[Review] Calm & Passion – Nam Woohyun (Infinite)

Also making his comeback today is Nam Woohyun! Calm & Passion (the title track) and With (the fourth mini-album) is Woohyun’s first comeback since completing his military enlistment and the first time we have heard from him since Hold on Me in 2019.

It has been a while and I am definitely excited for a Woohyun comeback. But unfortunately, I am left disappointed with this release. Calm & Passion just doesn’t live up the standard that he had set himself through his previous comeback, Hold On Me, and the new song felt flat. Calm & Passion is a sleek R&B track that taps into the funky trend that KPOP has been riding lately. While it does sound great in writing, Calm & Passion isn’t as fleshed out as you expect. Take the chorus, for example. The song definitely picks up in the pre-choruses, and so I expected the song would approach a meatier drop. But instead, we are treated to an anti-drop that makes Calm & Passion remain in neutral gear. It does pick up slightly in the second half of the chorus, but I am still recovering from the disappointment from the first half. The second verse continues the momentum from the second half of the first chorus, so I expected that momentum to continue build and snowball from there. But the chorus just repeats its lackluster form which is a bigger disappointment. The song had a perfect sound platform to build momentum with, as rock elements clearly make themselves known in the instrumentation as the song progresses. But Calm & Passion doesn’t pick up on that hint, unfortunately. When it comes to the final chorus, this was the energy that I was after and it felt satisfying then, but I wished they had it happening earlier in the song. Aside from the instrumentation, it was great to hear Woohyun’s vocals after so long. This was not a disappointment like the music, as he sounds good in this sleek manner and I liked how his vocals pierced through when the instrumental was more relatively robust and dynamic. Overall, Calm & Passion had potential but failed to captialise on the mentioned potential.

The music video faired a bit better. Visually, it was okay. It isn’t the best, but at least the video was clear and you can see Woohyun well. For the plot, Woohyun is kind of stuck in this limbo when it comes to his relationships. Everything is slow paced and just doesn’t work out, contrary to the relationship that he seeks (which is calm and passionate, if you haven’t picked that up from the lyrics). It was kind of interesting piece and I liked how they purposefully made the video feel stagnant to reflect this story.

While I was disappointed with the song, it definitely enabled Woohyun to take on a sensual and mature vibe with his choreography, which he nailed. I really liked watching the shoulder movements, and I think the choreography made better use of the rock elements than how the song did.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Album Review] Won’t Forget You (1st Single Album) – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

The next album I will looking into is Kim Sung Kyu’s very first single album which features the title track, HUSH. There are a few significant milestones with the release of this single album, titled Won’t Forget You. This is the first single album under his name since his solo debut back in 2012. It is also his last album release under Woolim Entertainment, which he has been signed to as an artist (both solo and as a member of Infinite) since his debut in 2010. The company announced his departure in early March and (as mentioned in HUSH’s review), it appears the two parties mutually parted ways from one another based on the existence of this single album. Let’s wish Kim Sung Kyu good luck to wherever he goes next with his solo career. And while we await for his next solo release, let’s have a deeper listen to Won’t Forget You.

Won’t Forget You Album Cover

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

2. YouYou is a very pleasant and likeable track, thanks to the simple instrumentation involving acoustic guitars and consistent percussion. I like how the electric guitar and a very small amount of electronic band styled instrumentation sneaks its way into the song by the time it wraps up. On top of that, we have Kim Sung Kyu’s vocals which are very clear and crisp. There is an appreciable level of sweetness to his voice that really compliments the song’s message of wanting his partner to stay by his side. The backing vocals in You really amplify his vocals and the melodies, along the chorus to be quite memorable. The combination of the backing vocals and melodies also brought out a nostalgic factor, for some of his past singles. Altogether, You is a highly recommended listen from me. (10/10)

3. My Day (나의 하루) – Kim Sung Kyu’s music is heavily influenced on the electronic band style that you would associate with Korean band Nell. While My Day seems to stay within that same area of music, it also seems to be slightly more experimental with its more upbeat and Summery vibes. My Day seems to be the perfect song to use as background music while walking along the beach. Like all his songs, his vocals stand out here. I really like the echo that comes through (thanks to the vocal processing) during the chorus, which enhances those Summery vibes. The layering at the end was really well executed. Overall, My Day comes off as extremely dreamy and is another highly recommended listen. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9.7/10

Won’t Forget You Teaser Image

[Review] HUSH – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

Kicking off this week’s rush of comebacks is Kim Sung Kyu with HUSH. This is Kim Sung Kyu’s final release as part of Woolim Entertainment, the company in which he has been apart of since his debut in 2010. For those who don’t know, Kim Sung Kyu is a member and the leader of male group Infinite, who has gone on to become one of the top male groups in the early 2010s and are widely known for their synchronized choreography. It was announced that Kim Sung Kyu would leave Woolim Entertainment in early March, however still remaining a member of Infinite. It seems like the pair are still on good terms, with Woolim picking up promotions for HUSH and Kim Sung Kyu’s first single album, Won’t Forget You (you will notice that HUSH’s music video is release on Woolim’s home channel and carry the company’s branding as well). We last saw Kim Sung Kyu make his solo comeback in December of last year with I’m Cold and Inside Me.

