[Album Review] 2 Baddies / Ay-Yo (4th Studio Album / 4th Studio Album Repackaged) – NCT 127

Also flagged early last week, I would be fast-tracking (depending on which album you are looking at) the album review for 2 Baddies and Ay-Yo, NCT 127’s 4th studio album and the repackaged version of the same album, respectively. Both albums features the title track of the same name (links below) and a total of 13 additional tracks. 2 of these 13 additional tracks were added to the album as part of the repackaged version, which dropped on 30 January 2023. The original version of the album, 2 Baddies, dropped back in September 2022. This 4th album is another strong display from the group and there are a few 10/10 tracks on the album. Find out which tracks I am talking about, and my thoughts on the entire album and the repackaged version below. I fear if I continue waffling on in this intro (as I am doing now), this album review will never see the light or day (at least until next weekend).

1. Ay-Yo (Title Track)Click here to read the review for Ay-Yo. (8/10)

2. Faster Faster served as the opening track for the 2 Baddies version of the album. And it was a great start. Faster is loaded with energy, but it is all delivered in a subtle manner. And that is what I really enjoyed about the song, as it is all quite unsuspecting. I really liked the minimalist hook to the song, which is an add on to that subtle touch. Elsewhere, there was powerful bass to the song that just heightens everything else and acts as a solid base to the song. The members brought texture to the song via their rapping and there were some growling to bring forth an aggressive side to Faster. The car sounds in the background were also a cool touch to the song. (9/10)

3. 2 Baddies (질주) (Title Track)Click here to read the review for 2 Baddies. (7.5/10)

4. Time Lapse – A mid-tempo R&B track follows the title track. I am not entirely fond of the electronic start. It is another case of an intro that adds no value to the song. The electronic elements do appear in the song, but I don’t think that justifies the start. Aside from that, Time Lapse was a satisfying track. I did want more of a backing during the choruses to give the song a bit more substance. It felt a tad empty, in my opinion and there wasn’t anything for the vocals to anchor themselves to. Talking about vocals, it was Time Lapse’s wining element. I really liked how the vocals and harmonies pull you in and captivate you, especially during the chorus where all the members sung together. (7/10)

5. DJDJ is one of the new tracks added to the album alongside the release of Ay-Yo. I really liked the jazzy vibes that this track has. It brought a smile to my face. You can say the exact same thing with the energy that the members put into this song. DJ also stands out for me for its balance between vocals and raps. NCT 127 tends to be geared towards the rap, as they are hip-hop dance genre type of group based on their choreography. However, I really liked the pleasant nature and the bigger presence the vocalists had in the song, whilst the rapping gives DJ a nice boost of enthusiasm and makes it feels like a NCT 127 release. (8.5/10)

6. Crash Landing (불시착)Crash Landing brings about a nice balance between hip-hop and R&B. I liked how the percussion was used, giving off mini/soft punches in the instrumental. The twinkling like synth that starts off the song and makes its presence known by repeating in the background was quite intriguing. Again, the vocalists flourish in this song, with their smooth vocal delivery during their parts and the simple R&B melody that they brought to life in Crash Landing. And I liked how the rapping also stood out with the chanting in the chorus and how they made the rappers made themselves known in the second verses. (8/10)

7. Designer Designer starts off like any other NCT 127 song, where the synths here hinted at some badass and possibly tough and powerful. But the song, very shortly after the opening second of the song, breaks down into a much gentler song thanks to the twinkling percussion and a more mellow approach to vocals and raps. The union of vocals in the chorus was a highlight in my book for Designer. I like how the raps still had a rough exterior to them, which keeps the song feeling like an NCT 127 track. I also enjoyed the change in momentum for the bridge. Come to the think of it, the cohesiveness of Designer is definitely a standout element of the track. (9/10)

8. Gold Dust (윤슬) – Doyoung and Jaehyun’s acapella (with slight autotuning) was an impressive start and end to Gold Dust, respectively. The R&B ballad continued with a very minimalistic approach to the instrumentation, allowing the vocals for NCT 127 to really stand out and be the main driver of the song. The melodies were wonderful and so charming. The rappers kept a low profile during their segments, but still had enough kick to make themselves known in the song. I really liked the way Mark built up the song in the bridge and Doyoung carried on the momentum effortlessly in the bridge. Everything in this track oozed a golden tone to it, which makes perfect sense give the title of the song. (10/10)

9. Black Clouds (흑백 영화) Black Clouds is another track I am impressed with. This is a more vocally driven track, with Black Clouds gearing towards a pop/R&B style ballad. That being said, Mark and Taeyong’s rapping does fit into the track really well. This is thanks to what sounded more like a band instrumental that brings a good beat and substantial definition to the song. I really like it when the members all sing together, especially for the “Rain, Rain Up in my head” post-chorus hook. The melodies in Black Cloud also made is a super easy listen, which I really enjoyed. (10/10)

10. Playback – I am not fond of the metallic percussive synth that appears in the instrumental. While it has it charm and is quite playful, it is quite jarring and sticks out like a sore thumb in my opinion. Its presence, no matter how hard I try to suppress any thoughts about it, just distracts me from the other elements of Playback. Though what I could make out in Playback were playful melodies and neat vocals. The slight buffering at the end of the bridge was cool (I honestly thought my internet was down at that point for a brief second). (6/10)

