As mentioned yesterday on Twitter (yes, I have a Twitter account – @kpopreviewed), there would be two album reviews today (as I was slightly busy yesterday). The second album review of the day is for KIHYUN’s official solo debut, which occurred back in March of this year. The solo debut was titled VOYAGER, and is the title for both the lead single and single album. In addition to VOYAGER, the single album also consist of two additional side tracks. Following his solo debut, KIHYUN returned with MONSTA X through their LOVEand Shape of Love comeback (which I will be writing an album review for some time in the future). It was also recently announced that KIHYUN had renewed his contract with Starship Entertainment.
I am a bit disappointed that KIHYUN’s solo debut came in the form of three songs (i.e. the very typical length for a single album). It is far too short to appreciate what KIHYUN has to offer. He definitely deserves a mini-album, at the very least. But hey, this is what KIHYUN has provided us, so I shouldn’t be complaining. Again, a strong album release from this seasoned KPOP artist. VOYAGER takes the cake for best song on the album, but the other two songs have their own charm. Continue scrolling to see what I thought about those songs.
2. , (COMMA) – COMMA continues the pop rock vibe from the title track, but opts for a much softer and more emotional atmosphere, expressing his own desire to take a break or rest when he is lost, similar to how a comma brings a brief pause in a sentence. It is a completely different energy to what we got before it, as KIHYUN’s vocals convey more emotions in this song. I quite like the oomph he puts behind his vocals during the chorus, in contrast with the softer approach he takes in the verses. It makes for a slightly more riveting piece. The instrumental feels on trend, but I wished it was a bit more innovative, just so COMMA can have a bit of an edge. (8/10)
3. RAIN – RAIN opts for a more intense instrumental piece, featuring what felt like a slow burning rock instrumental. The intensity is so gripping, it was quite hard to be distracted from the song (or to turn away from the song). KIHYUN’s vocals are powerful and felt so loaded, particularly during the chorus, which in turn felt relatively explosive. I did like how he kept held himself back throughout RAIN, keeping that energy and intensity simmering away until the end to make it a captivating piece. (9/10)
MONSTA X made their official comeback to the stage yesterday with a new song and mini-album. Titled LOVE and Shape of Love respectively, it is the first time we are seeing the group (sans Shonwu, who is currently serving his military enlistment) since November of last year through their Rush Hour comeback. This comeback also follows KIHYUN’s solo debut with VOYAGER which occurred last month. The comeback was originally scheduled for earlier in April, but was postponed by two weeks due to COVID-19. But the members have since recovered and are ready to crush the stage with LOVE.
MONSTA X’s affinity to EDM in the past for their title tracks has made it synonymous with the group’s sound. I quite liked this aggressive, powerful and intense side of the group, even when others didn’t. LOVE steps away from that reliance on EDM and re-enters old school R&B and hip-hop territory. Despite how I started this section of the review, I must say that there is definitely nothing wrong with this sound profile as MONSTA X expertly executes and showcases the two sides of song really well. What I quite enjoy about LOVE is how within the instrumental, the two sides of the song were distinct and clearly identifiable. But what really glued the song together were the vocals, which blurred the boundaries a bit (i.e. hip-hop melodies in the R&B instrumental territory and vice versa). It is an interesting blend, and one that MONSTA X pulls off successfully. I also like the colourful nature of the instrumental, from the brass that literally felt oozy to the punchy synths. For me, the standout member for this comeback was Jooheon. His vocals and rapping worked so well on both sides of LOVE, and I quite liked how energetic and upbeat he was throughout the song. Definitely made it captivating. His growls were very alluring and hit at the right moments. The other members did excellent in the song, as well. In terms of weaknesses, LOVE should have stronger hooks that were more defined and memorable. What we got just didn’t really feel enough for this song, and there was moments where they could have gone further. But overall, LOVE was a nice departure from their usual sound.
Visually, MONSTA X shows off two sides of themselves in this video. The first is a more casual side, and the second is a more elegant side. Both were captivating to watch, but the elegant side was a lot more alluring. Though I might be bias due to that cool stage set and the gold on black colour palette that made everything feel so expensive. I guess that might say something about my taste. The glittery closeups of Hyunwon and Kihyun also may have played a part. I also liked how the video acknowledges that MONSTA X is a six-member male group even though they are promoting as a five member group at the moment. At the very end of the video, we see six microphones, with the sixth microphone corresponding to Shownu (who is currently enlisting as already mentioned). What a warm way to end off the video.
The choreography felt extremely fitting for this song, with the choreography’s intensity feeling just right. I also enjoyed the bounce the choreography had, particularly in Hyungwon’s part in the bridge. Some other observations I had whilst watching the stage performance includes wanting better utilization of I.M’s cane (its adds a classy touch, but felt under used) and that Minhyuk’s visuals were so good.
Song – 8.5/10 Music Video – 8.5/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.6/10
Next up on the comeback rush of this week is KIHYUN, MONSTA X’s main vocalist, who made his solo debut yesterday with the track VOYAGER and single album of the same name. KIHYUN is the second member to go solo, with fellow rappers Joohoney and I.M being the first members of MONSTA X to have officially released solo tracks (i.e. Joohoney with his mixtapes and I.M’s God Damn). But this review is for KIHYUN’s latest song, so let’s check it out.
As a main vocalist, I expected KIHYUN to go down the typical route of a ballad of some sort for his solo promotions. But VOYAGER is no ballad. Instead, VOYAGER delves into an upbeat rock profile that is both refreshing and lively to listen to. The consistent drumming in the chorus was definitely a highlight for me. VOYAGER isn’t strictly just rock though, with the instrumental composed in a way to be almost funky, tapping into current trends in KPOP. There are also some jazzy undertones in VOYAGER when the piano becomes more present in the bridge, which gives VOYAGER a nice accent. Other than the instrumental, KIHYUN does an amazing job vocally to make VOYAGER more dynamic and charismatic. I really like the cheerful tone to his vocal colours in the chorus, which makes VOYAGER instantly appealing. This also compliments the upbeat nature of the song. I noticed a slight raspy texture to his voice that allows him to work so well with rock instrumentation. I would definitely be down to hear more of KIHYUN as a solo artist, in particular exploring more of the rock genre, as he is well suited from how VOYAGER was pulled off and what we heard.
Not exactly sure if the music video is meant to string together and form some sort of theme or message. It seems like there might be hints towards one, but nothing too recognisable. Instead, the video comes together more so like a collection of closeup shots of KIHYUN. This is absolutely fine and would make for a great video. I just got the impression that there should have been something in this video to pull everything together in this video. But aside from that, I liked how confident and cheerful he appeared, which comes off and stays with you after watching the video.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.6/10
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.
MONSTA X is nominated for for Best Stage Presence and their single GAMBLER is nominated for Best Concept. MONSTA X member I.M is also nominated for Best Rapper, while God Damn is nominated for Best Rap or Hip-Hop song. Support MONSTA X, I.M and your other favourite acts by voting in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to vote now.
