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
It is time for another review of non-Korean songs, a usual review theme for Saturdays prior to the start of 2020. For those who don’t know, I have decided to cover more than just Japanese songs by Korean artists and I do this through this segment, International Song Reviews. This posts focus will be on MONSTA X’s latest Japanese and Western releases, Seventeen and CIX’s Japanese comebacks and Jackson’s recent Western comeback track. I have stuck to five songs per post as I think this is an reasonable number. Let me know what you think in the comments section!
Wish On The Same Sky – MONSTA X
We start off the review post with something a little easy on the ears. MONSTA X recently returned to the Japan with this pop ballad, Wish On The Same Sky. The song itself is one that won’t benefit when we dissect the song under a microscope. With just one listen, anyone knows that Wish On The Same Sky is to be taken in as a whole. The instrumental builds into something quite grand and extravagant. The loud thumping during the bridge is direct proof of this, giving the pop sound an uplifting boost. This gives the song a very alluring appeal. The vocal work is definitely the main focus of the song and it is also built upon to match the music, with Kihyun definitely shining in this song. The song also features Jooheon, who sings and raps throughout the song, despite being on hiatus for health recovery at the time of filming this music video and release. The only thing I dislike with the song is the shouting by I.M in the background, echoing what the Hyungwon and Minhyuk were singing during the pre-chorus. Moving to the music video, I found the breezy feel of the song was well reflected in the video. I liked how the music video didn’t take on any trends to give it that modern feel. What we got in the visual department was nice, simple and blissful. I also like the pale colour tone they opted for, as well. (8.6/10)
You Can’t Hold My Heart – MONSTA X
The second MONSTA X song, You Can’t Hold My Heart, is a pop-rock for the Western music industry and features the return of Jooheon, who was absent from their above Japanese release. I was lowkey expecting the song to drop or go into a dance overdrive, as that is is the usual style with MONSTA X in Korea (at least). But I also like how they aren’t staying with just that sound in their international releases. You Can’t Hold My Heart brings the spotlight over the group’s vocals talents, where the singing about the fact that love doesn’t stay around forever. Even I.M and Jooheon, the fierce rappers, sing over a nice band-like instrumental. I like the subdued nature of the song, soothing and peaceful in a way. The music video is quite simple as it is simple shot in a red box. The video gets a little complicated once you see members sitting on top of each other, walking upside down and even emitting coloured clouds that match colour of thier outfits. The simplicity and complexity comes together in a way that doesn’t over complicate the song and makes it worthwhile to watch. There is no choreography for this comeback single, as the group simply sings the song with microphone stands in a recent performance. (8.7/10)
Fallin’ Flower – SEVENTEEN
It seems that SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese single, Fallin’ Flower, follows that mature and aesthetic sound that their Korean releases have opted for in the past year. Initial impressions of the song is that it has a very beautiful, refined sound and there this also this glowing vibe. The song has a nice melody that places emphasis on the vocal capabilities of the group, which puts a different limelight on the group. The falsettos we get for the chorus puts the song on a whole different level. The rapping was well mixed into the song, as well. The song’s ‘Fallin’‘ hook was also very flowy and catchy. The music video is extremely aesthetically pleasing, complimenting the aesthetics in the song. There is a fair amount of imagery in this video – most of which is a bit above me to understand, so I would love to hear your theories on it. But a very beautiful video nonetheless. For the choreography, I like their flower formation that they started off with. I also like the performance still remains quite powerful despite the song bring a lot more subdued than usual. It looks great as a result and definitely a showing of Seventeen’s talents. (8.9/10)
100 Ways – Jackson (GOT7)
