[Review] California Love – Donghae (Super Junior) ft. Jeno (NCT)

In preparation of the upcoming return of Super Junior’s most active subunit, Super Junior D&E, with their first studio-length album (which also marks their 10 year anniversary as a unit), Donghae and Eunhyuk have released their first major solo songs since their debut over 15 years ago. Today, I will be reviewing their solo releases ahead of their official comeback in November. First up is Donghae’s California Love, which features Jeno from NCT.

California Love is another one of those songs that is riddled with a case of excessive autotune. For this R&B pop track, it didn’t feel needed. Donghae has proven himself to be a capable singer without the autotune in other tracks, so I am not sure why all his vocals had to be autotuned throughout the entirety of the track. Sure it could have been used to be an intriguing element, but at least use it sparingly. It just sticks out for the wrong reasons. It is interesting to note that Jeno, who features in the second verse, isn’t as autotuned as Donghae. His rapping does have a bit of filtering to it, but it isn’t as excessive. And I find Jeno’s part to be more appealing as a result, thanks to both the lower degree of the autotune and also the mature vibes he gives off in the song (which compliments the R&B side of the song). For the rest of the song. California Love doesn’t ping as a memorable track. I did like the smoothness of the song overall, and enjoyed the melodies we got from Donghae’s lines (despite the autotune), especially when we got the choruses. It was all enough to make the song pleasant and appreciable, but California Love is not a mind-blowing song.

I think the video does well in the visual department. It definitely shows off the handsome features of Donghae via his closeups (his pink hair just sticks out and is quite a memorable feature of this video), and the city landscape behind him while he drives and dances looks stunning. But I don’t see it being any more than a visually appealing piece. It is definitely nice to see Jeno feature in the music video. As mentioned many times in the past, featuring artists don’t really make it into the video due to unavailability etc. But when they do, I quite liked it. And I feel Jeno does a good job here.

The live performance definitely makes the song much better. On stage, his vocals are not as filtered, and this made the song smoother and pleasanter. He does a good job handling the rapping sections, as well. I guess with the song’s style, we are restricted with the routine’s opportunity to be creative. But it was definitely fitting for the music and pleasant to watch, nonetheless.

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

[International Song Reviews] Ten (NCT), Jackson Wang & Internet Money, Ten & YangYang (WayV), Yuqi ((G)I-DLE) & 2PM

It has been a while since I focused on the International releases of KPOP, so I will spend the rest of today looking into these releases. If you want to read my review from the last time I covered International Songs from KPOP artists (TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee, Jackson Wang and Rocket Punch), you can click here for that review. In this particular, I will be covering Ten’s SM Station release, Jackson Wang’s collaboration with Internet Money, WayV’s subunit release, Yuqi’s solo debut and 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese music market.

Paint Me Naked – Ten (NCT)

Early August saw Ten release the all-English single Paint Me Naked. It is a super energetic and expressive solo track that seems to take on a mixture of pop and punk. Personally, I thought the more pop-centric moments (i.e. verses and bridge) were a bit dry, but the punk side comes through via the chorus and definitely kicks the song up a notch. I liked how the song progress, with the final chorus giving us a satisfying blast of energy that helps peaks the song in a very strong manner. This vocals were consistently good throughout Paint Me Naked, showcasing his potential for the industry. The music video was okay. It channeled some of the energy from the song, but not entirely. It also wasn’t memorable and didn’t give you much reason to return to. The performance that came along with this release was a lot better and did a much better job of channeling the energy that we got from the song. Ten sang live on his performances, so unfortunately this hindered the energy he could have put into the performance. But this didn’t mean that the performance didn’t come off as fun or had a satisfying kick to it. (7.4/10)

Drive Me Home – Jackson Wang & Internet Money

Jackson Wang has consistently pushed out new songs this year and has featured in three of the six ISRs posted by me this year (not including this one, which will be his the fourth appearance this year)! Back in July (I know, a long time ago), Jackson released the English single Drive Me Home with Internet Money (a music producer). This isn’t Jackson’s most impressive song of the year, but it definitely one of his most heartfelt and emotional releases yet. Once again, his husky and raspy vocals are on full display. I really like how he used his vocals in this song to deliver that emotional side, especially during the choruses. I liked the consistency of the instrumental. It bubbles away in the background. It isn’t special (actually more typical than anything else), but it added necessary drive and substance to the song to make it more engaging and Jackson more expressive with his vocals. The music video was an interesting story. It began with the future, with Jackson being a successful applicant in a job. I noticed his workplace felt sterile and typical. It is like whatever happened to him lead to this outcome. From then on, we see the events of his life happen in reverse. Jackson is drunk, thrown out of the club after smashing it up, all the while crying his way through the club. Then we see him in rags on the road, stopping and slowing traffic and looks quite injured. The ending showed the unfortunate events that occurred, which explained everything that happened prior in the video. Jackson had fallen in love with the girl in the picture frame. So in love that he is distracted by her while driving, causing him to crash and accidently kill his lover. It is a heartbreaking story that was creatively and uniquely told in this video, and matches the emotional side of the song. (7.8/10)

Low Low – Ten & YangYang (WayV)

After releasing and promoting Paint Me Naked, Ten returned soon after with YangYang for the release of Low Low, another all English song. Low Low is a pleasant track, with smooth melodies and a somewhat fun and upbeat dance instrumental that carries hip-hop influences. I quite liked how Ten and YangYang sounded in this song, but I wished they were more striking with their vocals. I think this could have taken the song to a whole new level and not by limited by the ‘pleasant’ descriptor. For the vocals to be more striking, the instrumental would have needed a bit of a revamp as well to support any attempt for bolding, in my opinion. I did notice the producers seem to add a bit of inclination/build towards the final chorus by adding a bit of electronic synths into the the bridge for a dance break. And I would have liked it, had the final chorus continued that momentum. For the music video, I watched it once and didn’t even bother returning to it again since its release. It was also a pleasant video, but not memorable whatsoever. Like Ten’s earlier song, Low Low faired a lot better with the choreography. It isn’t anything grand, but it was a fun choreography overall, especially that brief dance break/battle we had between the pair. (6.8/10)

Bonnie & Clyde – Yuqi ((G)I-DLE)

The oldest release on this list is Bonnie & Clyde, one of the solo debut singles from Yuqi, who hails from the female group (G)I-DLE. It was released way back in May of this year. Bonnie and Clyde is a fantastic song. I really liked the uniqueness of the instrumental here, combining the likes of trance and rock. It is of a low register and it is bounces forward continuously, which kept the song moving towards its end. It pairs with Yuqi’s vocals extremely well, who also took on a much lower tone for this release. Altogether, the elements of this song really gets me reaching for the replay button. How it took me this long to actually review it is a concern that I need to reflect on! For the music video, Yuqi goes on the run after finding some diamonds. But first. she takes the diamonds to a very risky game of chess and wins back her diamonds which she had bet with. Then the police comes and she makes a run for it. We also see another version of Yuqi. I am not too sure what the relation here, but my wild mind says she has a split personality. One side is the risk taker, while the other side of her is more proper. But both are aware what happens when the other personality takes hold. (9.2/10)