My first impression of HUSH is that it reminded me of Kim Sung Kyu’s previous title tracks, Kontrol. This is simply because of HUSH‘s 80s synth pop instrumentation. The new song initially started off like your typical traditional band style ballad, a sound that is explored territory for the solo artist. The synths start filtering into the song soon after and the song starts building momentum towards that synth pop instrumentation. What I do like about the song is that it isn’t too much like Kontrol, which seemed more committed to the synth pop genre. While I do like the reminding notion of HUSH, it is still its own style. HUSH maintains that traditional band underlay as part of its instrumentation, creating a fine balance between band and synth. The resultant product sounds amazing, atmospheric and powerful in its own way. What obviously makes any Kim Sung Kyu song better is, of course, the presence of Kim Sung Kyu’s vocals. I find his vocals so captivating and gripping in this song. You can feel the emotions behind his vocals, relaying the song’s message (the powerful power of attraction and emotion that is conveyed even without words – sourced from Soompi) very nicely. I liked the way the song’s title is delivered in the song, feeling present but also distant at the same time. While I have made comments about excessive use of autotune, I also really liked how it was used for ad-libs. I also enjoyed the ‘echoing’ that rounded out the song. To me, these kept the song very grounded and makes the instrumental do the ‘soaring’, which is usually something you describe the vocals. I find this related to the lyrics, with the words doing less and the music being more powerful as a result. Overall, HUSH is a really nice way to round out Kim Sung Kyu’s time as part of the Woolim family.

The music video stars both Kim Sung Kyu and IZ*ONE’s leader Kwon Eun Bi, who is also a fellow Woolim labelmate. Based on the lyrics, I believe it is assumed that the pair do not exchange words throughout the video. Rather, we see their emotion be portrayed in their facial expressions. At the start of the video, we see the two sad and distant. In one scene, where Kim Sung Kyu goes to hug Kwon Eun Bi, she vanishes into the air. This signifies that they have broken up. But the memories between the two lingers and we see the pair smile towards the end, which drives Eun Bi to return to Sung Kyu, where they hug one more time. This time, she doesn’t disappear and the pair are reunited without the exchange of words but rather memories and thoughts.

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

[Review] Memory – Kim Myung Soo (L)

Many of our favourite second generation KPOP male idols have been enlisting into the miltary over the last few years. So we have been experiencing a lack of performances from those idols. However, they are slowly returning from the military, and we could potentially see these idols and their respective groups make their first comebacks this year. On the other hand, we are still saying farewell (temporarily) to some of these idols, such as Myungsoo (or L from Infinite). More recently, Myungsoo (or L) has been active as an actor since his departure from Woolim Entertainment. However, he is still committed to his fans and Inspirits alike. Last week, he made his solo debut with the single Memory as a parting gift before he enlists in the military later this month.

Given the context behind the song and the circumstances that Myungsoo finds himself in, a ballad seems like that default style. And a ballad is what he gives us. The instrumental is pretty starightforward, consisting of a acoustic guitars and piano work. It progresses like most other ballads, where it slowly builds by incorporating more instrumentation as the song progresses along. It is still a captivating piece, nonetheless. What I do like about Memory is that it doesn’t tap into the classical side of the ballad genre. That would have been very cliche. But as previously mentioned, the ballad approach is very typical regardless. But it does still feel a tiny bit different from what I had expected. Memory also indulges fans of Myungsoo as it showcases the actor/singer’s voice. Myungsoo has always had a very unique voice and I really like the colour which he brings to Infinite back in the day. To know that he has a whole song to himself really makes my day. His voice takes you on a bit of a journey. I felt I easily got lost in the track, between his vocals and instrumentation. Together, the instrumentation and vocals bring forth that swaying effect that I often mention when it comes to ballads. And that swaying effect is always a good thing when it comes to ballads. Overall, Myungsoo doesn’t get points for originality when it comes to Memory, but rather execution and effect.

The music video is simply a bunch of closeups of Myungsoo in what seems like a photoshoot type of set up. We see him posing throughout the video in very nature-based scenic places. Occasionally, we get a picture form of what we just saw. I am sure fans enjoyed the visual aspect of the music video. There isn’t much else to the music video. I will admit that it isn’t a video that I would return to constantly, but I really like the paced nature of the video. It works well with the song and its balladry nature. It also felt like a blissful walk along the beach or somewhere scenic.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Album Review] INSIDE ME (3rd Mini Album) – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

It is time to return to the album reviews. Apologies for not posting any over the weekend, when they should have been released per the posting schedule. Today’s focus is Kim Sung Kyu’s INSIDE ME, which is the soloists’ third mini-album since his solo debut in 2012. The title track, I’m Cold, was released alongside the mini-album in December 2020. Kim Sung Kyu’s solo comeback in December came at no better time as I had a massive craving for Infinite in some form. Kim Sung Kyu’s solo releases are enough to suffice this for now. I am hoping for a group release once all the members return from the military. We last heard from Kim Sung Kyu in 2018 through his 10 Stories comeback and the title track, True Love, another aweome comeback from the solo act.

INSIDE ME Album Cover

1. INSIDE ME – While INSIDE ME will not be included in the final rating score, I just want to take a moment to draw attention to this introductory track. I really like the suspenseful vibes of the song. I also like how it felt like a teaser of what is to come, as it literally used some of the instrumentation from the title track.  It also felt like music that Infinite would have released back in the day, with the combination of synths and instruments.

2. I’m Cold (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for I’m Cold. (10/10)

3. Fade (안녕)Fade continues on with the R&B vibes that featured in I’m Cold. The major difference is that Fade is a lot airer in its instrumentation and slower overall. It kicks off with a somewhat distorted like filter over a music box and Kim Sung Kyu’s utterance of ‘Goodbye’, before proceeding with the familiar R&B vibes I just mentioned. I really like how the electric guitars sound almost like electronic synths, which reminds me of some of his earlier works such as his last solo comeback. His vocals flourish in this song, with the falsettos he opts for being a star attraction. I just wish Fade had a more memorable melody. (8/10)

4. RoomRoom diverts away from the R&B that we all know Kim Sung Kyu for. Instead, he opts for a genre that I am sure that everyone is certain the soloist will nail, ballad. I am happy to report that his ballad had me sway along to the music, which we all know is my way of determining the quality of a ballad. But honestly, the buildup of Room was stunning. It starts off like any slow ballad. But as you progress along, the instrumental grows by incorporating more instruments and it develops into an epic backing for the ballad. Kim Sung Kyu’s vocals climb to compliment this buildup and he sounds beautiful and powerful. It is most emotional number on this album and probably his discography as far as I can remember. (10/10)