GOT7 may just have returned to Korea with their first comeback of the year. But Jackson (and other members – I shall get around to Mark’s release in a later post) returned in March as a solo artist with 100 Ways. By the far the most catchiest song in this review post, Jackson really delves into the hooks and beats that no doubt with thrive in the Western industry (and has already proven to as the song had topped iTunes charts in multiple countries). I also found the song very easy to get into. On top of that, the music was very robust and there seemed to be a slight funky vibe. Both ended up making me groove along to the beat of the song. The thumping beat drives the song forward, while the synths form a concoction that is very addictive. Jackson’s raspy vocals shine through this song as well, adding to that dynamic appeal. The music video was equally as good as the song. The set design of that forest was awesome. I also really liked how Jackson and the female character rose from the grave and how Jackson went down with her at the end. The costume that Jackson donned also looked cool, but that armour sequence really looked looked epic. The other part of the music video has to be the cleverly choreographed hand motions. That was on a whole different level and very epic. Definitely as song, music video and choreography that you must check out. (10/10)
Revival – CIX
CIX’s main songs, while they have only released a few title tracks so far, have been of the intense EDM dance nature. But what CIX does differently is that is conforms to the trend of incorporating an epic drop into the song. Revival starts off slow, as a medium tempo ballad. But the instrumental they used opted for electronic synths, which foreshadowed the epic drop. But I liked how the vocals keep on that slow ballad-like feel. Then the chorus comes out of nowhere. And well, if you haven’t noticed so far, it is pretty epic. Not in the sense that is just throws every single synth known to mankind to make a ‘loud’ drop. In fact, it is more of a tropical based drop and is done so in a manner that sounds so refreshing. The rest of the song follows something of the same line, but they managed to do something slightly different every time. For example, the second verse added more of a beat to it, while the bridge took everything away. The second chorus added more synths to the tropical drop, while the final chorus incorporates violins to make it even more epic. The music video is filled with a lot of different closeups that look cool and interesting. I wonder the screen full of fire in the desert, the ball of many balls and the many other objects and effects in the video mean anything. The rest of the music video is made up of choreography shows, which shows CIX performing with string. There is a fair amount of tangling happening this music video. But that is just one of the complexity of the performance. Their individual moves also look quite cool and definitely features that intensity that CIX has associated with them. (8.9/10)
Welcome to the very first International Song Review post. This segment will replace the Japanese song review that I publish sporadically on Saturdays. The segment will also allow me to cover more of those Japanese releases, which was an issue I previously had (I used to post once a week and this would mean some releases won’t be reviewed until many weeks after – which is the case for all of the songs to be reviewed today). On top of that, I wanted to keep up with the KPOP advancement into the Chinese and Western music industries, a niche that I was not reviewing as I could not dedicate more time. By putting these all together, it saves time and it allows me to cover more songs. The artists I will be focusing on today include EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X and CIX.
Bad Girl For You – EXID
Bad Girl For You is a very different song from any of the Korean releases. The group’s Korean releases have this level of vibrancy that I feel is noticeable absent from this track. Instead, the song has this mature and sensual feel to it that I think is very suitable for EXID. I liked how the instrumental is very toned down and almost quite eerie. The chorus has a heavier beat to it, which offsets the song from becoming plain and boring. Their oval work complimented the style, which was definitely a nice fit to the song. I do find the use of that laser shooting synth a little random and doesn’t fit well with the rest of the song. The song may not seem much at first, but after many listens, you will be coming back for even more. For the music video, I liked the use of the 5 colours (green, blue, yellow, red and purple) in the background and how each colour is usually concentrated to a particular area of the set. It helps give the video a minimalist feel. The choreography is also quite nice but not really memorable.
808 – ONEUS
I think 808 is a smashing song. The sound of the instrumental was posed in a manner that really caught my attention. I love the strings that feature in the instrumental, along with the intense style they had adopted from their Korean releases. There is an epic vibe to the song, but they do it in a manner that masks it. You think you are getting another typical song, but you will be blown away by the song’s sound. The song is vibrant and definitely knows how to bundle a bunch of energy in a fashionable sense. The vocal work was good and the rapping gave the song a little more edge. The music video looks really artistic. I am not sure if these are music video sets or whether the group filmed their music video in some sort of modern art museum. It looked very cool. The performance looked good with cool moves. Just not memorable like EXID’s performance.
