[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.

[Album Review] Yellow (4th Mini Album) – Kang Daniel

It is time for another album review! This particular post is for Kang Daniel’s fourth mini-album, Yellow, which was released exactly two months ago (way back in April!). The album features both the title track, Antidote, and the pre-release track, PARANOIA. In addition to these two tracks, there are three other new songs on the mini-album (which I have a lot of thoughts about – whether it is good or bad, continue reading to find out!). Yellow also wraps up Kang Daniel’s color series, with previous album’s titled after the three colours – Cyan, Magenta and Yellow (this album). It will be interesting to see and hear where Kang Daniel would go from here, especially after a substantial and thought provoking (towards the end) trilogy, like this one. But until then, here is my album review for Yellow!

Yellow Album Cover

1. Digital – Just from the loaded tone of album’s opening track, you can tell that Kang Daniel has brought a lot of deep, dark and emotional thought to the song. And I think Digital sets up the album extremely well, as these deep and dark thoughts are carried throughout the album. Digital talks about the experiences of invisible bullies on the internet, who are super critical of what he does, and spread lies and false rumors about the idol. For the song, I really enjoyed the alternative rock profile the song taps into. I really like the deep notes in the instrumental, which really creates that dark atmosphere in which the song thrives on. His vocals are quite good, and I particularly liked how memorable the ‘So critical, enemies invisible’ line ended up being. The song also tethers on the border of being retro, but never really stepping into that domain. Altogether, Digital reminds me of Blinding Lights, which was one of the best releases from last year. (9/10)  

2. PARANOIA (Pre-release Track)Click here to read the full review for PARANOIA. (9/10)

3. Misunderstood (ft. Omega Sapien)Misunderstood opened up with a very sinister feeling. I felt the instrumental was like a blur. And I mean that in a good way. I think it works extremely well with the lyrics, which are all about pretending to be okay but as a result ends up with Kang Daniel being misunderstood. And I feel that is because of his status within the KPOP industry. He has to be ‘okay’, or else it would be unprofessional (which is completely upsetting, but that that is the reality of his industry). Misunderstood‘s lo-fi atmosphere remained as the common thread throughout the song, but the instrumentation ends up changing as the song progresses. At the start, we get deep thumping that looms in the background. We then get light taps in the first chorus, a tempo pick up for Omega Sapien’s featuring sequence (who worked really well into the song), followed up by what felt like a slow rock vibe to the song, before returning to the likes of the first verse. It is an interesting and impactful mix. (8/10)   

4. Antidote (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Antidote. (8/10)

5. Save U (ft. Wonstein) – Save U is my pick for best song on this album. Firstly, it is a warm song following all of the darkness that preceded this song. The messages of reassurance that he will be there and that these thoughts would all pass are very emotive and powerful. Secondly, Kang Daniel sounds so amazing in this song. He channels all his emotions and deep thoughts into this song in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm you in any manner. The harmonization throughout the song is so nice as well. Thirdly, I really like the electronic instrumental we get. It works really well and compliments both the message and Kang Daniel. Fourthly, Wonstein was a great addition to the song, adding a different dynamic that makes the song more interesting. I am not a fan of his ‘Save U’ interjections earlier in the song, but I think I can overlook that minor element. But everything else he does balances out this track nicely. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

Yellow Teaser Image

[Review] Antidote – Kang Daniel

The next review on this blog is for Kang Daniel, who yesterday wrapped up his colour trilogy with the release of single Antidote and his 4th mini-album, Yellow. This release comes after the release of PARANOIA back in February this year. Yellow follows the releases of mini-albums Cyan in March 2020 (featuring the title track 2U) and Magenta in August 2020 (featuring the title track Who U Are). It also serves the final chapter of the colour trilogy (as mentioned), which was a project for Kang Daniel ‘to find his true colours as a solo artist’.

Antidote combines your traditional rock with alternative R&B elements to create a very moody and heavy track. The first few seconds of the song opened up in a way that reminded me of PARANOIA. I have nothing against going down that fierce route again, I just don’t want it to be a rehashed version of the February pre-release. But there was nothing to worry about. After those few seconds, we get another loaded song (the song is all about seeking the antidote for heartbreak that you just cannot cure), but it is more held back compared to his previous release. The first verse was essentially a slow buildup to the chorus. The minimalistic instrumental for the first verse felt like it was simmering away and was very much in the backseat. In the forefront was Kang Daniel’s vocals. He started out with a low husky tone before progressing to vocals that were more piercing. The chorus is when the song combines the rock and alternative R&B, which was layered underneath more piercing vocals from the solo artist. The second verse featured a really nice change of sound, opting for the addition of strumming guitars to the verse mix. It kept the song interesting and engaging for me. If the song had replicated the first verse for the second verse, I would have found Antidote very dry and boring. To me, the bridge of Antidote was its weak point. I felt like it abruptly cut the momentum of the song after its second chorus. Furthermore, I wasn’t much of a fan of going back to those simmering vibes (once again) and typical synths. Not really imaginative and innovative. Kang Daniel’s rapping also felt unnecessarily autotuned in this part. Overall, I felt like Antidote was a strong release for Kang Daniel, putting a nice end to his journey with this series. But it could have been better.

