[Special] Personal Favourite Songs from 1st Half of 2021

Within a blink of an eye, another 6 months have passed. 2021 was still an awful year with lockdowns, isolation and the pandemic still dominating news headlines. I feel that these events, amongst other things, has really slowed me down this year. But at least, KPOP was on the pleasures that I still had to get me through these last 6 months.

A lot of albums and a lot of songs were released, per usual, in the span of the first 6 months of 2021. And I am still playing catch up with some to write reviews for! I will get there eventually! But in the meanwhile, I thought I share with you 10 KPOP songs that are my personal favourites from the last 6 months (in no particular order). Why 10? Well, it is an even number and I just couldn’t decide on a few, so I went with a couple :D. (Please note that this is irrespective of my reviews – songs can grow on you over time!)

Let me know if we shared similar taste in 2021 so far? And if we don’t, then comment below what your favourite songs of the year are! I would love to see what you all have been enjoying.

[Review] ZERO:ATTITUDE – SOYOU & IZ*ONE (ft. pH-1)

Prepare yourself for the first collaboration of 2021. Members from IZ*ONE (Eunbi, Sakura, Minju, Yuri and WonYoung) and former Sistar member Soyou have joined forces with pH-1 for the new single, ZERO:ATTITUDE. This new single forms part of the Pepsi X Starship Project, providing us with great collaborations between big KPOP artists since 2019. Other artists who have participated in this project include GFriend’s Eunha and VIXX’s Ravi (Blossom), Ong Seong Wu (Heart Sign), MONSTA X’s Hyungwon and former VIXX member Hongbin (Cool Love), Rain & Soyou (Beginning), Kang Daniel & Zico (Refresh) and CIX’s Bae Jin Young & WEi’s Kim Yo Han (I Believe).

Like majority of the collaborative efforts between the artists listed above, SOYOU and IZ*ONE do a pretty neat job with this single. I find ZERO:ATTITUDE to be super catchy, which reels me into the song even more. And this catchiness tempts me to press the replay button with its infectious sung-spoken hook. On top of that, the confident energy that is expressed in the lyrics comes off pretty well in the instrumentation. The vocals from both the IZ*ONE members and Soyou were very clean-cut, popping out over the EDM based instrumentation. I also felt the line distribution was pretty fair between the individuals who participated in the The instrumentation is a hit and miss for me. Aside from the positives that I have mentioned thus far about this element, I have to make the note that it is relatively plain. Currently, it feels suitable as a short and sweet commercial track (which is the whole purpose of this collaboration in the first place). If the instrumental was a little more interesting and spruced up a bit to be more dynamic, I think ZERO:ATTITUDE has what it takes to be an awesome title track as everything else is pretty much at that level for me. pH-1’s bridge was a bit random for my taste. I honestly thought the song could have done without this part, replaced with a dance break to boost the song’s dynamism. This is not critical of pH-1’s delivery as his rapping is awesome. It is more so that his trap breakdown sequence just didn’t fit the liveliness and pop roots of the rest of the song. But aside from that, ZERO:ATTITUDE is another strong collaboration between two big names in the industry.

In case you missed it, the music video for ZERO:ATTITUDE was a three minute long commercial for Pepsi’s newest Pepsi Zero Lime flavour. The walls are lined with cans of the drink and the members (per soft drink commercial protocols) down the drink in the music video. Thought I point that out. But aside from the video’s purpose, I am loving the overall urban aesthetics of the big screen, exposed scaffolding/stage structure and the outfits donned by Soyou, the IZ*ONE members and the dancers. It just felt on point and really showed off a sexier side that is synonymous with Soyou. It also felt suitable for the IZ*ONE members. I was wondering when the two parties would meet up to make this video and collaboration feel complete as they were pretty much separated throughout the first two thirds of the video. But they managed to bring the two parties together at the end, fulfilling my wish for this video.

The performance is pretty neat. I liked how it exudes confidence, fitting in with the song and its purpose. I also liked how good it made Soyou and the IZ*ONE members look.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Album Review] One-reeler Act IV (4th Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

Album reviews for 2021 will continue per the usual schedule next month. In the meanwhile, album reviews will be coming out spontaneously as I complete them. I want to wrap all the album reviews for 2020 this month, whilst also publish the album reviews for January 2021 releases, so I don’t fall behind on them like I did so at the end of 2020. This will also allow me to focus on some of the other posts in January such as the end of year charts and the announcement of the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Award winners. But more on that in the future. This post focuses on IZ*ONE’s fourth mini-album, One-reeler Act IV, which was released at the start of December 2020. It features the title track Panorama and five other songs on the mini-album, so let’s check them out. Let me know what you think of them down in the comments section below.

One-reeler Act IV Album Cover

1. Mise-en-scèneMise-en-scène follows the same music formula as the rest of their other title tracks. The song starts off in the pop realm and slowly develops into a dance track with a very abrasive drop in the chorus. What Mise-en-scène manages to do well to differentiate itself from the rest of their previous works is the more electronic profile and detailing in the song. This adds so much different texture and helps makes the song standout. (9/10)

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

3. IslandIsland is surprisingly what I had expected. It is a cute number confirmed by their vocals and the twinkling effect at the start. But the group manages to put an IZ*ONE spin, bringing that abrasive instrumental I mentioned earlier into the song. That being said, Island is not just noise and it turns out to be a very strong song altogether. I really like the different directions the song does go in, which helps elevate the song’s appeal and prevents it just sounding like an amped up cutesy track. (8/10)

4. Sequence – IZ*ONE tones back the energy of the instrumental ever so slightly in Sequence. The funky and retro instrumental isn’t as rough as the previous tracks. But the song does still have that heightened texture to it, though I would describe it as more sleek in comparison to their other songs. I really like what they did with the chorus, adding more to it as it progressed along. I felt this really made their vocals pop during the chorus, which helped made the song more enjoyable. (9/10)

5. O Sole Mio – At just a glance, I thought it was just another house dance track. Literally, if you blink (whatever the equivalent for hearing is), you would miss the Latin flair hidden behind the house influence. I personally like this ‘touch of Latin’, as the Latin trend has become overused in my books now and I am slowly getting tired of it (though, I do keep my mind open to other clever uses of the trend). Just the house influence does make O Sole Mio sound typical and cliché. The song also sounds like it opted for a ‘touch of matureness’, which I attribute to some of the vocals. The rapping was also a nice addition. (8/10)

6. Slow Journey Slow Journey is group’s most held back sound on the album, opting for a pop ballad sound. It is very nice, though I wished they removed some of the percussion and disc scratching. It distracted me from the sweet vocals and really bright acoustic guitar work. Otherwise, I reckon the song would have been more delicate and sweeter sounding. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

One-reeler Act IV Teaser Image

[Review] Panorama – IZ*ONE

IZ*ONE is nominated for Best Female Group in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Vote for IZ*ONE and your other favourite artists by clicking here!