Fake & True – TWICE
I was blown away with Breakthrough when it was first release for its mature and edgy style, something that was a little foreign for the very pop-based and cutesy TWICE. And it seems like Fake & True continues the momentum and extends TWICE’s reach into this new territory. I thought the brass in the chorus was very nice and the rest of the instrumental was very energetic and vibrant in a way that suits the group. I also liked the synths that they employed throughout the song, especially for the dance break bridge. I did think the chorus was a little one-dimensional as it repeated the title of the song all throughout and felt a little awkward. The vocals were good but the rapping in this track was epic. It was also nice to see Mina as part of this November release, as well. The music video was pretty typical for TWICE but I thought it did a really good job of showing off their visuals. The choreography was also very nice and continued that mature vibe that I really enjoyed as part of their previous Japanese comeback.
My New World – CIX
My New World is CIX’s debut track into the Japanese music industry. It is also an extension of their KPOP works, with the group’s intense sound definitely channeled and presented in this song. I like how eerie and dark the song sounds. The dance style is very well suited for CIX, given that this is their title track style for their comebacks in the KPOP industry so far. I also like the kick of energy that the song gives during the chorus, which contrasts neatly with the shout-y style of vocal works. The rapping that dominates the second verse was also extremely promising and intense. I also like the piano that featured very quietly over the top of the dance instrumental. I think the music video shows the members on a new world. Other than that, I am not exactly sure if the video is showing anything else worth mentioning. Their dance sets looked really cool, with the floating stairs and the moving lights. The choreography is very intense and reconfirms that when it comes to the dance side of the industry, CIX might be a group to look out for.
Middle Of The Night – MONSTA X
The final song on today’s reviewing agenda is Middle Of The Night and it is also the very first Western song that I am reviewing on my blog (I am not including English versions that I have done reviews for in the past). Middle Of The Night is different from the rest song on the list as it is also an R&B track. A song that I can finally understand as well. Hahaha… I can really say much else but to tell you to check out this song below as everything felt flawless. It is one of those songs where the main complaint was that it was over so soon! The vocal work was superb from very member. I really love that Jooheon finally got to showcase his vocals that he previously showed off during a performance of Versace On The Floor. The music video was shot with every scene is interlinked with the previous and next scenes. I think that this was a really good way to show off the smoothness of the track. There is no choreography for this song, so this finishes the review.
As promised earlier today, we will be having a deep dive into MONSTA X’s latest album release, Follow: Find You. Even though it has been a month and MONSTA X (and MONBEBEs) have gone through a lot since then, MONSTA X did put out a really good album (once again). It would be a pity to not talk about the album in detail. The album features Follow as the title track and Find You (which I reviewed earlier today).
3. Monsta Truck – Monsta Truck sounds like it would be an epic track just from the title alone. So I was very surprised when I heard the groovy nature of this track. It isn’t what I had expected. And if you were planning on listening to them sing about actual monster trucks, I think it is best that you turn away, as the song alludes to a different physical activity. Besides the groovy chorus, I didn’t care much for the vocal work in this song. It felt very so-so. The rapping, on the other hand, was superb. Their deeper tones really worked well with the instrumental. (7.5/10)
4. U R – Both vocal and rapping aspects shined in U R. The only disappointing aspect was the rapping only got a small portion of the song. But other than that, I thought this was a strong track. The R&B nature of the song really helped with the vocal push. Both in combination with each other drove the song in a nice paced and well-balanced member. I really enjoyed the melodies and the guitar that featured as the main instrument in this song. (8.5/10)
5. Disaster – Disaster is no disaster. It is a fantastic track that showcases MONSTA X with a side of attitude. I like to think of it as a matured version of what they released when they first started, where they had a lot of attitude as well. I found the rapping start to the song, followed by the vocals a strong way to kick things off. You can always let Joohoney and I.M set the tone. I found the chorus to be very interesting, with that vibrating-like synth catching my attention. The short instrumental break with the brass and stronger vibrating synths was also another strong point. (8/10)