Despite the song being quite heavy with its messaging, the music video seems to be a little more colourful and vibrant than what I had expected. But that’s okay. It is different and I like that. I also enjoyed the simplicity in terms of sets. Like the song, this simplicity allows the focus to be purely on Kang Daniel throughout the four minutes. I really like the start where Kang Daniel is surrounded by those broken body parts, symbolizing the pain in which he is seeking a cure for. Him preforming on stage and everyone viewing him through the mobile screens showcases his struggles as a celebrity and the constant awareness that he is in the public eye, which will take a mental toll on his mind. I also really liked the setup of the final choreography sequence, where he (and the dancers) are performing on top of the building and mirrors, which looked quite cool. It would have been nice to see the other two parts of the trilogy be reflected as part of this music video.

As mentioned earlier, I felt the song held back. And I felt this was really well reflected in the performance side of the comeback. His moves aren’t powerful as powerful as his previous comebacks and take on a more fluid approach. I quite like that. It was a captivating performance and showcases a different side of Kang Daniel that I don’t think we have seen before.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.1/10

[Review] PARANOIA – Kang Daniel

Making his epic return today is Kang Daniel with his brand new single. PARANOIA. This follows the release of 2U and Who U Are, his two 2020 singles (which were featured on the two mini-albums he released last year as well). It also follows the release of State of Wonder last month, which is a collaboration between himself, inverness and Anthony Russo. They are also the creative minds behind PARANOIA, alongside Kang Daniel. He has also been recently announced to be making his acting debut. But while he prepares for that, it seems like he has to shake off some PARANOIA.

What I really enjoyed about this song is its fierceness. This persona fits in with the whole message of fighting inner demons and emphasises the edgy nature of the song. I also find that the fierceness strikes at the best moments, just as we are coming to the chorus. Why do I think that this was the best moment? Well, the verse felt like suspense was simmering away. While the chorus was the more melodic and what you could call a mini-peak in the song’s momentum. The use of the harsh, rough and deep tone electric guitar as a tunnel for the fierceness really adds so much energy to launch the song into its chorus. As mentioned a moment ago, the chorus is a lot melodic and flowy compared to the verse and pre-chorus launch. But yet it showcases Kang Daniel’s vocals really well. The melodic hooks really make the song memorable and the instrumentation is quite atmospheric/mysterious to a degree. In addition to that, the heavy use of English really helps make the song even memorable for the international audience and gives us insight into the lyrics of the song. His rap-whisper sequence in the bridge was the next best thing in the song. It just had so much behind it and drove the song forward. Without a doubt, the whisper delivery was intentional, serving purpose to the lyrics of the song and just add more momentum towards the final chorus. As for the final chorus, I liked what they done. But I wished they peaked the energy at the start to carry on that momentum from that bridge. It felt like the energy was drained away, which I personally do not like. But once it did peak, the song ended on a really strong note. Overall, PARANOIA is a heavy track, both in meaning and its execution.

The music video is awesome. We see Kang Daniel struggle to fall asleep and is haunted by something. He cowers under the table in fear, and (I assume) he is haunted by whatever is going on when he closes his eyes. It looks like the video hints at some drinking to help with this fear. But obviously, it doesn’t help much. He does have brief moments of solitude where he is aware that those fears are lingering, but they don’t touch him. But the briefest distraction sets him back and he is reminded of those fears. The video chugs along with the same story, though at the end, I think the video shows these fears are just his inner demons. We are shown Kang Daniel with one red eye, indicative of an evil side. Towards the end, we see him struggle with someone who comes so close to stabbing him. But at the very end, we just see him with a bloody hand with no-one else in the room to show ‘he won’ the battle with his demon. While we are on the topic of bloody hand, there was a scene in which we saw a grate at floor level with Kang Daniel on the bed. On the floor is a trail of blood, which suggests to me something a little more sinister. I wonder how this all plays with his future comeback, as this does tease for that comeback.

This performance is on point. I enjoyed all aspects of the choreography, from the complexity of everything once it is put together to the individual moves. I really like how some of the moves made it seem like Kang Daniel and the dancers were possessed, moving in such a manner that really looked intriguing and cool. The dance itself is quite powerful and definitely one of watch in detail.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.2/10

[Special] 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards – Winners Announcement

Welcome to the announcement post of the winners for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. During the month of December in 2020, I opened up a survey for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Over 1800 of you voted during the month of December, a number that I did not expect to see! I am sure that you all are excited and are awaiting to see which artist has clinched victory in each category. I have definitely made you wait long enough 🙂

Like the previous years, I will announce the winners using GIFs and images. I have also announced the runners up for each category as Honourable Mentions below the GIFs. In addition to that, I have included the KPOPREVIEWED Choice, which is my personal pick for each category.

Unlike previous years, however, all of the winners of the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards (including the End of Year Charts and Best Song of 2020 Award) is included in this very one post! Towards the bottom of each post, you will see some page numbers. You can click on these page numbers to navigate to different award categories and the End of Year Charts. Here is a quick guide to the page numbers:

Page 1 – Artist Categories
Page 2 – Visual Categories, Performance Categories, Weekly KPOP Charts related Categories
Page 3 – Blog related Categories, Song Categories (excluding Best Song)
Page 4 – End of Year Charts & Best Song of 2020 Award

Artist Caregories

The following categories are all fan-voted categories for the artists that were active during the eligible period of December 2019 to November 2020.

Best New Male Group

Nominees:
BDC
CRAVITY
DRIPPIN’

Nominees:
MCND
TOO
TREASURE

Honourable Mention: TREASURE
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: TREASURE


Best New Female Group

Nominees:
aespa
BLACKSWAN
cignature

Nominees:
SECRET NUMBER
WEEEKLY
woo!ah!