The next album review on this blog is for MONSTA X, who returned in November of this year with the their 10th mini-album, NO LIMIT. The mini-album is lead by the title track Rush Hour and an additional 6 tracks, which will be reviewed below! The mini-album is also the first to not feature Shownu, who enlisted earlier this year. Keep on reading for some of my thoughts on NO LIMIT. In some related news and following the release of this mini-album, MONSTA X went on to release their second studio-length English language album, The Dreaming, which is lead by the new single You Problem and previously release One Day. Just to let you know, I will be reviewing You Problem in a future International Song Review post early next year (once I am back from my break) and am still contemplating on whether to review the new album next year (which is only a few days away now – super yikes).
2. Autobahn – Autobahn starts off promising electronic song and ends up developing into a satisfying dance track with a decent amount of intensity. Auotbahn, for those who don’t know, means motorway/freeway in German, and I can imagine listening to this track while on the road. However, I don’t think I will coasting it down the road, though. Autobahn could have hit harder, especially when it came to the vocals in the song. They seemed to underwhelm. The chorus could also go further than just ‘satisfying’ by really concentrating that intensity. On the other hand, the rappers nailed their sequence and they add great flow and energy into the song. (6.5/10)
3. Ride with U – Ride with U was a ride in itself. It is a very interesting song, with a lot of bold and memorable moments. I really like the groovy instrumentation that really comes through during the chorus. The pre-chorus was this smoothness to it, which makes the chorus punchier. The ‘Talk Talk Talk’ and ‘Love Love Love’ hooks that follow the choruses were very catchy and hard to get out of your head. I like how they stripped the instrumental at the every end, but retained the hook and created this purified outro. I was definitely a fan of that. Vocally and rapping-wise, Ride With U is a strong song. The bridge was also standout moment, really showing those strong vocals and rapping. (9/10)
4. Got Me in Chains – Got Me in Chains definitely got me with its instrumentation. I really like all the textures within Got Me in Chains, which really helped make the song really appealing. Even the subtle ones stood out for me. There were a few parts in which we only get to hear the instrumental in its raw form, and those were the best parts of the song. That however does not outshine the other aspects of Got Me in Chains. The vocal work in this song is pretty damn good, showcasing a sensual vibe during the chorus of the song. The rapping felt clean and neat for this song, which I think is a positive aspect of Got Me in Chains and works well with the sensual vibes from the rest of the song. (9/10)
5. Just Love – MONSTA X takes it down a step with Just Love, a R&B track. The guitar work in this song is very much in the forefront of the song with the vocals. It definitely helps make Just Love fulfilling, and less bare. Half of me is appreciative of this, the other half didn’t like it as much. The vocal work from all the members sounds super good. Even the rappers, in addition to their rapping duties, surprised with solid vocals during the chorus. A satisfying listen overall. (8/10)
6. Mercy – Mercy turns up the dramatic vibe thanks to the combination of orchestra and electronic instrumentation, and this creates a different style of intensity than when I mention intensity in the above songs. Mercy is loaded up with this dramatic style of intensity and I feel that the song is perfect as a OST during the peak of drama or movie where the drama is very heavy between a couple or just people in general. MONSTA X’s vocals added onto that intensity with impactful lines and the rapping we got in Mercy was extremely thrilling and felt ‘edge of your seat’ like. Definitely my style of song and one of my favorites off the album. (10/10)
7. I Got Love – The album ends with a R&B track that ultimately focuses on vocals from all members. I enjoyed their vocals for the most part and you can feel the genuineness behind their vocals. The ‘I Got Love’ line stands out in a memorable manner. The instrumentation was a bit plain but had a nice sleekness to it, going with soft trap and hip-hop direction. It is quite consistent throughout, which made it less appealing as we got to the end. (7/10)
I.M is nominated for Best Rapper, while God Damn is nominated for Best Rap or Hip-Hop Song in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. MONSTA X is also nominated for Best Stage Presence and Best Concept for GAMBLER. Support I.M, God Damn and MONSTA X by clicking here to vote today.
We return to the ongoing transmission of reviews for songs nominated under Best Rap or Hip-Hop Song category. Today’s review is the final one for the category, and is focused on I.M’s GOD DAMN, which was released way back in February of this year. It formed part of his first formal solo album release, Duality. You might recognise the song, as it has been on my ‘Coming Soon’ page for a very long time. And today, I am finally getting around to it. Since the release of GOD DAMN, I.M has participated in MONSTA X’s GAMBLER and Rush Hour.
Out of all the nominees for the Best Rap or Hip-Hop Song category, I.M’s release is the most sensual. It is a slow song for those who are tuning into GOD DAMN for the first time, and that might be a turn off for some. I completely understand that. But I guess multiple listens (and nine months later), GOD DAMN becomes a lot more appealing. For me, the slowness of the track emphasis that sensual energy, and allows I.M to use a huskier tone and a more drawn out approach with his vocals. All of this helped make GOD DAMN as appealing as it is. We usually get something powerful and fierce from I.M in his MONSTA X works, so this change in sound intrigued me to the point in which I enjoyed it. My favourite and what I felt to be the most memorable aspect of the song has to be the sequence between 2:08 and 2:12, where it seemed like he was murmuring the lyrics. It stood out at me, and stayed with me ever since it was first released. I also like the pulsing and trap instrumentation to a degree. It was plain enough to become a blank canvas, so I.M could do all of the above with the song. But there was also enough trap elements in the instrumentation to ‘fill up’ the background so that it isn’t a sparse and empty. I did think was a bit too consistent, and wished that the instrumental intensified. It didn’t need to be anything hardcore. But rather a subtle yet noticeable intensification to just change up the song a bit would have made the song end on a much stronger note. Overall, GOD DAMN was a deliberate sensual number that changed up what I personally know from the artist.
The lyrics of GOD DAMN are about lying to oneself about being happy, and the video depicts this is a logical manner. The video starts off with flashbacks of I.M and his lover, before we enter the reality where she has left him and he pretends to be happy. But in reality, he is alone throughout the video despite the crowd around him. He uses the mask (I assume to depict him getting high) and drinking alcohol as a mask to cover up his feelings of loss and heartbreak, but it seems like they made such feelings more pronounced and obvious without him knowing. I really like the moody and dark atmosphere of the club and of the overall video, complimenting both the song and concept for this release. I.M is also a great actor throughout the video, doing a good job of portraying the emotions mentioned, and also acting as drunk and high.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.4/10
MONSTA X is nominated for for Best Stage Presence and their single GAMBLER is nominated for Best Concept. MONSTA X member I.M is also nominated for Best Rapper, while God Damn is nominated for Best Rap or Hip-Hop song. Support MONSTA X, I.M and your other favourite acts by voting in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to vote now.
Yesterday, MONSTA X made their comeback with Rush Hour. This is the group’s first official comeback as a five member group, with Shownu enlisting into the military in July of this year. The group previous promoted as a five member group back during their GAMBLER comeback, which was their most recent comeback before this one as Shownu has to sit out of promotions due to health reasons. Since their last domestic comeback, the group has been busy with some solo work and preparation for an upcoming English album and documentary.