6. Burn It Up – What I really like about this track is its intensity. MONSTA X is an obvious choice for intensity. But the clanging metal and the robustness of the chorus really pulls the intensity to be song’s strongest aspect. I find it very interesting that the rapping takes a step back, featuring during the slower parts of the song and opting for a softer tone. Vocally, this is another good track. But the standout member of the group is Hyungwon, who brings a very interesting texture to the pre-chorus. And finally ending the song are church bells, which was like icing to the cake. (9/10)
7. Mirror – Mirror features a very soft tone. It is a nice song, vocally driven as a result of the softness of the song. I like the flowy nature of the song as a result. The harmonies during the chorus were awesome. Things get interesting after I.M’s monologue, with Joohoney and I.M kicking the song a slight notch by rapping a little more intensely than one would expect with the song. Afterwards, the song gets a little choppier, with pauses presenting themselves and ending the song in an interesting textural fashion. I am also a fan of the squeaky synth that featured throughout the song. (9/10)
8. See You Again – The album started off with an album that was very fitting for the situation that MONSTA X and MONBEBE find themselves in regarding Wonho’s dismissal from the group. And it is also interesting that the final song on the album is about wanting to see a particular someone again, which is equally fitting given the circumstances. I find the island and ethnic influences to be a pleasant backdrop and sound. The rapping and upbeat nature of See You Again really helped the song from being a 100% emotionally driven ballad, which we already got in the form of the first song. (9/10)
I will be publishing my album review for Follow: Find You later tonight. However, in preparation for this, I need to do one more full review. During the week prior to their official comeback with Follow, the group released the music video for Find You (another track on the same album). I thought it would be nice to write a full review (song + music video) for this release so that the album review write up can be somewhat faster. I have been putting off this review for some time and this is the absolute last date to do so.
Find You opens the album up. But for those who have checked out Follow, Find You is the complete opposite. It takes the form of a ballad. A soft, soothing and touching ballad. I thought it was a strong song. It brings out the vocals of each of the member, including the two rappers, whom we don’t get to hear sing all that much when it comes to MONSTA X’s group releases. I thought the melody was really beautiful, gave the song a very delicate side and helped make the song extremely flowy. All great things when it comes to ballads. I did like the instrumental, which featured a paced synth-based backdrop for this song. It also featured piano, adding to that delicate feel I mentioned. The last thing I wanted to mention regarding this track is the lyrics. I think the song was already quite an emotional one. But in light of recent events that saw the departure of Wonho from the group, as I was reading the translation, I couldn’t help but think how perfect the song is suited for the MONSTA X and MONBEBE’s situation. Even I felt slightly emotional whilst listening to the track once knowing the meaning behind the lyrics.
I won’t dwindle on the music video section for long. Essentially, the video is the prequel to the events in Dramarama (i.e. what lead to all the members to time travelling, why is Hyungwon alone etc). The main reason is because of the loss of Hyungwon’s parents, his dad leaving behind the watch that essentially caused Hyungwon to become locked away in time. This devastated the group, causing them to all go on their separate ways (they are all alone at the end). The song fitted the atmosphere and the tragic story that started it all.
The main reason why I don’t want to go into too much detail is that I want to do another music video theory post for MONSTA X and this storyline comes to mind. And I might be going insane, but I have a feeling other music videos (i.e. Alligator) might be linked up to this storyline (though I am not 100% certain). I also saw no connection with Follow, which is rather interesting, though I haven’t sat down to look at both videos in detail yet.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
Monsta X makes their official return today with Follow. A fair bit has happened with the group, with all of it revolving around their overseas promotions. Since their last Korean comeback (Alligator), Monsta X has released Play It Cool, Who Do You Love, Love U and Someone’s Someone in the US. The group has also embarked on their world tour. And now, the group is back in Korea to promote their 7th mini-album, Follow: Find You. The group also dropped (unexpectedly) the music video for Find You and I will review that at a later date.