Despite the continuation of the voting manipulation scandal in the Produce 101 shows that brought us some of the biggest project groups in KPOP, IZ*ONE is the one group that has continually pushed through it all. Today, the group made their comeback with their fourth mini-album, One-Reeler, and the title track Panorama. The group did unofficially drop the new song yesterday by performing it at the 2020 MAMA Awards, which I am sure many of you tuned into. Panorama joins IZ*ONE’s 2020 releases, which includes Fiesta, Secret Story of the Swan and Beware.

As mentioned yesterday, my first exposure to Panorama was via the 2020 MAMA Awards. My first impression of the song was definitely quite positive and it peaked my interest. Panorama seems to take the iconic elements of both their previous title tracks and merged it into one. What do I mean by this? Well, Fiesta had all these high pitched synths and sound effects, while Secret Story of the Swan had that really dramatic flair thanks to the bass. It seems like these two elements come together to really form a powerful track for IZ*ONE. But it just wasn’t the merger of these two songs. Panorama does a lot more. There is really strong vocals from the members. This was definitely necessary, given the powerfulness of the synths in Panorama. I honestly thought these synths would have drowned out the members, as IZ*ONE usually sings with a higher pitch. But here, the members pushed themselves to make sure they are heard. The melodies and hooks were pretty catchy, as well. There were some really cool violins in the background and I love the post-chorus instrumental break, where the rush of energy was coming from. I also really liked the final part following the final chorus, which was a wonderful cap to the song. Overall, Panorama impresses. There was just so much energy and intensity that I just cannot get out of my head.

One of the elements of the performance yesterday that caught my attention were their outfits. And this music video amps up that appeal for me. Their outfits are stunning throughout the video. From the dresses/outfits they don in their solo shots to the really simple yet fashionable outfits they wore whilst dancing, everything looked stunning. The sets in this music video were stunning as well. I really liked how much classy flair there was. The music video does take on that closeup and choreography format, but that was not an issue here as all of the above really stood out for me. The cinematography was also as captivating throughout, keeping up with the pace of the song but also making sure the members looked amazing.

The choreography looks really good. It keeps up with the intensity, yet still has a bit of a casual nature and elegance to it. I particularly enjoyed the routine that accompanied the energy rush after the main choruses. It started off with some footwork, before incorporating some arm movements and then whole body moves.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[International Song Review] Stray Kids, IZ*ONE, FT Island, N.Flying & Super Junior KRY

A week ago, I wrote a review for five international songs by Korean artists. In that post, I revealed that had another five reviews coming your way. And as promised, here is the next edition of the International Song Review. TTo be honest, the last post is probably more fitting for the term ‘international’, as this post focuses more the Japanese music industry as that is where KPOP has an obvious stronghold and market power. And this is something expected as many more artists have made their debut in the Japanese music industry compared to the Chinese or Western music industry. Moving away from that little ‘analysis’, this post contains brief reviews for five Japanese tracks from Stray Kids, IZ*ONE, FT Island, N.Flying (though this is more of a cover) and Super Junior KRY.

All In – Stray Kids

2020 has been one busy year for Stray Kids. Their 2020 resume consist of a mixtape release, one Japanese single, a Korean OST and back-to-back Korean comebacks. And if you deemed any of the releases for the group as ‘the best’ according to your personal taste, then you probably have not heard All In yet. It builds itself around an epic brass piece that reminds me of primetime sporting events and prestigious award shows. In this song, it makes the atmosphere feel adventurous, theatrical and playful at the same time. Per Stray Kids’ forte, the song is very rap centric, adding to the powerful nature of the song. There are small vocal moments throughout the song, but it is the rappers (and rap sequences) that really steal my attention in this song. Adding more to that playful vibe I mentioned earlier, All In features a hilarious ‘WHAT?‘ from Jisung just before each chorus, which are preceded with the female spoken line ‘There is no search results for STOP‘, which I thought makes perfect sense with the continuous energy that comes from the song.

All In‘s music video takes a page out of their God’s Menu and Back Door music videos by incorporating a similar concept. I wouldn’t be surprised if the music videos are linked. There are background figures standing around the members doing nothing, whilst the same suited older men appear at the table. If you watch the music video carefully, you will see the members interact with the background figures, which I think is a first for the members and this concept. The video also matches the epic vibes of the song with that very bold burning billboard. For the choreography, the dance is equally as powerful, energy driven and epic as the song. For my favourite bit, it has to be the chorus routine, which I am digging very much.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Beware – IZ*ONE

IZ*ONE’s schedule in both Korea and Japan were put on hold due to the controversy that embroiled the Produce series and left an equivalent group disbanded well ahead of their contract ending. But IZ*ONE has managed to bounce back, with all members returning for two Korean comebacks so far this year. And now, IZ*ONE makes their long awaited comeback in Japan with Beware. Aside from their debut single in Japan, all of their Japanese singles have been terrible (harsh, but the honest truth) or forgettable (which is mildly better). Beware doesn’t have the ability to overtake their I Want To Say I Love You debut single. And if I was being honest, I foresee the song falling into the ‘forgotten’ category over time. Beware is delivered to us in a high pitch cutesy manner. Personally, I wished they grounded their vocals in some form and hadn’t gone head first into the cutesy sound. Their melody did help make the song appealing to a degree. It was flat for the most part, though it had its moments and had a nice ring to it. The strongest aspect has to be the song’s electronic synth-based instrumental. It did overpower some parts and did feel somewhat typical, but overall it brought great energy to the song.