Honourable Mention: WEEEKLY
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: WEEEKLY


Best New Male Soloist

Nominees:
Han Seung Woo (VICTON)
Kim Woo Seok (UP10TION)

Lee Eun Sang
Wonho
WOODZ

Honourable Mention: Wonho
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: WOODZ


Best New Female Soloist

Nominees:
Lee Suhyun (AKMU)
Moonbyul (Mamamoo)

Ryu Sujeong (Lovelyz)
Solar (Mamamoo)
YooA (Oh My Girl)

Honourable Mention: Lee Suhyun (AKMU)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: YooA (Oh My Girl)


Rising Star of 2020

Nominees:
EVERGLOW
Golden Child
ONEUS

Nominees:
ONF
The Boyz
VICTON

Honourable Mention: EVERGLOW
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: The Boyz


Most Underrated Group of 2020

Nominees:
A.C.E
APRIL
ASTRO

Nominees:
Dream Catcher
ONEUS
VERIVERY

Honourable Mention: Dream Catcher
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: ONEUS


Best Vocals

Nominees:
AKMU
DAY6
IU

Nominees:
Lee Hi
Ong Seong Woo
Taeyeon (SNSD)

Honourable Mention: Taeyeon (SNSD)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: DAY6


Best Rapper

Nominees:
Dami (Dream Catcher)
Han Ji Sung (Stray Kids)
Jessi

Nominees:
Jooheon (MONSTA X)
Moonbyul (Mamamoo)
Wooseok (Pentagon)

Honourable Mention: Han Jisung (Stray Kids)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Jooheon (MONSTA X)


Best Band

Nominees: CN BLUE, DAY6, IZ, N.Flying, ONEWE

Nominees:
CN BLUE
DAY6

IZ
N.Flying
ONEWE

Honourable Mention: CN BLUE
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: DAY6


Best CO-ED Group

Nominees:
AKMU
CHECKMATE
K-TRIGERS ZERO
KARD

Honourable Mention: AKMU
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: KARD


Best Subunit

Nominees:
BTOB 4U
End of Day
Moonbin & Sanha

Nominees:
NCT 127
Red Velvet – Irene & Seulgi
WJSN CHOCOME

Honourable Mention: NCT 127
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: NCT 127


Best Male Soloist

Nominees: Baekhyun (EXO), Chen (EXO), Kang Daniel, Ong Seong Woo, Taemin (SHINee), Zico

Nominees:
Baekhyun (EXO)
Chen (EXO)
Kang Daniel

Nominees:
Ong Seong Woo
Taemin (SHINee)
Zico

Honourable Mention: Taemin (SHINee)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Kang Daniel


Best Female Soloist

Nominees:
Chungha
Hwasa (Mamamoo)
IU

Nominees:
Jeon Somi
Sunmi
Taeyeon (SNSD)

Honourable Mention: Hwasa (Mamamoo)
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: Chungha


Best Male Group

Nominees:
A.C.E
AB6IX
ASTRO
ATEEZ
BTS
Golden Child

GOT7
MONSTA X
NCT
NU’EST
ONEUS
ONF
Pentagon

SEVENTEEN
SF9
Stray Kids
The Boyz
TXT
VERIVERY
VICTON

Honourable Mention: BTS, Stray Kids
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: NCT, SEVENTEEN, Stray Kids


Best Female Group

Nominees:
APRIL
BLACKPINK
BVNDIT
Cherry Bullet
CLC
Dream Catcher

EVERGLOW
fromis_9
(G)I-DLE
GFriend
ITZY
IZ*ONE
LOONA

Lovelyz
Mamamoo
Oh My Girl
Red Velvet
TWICE
Weki Meki
WJSN (Cosmic Girls)

Honourable Mention: BLACKPINK, EVERGLOW
KPOPREVIEWED Choice: ITZY, LOONA, Oh My Girl


Select the page numbers below (just above the comments section) to go to the award categories you want to see the most!
Page 1 – Artist Categories
Page 2 – Visual Categories, Performance Categories, Weekly KPOP Charts related Categories
Page 3 – Blog related Categories, Song Categories (excluding Best Song)
Page 4 – End of Year Charts & Best Song of 2020 Award

[OST Review] 2020 OST Review – Part 1

It has been a long time coming, but I have finally decided to make a start on reviewing a certain type of song that I barely looked at in the past but have wanted to write about for a while now – OST songs. OST (otherwise known as Official Sound Tracks) have been a big part of KPOP. Many of the idols we know and love have gone onto being big name actors, whiles others have had to the privilege to sing some of the most famous tracks to some of the greatest drama scenes of all time.

I personally feel that there is a misconception that OSTs are usually just ballads, but I want to prove that wrong. Furthermore, there will be a Best OST category in this year’s KPOPREVIEVED Awards (hint hint). So I have picked five OSTs throughout 2020 to review and introduce to you here (and over a number of posts). Note that I have not watched all of the dramas, so I will be reviewing the song itself – like how I write my song reviews.

