[Review] BRAIN – Yang Yoseob (HIGHLIGHT)

After taking a few days off after my album review blitz, I am back with a review of Monday’s main release, BRAIN, by Yang Yoseob (from HIGHLIGHT). The new song is featured as the title track of Chocolate Box, Yoseob’s first ever studio album since his debut 12 years ago. This is also Yang Yoseob’s first solo release since Star and Where I Am Gone in 2019 and his release from the military. Earlier this year, Yoseob returned with his fellow members of HIGHLIGHT for Not The End and The Blowing promotions, marking the end of a two year hiatus for the group.

To me, BRAIN is a fairly straight-forward R&B track. It is always nice to hear something that you can describe as pure and not overly processed or potentially muddled by other influences (which is more so the case of today’s KPOP music). It is also a nice throwback to how Yoseob started his solo career, which was also an R&B track (see my review for Caffeine).I wasn’t a fan of his debut song back then, but I would say my music tastes have matured over the many years since then and can appreciate a song like Brain now. A few elements pop out at me in the newer song. Within the instrumentation, I found the muffled flute to be quite an intriguing centerpiece. At first I didn’t like it, but it drew my attention in quite quickly and dragged out a few additional listens out me. The bass was a much needed element in BRAIN, adding definition to the instrumentation and the song overall. The rest of the instrumentation was more on the typical side of the spectrum and hence the muffled flute and bass really did wonders to make it more attractive. Another element within BRAIN was Yoseob’s vocals. His vocals are smooth and perfectly suited for the R&B genre, and I felt that BRAIN really highlighted that and presented his vocals extremely well. I particularly like Yoseob’s vocals during the bridge, as they seemed to push the song’s boundaries. It might be minute, but it was definitely appreciated. The melodies that he brings to the song also gave BRAIN a tinge of memorability, which works hand-in-hand with the other memorable elements of the song. Overall, BRAIN is a pretty decent song. I am not head over heels for the song, but it is a great return to form for Yoseob and highlights his skills in a manner that is clear and pure.

As for the music video, it is fairly typical. But it was still fine to watch. I did like how the stylist(s) for this comeback changed Yoseob’s image for this comeback. He looks very mature in this music video in his outfits, which is rather different to the image that I am more familiar of him (for those who are wondering, I am much more familiar from his youthful image back in the early days when he was promoting under the name of Beast). Elsewhere in the video, I felt some of the sets provided a bit of sophistication and classiness to the music video. The lighting added a bit of a dramatic flair, especially around the peak of the song.

Choreography-wise, it matched the vibes of the music video. I thought it was classy looking and there was a tinge of sensual energy. It was also elegant and smoothing looking as well. I particularly like the slow shuffling in the chorus and the slow swinging of the legs in the post-chorus hook. I feel like the choreography really lifted up the song, for me.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 7/10
Choreography – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Album Review] The Blowing (3rd Mini Album) – HIGHLIGHT

The next album review I have ready for you is HIGHLIGHT’s return to the industry, The Blowing. HIGHLIGHT is one of few second generation groups making their comeback after a hiatus due to military enlistment. But with all members completely done with their civic duties, the group has regrouped earlier this year for promotions of both the album and title track Not The End, which was released at the start of May of this year. These second-generation groups are what I grew up with and I would really like to introduce all those more recent and new listeners to such groups, through past album reviews (hint hint) and their more recent releases. So without further ado, I present to you HIGHLIGHT.

The Blowing Album Cover

1. Not The End (불어온다) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Not The End. (9/10)

2. Wave – The verses of Wave give off a peaceful vibe, which makes an extremely nice start to the song. The piano is the dominant instrument in the background during the verses, which compliments the lightness of their vocals (which throughout the song are very beautiful sounding). The chorus picks up Wave by adding percussive elements to the background. It gives the chorus that extra meat to make it feel right and adds some oomph to the ballad. The final moments have all the members contributing in a restricted shouty manner. But they did it in a way that remains warm and touching, as like the rest of the song. (9/10)

3. Hey Yeah (밤이야)Hey Yeah adds a bit of energy into the album, being the first upbeat track on the list. It is a pleasant number, with funky guitar and whistling in the background to give it a likeable and enjoyable profile. But I don’t see Hey Yeah as anything more than pleasant. I appreciate the addition of the energy, but Hey Yeah was largely forgettable on the hooks front, and the vocal front. (7/10)