With Me Again – 2PM

I end this ISR with With Me Again, the most recent track on this list.. It also doubles as 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese industry, which they had spent a lot of time in before the group had to enlist in the military. With Me Again encapsulates all the mature and sexy vibes that they are known for into one track. It comes off as stylish, classy and trendy. I liked the vocals throughout and I quite enjoyed the higher note that the main hook is in. I also liked that subtle tango tinge to the song’s instrumentation and the funky touch from when Taecyeon raps. I wished the rest of the verses were more memorable, as I don’t remember them as much as that main hook (which is quite striking over the classiness of the instrumentation). The music video was fine to watch. I really want to say ‘Nothing was memorable’ with this music video (as for the most part, this was the case). But unfortunately, one member’s scenes just stuck out for all the wrong reasons. I am not too sure how Chansung’s bull riding scene fits in with the entire concept and thought it looked ridiculous. I would gladly like to press the erase button on that and hopefully never want to think of it ever again. Thankfully, no bulls appeared in the performance version of With Me Again. Instead, the group reverts back to that stylish and classy manner that I had already mentioned. (7.5/10)

[Review] Sticker – NCT 127

NCT 127 is back with their new single and third (!) studio album, which shares the same name, Sticker. This the unit’s first Korean comeback since their participation in NCT’s 23-member lineup promotions for their 2020 album, NCT 2020 Resonance (Part 1 and Part 2). Since then, NCT 127 have regrouped on two occasions – for the release of their second studio length Japanese album Loveholic (which featured Gimme Gimme as the title track), and for the collaboration with Amoeba Culture (Save). They have also been confirmed for future promotion via a repackaged album for this release. There is not confirmed release date yet, so I guess we have to wait around. Until then, here is my review for Sticker.

Without a doubt, Sticker is an interesting song. I don’t know what I was expecting for this release, but I honestly did not expect this – a dulled, oddly pieced and disjointed release from the group. When I first heard the song yesterday, I was making some really weird faces towards the instrumentation (think of faces when someone trying a certain dish or food for the first time, and you know based on their expressions that they do not like it – that was me). I attribute to this to mainly one element in Sticker, the shrilly and almost-screechy flute in the background. It was an element that remained throughout the song and hence that screechy impression remained throughout the song for me (though I will admit that I am slowly becoming desensitized to it – not entirely sure if that is a good thing or not). In the verses, I felt a disconnect between vocals and instrumentation. It was quite noticeable, though it isn’t the end of the world for me. One positive of this disconnect is that the vocals and raps were on full display, and it was an impressive and clear display. The disconnect also evolved into disjointed, when we speak about the specific segments of the song (i.e. verses, chorus, pre-chorus, bridge etc.). Sticker was just not cohesive. It tried to be, that was clear. But it just didn’t work out, given that every part appeared distinct from one another. Something to blend everything together would have been nice The chorus was slightly better thanks to the melodies, but that screechy flute reappeared and brought back that initial feeling I had about the song. I am also not a fan of how they delivered the title, Sticker, as the main hook in a drawn out fashion that took any potential fun out of the hook for me. But it isn’t all bad news for Sticker, however. I thought the orchestral pre-chorus and the bridge (which for me includes the ‘Roll up to the party‘ dance break) were promising segments of the song. The orchestral touch was an interesting backdrop for the rappers, but it worked somehow and the bridge has clean vocals and rapping, whilst the background was smoothed out sans the flute (the instrumentation in the bridge masked the shrilly nature, which helped). Overall, the disjointed and disconnect within Sticker made it dulled and incohesive.

The music video for Sticker was much better than the song. Futuristic cowboys seems to be the concept that NCT 127 had gone for this comeback. Their outfits brought the western cowboy image to life, and more so in a modern way. Cowboy hats, boots and lassos were all present in the music video. Even Mark’s spinning guns at the end were quite reminiscent of cowboys. The sets of the video brought in that futuristic side, thanks to the neon and city lights we see in the video. The cinematography and post-production for this music video was definitely on the cool side, and helped made the video feel dynamic without going too crazy elsewhere.

Knowing how KPOP likes to relate choreographies to the entire comeback, I wasn’t too sure how Sticker would have been be portrayed in the choreography. It appears that NCT 127 represent Sticker as the slow ungrasping of hands, which I guess might hint towards sticky hands. They also mimicked the pulling up of stickers from the release liner (I had to google what that smooth backing was called) with their hands towards the start of the chorus with the zoom in and zoom out sequences. I thought these worked really well. The rest of the choreography looked fine to me.

Song – 5.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.6/10

[Review] Hello Future – NCT DREAM

Also making their comeback on Monday is NCT Dream (apologies for the long delays in getting this review out). The NCT subunit unveiled their latest title track, Hello Future, and the group’s first ever repackaged album which shares the same name as title track. Hello Future follows the release of Hot Sauce (both title track and name of the group’s first ever mini-album). The full-length album featuring both Hello Future and Hot Sauce will be reviewed tomorrow as part of the Album Review focus this weekend. In preparation for that, I will need to write my full review for Hello Future, so here are my thoughts on their new song.

Hello Future finds that middle ground between their very youthful tracks that they began their careers with and their more mature sound that they have opted for in their more recent releases. How so? Well, the pop instrumentation that sits in the background gives off a refreshing and pleasant vibe that feels like a throwback to those early days. And it feels like a great Summer track, overall. Hello Future may not start off in this manner (thanks to that deep gurgling-like effect), but it does give off such impressions when we get to the chorus. It actually took me a few repeats to warm up to the opening verse because of that gurgling-like effect in the background, but getting through it to reach the chorus was definitely worthwhile (more on this in second). In addition to the youthful reminder via the instrumentals, the groups vocals in both rapping and singing brings forward that matureness. Compared to their early releases, NCT Dream’s voices (particular the rappers) have gotten pretty deep, which I assume is the reason why NCT Dream ended up going down the mature route of KPOP releases. For Hello Future, I liked how they capitalised on this unavoidable change. The singing vocals brought this insane level of smoothness to the song and kept the song grounded in a positive manner. The melodies we hear in the chorus are so captivating and stunning, and this is all thanks to the vocalists in NCT Dream. For the rappers of the group, their sequences provided some interesting contrast that made the song memorable and well-balanced. In particular, the sequences we get after the second chorus have the song some nice brief punches of intensity, which acted as a superb offset to the song’s pleasantness. But while Hello Future is an awesome song already, I do feel that the song had opportunities to be more dynamic, especially when it came to the ad-libs at the end of the song. It felt pretty safe and ‘in the box’. What they needed was to venture out of the confines of said box to ensure this song hit a home run. But as of now, it was still a very enjoyable song from the group.

