[International Song Reviews] MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, TWICE, WONHO, Jeon Somi

I am finally getting around to posting my first International Song Review post in a long while. My last post was way back in October 2021, and since then I have been fairly busy and unable to write any of these posts. But I am now back on the bandwagon. For those who may be unfamiliar with this segment, I review songs that aren’t in the Korean language (or are not marketed for the Korean music scene in some cases – such as some side tracks on Korean albums) that have been released by Korean artists (or artists that have a direction connect with a KPOP group). In this post, I will be covering songs released by MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, TWICE, WONHO and Jeon Somi.

You Problem – MONSTA X

MONSTA X spreads the ongoing groovy and funky trend that we are currently experiencing in KPOP to the Western music scene. The group, now down to five members as Shownu has enlisted in the military, released this disco number early December 2021. It is quite unlike any of their Korean title tracks, which have been very EDM focused and performance heavy tracks. You Problem settles for a simpler approach, and one that is quite pure and fun. I love the guitar work in this backing of You Problem, along with those disco vibes we get in the chorus (as already mentioned). I also enjoyed the vocal focus of the song, which each member (even the rappers) singing in this track, complimenting the lighter than usual tone for MONSTA X. Kihyun and Jooheon’s falsettos in the chorus make the song even cooler! The hooks are super memorable, and the hooks are so damn catchy. Even after two months, I am still digging You Problem!

For the music video, it is set in a bowling alley that is reminisce of bowling alleys from the 70s. Definitely suiting the light tone, fun vibes and retro direction of the song. There are also heavy presence of other retro elements throughout the video, such as the checked pattern (commonly associated with racing) and neon lights. Even the glittery tinsel decoration behind the group when they are performing as a ‘band’ screamed out retro. The performance I saw also had a fun vibe. It was loose and fluid, as if the group was freestyling their performance. But also showed their personality, which made it even more enjoyable.

Overall Rating – 8.8/10

Power of Love – SEVENTEEN

Power of Love‘s music video officially dropped at the end of November, and closes out their Power of Love project that started earlier in 2021 with the release of Mingyu and Wonwoo’s Bittersweet (ft. Lee Hi). It is a neat ballad with a really meaningful message that even in difficult times, having the Power of Love can help you through it. I liked how even though the instrumental had sleigh bells ringing throughout the whole instrumental, Power of Love doesn’t feel constricted to just Winter or the Christmas season like other songs that ultilises sleigh bells. It was also quite soothing and it was a nice display of all the members’ vocals. Unfortunately, however, Power of Love doesn’t fair well in the memorable arena. It is a good ballad, but I am not necessarily looking for the song when I feel in a mood for ballad. I guess Power of Love was produced to be more on a sweet side. I do think there could have been room towards the end to oomph up the ballad a bit, just so it didn’t feel the same from start to end. I think Power of Love would have come off better if it went down this path.

The parts of the video where some of the members were in built sets (I believe it was just limited to Joshua, DK and Vernon) looked quite cool, and I wished the video had more built sets (as it felt stylish and modern). But instead, the producers for this video chose to just use green screen, and I felt this really cheapened the video. While the actual backgrounds applied through the use of the green screen looked aesthetic and the members look good as always, I wished the post-production team incorporated the members better. We have seen great use of green screen in the past, and this is just not one of those instances. It is just quite unfortunate.

Overall Rating – 6.2/10

Doughnut – TWICE

Doughnut was released on 15 December 2021 and the track itself comes in the form of a ballad. Not exactly the first genre of music you think of when you hear of a sugary treat. But it does create an abstract appeal, which makes Doughnut memorable for me. Talking about abstract, I also like how the members likened the void they experience without their partner, and the constant looping they refer to in the lyrics to the shape of a doughnut. To me, the song definitely needed this extra appeal, especially since I thought it was a bit of a blur. Everything from start to end felt similar, and I couldn’t work out where the chorus was in the song had it not been for the music video. While I did like the city-pop direction the instrumental was going and the delicate nature of their voices (which isn’t something we get in TWICE title tracks that much), I just wished parts of Doughnut were more distinct. The most significant distinct moment of the song was during the finale sequence with the use of synths to give off textures. But it was too late to really sell Doughnut to me.

