[Album Review] BXXX (2nd Mini Album) – Ha Sung Woon (HOTSHOT)

It is time to return to solo acts. Hahaha… As far as I know (at this stage), this is the only solo act album review I will be doing for the time being (I have decided to drop Kang Daniel’s solo debut mini-album as I didn’t find anything interesting on the album. Apologies ahead of time, if that is what you are expecting). Today, we will be looking closely at Ha Sungwoon, who is already onto his second mini-album, BXXX. I skipped his first mini-album (My Moment) for the exact same reason why I am skipping Kang Daniel’s. But this time around, with a more dynamic title track, I thought the album had a little more to offer. And that is why we are here today!

BXXX Album Cover

1..Bluemaze – Starting off the BXXX album is Bluemaze. I have listened to it a few times now and I am slowly falling for it. There are a few reasons to why Bluemaze. The song has a very soothing and chilled tone, which makes it so appealing to listen to. There is a modern touch to the song, thanks to the instrumental. It’s a complex mix from what I can hear. But they do it without feeling too heavy, which is totally great! Ha Sungwoon’s vocals shine throughout. His falsetto helps makes the track extra soothing and (to an extent) help form a memorable sound to the song. (8.5/10)

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

3. Riding (Pre-Release Track) (ft. Gaeko from Dynamic Duo)Riding was released 5th of June, a month prior to the release of the album. It is a pop track that seems to dabble a bit into R&B as well. It is a pleasant tune to put on in the background. I thought Sungwoon was well-showcased, vocally. Especially in the choruses. I really like the song’s melody, which I can thank the amount of listens I have given the song already (as we have been listening to the track for almost two months now). Gaeko’s part was probably the most forgettable and he didn’t really seem to add much to the atmosphere. (7/10)

4. Excuse MeExcuse Me starts off with some acoustic guitars, which were then masked away into the background of this nice sounding track. While the song did have a nice tone to it and a somewhat playful vibe, the instrumental gave it a very typical feel. Sungwoon sounds nice but it seems like this typical feel just spread over to the vocals as well. Basically, what I am saying is that Excuse Me had a ‘done before’ type of aura coming from it. So, it wasn’t impressive. But don’t get me wrong. Excuse Me is not a horrible song and still has a pleasant atmosphere surrounding it. I found the chorus to have a nice ring to it, thanks to the ‘Excuse Me’ repetition found at the end of each chorus. (7/10)

5. What Are You Doing Today? – Right from the very start, we are shown the more playful and whimsical side of Ha Sungwoon for the track. There is bright energy from the song, suitable for Ha Sungwoon to ask his lover to have some fun and run away from the stresses of life. It’s upbeat and puts you into a good mood as soon as the chorus is played. I liked his vocals in this track, as it is something we haven’t heard on this album. I like his falsettos. Come ot the think of it, his vocals do remind me of his last title track, Bird. Overall, a nice ender to the album. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

BXXX Teaser Image

[Review] Blue – Ha Sungwoon (HOTSHOT)

One of the biggest success stories of 2019 has to be the individual paths that each of the former Wanna One members have taken since their disbandment. It has given us amazing debuts and returns to their original groups. And while we are awaiting the last of them to debut as a solo artist, we are now entering the wave of comebacks from these solo members. Back in May, we saw the return of Yoon Ji Sung with I’ll Be There. We will be seeing the return of Bae Jin Young as part of CIX later this month. And today, we saw the return of Ha Sung Woon with Blue.

To me, Blue already sounds so much more appealing than Bird. Though I did review Bird favourably, I did find that the solo debut track ended up being very forgettable. Blue conforms to the more typical trends of music that we hear all too often nowadays. But this isn’t a flaw, like in other tracks. I find Blue to be very dynamic, thanks to both the vocals and instrumentation. Ha Sung Woon’s vocals shine once again in this track. I like the way he drags his words out during the pre-chorus, making the drop we get during the chorus to be a little more impactful. The way he incorporated an airy tone during the bridge was quite memorable. I found his vocals in the chorus to be quite striking, complimenting the bounciness of the instrumental. The rest of his singing in the track was very clear and crisp. Likewise, I found the mid-tempo pop instrumental to be very fresh. I like the moody tone of the song, especially with the piano at the start. The chorus ended up being unexpected upbeat and bouncy (as mentioned) but it somehow worked well with the rest of the song’s tone.