To me, the group are portrayed as hippies in this music video. From their outfits, to the ‘natural’ accessories, to the peace signs we see on their posters and signs, everything felt very influenced by the hippies we associate from the 60s. Note that everything has been modernise to fit this era. I doubt hoodies and sweatpants were the 60s hippies go to attire. But I think this was a smart concept for the group to follow through with. The song’s message was ‘overcoming struggles to grow together with love and trust’ (taken from Soompi) which is a very hippie type of messaging. And they did so by crashing a very competitive Soccer game, bringing the two teams together to join them in their pursuit for love and trust.

I really enjoyed the choreography for this comeback. It might not be their best work out there, but I feel like it was a good fit for the song. I liked the incorporation of – what I like to call – the royal hello (cupped hand and a slight turn of the wrist). I also liked their ending sequence, which brought a rush of intensity to end of the song with. This is a nice example of contrast, as I note their choreography beforehand was quite slow and mellow looking. But this intense rush at the end reminded us that the performance was a NCT performance nonetheless.

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

[Review] Hot Sauce – NCT Dream

It is a new week and a new lineup of comebacks! First up this week is NCT Dream, who makes their grand return with their very first studio album since debut five years ago. The group has defintiely gone a long way away from their Chewing Gum days. Also based on a food item, this comeback’s title is Hot Sauce, which is the shared name of both the studio album and title track. Their first studio album also marks the return of Mark, who previously graduated from the group back in 2018 as he no longer fitted the age criteria for the group. But in 2020, it was confirmed after the unit’s last comeback (Ridin’ and Reload) that NCT Dream would abolish the graduation system and that the group’s lineup will become fixed with the re-addition of Mark. It also appears that NCT Dream’s comeback is hugely anticipated, with the group already selling more than 1.7 million preordered albums.

After all, we have been deprived of some form of NCT Dream for over a year. And with the re-addition of Mark, it will be interesting to see what direction NCT Dream would take. And based on what I am hearing, it seems like they went with a more trendy number as their main title track. The song taps into the hip-hop genre and it also features Latin influences. While this combines very typical music trends in the wide-ranging genre of KPOP nowadays, the resulting song is actually quite refreshing to me. What makes Hot Sauce really unique is that descending background vocals everytime the chorus comes into play. It adds a unique tinge of colour and texture to the song, but also keeps the instrumentation interesting. The energy that comes from Hot Sauce packs a punch and is quite intense. Just take the instrumental sequence in which they use for the dance break that they peak with as an example. This intensity also compliments NCT Dream’s more recently noticeable asset, their deep and raspy voices (hence my comment about their Chewing Gum days before). The member’s deep vocals have been around since Boom, but I felt Hot Sauce really utilises this asset very well and brings out the raspy side of Jeno and Jisung in their rap sequences. In addition to intensity from the hip-hop and dance side of the song, the Latin influences were also very memorable. I really liked the acoustic guitar that was prevalent during the verses and pre-chorus. It too kept the instrumental mix interesting and gives Hot Sauce some extra ‘spice’ without it just relying on EDM and synths. If I was to pick one thing that I wasn’t necessarily a fan of, that would be the shouty vocals in the chorus. It was a good way to captialise on the energy that was coming off the song, but it overwhelmed me unfortuately. But overall, Hot Sauce delivers a flavour-bomb. Just sometimes, there is that one distinct flavour coming from the mouthful that I am not entirely keen on. But maybe if I keep on tasting, I might grow to like it.

When I first watched the music video earlier today, I thought we were teetering on the edge of a Ko Ko Bop situation. But now that I have rewatched the music video, it appears to be more innocent than what I thought. Essentially, the lyrics say that the members’ charms are addictive as hot sauce. And the video shows the members becoming addicted to the hot sauce (i.e. Haechan and Jaemin’s eyes bulging after consuming some hot sauce, Chenle watching the hot sauce on his phone, the members helping out with the supply chain for the hot sauce, even being part of the commericals for the hot sauce). They even go out of their way to stop Mark from having some straight up, knowing how addictive it could be. In addition to the storyline, the music video also features cool effects that felt appropriate for the concept.

Based on what I can see in the music video, the choreography looks very intense and powerful, which is fitting for the song. I can’t wait to see the entire routine in full, especially when it comes to the dance break! I really like the ‘mixing bowl’ move for some reason. It looks cool, when it doesn’t really sound as cool.

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

[Review] Resonance – NCT 2020

NCT is nominated for Best Male Group, while NCT 127 is nominated for Best Male Group and Best Subunit in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED. To support NCT, NCT 127 and your other favourite artists, click here to vote for them below the 31st of December.

NCT has been extremely busy over the last two months, splitting their 23-member lineup into four different units for promotions of Make A Wish (Birthday Song), From Home, 90’s Love and Work It, all of which were title tracks from their second studio album, NCT 2020: Resonance (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of the album reviews). To wrap up promotions for this album, NCT have regrouped as a 23-member group for the surprise release of the Resonance single, which officially dropped on Friday this past week. Aside from being a song performed by 23 members, Resonance is also a mix of four songs from their album – Make A Wish (Birthday Song), 90’s Love, Work It and Raise The Roof.

It sounds very ambitious and like many, I have my reservations. A hybrid of four songs in one. But we need to remind ourselves that SM Entertainment are the creative minds behind Sherlock and One, both of which are all combinations of two songs. So SM Entertainment has done this before. Rather than taking bits and pieces of the songs and merging them together into something really tight and cohesive, Resonance delves more down the mashup route, rather than a hybrid song at first glance. It borrows segments of Make A Wish (which had the honour of providing two parts to Resonance), 90’s Love and Work It (one part each). Interestingly, it isn’t the choruses of each of the three title tracks that make it into Resonance, as that would confuse listeners with four different sets of hooks and energies. Instead, the segments are combined with Raise The Roof‘s chorus, which is a clever move. The song does make an attempt to blend the four songs together by applying a new intro, spoken boldly and proudly (?) by Mark himself, amplifying the chorus (compared to the original) and infusing intense EDM into the mix through a standalone dance break. Altogether, Resonance does manage to come off as epic and powerful, which suits their image. Does Resonance work? I would say so. While we are clearly reminded of each song individually, the new additions do a lot of heavy lifting to give Resonance a fresh and individualistic sound that hasn’t been in any of the four songs before. In other words, there is something new in the track. And that I consider a win.