I have had a couple of listens to Rush Hour since its release yesterday, but I haven’t really been convinced that it is their next big track. But before I dwell on this point, there are still some aspects in Rush Hour that I still appreciated that I want to point out. The ‘stand out’ element of this song is Joohoney and I.M’s rapping. I really liked the dynamism they both brought to the song. Their aggressive energy is always present in MONSTA X’s title tracks at the very least, but I felt like they pushed themselves even more in Rush Hour. Per usual, Rush Hour is synonymous to other MONSTA X title tracks, with bolstering beats and intense electronic instrumentals. But what sets Rush Hour apart is some suspenseful whistling. While it isn’t a memorable tune, it gave Rush Hour an interesting airy vibe and is used sparingly throughout the song. It isn’t the main centerpiece of the song unlike many other tracks nowadays, and so it isn’t overused or overbearing. The chorus was pretty decent. I find the vocals to be the star element here, especially with Kihyun’s explosive and powerful vocals here. I felt he was on par with the rappers in this song. I also like the sharp beats in the chorus, which stands out in the crowd of the ‘noise’, as some might describe Rush Hour as (and MONSTA X’s title tracks overall). Unfortunately, the hooks and melodies are mildly memorable, which isn’t exactly ideal. I wished they were stronger and punchier, which would have made Rush Hour so much more memorable. I also find Rush Hour to lack cohesiveness overall and bit messy. I wished everything in Rush Hour was better pulled together. Overall, Rush Hour is a decent song with a few standout elements, but not their best work.
It seems like cowboys are the new big thing in KPOP, with a few music videos and comebacks over the years featuring the theme. But I feel MONSTA X’s version of the cowboys concept is more style rather than substance. I did like the dynamic vibes from the music video, which is thanks to the way the video was shot and the various moving camera angles. The industrial sets and the outside scenes also looked quite cool, though I think the lighting could have made the video a bit more interesting. Minhyuk also looks great throughout this video and I felt that he owns this comeback. I do wonder if this video connected to the events of GAMBLER. The police vehicle they step out of at the start of the video reminded me of the vehicles the members drove off in at the end of GAMBLER.
The performance looks fierce and aggressive, as you would expect from MONSTA X. Nothing really stands out, but it was a pretty decent routine overall.
Song – 7.5/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 7.6/10
It is another edition of the International Song Reviews segment. Last week, I posted an ISR consisting reviews for Ten, Jackson Wang, WAYV, Yuqi and 2PM. This week, I will be focusing on another set of releases brought to you by TWICE, MONSTA X, Stray Kids and LOONA. I am keeping this post to just four tracks today, rather than the usual five, so I can focus on some other things today. As this post have a lot to cover, let’s get started!
The Feels – TWICE
I listened to this full English song when the music video dropped at the start of this month. I didn’t think much of it then (and honestly I never returned to it until today). But I have to say, the ‘Boy, I know you got the feels‘ repeated one-liner hook is so damn catchy. It somehow gotten stuck in my head since that first listen, even though it was very much delayed. Anyhow, The Feels is a funky pop track, and listening back I am surprised I didn’t return to the track sooner. It is a very vibrant and colourful track, suitable for my personal taste and TWICE’s overall discography. I really enjoyed the energy that comes from it. The members sound fantastic, and I just love the elongation of the word ‘feels’ in that hook. My only gripe about the song is Chaeyoung’s lines in the pre-chorus. They just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. I liked the music video, but it isn’t that special. The theme seems to be prom-queens, but it seems to be more than that with the red carpet and stage sets. Regardless of what the theme is, The Feels music video is fun and pleasant to watch. For the dance, I thought it was great. Again, nothing special with it. But it works wonderfully with the music. (8/10)
One Day – MONSTA X
A month prior to the above song’s release, MONSTA X released another all English track titled One Day. Since then, the group has been confirmed for a Korean and Western comeback in the next two months, so do expect to see more of MONSTA X on the blog. Now, back to the song in question. One Day is an atmospheric yet simple synth-heavy ballad that I quite enjoyed. One Day really does a good job of presenting stillness and comes off as soothing and calming. The instrumental also comes off as dreamy. For the vocals (which appears to be the song’s sore point for some), I thought MONSTA X did a really nice job. I did think they could have pushed themselves more to be even more expressive, but their delicate tone and emotional touch fits the bill perfect for the song’s meaning and overall sound. The melodies were stunning, as well, adding to this. Both the song and music video features Shownu, who recently enlisted into the military. It was definitely nice to see him one more time. Unfortunately, Hyungwon was missing from the group shots for this music video for unknown reasons. For the music video, I liked the simplicity of the video as well. I also liked the mature visuals that the members gave off. They look good and somehow the mature vibes fitted in with the idea of the song being a ballad for me. (8.6/10)
Scars – Stray Kids
Knowing fully what Stray Kids is capable of, Scars is quite underwhelming for me. Coming off the high of their recent Korean comeback, I would have liked to hear something with the same level of impact and energy. But Scars didn’t deliver this. It doesn’t mean that Scars is a bad song, however. But it is definitely not their best. Scars was a pleasant EDM track – nothing more, nothing less. The members opted for a sentimental tones that sounds nice. But once again, nothing more, nothing less. Vocally, the sentimental tone came naturally and actually sounded quite good. Rapping wise, I thought it was plain. The EDM sound that Scars opted for attempted to add impact, but it more so fizzled out once that impact is delivered. Hence, everything came together to contribute towards an underwhelming and not-so-memorable track. For the music video, it seems like the members are running away (well, more so slowly walking) from ghostly apparitions. They seek shelter in a caravan and kick start a device that repels the ghosts during the night. Then, the story kind of repeats itself and doesn’t really resolve. I hope there is a second part to this, as I think it could potentially be an interesting story to dive into. The choreography for this comeback was quite good, fitting in with the sentimental and mature tones of the song. It doesn’t hit hard, but there was some intensity in the choreography that was quite satisfying to watch as well. (7/10)
HULA HOOP – LOONA
I was quite nervous to hear that LOONA’s company is in the financial red, which puts a massive question mark over the group’s future. But seeing LOONA still pumping out music is a bit of a reassuring sign. Mid-September saw the group release their first original Japanese single, HULA HOOP. It is a dance pop track that is very chirpy and energetic. Actually, in comparison to their debut track which I would say is the equilavent of this track (Hi High, if you are wondering), HULA HOOP seems to let its go a bit. Nothing wrong there, if I am being honest, but I do miss the certain aesthetic that we associate with the group when it comes to their tracks. I liked their vocals and the hooks throughout HULA HOOP quite a bit. They are fun and definitely cutesy. This isn’t usually my cup of tea, but as I always say, there are exceptions. The music video is very unique, with everything moving in an upward direction. I will give them points for that. But I also feel that the video overwhelms us with all the post production applications. It made everything feel a bit much. In the midst of all the overwhelming graphics, you can see a lot of throwbacks to the group’s previous releases through the images, outfits and props (including some of their pre-debut works). No surprises come in the choreography. I enjoyed the fun and energetic side of the song, and the synchronisation between the members makes the performance cooler (as always). (8.2/10)
Next up on the album review segment is MONSTA X’s One Of A Kind, which was released at the start of June (two months ago)! This is the group’s ninth mini-album since their debut and features the title track GAMBLER, which also dropped on the same day. The mini-album also features the Korean version of Livin’ It Up, and five other new and original side tracks. One Of A Kind is also the last album for a while to feature Shownu who most recently enlisted into the Korean military. He unfortunately had to sit out of promotions for this comeback due health reasons, though he did participate in the recording of both the album and music video (and a special single released this week – review for that to come down the track). It is unknown whether MONSTA X will continue as a group or go on hiatus until all the members return from their military enlistments (let’s hope for the former!). But until then, let’s go for a deep dive into One Of A Kind.