11. Skyscraper (마천루)Skyscraper is the album’s most loaded and intense hip-hop affair on the album. It is the third new song added to the repackaged album. It definitely adds a blast (and more!) of energy to the album’s tracklist. I really liked how the powerful side of the group is shown in Skyscraper, in both vocals and rapping. I did think the song could have used a more innovative instrumental. Add in some electric guitars and unfamiliar synths that brings a whole lot more texture to the song. This way, Skyscraper could have stood out and been an alternative title track choice. (8/10)

12. Tasty (貘)Tasty is a cool track, bringing together hip-hop and EDM. A typical combination for NCT 127, but Tasty overlooks that. I liked the descending rhythm the track had and how the vocals contributed to the rapping in this song. I also found a lot of the rapping to be alluring and tempting (i.e., the deep ‘So Tasty’ we get in the chorus). Tasty had some really strong hooks that is constantly replaying in my head and I liked the intensification of the EDM for the dance break. It was an unexpected amplification that just emphasized that cool factor. (10/10)

13. VitaminVitamin brings forth a funky tone to the album, reminiscent of the 90s. The hook was super catchy and definitely concentrates NCT 127’s hip-hop presence quite well. The addition of brass for the final chorus was a very welcomed and logical addition for this song. Elsewhere, I think the song could have used some extra work. But Vitamin is definitely a strong song, nonetheless. (8/10)

14. LOL (Laugh-Out-Loud) – The brass makes a return and has a heavier presence in this upbeat and funky pop dance track. I liked the feel-good vibes of this song and how pleasant the vocals and rapping sound in the track. LOL is not the most memorable track on this album, but it is the album’s most brightest and vibrant track. (8/10)

15. 1, 2, 7 (Time Stops)1, 2, 7 ends off both the 2 Baddies and Ay-Yo album and also has an accompanying music video. I really enjoyed the groovy undertones overall smoothness of the track. You can also feel the sweetness behind the members and their voices. It all makes for another pleasant track. And a nice one to ease out of this album, as well. Mark and Taeyong’s rapping in this song is also a fun sequence in the song. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] Ay-Yo – NCT 127

Kicking things off this week is NCT 127, who returns with Ay-Yo – the title of both the group’s newest title track and the repackaged version of their fourth studio album. Ay-Yo follows the group’s 2022 comeback with 2 Baddies, which was the title track to NCT 127’s fourth studio album when it was released in September 2022. You may notice that I have yet to review 2 Baddies (the album). The plan was to review it at the end of last year, but I sidelined the album review upon hearing a potential repackaged version was coming out. With the rumors officially true and the album dropping today, I will be fast-tracking an album review for 2 Baddies/Ay-Yo this coming weekend. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts on Ay-Yo.

I found Ay-Yo to be an intriguing song. It is in the standard realm of hip-hop dance, which is where most of NCT 127’s songs do find themselves in nowadays. Personally, nothing too interesting from this department within Ay-Yo. However, instead of the usually loud, sometimes obnoxious, bold synths; an undeniable powerful energy from the instrumentation; heavy reliance on rapping; and strong hooks, Ay-Yo takes on a different form of power. The new song opts for powerful vocals, which is a slight change to how NCT 127 usually presents their song. This is the first time that I have heard a title track from the group that is so vocally driven, yet still consistent with their current output. As a result, Ay-Yo feels more subdued and ‘held back’ than usual. And I quite liked it. I also feel like the scales between rapping and vocals are more balanced in the song. We do still get the usual dose of powerful rapping from the rappers. Nothing feels in your face with Ay-Yo, with some of the rapping feeling quite sleek as some members opted for lower registers and it allowed them to come off as ‘mature’ sounding. But at the end of the day, it is the vocals that steal my attention in Ay-Yo, and I happy NCT 127’s vocal line is getting their moment to shine. Hook wise, the “Ay-Yo” we get at the start of the chorus does have its impact. On the melodies front, I feel that Ay-Yo has a nice ring to it, particularly Taeyong, Mark and Yuta’s respective opening lines in the choruses. But while the intriguingness and different take does win me over, Ay-Yo does have issues. My biggest one with Ay-Yo is the abrupt ending. Maybe an attempt to keep the song within their usual territory, but it just makes Ay-Yo feel unfinished – not exactly the feeling I want to finish a song on.

I am not entirely sure if there is a concept with this music video. I kind of wished there was more to it. Everything feel quite urban and there are some strong and stunning visual solo shots (i.e. Jaehyun and Doyoung) in this video. In addition to that, Taeyong’s super spikey hair-do is probably one of the boldest looks I have seen in KPOP for a very long time. However, I did get dizzy watching spinning tunnel and I wish the lighting was better during some parts.

From what I can see in the music video, the group still maintains a strong performance piece even for a subdued song. The moves are less punchy, but that is expected with a song like Ay-Yo. I liked the slow movements during the verses that we saw in the video. I also liked the synchronization the members pulled off during the slightly more intense moments from the chorus.