Give You My Heart – IU
Drama: Crash Landing On You
Release: 15 Feb 2020

I kick off this segment with the unstoppable IU. Every song she releases, regardless of whether it is her actual songs off her latest album, a digital single or an OST, it rises to the top of the charts. This was also the case for Can’t Give You My Heart. It is a ballad and one that you can’t really do anything whilst listening to it. Or else you will ‘miss it’. The background is made simply of classical strings, piano and acoustic guitars. The main highlight within the background is this really nice whistling that gives it an almost folksy profile and helps separates it from the other ballads that dominates the OST category. The other half of the song is IU’s beautiful voice, that without doubt captivates the listener with her soft voice. The melodies that she brings to the song helps make this ballad ‘swayable’, which is my self-made indicator of a good ballad (since I don’t have much music expertise myself). I really liked that acapella moment we get during the bridge, which essentially floored me. And how they brought the instrumentals back for the final sequence was really stunning. Overall, captivating and riveting to listen to. (10/10)

Hello Stranger – Stray Kids
Drama: Pop Out Boy!
Release: 16 Jul 2020

Stray Kids changes up the OST playlist (literally) with a more intense and energetic style of music that stands out for being different from the rest of the OST realm. Hello Stranger brings forth the group’s usual style of dance music, with rock and hip-hop influences that gives additional dimension to the song. And this is simply because the song was composed by the group’s main composing team. That being said, the song does also draw some similarities to other OSTs. Most relevantly, the song is much more melodic than what Stray Kids have put out this year promotionally. This makes complete sense, as rapping could be a bit much in a drama scene where you want the writing of the drama or the acting to be the main star (and not the background music). I did like this shift in focus for the group though. It allows the group to show off more of their vocal chops in a different manner from a ballad or R&B song, but rather something of their upbeat style. I find that Hello Stranger could have easily been released as part of their latest albums. While it is executed differently by the members, the song would blend in well with the rest of the albums. I only have two complaints. The first (which isn’t really a complaint, because the song does go for a substantial amount of time in reality) is that it felt like a blur. The second would be it sudden ending, something that I still haven’t gotten used to. (9.5/10)

Sweet Night – V (BTS)
Drama: Itaewon Class
Release: 13 Mar 2020

After that little detour, V (from the widely popular BTS) bring us back to the ballad front with his OST addition to Itaewon Class (probably one of the biggest dramas of the year). This is his second OST song. His first was a duet with fellow member Jin for Hwarang (which he was also part of the cast for). V impresses with Sweet Night on a number of fronts. Firstly, the song is a track written completely in English by the artist himself. That is definitely a feat in itself for anyone who’s first language isn’t English. Secondly, his husky vocals were so good to listen to. We need more of this husky voice – something that I have mentioned on my blog before when reviewing his solo tracks on BTS’ albums. However, listening to his voice is one thing. Unfortunately, I found it slightly difficult to make out some words given that the huskiness was so strong. I was only comfortable in acknowledging that it was a English track once I saw that people were praising him for his efforts and on media sites (gotta fact check everything in this day and age!). That is my only complaint with the this particular song. Thirdly, while V does get all the attention – the female vocals that harmonised with him and complimented his voice added more layers to the song, making Sweet Night more than just husky vocals and acoustic guitars. But nonetheless, it was a soothing and swayable track to listen to. (9/10)

Not A Sad Song (이별 노래가 아니야) – ONF
Drama: Love Revolution
Release: 22 Oct 2020

ONF’s first OST as a group is a pop track, brought to life by drums and electric guitars. The opening eight seconds make it seem otherwise. But after that piano centric introduction, we are blasted with that mentioned pop instrumentation, which I enjoyed. I feel that the song almost had this musical approach to it, which would have been fantastic to see be brought to life conceptually in the drama. I haven’t checked out the drama, so I have no idea. But the music video suggests that my wishes didn’t come true. Like what the song’s title suggest, this is Not A Sad Song. It is quite upbeat, full of energy and sunshine. It feels perfect for a teenage romance drama (which Love Revolution would be categorized as). I liked that the members sing the chorus together, which instantly boosts up the song’s appeal. I feared that the pop instrumentation that they had going on would be a bit cliche for my liking. But them singing together to really bolster the melodies and match the song’s blast of energy (courtesy of the instrumentals) when we get to the chorus worked really well. During the verses, their solo parts were quite good in itself. I liked how they still managed to fit in a part for Wyatt. As mentioned before under Hello Stranger, an intense rap sequence would not have been a perfect fit for a drama, especially a teenage romance drama which should be light. His style is usually more intense, but it was tweaked well enough to allow him to fit in a softer manner. Overall, a pleasantly upbeat track to listen to. (8/10)

Something – Kang Daniel
Drama: Backstreet Rookie
Release: 19 Jun 2020

I hope that I have showed you all that there is more to OSTs than just ballads. That being said, ballads still do make up an overwhelming portion of the OST market, so I will save some other non-ballad OSTs for next weeks post. I end today’s segment with Kang Daniel’s first OST. It is also a ballad and it taps into the more typical nature of the genre (i.e. classical and acoustic instrumentation). I did like the melody that Kang Daniel brings to the song, which gives the song an even smoother appeal. His voice is a lot softer and raspier than usual, which instantly gives Something a delicate profile. I do find this song is quite consistent and I wished there was more to the song to give it some depth and exciting energy. While this is fine for a romance drama and it doesn’t make the song boring as much as it would to other songs, this is seems like the style of OST that everyone is familiar with and would generalise the entire market as. Not that this was a bad move on Kang Daniel’s part, as the song manages to showcase the singer in a new light for me. Overall, Something was dreamy, soothing and calming to listen to. (8/10)