2. Heaven – Heaven follows up the title track with a jazzy R&B number. If you are looking for something summery that isn’t tropical or island based, then I think Heaven is the song for you. While jazzy and R&B tracks aren’t anything new to KPOP (or pop in general), what makes Heaven extra appealing in the subtle tinge of intensity that comes from the members’ vocals and rapping. It really gives the song that MONSTA X feel. I also find the melodies and repetition to be really cool hooks that makes Heaven a strong song. (8/10)
3. Addicted – MONSTA X tones down the light with Addicted, opting for a dark and much moodier dance track. While it sounds like it is equivalent to MONSTA X’s title track material, I find Addicted to be a bit more paced and slower. This gives the song an additional sultry profile that is quite … addictive and appealing. Almost like a breath of fresh air. The bass is also something that elevates the song. Once again, I find that Addicted also brings out the members’ vocals and rapping skills. I find their delivery of both balances out the instrumentation really well. (9/10)
4. Secrets – It seems like there is a movement to include songs fully in English on Korean albums. Secrets is another addition to that movement, but it isn’t really any hidden secret. It is more skippable than anything. I think the instrumental was pretty good, opting for a 90s style of R&B. Saxophone and electric guitars provide some detailing in the instrumental to make the song more eventful. It is the relative lack of emotion from the vocals and rapping that I don’t really like. The lyrics opts for a sensual feel, and I wished that was reflected in their voices. (6/10)
5. BEBE – Another song that I felt was rather skippable. This is a bit harsh on my behalf, as it is a song from MONSTA X to their fans (from what I understand). The song doesn’t become decent until the very end, when they relaunch back into the jazzy style instrumentation of the final chorus. Everything before that was just a miss for me. I did like their all-vocals approach with the song, with the rappers also singing rather than rapping. But BEBE was dry overall for me. (6/10)
6. Rotate – Rotate puts energy and very mature themes back into the album. And I think this is a great addition to the album, given the pair of skippable songs that precede it. Once again, bass really amplifies the song. And the house-style chorus is pretty classy and sleek for me, working well with the sensual nature of the lyrics. The rapping is probably my favourite part of Rotate, giving the song some much needed oomph and intensity. The vocals also had a memorable tinge to it, though I felt the processing was a bit much for my liking. (8/10)
Back again with the International Song Review. I think I did flag that I might do a weekend of these a few weeks back, and I have enough releases to write two of the same post. For those who don’t know, this segment on the blog is where I cover songs released by Korean artists that are in other languages other than Korean. These songs are predominately Mandarin, Japanese and English. For this particular post, we will be checking recent international songs from TXT, MONSTA X, Kun & Xiaojun (from WayV), CN BLUE and BTS.
Magic – TXT
For those who visit my blog, you probably have seen Magic on my Weekly KPOP Charts, featured as the non-Korean KPOP Release of the Week corner of the segment for two or three weeks now. And it is obviously a song which I have really been dying to review for a while now. Magic is TXT’s first full-English track, featured on the group’s latest mini-album, The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE. There is so much to enjoy in this track. The upbeat, groovy and funky energy we get in the instrumentation, the energy that comes off said instrumentation, the catchy and repetitive hooks that we get. All of these are reasons why I cannot stay away from the track. The chorus is an exceptional peak for this song, encapsulating all of the above into sequences that are literally keyed into my mind. I also like how the members deliver the chorus in a falsetto matter. I also like the addictive chanty ‘everybody clap your hands‘ lines that follows the second and final choruses. For the music video, I liked the futuristic concept and story that was being told. TXT are humans, sent from the white spaceship to rescue their fellow humans who were held captive by the robots. TXT ended up getting caught and information was being extracted from their while they were in captive. But being clever (and I think they were of a high status), the members escaped captivity and spread their message or ‘magic’ throughout the robot population (i.e. the robots went from robotic mannerisms to becoming very freeing, dancing along to the music). In the end, the members ‘freed’ the robotic population and were zapped back to their spaceship. Aside from the plot line, I liked the white sets (looked sterile, which is fitting for the robotic theme for some reason). But I also liked the use of the colour of blue, which really popped out. Choreography-wise, TXT really shows off their stamina with a routine that just keeps on going. I really like the ‘Oh, Oh, Oh‘ part in the choruses and how only one of them moves and then everyone joins in. It is a simple move, but it looks really cool. (10/10)
Flavors of Love – MONSTA X
Flavors of Love is the title of both MONSTA X’s most recent title track in Japan and the title of their 3rd Japanese studio album, released in May 2021. If you are looking for that intensity that MONSTA X, then this isn’t the right song for you (I recommend WANTED, which is also on the same album). Flavors of Love is more of a casual song, consisting of a mid-tempo pop acoustic guitar instrumentation and a light-hearted tone. If you are an avid MONSTA X fan (or Monbebe), you will realize that this is very foreign territory for the group. But it is a nice change of sound for the group, whose songs tend to be harsh and intense (as mentioned previously). The members vocals also reflect this change. I do find their voices to be more pure in this release, with less processing and autotune applied to it their voices as usual. They also sound much sweeter than usual. The rappers (Joohoney and I.M) also tweak their sequences to be softer and warmer. The song has a decent melody and hooks, making it a nice addition. I do prefer their harsher sounds, however, though this would be a nice b-side. The music video is cheerful and shows the members chilling and enjoying some free time as their leisurely record the song. Nothing really that interesting in the video, other than the fact that the video reflects well with the song. As far as I know, there isn’t a choreography for this comeback. There is a performance version, but they sit on chairs and happily deliver Flavors of Love to the audience. As a result, this wasn’t reflected in the final rating. (8/10)
Back To You – Kun & Xiaojun (WayV)
Next up is Back To You, a ballad performed by Kun and Xiaojun from WayV (which is a NCT subunit, for those who are wondering why I am reviewing a Chinese group). It is an extremely nice ballad, instrumented with classical instrumentation typical of the ballad genre. There is a bit of deep brass (tuba, I think?), which is different from other ballads which are usually piano and strings oriented. I really liked how the instrumental built upon itself. This is always a good sign, as it means the song is developing as it goes and the ballad isn’t just a ‘straight line’. But that is one half of the song. The other half is Kun and Xiaojun, whom brings beautiful vocals to Back To You. They helped make Back To You into a captivating piece. It followed the same development as the instrumental, with their vocals building as the song progressed. Kun and Xiaojun also do a good job of giving the group a slightly different spotlight. I am more used to WayV’s dance tracks and I wasn’t known that the group had vocalists had capable vocalists who could handle stunning songs like this. It definitely makes me more aware of WayV’s skillset. The music video was good, but not as stunning as I hoped. We see the pair hang out in the forest and along the shoreline. A lot of the video has been edited to be slow, which made sense. I liked the views of the setting they gave us (particuarly that night time shot in the forest) and the pair looks good. I feel the video could have included more breathtaking shots of the scenery, as this would have provided a slightly different dynamic but still keep true to the ballad style. (8.6/10)
Zoom – CN BLUE