Visually, I thought this was a very neat video. The snow, warm indoor settings and dress colours compliments the Winter season in which the song was released. That scene in the bridge where Mina and Chaeyoung are lying on the ground over a wreath was extremely memorable for me. I am a bit confused about the start and end of the video, with the ‘doughnut crime scene’. My guess is that the crime scene symbolises that the loop and void represented by the shape of doughnut is broken and that the members had moved on from what they thought were ‘the only one in the world’. Though, I am more confused about the amount of jam spilling from the doughnut (How did they get so much in the doughnut to begin with? And in a doughnut with a hole?). As for the choreography, it felt fitting for the balladry nature of the song.

Overall Rating – 6.8/10

ON THE WAY~- Wonho

Wonho’s Japanese debut single, ON THE WAY~, is actually the oldest song in this review post as it was first unveiled on 27 October 2021. It is a decent track that pleases with its sweet lyrics, thanking fans for staying by his side and that he treasures them greatly. Don’t be fooled though. ON THE WAY~ is no typical ballad. Instead, it features a satisfying band instrumental that really makes this song more appealing. I also like how amped the chorus gets. It did feel somewhat overpowering at first, but Wonho manages to shine throughout ON THE WAY~ with his blissful and honey-like vocals. I did wish there was something more to the song, like a more profound electrical guitar solo sequence (we did get an instrumental break, but it did feel enough) to make it even more satisfying.

The accompanying video was also quite nice. Not one that I see myself going back to however, since it just Wonho acting sweet and grateful to match the lyrics of the song. There are also some band shots and some decent outdoors shots. I am sure fans would adore this video.

Overall Rating – 7/10

Anymore – Jeon Somi

The final song on this post is Jeon Somi’s Anymore. You would have heard Anymore way before the music video dropped (which occurred on Christmas Day), as it was originally featured as a side track on Jeon Somi’s first solo studio album, XOXO, which dropped at the end of October (the 29th to be exact). It is an all-English track that delves into pop-rock territory. I quite like this song because it doesn’t feel complicated or difficult to navigate like EDM tracks. Anymore just sounded pure and doesn’t mess or fluff around. The soft pop rock sound that we hear in this song just suits Jeon Somi’s tone and she sounds very good. The melodies were also very memorable and satisfying, as well.

I need to applaud Jeon Somi’s visuals and acting in this video. Both were highlights that draw me back to the music video. I liked how she well she portrayed her heartbreak and emotions, whilst looking stunning as always. As for the music video concept, all looked terrific and worked extremely well with the song. I liked how chaotic the chorus appeared to match the increased energy we get from the chorus, while the verses were more still.

Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] XOXO – Jeon Somi

Time to bounce back around the timeline and cover some past releases. This post covers Jeon Somi’s XOXO, which was released two weeks ago! XOXO is the title track off her very first album release since her solo debut in 2019, which also shares the same name as the song! The album is also her very first studio length album and it also consists of her past hits, like her solo debut single, Birthday, and her most recent solo comeback prior to XOXO, DUMB DUMB.

When XOXO was first released, I didn’t care for the pop song as much. I found it to be quite plain, with her earlier solo works being more memorable and catchy. Two weeks on, XOXO has grown on me. But I am still of the opinion that this is Jeon Somi’s plainest song since her debut. The song’s anthem-like chorus is without a doubt the song’s centrepiece (as a chorus always is) and is the main reason why the song has grown on me. It has a nice fluid melody, which in combination with her vocals and backing, adds oomph and definition to the chorus, which in turn provides a substantial and satisfying feeling. The ‘XOXO’ in the chorus is quite catchy. Altogether, the chorus now does come off as memorable and definitely is my favourite part of the song. Unfortunately, the rest of the song was pretty plain. Even after just finishing listening to the song, I don’t think I can even properly describe the verses as there just isn’t anything memorable or interesting. On a more positive note, XOXO is vocally driven and it is a fair showcase of her vocal abilities. The one thing I did pick up on was the reference to Jennie’s (from BLACKPINK) solo song, SOLO (from 2018) in the second verse. I guess that means that XOXO could potentially be a song passed up by Jennie (but this is just me speculating). I wished the instrumentals were more striking, similar to her past releases. I also miss the ‘switch-up’ that usually comes in the final chorus, as per her previous songs. I find that keeps Jeon Somi’s songs dynamic and maintains interest for me, which was lacking in XOXO. Overall, a pretty safe and standard pop song with a catchy chorus. I just wished XOXO was more than that.