4. Sorry (미안)Sorry features R&B li-fo beats that makes this song ideal for moments where you just want to relax and chill. At first, I didn’t like the additional high pitch effects that are found abundant throughout the instrumentation. But they gave nice texture. Furthermore, it is a good song that has this swaying effect (in time with the beat, of course!). The melodies and vocals in Sorry are really also good and contribute to a pleasant vibe (with room for the song to be more than pleasant!). (8/10)

5. Disconnected Disconnected continues the R&B sound from the previous song. But in this song, the pace is a lot slower and feels more dragged out. This isn’t a problem though, however, as the song still sounds decent. There is more of a beat in this song, compared to some of the other songs on the album. I do wish the vocals had more to them, melody-wise, as this would have given an additional layer of appeal to the song. I do like what the producers did with the vocal processing, giving the song some depth. (7.5/10)

6. Surf – Ending this album is Surf. The saying of ‘saving the best for last’ seems to be true for this album, as Surf is my favourite track on the album. It starts off slow and pretty much like the rest of the album. But the pre-chorus has this jazzy feel to it, where it picks up the song. The chorus takes on a repetitive pop beat, which was rather unexpected. It stays true to the jazzy nature and has great energy. I particularly like how they defined the vocals at the end, ending the song and album is such a cool manner. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

The Blowing Teaser Image

[Review] Not The End – HIGHLIGHT

Kicking starting this week is HIGHLIGHT. It has been two and a half years since we last heard from this second-generation group in 2018 through the release of Outro and Loved. At the time of that release, HIGHLIGHT was a quintet. Since the group’s hiatus due to military enlistment (which all members have now officially completed), the group reformed into a quartet after the departure of the group’s main rapper, Junhyung, due to a scandal in 2019. The group’s lineup now features only Doojoon, Kikwang, Yoseob and Dongwoon. Today, HIGHLIGHT makes their long awaited return with THE BLOWING, which features the title track Not The End.

Not The End is very fitting song for their return. You can tell this by just referring to one line of the song – the song’s main English hook ‘I’m still here. It is not the end‘ which is repeated throughout the song really hones into the fact that despite being around since 2009, the group is still active and will continue pumping out music for their fans (Light or B2UTY). The song’s entire message is that ‘that this is a new beginning, rather than the end’ (taken from Soompi’s article), which also feels fitting for the occasion. Moving away from the meaning of the song, I really like the atmospheric vibes during the verses. The piano work and percussion was all quite captivating and stilling to listen to. What makes Not The End quite memorable is the contrast between the stillness that comes from the verses and the use of the upbeat electronic synths for the chorus. It makes the chorus quite punchy and exciting to listen to. The synths used in this the chorus drops give off a very notable vibrancy that one would expect with songs as you approach/enter in the Summer season. They are pretty traditional synths and aren’t really mind-blowing on their own. But as a whole picture (i.e. the verses and choruses together), Not The End comes off as memorable as Loved (for me, at least). What makes Not The End even better were the vocals. It is definitely nice to hear their familiar voices, particularly since they were one of the first KPOP groups that I listened to (way back in 2009!). I felt their voices brought this really enjoyable sense of warmth and comfort to the verses. It was interesting to hear they kept the same tone for the chorus. I wished they hadn’t as their voices could have been slightly louder and strengthened to match the energy coming off the chorus’s instrumentation. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed and overpowered by the instrumentation in the chorus. But overall, Not The End still is a touching return for the group.

The music video definitely gets points for being quite aesthetic. I really like how the colours pops out at you, especially when it layered over the white in the video. It really matches the vibrancy of the song. Think of the chorus’s synths and the blue/green that just contrasts so well with the plain white sets during the choreography scenes. I am sure each member’s solo scenes in this video has some sort of purpose that somehow corresponds to the new beginning that the members sing about in this song. But I am entirely sure what I am seeing. I might have a theory that one of Kikwang’s main props is a bare tree in the middle of his set, while Yoseob’s scenes feature a forest mural – showcasing that there is potential for that tree to re-begin its life and become a lush green forest. For Dongwoon, his scene features flowers which are very much alive. But Doojoon repurposes the flowers into perfume, which shows you that even while you may be growing and maturing, you still have that opportunity to change yourself to become something else. It is a wild and out there theory, but that is what I got from the video.