CN BLUE makes their first Japanese release since 2017’s Shake. This is their first work since the release of their most recent Korean comeback, Then, Now and Forever. Zoom is the group’s first upbeat track in a while, which is very refreshing and more captivating that their ballad comeback in November 2020. That instantly says a lot already. I like the brightness that the song has and the lighthearted energy that it emits. Though I do think it is the least captivating track out of the bunch I am reviewing today. I do yearn for something more meaty from the band, though I guess I have wait some more for that. I do like Yonghwa’s vocals in this song. I miss his voice and am happy that I am hearing his vocals once again. I am also glad that Minhyuk and Jungshin also leant a hand in the vocal department, providing backing vocals for the chorus’ hooks and Jungshin rapping that sequence in the second verse. I wish there was more of this, especially in their Korean releases, as CN BLUE is not just a one-man band. Though sometimes, it feels that way with just Yonghwa singing. For the music video, we see the members alone and this is rather frustrating for them. They all get invited to something, but we don’t see the resolution of the frustration. I wished we got to see that, so that the video had some sense of closure. I did feel the lighting in this video was a bit much and wished it was toned down a bit. It made the video look a bit glary and took away the effect of the colours. (7.3/10)
Permission To Dance – BTS
The release everyone is talking about. I liked the message and energy they are spreading with this song. But out of their Western releases thus far, I feel Permission To Dance is their weakest. I really liked both Dynamite and Butter as they had that heftiness that helped make them catchy and addictive. Permission To Dance is nothing more than a lighthearted piece and pretty much side-track material. They could have been more intense in some parts, but I felt the song had too many ‘soft edges’. There are aspects of the song I did like, however. I liked how the instrumental didn’t rely on much synths. Rather, a hearty selection of ‘classical’ instruments were used to form the backing of the song. I find this to be different and gives off a unique appeal. It also enables the presence of various percussion effects in the song , which added a nice textural flair. The vocal processing is something that I think could have gone out the door, once again. It feels so heavy and icky. Knowing BTS’ skills, they don’t need it whatsoever. So I wonder why the producers feel it is necessary to process their vocals in such a heavy manner. There were some decent hooks, though they don’t have that same level of appeal as Dynamite or Butter‘s had. Though I do hear they added a bit of the Dynamite hook to the song (the ‘Da na na na‘). I liked how the music video had inserts of ordinary people ripping off their masks and dancing along to the music. It reflects well with the message of being free and able to do your own thing. I also liked how the music video isn’t in a ‘set’. It isn’t as fake as their previous music videos, which is a good thing. Choreography-wise, I liked how BTS brought that lighthearted feel to the routine. It looks relatively simple and it looks like the members have a bit of fun in the performance as well. I also like the inclusive nature of the choreography, as they incorporated internal sign language into the choreography. Not exactly the first time it happened, but definitely something that should happen more often! (7.7/10)
Next up on the reviewing block is yesterday’s release of GAMBLER by MONSTA X. The new single comes from their ninth mini-album, One Of A Kind. It follows the November release of LOVE KILLA and their third studio album, Fatal Love (which I have previously reviewed). Since then, the group released Japanese versions of their previous Korean title track, a new original Japanese single (titled Wanted) and their third studio album in the Japanese pop music market titled Flavour of Love. The lead single off that album hasn’t been reviewed yet and I will doing that in an upcoming International Song Review post. In the meantime, sit back and prepare for a secretive listening session with MONSTA X’s GAMBLER.
MONSTA X takes a few steps away from their usual EDM based tracks for a sleeker sound. The usual intensity that we have gotten through many title tracks from MONSTA X is still present, just delivered in a different manner this time around. GAMBLER features this groovier foundation, which is a refreshing sound for the group. Sure, it might not be the most innovative technique out there in the wider KPOP music scene, but it is definitely so for the group. The bass in this song brings forth that funkier sound and is highlighted by the electric guitars and drumming. There are synths in the song, that bring a rougher texture and bombastic sound, but they are not as intense and don’t contribute to the ‘noise’ as much as in their previous songs. The best part of the instrumentation, for me at least, is all the deep instrumentation we get. So much depth and texture to GAMBLER. Also adding so much texture to the song are the vocals and rapping. To me, I feel like the members are making up for that lack of EDM through their deliveries. Kihyun blasts us with his power vocals throughout the song, and we see more coverage of Hyungwon and Minhyuk in this song. I like Joohoney’s and I.M’s more rhythmic rapping sequence in the second verse. Usually, they come at us with this really aggressive sequence, featuring a lot of growling and raspiness. However in GAMBLER, they tone it back but still have that really impressive tone to it. Joohoney, in particular, also surprisingly brings us a high note towards the end of the song, showcasing his vocals which we have previously heard during their Versace on the Floor cover a few years back. His skillset is reiterated further down the track during a really intense ad-lib which compliments the electric guitars that come into play to close out the song. I have been waiting for Joohoney to bring that to a track and it is finally here. My most favourite part, in terms of vocals/rapping in GAMBLER, has to be the harmonies we get following the thumping dance break. There was a lot of unpack from the song and I don’t think I even covered all bases with regards to what I liked about GAMBLER. Though, I think it is safe to say that this is one of the best in a very long while.
Throughout the video, MONSTA X successfully hatch a very lucrative plan to steal a gem that has been dubbed MX0514 (MX standing for MONSTA X and 0514 representing the date in which they made their debut over seven years ago – which I guess means they have renewed their contract with Starship Entertainment given that initial contracts last 7 years). They each infiltrate a private auction and try to scare the potential buyer by putting him under some bidding stress by following his bids very closely. All the members become bidders by killing other bidders or stealing their invitation. Meanwhile, Joohoney kidnaps the person who is supposed to be overseeing the auction and takes on the role of the auctioneer. Assuming that they didn’t have money to begin with to win at the auction, Kihyun and Minhyuk start a fight at the auction, timing it to when Kihyun had set the timer to go off to cause an extensive blackout, which resulted in the members defeating everyone who is not part of their team and hence allowing them to steal the gem without any problems. I am not exactly sure of the ending though, as they drive away from the scene in police cars (i.e. are they police?). My guess that this is just a cover to help they get away from the scene. It is a really cool video that shows off their fierce and bad-boy looks, showing us who not to mess with.
Unfortunately, Shownu is sitting out of promotions for GAMBLER due to a medical issue. Despite this, the rest of the group make up for their leader’s absence by filling up the stage with their stage presence. I have said this before, but facial expressions make up a really massive part of the stage performance. And watching their performance, each member really hit the nail perfectly in regards to facial expressions, filling up any gaps with their stage presence. The energy that comes from the performance as a result is thrilling and really captivating.
Song – 9.5/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.6/10
BTS’ Dynamite was voted by you to be the Best International Song By a Korean Artist. All songs in this review will be eligble for the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Check them out and remember to vote for your favourite at the end of the year. In the meanwhile, check out the winners for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards.
Last week, I covered some 2020 international releases that occurred in November through to January of this year. This included Chungha’s Dream of You, Baekhyun’s Get You Alone, Dream Catcher’s No More, Jung Daehyun’s Amazing and TWICE’s Better. This week, I will be covering another five releases including Japanese songs from MONSTA X, NCT 127 and TREASURE, and Western songs from Mark Tuan and Jackson Wang. For those who are wondering, I will be covering The Boyz’s Breaking Dawn in the next edition of this International Song Review segment, which will be whenever I can fill up the next post with five songs. Let me know of any comebacks by KPOP artists in international markets, so that post can be published sooner! (However exclude songs that already have a Korean version).