With such an epic and powerful tone to the song, the music video is equally as epic. It too was quite ambitious, but SM Entertainment really pulled out all the stops to make sure the video works. The editing between each part was super cool, especially Ten’s kick in the dubstep dance break. I really liked all the sets of that were used. I liked how they recycled that box set with different coloured lights to use for each of the title tracks and for one Resonance‘s choruses. The stage with the big screen was definitely a bold power move, while the one with the flow silk was so fitting for that bridge. But my favourite has to be the stadium stage. When the high notes hit and we are shown an drone shot of all the lights turning on, my jaw was on the ground. It was so epic and will be a music video scene that I will definitely remember for a long time. Likewise, all the drone shots at the end left me speechless.

The choreography was like the song. It didn’t change up the choreography for each of the three title tracks. And I completely understand that. It would have been too much of the members to relearn a whole new routine for the same song, given that they will be learning new choreographies for award ceremonies and end of year music festivals concurrently. For the new sections, I did like the intensity of the chorus’ routine, which they made look almost animalistic. The dubstep dance break was equally as full-on and even more powerful.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.5/10

[Album Review] NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 (2nd Studio Album) – NCT

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Teaser Image

Yesterday, I reviewed the first half of NCT’s second studio album, NCT 2020: Resonance. And as promised, I am reviewing the second half of the studio album today (another fast tracked album review). On top of the 13 tracks from yesterday (this count includes the additional versions of the title track and the Interlude which I did not review), Part 2 brings an additional eight songs (which includes another interlude and outro). Per usual, I have not reviewed the interlude and outro due to their lack of lyrics. And aside from that, let’s get stuck into this album!

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Album Cover
NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Album Cover

Click here for the reviews of the tracks originally on NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1. These reviews and rating scores do not influence the album rating I will be giving to NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 below.

1. 90’s Love (Title Track)90’s Love is performed by Ten, Winwin, Mark, Jeno, Haechan, Yangyang and Sungchan. Click here to read the full review for 90’s Love. (8.5/10)

3. Raise The Roof – NCT raises the roof with Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Kun, Jungwoo, Hendery, Renjun, Chenle, and Jisung at the helm. Raise The Roof is a song loaded with energy and a subtle sense of intensity that gets me excited. At first, I thought I wouldn’t like the song as much. But with a few repeats already passing, Raise The Roof caught on. Aside from the energy, I really like the members’ deep tone throughout the song, which matches with the deep autotuned voice that appears at the final chorus and the club-styled hip-hop influenced instrumental. The song’s ending has this back and forth type of motion that I really enjoyed and the song’s final moment was extremely satisfying. The biggest question mark I have is the vocally driven bridge, which I noted to be a typical NCT move. I felt it didn’t have a place in this song, which was the case yesterday in some songs from the Part 1 album. (9/10)

7. My Everything – The tracks preceding My Everything are actually some of the album’s more slower tunes (i.e. Light Bulb and Dancing In The Rain). These make way for My Everything, a ballad that features the heavenly vocals of Taeil, Xiaojun and Renjun. The entire ballad is driven by a piano only instrumental and the vocals of the three members. Three positive things to say about the song. It makes me sway along to the melodies (my self-made indicator of a good ballad). It makes me stop whatever I am doing to fully appreciate the song. And it feels pretty much like the many captivating and stunning ballad OSTs we hear. Can’t really fault anything in this song. (10/10)

18. Work It (Title Track)Work It is performed by Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin, and Jisung. Click here to read the full review for Work It. (5/10)

19. All About You (단잠)All About You is another amazing addition to the album. It is the type of song that made me go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ once the chorus kicks in. I really liked that electronic influence All About You had, kicking the otherwise smooth song up a notch and injecting really strong energy into the song. I loved the crunchy and bouncy textures this instrumental brought to the song. It was definitely appealing. What also stands out for me is that All About You is vocally centric upbeat number. Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Mark, Hendery, Shotaro, Sungchan and Chenle all sound really good in this song. And the combination of the vocals and instrumental remind me of the 90s for some reason, which I am totally digging. (10/10)

20. I.O.UI.O.U screams retro with its R&B instrumental from the very first second. There is something about the choppy nature of the song that reminds me of music we would hear coming out of an old-style television in movies. I.O.U does not shy away from this influence. The song is made to sound like it changes in tempo (especially around the rap sequences). But whatever is done to the song is done whilst maintaining both the retro and R&B influences from start to end. Definitely a good form of consistency here. While I am absolutely fine with this direction of the song, I do think the instrumental is slightly overwhelming and was competing with the vocals/rapping. While we are on the topic of rapping and vocals (courtesy of Taeyong, Doyoung, Kun, Yangyang, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung), I am totally digging it all. I do think the rapping has the edge, especially Jisung’s part which took me by surprise. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

  • Yangyang's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2.
  • Taeil's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Shotaro's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jeno's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Haechan's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Hendery's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Yuta's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Winwin's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jaehyun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jungwoo's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Sungchans's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Chenle Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Taeyong's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Ten's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Johnny's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Xiaojun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Kun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Renjun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Lucas's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Doyoung's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Mark's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jaemin's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jisung's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2

[Album Review] NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 (2nd Studio Album) – NCT

NCT completes 2020 with the return to full group promotions under the collective name of NCT. This means that NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV, along with new members Shotaro and Sungchan have come together to promote under name of NCT and NCT U for their two part album. Today, I will be focusing on the first half of their second studio album, titled NCT 2020: Resonance. It features Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and From Home as the title tracks, alongside a bunch of new songs from various NCT U lineups (all of which we haven’t seen before) and the three units of NCT that I already mentioned above. It is a long album review, so let’s get moving along.

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 Album Cover

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 also features ‘Interlude: Past to Present‘ as the sixth track. But per usual protocol for album reviews on the segment, this track was not reviewed due to lack to lyrics. There are also a Korean version of From Home and an English version of Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which were not reviewed as I had already reviewed the original versions (links below).

1. Make A Wish (Birthday Song) (Title Track)Make A Wish (Birthday Song) was performed by Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Lucas, Xiaojun, Jaemin and Shotaro. Click here to read the full review of Make A Wish (Birthday Song). (7/10)

2. MisfitMisfit delves into the world of rapping, with Johnny, Taeyong, Mark, Hendery, Jeno, Yangyang and Sungchan all bringing their A-game for this track. The song is an excellent hype track, with rapping taking you back to earlier eras of rap music. The energy is quite full-on, but I won’t describe it as intense. Rather, it is fun and definitely a highlight to listen to. Mark’s leads us into the song with a sequence that confirms his talent and skillset. And each other member follows suit to show us what their skillset is capable of. I really like the more concentrated instrumental when it comes to the chorus, amplifying and intensifying Misfit’s energy, pulling you into the hype song even more. (10/10)

3. VolcanoVolcano features Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Lucas and Mark. It takes on a hip-hop influence that also brings me back to earlier eras of the music, just a little more recent than Misfit’s throwback. I like how the energy in Volcano is more subtle than compared to the preceding track. I am digging the sleek nature of the chorus, especially with layering of raps and the simply spoken ‘Bounce’ over it. It isn’t much of a standout track, compared to the two tracks before it. The inclusion of the vocals was nice, but I felt it made the song confusing. Overall, this is what I would call a ‘pleasant’ listen. I would listen to it if it was on my playlist. But I wouldn’t go through the effort to seek it out. (8/10)