5. DIVIN’ – Moving away from the heartbreak that has dominated the album thus far, Kim Sung Kyu goes DIVIN’ into a new relationship and sound. The song falls back into the R&B realm of music, but there is more to it. It sounds like there was is a bit of jazz mixed into the instrumentation, which comes together to become a groovy mix, which makes it suitable for a high-end bar. Once again, Kim Sung Kyu’s vocals are quite good. I appreciate that his vocals sound a lot livelier, complimenting groovy instrumentation. Multiple R&B and ballad tracks after one another can be draining in some cases, so it is nice for a change up. (8/10)

6. ClimaxClimax is a little unexpected with its upbeat nature. But it is an amazing end to the album. Firstly, Climax is a personal track. It is a song about performing, a passion of Kim Sung Kyu (if you cannot tell). He sings about pushing forward with his career and his motivation is simply his fans. A message like that will have fans swooning over him. Secondly, the instrumentation is very unique and colourful. I really like the electronic nature of the instrumental, which was full of textures (which you know I enjoy). I also enjoyed the choppiness, which was an interesting route in general. The pre-chorus has a very unique vibe by embracing a choppy delivery of the lyrics, which helped made the song so much more alluring. His vocals are superb, once again in this song. TGhere was some questionable uses of autotune in the song though, which doesn’t really capitalise on his vocals as much as the song should have. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

INSIDE ME Teaser Image

[Review] I’m Cold – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

Have you voted in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards yet? You get to decide who is the Best of the Best during 2020, so get voting if you haven’t. Click here for the survey!

Kim Sung Kyu has been absent from the KPOP stage for about two years now due to his military enlistment. We last saw him in 2018 promoting his first studio album, 10 Stories, which was headlined by True Love. Like the solo artist, not much has happened with Infinite (the group that he leads) since 2018, aside from a single release at the very start of 2019 that did not feature Kim Sung Kyu has he had already enlisted by then. Now, Kim Sung Kyu is back with new songs, in the form of the single I’m Cold and the mini-album Inside Me. This is his first comeback since completing his mandatory enlistment earlier this year.

If you forgot or did know about me, but I am a big fan of Kim Sung Kyu’s solo work. I enjoyed all of his past singles and album releases. So, I’m Cold has a a lot to live up to. Well, I am happy to report that Kim Sung Kyu manages to still have the ability to stun me with his solo release, even though there was a massive two year gap. I’m Cold is a R&B styled song with a hip-hop influence. Personally, this combination doesn’t excite me unlike his pop rock roots that I know him for. However, it is how the song comes together with his voice that really shines for me. The instrumental for this song is simply an atmospheric piece and can be described as quite minimalistic. It didn’t add much substance to the song, but it was definitely needed to create the feelings of emptiness and loneliness, which goes hand-in-hand with the lyrics of the song. The most substantial part of the song was during the chorus and that was only simply due to the amped by strumming of the acoustic guitar. The main ‘meat’ (as one would describe) would the vocals, of course. Kim Sung Kyu sounds stunning and boy, do I miss his voice. What I really liked is how the producers really emphasised the vocals by applying echo-like effects and (what I think is) an additional layer of his vocals during the chorus to bolden his main vocals. I feel like all of these (if I was correct in identifying the tactics used) really helped emphasised the idea of loneliness and emptiness further. I’m Cold is honestly slightly different to what I am used from the soloist, but it is nailed like any other song Kim Sung Kyu has attempted before.

The music video simply needed to convey two things. Emptiness/ Loneliness (as conveyed in the lyrics) and coldness (as conveyed in the title of the song). Both these aspects were effortlessly shown in this music video. Kim Sung Kyu was very alone in this music video. The ring he possesses is stuck in ice and his memories cause him to cry. There was also a moment of rage towards the end of the video as he searches for something that I felt was a great peak in his acting for this video, showcasing his loneliness a step further. The coldness was cleverly inserted. He sings in a freezer room and in the snow, which all symbolises the coldness. But the best part was when he holds onto the flower and it becomes encased in ice. I felt that was a smart way of showing that he is also cold on the inside. I just wished there was a bit more to the video, like a bit of a back story or flashback to his breakup.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.6/10

[Album Review] Destiny (2nd Single Album) – Infinite

It is time that I bring back the Past Album Reviews (PARs), where I dive into the albums that have been released in past. In order to be reviewed, the album cannot be released in the current year. So in this case, any album released in 2019 or before may land itself on the review. They will be published weekly (as like last year) and will follow the same format as the usual album reviews. The restarting album to this segment Infinite’s Destiny, which is the group’s second single album. It was released back in 2013 after the release of New Challenge in the same year, which I previously reviewed last year.

Destiny Album Cover

Apologies that I could not find the official audio for the b-sides on this album on YouTube. I have linked to the YouTube lyrics videos that I could find instead.