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

[Album Review] UNIVERSE (3rd Studio Album) – NCT

Another album review that has been a long time coming. UNIVERSE is the next instalment in NCT’s career, with 21 of the 23 active members participating in the release of the group’s third studio-length album (Lucas is on hiatus from his controversy, while WinWin had schedule conflicts, preventing both of participating from recording and promotions). UNIVERSE officially dropped mid-December, on the same day that Beautiful was officially released as a promotional track. Another title track, Universe (Let’s Play Ball), dropped four days prior. In addition to these two tracks, there were another 11 tracks on the album (3 of which were based on the group’s standard units – NCT 127, NCT DREAM and WayV, while the other performed by their rotation unit, NCT U).

Overall, I would say this is a very good album. There were some standout tracks mixed throughout the song, and NCT definitely showed themselves off strongly throughout UNIVERSE. But that is just my thoughts on the album. Check out the tracks and my review of each song below to see if you agree!

Universe Album Cover

1. New Axis – Impressively kicking off the third studio album was Taeyong, Mark and YangYang with this short track. New Axis takes on a hip-hop profile. The focus is purely on the three members, with the instrumental opting for a minimalistic approach. The trio definitely opened up the album in spectacular fashion with their dynamic and immensely powerful rapping performance. They don’t hold back in this track! (9/10)

2. Universe (Let’s Play Ball) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Universe (Let’s Play Ball). (9/10)

3. Earthquake – NCT 127 shakes up the world with their side track Earthquake. If you want a really powerful and intense dance track, Earthquake is the song you are looking for. Such words are usually what you associate with NCT 127 already, so it should not come as a surprise. I really enjoyed the amped up nature of this hip-hop track. It is quite a noisy one (which may be a flaw to some), but this just made Earthquake even more impressive to me. As for the members, they did a great job with their vocals and rapping. I found they fitted right in with the noisy and intense environment that is the instrumental and their delivery made the song even more dynamic. (8/10)

4. OK!OK! is brought to you by Taeyong, Yuta, Ten, Mark, Hendery, Jeno and Yangyang. With a line up like that, I think it is clear that OK! also encroaches into hip-hop territory as well. OK! is a satisfying listen, with another strong display from all the members who participated in the song. There is also a memorable ring to the ‘OK!’ in the chorus. The bridge was my favourite bit, especially when some of the members bring a faster pace to their delivery. The instrumental was quite minimalistic, with a few added details that I thought gave OK! an intriguing nature to it. The metallic xylophone percussion is a good example of this. The flutes, however, reminded me a bit too much of NCT 127’s Favorite (Vampire) for my liking. (8/10)

5. Birthday Party – Johnny, Yuta, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung come together to give us Birthday Party. Based on the initial seconds of the song, it appears that Birthday Party takes on a more energetic tone. I liked the rapping in this song, with the members bringing a bit of a playful tone to the mix. The elongated ‘Woooow’ was questionable, but I think it can be overlooked. The vocals were superb when they were in play. For the instrumental, I liked how colourful it felt. I also appreciated the attempts to change up the song towards the end as Birthday Party was borderline repetitive at that point. (8/10)

6. Know NowKnow How features Johnny, Doyoung, Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Jaemin, Yangyang and Sungchan. It starts with (and ends with, completing Know Now as a full circle) some scratchy gospel samples that made for a cool opener. Following that opener was a fun melody and a bright instrumental piece. I like how that melody was a consistent piece in pretty much all the elements (for most of the vocals, rapping – to a degree, and the instrumentation), which cohesively pulled Know Now together. Know Now was such an enjoyable listen for me. (9/10)

7. DreamingDreaming is performed by the members of NCT Dream. I liked its mix of softer tones for the verses vs. the harsher nature of the chorus. The softer moments of the song had this music box-like focus piece, which felt very nice. The harsher chorus features a funky synth EDM piece, which provided a decent rush of energy to the song without taking it too far or making it feel too different. I also liked the layering of vocals and rapping throughout, regardless of the backing piece. (9/10)

8. Round & Round – Taeil, Ten, Jaehyun, Xiaojun, Haechan and Sungchan comes together to bring us Round & Round. It is a decent mid-tempo R&B track. The instrumental had a dynamic touch to it, with the various effects added in to increase the momentum of the song. I quite appreciate that, as it didn’t make Round & Round a typical mid-tempo track. But aside from that, nothing else really stood out at me. (7/10)

9. Miracle – The final NCT fixed unit track on this album belongs to WayV (sans Lucas and WinWin, who I already mentioned didn’t participate in this release). Miracle also opts for a mid-tempo R&B profile. But I felt Miracle was more impressive. The song came off as quite sophisticated, expensive, classy. This was felt most in the instrumental, which was smooth. The guitars were definitely the icing on the cake for me. It also effected the rapping in this song, with the rappers really jumping out at me due to the energy they put into their delivery. The vocals were clear and crisp, and the layering of both vocals/rapping at the end was extremely satisfying. (10/10)

10. Vroom – The album takes a turn from here with its sweeter sound. Kun, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Hendery, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung features in Vroom, and it’s a nice melodic track (for the most part). The pre-chorus really stuck out, mainly because it didn’t go with a sweet sound, or can be described as a ‘nice melodic track’. Instead, it intensifies briefly before reverting to a sweet sound in the chorus. It is interesting and different, and unexpectedly work. Still a bit foreign after all this time, but not detrimental to the track. (8/10)