Follow brings together the use of a Korean traditional instrument (don’t know which one) and the modern EDM. There is one recent example that did this as well (Lit by ONEUS) which managed to maintain the Eastern influence in their song. Monsta X differs by using the Eastern influence like a detail within its instrumental while focusing on the Western EDM sound for the majority of the song. None of these combinations is superior over the other as both bring different ‘final’ sounds to the table. What I do like about Monsta X’s song is that it manages to infuse a load of energy into the mix, which I think makes this song feel a lot more inviting. It is something that I have come to associate with Monsta X. The vocal work was pretty good. But it is Joohoney and I.M’s rapping that really reflect well with the energy and adds a very dynamic component to the song. I feel like rapping, especially, nowadays can be very straight forward and one-dimensional. Here, you can feel their personality and the intensity in their segments, which adds to the appeal of the song.
As the song is quite fast-paced, the editing goes hand-in-hand. Once again, I think there is a story somewhere in the midst of the video. There will be some reason to why Hyungwon became the shining radiant sun in the video. I am not going to guess what the video is about, however, as I have no clue. Out of all the individual scenes, I thought Joohoney and I.M to be the most captivating. It might because I already find their segments in the song alluring. But their scenes looked really more dynamic in comparison to the rest of the group.
Once again, the performance is a very strong element in this comeback. The routine during the chorus is enough proof of this. I really like the mini bounces they make during the entire performance, which probably made the less complicated looking performance a lot harder to execute. I also liked how Hyungwon (along with Minhyuk), who often doesn’t get many lines in their songs, a chance to shine within the choreography, as he was in the centre for the key parts of the performance.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
Monsta X is one of the (now) many groups leading the charge of KPOP into North America and the world! The group recently embarked on a world tour after wrapping up their Alligator promotions. Despite that heavy schedule, the group released the Japanese version of Alligator back in May, featured on the animated We Bare Bears TV show and released a number of English tracks including Who Do U Love?. And now, the group has returned back to Japan with a brand new original single, X-Phenomenon, which is due for an official release in August.
To me, there are two versions of Monsta X converging for the release of X-Phenomenon. The verses showcase a current form of Monsta X. There was intensity to the verses but it felt like the type of sound we would have gotten from the group over the last few years. The more melodic sections prior to the chorus give an opportunity for the vocalists to shine (due to the makeup of the song) and is a newer side of Monsta X we haven’t seen in a title track yet. But I would put this with current Monsta X. Once we launch into the dubstep heavy chorus, it is like we were launched back to the early days of Monsta X. The instrumental is a lot more mature and tame in comparison to their earlier releases. But I feel a similar vibe and kick coming from it. I think the rappers shined brightly in the song. Their respective sections definitely had the most oomph to it, which I really liked. Personally, I liked their many change-ups in this song. Though, I wasn’t a fan of them standalone. Also, since the song wraps up in literally 3 minutes, it felt quite short, which was a little disappointing for me.
Best editing award for a music video this year has to go to this video. based on the shot footage, I didn’t get too much of an edgy vibe, which was called for by the song. But it was the editing that compensated for this. The framing, the transition, the overlays. It was like the editor turned a dial to amp up the edginess of the music video and succeeded by turning that dial to the right degree. I also like the member’s visuals for this music video.
The dancing is quite cool. From what I saw in the music video, the majority of their moves manage to pack a punch and channel the song’s energy appropriately. Not sure about how the ‘slow parts’ of the song will turn out but I am assuming that it will be channelling he appropriate energy levels as well.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.3/10
Pepsi has been one busy company this year. As a partnership with Starship Entertainment to produce The Love of Summer series, Pepsi has pulled together a number of artists to promote their brand. Back in April, Ravi and Eunha came together for Blossom, while last month we saw the return of Ong Seong Woo to the music industry through Heart Sign. Yesterday, another track as part of the series was released. This time around, they bring Hongbin from VIXX and Hyungwon from MONSTA X together for Cool Love.