1. Destiny (Title Track) – My previous review for Destiny consisted of a combined rating score, which I do not use in my album reviews. Upon reconsideration I have changed the rating to 9/10 song-wise from the 7.5 combination rating I had given originally. Click here to read the full review for Destiny. (9/10)

2. Inception – My new headphones are really getting a workout with the recent bass heavy songs that I have been reviewing. And Inception joins that list, opening with multiple deep drumbeats that really gets me intrigued in the song after all these years. Joining the deep beats that is brought in and out of the song, the song has this ongoing squeaky synth that really gets into your head (well, it did for me after all this time). There is also this classy vibe to the song which I thought really helped make this song feel polish and at another level. The vocal work was really good, with the chorus featuring harmonies from the members to give that powerful feel in a subtle way. There is also a catchy melody attached to the song, which helps it becomes a strong b-side that follows in the footstep of Destiny. (9/10)

3. Going To You (너에게 간다)Going To You is pop ballad, leaning more to the pop side. I am always amazed when it comes to Infinite’s ballad. Back then and even now. Going To You has this very wholesome and passionate feel to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The instrumental is a balanced mixture of band and classical instrumentation, which gives the song that lean to the pop side of the spectrum. The melody was light and simple. All the members participate as vocalists in this song and they all sound really good. I love how they stripped all the music at the end, giving Woohyun an opportunity to end the song with his effortless vocals. I could go on about this song but I will give two big thumbs up for this song, with hopes that summarises the rest of my thoughts. (9/10)

4. Mother (엄마) Mother is more of your typical ballad. Slow and the instrumental is more classical-centered. Mother is a special song, dedicated to all mothers. The members sing Mother with their own mothers, wanting to saying to ‘Thank You’ and ‘I Love You’ to them. They touched on being immature at a young age and now that they have grown up, they understand what their mothers had gone through while raising them. There is a very warm feel to their voices and you can hear the emotions behind their voices, which is a sign of a good ballad. I liked how swaying the melody was, another sign of a good ballad in my books. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

Destiny Teaser Image

[Album Review] New Challenge (4th Mini Album) – Infinite

It is time for another past album review (PARs). Last two weeks, I have been focusing on groups who have disbanded. And while I could continue that, I want to also focus on the groups that are still active (or supposedly active). Infinite is one of these groups who are in a weird limbo. Some members are actively promoting, while others are in the military. More recently, L moved on from Woolim Entertainment (the company managing  Infinite), placing a question mark on top of the group’s future, despite L confirming that he is still part of the group. Nonetheless, Infinite still many albums to look at and that is what we will be doing today. The group’s fourth mini-album, New Challenge, was released in 2013 with Man In Love.

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New Challenge Album Cover

2. Man In Love (남자가 사랑할때) (Title Track) – Rereading my past review, I am very confused about what I meant myself. So, to keep it short, Man In Love has grown immensely on me. Not immediately after the initial review, but a few months (maybe years) after the release. It still is a change-up no one saw coming, given their past darker releases that came before and after Man In Love. Vocally, I think the song is fine (now) and the rapping is still a highlight for me. I thought the retro sound was appealing and the upbeat nature was a welcome change after all. These comments are drastically different from what I had originally, but if you want to see what I wrote previously (ignore the hypocrisy), click here to read the original review. (9/10)

3. As Good As It Gets (이보다 좋을 순 없다)As Good As It Gets is a decent track. It isn’t amazing. But it isn’t terrible. It is like the Goldilocks of the tracks on the album, which I think is rather fitting given the title of the song. It follows the title track in a sense that it is wholesome and lively. At the same time, however, the song doesn’t push itself to be better. It stays very consistent throughout. And in this case, it doesn’t work well with the track. The instrumental takes a rock pop approach, which I was good. It felt very typical, especially in comparison to other songs on the album. But it was a good canvas for the vocals. The singing together for the chorus was a good technique, as it added more colour to the song. The members alone sounded quite nice. The rapping was quite good as well, but it didn’t feel necessary. There are two sides to this track, which is why I label as decent. (7/10)

4. Still I Miss You (그리움이 닿는 곳에) – One thing that I am not exactly sure if you know about me. But I always love Infinite ballad, regardless of the lyrics. Their voices are very versatile and hence can fit multiple genres. And it is always nice to hear them attempt something so strong through their title tracks and then successfully nail their more fragile ballads perfectly. Unfortunately, Still I Miss You is one of those outliers that just doesn’t meet that benchmark. It is a nice ballad, but it doesn’t capture the best of the group. It felt very typical and the melody didn’t feel special. While some members shined, others didn’t really do as well in the song, which I think is another letdown. The instrumental was a lot more lively than the ballads that I listen to often from Infinite, which I guess was required to fit into the album. (7/10)

5. Beautiful – The vocals and instrumental start from the very first second, expressing how their partner leaves them in awe with their beauty. Given their previous tracks, this one follows the title track in being of the unexpected nature. But I guess some brightness doesn’t hurt from time to time. Harmonies are given to us at the start of the chorus and I thought the song zoned into the vocals quite well. Instrumentally, I thought it was a little standard. It felt more like a b-side track than anything else, honestly speaking. So, it wasn’t necessary memorable back then or now. But still, another decent track. (7/10)

6. 60 Seconds (60초) (Infinite Version)60 Seconds was previously the title track from Kim Sung Kyu’s first solo album. A song that I do come back to every so often because it is so damn good. So, to hear that the group would be releasing a version themselves was a pretty big deal back then. And it was a version that I enjoyed. The harmonies and the vocals of the individual members were shown off. Hoya and Dongwoo also introduced a rap sequence into the song to give it some additional depth of appeal. The instrumental remained the same between the two versions, keeping it consistently good throughout. (9/10)

7. Inconvenient Truth (불편한 진실) – Opening this track up is a female’s laughter and a very vibrant set of horns. It brings forward a very retro sound, which is Infinite’s forte for this album. The song shows the members in an unimpressed state because of their lover, with the laughter at the start present to tease the members. Despite, the song is very lively and energetic. I thought the chorus was nice, with all the members singing together. It did feel a little childish at times, from my perspective, which is something I am a little disappointed in. I also wanted more to the song, given how it was very consistent throughout. The fading out ending didn’t really wrap things up in a manner that I would have liked it. All of this felt made it feel like there should have been one more song coming right after, so it leaves a gap at the end of the album. (6.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

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New Challenge Teaser Image

[Album Review] A New Journey (3rd Mini Album) – Nam Woohyun (Infinite)

Today’s album review will be focusing on Nam Woohyun’s latest solo mini-album, A New Journey, which also features the title track Hold On Me. In the past, Nam Woohyun’s releases have revolved around the ballad genre. But with a fitting title such as A New Journey, it is implied that a new direction is taken. And with the intro track and title track suggesting a more upbeat route, it is definitely ‘A New Journey‘ for the Infinite member in terms of solo releases. So let’s follow Woohyun and see what songs are included on the album.

