week, GHOST9 made their second comeback of the year with Up All Night and their fourth mini-album, Now: When We Are In Love. This continues the string of comebacks by the group in a span of less than a year, which (as I had stated in my last review for GHOST9) I am glad for, to help get their name out there. I just hope that the members do get an opportunity to rest and their management doesn’t overwork them (like we have seen happen with other groups in the past). This comeback in particular comes after their February comeback with SEOUL.

Up All Night opts for a lighter and brighter tone, fitting for the Summer season that Korea is currently entering into. All their title tracks thus far have been of of a intense EDM sound, which is very typical for male groups currently. So it is nice to hear GHOST9 switch up their sound for something more pop driven. And as one of the first groups to release song of this fun and bright style, Up All Night has great energy and drive. If the song was released closer to Autumn, I don’t think I would have been as excited for the song as I am now. The song starts off as your standard pop number, pumping in this upbeat energy that is synonymous with having a great time on Summer break. It then leads into a chorus, reminding me of One Direction’s style of pop music back when they were still around. The second half loses that touch slightly to incorporate a bit of rap into the chorus, but it is still as dynamic as the first half. The second verse continue the momentum that has been set for it, continuing the appeal of the song. The bridge of Up All Night slows down a bit, but I feel this just helps the final chorus be just that bit extra impactful (even though I am quite sure it is the same chorus on repeat from earlier). I really enjoyed the rap sequence that formed part of the bridge. It just came in the right time and had all the right vibes for this part of the song. I also really liked the extension to the final chorus, and how they call came together for the final to wrap it up. As for the vocals and rapping, I felt like Up All Night put a really nice display of those elements. Their delivery of both vocals and rapping were fitting for the overall style of the new song, and they were quite clear and crisp to listen to. Up All Night may be a straight forward song in some sense, but I think it was a great showcase of what GHOST9 has to offer outside of EDM.

The chorus blasts you with colour. Most of it wasn’t artificial, however, as the entire video is shot outside. The colours are just vibrant and feel fitting for the Summer season. The invisibility cloak scene and the massive red balls added a cute tone to the video. I do question the flying whale. Not sure what it means exactly, but I have seen it often in KPOP. As for the members, we see them have a bit of fun in the sun and in the shade, bringing forth the energy of the song. Overall, the music video is fitting for the song, so there isn’t much else to ask for.

I really like fun the choreography looked for this comeback. It has this slight bounce to it and I felt some of the moves were just a bit fun infused into the routine (like how they move about in the second half of the chorus). I think there is opportunity in the final chorus for the group to change the routine a bit between performances. It think this would make the performance more enticing to continually check in on.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.9/10

[Review] SEOUL – GHOST9

GHOST9 is back with a brand new single, titled after the capital city of South Korea! SEOUL is featured on the group’s third mini-album, Now: We Are Here. One of the things that I am glad about with GHOST9 is that they (and their management) have already bypassed their first hurdle by already delivering multiple comebacks within less than a year of debut. That is a big feat as they aren’t from a big company, and we have seen many groups from similar companies fail to return after one song. SEOUL follows the release of W.ALL, which was the main title track for their December 2020 comeback.

Within just one listen of SEOUL, I was confident that the new song surpassed their previous title track in terms of likeability, execution and enjoyment. I really liked how the song started off with such an intense introduction, before throwing us a curveball with a higher pitch synth. It was definitely an intriguing start. SEOUL then followed up with the same choppy spiraling synth but at a lower pitch. I liked this reversal as the higher one would have been too whiny to continually listened to, given how much the latter was played throughout the verses. The synth itself brought dynamism, something that I pointed out was lacking in the the verses of W.ALL. It also complimented the lower tone in their members voices when they rapped or sung in the verses. I also liked the energy that the vocals and raps in the verses brought to the section, heightening the dynamism I just mentioned. SEOUL‘s chorus was also pretty good. It went for a more vocal centric approach. I felt that this was a lot less intense and almost softer than their other releases, allowing for a pop vibe to come through. I quite like this changeup for GHOST9 as it brings something different to the table for the group. One thought that did occur to me while listening to the song is that the chorus does feel ever so slightly plain. I feel that was the super critical side of me processing the song. I still enjoyed the chorus nonetheless and would happily continuing listening to the song regardless of that thought. Skipping forward to the bridge of the song, especially with how atmospheric it felt. The heavy thumping made it sound more epic. The higher pitch version of the synth returned just before we launched into the final chorus. I felt quite done with the sound by then, but the higher pitch made it feel reinvigorating and punchy. The ending brought a bit of dubstep to the song, which I quite liked as well. Overall. SEOUL was quite enjoyable.

I was keen on getting a continuation of the big robots that featured in their Think of Dawn and W.ALL music videos. But the music video for SEOUL opted for more traditional icons in the giant department. For this video, the focus was primarily on Seoul (the city) and their giant of choice was a really cool dragon. The city of Seoul was also featured in the video, with the nightline of the city being the centrepiece for this comeback. We saw it behind the choreography shot where they performed on a floating platform which I am assuming is on Han River. We also saw it in their rollercoaster ride, though I assumed this was more post-production than reality. I also liked how they performed in front of the more traditionally structures of the city, acknowledging the culture of the city. The hanboks and jackets worked really well, as well. Overall, a really good video.