11. Sweet Dream – Wishing the listeners a ‘Sweet Dream’ are Taeil, Kun, Jaehyun, Haechan and Chenle. Extremely velvety vocals are the centrepiece of this song. They are present on top of a warm R&B instrumental. It started off like a piece as you would hear in a coffeehouse, but the instrumental built over the course of the song. I liked the addition of the subtle brass in the background. I do think that coffeehouse impression was still maintained throughout even as the song built. (8/10)

12. Good Night – Taeil, Doyoung, Xiaojun and Renjun sings us a soft and delicate ballad. It starts as a lullaby, with a slow swayable melody – one of the highlights of the song. The instrumental does build over the length of the track, and this does bring it back a soothing ballad territory. Not complaining though, as it helped maintain Good Night as a decent piece. Elsewhere, the vocals from the quartet were also quiet soothing and captivating. The emotional input from them made the song even better! I also loved the way Renjun ended this song. (8.5/10)

13. Beautiful (NCT 2021) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Beautiful. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

NCT 2021 Teaser Image for Universe

[Album Review] Sticker / Favorite (3rd Studio Album / 3rd Studio Album Repackaged) – NCT 127

As mentioned earlier this week, I would be fast-tracking the album review for Sticker and Favorite this weekend. Sticker (both album and title track of the same name) was released mid-September, while Favorite (the repackaged version) and Favorite (Vampire) (the title track from the repackaged album) was released at the end of October/a week ago. In total, 14 songs were released on these two albums. As a bit of a spoiler, NCT 127 shows many different sides of themselves on this album. I am sure there is something for everyone out there, even if you despise Sticker (the title track). I found some hidden gems on here myself, so no doubt you will as well.

1. Favorite (Vampire) (Title Track) Click here to read the full review for Favorite (Vampire). (9/10)

2. Sticker (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Sticker. (5.5/10)

3. Love On The FloorLove On The Floor is one of my favourite sidetracks from both the original and repackaged album, and I highly recommend it. This hip-hop synth track is so sleek and feels quite stylish. The beat and particular synths used in this song have this ‘don’t mess around’ type of attitude to it, similar to the demeanour of a model on a runway. With this in mind, I feel that Love On The Floor is a background piece to a fashion show of some kind every time I listen to the song, with the models being NCT 127. That would be a cool concept, and I am sure NCT 127 would nail the visual component and the choreography component as well. Vocally, I think there are some amazing vocals and harmonisation in this song, while the rapping adds edge and intensity to the song that would make this a song not to miss, especially if you are after something with a lot of styles. (10/10)

4. Lemonade Lemonade is an interesting song and is a bit complicated to explain. In earlier drafts, I have attempted to break down the song in layman’s terms, but it was a bit too much and I don’t think I did Lemonade justice. The best way I can think of to describe the song is that it is a bit of a rollercoaster. The trap hip-hop track has some slow points, and then more intense and explosive sequences that seemingly come out of nowhere. But despite it being a wild ride, the song sounds more cohesive and fleshed out compared to Sticker. Extra points are given the rapping, which added to the already dynamic nature of the song. The vocals also stood out, with the harmonisation added definition to the repetitive one-hook, ‘Taste like lemonade’, making it more memorable for me. (8/10)

5. BreakfastBreakfast diverts away from EDM and hip-hop for a funkier tune. The instrumentation to this song is very cool and has a fair bit of energy jammed into it. It doesn’t explode, but instead is exuded when the drop in the chorus comes into play and as instrumental literally bounces it out. Vocally, it is a strong song with smooth vocals throughout. I wished the rapping had a bit more to it and wasn’t held back, as I think this would have boosted the song up. (8/10)

6. PilotPilot features another bouncy synth instrumentation, but it feels a bit more refined. It might be because Pilot is steered towards more of an R&B nature. It is still a fun and bright song, highlighting their vocals. Once again, harmonisation is used in this song, and I quite liked its presence in this song.  It makes the song appear tighter and cohesive, overall. The rapping takes a bit of a backseat for this song, with it being there but not as memorable as the vocals were. Personally, I don’t feel much listening to the song. But breaking it down for this review, Pilot seems decent. (7/10)

7. Focus (같은 시선) – To me, Focus and Pilot are quite similar. The major difference with Focus is that the smoothed-out instrumentation and overall delivery from the members are more mature and sultry, whereas Pilot has an upbeat nature to it. Once again, the vocals are very impressive throughout Focus, with the element doing a fantastic job of captivating and charming me. The rapping at the end was also quite good. Unfortunately, the rapping in the bridge was the song’s weakest element. It just didn’t sit right with me and I don’t think it went with the rest of the song. (8/10)

8. The Rainy Night (내일의 나에게)The Rainy Night is an amazing ballad. Firstly, it activates the swaying effect that I mention comes from good ballads. Secondly, the vocals are stunning throughout The Rainy Night. I hate to be a broken record, but the harmonisation in this song makes it dreamy and captivating. Thirdly, the piano instrumentation is rather delicate and stood out from underneath the vocal work we got from the members. It added a more beautiful touch to the song, on top of the vocals that we got. (9/10)