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A New Journey Album Cover

2. Hold On Me (ft. Junoflo) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Hold On Me. (9/10)

3. Rain – The song is a mixture of different sounds. However, I don’t think it is an overwhelming mix. I just think it could have been tied together more nicely. The few changes it did feature were very obvious in nature and it created a messy atmosphere as a result. I think the track was going towards a dynamic vibe and a more cohesive approach (if it is possible) would have really benefited the main appeal of the track. It starts off with an acoustic-like electric guitar introduction and slowly builds to a Latin-inspired chorus with both electric and acoustic guitars at the forefront. The song remains in this mode up until a brief pause at the end and it changes completely. So different that I thought a new song had started. The first listen was overwhelming but that feeling died down after multiple listens, as suggested above. I thought the vocals were well presented in this track, with that being another highlight. (7.5/10)

4. Stranger – While this track does sound a little typical, the rush of energy that we get from the chorus makes it sound so good. Personally, I think this song ticks all the boxes on my checklist for an amazing song. Great vocals, great energy, great beat. Everything was great! It just felt like it was missing one element. I did lowkey expected a rap sequence during the instrumental break. And I think that could have made the song a little more interesting. The instrumental break did feel like a small void and it would have helped if it was filled up in some way. (9/10)

5. Crying Baby – While I did mention that the album took an upbeat approach (and this song is no exception from that), Crying Baby’s verses made it feel very ballad-like. But that doesn’t hold for long, as the song takes a turn (though I don’t remember exactly if this turn was expected or unexpected for me). I am glad that the majority of the singing for this song was during the verses, making way for an empty-ish chorus to be filled with loud dubstep effects. I find this a well contrasting mix due to its differences in softness and loudness; delicate and rough; ballad and electronics etc. If any major singing parts were to occur during the chorus, no doubt that Woohyun voice would have been drowned out. (8/10)

6. Just Look At Me (넌 나만 바라봐) – The first thing that really pops out at me in this track is Woohyun’s airy and lower toned vocals. It is a lot different than his vocal approach in any other song on the album, so it is different intriguing. I like the instrumental for this track, as well. The synths are a little loud, which at times did feel like it was drowning out vocals. They did attempt to combat this by incorporating some loud backing vocals (that he does a good job harmonizing with), which expelled a very dominant retro vibe to the song. This was successful to varying degrees along the track. But overall, I thought it was a nice track. (8/10)

7. FlowerFlower is probably the most ‘expected’ track off this album to fit into Woohyun’s existing portfolio. It isn’t strictly a ballad, however. But I find the song to be consistent with a softer nature and more traditional instrumentation that you expected for a ballad. It is also the one song on the album that provides relief from the loaded energy that we have coming from the album. And this relief is much appreciated. Flower ends up being a typical café style and almost-jazzy number, which I enjoy time to time. Because of the energy I mentioned just a moment ago, this is a good example of when I enjoy this type of song. A part of me says this is a lacklustre song to end with, due to its standard nature. But at the same time, it is definitely pleasant. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

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A New Journey Teaser Image

[Review] Hold On Me – Nam Woohyun (Infinite)

One of the groups that I want to continue to see in the future is Infinite. Their releases in the past have also been outstanding and with the military enlistment period upon the members, I want something Infinite related in this Infinite-drought. Woohyun is probably my favourite member and it isn’t just because he is the one to break the Infinite-drought. Woohyun returned today with Hold On Me, his third solo title track.

While Woohyun is my favourite member of the group, his previously ballads quickly wore off after their respective releases and reviews.  You can’t really help that if all you release are ballads. However, Hold On Me departs from this ballad train and jumps onboard a more upbeat and energetic train. Kicking off the track are some guitars that really perk your interest, particularly if you were expecting a ballad track. We were treated to some of Woohyun’s vocals but I did not expect such an early featuring of Junoflo right after. I liked the raspy texture he gave the song and the way they managed to blend together was very interesting. I think the best bit of the song has to the pre-chorus and chorus combination. The buildup was nice and the chorus had a rush of energy/colour (thanks to the vibrancy of the guitar), making the track quite memorable for me. Woohyun’s vocals were really nice, with the bridge of the song probably showcasing his vocals the best in the entire song. Overall, Hold On Me serves as a great drought-breaker and provides a fresh take of Woohyun!

The music video shows Woohyun remembering a past lover. Woohyun looked like he never moved on from his breakup, as the static on the television reminded him of his girlfriend and his place doesn’t look like he ever stopped drinking since that heartbreaking night. Towards the end, he does find her. But she seems to be a memory within his mind and the static effect is shown alongside her, representing the fact that she is now just a memory (and not a partner). I thought it was an interesting video. I did like the choreography set (I don’t think it was a real cityscape, which was rather disappointing). I think it would have been better with an actual cityscape, like his solo shots.

The choreography looks good. It isn’t as intense as other Infinite releases in the past but it is getting there. I think Woohyun focuses more on this vocals for these performances, which I think is the more appropriate thing for Woohyun, as his vocals his main weapon (though his dancing is as well).

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

 

[Double Review] News + Party Girl – Jang Dong Woo (Infinite)

It is time to look at a solo debut from Monday (I think this is the last of the releases from Monday. Apologies for the lateness of this review). This time around it is Dongwoo from Infinite, the group’s resident rapper. The idol released two music videos for News (the official title track) and Party Girl, and hence I will be reviewing both of songs today in this post. Both songs are featured on his first mini-album titled Bye. In other related news, Infinite recently returned with a special digital single, Clock.