With a cutesy sound comes a colourful music video. It is what makes the most sense. For Beware, the colourful video is saturated with pink and some yellow. I like the concept, where IZ*ONE is in in their own world in that suitcase. It isn’t new, but IZ*ONE’s take on it is pretty refreshing. For the performance, I like the energy that comes from the dance. It is fitting for the song and their youthful charms. I really like Chaewon and Minju’s little part during the bridge.

Overall Rating – 6.7/10

Sunrise Yellow – FT Island

It has been a while since we have heard from FT Island, who have reached that point of their careers where they are currently enlisting in the military. But that doesn’t stop them from releasing a single. FT Island current lineup only consist of 3 members (Hongki, Jaejin and Minhwan), with Jonghoon leaving the group/retiring from the industry when he was implicated in a scandal, while Seunghyun left the group to continue his acting career. Sunrise Yellow is the most recent FT Island and it features Seunghyun as his final FT Island release. It is a feel good song dedicated to their fans, with the Sunrise Yellow title referring to their Sunshine Yellow fanclub colour. When it comes to my reviews, I tend to say I love the energy that comes from a particular song. And it is true. But it feels completely different when real instruments are at play and it releases that energetic charge. Sunrise Yellow, hence, blows me away when we enter the chorus territory, with the fast paced energy and unrelenting momentum coming at you. Hongki’s vocals are quite nice, but I love the unique texture that Jaejin gives the verses in this parts. There is a punch to it, which I enjoyed. I wished Seunghyun and Minhwan had a part in this song, which would have increased the impact factor for fans and made Sunrise Yellow extra special.

The song is released as part of their 10 year anniversary for Japanese promotions and there is no other way to make the video special by including their fans in it. The music video simply consists of a mixture of close ups that I assume they shot prior to their concert (so that they don’t ruin the live performance with a cameraperson walking in front of them to film the closeups) and live footage of them performing on stage in front of their fans. Seunghyun is also featured alongside the other three members, making the whole video a little more special for fans. Overall, a fitting video for the group and their fans.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Amnesia – N.Flying

Released back in July of this year. N.Flying made their Japanese comeback with Amnesia. It is also the first Japanese comeback to feature Seo Dongsung, who was officially inducted as a member of the group ahead of their Oh Really Korean comeback. I loved that the group returned to something within the rock genre. It is something that I am yearning for in the KPOP industry and I am hoping that N.Flying returns in the future with something similar to this song in Korea, as Amnesia tells me that they can handle the intensity of the rock genre. In the meanwhile, Amnesia fulfils my rock craving. Once again, Amnesia has really epic energy coming from it. The appeal of Amnesia is slightly different to FT Island’s release (reviewed above) because the energy take shape as more of a head-banging form than ‘feel good’. It was intense and it definitely ‘hits hard’ as some might say nowadays (look at me using young people speak). Vocally, both Seunghyub and Hwesung are powerful vocalists and Amnesia proves that they can handle the genre flawlessly. The slowdown in the bridge comes in at the right time, providing a moment of relief if you think the song is overwhelming. I didn’t, but I still found it fitting for the song.

The music video is made of black and white closeups of the members being emotional. But the good stuff is when the group are performing their instruments in front of that very large screen/projection. The visuals we see are amazing, due to their large size and how they come into play at the right moments. The explosions of coloured dusts and flowers were all timed really well to match the explosion of energy we get in the song. It was something simple, yet they magnified it in a way that made the video so much more monumental.

Overall Rating – 9.6/10

Traveler – Super Junior KRY

It is time this review post goes on a slightly different path. So far, we have two dance tracks and two band tracks. It is time to step into the ballad domain, with Super Junior’s experts – Super Junior KRY. This follows their Korean comeback earlier this year and is their first Japanese release in over five years. However, don’t mistaken the term ballad in this review for something emotional or a track to ball your eyes out. Traveler is a more of a pop-ballad with an upbeat instrumental background. I was caught off guard with this direction, as I had expected something of that emotional route from the trio. I am not complaining, as it does mean that I am not ending this review post on a sad note! I really liked that acoustic guitar solo during the bridge of the song, though it could have easily been missed. It was a subtle change and wasn’t something in the foreground. Aside from the change in sound, Traveler captivates the audience with the trio’s vocals. Their singing is super powerful over the pop instrumentation and their harmonies during the chorus really make the song so much better. Their ad-libs towards the end was extra icing on top. Definitely a vocally charged song in its own right.

Traveler‘s music video was quite simple. The members sat in a chair on a platform singing their lines into a microphone. The camera panned around them. In the surrounding vicinity, we saw coloured balls, three floating light rings and a few pillars to add some colour, lighting and something to fill up the space around them, otherwise the video would have been too plain. Smart move there.

Overall Rating – 10/10

[Album Review] Oneiric Diary (3rd Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

I am going to take a breather today after an intense week of comebacks and post just an album review today. The chosen album of the day is IZ*ONE’s Oneiric Diary, the group’s 3rd mini-album. The album itself features the title track, Secret Story of the Swan. Also featuring on it are the Japanese version of the title track and sidetrack Merry Go Round. This release occurs after the group returned after a rocky end of 2019 with Fiesta and BLOOM*IZ, their first studio album. Given their active return to the industry in 2020, we will definitely be seeing more releases from this popular female group. But until then, let’s have a close look at Oneiric Diary.