9. FarFar returns the album to the very more familiar EDM territory that NCT is known for. It isn’t as intense as their more well-known tracks, and Far is a bit slower than those tracks as well. But Far is definitely intriguing. It sounds adventurous and unfamiliar, but dynamic and strong as one would expect from an NCT 127 dance track. The rapping has oomph to it, with the abrasiveness of the rapping standing out. The vocal ad-libs in this song are amazing and show-stopping. (9/10)

10. Bring The Noize – As cringy as the spelling of ‘Noize’ is, it was quite obvious what direction this track would go in. It is powerful, intense and definitely a song that would naturally come from NCT 127. The members sound fantastic in this song, with both the rapping and vocal delivery really selling the song for me. Jaehyun is the standout member in this song, with both his solo parts sounding very cool. His second sequence, in particular, was definitely something on the next level! The shouty style of the song’s main parts and the bass in this song are also icing on the cake for me. (10/10)

11. Magic Carpet Ride – It is amazing that seconds before this track, NCT 127 was in very ‘noisy’ territory as some might say and within seconds of this track, they are in very different territory. The first word that I thought of when I heard Magic Carpet Ride was dreamy. And that word has remained as an accurate description of the song with every listen I have given it. I really liked the softer instrumentations and the overall vocal package in this song. A highly recommended song on this album! (10/10)

12. Road TripRoad Trip has nice mellow instrumentation and brings out a youthful sound from the group. It is nicely upbeat and has this cute tone that feels wholesome. It isn’t a standout track, but it definitely is charming. If you want really want a break from the intensity that NCT 127 usually brings to the table, then Road Trip will be a pretty decent way to cut that tension and energy. (8/10)

13. Dreamer – A similar comment as the final sentence in Road Trip’s paragraph can be applied to Dreamer. But I think Dreamer nudges ahead by a point for various reasons. I liked the slightly funkier vibes that Dreamer exudes, especially during the verses. The instrumentation is memorable and fun. The sing-song nature of the song makes Dreamer super easy to get into. I also feel like they did a good job of showing off vocals. The rapping was also a solid element to the song, adding to the fun and upbeat dynamics of the song. (9/10)

14. Promise You (다시 만나는 날)Promise You is a very atmospheric synth-pop retro track that is a beautiful ender to the album. I liked the beat of this song and the dreamy/soothing nature of the vocals. The fast and continuous motion within the instrumentation keeps the song going. Johnny’s rap-speak sequence is unique but has its own merits to be in this song. The other members sound hopeful and warm throughout the song. As I said, a beautiful ender. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] Favorite (Vampire) – NCT 127

Also making their comeback today is NCT 127, who returns with Favorite (Vampire). This comeback sees the release of the group’s repackaged version of their third studio length album, which also shares the first name of the title track. It follows the release of Sticker, which I didn’t enjoy and actually have forgotten about since reviewing it back in mid-September. Let’s see how Favorite (Vampire) fairs, Also, on a side note, with the release of the repackaged album, you can expect an album review for both Sticker/Favorite this weekend!

Without a doubt, I would choose Favorite as my preferred track between the two releases from the group this year. Favorite flowed a lot better and felt more cohesive than the earlier track. However, this doesn’t mean I am 100% into the song. I am more so 99% into the track (plot twist much?). The issue lies within the instrumentation, as I don’t really like the wispy synth whistles in the instrumentation. They get better as the song progresses, and they might very well grow on me. But when I hear it for the first time every time I have replayed the song, I find them to be unsettling. Aside from that, I think Favorite was a really great track. It taps into R&B pop and has this smoothness to it, which I enjoyed. I also liked the more profound and normal whistling in the song (even though they did bring a certain level of dullness to the song), along with the trap elements that make up the background for the more rap-centric (rap-spoken) sequences, which added both and edgy vibe and kick to the song. They could have used less of the whistling, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I think the worst thing in the world in the context of Favorite would be the dubstep breakdown. I am glad that didn’t make it into the final cut of the song (it was only in the music video, and I presume in the upcoming performances as well). If it did, it would have been unnecessary and obnoxious to listen to. Moving away from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal works. Again, the smoothness comment can be applied here, and to the melodies which the members bring to life. The harmonies take it to the next level, while the two-syllable delivery they used at the end of the choruses made the song memorable for me. Overall, Favorite is definitely the superior track in comparison to Sticker, and is definitely a strong improvement from the mentioned last release.

The members (or at least some of the members) are vampires in this music video. The idea of it works really well with the music, from how I see it. The R&B pop song was very mature sounding, and I feel that the portrayal of the members as vampires was also quite mature as well. We don’t see any Count Draculas, and we don’t see any stereotypical portrayals of vampires as per folklore or stories depict them to be. I guess this mature vibe comes about because the song is about a relationship that is inevitably going to end, even though their partners are everything to them. While I think the vampire idea is great, I would like to see the concept be a more prominent feature in this music video. Also, I didn’t like the use of CGI in this video. It wasn’t the case across the board, but some parts looked noticeably synthetic. Thankfully, the dance sets balanced it out and made it seem less so.