[Double Review] Refresh + I Believe – Zico & Kang Daniel / Bae Jin Young & Kim Yo Han

For the first time ever, I am putting together two songs by two different sets of artists into a double review format. For today’s double review, I will be focusing on Zico and Kang Daniel’s collaboration, Refresh, and Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han’s collaboration, I Believe. The reason why I am group these two songs together is because they form part of the 2020 Pepsi and Starship collaboration, which has been occurring lately. Refresh was released back in April of this year for the For The Love of Korea part of the collaboration, while I Believe was released two weeks ago as part of the Heritage Project part of the collaboration. The four artists join a long list of other popular KPOP artists who have participated in the Pepsi and Starship collaboration, including Eunha and Ravi, Ong Seong Woo, and Hongbin and Hyungwon.

Not only does Refresh features the likes of both Zico and Kang Daniel, the song is also co-produced by Steve Aoki. That in itself means that this is a pretty star-studded lineup for a two and half minute song. Both Kang Daniel and Zico sings during the verses, with Zico adding some raps to the song later on in the second verse. These parts were decent, but they don’t really scream out Zico or Kang Daniel in any way. The pre-chorus hook was pretty decent as it gives the song some life and memorability, before dropping a half squeaky and half screechy type of synth in the chorus. Not really the most likeable synth out there, but it has its charm. The saving grace of Refresh is the heavy thumping bass. It probably shows how easily you can satisfy me, but the thumping really added momentum to Refresh for me and accented the right parts at the right times for me.

I Believe is actually a remake of a ballad OST by Shin Seung Hoon, which was released for My Sassy Girl (who remembers this movie?). Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han’s version gives it a trendy and fun retro spin, featuring a heavy amount of 80s synthesizer in its instrumental. I have no issues with this style as the instrumental brought a smile to me. They keep the melody from the original and also incorporate some raps, which genuinely surprised me. The song ended up being quite memorable and catchy for me, thanks to the collaborative nature of all the song’s elements. Aside from all the positivity that I am writing about the song (and the positivity that the song brings), I have nothing else to say about the song (and this is a good thing).

For Refresh, the theme was loving Korea (i.e. it was the ‘For The Love of Korea’ project) and there was a lot of traditional influence in the music video. The production value for Refresh was extremely high based on the visual effects that were utilised. I think it was a very suitable music video for Refresh, given the concept of the project and the appearance of both Zico and Kang Daniel in the video. I also liked their outfits and the product placement of Pepsi felt light and suitable. Kang Daniel makes a second appearance in the Pepsi and Starship collaboration project at the start and end of the I Believe music video. While we hear a bit of the Refresh instrumental, Kang Daniel starts a game on an old arcade that segueways into the main body of the music video that features the actual artists of the song. As for Bae Jin Young and Kim Yo Han, the video depicts them having fun whilst alone. I like how they incorporated the 90s filter of a circular frame and the white-washed lighting that many might remember from 90s KPOP music videos. Even their fashion looks like it could have been from that era (though some of it has been modernise to fit the current 20s). I also noticed that both videos acknowledged current events, with a little nod to face masks and elbowing in place of a hug or high-five.

Both songs are quite danceable. However, only I Believe has a proper choreography routine. Based on the music video, it looks pretty good but isn’t anything impressive. The pair do put in a lot of effort for an one off performance and that really lifts the look of the choreography by a lot.

Refresh – Zico & Kang Daniel
Song – 8/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

I Believe – Bae Jin Young (CIX) & Kim Yo Han (WEi)
Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Album Review] Magenta (3rd Mini Album) – Kang Daniel

Kang Daniel has been busy this year with his musical releases. Earlier in the year, he started off with the release of Cyan and 2U. And earlier this month, Kang Daniel returned with his third mini-album Magenta (the focus of this album review post) and the title track Who U Are. As part of this R&B centric comeback, Kang Daniel enlisted four additional artists to feature in the mini-album. Jamie and Simon Dominic featured in his pre-release single, Waves, while Yumdda and Dvwn feature in a song each elsewhere on the mini-album. Continue reading this album review to find out which songs those two artists featured on and my thoughts on Magenta!

Magenta Album Cover

1. Flash – Starting off the album is Flash. The stormy start and end of the song (complete with rain and thunder) really pulls me into the song. The actual R&B EDM trap-based instrumental of the song is layered on top of that sample and then comes into full display as the main centre piece. I particularly enjoyed the pre-chorus change, which to me adds a dynamic kick to the song prior to the melodic chorus. This keeps the song interesting and eventful. It also pairs extremely well with a subtle yet intense atmosphere that also keeps the song suspenseful without the use of any dramatic synths. I feel that Kang Daniel’s vocals and raps are well displayed in this song. I do think Flash lacks a memorable hook, which would have made the song that little more attractive. But nonetheless, Flash is a cool and appealing start to the mini-album. (8.5/10)

2. Waves (ft. Jamie & Simon Dominic) (Pre-Release Track) Click here to read the full review for Waves. (8.5/10)

3. Who U Are (깨워) (Title Track) Click here to read the full review for Who U Are. (8/10)

4. Runaway (ft. Yumdda)Runaway seems to be the odd-ball on this album. Everything else seems to delve into R&B, however Runaway has a reggae hip-hop infused sound to it. This gives the song an interesting dynamic and makes it sound very interesting. I also enjoy the energy that comes from the song, as it feels a little more upbeat. I appreciate this change up, given that R&B can be a repetitive genre at times. And the main star of this track sounds fantastic. There is more of a kick to Kang Daniel’s vocals and rapping, which makes the song enjoyable. However, Yumdda’s featuring was the weakest moments of the song. His delivery feels more like mumbles and I couldn’t decipher what he was delivering, even as I was following the lyrics. This may be his way of doing things, but I would have preferred with a cleaner featuring. (8/10)