4. Light Bulb (백열등)Light Bulb is performed by four out of 23 of the members (Taeyong, Kun, Doyoung and Sungchan) and it is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The song features a really soothing instrumental and a slower tempo, which is thanks to the piano that we hear. There is also percussion to give Light Bulb a bit of a kick and enable the song to feature rapping. The combination of both gives Light Bulb an R&B profile. Taeyong and Sungchan’s rapping is superb and very mature sounding. It also follows the same pattern as the preceding side tracks, giving off a nostalgic vibe. Doyoung and Kun’s vocals were breathy and very gripping. No one felt out of place and no element felt like they outdid another. Light Bulb was a very balanced track that deserves praise and attention. (10/10)

5. Dancing In The Rain Dancing In The Rain introduces Taeil, Yuta, Jungwoo, Xiaojun and Chenle to the album, performing alongside Johnny, Jaehyun and Kun. I really like the melodies of this jazzy R&B mashup song, especially when it comes to the catchy ‘Drip Drop’ line. I really like the opening and closing piano sequences, bringing that jazz influence to life. I also think it is these jazzy influences that allows the rapping sequences to slide into the song effortlessly. The vocals showcase really nice harmonies amongst the vocalists in this NCT U lineup and also bringing some of that R&B touch to the surface. A stunning song. (9.5/10)

7. Déjà vu (무대) (NCT Dream)Déjà vu is the first song to be released by NCT Dream since the confirmation that NCT Dream’s lineup will become permanent and that Mark will officially return to the unit. I wondered what NCT Dream’s direction would be, given that they are no longer young as when they first debuted and that their sound has matured exponentially since Mark’s graduation. Déjà vu hints that mature NCT Dream will remain. That being said, it isn’t as captivating as past NCT Dream’s promotional track and this feels best as a side track. (7/10)

8. Nectar (月之迷) (WayV) – WayV’s discography has been quite mature from the get-go. So Nectar fits in perfectly. It feels and sounds very sensual. I really liked the subtle energy that the song contains. I also really like the main hook of the song, as it was quite simple yet very addictive. That high note was impressive. But what I find the most exciting about Nectar is that the song is in Chinese, which is the start of the multilingual approach on this album (the second title track, From Home, also features Chinese and Japanese lyrics). (8/10)

9. Music, Dance (NCT 127) – To me, NCT 127’s addition to Part 1 of NCT 2020: Resonance was the weakest of all. Music, Dance’s best moment was when the instrumental had an upbeat persona. It felt satisfying and does feel like a great track to dance to. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the song. I thought the verses were really weird with its choppy intro approach and those vocals sequence (while were very good) diverted the song away from what should have been a wholesome dance track that should have been satisfying across the board. (6/10)

10. Faded In My Last Song (피아노) – We return to another NCT U track, performed by Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Lucas, Renjun, Haechan and Jisung. It is a R&B track that features awesome melodies over a stunning piano/trap beat instrumental background. I really like how the vocal and rapping were extremely cohesive in this song. The way the song’s title, ‘Faded In My Last Song’, was sung in the song really stuck with me and has become my most favourite line/part to listen and look forward to. (10/10)

11. From Home (Title Track)From Home was performed by Taeil, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Renjun, Haechan and Chenle. Click here to read the full review of From Home. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

[Review] Work It – NCT U

I promised album reviews for NCT’s NCT 2020: Resonance this weekend. But before I can get to the album review, I need to review one more song, the second title track from the Part 2 of the album. Conveniently, the music video for this second title track, Work It, dropped officially today. So I will be reviewing it before I publish any album reviews for the massive group. From the 23-member lineup, Work It features Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin and Jisung. Let’s see what these members bring to the table.

I really wanted to like Work It, but I couldn’t. I don’t think I ever watched/listen to a song with such a straight face before. Out of the four title tracks that NCT have given thus far, Work It is probably my least favourite. But before I delve into the reasons why the song didn’t work for me, let’s start about the positives of Work It. The chorus was pretty solid and I can see it growing on me (provided I look past the reasons I will list later on). It features two very strong hooks. The first being the simple ‘Work It’ that is essentially spoken into the song. The second is the main synth of chorus’ instrumental, which brings some edge to the song and the fast tempo. If you know me, I like my energy and this chorus definitely tried to bring it. Unfortunately, the rest of the song just felt dull or mis-matched. I can’t get over the blandness and over-consistency the verses brought to the song. The members had pretty decent delivery with their rapping here. But the verses lacked the instrumental to really bring the song some life. I just got bored with its plainness and lack of energy. The fact that the second verse didn’t do much to change to up and felt like a repeat of the first verse didn’t help. I feel like this is a case where the producers were trying to do a lot with the members, but very little with the instrumental. The bridge was nice vocally, but it did not fit in with the rest of the song. We went straight from a fast tempo EDM track into a smoothed out, classically approach and slowed tempo backdrop for vocals. It is something that NCT does a lot and it tends to work fine. This time around, the difference was too noticeable. They could have at least gone with a slower form of EDM to give the different parts a chance to blend sounds or at least make it seem like it would fit. Overall, Work It had some highs. But it was the lows that got my attention.

Work It’s music video was no way meant to be taken seriously. Based on the casual way the members were acting and the smiles plastered over their faces, it was a fun video. The music video adopts the choreography and closeup formula that I dislike. similar to how the previous NCT U’s music videos were also structured. From memory, those ones had a bit going on, so the formula wasn’t as noticeable. Work it didn’t have much going on, so it was very noticeable from first glance. The editing felt plain (for the most part – there were some cool transitions) and I wished more could have done to it. Also Haechan’s presence at the end of the 90’s Love video is answered in Work It, creating a bridge between the videos. But I don’t see any that indicates that the connection is there for fun.

The choreography looks good. I felt more energy in the small snippets of the choreography that I saw in the music videos than from the actual song. I would like to see if they bring some of their boogie freestyle that we saw in the music video to the stage performances or not.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] 90’s Love – NCT U

Returning today as well is NCT with their second part of their NCT 2020 Resonance album. For those who missed NCT’s first part of the NCT 2020 Resonance album, the group formed different smaller units back in October to facilitate the release of Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and From Home. For the first release of the second part, 90’s Love is performed by Ten, WinWin, Mark, Jeno, Haechan, YangYang and Sungchan. Before we get stuck into the review, I just want to say that NCT’s album review for both the first and second part of the NCT 2020 Resonance album will be published over this coming weekend. It is in the works, so be prepared for that!