Wanted – MONSTA X
I personally didn’t enjoy this latest release from MONSTA X the first time I heard it. It felt like it was missing the surface of the instrumentation because nothing really stuck out at me. However, listening to the song a couple of more times really helped the song grow on me (which is the usual case for me) and that initial thought has left my mind. The song pretty much fits in with MONSTA X’s works. The verses actually felt very typical for the group, though I must say everything had a melodic tinge to it and is not as aggressive (but it was getting there). Even the rapping had that tinge. The chorus is where Wanted becomes quite dynamic and more interesting, thanks to its impactful bass and heavy synth usage. I really like the consistent thumping and the vocal work from Shownu and Kihyun throughout the section. Joohoney and I.M follows up with a bit of their usual rapping abrasiveness, before the focus moves onto Minhyuk and Hyungwon, and then it moves back to the already mentioned members. I do wish there was a bit more heft, especially when it came to the verses to make the song even more appealing and bring it up to par with their Korean releases. But overall, Wanted was a decent song to add to their choreography. The music video for Wanted was quite simple but cool at the same time. I really like how the video embraced an industrial look for the first part when the members are dressed in black outfits. The video becomes a little more sleek with their outfits infusing a little more colour that really stands out amongst the flashing lights and black outfits. The camera work is also commendable. The choreography looks good, but I didn’t see anything new or dynamic within it. (8.1/10)
Gimme Gimme – NCT 127
Gimme Gimme taps into what seems like a more intensified version of the EDM that NCT 127 is known for through their Korean songs. Just this version mixes in a more prevalent form of hip-hop, but also feels a little annoying thanks to that one whiny squealy synth that just sticks around for what pretty much felt like the entire song’s length. There was just so much of this synth throughout the song, it was pretty to not to notice it. In some of the parts that didn’t have the squeaky synth, the rest of the instrumentation made up for it by reincorporating the same sound just with different synths. If we were to take away the EDM and squealing synth, the members sound pretty good. They had to do a lot of competing to be heard over Gimme Gimme‘s instrumentation, but they handled it just fine. The rappers were super aggressive, but this worked out well as it gave the some some additional edge. Taeil, in particular, stood out with his vocals from the rest of the members, especially with that high note that just took the song to a new level. As for the music video, I felt it was pretty plain. SM Entertainment’s music videos have been quite top notch lately. But this felt like a let down. I am not keen on their outfits as it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it could have been with the warehouse like setting they are in. They do like stylish, but they just stick out. I did like the solo shots of the members and the various transitions between them. As for the choreography, Gimme Gimme lives up to the expectation that NCT 127 had set for themselves. It is very impactful, intense and powerful all at the same time. The dance break is definitely the peak of it, showing us exactly what we hoped to see from this high-octane song. (7.1/10)
Beautiful – TREASURE
This release caught me out of the blue. At the time when I discovered the song, I only found out that this was a soundtrack for the anime, Black Clover. Upon some further research, I found out today that TREASURE will be making their official debut in Japan at the end of March with Japanese versions of their title tracks and Beautiful. Beautiful taps into a more refreshing side of EDM, opting for lightness and pop, rather than going heavy handed with the synths and other instrumentation. In many ways, Beautiful aesthetically feels like an extension of TREASURE’s more pop centric Korean releases. The vocal work and rapping sounds pretty good. Nothing impressive from the group this time, but it works really well with the pop sound. There is no official music video or choreography for Beautiful that features the members (though this might change with an unannounced release of a music video between now and the end of March). Instead, the music video that was released was a little over a one and a half minute long video of the anime. So I don’t have much else to say about the video. Because of this, I have only decided to give a song rating for Beautiful. (8.5/10)
One in a Million – Mark Tuan & Sanjoy
We move away from JPOP for the remainder of this post, with the next artist is someone whom I haven’t actually reviewed any solo work for yet. I am talking about Mark Tuan, who has previously dabbled in solo work through a Chinese single (Never Told You, 2020). The song I am focusing on today is his most recent release, One in a Million, which features Sanjoy. It is also his first release since leaving JYP Entertainment. One in a Million delves into R&B, mixing up the genre with a bit of dance electronica. Together, the two genres combines to make the new song feel quite sleek and subtly upbeat. It is quite a pleasant combination and outcome for the two genres. I find Mark’s vocals to be quite interesting. He draws out his lines, giving the song a slow pace. That on its own isn’t my cup of tea. But in combination with the subtle upbeat touch, the vocal work surprisingly comes off as quite hypnotic and drives me to wanting to replay the song as there is an alluring charm to it. The music video that is released alongside One in a Million is a cute animation that fits well with the song’s lyrics and features two people who some might say are fated for each other. The video shows the girl leaving behind an umbrella behind at a convenience store. The guy recognizes the umbrella as hers (as it was the one that was opened in his face) and rushes to the station to return it to its owner. But unfortunately, fate at this instant does not want them to be together. When he arrives at the platform, she has already boarded the train. They get off at the same station and recognize one another. But this time, the rest of the city’s population doesn’t want them to be together. They both then run into each other a bar, with a happy relationship blooming from that point I presume. Mark and Sanjoy also feature in the video as the artists playing in the bar, and they seem happy to the new couple they are witnessing. (8.4/10)
Alone – Jackson Wang
Shortly after his departure from JYP Entertainment, Jackson Wang made the announcement of a single release unexpectedly. The single was titled Alone and is actually a Mandarin pop single. Based on the tone of the song, along with his vocals, you can tell that this is a hefty song. Alone lyrically shows his feelings about his life and journey thus far. Musically, it shows off Jackson’s versatility. Most of this songs thus far (that I can remember) have been dance centric songs. His works as a GOT7 member has been primarily in the hip-hop or pop domains. Alone is more so a ballad, mixed with some synths to give it is a modern and trendy feel. It remains consistently paced and neutral for the entirety of the song. The momentum comes through his vocals, which sounds really emotive. The raspy nature of his voice really shines and this just elevates the song to a whole new level. is also quite easy to get lost in this song, especially since it gets me swaying along quite early on (swaying is my self-made indicator of a good ballad for those who don’t know). The music video reflects the tone and lyrics of the song quite well. For the entirety of the video, he is alone. This makes perfect senses, especially as he sings about being alone on this journey. I am not completely familiar with Jackson’s life story. But it seems like there are references to a warming family (the table with an abundancy of food) and his time has a fencer (the Olympic rings), to which he left behind to pursue music and his career as a singer. His face is scarred and bruised, testament to the hard journey he had to endure along the way, as it isn’t an easy path. The end of the music video gives a little bit of advice to never give up on our own journey. It will be lonely and it will be hard. But if you enjoy what you are doing, it will turn out fine. (9.6/10)
As mentioned yesterday, I have a lot of album reviews to get through. While I do have many more October albums to get through, I also need to make a start on the albums that were released in the month of November. I have fast tracked two, but that is not enough given the amount of comebacks that occurred in November. Today, I start off with MONSTA X’s 3rd studio album, Fatal Love, which features the title track Love Killa. Alongside the title track, MONSTA X’s new album also features nine other new songs. Keep on reading if you want to know what I thought about each song.