Starting off with News, it is a slow electronic dance track that feels like it loaded with emotions. In fact, the song talks about the emotions you get during a breakup, so it is definitely successful in conveying those emotions. It also seems like the song does a good job of pushing Dongwoo’s vocals. We actually hear more of his vocals than ever before and I sense potential. We do see some rapping and I thought there would be more of this element as this is what he is known for. Furthermore, I did like the dramatic flair to the song through the instrumental, especially the loud crashes which create some intensity in the chorus. However, when I listen to the full track, the is a sense of dryness to the song. It isn’t really that memorable and I don’t find myself wanting more, which is a little disappointing.

Party Girl is a completely different sound. The does start off with a similar feel to News. But as the song slowly starts to build up to its drop, you can tell is rather different. Firstly., the drop is more suited to what the title suggests, a party. The synthesizer used really gives the song that needed burst of energy and is quite ear-catching. which makes the song more memorable for me. And it is because of the chorus, I thoroughly enjoy the song more. The song, too, also showcases his vocals extremely well. The ad-libs at the end were pretty good. Interestingly, there is no rapping. Though I like the song how it is, I think some rapping would be worthwhile.

Fitting in with the serious emotional nature of News, the music video opts for a dark feel. The shade black is used extensively throughout the video. I also like how the cinematography was matching to the instrumental. More the most part, the camera shots are smooth and slow. But when the tiny effect in the instrumental appear, the shots transitions are a lot quicker and timed well. Overall, I thought it was a good video. Party Girl infuses a lot more colour into the video. But instead of being very colourful as a rainbow, the producer/director chose colours that felt more ‘electronic’ if you know what I mean. It is kind of hard to explain but I still like the infusion of colour. Like the cinematography in this video as well. During the chorus, the camera starts becoming shaky and more erratic, fitting in with the energy we got from the chorus.

 I liked how smooth his movements were for the News performance. But what I like the most was when he was dancing with the female backup dancer. I thought that was the dynamic part of the entire performance. I didn’t like her inclusion at the start and preferred her during the second verse. However, when it comes to the entire performance, I prefer Party Girl. That is because I prefer things to be energetic and I liked the moves they pulled off during Party Girl. I felt it was dynamic all the way.

News
Song – 710
Music Video  – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.3/10

Party Girl
Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Review] Clock – Infinite

I previously mentioned in previous reviews that some male groups have reached the point in their careers where they need to enlist into the military. One of these other groups is Infinite. After last year’s comeback with Tell Me, leader Kim Sung Gyu enlisted in May. And it is expected that other Infinite members would follow this year. But before that, Infinite announced their return with a special single, Clock, which was previously performed at their fan meets at the end of the year. Unfortunately, Clock will not be promoted due to busy solo schedules but it still nice to get a new song from Infinite after a year’s absence.

Clock is a mid-tempo ballad that brings the best out of the remaining Infinite members. I am super excited for this track as I have always been a fan for Infinite’s ballads and this one does not deviate from that memory. The instrumental falls under the category of a soft rock track from what I can hear and it is a very good one. There is some slight reshuffling in this track to fit the missing presence of Kim Sung Gyu and former member Hoya. Myungsoo (or L) and Woohyun takes the reigns as the main vocalists, while Sungjong, Sungyeol and Dongwoo do all the rapping throughout the track. All handle their parts exceptionally well. I am particularly surprised by the rapping done by Sungjong, as I don’t think he has ever rapped before. I also enjoyed the harmonies that they all bring together. I don’t have much else to say regarding the song but wish to reiterate my first statement – it truly brings out the best of each member.

The music video shows the members either awaiting a phone call or waiting to make a phone call (I believe there may be a mixture of each). It doesn’t really show much else besides that. The song is about waiting to be reunited, so I guess the waiting around for a phone call (or waiting for the right moment to call) serves as a mechanism for a reunion in this video. It is a touching song and put together with this video and alongside their foreseeable future, it is even more touching. I am not totally into the hazy filter, however.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Album Review] Last Romeo / Be Back (2nd Studio & Repackaged Album) – Infinite

As the album contains 14 tracks, this album review has become quite lengthy. 

This week’s ‘past album’ review (I really need a new name for this particular series) is Infinite’s 2014 releases Last Romeo (which featured the title track Last Romeo) and Be Back (which featured the title track Back). I chose Infinite for today as they tend to have a number of cool non-title track hidden in the midst of their album releases, alongside that amazing title track they return with each time. This album is not an exception, with my attention immediately drawn to Last Romeo when it was first released. The album also contains releases from subunits and solo members, some of which hadn’t even had their respective debut at the time.

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Season 2 Album Cover

2. Last Romeo (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Last Romeo. (8/10 – TImes have changed, so I bumped up the original 7.5/10 to 8/10)

3. Back (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Back. (10/10)

4. Diamond – What I tend to like about Infinite’s title tracks is the fact that they tend to collaborate with an orchestra for a special performance, resulting in a beautiful performance in one form or another. Diamond takes on that orchestral instrumental and while it isn’t a title track, it deserves recognition as it is one of Infinite’s best b-side tracks ever! It places Infinite’s vocals into the spotlight in a jaw-dropping manner that captures your attention. Dongwoo was especially surprising, with his high note. I really like the piano in the instrumental and the dramatic sounds during the bridge. (10/10)

5. Follow MeFollow Me combines a violin instrumental with some rock elements and what I suspect to be the a few seconds of a standard pre-loaded ringtone (i.e. the first 3 seconds of the song). Together, we result in a nice song that reminds me of Infinite in the older days. The vocals are good, with some harmonies present in the chorus. I think the first rap sequence was unnecessary but the one in the bridge (with the echo effect) was cool. To me, the song doesn’t feel spectacular, but it is still good. (7/10)