90’s Love take you back to the retro hip-hop that we got commonly from the era in the song’s name. There is a modern twist to the song with the various instruments used throughout, so the song can be better described as ‘newtro’. It is jam packed with energy that throws it back to the 90s, which makes the song so much more appealing for me. The use of drums constantly really makes 90’s Love so much more abrasive, but in a fun and dynamic manner. The ‘Hey Hey Hey’ at the start really helped hype up the song and I liked how the rapping continues the momentum of this hype. The whole rapping sequence in the second verse is proof of this, even though it is detached from the first verse. Definitely reiterates to me Mark’s capabilities and also shows off Sungchan’s talent/potential. 90’s Love‘s point of weakness has to be the sudden change from retro to vocals for the bridge. There isn’t anything wrong with the two sections (like how do I fault Haechan and Ten’s amazing high note?). It is just the sudden change that really cuts the flow of energy in the song and reduced everything that was going on beforehand into basically nothing. I wished there was some bridge to really connect the two parts, like a gradual easing into the vocal sequence. Interestingly, I found the relaunch back into the chorus to work just fine. And as I said, the vocals in this section are on point. Overall, 90’s Love is definitely a full on type of song, with just one hiccup along the way.

The ice hockey concept is definitely pretty cool. I really like how the entire ice rink had the NCT branding, which I guess SM Entertainment is fortunate enough to do. I found the dinosaurs to be a really funny and lighthearted addition to the video. Usually I would say all the references to the dinosaurs are a bit random. But since it is the mascot of the team, I really cannot say that as the dinosaur has its purpose in this video. I did also like the random video game version of the mascots dancing to the choreography. I guess the main question is what is up with Haechan (I think it is Haechan) on the spinning thing at the end of the video? A possible hint for the next video? I guess we have to wait and see.

Great choreography from what I can see from the music video. The entire dance break just after the bridge was very intense. The constant percussion and the energy really lends well to an amazing routine that NCT U pulls off without any problems.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/1/0
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] From Home – NCT U

Last week, NCT made their comeback with a whopping 23 member lineup through their NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 1. This album consist two title tracks amongst others. One of the title track was Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which I reviewed last week. The other is From Home and its music video was dropped on Monday (apologies once again for reviewing this a few days late). For this NCT U release, we have Taeil, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Renjun, Haechan and Chenle joining forces together.

NCT is a very multinational group, featuring members from the US, Canada, Japan, China, Thailand and Korea. And so, I find From Home to be a fitting song for the group. Firstly, it is a soft pop ballad that expresses their journey of becoming members of NCT, and their new ‘home’ alongside each other as a group. The song’s meaning is definitely quite touching Secondly, the song has this very comforting warmth to it. As a listener, I couldn’t help but smile that the melodies and feelings that the song places on me. If I was a member of this group, I would constantly return to this song during times when I am lost or alone, remembering that there are 21 other friends in the same boat (and that number is most likely going to rise in the coming years!). Thirdly, the song is sung in four different languages. While the song is mainly in Korean (and there is a Korean version), the song also features lyrics in Japanese, Chinese and English. I feel that this was a very personalised move for the group, given that a bulk of their members are of this nationaliities. It is a pity that the song didn’t have some Thai representation. Meaning aside, I find From Home is a nice song musically. It may not be as impactful or memorable as Make A Wish, but it is a nice delicate side of the group that we should be able to see more often. There are some really good vocal moments, especially the airy vocals we get into the chorus and the really stunning high note Taeil gives us at the climax of this ballad. I also like how they weaved between languages, which is a pretty strong feat, given how different Chinese and Japanese is, in terms of tone, pitch and other characteristics. I also really liked it when all the members sung together for the chorus, adding more to that warm and welcoming feeling that I mentioned.

I really liked that the producers took this video to the outside, rather than make them stay inside sets. I also really like how perfect the day was for the music video shoot. It adds to the aesthetics and appeal of the song, particularly that really warm feeling. I also liked the mix between the modern camera shots and the home video shots. It just makes the whole thing feel homey. The visual game the members bring is also phenomenal. The baby photos and their thanks was also really nice. Given the song meaning, I think it would have been super nice to have the rest of the NCT members to appear towards the end, which would have made this a super special music video for them and fans alike.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.4/10

[Review] Make A Wish (Birthday Song) – NCT U

It has two years since we saw a full group comeback from NCT. And during those two years since that comeback, we have seen NCT’s lineup grow with the debut of WayV (the group’s Chinese subunit) and the addition of Shotaro and Sungchan (who both have been confirmed to debut in a future subunit). Now with 23 members in total, the group have banded together to release their second full group comeback and album, NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 1. The first promotional track from the album is Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which features Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Lucas, Xiaojun, Jaemin and Shotaro.

It has been very clear that NCT’s releases have been more experimental than any other SM group. This gives the group and its subunits a slight edge, as we would never know exactly what we should be expecting with each comeback. Make A Wish (Birthday Song) pretty much confirms this logic. It is unlike any other song put forward by NCT before. It has been described as a dance pop track with a hip hop beat and an addicting whistling sound. And you can hear each part of that description throughout the song in some capacity, as they don’t mess around with any of those components. And yet, Make A Wish manages to still twist and turn in a manner that results in the song coming off as different and at times, quite unexpecting. Personally, it isn’t my personal taste in music. But like the group, I would like to say that my taste for hip-hop centric releases have grown considerably over the years, and I can appreciate Make A Wish‘s sound. The NCT U members for this song manage to show off great vocals and raps. And each infuse a bit of unique style, adding to the appeal of the song. Unfortunately, when I turn my attention to the song’s main hook (i.e. the chorus), the infusion of hip-hop instrumentation and the drawn own style of vocal delivery just doesn’t work for me. It drowns out the energy and momentum that the song had built during the verses. As a result, the chorus feels sluggish. Maybe my taste for hip-hop hasn’t really grown that much. But I felt that something a little more dynamic and punchy would have been a better chorus.

Make A Wish features a Middle Eastern flair in the visual department. While it did add a nice colour pallete to the music video, I didn’t think the Middle Eastern flair was particularly necessary. I personally do not have anything against the Middle Eastern influence. I just felt most of their outfits were more suited for an urban concept and think an urban influence would a nicer choice. SM Entertainment wows me with their post-production, once again. The holograms of the members appearing on the platform in which the hooded figures are dancing around, along with the disappearing members right at the end looked so cool. Set-wise, I really like the chandelier that the members were hanging off from, as well.

The performance suits the music, which was expected. I like how the moves are slower during the more drawn out moments of the song and faster when they aren’t bounded by the music. It also seems like the members are given a chance to be a little more personable and fun towards the end of the performance (based on what I say in the music video). I feel this more carefree style matches up with the song neatly and provides a way for the performance to not be purely serious.