With a track titled Blue, it does make sense to have the music video featuring a lot of blue. And that is what this video does. Interestingly, it deviates from the use of vibrant blues, as you would expect with upbeat tracks in the Summer season. Instead, the music video uses a lot of grey-blue and features a darker tone, matching the music’s heavy and emotional tone. Another good aspect, even though it has been done a fair bit over the years, is the choreography shots on the water. Though, I think this is the first time that a music video taking it a step further by showcasing Ha Sung Woon with a wet shirt while dancing, which I don’t remember anyone else doing before. (Don’t quote me on that, my memory isn’t that great).

Something that I have yet to mention is the 180-degree turn that Blue takes in comparison to Bird. The sound is a lot mature, the visuals are a lot gloomier. But it is the performance that really strikes me hard. The choreography takes on a more mature and artistic tone, which I think draws my attention more to the stage. It also shows off his dancer side. His stylist choice to dress him in satin or silky looking suits really work well with this concept.

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


[Review] Bird – Ha Sungwoon (HOTSHOT)

Last week, we saw Yoon Ji Sung make his solo debut with In The Rain. But it is time we see another former Wanna One member return. Yesterday, Ha Sungwoon returned as a solo artist for the very first time. He made his debut with the title track Bird, which is featured from the mini-album, My Moment. He is also the second member of his original group, HOTSHOT, to make his solo debut. Fellow member Roh Taeyhyun, who also partipcated alongside Ha Sungwoon in Produce 101 Season 2, made his solo debut a few weeks back with I Wanna Know.

Bird is an upbeat pop track that really throws his vocals to the forefront of the song.  Sungwoon is one of the main vocalists of Wanna One but we don’t often hear much of him due to the number of members in the group. So Bird does a lot in terms of showcasing his vocals. I am also glad he went with a pop track rather than a ballad. It does feel like a cliche route for main vocalists to choose a ballad (not that I have anything against it. I just want some variety). He has nice vocals as a result and I really like how he sings in falsetto for the parts of the chorus. It gives off a nice texture and really reflects well with the sweet and pleasing instrumental. In the second verse, he goes into a rap-singing mode. I honestly felt that they could have inserted a featuring rapper here. Not because he was terrible at rapping but rather I felt we needed something to offset the sweetness of the song. I think the ‘I Sweety Bird’ line was probably his catchiest and most memorable moment of the song. Overall, it is a strong solo debut that shows his strengths.

Fitting with the title of the track, Sungwoon flies throughout the music video. Not in a literal sense but rather his imagination. In the song, he likens the feelings of love to a bird flying (at least that is how I interpreted the lyrics). I also find the video to also be as equally as a sweet as the song and this is thanks to the colour palette of the video.  Very bright but not in the way where it feels too young. I did find the music video a tad boring but that was my personal thoughts regarding the video. I think a lot of people, including his fans, would appreciate the music video for the slight cuteness.

The choreography also features some flying as well. Once again, not literal. Instead, the backup dancers are pocking up the lighted box that he sits on. Talking about the lighted box, I actually like the moment the light turns on. I also like how the choreography doesn’t rely on any complex moves but its ‘simple’ moves manage to give it the same feeling as a complicated dance routine.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10

[Review] I Wanna Know – Roh Taehyun (HOTSHOT)

This review focuses on the solo debut of Roh Taehyun from HOTSHOT. He is a familiar face to the many as he previously participated in Produce 101 Season 2 and placed 25th overall. After Produce 101 Season 2, Roh Taehyun returned to HOTSHOT and has promoted as part of the group since then. He also later went on to debut as part of the now disbanded JBJ, the ‘fan-imagined’ group of Produce 101. Today, Roh Taehyun made his mark as a solo artist by debut with I Wanna Know, which is featured on the mini-album, biRTHday.