Oneiric Diary Album Cover

1. Welcome (Intro Track) – IZ*ONE kicks things with an introductory track. The best way I can describe the instrumental is that is similar to a music box. Just a lot slower and more boring than how I remember music boxes. The introductory track also contains vocals (hence why there is a review for it) and I am amazed that they are able to fit all 12 members into a minute and a half. The vocals give the introductory song a sweet and cutesy vibe, but it doesn’t really help make the introductory track any better than slow and boring. In the lyrics, they welcome us to the album and the IZ*Land. (6/10)

2. Secret Story of the Swan (환상동화) Click here to read the full review for Secret Story of the Swan. (7/10)

3. Pretty Pretty is a fun pop tune, with an addictive melody that is well suited for the Summery season. While the instrumental is pretty standard pop, I really enjoyed the whistling sound in the background. It adds a touch of vibrancy to the already bright and upbeat sounding song. I also really enjoyed their vocals in this song. The song brought out their vocals in a strong manner. We aren’t talking powerhouse vocals, but rather a vocal style that feels perfect for IZ*ONE. I am completely fine with the rapping, though I wonder how the song would have turned out if they infused some edge into the song via the rap sequence. I think it would have been epic. But all together as it is, pretty is probably the one word I would use to describe the song in a nutshell. Overall, Pretty brings a smile to my face and I really enjoyed it. (10/10)

4. Merry Go Round (회전목마) – We go retro with Merry Go Round. I really like the funky disco-like instrumental that opens up the song. While the instrumental remains upbeat and fun-sounding, the funky and retro disco-like instrumentation just isn’t as prevalent anymore as the song progressed, which was mildly disappointing. Covering up this flaw are the vocals. They were very clear and crisp. I really enjoyed the melodies that bring out their voices in this song. The melodies were memorable and catchy. I would have liked a bit of rapping in this song. I felt like that element was really needed and I think a really cool funky sequence would have added more substance to this song. (8/10)

5. Rococo – The main issue that I have with Rocco is that the vocals felt like it was in the foreground of the song too much. It just didn’t feel like it was mixed well into the instrumental and they felt disconnected at times. Standalone, the two elements were okay. The instrumental is more of your typical pop sound from recent times. It just has no character. I also got the impression that it was rather empty and needed more to be filled up. The vocal work was also a little typical and they too felt like could have used some backing or definition to give it some oomph. They weren’t bad in any sense, just needed more. Maybe that is why they felt too disconnected. (6/10)

6. With*OneWe end the album with the mandatory ballad. Unlike the preceding song, With*One felt a lot more cohesive and sounded quite nice. I couldn’t help but think some of their higher pitches were a tad too high for my liking and so some of the vocals came off a little screechy for my liking. Despite that, there were some good melodies, especially in the chorus. I like the pop feel of the instrumental, which prevented an eye roll once I had realized it was that mandatory ballad. I also like the way they ended the song, with all the members harmonizing. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.5/10

Group Teaser Image of IZ*ONE for Oneiric Diary
Oneiric Diary Teaser Image

[Review] Secret Story of the Swan – IZ*ONE

IZ*ONE made their comeback yesterday with their 3rd mini-album, Oneiric Diary, and the title track, Secret Story of the Swan. A review should have been written yesterday, but IZ*ONE’s agency made a last minute call to delay the release of the music video until today. In place of the music video, we were treated to the performance version of their music video along with performances from their comeback showcase. But as I focus on the music video usually, this meant I couldn’t write a whole review. But as we only had to wait a day, I decided to delay the review until today, as well. We last saw the group through their Fiesta promotions early this year.

Each of IZ*ONE’s title tracks have grown on me considerably, regardless of whatever comments I have made in the past regarding the songs. The beauty of time. And with time, maybe Secret Story of the Swan (henceforth Swan) may go in that direction as well. At this present time, I find the song to be very standard and meh. I just didn’t get a level of excitement that I had felt with Fiesta or Violeta. Swan‘s biggest asset is its instrumental, more specifically the chorus. It is the only part that really captures my attention. The drop feels memorable and bold, in comparison to the rest of the instrumental. There is a lot going on in its instrumentally, but it is all tied together very well with the loud crashes that accompany the ‘Like Swan Swan Swan‘ hook. This hook is also a really good element of the song and is helping me warm up to the song (though there is a big hurdle for it help get me over). Everything else in Swan just failed to stand out. The vocal work didn’t have much oomph to it, especially with a standout chorus like this. It was pretty much forgettable during the verses. The rapping had momentum, but it just felt very typical and something that we all heard before. Swan had some highs and lows, with the lows seemingly taking hold of the song. But as I said at the start, maybe time is needed to help make this song more appealing.

While the music video does take on that closeup and choreography formula, I found the music video to be captivating. This is because of the use of chroma-key (i.e. the technical name of the green/blue screen effect). It helped made the video look very pretty, from the purple coloured sky, to the presence of clock gears, to the use of circle. It was quite mesmeric. There might be a bit of a story in the video via symbolism of the different elements in the video, though I didn’t pick anything up. The choreography shots are stunning, as well. Very nice looking music video.

One of the strong points about the performance is that is looks really elegant, which suits the idea of a swan as in the song’s title. At the same time, the choreography finds that sweet point where it can be dynamic, allowing for the performance to take full advantage of the energy from the chorus.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 9.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Album Review] BLOOM*IZ (1st Studio Album) – IZ*ONE

It has been a long time coming, but I finally getting around to reviewing IZ*ONE’s first studio album, BLOOM*IZ. It was released mid-February, but due to my poor time keeping, the album review is being published in April. As a result, I will be holding off on on future album reviews (excluding another one already scheduled for a later date) for album releases in February. This will allow for me to focus on March and April album reviews. Returning to our focus, IZ*ONE’s album features a number of unit tracks alongside the full group tracks. Some artists (especially those with many members) do this but it isn’t a common thing for so many tracks on one album to do this. Let’s have a deep dive into those tracks and more.