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

[Album Review] Reload (4th Mini Album) – NCT Dream

It has been a few weeks since I have posted any reviews (let alone album reviews) on a Friday. I have just been so busy during the week that by Friday, I would fall asleep very early. But hopefully I can manage my sleep pattern a little better to publish reviews as per the usual schedule. As you can tell, I have missed many handfuls of songs over the last few weeks. But I will get onto them eventually. In the meantime, I will be reviewing NCT Dream’s fourth mini-album, Reload. It features the title track, Ridin’. The album has proven to be very successful, selling over 250,000 copies within a two day period.

Reload Album Cover

1. Ridin’ (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Ridin’. (8/10)

2. Quiet DownQuiet Down just doesn’t live up to its name in a literal sense. It is still relatively loud than compared to something that one would described as ‘Quiet’. But it does feel toned back a tad bit, in comparison to the title track. Despite that, I really like how edgy the song managed to maintain, which matches this new image that the group has been going for with their last release (Boom) and Ridin’. Elements of the song remind me of the Western pop in the ‘00s. The relatively rapid and dense bouncy synth in the background of the verses sounds vaguely familiar, while the chorus seemed to bring a R&B melody to the song, which I thought was awesome. I wasn’t as impressed with the vocals and rapping in this song, which felt pretty ordinary overall. (7/10)

3. 7 Days (내게 말해줘) 7 Days takes a softer pop/R&B approach. Unlike in the previous song, I thought 7 Days had a good display of vocals and rapping. The melodies which the song thrive on really highlight the vocals/rapping skills of the manner. They also helped provide the song a memorable rhythm. The rappers of the group, Jeno and Jaemin, were singing in this song in a rap-sing manner that I really want to hear more of in the future. Not only were their singing great, but the rap sequences they had at the end of the song felt perfect and fitting for the song. The vocalists of the group (the rest of the group) sounded very smooth. Sure, the instrumentals were rather typical and could have used some character. But 7 Days was very pleasant to listen to. (8/10)

4. Love Again (사랑은 또다시) Love Again seems to be a soft 90s hip-hop track. That is the best way I would describe the song. The chorus really takes you back to that era and I am extremely into it. The vocal and rapping from all members in Love Again on was point. There were very different textures but all worked very cohesively with one another. Haechan even raps in this song! Some of their delivery was rough, while other times its was very smooth. I also really liked how relatively soft yet upbeat the instrumentals were. They felt just right for this style and worked extremely with the member’s vocals/rapping. (9/10)

5. Puzzle Piece (너의 자리)Puzzle Piece is a ballad with only one instrument in the background, an acoustic guitar. It is such a nice tune to end the album with. And the sweetness that I could feel just made it even better. I just liked how easy it was to slip into this song. Once again, their vocal work was amazing. As it was just the acoustic guitar, what we heard felt from the members very pure and ‘unhidden’. There were no synths to cover up any of the vocals, while there wasn’t anything to really fall back on. Furthermore, the harmonisation with the background vocals and one another was really powerful. I liked how the acoustic guitar built up the song and gained momentum. It made the song even better and feel well rounded. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Reload Teaser Image

[Review] Punch – NCT 127

Since March, the members of NCT has been quite busy with various music releases and promotions (Props to Haechan for participating in all of them!). NCT 127 first returned with Kick It and their second studio album, Neo Zone, in March. NCT Dream only just returned a few weeks ago with Ridin’ and their mini-album Reload (album review coming). And yesterday, NCT returned with their 127 lineup for promotions for their repackaged album and Punch. The music video wasn’t released until today, so this prevented me from getting a review out yesterday.

Punch is a song that seeks to make an impact in one way or another. And I feel like they give that impact at the start of the song when the electronic retro arcade-like instrumental was probably the strongest. They start off with a rap sequence in which they all share, before reverting to a breathy whisper over the same instrumentation. The contrast here is very strong and unique. The song then strips away the electronic arcade-like backdrop, allowing for melodic instrumentation and vocals to exist. And this before the song brings in an anthem-like chorus that I feel was rather aesthetic in its own right. As you can tell, it seems like a messy roller coaster ride in just the first half of the song. As to be honest, I did find this approach to be rather messy when I first listened to the song. But with multiple listens, Punch gets better and feels less messy, especially as the song comes together quite neatly. There are other elements to the song that I thought were quite good. The instrumental, as you listen more of it, contains additional elements that really help bind the song together. From the trap influences (that remind me of Superhuman‘s trap instrumentation), to the faint electric guitars that add some pop to the song, to the cinematic-like dance break that features at the end of the song. I have to admit that I find both the vocals and some of the rapping to be quite safe for the group. I wished they managed to ‘pack a punch’ into this element to give the song some life. I was also surprised to hear that they laid off the intensity and energy, which I think was a missed opportunity. Kick It seems to be the more superior in this sense, with Punch toning it down significantly. Overall, Punch is a good song. But I don’t think its their best effort.

I found the music video to be rather weak and bland. Apart from the wavy distortion applied in the post-production phases to the closeup shots that I will say looks cool, the music video followed the typical closeup and choreography set up, which isn’t as exciting when you think about it. I feel like the members were dressed at the start in a manner that made them look extra tough and I didn’t really get that feel from the song to warrant all that black leather. The sets looked cool and the lighting was rather nice. But apart from that, not much else to discuss.

The choreography definitely had that wow factor that I wished the music video had. That entire sequence at the start when the members are standing in a circle looks amazing. I also liked how the members come at you during the breathy rap sequences in the verses. The entire final chorus and dance break sequence at the end was pretty cool as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10

[Review] Ridin’ – NCT Dream

The returning group of the day is NCT Dream, who returns with the highly anticipated, Ridin’. Technically, this is the comeback where the members would ‘graduate’ from the group, as they have reached the adult age in South Korea. However, it was announced two weeks ago that NCT Dream, after promotions for Ridin’, would abolish the graduation system and become a fixed lineup group. In more exciting news, Mark (who graduated from the group at the end of 2018) would return to be part of the lineup, where small units of the members (if not all the members) would promote under the name of NCT Dream. Definitely exciting news to all NCTzens who support the ‘young’ subunit. But we will have to get through the Ridin’ promotions before we get to that stage, so let’s have a dive into the new song.

Ever since the release of Boom last year, it was obvious that the group would never set foot into their more youthful title tracks. And that game changer song really set them up for future releases, as evident by the quality and style of Ridin’. The intensity that you can feel from the song really rivals the intensity that we got from Boom. The instrumental is described to be an urban trap song. I like how the song plays with the heavy bass synths, mimicking the sound when a motorcycle revs. Given their teasers and music video, I thought this was rather ingenious. Apart from this revving-like synth, I was surprised that the instrumental had a subtle smoothness to it. The vocal work was also surprisingly very smooth. Glad the deep revving-like synth and the rapping gave that rough touch to an extent. But all the members sound very on point. The song had a very catchy melody and ‘Ridin’ and Rollin’‘ hook as well. That kick at the end that Jeno and Jaemin brings in bridge definitely gives the song that impact and climax that boldens the song’s already strong appeal. I do wish they would have gone with something a little bolder so it could have a chance to rival Boom, which I think is still the superior song after writing this review.