I really like softness that really prevails in this performance. It adds a nice delicate touch to the performance, despite it being quite fitting for the upbeat energy we get from the synths in the chorus. The choreography also looks sharp, which made this performance look even better. I am also impressed that their performance skillset has not been impacted despite a hiatus and the fact that they are in their 30s.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Review] Lonely Night – Yoon Do Jun (HIGHLIGHT)

It has also been a while since we heard from HIGHLIGHT. That is because HIGHLIGHT has reached that stage of their lives where they needed to enlist into the military, a hurdle that all male KPOP idols have to overcome. Yoon Du Jun finished his enlistment earlier in the year and is currently awaiting the return of his fellow members before promoting under the name of HIGHLIGHT once again. But while he is waiting, Yoon Du Jun jumped right back into music promotions with his solo debut! Today, Yoon Du Jun released his first mini-album, Daybreak, which features the title track, Lonely Night.

Given that Yoon Du Jun has been active in the music industry through his works with HIGHLIGHT (or Beast), I wasn’t exactly sure what direction he would take his solo work with. Lonely Night seems to be a R&B dance track and I have concluded that this really suits him. There is that sleek feel to the song which one would commonly associate with R&B. But the rest of the instrumentation indicates something a little heavier and more upbeat, like a song that you would associate with choreography. And the combination of the two that results in Lonely Night creates a classy atmosphere and an engaging energy that draws my fingers and mouse pointer back to the replay button. What I also really enjoy in this song is his vocals. I never really picked up on Yoon Du Jun’s vocals during his group promotions before. But here, it sounds like he has been the main vocalist of his group since forever and that I have completely overlooked him. His vocals have a subtle husky nature to them that I really enjoyed. During the chorus, his harmonies with his own backing vocals was superb. There was also interesting melodies/delivery, such as the opening sequence to the second verse. Overall, Lonely Night was a great debut track and does Yoon Du Jun’s vocals justice.

The song is about the loneliness that he feels after a busy day. The feeling comes during the night, as during the day he has to pretend that he is okay. Throughout the video, we see Yoon Du Jun throughout the night, all alone. The way I see this video is that regardless of what life he lives, he will always be lonely. The first half of the video makes it looks like he is rich and he gives off movie star vibes. It looks like he was just part of a fight, so I am assuming he is an action movie star. But at night, he goes to the bar and drinks alone, which draws our attention to his loneliness. The people around him looks in his direction because I presume they recognise him due to his movie star status. The second part of the music video shows Yoon Du Jun living a humble ordinary life in his apartment. There isn’t people there to highlight his loneliness. Rather the director chose to have everything around him frozen in midair, while Yoon Du Jun moves about normally. That was a clever way of showing his loneliness in a more profound and explicit manner. The rest of the video showed Yoon Du Jun alone in multiple contexts, all complimenting the song’s lyrics.

At this stage, there is no choreography for this comeback. I am not entirely sure whether he will be promoting his solo debut. I do hope he does and if we get a stage version of this performance, I will come back to update the review accordingly. For now, I will keep the ‘overall rating’ focused on the song and video.

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

[Review] In The Silence – Son Dongwoon (HIGHLIGHT)

As mentioned previously on a number of reviews. many male idols have reached the age in which they have to enlist into the military. And since it is common for some members to hold off, it has resulted in entire groups enlisting around the same time. HIGHLIGHT is one of the names that come to mind. Doojoon, Yoseob and Gikwang have all enlisted, while Dongwoon has been confirmed to start early next month. Even former member Junhyung has enlisted. So, while we won’t be getting any highlights for the next two years or so, Dongwoon has left us with a new solo mini-album and the title track, In The Silence.

In The Silence is a classically driven instrumental ballad. And it is a beautiful ballad, despite its emotional lyrics, that is bound to make people cry. Essentially, Dongwoon asks for the end of his relationship because he knows the direction it is going will just be painful for him and his lover. In a sense, it is a very hurtful way to part with someone but logically it makes senses. But it sounds like it isn’t a permanent breakup, so I guess it can be related to him parting ways for the next two years. But as I said, it has a beautifully sounding instrumental and his voices pairs amazingly with it. You can fill the emotions and pain behind his voice, which I think makes this song so much more touching. Never did I expect a high note from him but he does so in a way that gives the song that peak it needed but also adds to that emotion. Overall, it is a nice ballad that I am sure that I will be returning to often in the coming weeks.

The music video is extremely simple but it is definitely one that ‘speaks volumes’. It starts an empty chair and later with Dongwoon sitting alone. Surrounding him is a bunch of empty chairs that the classical instrument players will later fill up. I found that to be extremely impactful, relating back to his need to ‘leave’ and ‘be alone’. I found the scenes with the light swinging across his face (and him sitting in pitch darkness) to be equally as haunting. The black and white filter just makes things so much more aesthetically pleasing.