6. Rocinante (로시난테) – Within seconds of the song starting, I was pretty much sold on the song. There were upbeat vibes, brightness and energy just coming off the son. Perfect for a song about motivation. I really like the synth-based instrumental for this pop track, especially with that electronic effect during the bridge, which gives it some detail. The vocal in this song was ideal, perfectly stable and fitting for the song. I liked the rapping, but I thought it could have been more powerful and intense for the song. (8.5/10)

7. Breathe (숨 좀 쉬자) – Interesting theory is that this is song is about the saesang fans. Those who don’t know, saesang fans are those who become obsessive and stalks their ‘idols’. To the point where things can become life-threatening to the idol. I personally do not consider them as fans as they are dangerous to themselves and the people around them. Putting the topic aside, the instrumental is quite edgy. There seems to be a little bit of funk mixed into the song. The combination becomes quite addictive and the simple melody from the vocals aid in that. (8/10)

8. Light (Sunggyu Solo) – Kicking off a series of solo and unit works is Kim Sung Gyu, whom at the time of the release of the album, already started his solo career. It is a change up from his usual style, going for an acoustic approach. The instrumental doesn’t shine as much, leaving his vocals to do all the heavy lifting for the song. The way he vocalises throughout the song keeps it interesting. Not entire his best release but still decent. (7/10)

9. Alone (Infinite H) Infinite H took a more melodic and flowy approach to their unit song on the album. I personally found the song to be disappointing as it lacks in colour and remains too consistent throughout, leaving us hearing the same tune repeatedly. It goes for a hip-hop R&B sound with rap-singing, but the track fails to inspire or really lift off. I don’t hate it but it is the track that I just want to skip over since it is so boring. (5/10)

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Be Back Album Cover

10. MemoriesMemories, to me, feels like that Summery ballad-y track that you often get as a b-side track on the album for an album released during the Summer period. It showcases Infinite’s vocals in a light and refreshing manner. The instrumental could essentially be described in a similar fashion. I particularly liked the harmonies in the song. That extra intensity provided by the raps was nice, My favourite part would have to the pre-chorus ‘Ddu Ddu” part. (9/10)

11. A Person Like Me (나란 사람) – Based on the first few seconds of the song, you can tell that this song is going to be a emotional ride. And essentially, it is a ballad backed by another orchestral instrumental that does just that. Personally, I felt like the vocals were just slapped onto the track. They didn’t feel like it fitted 100% neatly. Sunggyu and Woohyun stood out the most but everyone did an awesome job. The harmonies with each other when they paired up, along with the backing vocals were really nice. (8.5/10)

12. Reflex – Based on the title of the song, Reflex sounds to be the coolest song on the album. Overall, the sound of the song reminded me of KPOP back in the day. To me, the song felt weak as I expected sharpness and something fast-paced. The instrumental seems to go in that direction with some of the smaller details in the instrumentation going for something more electronic but was held back for the vocals. Once again, I don’t mind the song, but it is in no way my favourite. (6/10)

13. Crazy (미치겠어) (Infinite F) –Infinite F, at the time of the release of the album, had yet to make their unit debut. They made that jump at the end of 2014 with Heartthrob. If you are a seasoned KPOP fan, this is what you would call rather ‘standard’. Nothing to special about the song in a nutshell. There were some effects (such as after the first chorus) but they felt mismatched for the song. The vocals for the song were okay. Compared to their unit release that occurred afterwards, I think the song failed to really push their limits. But that is just my opinion. (7/10)

14. Close My Eyes (눈을 감으면) (Woohyun Solo) – I think out of the solo and unit songs on the album, I am most impressed with Woohyun’s. It is an emotional sounding ballad that really allows Woohyun to standout. I really like the sudden mix of electric guitar right after the chorus, which gives the ballad some uniqueness (This is usually saved for the bridge). Woohyun didn’t make his solo debut until the year after, so the question that should be asked is why didn’t he get on sooner? (8/10)

15. I Need U Back (소나기) – Going back to the start of this review where I mentioned Infinite’s classic sound (dance track with the potential to incorporate orchestral instrumentation), this album may just prove that if the song has just that factor in it, it is would be enough to sell as an Infinite song. The song contains 70% electronic components and synths to really make it upbeat and fast-paced, giving the song some individuality. The lyrics don’t match this, however, going for another emotional fuelled message. It ends the album on a good note, though. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

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Be Back Teaser Image

[Review] If You Are Only Fine – Nam Woo Hyun (Infinite)

Nam Woo Hyun is officially back with his first solo comeback since his solo debut (Still I Remember) back in May 2016. Since May 2016. Woohyun has been participating in a range of musicals and making comebacks with Infinite, with the most recent being at the start of the year (Tell Me). Woo Hyun’s latest title track, If You Are Only Fine, is featured on his second mini-album, Second Write….

If You Are Only Fine is a ballad, following his solo debut track. And it is a very serious and emotional ballad from the very start. There isn’t anything upbeat or lively about this ballad, confirming the fact we are approaching that time of the year when every ballad that is released comes from an emotional or moving perspective. I personally do not mind as it allows seems fitting for the season. The song doesn’t get to the exciting territory until we get to the second half of the first verse, as this is when the instrumental slowly picks up. It builds up to be a nice orchestral ballad piece but feels very typical. Woohyun’s vocals do also buildup, giving us some power vocals that have a heavy dose of sadness throughout it. I will have to be honest though. It is a good song to listen to but it doesn’t have that wow factor that gets me wanting more or returning for further listens.