5. Movie (ft. Dvwn) – I am aware that there is a music video for Movie, which dropped earlier this week. At this stage, I have decided to hold back with a full review for Movie and will hold the music video for a future Missed Music Video Review post that I have been continually promising. Movie is a R&B EDM-trap based track that is quite catchy. It feels similar to the first song on the album. This one just has a little more typical atmosphere to it. But that doesn’t really become a flaw, as Movie’s chanting hook is what really catches on and gives the song that addictive nature. To me, the hook has a bounce to it that makes the song so much more appealing. The energy behind the song isn’t explicit. Rather it is subtle and this makes it much stronger. Both Kang Daniel and Dvwn (the featuring artist) sound fantastic in this song. (9/10)

6. Night (밤) – Ending the album is probably Kang Daniel’s best display of vocals on this mini-album. There is a dreamy vibe to Night that makes this song so palatable. Once again, he delves into R&B for this track. No surprises here though, as R&B seems to bring out the good side of his vocals (as seen in all the songs on this mini-album). Facilitating the display of great vocals, as well, are smooth melodies that are so appealing to listen to. It just makes the song ideal for a chill session or a ‘kick back and relax’ situation. The instrumentation is light, so it definitely helps in making this song track calming and soothing. I do detect a slow rock type of vibe in the instrumental at the start of the song and I liked how they retained it for the chorus, giving it a unique touch. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

Magenta Teaser Image

[Review] Who U Are – Kang Daniel

And now, we return (and kick off) the normal schedule of reviews for new releases this week. First up this week is Kang Daniel, who officially returns with Who U Are, the lead title track off his third mini-album, Magenta. I have opted to write his review first as I was a few days late with his pre-release single, Waves (featuring Jamie and Simon Dominic), last week. I am hoping to avoid that with his actual title track release.

I personally expected Kang Daniel to make his solo debut with a strong and masculine sound. As this is something that would definitely suit his image. But for his solo debut and first comeback, we have seen different and brighter sides of him. And with those tracks, he has definitely solidfied his footing in the industry. So now, he can go back to do a sound/concept like Who U Are, which one might argue to be typical and standard. But despite that, I think Who U Are is great song, just with one major letdown. It starts off with horns that really set the dark atmosphere to the song. We are then thrown into a verse made of a heavy bass drum and a mellow flute sound. When it comes to the chorus, he hits it hard and we are blasted with an amped and slightly angsty version of the verse. I really liked the use of those vocals as part of the instrumental for the post-chorus instrumental hook/dance break. A technique used often, but it is also something that maintains the momentum and energy from the chorus in a trendy manner. The second verse more or less goes with a similar set up, though its bouncy opening is a definite killer part of the song. We are treated generously to his vocals throughout Who U Are. We are also treated handsomely to his powerful rapping, which I don’t remember being a part of his previous solo releases. But while powerful rapping is well suited for this strong sound, I wasn’t impressed with the trap-based backing that his rap segment got. It was pretty generic, cringy and just counteracted the flow of the song. This is exceptionally disapppointing as I was enjoying the attention-grabbing ‘Levitate‘ at the beginning of that sequence. I do commend that the transition back into the final chorus was handled well, though. Apart from that rap sequence, everything else in Who U Are is definitely a solid hit for me.

While the song was about wanting to get to know someone in a bold fashion, I didn’t really under stand the apocalyptic setting that the music video was set in. While it definitely compliments the bold side of the message and the strong sound, I just found the setting to be extreme. Putting that thought aside, Kang Daniel was shown as a masculine figure which I am sure will makes fans excited. I liked the play of colours, going from white to red to blue. I just wished the music video was more than just a closeup and choreography formula.

The choreography for this comeback is really good. It brings out that strong side of the song really well. I liked all the twist turns that he does during the chorus. I also like the one stomp that starts off the chorus each time. That was a powerful moment in the music video and will definitely be a powerful moment on stage. The entire final chorus looks really good as well.

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

[Review] Waves – Kang Daniel ft. Simon Dominic & Jamie

Before I can proceed with any reviews for the newer releases of the week (starting tomorrow), there is still one more Monday release that I need to review. I am talking about Kang Daniel’s pre-release single, Waves, which features both Simon Dominic and Jamie (Jimin from 15&). This is just one of the songs coming our way once Kang Daniel unveils his Magenta mini-album on August 3rd. This comeback is the second of three Colour comebacks that he is embarking on. The first was titled Cyan (and featured the title track 2U) back in March of this year.