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

[Review] Don’t Close Your Eyes (D.C.Y.E) – Lee Gikwang (HIGHLIGHT) ft. Kid Milli

Making his solo comeback today is Lee Gikwang! He returns with his brand new single, Don’t Close Your Eyes, which is expected to be his last single before he enlists into the military next month. This is his first solo release since his solo debut last year with What You Like. I am glad that Gikwang went ahead with his comeback, especially since one of his fellow members (Junhyung) withdrew from HIGHLIGHT due to the ongoing chatroom scandal. I know that Gikwang had nothing to do with it but I thought the withdrawal would somehow affect the other members. But I guess not, thankfully.

Don’t Close Your Eyes should really be renamed Don’t Block Your Ears. D.C.Y.E is a very addictive song to listen to. Even though it has been out for several hours, I am already falling for its groovy nature and upbeat instrumentation. It is an R&B dance track that gives out major Michael Jackson vibes through the use of the small vocal details. I also really like the seductive chat-like style of vocals he went for during the chorus. It doesn’t necessarily go with the instrumentation in my opinion. But it somehow works well. The song also features Kid Milli, who does an extended rap sequence in the song. I am not familiar with Kid Milli in any way but his section gives the song a very urban and refreshing feel, which makes it stand out. Together, Gikwang gives us one memorable track to savour for the next 2 years or so.

The music video seems to also be a treat for fans. Abs and shirtless scenes galore for fans to really enjoy. I found the video to be very nice and sleek. I did like the emphasis on black and the darkness, which I personally find to be a very modern way of presentation. It is a lot harder to see things but the light really makes things pop and standout this way. When I also mentioned Michael Jackson vibes, you get some in the visuals of the video. The backup dancers were wearing suits and hats, similar to the outfit that the King of Pop donned during his Smooth Criminal days (but their outfits is fitting for the music video). Most notable influence has to be through the sparkly gloves, something that Michael Jackson is known for.

I think given the quality of the song and the fact that Gikwang is widely known for his dancing, you probably have a winning combination. And that is what I saw in the music video. While it may have been made fancier through the use of the darkness and lighting in the video, I thought the moves were very cool and fitting for a sleek performance.

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

[Album Review] Hard To Love, How To Love (2nd Studio Album) – HIGHLIGHT / BEAST

For this week’s Past Album Review, we will be diving into a HIGHLIGHT (or BEAST, as they were commonly known during that part of career) album. While I do plan to slowly go through their earlier releases, I chose Hard To Love, How To Love based on my enjoyment of their title track for this album, which is Shadow (link below within the actual review). The album also contains an introductory track but like most album reviews, I have left it off.

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Hard To Love, How To Love Album Cover

2. Shadow (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Shadow. (8.5/10)

3. How To LoveHow To Love was promoted in the final week of promotions for this album, as a special follow up. A music video dedicated to fans was released to accompany the extra week of promotions. While the song takes on the ballad route, it is bright and pop-ish (unlike their other ballads) and definitely very catchy. I remember the ‘How To Love, Love Love…” line being engraved into my mind for that week. I also really liked the vocals in the song, which added a sweet element to the song. The instrumental was also quite soothing and easy going, which was quite appealing as the other songs on the album did have a harsh side to them. (8/10)

4. Be Alright – If you want a little bit of electronic mixed into a pop song, then Be Alright is your song. When I listen to this song now for the review, I realised the song reminds me of their Good Luck days. It might be due to the electronic synths they used in the song. But on top of that, they applied a filter on top of the ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright’ part of the bridge to stagger the sound, which I thought was a nice way to cut the repetitiveness of the track. Once again, the vocals for the song were nice but the winning member was Junhyung, whose tone is perfect for a song of this nature. (8/10)

5. I’m Sorry (Pre-release Track) – This was the second track revealed from the album prior to the release of the album. And this is more of the sound that I like from Beast when it comes to ballads. They do sound best when they have emotions backing their vocals and this is exactly what they demonstrated in the song. I really liked how Junhyung is used as a backing during the chorus, which I thought was interesting given the contrast between deeper and higher tones. I also liked the guitars in the instrumental. I think the song could have been had a little more impact to bring it up to the standard of their more successful pre-releases, but this was still good nonetheless. (7/10)