The performance aspect of this comeback looks quite good. I really liked the two lines of members during the final moments of the chorus, and how they seemingly got into that formation. The dance break was quite dynamic, led by Taeyong, Mark and Jaehyun.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[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

[International Song Reviews] MONSTA X, NCT 127, TREASURE, Mark Tuan, Jackson Wang

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)

[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] 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

[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

[Review] Kick It – NCT 127

I spent the start of the week revisiting tracks that I have yet to write reviews for. And this should continue into the rest of the weekend (with some album reviews). But I take a moment to review a new release from NCT 127. The group has returned with Kick It, 9 months after the release of Superhuman last year. Since their May 2019 comeback, the group went on to promote Superhuman, along with other tracks, in the US and achieved a worldwide reach. And we will probably see the same thing for NCT 127 in the near future. Kick It features on Neo Zone, the group’s second studio album. It also marks the return of Jungwoo, who sat out of NCT 127 promotions since August of last year for health reasons.

In my personal opinion, NCT 127 manages to Kick It up a notch with their new track. Pun was purely intended. There are two sides of the track. The first is the very shouting-heavy and noisy hook of the track. Part of me finds it pretty good and sees potential in it to become an addictive section of the part. And while I do enjoy the Bruce Lee homage and the ‘new thang‘ to be suitable for this hip-hop direction, the other part of me finds it annoying and ‘too loud’. It honestly could go either way depending on my mood when I am listening to the track. Thank god that the song has some relief moments, where the vocals are brought in. Part of them is glad for this, as a full 4 minutes of the shouting and noisy chorus would have been a little too much. At the same time, however, it causes a great mismatch in sound and (obviously) cuts whatever flow the song potentially had. At this stage however, I am looking more positively at the track and think it is pretty decent. It does remind me of some of their earlier works, which I didn’t enjoy at the time of review (but they have grown on me considerably). Going I had expected a little less shouting and something more refined, but this was pretty good as it is.

There is no doubt the music video is paying homage to Bruce Lee. For those who may not know who Bruce Lee is, he is actor who was very well known for the martial arts movies he starred in. The music video featured a fair amount of martial arts and the infamous yellow and black combo. Bruce Lee is well known for his yellow and black jumpsuit, an image of Bruce Lee that everyone probably knows of. The music video also has this Asian concept, which I thought was very cool. They managed to give it a modern twist and the members stand out accordingly.

Don’t think there is a live performance for this comeback yet. So we haven’t really seen all of it. From what I can see in the music video, the performance plays on textures to match the more melodic vocal moments and the intense hip-hop moments. I wouldn’t be surprise if it did feature some martial arts in it. The dance break already looks amazing and very powerful.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Special] My Favourite Performances from the 2019 End Of Year Music Festivals

At the end of each year, the three major broadcasting companies in South Korea (SBS, KBS and MBC) organises and broadcast a very fruitful and dynamic music festival, bringing together the top KPOP acts of the year. 2019 is no exception and with a year as busy as 2019, it is often quite hard to get invited to these festivals. And with each show running for a couple of hours, different stages/performances/remixes of the year’s hits and one-of-a-kind collaborations, it is often hard to keep up with these festivals. Today, I have decided to organise a list of performances from each of these three festivals that I thought were excellent, different and worthwhile in checking out. I have done this before but over the years dropped it as I had very little time. Now that I have some time on my hand, I thought I return to this segment for the 2019 festivals.

SBS Gayo Daejun – 25th of December 2019

When we talk about the SBS Music Festival, we need to address the issue of safety. After all, it costed Red Velvet full group promotions for their Psycho comeback, due to injuries sustained by Wendy due to the unsafe nature of SBS stage. We did manage to get one full lineup of the group performing Psycho on stage as it was pre-recorded. because of that, I put Red Velvet’s Psycho performance on my list of favourite performances from that day. Other performers also had falls on the SBS stage, from what I remember reading. Other stages at stood out for me were:

  • Stray Kid’s Miroh – I did not know how Stray Kids could top Miroh’s intensity by rearranging the performance to be even more intense.
  • NCT Dream’s Boom & NCT 127’s Superhuman – Both tracks had a really cool dance addition to it. On top of that, we got to see the same ‘switching of jackets’ that Mark did at the 2018 SBS Music Festival between Dream and 127’s performance. Only this time, it was Haechan!
  • Oh My Girl’s Bungee (X-mas Version) – Always good to have a X-mas themed remix on Christmas Day. It made Bungee, an already vibrant and colourful track, more suitable for the season.
  • Mamamoo’s Gogobebe – The rock remix for this performance was superb.
  • Seventeen’s Home and Snapshoot – We got to see a warmer side of the group and the more joyful side, especially after all the darkness we got from HIT and Fear.
  • TWICE’s Medley of Tracks – I really liked the band element to their performance and how they tweaked the concept for Fancy and their more light hearted tracks. I just wished the band was DAY6 (where is DAY6 in all of these festivals), which would have made the performance even more worthy of a view.
  • BTS’s Dionysus – I have always been a fan of BTS’s darker side. This performance is a return this side, which I greatly appreciate.

