[Album Review] BOOM (2nd Studio Album) – HUTA (Lee Min Hyuk – BTOB)

The next album to on the reviewing block of this blog is HUTA’s (who is otherwise known as Lee Min Hyuk from BTOB) second studio album, BOOM. This album, alongside the title track of the same name, was released at the end of June of this year and features another eleven tracks. This is HUTA’s first major Korean release since completing his military enlistment, participating on the Kingdom: Legendary War and making a few comebacks with his fellow BTOB members through the singles Show Your Love, Outsider and (most recently) The Song.

All the songs on BOOM (the album) basically were all strong showing from the soloist, with the album receiving a 8.2/10 rating and most songs earned a 8/10 from me. This is quite consistent for the wide range of songs that HUTA had put on the album. I commend HUTA for doing this, as it proves to me (and all his fans and the listeners of BOOM) that he is more than just a rapper (not that he needed to as I am totally aware of his potential through BTOB’s works and his first studio album). Just through this album, we can easily see that he is capable of releasing an intense and powerful number that aligns with his rapper image, or flipping the switch to release some thing more delicate and peaceful.

BOOM Album Cover

1. I’m Rare – Kicking BOOM (the album) off is the short track I’m Rare, which packs a punch with its super energetic electronic instrumentation. I quite enjoyed how the song developed as it progressed, moving from a mid-tempo pace to a fast-paced track. This helped hyped the track and the album’s opening, which in turn got me excited for what is to come. HUTA’s rapping was quite dynamic and heightens the energy of the song, rounding out a very strong start to the album. (8/10)

2. BOOM (Title Track)Click here for the full review for BOOM. (9/10)

3. Shadow – Third track into the album and I think we are treated to the album’s standout track. Shadow focuses on HUTA’s vocals, moving away from the rapping that dominated or stood out in the preceding two tracks. His vocals took a lowkey approach. They never really went further than how he started. While this might be something I raise as an issue usually, it worked well with the 80s synth-based instrumentation. That itself had the right amount of momentum to propel the song forward, but at the same time not feel too filling or intense. The melodies that HUTA brought to life with his vocals were quite chill and easy on the ears. I enjoyed everything from Shadow. (10/10)

4. Dear My Spring (넌 나의 봄이야)Dear My Spring follows up Shadow and the two songs sounded quite similar in some regards. But the main difference between the two songs is that Dear My Spring is a lot sweeter sounding, and this basically came down to two aspects. Firstly, HUTA’s vocals brought a smile to my face and was quite soothing throughout the song. This works well with the topic of spring, which is what the song is based on. Secondly, the instrumental features a more acoustic feel which is synonymous with the Spring season, rather than an 80s synth instrumental. (8/10)

5. Secretly (그대가 모르게)Secretly is a lovely track to follow the sweetness of the preceding track. HUTA sounds very charming and romantic in Secretly. I quite liked the bounce to the instrumental, and how it developed from just a simple piano instrumental piece into a livelier piece thanks to the addition of other instruments. All of this helped make Secretly more appealing to listen to. (8.5/10)

6. Is It Love? (사랑일까요)Is It Love? is another romantic song on the album. It also doubles as a duet with fellow BTOB member, Lee Chang Sub. HUTA starts off the song with deep vocals, and subsequently reverts to his lovely vocals. Lee Chang Sub serenades with his vocals. I particularly liked it when Lee Chang Sub’s vocals peaks in the chorus, provides a high note and ad-libs to the end of the song. It was also nice to hear some rapping from HUTA in this song, especially since that has not been much rapping throughout this romantic side of the album. I wished there was a more memorable melody to the song, however. (7.5/10)

7. Firework (위험해)Firework begins with a rather sinister yet moody atmosphere. Once Firework reached the chorus, it changed itself up by going with an upbeat and slightly groovy house based instrumental. I really liked how engaging HUTA was in the chorus. There was a lot of personality and energy that he himself puts into the chorus, which made it stand out for me. Firework also features a really cool bridge, where HUTA was given an opportunity to intensify his rapping and delivery in a more natural manner. This gave Firework a bit of edge and definitely helped the song finish on an enticing manner. (9/10)