I Wanna Know is a fun hip-hop track that really shows off a different charm that I know of Roh Taehyun when he is a part of HOTSHOT. I only know HOTSHOT based on their two recent tracks and Roh Taehyun is a very serious fellow in these two tracks. But to hear him do something playful and energetic, I thought was a rather cool change. He brings his vocals to the song, which I think is rather nice. The instrumentation was a little plain for my liking but the melody of the track was quite catchy. I personally think the song can benefit from a rap sequence as it could have added an extra texture to really give the song some definition. But still, what we got is pretty good.

I usually make comments for the inside of the video (i.e. the content within). All of that lines up with what the song felt like. Fun, friendly and playful. So I really can’t say much about that. Just the title for the video uploaded onto Roh Taehyun’s personal YouTube page just dulls any effects the music video had going on. They put the wrong title up. Instead of the song’s title. they put the album’s title. And as a KPOP follower for a number of years, stuff like this don’t really help with promotions. I felt I just needed to write that despite it not being any of my concern as a KPOP reviewer. But other than that, a well-suited video.

I actually like the choreography for this performance. As the song and video, there is a fun and playful tone in it. Also, like I mentioned in the song review part, it is rather nice to see a more energetic and hyper Taehyun on stage as opposed to the serious side that I have commonly seen. I liked how he managed to slide in some popping and his moments with the female backup dancer were my favourites.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Album Review] Early Flowering (2nd Mini Album) – HOTSHOT

HOTSHOT recently returned with a brand new mini-album, Early Flowering. This is their first mini-album since the release of AM I HOTSHOT?, which was released back in 2015. Also mentioned in their latest review of I Hate You (link below), this is the group’s final comeback before Sungwoon, who has been promoting as part of Wanna One, returns to the group. With this mini-album in mind, I wonder what dynamic Sungwoon will bring back to HOTSHOT. But until then, let’s start the album review.

Early Flowering Album Cover

1..Print – Starting off the album is Print, another tropical house song. I’ll be honest, the song fits more of a Summery period. So, seeing how it is included on an album released in Autumn alongside an Autumn title track (see below) indicates that the album lacks direction and cohesiveness. But putting that aside, other than the upbeat nature of the song, the song doesn’t really have much else to really make it an amazing opener. The instrumental is pretty much standard to today’s standard and the vocals felt great for the given canvas, but don’t really offer anything big to showcase. Just another standard track to me. (6/10)

2. I Hate You (Title Track) – Click here to read the full review of I Hate You. (8/10)

3. ParadiseParadise feels a lot more fitting for the Autumn season, despite being an electronic based song. The instrumental is repetitive but there were effects and synths along the way that really made the song feel unique as it goes on. I hear some of these synths in the Western music I often listen to, so there is a certain level of appeal to the song for me. But the winning component of the song must be the vocals. They shine throughout the song, especially the vocals for the chorus. I like the ‘wide’ effect their vocals had, which I think would sound awesome in a concert hall. The melody also allowed for the song’s flowy nature, which was another likeable component. (8/10)

4. Better – As we go down the track list, the songs get a lot better, which is why I chose to review this mini-album. The song is very funky with its guitar and dance pop-infused instrumental. And it is this funkiness which makes this track sound so much better. In a subtle way, the instrumental makes the song very dynamic. I liked the opener (‘Better’) to the chorus which did feel a little sharp but it is one of the cases that worked wonderfully. Vocally, I think they did well, incorporating that husky and raspy nature into their voices. And the rapping here is one of their best on the album. (9/10)

5. Body Talks – Ending the album is another tropical house song. And the same comments do apply in terms of the mismatch of sounds and season. Though, this isn’t something I can’t really hold against them. I personally think Body Talks had a more interesting flair compared to the Print as there is so much more energy and the drop is more dynamic. Vocally, the song was nice, especially the vocals that end the song. I think the song could have benefited with a kick-ass rap sequence to make it even more energetic and stronger. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