KBS Gayo Daechukje – 27th December 2019

I personally did not have much interest in the KBS Music Festival as I thought the stage looked really bad and the camera work wasn’t the best. This wasn’t also the only problem that occurred that same night. APINK’s %% performance was cut short, disappointing fans, APINK and viewers in general. If I were to choose one standout stage, it would have Golden Child’s Wannabe stage. Their dance intro was very good and showed off intensity that was aligned with their new look/concept. And I really liked how smooth the transition between dance intro and actual song was. Only a few toehr performances caught my attention and they include:

  • Song Gain’s Introductory song – Song Gain, for those who don’t know is a trot singer that trended this year. For Song Gain’s performance, she managed to incorporate all artists into her song, which I think would be a challenge.
  • NU’EST Love Me – It wasn’t so much their choreography or song that caught my attention. But I thought the raised stages for the end really highlighted the good parts of their overall choreography, providing what could be said as an epic end to their stage.
  • ASTRO’s All Night + Blue Flame – I was waiting for ASTRO to do All Night in some capacity during these festivals. But with Moonbin out of action, it seems like the group would opt for the 5-member Blue Flame instead. So automatically, ASTRO’s stage for All Night alone would make this list. Blue Flame ended up being very epic as well, which is why their entire segment is on this list.
  • Oh Ha Young, Joy and Yerin Mr. Mr. collaboration – I haven’t heard this song for some time now and I really enjoyed this throwback. Also surprised that they covered the entire song, which usually isn’t the case.

MBC Gayo Daejejeon – 31st December 2019

MBC’s Music Festival is one to always watch. Their stages always have a look that shows that they have been planning for a while. The collaborations for this festival are always something to talk about. And why not watch it live as the year goes out! There is nothing like ending 2019 and start 2020 with KPOP! However, the MBC Music Festival was also plagued with an early termination issue. This time around the victim was Kim Jae Hwan, who only got to perform Nuna (he should have performed The Time I Need as well. For standout performance, I am putting down ASTRO and Oh My Girl’s creepy and jazzy cover of IU’s Red Shoes. It was different and colourful. Other stages to check out:

  • Stray Kid’s Side Effects – Another intense song that they managed to upgrade and make darker. The creative minds that put together these stages for Stray Kids are killing it (and need a pay rise instantly).
  • Seventeen & Mamamoo Collaboration – Two of my favourite groups have come together to form one dream team. And this was such an amazing stage.
  • Seventeen’s HIT – Mingyu shouldn’t be playing with fire. It is dangerous. But one epic opener to the stage. Also, somehow Seventeen managed to insert a dance break in the midst of the stage, which I think earns a mention at the very least.
  • Hyuna’s Flower Shower – Her choreography is essentially the same as the one she performed in the past. But the chorus instrumental is changed slightly, which I thought made the stage a lot cooler for the end of year festival.
  • Taemin’s Move & Famous – MBC’s Music Festival had a theme, The Chemistry. And you can’t have a theme about Chemistry without Taemin. While he didn’t do anything special to Move‘s stage, his dance alone is already 100% fitting for a ‘Chemistry’ themed music festival.
  • (G)i-DLE’s Lion – Another reason to why we need to look out for this girl group is their special stages. Lion is practically a game changer for the group.
  • Lovelyz’s Beautiful Day – I really like their ballad start to their stage and how they built it back up to the original song in an effortless manner.

[Album Review] We Are Superhuman (4th Mini Album) – NCT 127

It is time to restart the album review bandwagon for this site. Apologies for completely ditching this segment for the past few weeks. I really missed this segment but it just ate up so much of time, preparing and writing it up. But now with endless time on my hands, let’s get right back into it. One of the albums released at the end of May that I didn’t get around to reviewing is NCT 127’s We Are Superhuman. The album features the group’s latest comeback single, Superhuman, along with 4 other tracks.

We Are Superhuman Album Cover

1..Highway To Heaven – To me, opening up with a song such as Highway To Heaven, makes me turn my head towards the screen or speakers. It isn’t necessarily a punchy track with extremely addictive hooks in my opinion, which might be expected of NCT and KPOP traditionally. Instead, it relies on the loudness of the chorus, simple synth-pop instrumentation and the fact that it brings all the members together for the chorus. And I think these are all effective tools if used smartly, which is the case here. While many groups have used these techniques before, NCT 127 doesn’t mess around by leaving things to the end or take too long to integrate these said techniques, making it a very prominent and memorable track on the album. (10/10)

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

3. Fool (아 깜짝이야) – Taking a massive turn from Superhuman is the more light-hearted tone in Fool. And personally, this is somewhat different from the NCT 127 that I usually know of. But I am not hating, because it gives us an opportunity to recover from the intensity of Superhuman. I like the direction of the track. The vocals and rapping were quite nice. Harmonies are something to really keep your ears open for. However, there is one thing that sticks out at me that I don’t really enjoy. The verses had only a layer of instrumentation, but the chorus felt like it had too many layers within the instrumentation. Including the vocals and backing, I feel like it was overloaded. (8/10)

4. Jet Lag (시차)Jet Lag is the ‘ballad’ on the album. There is a rather slow start to the track but it slowly does build up the tempo through the use of percussion. And I think the vocals were very beautiful, especially demonstrated by the smoothness of the vocals during the chorus. I just felt like the rappers did not really have much of an opportunity to feature in the track. While the producers did try to incorporate the rappers in the song by giving them a hip-hop-like and ‘fast’ section, I felt it was a mismatch considering the rest of the song. And I think this inclusion made the song a little confusing. Is it a ballad or not? (6/10)