8. Real Game (Like Messi)Real Game brings a more consistent and dynamic energy to the album. It is a short number, spanning only just over 2 minutes. But I quite liked how it gets straight to the point, launching right into the chorus and the aforementioned energy. And I liked how it doesn’t let up. HUTA follows through with a consistent delivery of his lines, yet his rapping just intensifies everything to just be so alluring. I know we were constricted by time, but I would have liked the ending just to have a bit more oomph to close out the song appropriately. (8/10)

9. Us Together (우리 함께 걸어요) – We revisit the likes of the first half of the album with another sweet song. I find Us Together to be nicely instrumented with the pop instrumental it went for. A bit plain, but it works well with the rest of the song. HUTA showcases soft vocals throughout, which sounded very soothing. A different instrumental would have easily overpowered the vocals. There is also rapping in the song, which might make you think would have done the overpowering instead. But HUTA was careful in approaching the rapping in a suitable manner for Us Together and the sweeter pop sound of the song. (8/10)

10. Red Wine – When I first saw the title of this song, I was expecting a more mature track. While the R&B genre that Red Wine did go for is typically mature, Red Wine was more so upbeat and bright. The synths gave the song a subtle disco tinge, which ended up being quite fun to listen to. The brass detailing was also a highlight in this song. HUTA’s delivery also adds to this, and this helped make Red Wine a fine song to listen to. If anything, I wished there was stronger hooks in Red Wine, as I felt the hooks we got in Red Wine were lacking. (7.5/10)

11. Stay (기다리고 있어)Stay was previously released in Japan, as the lead single from his solo debut mini-album in Japan. For this album and its release in Korea, it was rewritten with Korean lyrics. Everything in this song can be described as nice and pleasant, which is all very much different to the likes of BOOM (the title track). But aside from that, there wasn’t really much else to comment in the song. (7/10)

12. Hello and Bye (끝 눈) – Completing the 12-song length studio album is Hello and Bye. It is another pleasant number, this time tapping into the balladry side of music. I liked the dreamy nature of the instrumentation, which is made up of piano, a bit of percussion and a light sprinkling of synths. HUTA’s vocals a very soft and fitting for the ballad genre in this song, particularly when they get breathy. Overall, it closes the album on a very soothing and calming note. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.2/10

BOOM Teaser Image

[Review] BOOM – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

Also making his comeback today is HUTA (a.k.a Lee Minhyuk from BTOB) who returns as a solo artist after three years with the title track and his second studio length album, both titled BOOM. HUTA did make a small comeback in 2021 with the single, Good Night, but that flew under most people’s radar and wasn’t reviewable due to a lack of promotive material. So I won’t consider that a full fledged comeback, and so BOOM follows HUTA’s 2019 solo debut release, YA, and his first studio length album, HUTAZONE. HUTA also recently promoted as part of BTOB, who made their grand return earlier this year with The Song.

BOOM lives up to its name, as it is explosive and packs a punch. This is thanks to two elements – the instrumental and HUTA himself. BOOM is described to be a ‘hybrid wonk trap style song with an elaborate bass line’ (taken from SOOMPI). The percussive and trap elements combined with the bass brought a dramatic flair to the song that gets your blood flowing. The wonky sub-genre, which I personally have not heard of before today (or I may have, but never had it described to me as ‘wonk’) or experience in KPOP before, doesn’t really help bring out the explosive side of the song. But it comes through the most during the choruses, and adds a background centrepiece to BOOM‘s centrepiece. Combining the two, you have a pretty powerfully unique track that doesn’t hold back. HUTA himself brings aggression into the song, with his iron solid rapping extremely bolstered and passionate at the same time. This aligns with the instrumental strongly, creating a dynamic piece. But interestingly, it isn’t the instrumental or rapping that takes the cake for me in BOOM. It is HUTA’s vocals that somehow managed to steal the show, especially the ‘aight‘, ‘high‘ or ‘hi‘ we get in the lyrics. He goes high pitch with these words, which contrasts really well with the deeper and harder sounds. The rest of his vocals are smooth, yet maintains a raspiness to them. The chorus was catchy and memorable, thanks to the ‘Boom Shaka Laka‘ line. Overall, HUTA kills it with BOOM and impresses me with his versatility, once again.