To think that this is the group that kicked off their careers with Chewing Gum. They have definitely grown up. The music video seems to throwback to their Go days, where the subunit took on a rebellious phase as part of their growth. When you look at their releases throughout the years, it felt like they moved too soon into that concept at the time, especially since they followed up with We Go Up and Candlelight. The release of Boom really consolidated that image of the group maturing. And hence, the progression into this Ridin’ concept felt natural and the right step forward. Needless to say, the group looks really cool. I thought the set was rather nice, looking like a legit alleyway that leads to a hidden underground garage and mechanic (but obviously a lot cooler than that description!), like in those movies with illegal car racing events. A great music video, in my opinion.

The choreography for this comeback equally looks as cool as the music video. There seems to be some movies where the members mimic the action of revving a motorcycle and show off some other edgy movies. My favourite has to be the smooth move they pull off in the second half of the chorus, contrasting with the intensity and supposed roughness of the song.

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

[Album Review] Neo Zone (2nd Studio Album) – NCT 127

The next album to be reviewed is NCT 127’s Neo Zone, which was released a month ago on March. I am slowly catching up and hoping to move to some of the more recent releases over the Easter break while I (and the rest of the world) are stuck indoors. Neo Zone features the title track, Kick It; the song dedicated to fans, Dreams Come True, which was released back on the 27th of January (27/01); and the return of Jungwoo, who took a hiatus during the latter half of 2019. A recurring point I make in this review are about the group’s astounding vocals. Just a head up that things are going to get repetitive on that topic.

Neo Zone Album Cover

1. Elevator (127F)Elevator is a great track to open the album. It features a bright tone and funky beat, which I thought was really cool. It also was not too heavy, making the track very approachable overall. It was very easy to fall into this track’s groove, as well. And I couldn’t help but continually replay this upbeat R&B song. The vocal work was pretty nice, but I think the rapping really gave it some definition, particularly Mark’s bridge. (9/10)

2. Kick It (영웅) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Kick It. (8/10)

3. Boom (꿈)Boom is not the same song as their fellow subunit’s song of the same title. Though I clear that up. Opening the track are some guitars, the track features stylish vocals. Even the rappers opted to sing in this dance track, which is slightly unusual. The instrumental that follows the opening guitar is a mixture of standard dance synths and subtle tropical house (for a change). The instrumental also incorporates some slow moments, which come off smooth and drags out the song in a stylish manner. The ‘Boom’ for the chorus was also rather memorable. (9/10)

4. Pandora’s Box (낮잠) – We get some jazzy R&B in Pandora’s Box. The chorus becomes a little more dance-intensive and featured a decent melody. What I thought was interesting with this song was they kept that jazzy R&B running throughout the background of the song. There were also impressive vocals all members, but Taeil’s section in the second verse, and (for obvious reasons) the ad-libs we get at the end of the song, somehow shines throughout the rest. The rapping was also another highlight of the track, bringing back old school KPOP rapping style. I also enjoyed how the song came to an end. (8/10)

5. Day Dream (白日夢) – The title of this song, Day Dream, already sounded like it was going to be a dreamy R&B. While listening to this song, I couldn’t help but imagine a golden haze shining on me, similar to like the sun shining on you as your stare out a window. I love how light this song feel, which is a different tone that we don’t get from NCT 127 (or any of NCT’s subunits) usually. The vocal work compliments this lightness, often opting for low tones or higher pitches. The chorus was very nice, as well. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the rapping, which disrupted the lightness for me. (7/10)

6. Interlude: Neo Zone – Not going to give this a rating as it contains no lyrics (and hence is just an instrumental track). But it isn’t just an instrumental track. It starts off as a classical piece. During this period, we are teased with a feeling of something dramatic is coming. And then, it turns into EDM. And we get that dramatic flair delivered in the song, which I thought was awesome!

7. Mad Dog (뿔) – Performed by just Taeil, Doyoung, Taeyong and Mark, Mad Dog is probably the most outrageous song on this album. Not outrageous in the sense that it is controversial or just downright terrible. But rather for its eclectic and crazy mixture of genres. The song is very much within the sphere of hip-hop. But we are greeted with hip-hop centered verses, a fitting (based on the title) aggressive chorus and a smoothed-out backdrop for the vocalists featuring in this track. (8/10)

8. Sit Down! – Continuing the hip-hop momentum that a subset of the group provided us in the preceding track, Sit Down! definitely delivers on the bold front with all the members. The instrumental may be a little more typical, but the way they prose the chorus makes it equally as aggressive (as the previous song). I just love the ‘Sit Down!’ that they literally shout at you. While the song may be built for more of the rappers to showcase their style, I found it very interesting that the song had really strong vocal moments throughout. (10/10)

9. Love Me Now (메아리) – We take a step back from the intensity front by focusing on an upbeat and bright EDM-track. And this is a good breather. There is also a very freeing feel to the song, which makes me want to get lost in its sound with multiple replays. Love Me Now brings forward more of the vocals that we heard in the previous song. I really like the opening lines to the chorus lines. It is catchy and refreshing, overall. (9/10)

10. Love Song (우산) – KPOP really loves their ‘Love Song(s)’, as we can all probably name an artist that has used Love Song as a title. NCT 127’s spin on the typical title is R&B and a story of a rainy day. The song continues to push forward with the vocals that I have been impressed with so far. I do find the melody in this song to be a tad choppy for my liking, but I can overlook that. What I can’t overlook is the rapping in this song. It doesn’t feel necessary at all and over complicated what should have been a simple song. (7/10)

11. White Night (백야)White Night is a ballad. A typically sounding ballad, given its instrumental. But my usual comments apply to the song, in regard to the amazing vocal work that NCT 127 has brought to the album. The rappers also partook in the vocal work, but also tweaked their rapping to be fitting for the softer sound of the ballad. Also, big ticks on the harmony department, as that was something I noticed to be a strong point. (8/10)

12. Not Alone – I would consider the soft instrumental that sits in the background of Not Alone to be minimalistic. There seems to be changes in the use of soft synths and EDM for this song. But since it just sits in the background, it makes the vocals (yes, I am still praising them on this front) become magnified and so clear. Apart from the usual, I find the song to be blissful and peaceful. Definitely one to check out and hitting the replay button for. (10/10)

13. Dreams Come True – The final song on the album is a soft jazzy number dedicated to the fans. It was also released some time ago. The vocal work was stunning in this song (those harmonies during the chorus are just perfection) and the rapping (in this song) is well-justified. It isn’t the most mind-blowing song on the album, but it definitely nice to end the album on a positive and thankful note. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Neo Zone Teaser Image