2. Gasoline (갈증) – Gasoline has the big job of following the title track. It may not be as bold or as powerful as Love Killa, but Gasoline does a pretty good job of following the likes of the title track. Most notably, this song tones down the intensity and opts for some Latin flair. Thankfully, this flair is not explicit and hence, it doesn’t jump on board that trend train that dominated Summer 2020 once again. The subtle Latin flair helps gives the song some rhythm and groove, which makes it really enjoyable. There is also a sleekness to it, which I find very alluring. The vocals and rapping follow this momentum, fitting nicely into the song. (9/10)
3. Thriller – Thriller takes a while to really hits its epic stride in the form of its chorus. But that is only because we have to make it through some of song’s finest moments (i.e. its verses). This includes intense percussions, amazing vocals from the vocalists and a pre-chorus segment that starts off with equally as powerful raps and jaw-dropping theatrical / opera-like violins that really grab your attention. The chorus takes on board all of that dramatic energy and compact it into an amazing chorus that is solidly produce and really shows off the power of MONSTA X. (10/10)
4. Guess Who – If you thought Thriller was the album’s strongest song, you are in for a surprise. Guess Who manages to one-up Thriller. I personally attribute this feat to the song’s instrumental, which I thought was extremely robust. There was this hypnotic effect in the chorus that really reeled me in, which contrasted with Jooheon’s texturally exciting ‘X X X’ repetition. The verses itself was also filled with texture, thanks to that very abrasive buzz. The rest of the members are really dynamic delivery with their vocals and raps, pulling this song together. (10/10)
5. Nobody Else – Nobody Else capitalizes on the vocals of MONSTA X. There is a level of smoothness to the song that enables their vocals to become even more velvety. There is still rapping in the song (of course). The song is very atmospheric, which I really like. If you focus on the instrumental, there are also subtle touches to it, such as the return of dramatic violins and this very deep grumbling synth. Without them, the song wouldn’t be the same. And with the focus on velvety vocals comes a sensual vibe that I am sure fans will enjoy. (9/10)
6. Beastmode – MONSTA X has definitely grown as artists over the years since their debut. And I am sure everyone can agree that MONSTA X is at their best when their songs are powerful. Beastmode is direct proof of that. Beastmode just keeps throwing all this powerful and explosive energy at your from start to end, never really giving us a moment of relief until the song ends. This may be overwhelming for some, but I am totally okay with all of this ‘musical assault’. Once the song ends, I feel like I just emerged successfully from a fight. The song’s main vibe is epic and blastful. What I love best is that the song gives the rappers a chance to really show their all, with Jooheon and I.M’s growling rap sequences being the highlights of the song for me. (10/10)
7. Stand Together (대동단결) – Stand Together gets right to the point with its powerful nature. Not sure if this is a good thing or not, but there are only two elements that I remember when I finishing listening to the song. The first is the rapping. You will have to be quite oblivious to miss what felt like it dominated 90% of the song. The vocals, which felt only got 10% of the song, was blurred out and felt missing in this song. The other element worth remembering was the selection of instruments. Upon research, it seems like MONSTA X used traditional Korean instruments for the chorus, mixed into the powerful hip-hop sound. While I do like the creativity, I have to admit it felt odd. I am slowly warming up to it, though. (8/10)
8. Night View – It comes as no surprise to me that Night View is suitable for a night drive under the starry night. That is the initial hope I had for the song when I first saw the title of the side track. While Night View does opt for EDM in the form of the house genre, the song actually is the album’s airiest song. The song focuses more of the vocals, giving the vocal line of the group more opportunities to shine. That being said, the rapping in this song felt classy and pleasant. What also really stands out is that Night View seems to be MONSTA X’s answer for the groovy trend that has re-emerged in KPOP. (9/10)
9. Last Carnival – The shortest song on the album also has the album’s most haunting start. I honestly don’t really know what the purpose of this introductory sequence, as it didn’t feel fitting for the rest of the song. The rest of the song was absolutely fine, with the members going for a R&B smoothness that I thought had a nice level of aesthetic. The choice of traditional instruments felt fitting for the song, giving Last Carnival an extra bit of oriental flavour. Otherwise, I would have considered it a boring track. (8/10)
10. Sorry I’m Not Sorry– MONSTA X’s final song on the album is the most different of all. It is the only acoustic song on this album and its appearance is much appreciated. Especially after all the EDM and electronic influence we got on this album. I really like the simplicity of the instrumental, made up of a consistent beat and acoustic guitars. There is also some jazzy notes, which were a nice touch. What makes Sorry I’m Not Sorry is that it is truly vocal centric with all members singing in the song. The fade out was also super nice. (10/10)
The second comeback that occurred yesterday was by MONSTA X! Once again, apologies for the day late review (I explained why I am a day late in my last review). MONSTA X’s latest comeback comes in the form of their third studio album, Fatal Love, and the title track, Love Killa. This is the group’s first comeback since the release of FANTASIA and FANTASIA X this past May.
One of my complaints with MONSTA X’s previous comeback was that their sound was possibly encroaching into an overwhelming feeling with their heavy reliance on powerful EDM as their instrumental. And I am glad to hear that MONSTA X has diverted from that possibly overwhelming and overpowering version of EDM. Love Killa opts for an electro-bass instrumental that knows to when to hold itself back to make the song more impactful. It is a super addictive beat that I am enjoying and I feel that it enables for stronger melodies in the song. Take the chorus, particularly Kihyun’s opening line, which feels smoother and has more character. And as a result, I feel that Love Killa lands itself on the top end of ‘Best MONSTA X’ tracks for me. The presence of stronger melodies end up allowing the rest of the members to stand out, particularly those who are not as vocally as strong as Kihyun (the group’s main vocalist). It also allows the lines to stick a bit more. What I particularly like about Love Killa is that while it allows the vocalists to shine more, it doesn’t forsake the rappers. Love Killa has awesome rapping sequences in my opinion, with both I.M and Jooheon delivering some of the most impressive lines of 2020 KPOP. “That’s right, you look at my eyes. Straight into my eyes and just say…“, “Got room for one more. Oh I’m sorry, did I make you anxious?” and “Imma slay, Imma chill, Imma kill” just to name a few. I also like how the members echoes the lines in the first half of the chorus, giving the song more effect and impact. Overall, Love Killa ticks many boxes for me when it comes to MONSTA X.
One of the things that had me hyped up for this particular comeback was their alluring teaser images. But those did not prepare me for the music video, which seems to have a murderer concept (and it is probably one of my favourite concepts to date – cause I have an affinity towards this type of stuff). Based on comments in the YouTube comments, fans noted that each member was portraying a character that seems to be inspired by infamous movie killers. Jooheon’s character is similar to the Joker (and his smile and sudden change at the start of the video will forever haunt me), Minhyuk’s character seems to be inspired by American Psycho, Kihyun’s character is inspired by Hannibal Lecter, Hyungwon’s was another obvious one with Fight Club, I.M’s character is inspired by Drive and Shownu is inspired by Kingsman (or other since fans are still debating this one). Aside from an awesome concept, I also really liked the dominance of the red and black in the sets, depending on the colour suit they are wearing for the scene. Also Hyungwon’s hairstyling is on point in this video! Just thought I put that out there.