The music video recounts the moment a couple meets for the first time and the events in between, up until when the couple sadly splits up. It does a terrific job of encapsulating the saddening elements of the song and present it to us within a 4-minute video. I would have liked to see some more acting when it came to the sad ending because it doesn’t feel enough. What we got was good but I wanted more to further illustrate the heartbreak. However, it was good to watch.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.7/10

[Album Review] 10 Stories (1st Studio Album) – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

Kim Sung Kyu has been one of my favourite artists in the industry for a long time. That includes his works as part of Infinite and his solo career. 2018 marked the start of a new era for Sung Kyu with the release of his first full-length album, 10 Stories. As this review is quite lengthy, I am going to get straight into it.

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10 Stories Album Cover

1..What Did I Say? (뭐랬어) (ft. Punchnello) – The album opens up with your standard ballad. It unfortunately wasn’t memorable and was the most passable track on the album. His vocals did have an echo-like effect which gave some colour to his vocals. Punchnello’s raps were heavily autotuned but was felt fitting for the song. The instrumental didn’t really have anything spectacular, which contributed to its small impression. (6/10)

2. Stay (머물러줘) – This song reminds me of his past works. I really liked the electronic keyboard in the background, which gave the song a really nice texture. His vocals were at the forefront of the song and I really liked the chorus of the song. Talking about the chorus, it had a great opener and nice rhythm. The saxophone in the bridge was a nice touch and kept the song from becoming too repetitive. In a way, the track is quite relaxing and for that, I like it a lot. (8/10)

3. True Love (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of True Love. (8.4/10)

4. Attraction (끌림) – Despite the other instrumentations, the keyboard stood out quite a bit. The chorus was quite interesting. The defining points in this song aren’t his vocals but rather the instrumental breaks throughout the song. Definitely the song’s unique charm. The slight autotune here was nice and is something that I tend to associate with Kim Sung Kyu’s solo work. There was also a faint whisper in the background for the final chorus that added something a little extra to the song. (8.5/10) 

5. Vanishing Days (지워지는 날들) – When you first hear Sung Kyu sing, you can feel the emotions that he pours into his vocals. These strong vocals are balanced well with the piano instrumental. The second verse adds violins, which you all know I am into. The vocal build-up alongside the instrumental make this song stand out even more. That extra-long pause at the end of the song did catch me off guard but it was such an epic moment because the song returned to how it started initially, just with a guitar instrumental instead. Very fitting for a sad movie. (10/10) 

6. Tall Sunrise (ft. JW of Nell) – The song opens up with Sung Kyu autotuned too much for my liking. However, I did like the “Can You Stay” lines which felt so smooth despite the heavy-handed autotune. I really like the chorus which was upbeat in comparison to the verses, yet still managing to connect well with the verses. The other negative that I wanted to make about this track was the autotune made both Sung Kyu’s and JW’s vocals so similar, it was quite hard to distinguish the different parts. (6/10)

7. SorrySorry combines various synths to create the fine details for this track’s instrumental. That, the consistent hollow thumping and the vocals (which were on point all throughout) made this one of my favourites. My only complaint would be the first chorus felt too short. While not a complaint, the bridge was quite interesting, using only real instruments as opposed to the rest of the track which was synth heavy. Foreign but interesting. (10/10)

8. City of Angels (천사의 도시)City of Angels is another song that reminds me of his past tracks. The instrumental for this track was relaxing and calming, yet I can’t pinpoint what cause this effect on me. The vocals, once again, nice, with some lines being quite melodic (such as the opener), leaving a strong impression. (9/10)

9. Sentimental – When you listen to the song, you get a hint of happiness. The instrumental did a good job conveying this to us. Vocals were also good; however, it was relatively plain when you look at the entire track. On top of that, the song did get a little repetitive due to the consistency of the vocals and instrumental. There was an added effect at the end of the track but it felt too late as an attempt to change up the song. (7/10)

10. Mirror (거울)– The album ends with a ballad. While I tend to think ending albums with ballads tend to be a weak point, this has to be an exception. His vocals are quite unique in this particular track, like no other on this album. I particularly like the push his vocals gave during the chorus. The piano only instrumental was also quite nice. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.2/10

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10 Stories Teaser Image

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[Review] True Love – Kim Sung Kyu (Infinite)

Kim Sung Kyu has finally made his solo return to the stage with his first studio length album, 10 Stories. The title track featured on this album is True Love. His comeback was a little unexpected, with Infinite just recently wrapping up their promotions for Tell Me at the end of January and his teaser pictures just coming out of nowhere. This is his first comeback since his last mini-album and double title track promotions of The Answer and Kontrol.

To me, True Love is the midpoint that I would imagine if Kim Sung Kyu and Ed Sheeran joined forces to make a song. While the song’s sound and instrumental seems to lean more heavily towards Kim Sung Kyu’s side, there were a few moments throughout the song that felt like the song could have gone down that Ed Sheeran route. I like how calming the song feels during the verses. The build-up just before the chorus was nice but my favourite bit has to be the launch into the chorus. It is where the song comes together and it is the strongest point of the song which reminds me fondly of Kim Sung Kyu’s previous works. There is a slight catchy hook to the chorus, which I can see myself singing to in a few days time. His vocals are great but they don’t really shine as much in this song. Overall, the expectation (for me) is that Kim Sung Kyu would have a really good song as his title track and True Love seems to live up to that expectation.

The music video was shot in Hong Kong, which seems to be the number 1 destination to go to, for shooting a music video. A number of artists in the past year alone have shot their music video in Hong Kong. And I can see why. Despite it being featured so much last year, the sites of Hong Kong always look breathtaking and fresh. In the video, it seems like Sung Kyu is looking for his lover, whom he has been trying to track down from a letter he got from her. The ending was a little confusing, how he reads the letter. It makes me question whether he was looking for his ‘True Love‘ or whether he was looking for closure. The walking around on the streets is aesthetically pleasing and sets it up to be a good video (especially with all the great sites around him).

Song – 8/10
Musc Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10