[Review] Crack – Lee Jin Hyuk

I travel back to Monday to review one more song, LEE JIN HYUK’s latest release. The mini-album is titled 5ight and the lead single is titled Crack, and it follows last year’s October 2021 comeback with Crtl + V (his fourth mini-album, which I did not review) and Work Work (his last promotional track).

Crack is another rock based dance track to add to the growing list of rock influenced tracks that have emerged in KPOP. But we are still in the early days of the trend, given that each artists (so far) are still able to make this trend their own and I don’t think I am anywhere near tired of it. For Crack, the uniqueness comes from the drumming. It really gave Crack an extremely dynamic and robust tenacity, especially during the bold and hyped pre-choruses. It was adrenaline pumping and I am still reeling from the excitement the drumming gives the song. Electric guitars are common in rock songs, and Crack is no exception. But as the drumming is already the bold aspect of the song, the electric guitar sits more in the background. The choruses follows on nicely from the pre-chorus, picking up the momentum and brings forth those electric guitars a bit to bring an electrifying profile to the surface of Crack. The hooks were catchy and addictive, even though I did have a laugh when I first heard the ‘I have a crack crack crack‘ hook the first time around. LEE JIN HYUK’s raspy vocals and raps were well utilized and adds a nice textural component to Crack. The bridge smooths out the instrumental, which was a neat contrast to the rest of the song. However, I do think Crack missed the opportunity to have a more substantial peak in the bridge, which (I hoped) would result in a launch back into an intensely energetic final chorus to close out the song. Similar comments can be said with the final instrumental break. It could have been so much more concentrated just to give Crack a literal high point to finish on. But overall, Crack really impressed me, with the instrumental really stealing the show for me.

As for the music video for this comeback, I thought it was fine. Not memorable, but not necessarily terrible, as well. The choreography scenes (sans the leopard print pants) had an electrifying feel to it, thanks to the flashing and spinning lights in the background. There was a lot of cracks in the video, including cracked glass, smashed windshields with cracks in them and even crackers making a crack sound at the very start/end (Hehehehe…). I am sure these serve a purpose other than puns, but I couldn’t piece together what was happening the video.

I wished the sharpness associated with the ‘crack crack crack‘ move was present throughout the choreography. If everything else (aside from the dance outro) felt a lot more snappy, I think this would have made a really cool choreography routine. But instead, it appeared a bit wishy-washy. I make the exception with the dance break outro, as that is what I am looking for and feel would have made the stage better.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Work Work – Lee Jin Hyuk

Kick starting this week is Lee Jin Hyuk, who has returned with a new single, Work Work. This new single is the title track off his fourth mini-album, Crtl + V, which also dropped today. This is Lee Jin Hyuk’s first solo release since his April comeback with 5K and SCENE26. Lee Jin Hyuk also made a return to acting since his April comeback, which ahs kept his 2021 busy.

Work Work is another one of those songs that just come off as just pleasant. I do find it fun, bright and light-hearted, but I don’t find it exciting as what 5K ended up snowballing into becoming, which seems to be his best release thus far. I like the melodic style of this new song, which was the main driver of why Work Work received that pleasant descriptor. While the song does still fall into the hip-hop genre, I do feel like a pop vibe really creeps up in the song’s instrumentation and also adds fuel to that pleasantness. I will admit that all of this styling does make Lee Jin Hyuk’s rapping style in Work Work more approachable, light and enjoyable than usual, but I do prefer a bit more edge when it comes to rapping in general. We do get a bit of oomph as the song ramps up to the final chorus, with Lee Jin Hyuk giving us that mentioned edge with a faster and stronger delivery. I think this was what the song should have gone with from the get-go to really grab my attention and (hopefully) shake off that ‘pleasant’ styling. I do like the extension at the very of the end of with a dance break instrumental sequence. Lee Jin Hyuk had something similar in Bedlam, which I noted to be the best part of that song when it was released. I liked seeing that being replicated here and in a fitting nature of Work Work. Overall, Work Work is a pleasant track, especially when you consider what else is out there at the moment.

Work Work is all about the imbalance caused by work and love, and how it is hard to find that balance between the two. In this video, I think the love aspect is portrayed by the fun he is having. The cute gummy bear in the video doubles up as a lover, but also adds to that playful vibe that the song and video had going on. We also do see a bit of the work-side, with Lee Jin Hyuk busy in the recording studio and on set as assistants and staff continually follow him. It was a nice colourful video that works well with the song.