Kang Daniel manages to bring together hip-hop melodies and a subtle Latin influence to form Waves. And it is honestly a good sidetrack that really helps grow the anticipation for his upcoming mini-album release. Yes, I specifically mentioned ‘sidetrack’ for a reason. I don’t think the song has what it takes to be given ‘title track’ status, given that it doesn’t have much impact or heft to it. So, its status as a sidetrack is ideal. As mentioned in the introduction to this review, the song features both Simon Dominic and Jamie. It might seem to be a bit much for a song that only lasts three minutes, but Waves is surprisingly balanced and evenly split between all three artists. And each artists had their own thing unique thing to contribute to the track. Kang Daniel kicks off the song with a really cool rap speak delivery of the first verse. He also takes on board the chorus, given that it is his song and that makes the most sense. His vocals seem sleek and matches the sensual vibe of the song. Jamie follows Kang Daniel in the first verse with her nasally voice. She also got an opportunity to rap in the second verse. It isn’t anything intense, but it gives a little teaser of a new side of her that she hasn’t really shown off in her own music just yet. Simon Dominic rounds out the first verse with a short sequence, before returning with a heavier sequence for the second verse and bridge. The deepness in his voice threw me off the first time around, as it contrasted so greatly with the chilled and light nature of Waves‘ instrumental. Overall, Waves is a pretty good teaser of what is to come in less than a weeks time.

The music video is quite good. First of all, I am glad that both Jamie and Simon Dominic are in this music. A lot of the time the featuring artist is not included due to scheduling conflicts or various other reasons. So to see both featuring artists made the video worthwhile to watch. Secondly, how good does Kang Daniel look in this video? His solo shots were very captivating and his outfits (particularly those suit jackets) looked really cool. Thirdly, the sets look unique. Some of the sets look really elegant. Others seemed to be modeled after sewage pipes. Not really a cool place to be. But Kang Daniel, Jamie and Simon Dominic all really make all the sets seems like the place to be. The ending looks a little sinister and might foreshadow next week’s main release.

What I could see from the music video, the choreography looked really promising. I liked how they split off into females and males dancers for the second chorus, while they were all mixed together for the first and second choruses. I couldn’t really focus on a particular move given the unfocused nature of the music video. Though I did detect some attitude mixed into the moves, as I could see from the end of the performance.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Album Review] Cyan (2nd Mini Album) – Kang Daniel

Kang Daniel has topped my Weekly KPOP Charts for the past two weeks with his new song, 2U. That song is featured on the soloist’s second mini-album, Cyan, which was released two weeks ago. I know there are other album releases which I should be reviewing released earlier than this album. But I couldn’t help but dive into this album first. I will get around to those albums in the next few album reviews. But in the meantime, here is my review for Kang Daniel’s Cyan.

Cyan Album Cover

1. Adulthood – Kicking off the mini-album release is Adulthood, which was released alongside Touchin’ in November 2019. It is a dance track with some R&B mixed into it, smoothing out the use of the island or house genres of EDM. I noticed that there was some very low rumbling in the background of this song, which stood out for some reason. Also the phone notification beeping that appeared now and then was pretty cool and related back to the lyrics of becoming an adult. Kang Daniel also seems to show off some vocal chops, going from falsettos to decent ab-libs. I also like how they incorporated his voice in the background of some sections. It helped bolden and define his vocals in a smart and neat way. (8/10)

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

3. Jealous – I swear that I don’t try to find a 10/10 song on each album (or give the best song on the album the perfect 10/10 ranking). But Jealous just falls neatly into the 10/10 category. The entire song capitalises on Kang Daniel’s husky vocals, which I am jealous of. The instrumental of the song is a wonderful mixture of peaceful piano sequences, interesting vocal filters and an upbeat electronic piece for the chorus. Everything comes together. Everything is very appealing and addictive. I just want to dive right back into the song as soon as it is over. One of the many signs that Jealous manages to show as a perfect song. (10/10)

4. InterviewInterview is a very smooth jazzy style track. The instrumental is very satisfying and it also features some piano as the icing on the ‘detail’ cake. The song has a really pleasant melody that really makes me want to dive back into it after the song wraps up. We get more of Kang Daniel’s husky voice in this song as well, which features throughout the verses of Interview. We lose the husky touch for the chorus, but it replaced with that smooth texture that the song already identifies with. We also get some rapping from the soloist, which I wanted more of. (9/10)

5. Touchin’Click here to read the full review for Touchin’. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

Cyan Teaser Image

[Review] 2U – Kang Daniel

Kang Daniel was the biggest name from Wanna One and was expected to soar high in the industry upon making his solo debut with What Are You Up To. But certain events got in the way of that and his debut was fast forgotten due to a lack of promotions. He returned in late 2019 with Touchin’ but cut promotions short to focus on his mental health (good on him, though!). But it is 2020 now and it is time to turn over a new leaf. Kang Daniel kicks off 2020 with the release of his second mini-album, Cyan, which features the title track 2U.

The first that came to my mind upon my first listen to 2U was that everything was very easy on the ears. And this is a stylistic choice that I really am enjoying. With the amount of focus I am placing on current events, songs that are this easy on the ears are able to provide some brief but much needed relief to my mind before I need to refocus. The song’s main synth may sound pretty bland and plain at first, but the combination of the beat and the song’s melody really helps mitigate this. Together, I find the track to have a subtle groove, which I thoroughly enjoy. I do like his vocals, which feels fresh and gives the song a shot of vibrancy. There is a tad of smoothness that makes this song even more enjoyable when it comes to the melodic chorus. I do find it interesting that there was no rap-speak type of rap sequence, which I think would have suited the song perfectly. But what we got served in 2U is amazing already.