BLOOM*IZ Album Cover

1. Eyes – The opening song on any album should be captivating enough to engage the listeners. And I definitely think IZ*ONE nails this with Chaewon’s opening line. I just wished the rest of the album followed suit with this direction. For the most part it was good. But some moments really stuck out for the wrong reasons. I find the very low tone synth we hear at the start of each verse to be very odd selection for what is a very sweet song. The ‘Eyes On Me, yeah’ chant that the girls do at the start of the bridge/end of the song added an unnecessary child-like tone to the song. Even the high note just dissipated as soon it was unloaded. There were some good moments, such as the chorus and the rapping, but they just stayed in the shadows. (6/10)

2. FiestaClick here to read the full review for Fiesta. (9/10)

3. Dreamlike Dreamlike is performed by Yena, Sakura, Wonyoung, Hitomi, Hyewon and Eunbi. The track takes on board a synth-pop like instrumental and this reminded me of tropical house during the chorus. I have to say that the instrumental, particularly around the chorus, was not dream-compatible (like what the title suggested). But there was definitely a very refreshing and youthful tone to the song. For the verses, softness was the main theme. Their vocals fitted in very well, going for a light tone to compliment the refreshing ones I just mentioned. I also liked the smooth textures they introduced into the song. (8/10)

4. AyayayaAyayaya featured the voices of Eunbi, Sakura, Hyewon, Chaeyeon, Chaewon, Minju, Nako, Yuri and Yujin. It is a catchy dance number that I really enjoyed listening to. I saw the performance of Ayayaya as part of their comeback showcase show and that made me a fan of the song. I liked the whistling and the synth-percussion, which gave the song have that upbeat feel. Their vocal work is a little lacking in this song, but it doesn’t get in the way of me enjoying the song. (9/10)

5. So Curious – In an earlier song, I mentioned how I didn’t like the child-like sounds that was incorporated. So Curious (performed by Yena, Chaeyeon, Chaewon, Minju, Nako, Hitomi, Yuri, Yujin and Wonyoung) was so full of this child-like tone that I cringed. But. Yes, somehow there is an exception to everything. So Curious ended up being so infectious and fun. The bubblegum-pop sound that the song went for was a success. I love how the song feels so tropical, fitting for the Summer season that Korea is about to enter. The marching drums in the bridge was a very nice twist to the song. (10/10)

6. Spaceship – Through Spaceship, we return to the full line-up of IZ*ONE. And the song had good rhythm and definitely a fast pace that is bound to attract some attention. Unfortunately, the lacked a strong hook to keep me around. While I understand cuteness is their main charm and the group does use it well in many songs, I find Spaceship to be a very typical application of this and doesn’t offer much in comparison to their unit tracks thus far. (7/10)

7. Destiny (우연이 아니야) – The first ballad-like song we get BLOOM*IZ is Destiny. And it is also the first full group song, apart from the title track, that I was hugely satisfied with. The song is not a slow ballad, as there is some pace in the chorus which helped make it stand out. The twinkling percussion, the drums and the violins really helped bolster the song. The electric guitar at the end was the icing on the cake for me. I also thought their vocals were very nice and sweet, which really helped sell this ballad to me. (8.5/10)

8. You & I – We are given double ballad treatment with the next ballad on the album following right off Destiny’s finish. You & I is more acoustic, featuring a simple guitar instrumental and the later incorporation of other instrumental. The song also enables for the focus to be purely on the group’s vocal work. And this was the obvious choice to show off that side of the group. My only concern is that the rapping component of You & I was unnecessary. But other than that, it was a good track. (8/10)

9. DaydreamDaydream is performed by a third of IZ*ONE, more specifically Eunbi, Chaeyeon, Minju and Yujin. And this was one of the standout songs on the album for me. There is a very sleek vibe in the song, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In addition to that, there is a subtle groove in the chorus, sticking out of this urban feel. The ending takes a bold turn, featuring textural synths, which were quite fun and different, making the song feel less ‘too consistent’. The line ‘Daydream ah!’ and ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ for the chorus and post-chorus hook was definitely my favorite parts. (9/10)

10. Pink Blusher – Sakura, Hyewon, Nako, Hitomi and Wonyoung feature in Pink Blusher. Given the song’s title, I expected that the song would take a cutesy turn. No surprises (and spoilers) but I was right. I find that the song balanced on a very fine line between the cutesy sound and the cringy child-like sound that I already mentioned in this review. For the time being, I am happy to say that I perceive the songs falls on the cutesy sound, which in this case is totally fine. I really liked the rap speak section at the end of the song. If the song could be improved, I think strong hooks would have helped cement the song on the cutesy side of the line. (7.5/10)

11. Someday (언젠가 우리의 밤도 지나가겠죠) – Now, we are dealing with a quarter of the group (i.e. Yena, Chaewon and Yuri). This trio brings us the third ballad on the album and this is more so your expected ballad. It features that piano instrumental, which is later joined with violins and other instruments. Together, the track becomes a stunning piece of work. And the vocal line we have in this song show off their vocal capabilities, further extending that stunning impression that I just mentioned. (8/10)

12. Open Your Eyes – The final track on the album brings back all the members. It is one of those dance tracks (or songs in general) that really gives off a satisfying feel and this really helps brings the album to a decent close. The instrumental comes off as pretty dynamic and I liked the tempo at which it was at (it had that Goldilocks’ ‘just right’ feel to it). The vocals added a layer of refinement to the song. The only thing I thought they could have improved upon was, once again, a stronger set of hooks. But I was still happy with what the album closed off with. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.2/10

BLOOM*IZ Teaser Image

[Review] Fiesta – IZ*ONE

It has been a rough end to 2019 for the female group IZ*ONE. Originally, the group was meant to return in November (presumably with the same title track and album). However, the group was whisked into a voting rigging controversy that occurred throughout the Produce 101 series. As IZ*ONE hails from one of the seasons where vote rigging did occur, the group went on hiatus (along with X1). Fortunately, IZ*ONE was able to push through the hiatus (X1 unfortunately disbanded at the request of the individual companies) and, as of today, return to promotions with Fiesta and Bloom*IZ.

As expected from the title of the song, Fiesta, the song is a colourful mix of sounds that is bound to get your attention. Whether the song is an appealing mix will definitely depend on the individual due to the unique sounds that the song features. We start the song off with what I would describe a typical pop instrumental for this current era. But it is one that showcases good producing talents. I liked the thumping beat which gives its a slight dramatic flair. The chorus is where the song gets a little wacky, thanks to the use of very squeaky horns. It was subtle at first when the members are singing, but it gets turned up a notch during the post-chorus instrumental break. I personally thought they gave the song a very unique character and helped the song in the charming department. Vocally, the song showcases a more powerful side of the group, which I really like (as you may know from past reviews).