A decent routine for this comeback. It fits the bill and works tandemly with the song, with some good moments throughout. Though, still notably standard. I did wish the dance break at the end offered something more than a repeat of what we saw throughout the rest of Work Work.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.5/10

[Album Review] SCENE26 (3rd Mini Album) – Lee Jin Hyuk

The next album which I wanted to delve into for a closer listen is Lee Jin Hyuk’s recent comeback with SCENE26, his third mini-album since his solo debut in 2019. At the forefront of this mini-album is 5K, which dropped with the mini-album at the start of April 2021. Personally, I am not a fan of his releases in the past (which includes I Like That and Bedlam) and this detered me from sitting down to write an album review for those past mini-albums. But as I was vetting albums by a casual listen recently, I was drawn to a few tracks on this mini-album that caught my attention. Furthermore, 5K garnered the most positive review I had for Lee Jin Hyuk since his solo debut. So with those factors combined, I am excited to finally sit down to have a closer look at one of Lee Jin Hyuk’s mini-albums.

SENSE26 Album Cover

1. 5K (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for 5K. (7/10)

2. Silence – If 5K’s tone was playful and fun, then Silence is edgy. The second track on the album is an EDM track, which isn’t really the ideal genre to push for some ‘silence’. In fact, I really like how loud this track ended up being. There is also a lot of character to the song, which isn’t standard with typical EDM song. There is just something more to the song that I find very exciting. I really like the layering of all of the rough and harsh synths and textures, which creates an energy that sounded like it could easily have fitted into an intense, suspenseful and ‘edge of your seat’ type of action movie. For Lee Jin Hyuk himself, his rapping was quite dynamic and robust. And he too inserted a lot of character into the song himself. (9/10)

3. Asteroid (소행성)Asteroid is my favourite track on the album. While his vocal work at the very start wasn’t really the best foot forward, the rest of the vocals were extremely fitting for this rock song. I really like the harshness/roughness of his vocals, which make it fitting for the rock genre. And he sounds so good throughout the rest of the song that I am willing to overlook that tiny detail at the start. The rock instrumental is relentless and powerful, blasting us with energy from practically the first second. Altogether, everything felt like an anime OST. And I would be willing to watch any anime with a lead in track like Asteroid. (10/10)

4. HATI-HATIHATI-HATI is a blast of intense hip-hop energy. If you are a person is easily overwhelmed with intense songs, then this one might not be for you. But if you enjoy that thrill, then definitely check out HATI-HATI. For me, I don’t mind being blasted by energy, but I much prefer the song’s more melodic moments in the pre-choruses and bridge. That being said, Lee Jin Hyuk really pushes himself to deliver lines that really stand out on top of the instrumentation, showcasing an ability that definitely can be helpful with some songs. On top of that, his rapping was impeccable and definitely shows promise. (8/10)

5. Be Half Awake – We return to a more playful and fun track, allowing us to take a break from all that intense energy from the pervious songs. It isn’t my personal favourite song on the album, as I felt that the harshness in his tone was competing with the synths and instrumental. Sometimes they clashed, and this was a jolt of sound that I personally did not enjoy as much. Be Half Awake‘s more melodic moments were appreciable. But once again, it is rapping that steals the show for me in this song. I just wished the energy from both the song and Lee Jin Hyuk was toned down a bit to gives us more of an opportunity of a break from the album’s intensity. (6.5/10)

6. Wave (끄덕) – If I were to pick a song which showed off his rapping off the most, then Wave would be my pick. His rapping in this song is definitely his best work yet. The energy, the character and the charisma are all showcased in this song to a high degree. If he had started off his solo career with a song like Wave, then I would have been an avid follower. I also like the underground vibes of this song, which is really cool. Not only was it a great style to showcase Lee Jin Hyuk’s talents, it is also very different from most rap songs we hear in a KPOP album. (9/10)

7. Coup-d’état (활) – In addition to ending the album, Coup-d’état was selected as the follow-up promotional song to end 5K promotions. The powerful and intense nature of the EDM that makes up Coup-d’état makes it a song that is extremely fitting for the stage. Actually, I think this would have been a strong contender for the title track position of this album The energy from this song would have been thrilling as the entrance track to SCENE26 and would have started everything with a bang! In addition to the intensity and stage-worthiness for this song, Coup-d’état also showcases Lee Jin Hyuk in an explosive manner that doesn’t feel like was capitalized in any of the above songs. We have heard impressive rapping from the soloist in the above songs, but I don’t think we have heard him like this before! (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