XOXO‘s music video is a continuation of the story from DUMB DUMB, but the story turns goes from a high school crush to heartbreak. Essentially, the guy in the DUMB DUMB video (which was confirmed at the end of the video when the dog mask came off) has been cheating on Jeon Somi. Jeon Somi and her friends kidnap him and torture him with a variety of methods, and I think in the end, they end up killing him by crushing him in a car. I liked the edgy change that we saw Jeon Somi undertake for this video, which I think works really well with her visuals and the story. There were also some laughable moments, such as the disclaimer at the start of the video that this video is fiction, and when the police officer drove past and they made it look as if the guy was not kidnapped. Not suspicious whatsoever. I also liked how she ‘accidentally blew up the building at the end, despite rigging it with explosives just a matter of seconds prior.

The choreography was pretty decent. The song restricts it, so it can’t be as punchy as some of her past performances. But it is still good to watch. I really like the big X and O she and the dancer make on stage when the title XOXO comes up.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.1/10

[Review] DUMB DUMB – Jeon Somi

Kick starting this new week and month in KPOP are three comebacks, all dropping on Monday (yesterday). First up is Jeon Somi, who is returning after a year since her last release, What Are You Waiting For?. Her new single is titled DUMB DUMB and today I am checking out DUMB DUMB in this review.

Blink and the song is over before you know it. And unfortunately, the appeal of DUMB DUMB is very brief and the combination of both a short song and brief moments of appeal doesn’t help the song become that memorable. DUMB DUMB starts off with whimsical whispering that give off a cheerful light. Jeon Somi tackles the verse with plain vocals and instrumentation, and forgettable momentum. I don’t have much else to say about the verses, unfortunately. It wasn’t until we got to the chorus where DUMB DUMB picked up. The whispering returns, but this time it gives off a mature vibe when it is joined with a moody groovy electro atmosphere. I quite liked this instrumental pairing and it gave DUMB DUMB a bit of intriguingness. Combined with Jeon Somi’s spoken lines as the chorus’ hook and you have a pretty sleek and memorable chorus. The song repeats the same profile for the second round, though we are given a rap sequence in the second verse. Another miss, to be honest. DUMB DUMB lacks a bridge, and instead replaces with a brief second of instrumentation with a chanty anthem to finish up the song. While I do like the concept of a change up and anthem to end this song, it just didn’t have the right level of energy to really bring the song home and give it a high/peak it deserves to end with. I found the instrumentation to be lackluster and simply an extension of what we have heard earlier in DUMB DUMB, while Jeon Somi’s vocals didn’t have amplification or momentum behind it. DUMB DUMB is good song, but it is more so an example of a song in which I want more from. Likewise, from Jeon Somi herself.

For the music video, Jeon Somi is a teenage girl who is trying to impress her crush. She imagines walking up to him all confident and wiping his lips. She dances at a party to attract his attention. But while she imagines him to be interested, it takes a simple well-timed bump in the school hallway to get his attention and for them to interact. Though, I wished he didn’t have a clueless face on the entire time. Aside from the plotline, I like how the lyrics are literally portrayed in this video, with Jeon Somi dancing on top of the male character’s head in the first chorus, right when she speaks the line ‘I’m dancing on top of your head, you DUMB DUMB‘. It was corny and made me laugh in a good way.

Based on what I can see in the music video, it looks like a good dance. I can see the chorus to be the next thing on TikTok, and I liked how it encapsulated the mature vibes of the section.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] What You Waiting For? – Jeon Somi

Jeon Somi was one of the most anticipated solo debuts of 2019, given her status as the number 1 trainee during the first season of Produce 101 and her promotions as part of I.O.I. And I felt that she exceeded my expectations with her solo debut single, Birthday. But she just disappeared after that and she did not release anymore songs in 2019. In fact, it has taken her over a year to return with What You Waiting For?, her comeback single released just today. Since her solo debut, Jeon Somi has been busy with variety shows and her own reality series, which I believe captured the preparation for this comeback (which ended up being delayed due to the ongoing health pandemic).