The choreography looks awesome. I liked the angst and (once again) fierceness that the members bring to the choreography and performance. I also loved how they nailed the sleekness at the start and end of the choreography.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
The next album review we need to cover before we get stuck into one busy week of comebacks and releases is MONSTA X’s latest release, FANTASIA X. As mentioned in the review for the mini-album’s title track (FANTASIA), this is the group’s first official domestic release that does not feature Wonho as a member, who left the group last year while the group was promoting their previous release, Follow. Let’s dig deep into the album and see what the group has to offer for us in their eighth mini-album.
2. FLOW – Following from FANTASIA, FLOW maintains an upbeat and increased intensity approach with certain sections of the song. However, it doesn’t stay in that gear for the entirety of the song. Instead, FLOW contains some soft moments in the song, but they are easily overridden and forgotten to the harsher moments of the song’s instrumental. Further contrasting with the more crunchy and powerful moments of the song, the lyrics for FLOW stakes on a deep meaning, conveying that sometimes we need to ‘go with the flow’ in life. The lyrics also compare people to swans, who may seem calm above water, but their legs are rather frantic underwater. It helps put the song’s choices into context, with the contrast between the soft and harsher sequences. As like the title track, I don’t mind their intense and angsty approach this time around, though I do wish they toned it down a bit so that their softer sections were more present. As for the members, the vocalists seemed to have been left behind as this angst sound felt more suitable for the rappers. Particularly Jooheon, who really did a good job with his pre-chorus sequences. (8/10)
3. ZONE – One of my concerns with the title track is that their style might be overwhelming for some, especially if they continually release songs of the same caliber. I feel ZONE could easily be a solution to that concern and become a title track itself. It has that intensity through its club centric EDM instrumental, and it shares a common level of energy as the title track had. But it doesn’t feel over the top and while listening to it, I did not get that overwhelming feeling to it. I also get a slight feeling of restraint despite the chorus instrumental being quite erratic in style. I also attribute the lack of that overwhelming feeling to the verses, which provide enough relief from the high intensity moments (i.e. that erratic instrumental in the chorus) to give us a chance to breathe, even though they were short. The song also shares a good balance of powerful rapping and slick vocals. (9/10)
4. Chaotic – Firstly, Chaotic is not as chaotic as the title suggest. In fact, the song felt quite tame in comparison to the preceding tracks. That being said, the song does fall into EDM branch of music and features some trendy synths that really grab your attention at the right moments (such as that machine gun style synth that appears at the end of the first and last chorus). There also seems to be some dramatic flair in the song during the bridge, when they incorporate some classical instrument to give it that oomph and wow factor. While the rapping and vocals impress once again, I have to admit the pronunciation of some of the English in the song made me do a few audio ‘double takes’’, as I thought I heard ‘Alligator’ instead of ‘I’m In Chaotic’ (which doesn’t make any sense to begin with). But other than that flaw, Chaotic is definitely a nice breather from the powerful tunes we have heard so far (despite it being a powerful tune itself). (8/10)
5. Beautiful Night– Continuing that much needed relief is Beautiful Night. It is a pop track that does not employ any explosive synths or powerful tunes. Instead, it is quite calming and pleasant. It does manage to continue that album’s upbeat trend. Calming and pleasant are also words I would apply to the song’s instrumental, with some parts opting for some acoustic guitars on top of the pop synths we get in the song. The vocals are the prime focus of this song, giving us an opportunity to appreciate their glory without anything to overpower it. Even the rappers adopt a rap-sing technique for their delivery, which shows their complete intention to shy away from the style they have been throwing at us so far. The melodies are quite nice, but the song fails to catch on with any memorable hooks in my opinion. (8.5/10)
6. It Ain’t Over– The group takes that softer approach once again with a R&B dance track. Though, for a second there at the very start during my initial listen, I thought the song would revert the album back to their more intense sounds. I liked the song’s clean sound and its simplicity, relative to the other songs on the album. It had a funky beat mixed into the background, along with quite memorable catchy. I really liked the instrumental when it goes for those droopy synths just after the choruses. I liked their member’s clear vocals and rap sequence. I did hope for the rapping to be a little more dynamic, but what we got was pretty good. As for the standout member, it has to be Hyungwon, who had plentiful amount of lines throughout the song. (8/10)
7. Stand Up– Completing the album is Stand Up, which kicks things off with all the members singing together. It is the best part of the song and I enjoy it each time we return to the inclusive sound. Overall, the song is quite light as well, but it employs some interesting house synths while also having this inspirational vibe to it. This is a pretty neat combination. There is one flaw to the song, which is its typical nature. But other than that, it is a nice ender. The members sound quite good and I liked the dynamic feel the rappers gave the song, which helped boost the appeal of the song. (8/10)
Also making their comeback today is MONSTA X with FANTASIA. This is a big comeback for the group as it is the first official comeback that does not feature Wonho, who left the group during their Follow promotions back in October 2019 (which is also their most recent comeback). The comeback also features the return of Joohoney, who took the last 3 months off from promotions for health reasons (he has been missing from their recent Japanese releases). FANTASIA was previously scheduled for an early May release, but was rescheduled to today after Shownu suffered an injury prior to their comeback date. Let’s see what MONSTA X offers with FANTASIA.
FANTASIA is no light track. From the very first second, the song hits you with its fierceness and intensity, something that we know MONSTA X for. This manages to somehow one up all their previous releases, in a way that I didn’t think was possible. But MONSTA X knows how to push it each time they comeback. The instrumental features a tribal and anthem-like thumping drum beat. The bass was heavily used, giving the song that epic feel. As for the members, I thought each members managed to shine during their sections. Joohoney’s intense rap sequence kicks things off, before the baton is handed to Kihyun and Shownu in the verse, who both brought their vocal chops to the table. We are then thrown into the chorus, which is lead by Minhyuk and Hyungwon. I was surprised about this as it is usually the main vocalists that dominate this section of the song. But I really like this flip and the texture these two members give the chorus. For a split second, it felt like the producer tones the energy down ever so slightly during the chorus. But the momentum was somehow continued effortlessly. I did also like the layering of vocals in the post-hook section. I.M opens up the second verse with another powerful rap sequence, before we are thrown back to the main vocalists and the rest of the song repeats itself (but not in a repetitive manner). The most powerful section has to be the first half of the bridge, where the thumping seems to be more drawn out and dramatic. The song then ticks the energy down a bit in the second half, so that the entrance to the final chorus is powerful. Overall, no doubt a powerful song that I personally like. Though, MONSTA X should start to consider that this sound is overwhelming for some and I am not sure if they fair well in the next review if they up the intensity to a higher level.
What did I like about this video in a visual sense? Well, the gold pairing with black is definitely something. I really liked it. While the sound is extremely powerful and a little barbaric in a sense, the set really gives off a refined and elegant vibe. In a way, the visual video prevents the song from going into that overwhelming mode. Out of all the members, Joohoney left the biggest impression on me with his chains and cow boy hat. I also wonder how the comeback links up with Follow, as I am reading that the two are connected. This can happen on many levels, but it is usually done through the music video. I just don’t see any visual connection other than the sun or burning planet at the start.
MONSTA X has described this to be their hardest choreography yet. And I believe them. With a song this intense, it only makes sense for their choreography to be amped up. I am in awe that they managed to pull ths off and probably will do it with live vocals, as well. I really like the crab-like movement during the post chorus hook section and bridge. I also liked how Kihyun got solo moments in the choreography during the verses.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10