Three music videos into HUTA’s solo career (YA, Tonight (With Melody) and now BOOM), and HUTA shown his abs once again. I sense a theme and a connection with fellow soloist WONHO. Anyhow, the music video for BOOM is dark and edgy, as one would expect. The video also uses a lot of red or orangey-red lighting, which I persume is to highlight and emphasise the aggression that HUTA brings to the song. All of this feels very appropriate for BOOM. I liked the forest background for some of the shots, as it felt a bit more freeing than the closed sets we got and managed to still work in tandem with the rest of the shots. I also liked it when he punched the camera. And of course, HUTA looks great throughout the video (abs or clothed)!

BOOM also shows off HUTA’s performance skills with a cool choreography. Based on what I saw in the video, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking. But it had aggression, it had smoothness, it had sensual moves. It practically had everything! What does freak me out are the masked dancers. It takes the idea of masks to a whole new level, as there are no eyes holes on the mask. Instead, the front of the mask is decorated with shiny stones that reflect the light. Sounds cool in theory, but very dark in practicality. The floating throne (made up of the dancers) at the start was a pretty cool idea.

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

[Album Review] HUTAZONE (1st Studio Album) – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

Many male groups that have been active for a number of years so far have reached that stage where their members have started to enlist into the military, a mandatory requirement for all males in South Korea. However, not many do send-offs like BTOB does. Changsub enlisted earlier this year and in December 2018,, he made his solo debut through the mini-album, Mark. Now, Minhyuk (or HUTA) is due to enlist in the coming week and has bid farewell with the release of HUTAZONE, his solo debut album, which features two title tracks (and is the focus of this album review). I personally hope that they continue doing this for all the members who enlist as this is an excellent way to say farewell for the next 2 years, whilst also leaving a treat for fans.

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HUTAZONE Album Cover

1..Hutazone (Intro Track) – Opening the album is the track that shares the same name as the album. HUTAZONE is a great taster for the audience, showcasing his vocals and raps. But not only that we get a range of vocals and raps, which I think is quite impressive. It also gets you into the mood for the album, going with an R&B infused hip-hop track. But the music doesn’t spoil what is come. It just merely introduces the album, which I quite like. (8/10)

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

3. You Too? Me Too! (너도? 나도!) (ft. Jeon Soyeon ((G)I-DLE) – For some reason, this party sound, which is very vibrant and colourful, is quite unexpecting. I particularly like the high-pitch vocalisation in the background for the post-chorus hook. It gives the song that quirky feel on top of the fun vibes. I like his vocals in the song, especially when it was slightly husky. I also liked Soyeon’s featuring in the song as the song suited her tone and delivery quite well. (9/10)

4. Pretend Like I Don’t Care (아무렇지 않은 척)Pretend Like I Don’t Care takes a step back and goes for a vocally driven song (however, he does rap in the song. Just the rapping felt more like a featuring). I liked how the instrumental sounded piano, giving the song a sweet sound. His low notes were shown off during this song and those were my favourite parts of the song. It is definitely interesting to see a change in pace for Minhyuk with such a song. (8/10)

5. This Must Be A Dream (ft. Yoook Sungjae (BTOB))This Must Be A Dream is a duet with Minhyuk and fellow BTOB member, Sungjae. It is a nice jazzy-influenced ballad to really showcase their harmonies and voices. I also liked Minhyuk’s rapping in the song. It didn’t feel needed, but it was still good. It isn’t the standout track for me though, but I am sure some fans (Melodies and co.) will think otherwise. (7/10)

6. Falling Flowers (화) (Interlude) – It was this Interlude that got me writing this album review. Falling Flowers is the hidden gem on the album. It only goes for a minute or so, but it is the best minute or so on the album (no offence to any of his amazing tracks on the album). His vocals are spectacular in this track. It brings chills to me when I think of this song. The instrumental is equally as profound and impactful. (10/10)