Kang Daniel works as the really fashionable and trendy janitor at a theater, which employs a pretty unfit security guard. No judgement here though, as I am equally as unfit as the guard. He seems to invite his friends to a night in at the theater. But after some time, he was caught by the security guard. Not sure if the whole thing was imagined by Kang Daniel, which may have been the case with that ending. Kang Daniel is still the janitor, didn’t lose his job but the security guard is very suspicious of him. I found the video to be lighthearted and not too heavy, like the song. It was enjoyable and matched the atmosphere of the song.

The choreography was pretty good. Everything was casual and easygoing, which is essentially the song (and entire comeback) described in two words. I like how the choreographers added more dancers as the performance progressed, seeming like a friendly and fun congregation was being formed. I particularly liked the ending of the choreography (onwards from 2:55 of the music video). I liked the interaction with the backup dancers and the casual vibes that literally came from this section of the performance.

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

[Review] Touchin’ – Kang Daniel

Kang Daniel is nominated for Best New Male Soloist and Best Solo Choreography in the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support Kang Daniel and your other favourites!

Kang Daniel, one of the most highly anticipated solo debuts of 2019, has officially made his first comeback via a digital single, Touchin’. He made his solo debut back in July with What Are You Up To and the mini-album, Color On Me. While he topped charts with his album, he was not allowed to actively promote the album, which I assumed is due to the aftereffects of the lawsuit in which he filed against his previous company months prior to his debut. But with that officially behind him, it seems like Kang Daniel can freely release and promote tracks under his own label without any hindrance.

And I do hope that he does promote this track. Why? Well, I found the song to be what I had expected his debut to be like. There is a level of intensity that I found to be very appealing. But it was subtle compared to other dance tracks. Also adding to the appeal of the song is the instrumentation. I really like how the song built up suspense using the spaced-out xylophone beat. This was shortlived, as the buildup came quite quickly and we are launched into the chorus. The chorus has this rhythmic beat that is undeniably catchy. Following that was a techno-like guitar synth which I thought was fantastic. It continued to drive the song and felt fresh each time it was revisited. Finally, Kang Daniel’s vocals were on point. I really like the lower register at which he sings, followed by the ad-libs he presented at the end of the song. Overall, Touchin’ is a very well-produced and captivating, which is perfect for Kang Daniel.

I thought this was a really clever video. I like how ‘home Kang Daniel’ adds a slightly comedic touch to the video. He is too engrossed in the movie that he managed to add Tobasco sauce to his attire. ‘Movie Kang Daniel’ is much smoother and cooler than the home version. He stars in his own vintage spy movie, wins a game of Mahjong and walks away with the actress and case of money. It seems like the actress gets kidnapped and Kang Daniel goes on a mission to save her, which he thankfully does. He does get shot at along the way but the oldness of the VHS tape skips that part entirely. I did expect some sort of twist at the end, such as the actress coming out to share some pizza with ‘home Kang Daniel’ or for her to run into his house. But I guess that would have been unnecessary when I think about it in a deeper sense.

The performance shows off the sensual and sleek side of Kang Daniel that fans had loved since his time on Produce 101 Season 2 and promotions as part of Wanna One. I thought he showcased a lot of his dance skills in this performance and also incorporated what seems to be an upgraded version of that thigh-related move that he made really popular (I am quite sure there is a proper name for the move, I just can’t think of it right now).

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.9/10

[Review] What Are You Up To – Kang Daniel

The second solo debut today has been a long time coming. But finally, Kang Daniel has returned to the stage with What Are You Up To and his first mini-album, Color On Me. It has been a choppy few months for Kang Daniel, who left his LM Entertainment after nullifying his contract with said management. After the courts ruled in his favour, Kang Daniel established his own agency (Konnect Entertainment). But his debut was further delayed after LM Entertainment decided to appeal, which LM later lost, allowing the popular solo artist to return to the industry via his own agency. This also makes Kang Daniel the final member of Wanna One to relaunch their careers after the disbandment of the group earlier this year.

But we are here for the review, aren’t we? For some reason, I expected something a little more intense from the artist. So, my first impressions of the track were not that positive. However, while writing this review, I am warming up to it a fair bit. What Are You Up To is a synth-pop track and its biggest weapon was pace. I found the instrumental to be perfectly paced. It didn’t get right to the point, opting for some suspense building. I find this very cool, especially since the song opted to stay very neutral overall.  I really like the loud metallic banging that could be heard during the chorus. That really amped up the intensity for me. While it is a dance track. it falls towards the pleasant side of the spectrum, which is another intriguing aspect. His dance break sounded quite trendy and sleek. Kang Daniel’s vocals are great and I like how he used autotune to help prevent his song sounding monotone and prevent repetition. I think the only thing that could have been added was a rap sequence. Doesn’t have to be done by Kang Daniel but I felt it was missing that extra oomph.

The song is about yearning to catch up with one’s lover. And the video shows that I think. Kang Daniel starts off bored, wanting to meet with his lover. We see him attempt to reach for his lover through many mechanisms but is unable to get through. It is definitely nice to see the familiar face again. Besides Kang Daniel’s visuals, I find the music video to have a nice pastel colour palette. Overall, things looked cool and visually appealing.

At this stage, there doesn’t seem like there will be promotions. However, his agency and the broadcasting companies are still actively discussing promotions. It will be a total miss opportunity to not bring him on board, especially with his fanbase and popularity. I thought the choreography showcased a lot of Daniel’s dance skills, appropriate for the song. The dance break and the pre-chorus routines have to be my pick for the best parts.

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