6. Will You Be Alright? (Pre-release Track) – This was the first track revealed from the album prior to its release. While I did like the ballads that Beast (their name at the time of the releases) released, this one was easily forgotten and passable when I listen to the album. Why do I think that? Well, everything felt okay. And that just didn’t really do much for me. The song contained a nice melody and was quite pleasant. The vocal work was also quite nice but it wasn’t the most amazing piece on the album. And the instrumental felt standard, at best. So it was good, overall, but not their best sound. (6/10)

7. Hate You – I liked Hate You for its instrumental. The song falls into the standard pop domain but there is something about the instrumental that makes the song quite appealing to me. I am not really 100% sure what this certain element is but I did like the laidback nature of it. I thought the heavy nature that the title alluded to went nicely with the light tone of the music. The vocals and raps here were quite nice. There was also a nice melody. I think the main issue about the song is that it feels very standard but I think all the other elements make up for it. (7.5/10)

8. Encore – Wrapping up the album is the most techno-based song on the album. Encore. It does throw you back to that era when techno music was the big thing of the music industry. Encore felt cheesy but that was the descriptive word that I would describe most trendy techno-pop songs from back in the day. I have to admit that the vocals and raps in the song were really well done and I am slightly surprised that they weren’t more autotuned. It gets the blood pumping for the end of the album, leaving us all with a high. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

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Hard To Love, How To Love Teaser Image

[Album Review] Outro (1st Special Album) – HIGHLIGHT

HIGHLIGHT returned earlier in the week with their special mini-album, Outro. This special mini-album serves as the group’s final mini-album before the member’s impending enlistment into the military. Doojoon, the leader of the group, has already enlisted, with Yoseob following in January of next year. Despite that, Doojoon does feature on the mini-album. The group also paired up, treating us with two duets (Yosoeb & Dongwoon and Junhyung & Gikwang).

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Outro Album Cover

1..Loved (사랑했나봐) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Loved. (9/10)

2. Wind (바람) (Yoseob & Dongwoon)Wind is an R&B ballad that combines the vocals of both Yoseob (who is known for his solo work in R&B and ballads) and Dongwoon (who I believe has released a few ballads in the past). It is a nice and warm track that I think would be ideal on a cold day. Vocal work is nice. But there really isn’t much else to the song. I didn’t really get into it because it quite slow for my liking and the melody wasn’t that appealing to my personal taste. The instrumental didn’t offer much but I did like the fading out, which complements the slow nature of the song and genre. (6/10)

3. Leave Me Alone (내버려 둬) (Junhyung & Gikwang) – The way Leave Me Alone starts off felt like a G-Dragon song. It isn’t until Junhyung starts rapping and Gikwang starts singing does it feel like a Highlight song. It was upbeat and something up my alley. It felt dynamic and I like the way they autotuned some of their vocals to give a different effect. Both members shined in this song, so there wasn’t a really dominant member, which shows a successful collaboration. I liked the wholesome feel of the ending, minus the actual sharp stop to the song. (8/10)

4. Nightmare (오늘같은 밤이면) (Doojoon Solo) – Doojoon managed to record Nightmare prior to his enlistment. And I wanted to hear his vocals on the album, as it wouldn’t feel like a proper HIGHLIGHT release without him. And to make things even better, Doojoon’s participation on the album is through a solo single. Nightmare sounds like something very dark. But for this song, it is rather bright and light, quite like a sunny day. I like the pop feel from his song and the melody, which felt refreshing. I think I would have liked something a little heavier sounding, but Nightmare was still quite nice. (7/10)

6. Take Care (잘 지내줘) – Coming right after the instrumental track for Loved is Take Care. It is another ballad, but it serves as their ‘outro’ song for the next two years. I like this ballad more than the previous ballad, with the piano making the song sound so beautiful. Their vocals and raps were amazing in this song. I particularly like Junhyung’s rap sequence in the song, which was done so well for the slow song. For once, it is the music rather than their vocals that convey emotions. And it is this emotion that makes it memorable for me. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.8/10

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Outro Teaser Image

[Review] Loved – HIGHLIGHT

HIGHLIGHT is back with their third mini-album, Outro. This is the group’s first comeback since Celebrate (the group’s second mini-album under the name HIGHLIGHT), which featured the title track Can Be Better. The title track for Outro is Loved and it is also the first single to not feature Doojoon, who is currently carrying out his military enlistment. I believe this is also the group’s last release for the time being as other members will be enlisting in the next year. But in the meanwhile, let’s have a look at Loved.