SCENE26 Teaser Image

[Review] 5K – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

The final review this weekend’s focus on solo artists (I really need to get back to the usual program of reviewing all artists) is Lee Jin Hyuk’s comeback. Lee Jin Hyuk made his solo return to the stage on Monday through the release of 5K and the mini-album, Scene26. This is the soloist’s first comeback since Bedlam in June of last year (and we are still awaiting for the day in which Lee Jin Hyuk makes a return to UP10TION). Since Bedlam, Lee Jin Hyuk was scheduled to make his acting debut early this year through the drama Dear. M, but the drama has been put on hold due to a scandal involving the lead actress. But that is acting and I am not here to review that. I am here to review 5K, so let’s get going.

Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo work have been a miss for me, so far. We have the boring single (i.e. I Like That) and the (to put it bluntly) off-putting releases (i.e. Bedlam). 5K seems to not fit in either of those categories. Gone are the shouting vocals that dominated his previous song, with Lee Jin Hyuk opting for a more pleasing delivery of traditional raps and vocals. When he isn’t overwhelming, he actually sounds quite skilled. I do like that he goes in and out of rapping and singing, which gives the song a wide range of variety. It also seems like Lee Jin Hyuk infuses a bit of a fun character to his delivery, which makes his vocals and rapping even more appealing. I don’t follow Lee Jin Hyuk personally, but my assumption is that this character is what fans would commonly associate with him (based on what I am reading in the YouTube comments). To match the colourful profile lee Jin Hyuk presents us in 5K, the song’s instrumentation opts for a fun profile. Brass, which seems to be the industry’s go to sound for something fun, is heavily employed in the chorus. The jazzy piano that features as part of the chorus is also a nice addition. I also enjoyed the funky sound profile that the song opts for in the verses, further tapping 5K into current trends. So far, so good. But it is the song’s major hook that acts as the hurdle this time around to liking the song. The constant repetition of ‘5K’ (which is a pun on ‘OK‘, as 5 sounds similar to O in Korean) wears off by the midpoint of the song and frankly is annoying by the end of the song. But given his past two releases, I think 5K is his best yet. There are still some improvements that can be made to make the song (and his title tracks) more appealing.

I thought the music video was fantastic. It was a little dizzying, given that the camera constantly spins around to capture Lee Jin Hyuk (and his many counterparts) walk around it in a circle. The whole point of that was to follow the female actress who catches his attention at the start (and the artwork that he is featured in). The music video is set in an art gallery. At first I wasn’t keen on this setting, but it soon made sense to why they had chosen this concept. Obviously, the producers wanted to highlight that 5K is a step up from the ultra high definition of 4K. The 4K that I have seen makes me feel like I am watching the video live (i.e. in the room). So obviously a step up would be that in a literal form, hence the art gallery was an excellent choice. I also like that Lee Jin Hyuk is ‘The Walking Man 2’ and does a lot of walking to play that part. The part in which the female actress was an actual piece of artwork was a bit predictable for me, but it still made for a fun video to watch.

I felt the choreography for this comeback was a let down. There wasn’t anything great about, let alone mind-blowing or new. It just felt like we have seen the moves done before. On top of that, it felt like the choreography was very repetitive. I did like the energy and smiles he brought to the stage. But that isn’t enough in this instance to save the choreography.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Bedlam – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

I now take a bit of a breather from the Monday releases to review 2 more recent comebacks. The first is the major comeback that Lee Jin Hyuk made yesterday with Bedlam. This is the UP10TION member’s first solo comeback after he made his solo debut earlier in the year with I Like That. Fellow member Kim Woo Seok who participated in Produce X 101 alongside with Lee Jin Hyuk also made his solo debut in May. Yet, we have not seen these two members return to their UP10TION lineup and capitalise on their newfound popularity. It is a bit of a mystery to why this has yet to occur. But we can only hope that a comeback will happen soon with all 10 members soon. In the meantime, here is Lee Jin Hyuk to hopefully appease those UP10TION cravings.