7. Fallin’ – Following the previous song, I did not expect something so cheerful right off the start. I expected some easing to occur. But nonetheless, it is another energetic and fun sounding track that really catches on quickly. Once again, both his vocals and rapping stands out in this track. I quite like its pop-centred and colourful instrumental, even though it did feel slightly squeaky. I also liked that xylophone ending. It is something different and refreshing. (8/10)

8. All Day (Korean Version)All Day is a single that featured on Minhyuk’s Japanese solo album which he released last year. For this album, he obviously had it rewritten in Korean. To me, it is another passable track on the album. I liked how it flowed but it was necessary interesting. I think the most catching moment of the song was the synthesizer keyboard in the instrumental. (6/10)

9. Purple Rain (ft, Cheeze)Purple Rain was previously released as part of the Piece of BTOB series back in 2017. You can read about what I thought regarding the track by clicking here. In that review, I did not post a score then but will do so today. (8/10)

10. Tonight (With Melody) (Title Track) – The second title track on the album is Tonight. The song, as suggested from the title, is for BTOB’s fans. It is another fun track. But this one was more light-hearted than the other tracks we have heard of the same nature. Everything about the song is quite likeable but it doesn’t feel memorable for me (though I would think fans would say otherwise). Watching the live performances for this track, I liked how the track was designed to let the fans sing along, which lives up to the ‘With Melody’ part of the title. (7.5/10)

11. Waiting For You – Bring his Minhyuk’s album to a close is Waiting For You, which I thought was a pleasant track to really tie everything together. It brings his vocals and raps together, once again, but in a way that it feels like a send-off. Not serious like his title track nor fun like his other tracks on the album. In a way, it is touching. The instrumental was very appealing due to the violins in the background. I quite liked this song. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

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HUTAZONE Teaser Image

[Review] Ya – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

As male groups become more superior due to the amount of time they spent active in the industry, the inevitable occurs. BTOB has reached the stage where their Korean members must enlist into the military. We saw Eunkwang enlist suddenly last year. Changsub enlisted yesterday after his solo debut with Gone. And now it is Minhyuk’s turn to enlist next month. But before he leaves, he is treating fans to the release of his 1st solo album. Under the name HUTA, Minhyuk has two title tracks, Ya and With Melody off his album, HUTAZONE.

New fans of BTOB may know Minhyuk as a rapper of BTOB while some more long-term fans may know he started off singing in the group’s earlier days. Ya brings the two worlds together, giving Minhyuk to showcase his raps and vocals. Ya is actually a very smooth song. While it delves into the hip-hop side of KPOP, Ya starts off with Minhyuk’s deep and husky rap tone. I particularly like that roughness he brings to the table at the end of the final rap section of the song.  Once he starts singing, it beings a refreshing feel to the song. Given his vocals in this song, it makes you wonder why he hasn’t shown it as much in BTOB’s work. I really like the entire chorus of the track, particularly the ‘flexing with ya’ line in the post-chorus hook. It kicks the energy level of the song to the whole new high. Talking about the energy of the song, I liked how everything flowed in this song, particularly the instrumental break at the end of the song, which channelled the energy perfectly.

And like the song, the music video takes full commitment to that dark direction. I am not exactly sure what is happening but it seems like there are two sides of Minhyuk. The presence of these two sides is based on the person he likes, whom he describes as dangerous and should be avoided. His darker self (represented by the black outfit) seems to have the upper hand to his more good side (which is represented as being in the white stray jacket). And as his darker side tells him to stay with his dangerous lover, this results in his apartment catching on fire (a consequence he knows was going to happen). This is also the first time I saw a male idol gradually lose their shirt. In the first set of choreography shots, he was wearing a shirt and jacket. Next set of scenes was a jacket buttoned up. The final set of scenes was abs galore for all the fans out there. And visually, he is very good looking in this music video.

I thought the choreography was nice. It gives him an opportunity to really focus on rapping and singing. But it didn’t seem too simple if you understand what I mean. The moves at the ‘Flexing with ya’ post-chorus hook was rather simple but had attitude. His solo dance at the end was equally as cool and gave him to showcase his dancing ability, giving fans and the audience the trinity.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.5/10