The song started off as your standard dance track. The start felt very ‘done-before’, leaving the start to be underwhelming to my ears. However, the song started to pick up around Junhyung’s rap. From then on, the song started to gain momentum. But my most favourite part was the chorus. While the concept was rather ‘done-before’, it was totally awesome. The kick the distorted violin gave was much needed and very attention-grabbing. The way it presented was rather bold and I liked that. It did remind me of Ribbon, which also had violins of the same nature.  The vocals were pretty good overall, with all the members doing an amazing job. I particularly like the autotuned ‘사랑했나봐’ just before the chorus. I also liked how mature it sounded, compared to their title tracks from last year which I wasn’t much of a fan of.

I liked the way the video was shot. It seems to show the actress walking through each of the member’s scenes and then the HIGHLIGHT members turning up a second too late. It doesn’t sound like a very normalised topic when it comes to Korean media but I think it was well shot. It goes hand-in-hand with the lyrics, particularly the ‘I will wait for you’ line towards the end of the song. I also like the choreography shots. Especially, the change between lack of colour to an infusion of colour, which resulted in some life and energy to the video.

The choreography, from what I can see in the music video, looks amazing. I think the chorus looked really cool and the staggering that they do with the backup dancers for the second half of the chorus was extremely smart and allowed for some aesthetics. I would like to see what else the dance will offer, so most likely I will return to update this section.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10 (I will return to update this section)
Overall Rating – 8.5/10

[Review] Go Away – Yong Junhyung (HIGHLIGHT)

Making his long-awaited return is Junhyung, the resident rapper of HIGHLIGHT. That being said, Junhyung is not only known for this works as part of HIGHLIGHT but also his many chart-topping singles over the year, such as Wonder If and Sudden Shower (featuring 10CM). This comeback also features his first solo album which is titled as Goodbye 20s. His last album release was back in 2013 with Flower.

The title track is Go Away and it is unlike any other song that I associate with Junhyung. I tend to think R&B when it comes to Junhyung but Go Away is surprisingly upbeat. While there are upbeat R&B and hip-hop songs, the song was quite groovy and ‘bright’ (if you know what I mean). And this new sound actually works well. I was attracted to the song within the first few seconds. The chorus wasn’t that much different, with the way he sings ‘Go Away‘ being my most favourite part of the song. It literally makes the song so much more memorable in my mind. I thought both his vocals and raps shined strongly throughout the song. Though, the singing had an edge, mainly because I am addicted to the way he sings that ‘Go Away‘ line. Overall, Go Away is one amazing comeback song, especially for someone of Junhyung’s calibre.

A few weeks ago, Junhyung released Sudden Shower (featuring 10CM), which happens to be track 4 on his album. The start of the video was a really smart way of introducing the new track by switching from Track 4 to Track 2 (which is the where the title track sits on the tracklist). My guess is that the same director who shot Lovelyz, EXID (and many others) music videos in the past also shot this video, with the rap sequences being quite noticeable. While it is a style seen quite often nowadays, it is always fresh somehow. I also thought the video played well with the lyrics, which talks about a breakup.

I have yet to hear any news about Junhyung promoting his new album and song on stage yet. However, it was seen in the music video that there was choreography, so it looks promising. It looks good from what I can see. Though I feel like a better judgement can be made once a live performance is revealed so I will return when that occurs.

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

[Review] Where I Am Gone – Yang Yoseob (HIGHLIGHT)

Yang Yoseob has finally dropped his first solo comeback since his solo debut back in 2012. Last week, the main vocalist of HIGHLIGHT gave us a small snippet into this latest release with Star. One week later and he has dropped the entire mini-album (White), along with the title track Where I Am Gone.

Once again, Yoseob starts off the song with the traditional ballad route. His first few lines of the song were quite heartbreaking and putting emotions into this vocals is what we know Yoseob for. The song develops more into a pop song once it reaches the chorus and I feel like this is the strongest moment of the song. It was mildly disappointing at first because there wasn’t anything special with the first half of the chorus. The second half, once the autotuned vocals kick in, was definitely more interesting and this gave the song a rougher effect, which contrasted nicely with the rest of the song. It was also quite catchy. Yoseob’s vocals do stand out in this song. It may be a little too plain of the song for us to have a full grasp of his vocal abilities but it enough to prove his status, particularly the bridge and the final chorus. The main issue with this song would have to be its plainness. Yes, it has its moments but you cannot just forget about how incredibly plain the song is. I have a feeling that within a few more listens, I would get bored of it.