As boring as I felt I Like That was, I can’t help but think it is a lot more refined than what we have here. Actually, no. The word to use instead of ‘refined’ in that initial statement is ‘better’. From what I could get, Bedlam has a really nice fun-sounding instrumental, suitable for the upbeat hip-hop style that Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo release was aiming for. And from what I can hear, it had a decent level of brightness to make it well suited for the Summer season. However, it is all masked with Lee Jin Hyuk’s vocals, which I did not think was fun or Summery. You might want to give a song a listen first before seeing how I judged his delivery, in case this song might be your style. The last thing I want to do is turn you away from a track that you would have enjoyed. For me personally, I felt Lee Jin Hyuk was shouting the entire time. It felt overwhelming and it felt too much, to the point where I fund it hard to register the instrumental. In his defense, the song matches the title, as Bedlam can be defined as a scene of uproar of confusion. Though this doesn’t explaing the overwhelming nature of his delivery. The only part of the song that I enjoyed (coincidentally, it does not have any of Lee Jin Hyuk’s shouting in it) was the dance instrumental sequence at the ending. I liked the premature ending to the song before it threw us into that intense sequence, as this made it more impactful. It felt fitting for what had preceded it, mainly because it was also just a bunch of noise. But it gave the song some edge and something more appealing than his vocals. I hate to be brutally honest, but I just couldn’t sugar coat things this time around.

If the music video was indicative of what Bedlam was meant to sound like, it was definitely meant to be upbeat, bright, hip-hop and fun-sounding. It is quite disappointing that the visuals had to tell you what type of song it was meant to be. But for the music video specifically, it wasn’t that bad. Lee Jin Hyuk starts off as an office worker, who seemed to have a really tough day. So once the day was literally over, he let loose in the office. He definitely makes a mess in the office and in life (based on the breaking news story segment). He also goes wild at a Chinese buffet restaurant and on the computer screen. But it nice to know that Lee Jin Hyuk knows when to tone it down once the day restarts, returning to a professional office manner (and a mask!). Apart from making a mess, I really enjoyed the different choreography shots, as they looked quite flashy thanks to the lighting and post-production.

The best part of the performance has to be the dance sequence at the end of the song. Not because it was my most favourite part of the song, but it showed off a really intense choreography that allowed Lee Jin Hyuk to flex some of his dancing skills. The rest of the performance was quite chaotic, even during the routine moments. And I must admit, they do fit in well with the song.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] I Like That – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

Back when Produce X 101 started, UP10TION sent two of its members (Kim Wooseok and Lee Jin Hyuk) onto the show to gain exposure. Lee Jin Hyuk placed 12th and missed out on a spot alongside his fellow member. Right after the show, his company provided him an opportunity to rest and threw UP10TION back into promotions with Your Gravity without him. It was a confusing move on TOP Media’s behalf, especially since he was there to help gain UP10TION attention. And he hasn’t promoted with the group at all since then. Instead, TOP media confirmed his solo debut for November the 4th and that is what I will be reviewing today.

The song is titled I Like That. Positioned as a rapper while promoting as part of his main group, Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo debut track takes on a club party hip hop style that used to be very popular as idol rappers made their solo debuts. There is a bit of nostalgia, as a result, with how the song is presented. But it is a style that I  never grew fond of and it seems to still be the case. It fails to deliver any of that ‘impact’ that I always mention and the track doesn’t come off as memorable. There are some fun vibes to it, which I did like. But they weren’t strong enough to really reel me in for a second or third listen. Apart from that, there are still some good elements of the song which I also liked. The instrumental isn’t too heavy-handed and it comes off as pleasant in a sense. “Pleasant’ isn’t a word you would necessarily use to describe a rapper’s song. But it did genuinely feel this way relative to other rapper-based tracks. His delivery was nice and tried to add a dynamic touch to the song. I think the song was a good starting point. Though I think the song could have been enhanced if there were more memorable moments/lines and if the producers pushed the song a little more.

I thought the music video was very boring. Apart from the shaky camera work, which worked well with the music, the video doesn’t offer much besides closeups and choreography shots. The sets were plain. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. The visual aspect of a comeback is very important, for me at least. It pretty much could enhance and added to the song’s atmosphere but I felt it did nothing of the sort.

The choreography was pretty good. Based on his showcase performance, Lee Jin Hyuk puts in full force like his backup dancers despite performing live. It definitely shows his performance skills. In addition to that, I thought his facial expressions were on point, which made the performance looked a little more captivating.

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