I thought this was a stunning video. Let’s start off with the visual of the members. Their outfits and their closeups all make so damn beautiful. I am not exactly familiar with each individual member (I don’t follow the Produce 101 seasons closely). But this is the type of video that makes you want to learn everyone’s name. Secondly, the video features some of the best post-production editing I have seen in a long time. I definitely appreciate this and love the polished feel it gives off. Oh, and the video is colourful, as one would expect.

Two things stood out for me when it came to the performance for Fiesta. The first was regarding the bounciness of the chorus, which I thought was pretty cool. The dress twirling also looked cool. The second aspect which I liked was the pre-chorus formations, where they be walking and dancing at the same time. It is the little details that can make or break a routine and I think the group nailed it.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] Vampire – IZ*ONE

IZ*ONE is nominated for Best Female Group and Best Female Choreography. Violeta is also eligible for Best Song of 2019. To support IZ*ONE and your other favourite artists, click here to vote before the 31st of December (which is 10 days away!)

The review catch-up blitz (I really need to think of a better name for this) is also applicable to the many Japanese releases that I have missed out. And there is a lot to cover in the two final Saturdays of the year. IZ*ONE, a month or two prior to the ongoing voting controversy and the postponement of their Korean comeback, made their Japanese comeback with Vampire. The track was officially released at the end of September and I personally apologize that it had taken me this long to review it. But as many say, better late than never.

We have seen the two sides of the spectrum when it comes to IZ*ONE’s Japanese releases. From the amazingly sounding I Want To Say I Love You to the poorly pieced Buenos Aires, it is safe to say that Vampire sits in between the two extremes. Where it lies on the spectrum exactly is up to debate. Vampire has a really nice Latin inspired instrumental. It felt polished and I think it could have been an amazing backdrop. It just is a mega pity that Vampire ended up getting vocals similar to Buenos Aires. The cutesy sound that feels very stereotypical of Japanese female groups pop release just did not fit the instrumentation. Though it is a little bearable compared to Buenos Aires. There are hooks in the song worth mentioning, but they come off lackluster thanks to the poor vocals. I really hope that (if given the opportunity) IZ*ONE will ditch whoever is producing their recent J-POP tracks and return with something like I Want To Say I Love You that shows off maturity and style.

Interestingly, the music video for Vampire is pretty well produced. With a title such as Vampire, I don’t think cutesy bow ties and polka dots would cut it. Hence, a dark concept such as this really worked well. The sets were stunning, the members outfits looked very dark and even the post-production looked very promising. I am not exactly sure what the music video is showing but it seems like it shows the members turning into vampire. I thought the bridge (being the best part of the song for me) was very nicely put together in this video as well.

The choreography looked like it was confusing about being mature or cutesy. And hence, it looked very weird. Naturally, I am drawn to every move that isn’t cutesy, as I think that is more fitting for their concept. The bridge was the best part (once again), with the moves and formations looking bold.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 6/10
Overall Rating – 6.1/10

[Review] Buenos Aires – IZ*ONE

As mentioned last week, there were some recent Japanese releases that needed to be addressed. Today, I will be having a closer look at one of them. IZ*ONE, earlier this year, made their Japanese debut with I Want To Say I Love You and their Korean comeback with Violeta. So, the group has already had a jam-packed half-year already. But they managed to sneak one more comeback just before June wrapped up with the release of Buenos Aires in Japan.

Listening to the track when it first came out and listening to it now, I honestly do not know what to say. The work that IZ*ONE had done to grow through the releases of La Vie en Rose, Violeta and I Want To Say I Love You surely would not result in a song like this. Instrumentally, I thought the song was good. Pop electronic does sound fitting for the Japanese market. That continuous extension for the instrumental break during the bridge was probably my favourite bit, providing intensity and an awesome platform for a creative dance sequence. Vocally, the song is haywire. Let’s start at the start. The introduction and first verse were okay. I thought the monotone effect and the buildup of autotune to be intriguing. But they should have changed for the chorus. They kept the same effect, rendering the vocals into a state of permanent monotone. They had cutesy yelling in the background that did not fit in. The melody was very unimaginative. The excessive autotune for the post-chorus hook was over the top. Urgh… And the rapping is even worse. I am hugely disappointed in the outcome of the track. And the disappointment is quite heavy, as I can hear so much potential in the instrumentation.

While I don’t enjoy the song, I thought the music video was a little better. I have warmed up to the visuals which I didn’t enjoy so much initially. The emphasis on the green was a nice pick, overall. But it was the filter that ruined everything, making the video feel pale and overwhelmingly bright. That feeling still stays with me but it isn’t as strong. I do still think the video is more on the bland side of the spectrum, as the close-ups and images of venus fly traps didn’t really add anything interesting to the video. To be honest, I felt the venus fly traps were a little odd, as they didn’t serve any meaning to the video, based on my knowledge.

The choreography was pretty good. I think the best word to describe it would be prance-y. I really like the dance break during the bridge, which was my favourite bit overall.

Song – 3/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 4.7/10

[Album Review] HEART*IZ (2nd Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

I am so sorry that it took me an entire month to write up this album review! Despite April being a relatively quiet month for KPOP releases, I have been extremely busy with my studies and the few releases did come out had a lot of interesting albums that I felt that it would be more interesting to review. Hence, this bumped HEART*IZ around. Just I have been so busy that I haven’t listened to any recent albums, so I thought I take this opportunity to finally look at IZ*ONE’s second mini album. After all, they always say ‘better late than never’.