Both Hongbin and Hyungwon are not known for their vocals, so it would be interesting to see how a collaboration track between them would turn out. Cool Love had the potential to be a good track. There was just one overwhelming issue with it. It just didn’t cohesively come together to be that good track. This was because the instrumental was a little messy. I thought Cool Love had a nice smooth instrumental for the chorus, which sounded like a song that a model could strut to. It was also my most favourite part of the song, as it did have a memorable rhythm. But the other parts felt like a total mismatch. For example, the dance break added unnecessary flair and felt like it was trying too hard. The start and bridge felt quite weak and didn’t really feel like it complimented the rest of the song. Vocally, I thought they were good. It was clear from the start that they needed the instrumental to help carry them. But they handled it well, despite suffering from the disjointed instrumentation. What I did like was the tone that they displayed, which I think their respective groups should really utilise in the future. I think given my comments, this isn’t my favourite song from the series thus far.
While the song was rather disappointing, the music video was not. Both Hyungwon and Hongbin are known for their visuals and I felt that the music video did an awesome job of showcasing that known fact about them. I did like the sets, which I think suited the tone of the track and looked very cool. What I really liked was that the video didn’t feel too much of a Pepsi commercial like the other videos did. It felt like a normal music video, with the subtle placement of the Pepsi brand/products added. Another part of the music video was the choreography. I won’t dedicate a separate section/rating to it, as we probably won’t see a performance for it and I don’t really have much to say about it. But it looked good, overall.
Song – 5/10 Music Video – 7/10 Overall Rating – 5.8/10
It is time for another ‘Past Album’ review. This time, we turn back to Monsta X, who returned with the fierce Alligator earlier this year. Actually, this album review was written and scheduled to be published around the same time as Alligator’s release. But to avoid clashing, I decided to wait a bit before releasing. And here it is, after a month and a bit! The Clan Part 2. Guilty was released in October of 2016 and it was their second release in The Clan series (which I previously made a music video theory post, as well).
2. Be Quiet – Unlike the title for the song, Be Quiet isn’t quiet in any sense. Instead, it offers loudness and energy with its hip-hop centred sound. The song reminds me of their debut track for its synth-based instrumental. I really like the ‘Be Quiet’ whisper, which still manages to stand out amid all of the loudness that surrounds it. I felt like this could have been the song that allowed the rappers to shine. Instead, they didn’t get much of the song, which I felt was a little disappointing. But despite that, I still thought the raps (and the vocals) were still good elements to the song. (8/10)
3. Blind – Blind the blandest dance track on the album for me. I just don’t find it as interesting or exciting as the other dance tracks on the album. Blind seems to have some R&B mixed into it and it resulted in an okay track. But I felt like they could have done more to really make it appealing. The vocals and raps were good but it felt like it could have been stronger. Same could have been said regarding the hook of the track, which I thought was rather weak, resulting in its bland nature. (5/10)
4. Queen – Queen seems like it could be an elegant track, but it stands out more for its rough textures. It is also a good hip-hop hype track that really grabs your attention. The rappers are the winners for this track, with the song being built for just them. The vocalists of the group weren’t let down as they had parts that were quite melodic, especially after that brief pause in the bridge. I also liked the ending of the song (or rather, that part of the song as it appears in the track beforehand). Very catchy and a great way to get the hype up. (8/10)
5. White Girl (하얀소녀) – The song tones down the tough and dance-heavy side of the album by opting for an acoustic sound. And this Is much appreciated since the album is quite on the heavy side thus far. Vocals were the focus, with all the members (including Jooheon and I.M) singing in the song. And they give the song a nice delicate touch on top of the acoustic instruments. I thought the harmonies in the song gave the song a beautiful feel. While it is distinctively different from any of the other songs on the album, it is a hidden gem in the midst of the other dance tracks. (9/10)
6. Roller Coaster – Roller Coaster returns to the dance side of the album. And like what the name suggests, the song is like a roller coaster. There is a lot going on and there is many twists and turns that are not anticipated. So, repetitiveness is not an issue with this track. And while a correct term to describe the song would be ‘messy’, the song actually comes together nicely, and it is quite pleasant sounding. The song doesn’t showcase their best vocals or rapping but both elements are still good. Overall, I thought it was a nice upbeat song to end the album on. (8/10)