I liked the choreography for this comeback, but I felt that it could have been a little more powerful. It was going in the right direction, but I felt their moves were a bit weak and could have been sharpened a bit. I know they employed some smooth moves during the chorus, but that doesn’t mean other parts didn’t need to be a bit sharper. Other than that, I really like the choreography for the bridge and enjoyed the different vibe the ending part had when the dubstep started to come through.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] W.ALL – GHOST9

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Returning for the first time since their debut is GHOST9, with W.ALL. There are so many new male groups this year, so let me give you a quick recap of their debut. GHOST9, who are under Maroo Entertainment (the home of Park Ji Hoon), made their debut back in September of this year with Think Of Dawn. The group consist of nine members, Jinwoo, Kangsung, Prince, Junseong, Taesung, Woojin, Dongjun, Shin and Junhyung. Their debut track was described as ‘decent’ by me. I wonder if they will remain with ‘decent’ or exceed the description… Read on to find out.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what to think about W.ALL. It definitely ticks the box for intensity and energy, thanks to the powerful chorus. The chorus was the definite highlight of the song, one that I look forward to after such verses that are so held back (in terms of energy) now that I have listened to the song and know what to expect. There are two things about the chorus that really gets me. The first has to be the epic feeling the first few seconds of the chorus felt, with the producers of W.ALL and members of GHOST9 ‘bringing it down hard’ with both the instrumentation and vocals, respectively. The second is the dynamic kick of energy we get in the second half of the first and last choruses, which really helps liven up the song and give it so much more appeal. The rest of the song is quite meh (standard, at best) and doesn’t do as enough as the chorus to really help the song. Sure, one could argue that the instrumentation for the chorus is overwhelming. That was my initial thought as well, but time really helped change that perspective. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t anything that can really change up perspective of the verses. If the verses were a little more dynamic and lively in some way, which would have better suited the chorus, I would have enjoyed the W.ALL more. With that, it looks like the group slipped a bit from that ‘decent’ descriptor.

I am a little confused about what the purpose of the massive robots in their music videos. As far as I can tell, the robot in the W.ALL music video is different to the one we saw in the Think Of Dawn music video. Are the music videos and stories meant to join up, or are they standalone music videos with just completely different stories? I can’t tell. Even standalone, I am not sure what the storyline of the W.ALL music video. The members are scattered throughout doing their own thing (cut chains to get into a restricted area, being locked up in a diamond shaped cave, getting chase by scary drones etc.). But they all meet up in the end to activate the robot in this video, which shoots a beam up to the sky. And then at the end, there were two beams shooting up at massive ships in the sky. None of this makes sense to me, and frankly this distracts me from the actual video. I will, however, applaud the sets of the music video and all the post production efforts to make this video look quite cool.

Can we just take a moment and admire their comeback showcase performance for this comeback? It occurred on what seems to be the roof of the tallest building in Busan. That is amazingly cool. Aside from that, the choreography seems like it is the most positive aspect of this comeback. It was a good routine, overall. When it came to the chorus, their moves matched the ‘hitting it hard’ vibe that the song had coming off it. The complexity of some of their formations during the verses also were a great aspect of the choreography.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] Think of Dawn – GHOST9

Another review in the same day? Who am I?

The second debut of last week that I want to cover today is GHOST9’s. The group hails from MAROO Entertainment, which is also the home to Park Ji Hoon. GHOST9 contains nine members (Junhyung, Dongjun, Shin, Kangsung, Junseong, Prince, Woojin, Taesung and Jinwoo), with the latter three also part of the TEEN TEEN project group lineup that made their debut last year with It’s On You. Other members of the group come from MIXNINE and Produce X 101 backgrounds as well. The group made their debut last Thursday with Think of Dawn as the title track.

When I checked out Think of Dawn last week, I didn’t think much of it. And unfortunately, it seems like that statement still stands true a week after it was released. It takes on the noisy side form EDM, with some of the instrumental becoming slightly overwhelming when the focus should have purely been on the member’s vocals and rapping. There are a few examples of noisy EDM that I liked this year and I felt that I would have enjoyed Think of Dawn if the producers mixed the song a bit better, so that the members would have been more of the focus rather than the instrumental. But aside from that, it features a strong instrumentation that is extremely powerful to see on stage (more on that later). And their vocals and rapping were of a good standard. I did like how smooth the falsetto vocals in the pre-chorus and chorus felt, contrasting nicely with the intense and almost-erratic nature of the EDM instrumentation. I feel that the song could have been enhanced with some individual flair. To me, Think of Dawn could have been released by a number of other male groups active this year. It was pretty much a ‘heard before’ sound throughout majority of the track. The instrumental dance breakdown was a pleasant surprise. I liked the inclusion of it and its overall intensity, but this would have been a great opportunity to have gone down a unique route. Overall, a decent debut track.

It seemed like the music video didn’t have much to it other than that choreography and closeup formula (I really need to decide which order the two C’s should be in and stick with it). However, at the very end, we see one of the members flip a switch, revealing the massive cyclops robot that follows the members at the very of the music video. The presence of this robot raises questions, some of which are answered in the prequel video ‘Cinematic World‘. However, how did the members get stuck in the set of this music video? And what did the ending of the prequel video mean? I guess we will find out in their next music video/comeback. Story aside, I find such a robot to be very eerie (how fitting for the month of October) and the suspense at the end really sets the bar for the next comeback. I wished they included some of that suspense throughout the earlier parts of the MV. That would have made the video a little more captivating to watch.

As mentioned earlier, the song enables the performance to be very powerful. And that is exactly what we get. I quite like that. But they could have gone for something a little more impressive at the start. It looked cool but compared to other stunts that we have seen this year, it falls short. The performance climaxes during the instrumental dance break, which looked awesome.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10