Early Flowering Teaser Image

[Review] I Hate You – HOTSHOT

Since their last comeback with Jelly (released in July 2017). a lot has happened with the members of HOTSHOT. Taehyun joined JBJ who promoted for a period of a few months before disbanding in April of this year. Timoteo and Hojung participated on The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project and placed 10th and 3rd place respectively. As a result, Hojung joined the show’s male project group, UNB. Despite all of this, HOTSHOT has regrouped (with the exception of Sungwoon, who is still a part of Wanna One) with the release of I Hate You.

I lowkey was expecting something along the lines of Jelly, which actually became quite addictive over time with the subtle aesthetics of the synths. I Hate You is a completely different song. It doesn’t rely on synths or electronic sounds, which is already a big difference. It feels more like a ballad, just there is enough in the instrumentation to allow the song to feature some choreography. The song is emotionally driven, which you can hear through their vocals. Their vocals are quite nice in the song. It isn’t the powerful vocals that I tend to prefer when it comes to ballads but it was enough to make me feel different feelings as the song progressed. I really like the “니가 미워” (nega miwo) hook at the very start of the chorus. There is something about it that makes it so beautiful and I quite like that.

The lyrics of the song essentially show their heartbreak and frustrations towards a lover who left unexpectedly. And the video does that. But instead of using the same ‘let’s film her physically walking away from the members’ over and over again, the video uses different ways to show that. While there were some cliche shots in the video, such as the girl disappearing around a corner, the video saw more creative ways such as having the lead actress die in one of their arms to represent ‘leaving’. I really like the contrast of colours throughout the video. The warm golden colour represents their happy moments but the darker scenes showcased loneliness and coldness. It is a well thought-out video.

As expected, the performance didn’t fall into a ballad category and featured choreography. I liked how sharp the chorus looked. While the song doesn’t really call for that, it worked in an interesting manner alongside the song. I also liked how the choreography didn’t feel constricting. The speed at which their movements were performed at and the wide motions really made the video feel quite strong.

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

[Review] Jelly – HOTSHOT

After over two years, HOTSHOT has finally returned with their latest single, Jelly. The group made their debut in 2014 with Take A Shot. They were fairly busy in 2015 with multiple releases but has been absent from the scene since then. The group resurfaced this year with two members participating in Produce 101 Season 2, to which member Sungwoon ranked in 11th place and made it into Wanna One. Hence, the current line-up promoting Jelly is Junhyuk, Timoteo, Kid Monster, Yoonsan and Hojung.

Given the title of the song, I did not expect the song to take the route in which it did. You would associate Jelly with a vibrant and sweeter sound, like the desert itself. However, the song felt quite the opposite. It was definitely a lot more serious and it felt monotone. But this is the one time that the monotone nature did work in the songs favour. The dance instrumental felt very neutral throughout, which brought small bursts of colour to the song, which I thought was a really strong aspect of the song. That small ‘jelly’ break before the chorus starts really gives a moment of suspense, before the chorus starts, which actually does grow on you. After a few listens, I noticed tension in the song, which makes each replay, even more, better than the previous. I would like to say more about the song, but my comments are mainly centred around the instrumental and the overall sound. The member’s vocals and raps felt very neutral. It fitted the instrumental, making it into a good track, but they could have added or done something to the vocals/raps to transform the song into something even better.

I will be honest about the video. It was boring. There were aspects of the video which I liked but I don’t think there was enough to carry the video. The darkness matched the tension which I mentioned earlier. The choreography scenes were quite good. Their close-ups were the boring parts. They did their bit but I am quite sure they could have boosted in some way. The ‘Jelly‘ cut-ins looked good, but for some reason, they make me giggle every time I watch the video.

Like the music video, the choreography could have been better. The dance can already be described as quite good. The sharpness was there, the charisma was also present. The dance just felt sluggish in some parts and lacked energy in other.

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