I am also on the fence in regards to the video. It is definitely fitting for the song and there were some moments which I did enjoy. It just had a few aspects that should have been more thought out. Let’s start off with the car scene. I personally like the direction but the car seats it used was a little too futuristic for my taste. Maybe one of those olden day cars or something that looked a little more traditional would have worked well with that scene. Also, there is no driver, which is a little concerning. But regarding what I did enjoy, I liked the choreography scenes, particularly those where we only saw the silhouette of the dancers and how Yoseob was the main focus (as he should be) during these scenes.

I did like the solo moment he had with the female backup dancer. Hopefully, that made it into the choreography. But the rest of the performance (judging from the music video only) looked really awkward. He looked stiff and uncomfortable throughout the chorus and this didn’t really relay well back to me when I watched the video. Hopefully, the performance is better.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 5/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

 

[Review] Star – Yang Yoseob (HIGHLIGHT)

After 5 years, Yoseob from HIGHLIGHT will be making his official return as a solo artist. The last time he promoted as a solo artist was at the end of 2012 with Caffeine. Fast forward 5 years and today Yoseob unveiled his pre-release track to his upcoming mini-album, which is due to be released next week. So, let’s begin the countdown to Yoseob’s return by having a listen to his pre-release track, Star.

Like most pre-releases, Star falls under the ballad category. Throw in Yoseob’s vocals and you do have a perfect pairing. And while I did think Star would become a little too straightforward with a consistent ballad instrumental, it did take an unexpected yet welcoming turn. We start off with a slow yet dreamy piano instrumental. From the second verse, the song starts to pick up. Not in a way where it turns into a pop song but rather there is a dramatic buildup with a very deep thumping sound, which resembled thunder. Then came in more classical instruments, which made the song sound so much better. I also liked it how his vocals were at the forefront despite the instrumental change-up, allowing the listener to focus on the vocals and not have it drowned out by the violins. Overall, I really like the ballad.

The music video is essentially a long walk in the snow. That is what Yoseob is doing, which goes well with the song. It just doesn’t work well on the memorability front. They shot at really pleasant places with great camera angles, which visually worked well as well. Besides that, I don’t much else to comment on with regards to the video.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 6/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Can Be Better – HIGHLIGHT

HIGHLIGHT is back and this time they are “celebrating” their 8th year since their debut in 2009. Oh, how fast has time been. Their latest mini-album is titled, appropriately, as Celebrate and features the title track, Can Be Better. This is their first comeback since their repackaged album, Calling You.

Continuing their run with their more cheerful and vibrant songs, HIGHLIGHT manages to nail it once again with Can Be Better. Actually, they might just have hit the bull-eyes with this song. From the very first listen, the song was so upbeat that my body just wanted to get up and dance. It was catchy and definitely addictive to listen to. Little did I know that in a couple of hours, I actually played the song so much more than any other song today.  There isn’t anything that special about the song’s instrumental. But the atmosphere that the vocals and the raps add to the song gives it such a lively background. Though I do miss the darker side of the group, I have to admit the brighter side is doing wonders for them.

The music video reflects well with the song. It has a more humorous side to it, which makes it more appealing to watch. And I think it ties in well with their message. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if you are having a bad day. It happens and you just might not know what will happen next. It did get confusing towards the end with how each of them manages to step into the freezer and somehow get stuck inside that. I would like to see the aftermath of all the events, but I think the party scenes seem to be what followed.

[Updated] The dance matched the song in terms of that cheerful and bright side. It looked like the dance was choreographed based on wanting to have fun and that was portrayed very nicely. It was also the type of song that could have any dance and the only element required was the fun side of it.

Song – 9.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10 [Updated]
Overall Rating – 9.5/10 [Updated]

[Review] What U Like – Lee Gikwang (HIGHLIGHT)

Lee Gikwang, who is commonly known to be part of HIGHLIGHT (formerly Beast), was actually previously a solo artist under the stage name of AJ before he debuted with the group. However, his solo career was put on hold for the debut of Beast and has not promoted as a solo artist since his debut in 2009. Until today, where he dropped his track What U Like and 2nd mini album, One.

The track is underwhelming. It doesn’t appeal to my taste and it just doesn’t have the energy that I sought. I can see why some people would like it. It has some nice hooks and the overall sound contributes to a nice atmosphere. The track is easy on the ears and seems to separate itself from the competition for its combination of styles. The song is a mashup between that ongoing tropical style trend that KPOP has been experiencing and that minimalistic style of music. But the two doesn’t really go together. Tropical based music is meant to be energetic and the minimalistic nature just kills those vibes. And the same can be said the other way around. The vocals were great. They actually have this smoothness to them, which I thought was cool. This is just my personal opinion at the time of writing. It may or may not change with even more listens in the coming weeks and months. Gikwang’s solo return is definitely much appreciated but his song doesn’t do the job for me. (There is actually another song on the album which drew my attention: Misunderstand. Check it out here!).