Described as a R&B dance track, What You Waiting For? is a definitely step up from Birthday. The first reason for this ‘step up’ is also the only flaw to the song. The melodic wooden xylophone-like synth that the song features during the verses really stood out to me due to its prominence. I liked its freshness and vibrancy in the first verse. While I did enjoy it in the first verse, it didn’t sit right with me in the second verse. I know they tried to keep the momentum going by having part of the chorus continue in the second verse. But the combination of said momentum from chorus and the wooden xylophone-like synth just didn’t blend with with one another and this unharmonious sequence just stuck out too much. But apart from that detail, everything else in this song was really good. I liked how they switched up the instruments for the final part of the song, opting for a metal xylophone-like synth and cow bells. It had that familiar melody of the start, but also an added level of freshness that made the song even more exciting. Somi’s vocals were fabulous. Autotune was used but it was balanced and not over the top. I also liked how the chorus brought a club-like atmosphere to the song. Definitely another memorable aspect the song.

I am not sure if I follow the story line of the video. The song is about waiting for love. So basing everything off this, Somi is waiting for her prince charming to come and save her from being trapped in that room. But instead of her prince charming, alter egos of Somi break her out. These include Black Somi, Hotel Somi, Boat Somi, Singer Somi and Dress Somi. I just love that credit sequence. My favourite part is when Singer Somi (I think) takes the industrial digger to the wall of her apartment. That was pretty epic.

[Updated] I am not exactly sure that I like this performance. The moves were plain and just didn’t fit in with the song. Maybe this is why they decided to omit it from the music video? It is hard to put my thoughts into words to explain myself. I do have to emphasise that I am no choreographer, so I can only speak about how the performance looks visually. It just looked like the focus was put on Somi looking good and not really on the music.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 5/10 [Updated]
Overall Rating – 8.2/10 [Updated

[Review] Birthday – Jeon Somi

Interestingly, a major similarity of the post I.O.I and Wanna One activities are that both the 1st place winners of their respective seasons of Produce 101 have yet to embark on a solo career. Also, both Kang Daniel and Jeon Somi have experienced management changes since leaving their respective groups. We all know of Kang Daniel’s lawsuit with his former company, while Jeon Somi switched labels between JYP Entertainment and The Black Label (citing ‘different directions when it came to music’). However that all changes today, with Jeon Somi making her solo debut with Birthday.

Debuting under The Black Label (a subsidy under YG Entertainment), you can expect the song to go down a certain direction (mainly due to the YG part of that track). And well, as we expected, the song had some hip-hop influence, particularly around the chorus’ drop. While it does mismatch with the rest of the song, which came out to be more of a pop genre track, I think it was very dynamic and different. But it seems like a cliche thing to do, given other KPOP tracks from the larger company, and I am not sure if the song reflects upon Somi’s true identity. But that is a topic of discussion for another day.  The pop genre verses reminded me of a Taylor Swift style track. And I find a lot of songs by Swift nowadays to have some attitude, which I think Jeon Somi channels exceptionally well through the post-chorus (‘You’re Not Invited‘) sequence. It is definitely a catchy track and it successfully reels me in, so I guess a few more repeats of the song is going to follow this review.

So when you think of a Birthday, you think of balloons, cake, presents and some fun times. Well, the music video for Birthday definitely delivers all of those components. A very large cake, might I add to that mix. So, I think the video ties in nicely with the song’s lyrics. The extravagantness of the music video is quite likeable, especially with the bold colours and very fitting sets for the video. The video does let Somi stand out and shows her in a very confident and powerful limelight, which is the only aim for her and her solo debut.

Like the strong drop of the track, the performance gives her a powerful dance move to compliment that. I also like the attitude she manages to channel through the post-chorus hook. As for the rest of the choreography, we have to wait and see when a live performance comes out.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10