HEART*IZ Album Cover

1..Hey. Bae. Like It. (해바라기) – Starting off the album is a combination of cuteness and typical tropical-esque instrumentation. The combination of the two actually works well, with the cuteness in the vocals not too overwhelming and the tropical side of the instrumental was quite refreshing and bright. I also enjoyed the lightness of the track, which really made it a promising starter to the album. I think the only downfall is the typicalness that the song suffers from. But apart from that, I like this track (which is also titled Sunflower as well). (8/10)

2. Violeta (비올레타) (Title Track)Click here to read my review for Violeta. (8.5/10)

3. Highlight –Highlight starts off with what seems to be an edgy sound. It gave me hip-hop vibes, so I was excited to see what direction the song was going in. They seem to lose this for a bit of the verse, but it returns for the pre-chorus. The entire verse seemed to be a nice steady incline to the minimalistic chorus, which featured a simple beat and the lines ‘Highlight (Look at Me)’. I did not know what I had expected the first time around but the chorus did catch me off guard (but I think it is quite sophisticated this way). I also liked the saxophone touch for the final chorus, which delivers a different feel altogether. Both the vocals and rapping were nice in this track. (8.5/10)

4. Really Like You – We now come to a ballad. Really Like You is an acoustic track that showcases some of their vocals. I thought it was a rather nice song, even though I felt it was a little messy when it comes to the melody. The way they sing with their airy voices and the floaty instrumental reminds me of Berry Good’s My First Love, which was also a similar concept (but Really Like You isn’t as heartfelt as the latter song). It was a nice break amid all of these dance-centred tracks. (7.5/10)

5. Airplane – Following Really Like You, I think IZ*ONE strengths are definitely in more upbeat songs. While Airplane seems a lot more comfortable for the group, the song felt like it went in the ‘typical girl group debut title track’ route, where the song ends up being too bright, youthful and poppy. Even the rapping reflected and the main hook in the chorus reflected this thought. The group does nail the track perfectly without any hitches or awkward patches. I do have a special playlist on my phone for songs like this and I think Airplane will fit perfectly into it. (8/10)

6. Up – I think out of all the tracks on the album (besides Violeta) Up is probably my favourite sidetrack. It does fall within that ‘typical’ category once again. But there is a fair amount of appeal in the track to make me become drawn to and enjoy it. The instrumental was very nice, especially the bounciness at the start of the track (that is ongoing throughout the track). I also like the bright vocals in this track, going perfectly with the pop vibes of the song. The track was very addictive with the hooks and vibrancy of the track being pretty much unforgettable. (9/10)

7. I Want To Be A Cat (고양이가 되고 싶어) (Korean Version)I Want To Be A Cat (otherwise known by the Japanese title, Neko ni Naritai) was previously sung and performed by Sako, Yuri, Yeni, Nako and Minju on their Japanese debut album. But the Korean version is sung by all the members of IZ*ONE. I really like the more chilled sound that the song had going on. It is rather different from the harder pop styles earlier on in the album. I did like the vocals, which were showcased well. The melody was pleasant. I just thought the song could have done a bit more in terms of memorability. But other than that, it was decent. (7/10)

8. Happy Goodbye (Korean Version) – Otherwise known as Gokigen Sayonara is also from the group’s first Japanese album. Listening to the track, you can tell it was distinctively J-POP previously, as it has all of those elements that make J-POP what it is. I am in no way saying that the Korean version is bad. I really like the chorus, which was catchy vibe to it. I also enjoyed the slightly techno-pop instrumental (which is once again a distinctive sound for J-POP). I also enjoyed the song because it was light and pleasant as well. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

HEART*IZ Teaser Image

[Review] Violeta – IZ*ONE

It is time we turn our attention to one of the biggest groups to debut last year. IZ*ONE, for those who may not remember or no, was formed through Produce 48 and debuted with La Vie en Rose. And while the industry is in full swing for the next season of Produce 101, IZ*ONE makes their long-awaited Korean comeback with Violeta. The new track features on the group’s second mini-album, HEART*IZ. In other related news, IZ*ONE made their official Japanese debut earlier this year with Suki to Iwasetai (or I Want To Say I Love You).

It has taken me a few listens for me to warm up to the song. And while I am still warming up to Violeta, I am liking the song. One of the reasons why I haven’t really warmed up to the song yet is due to the first verse. It didn’t feel as captivating. But from the pre-chorus onwards, I am quite into it. Talking about the pre-chorus, I like the dramatic flair. I also enjoyed the rush of energy that the chorus gave off. It makes the pop and tropical mix very intriguing. The vocals were nice, especially during the chorus. The rappers, however, were amazing. I know they didn’t have enough definition to their part but the fact that it stepped back from the high energy filled chorus was ideal. I also like that dubstep effect at the end of the song, which really gave the song a little interesting effect to end on (and not be too repetitive). Maybe a few more listens will do it for me. But so far, it is looking (or sounding, in this case) good.

The entirety of the video has this pale colour tone to it, with some emphasis on the violet colour due to it being part of the title. While I do think anything pale is a little old fashion, there is a swing towards this at the moment in the industry, judging by the pale colour tones in music videos over the last few years. The video, from what I have read, is based on the ‘The Happy Prince‘ book. I know of the book, but it isn’t my first pick when it comes to literature. So since I haven’t read it, I don’t feel confident making connections. But this may be something to look into for a future Music Vidoe Theory post. I did like the choreography sets and the scene with the solo member dancing in the water looked really cool and trendy.

The choreography was quite nice. I enjoyed the majority of it. The first and last chorus (when there is that rush of energy) was probably my favourite parts. Unfortunately, the butterfly effect that started off the second chorus was not that great and I felt like that was a mismatch to the fast paced section.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] I Want To Say I Love You – IZ*ONE

What makes IZ*ONE unique,, in comparison to I.O.I and Wanna One, is that they incorporated trainees from Korea and Japanese members from AKB48. This allows the project group to debut in Japan, which their other Produce 101 counterparts have yet to do. And this event occurred last week with IZ*ONE making their Japanese debut with I Want To Say I Love You or Suki to Iwasetai. The actual song isn’t available until later this week but as the music video has been revealed in full, I thought we might as well have a closer listen/look at it.

My experience with the JPOP culture and industry is very limited. But Suki to Iwasetai does remind me fondly of the sounds and music that I commonly associate to mainstream JPOP, particularly girl groups. I don’t know how to exactly describe this particular JPOP sound, however, so that ends that observation. But I did like the piano and violins in the background during the chorus. Talking about the chorus, I also enjoyed the small blast of energy they give us.  I did think the vocals were nice. They didn’t seem as clear as their Korean releases but it works with this JPOP sound that I have linked to the song. And the combination of the vocals and instrumental does make the song quite catchy. There is a side to me where I think they could have gone beyond this but it was a good track to start off their careers in Japan, from what I know of.