The same can be said about his music video. I liked the setting (some urban place in Korea that keeps popping in music videos) and the cinematography was pretty good. The use of those coloured clouds looks amazing, as well.  But I found the video a tad boring to watch. Besides some solo shots and choreography, there isn’t anything else in the video to talk about. So I am going to poke at something that I usually don’t speak about. His outfits in the video look really good. I would never be able to pull off his style and it makes me slightly jealous.

Gikwang is known for his dancing. From his solo stages to his group work, there is a lot of expectations for his comeback in terms of choreography. There hasn’t been a full performance yet. However, from what I see in the music video, I think it looks like it is going to be a nice performance to look out for.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] Calling You – HIGHLIGHT

HIGHLIGHT (formerly Beast) is back with their repackaged mini-album. The group made their “debut” back in March of this year with Plz Don’t Be Sad and the mini-album Can You Feel It?. Calling You is the song being reviewed today, which is also the title track of the repackaged album (surprise, surprise).

When I heard that the group was going to release a new song, I was super excited. Mainly because I was super excited. Plz Don’t Be Sad ended up being a really catchy and addictive song. But if I was being honest regarding Calling You, you all will be very disappointed. I don’t see the same happening for Calling You, which even shocked me since I love all of their past title tracks. Per usual, the group threw in their grand vocals for this song, while still maintaining a pop-influenced instrumental. All the members sang in the song, which still surprises me til this day. The song is bright and vibrant (something that HIGHLIGHT only started doing since they “debuted”). Moving along to why I don’t see it catching on (for me). It doesn’t feel dynamic or catchy. There was an apparent hook throughout the chorus, but it didn’t seem strong enough. It felt more like a fan-service song than an actual title track (was that its intention, I am not too sure). Finally, the song felt like it ended a little too soon and didn’t reach the end that it needed. It kind of awkwardly faded away.

I actually liked the music video a lot more. You see the guys gather at a local Korean food stand, but all in their own scenarios. It seems like all the guys have someone constantly on their mind and throughout the video are trying to forget about that person through drinking and various activities. But those feelings were probably too strong and they all end up trying to make some sort of contact in the video. Besides the plot, I thought the video looked good overall. I thought the part where everyone got up to dance looked pretty cool. My main question is: ‘What is Junhyung wearing?”. But besides, great video!

It seems like HIGHLIGHT is continuing with the playful side we saw in Plz Don’t Be Sad. While it was tone down for the song, you could tell by their facial expressions and lightheartedness throughout the performance. Not that memorable but it does suit the song very nicely.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.5/10

 

[Review] Wonder If – Junhyung (HIGHLIGHT) ft. Heize

After rebranding into HIGHLIGHT, there were rumours floating about with Junhyung’s impending return as a solo artist. It seems like those rumours were true and hence we are all here today. Junhyung previously made his solo debut with Flower and returned last year with After This Moment (featuring Davii). His comeback is titled as Wonder If and features Heize.

Junhyung delves into the RnB side of the Korean music scene with his latest release. His main duty if HIGHLIGHT is to be the main rapper, however, here he sings the entire song. Something that is a little foreign for the established rapper. That being said, I always find rappers have a unique voice that lets them add a different colour to their group songs. Here, Junhyung shines like never before with his catchy and addictive track. It’s the RnB feel that I enjoy listening to. The chorus was probably the best bit of the entire song. I love the way he delivered his lines as if it was to make it jaggered, yet somehow remaining smooth the entire way. The melodies during the chorus are also amazing. While I did say his voice shines, the track does feel quite neutral as you move towards the end. Heize’s featuring was the much-needed relief and added that needed colour to the song. Her voice also gives the song an extra level of depth, which ends up transforming the song into something even better. Overall, this song is one really amazing and worthwhile collaboration.

The same cannot be said about the music video, unfortunately. While I enjoyed the song, the video feels empty and lacking. There isn’t a whole much going on in the video, besides Junhyung singing in various sets. I am not the type of person who would sit around and watch that. Even Heize’s addition to the video couldn’t save the video for me. The video was dark, which matches Junhyung’s associated sound and style. The video was edited to seem like you were drunk, which did give it an alluring appeal, which only lasted for a while. Besides that, I am not a fan of the video.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 5/10
Overall Rating –  7.5/10