The music video is the main element of this debut that I wanted to talk about. I really liked the colours in this video. The backgrounds and scenery the producer chose for this video was definitely a highlight of the video, as they looked spectacular. The cinematography also complimented the choreography and amazing scenery. I liked how that choreography scene with the light strobes was set up. Aesthetics through the roof. I also thought the landfill set looked really cool and pretty with the colours. But my question is – did they really film at a landfill site? But once again, aesthetics.

There might be two choreography version to this debut, which I think is really interesting. The first would have to be the one performed on the road, whilst the second one is with the long coats. And I thought both were equally cool looking and definitely left a longing impression of their style.

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

[Album Review] COLOR*IZ (1st Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

Unfortunately, I did not follow Produce 48 despite promises to myself that I would actually check out the show this time around. However, as usual, a group was produced from the Top 12 members from the show, who are now known as IZ*ONE. They made their debut two weeks ago with La Vie en Rose (link below) and their mini-album COLOR*IZ. Today, we will be having a closer look at their mini-album, starting now!

COLOR*IZ Album Cover

1..Beautiful Colour (아름다운 색) – IZ*ONE opens their debut mini-album with a fairly strong song. It is a bright and bubbly song that is quite colourful at the same time. I thought the chorus was rather soothing and melodic. The vocals were strong, showcasing different techniques. It particularly like the second half of the chorus and the falsetto leading up to it. The raps were decent and fitted in well with the rest of the song. It does sound typical when compared to other b-side tracks of other artists but other than that, it was quite nice. (8/10)

2. O’ My! – What stands out for me in this song is the instrumental. It does feel a lot cutesier than the previous song and it isn’t overwhelming, which is always a good thing when it comes to cutesy songs. Going back to the instrumental, I really like the dynamic electronic side of it. I thought that added a nice touch and kept it balanced. I thought the main hook of the song (O’ My!) was quite addictive. Vocals were good but I thought a little more rapping could have brought a little extra something to the song to really being to the next level. (8.5/10)

3. La Vie en Rose (라비앙로즈) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for La Vie en Rose. (7/10)

4. Memory (비밀의 시간)Memory is the first ballad of the album. And the way it sounded reminded me of the ballad that Produce 101 Season 2 ended with. There is a touching side of the song and it doesn’t feel as emotional as a love song ballad. I think their vocals in this song was their very best throughout the entire album. I would love to hear more ballads from IZ*ONE if this is the quality and standard they will continually release. I really like it when they sung together at the end. The instrumental was plain for my taste but other than that, it was almost perfect. (9/10)

5. We Together (앞으로 잘 부탁해) – We have now entered the Produce 48 territory, where the girls have re-recorded their songs from the finale using the final IZ*ONE lineup. We Together was quite nice, giving off nostalgic vibes through their instrumental and chorus. It fits squarely in the pop genre and there isn’t much to the chorus to really differentiate the song from other artists. However, I did like the extra kick in the bridge, which I thought gave the song a unique twist. I also liked the electric guitars at the end. (8/10)

6. Crush On You (반해버리잖아?) (好きになっちゃうだろう?) – This may be due to my lack of musical skills or just my personal preference, but I thought the combinations of vocals and instrumentation is a little off-putting. They just didn’t seem to be connected and it felt a little uncomfortable (but not all the time. It was mainly felt during the lead up to the chorus). The instrumentation for this song reminded me of 8-bit music (i.e. like the music you get with retro video games), However, since IZ*ONE is both a Japanese and Korean music group, it was still nice to see something for the Japanese market despite the album being promoted in Korea so far. (6/10)

7. In Our Dreams (꿈을 꾸는 동안) (夢を見ている間) – I mentioned in Memory that the latter song felt like the ballad that ended their run on Produce 48. Well, here is the actual ballad that did end their time on the show. Many of the same comments under Memory can be rewritten here. What I did like about the song that hasn’t been motioned yet is that In Our Dream felt a lot warmer and you could feel a lot more emotion in this song. Once again, good vocals are present, but I actually preferred the vocals of the earlier song. But given its position on the album, it was a nice finale for the debut mini-album. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

COLOR*IZ Member Teaser Images

[Review] La Vie en Rose – IZ*ONE

Produce 48, the third season in the Produce 101 series, recently wrapped up in August of this year. While it follows the same concept of allowing the public to choose the final lineup of the resulting girl group, it is an extra unique season as the Produce 101 series collaborated with AKB48 (and its sister groups) to form the contestant pool. Hence, the final group, IZ*ONE, which is made up of the top 12, is made up of both Korean and Japanese contestants.  Today, they dropped their debut title track, La Vie en Rose.

La Vie en Rose started off with a bit of guitar (which sounded very unnatural) as the main instrument. It combined with standard synths, which didn’t feel too special at first. However, once we got to the pre-chorus, it had impact and energy which I really became fond of. I think the vocals aid in this and it results in what seems to be a pleasant sounding song. The chorus was lacklustre. It wasn’t what I expected and following the powerful pre-chorus buildup, I was expecting something a little more feistiness. However, the aesthetic of the chorus was rather interesting and fulfiled. So I am a torn between the two opinions. I personally did think the chorus was too repetitive, especially at the end of the song, hence why I am leaning towards the ‘I am disappointed’ opinion. I wanted to hear more rap because those small segments didn’t feel enough for me. It isn’t a terrible song by any means but I wanted more (if you know what I mean).

I like the concept of the use of red in the video. With everything very pastel and ‘bland’ in the video, the red allows the members to really pop. The song seemed to go in that direction as well, so I thought it as rather fitting. The video was made up of the closeup shots with the members interacting one way or another with the colour red and choreography shots, so there wasn’t anything too amazing with the video. It was a nice video and that is all that matters.

I really like the choreography for this song. Especially during that powerful pre-chorus buildup, which was definitely my highlight for the entire debut. I also really like the choreography during the bridge as it felt very strong and showed the girls off in a very promising and confident light.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7/10