5. Paper Plane (종이비행기)Paper Plane seems to be the most ideal track on the album for the Summer season. It is vibrant and colourful, which are terms that I have used to describe most of the Summertime songs thus far this year. The pop tune in the instrumental is addictive and fun sounding, as well. It is also an uplifting track, which makes it even more enjoyable to listen to. I really like the chorus of the track, which is a straight instrumental piece. The build-up to it was also quite nice. Vocally, I could tell all the members apart and I liked that aspect of being able to differentiate each member, which can sometimes be difficult. (9/10)

6. We Are 127 (Outro Track) – An outro like this makes me excited for what’s to come. There is a mixture of genres going on, all something that I expect from NCT 127. Apart from the ‘We Are 127’ repetition, there isn’t much else besides robustness and mysterious vibes in the outro. Hence, I have decided to leave it off the calculation for the album rating but wanted to mention my initial comments anyway.

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

We Are Superhuman Teaser Image

[Review] Superhuman – NCT 127

The biggest news for NCT in 2019 thus far was the debut of their Chinese subunit, WayV. I do plan to go back to review their debut track at a later date, so watch this space. The next move from the mega group is the return of NCT 127 in South Korea. Today, the group returned with Superhuman, which they previously performed on Good Morning America back in April. The comeback track is featured on the group’s fourth mini-album, We Are Superhuman. This is also the group’s first comeback since Simon Says in Korea and Wakey-Wakey in Japan.

Based on the article by Soompi. the song is described as a ‘Complextro dance track with elements of EDM’. While my experience with music genres is quite limited, this is my first time hearing of this genre. So I think it would be safe to assume that this is the first of its kind in KPOP as well. Without the article. I would have described the song as a groovy EDM track with what seems to be a slight retro influence. I say this because the track felt something that SHINee would have released if they were still active as a group (Note – SHINee is currently in the army). It is right up the senior artist’s alley. Its unique style brings a mixture of different textures that allows the song to be very intriguing. I think the song does stand out vocally. I like how they push the vocals for the chorus, adding to the dynamics of the song. Also adding to this aspect are the raps. Like other NCT127 songs, the rapping does give the song some impact, despite the song already bring overloaded with a very memorable and punchy instrumental.

With its electronic style in its music, it is fair to assume that the music video would take a similar approach. Also fitting for the unit’s image is the fact that the video showcases a really edgy vibe. I think we could say it is their edgiest yet. I am not sure if everything comes together to form a story. Or if the video is just a bunch of solo shot and then choreography shots. I am leaning to the latter but there could be a slight possibility of the other. Watching the video, I felt the scenes built up with the music and this resulted in an awesome climatic ending.

To match the tempo and the electronic complexity of the track, the choreography had to be very powerful and complex. And NCT127 delivered in all aspects. I actually liked how they incorporated some sleek movements in their dance (i.e. the start and the start of each chorus). It was captivating and gripping in many ways.

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

[Review] Wakey-Wakey – NCT 127

Before we tick over to Sunday, it must be time to have a closer look at a Japanese release! The last we saw NCT 127 was through Simon Says in Korea and Chain in Japan. But as we are fast approaching mid-2019, we break the short NCT drought with Wakey-Wakey. This is the title track off their very first Japanese album, titled Awaken and is due for release mid-April. But due to the nature of the Japanese market, we are given the treat (and some long hair) a few weeks ahead of time.

Wakey-Wakey seems to take on the Black On Black side of NCT which we saw early last year. I would say both songs are quite similar in effect when you listen to them side-by-side. But by no means are they the same song. Wakey-Wakey focus on more brighter sounding instrumentation (with a lot less growling), featuring a lot of trap synths and a slight touch of R&B when you consider the vocals and the very start of the song. It suits NCT 127’s style remarkably. I think the very first thing that really grabs your attention with the song is the squeakiness of the instrumental. You may think this would be an off-putting element for me but I was actually fond of it because it gave something extra to the song. As mentioned, the vocals are nice and we are also treated to the return of Haechan (who only participates in the audio and music video for this comeback). I think the raps were also quite cool but I wanted more intensity alongside it, similar to the intensity brought upon by the dance break at the very end of the song.  Likewise, I didn’t really fall for the verses as much as compared to the rest of the song.

Matching the brightness of the song, the music video was intentionally colour for the most part.  I thought the sets were elaborate, especially during Haechan’s scenes. He doesn’t get to interact much with the other members but is still centred, which I thought was interesting. There has to be a reason for that right? (My assumption is that the members are trying to wake him up). Regardless, glad to see him back. What I am not too glad to see is Johnny’s long hair. I try my best not to comment on looks but sorry, it had to be touched on. (This is similar to any mullets or dreadlocks we see in KPOP. It just doesn’t work).

The choreography was quite cool  Going back to the start where I said the song sounded like Black On Black, the performance also reminded of Black‘s performance. Similarly, the start reminded me of EXO’s Tree of Life (I think that is what it is called) that featured during the group’s Wolf promotions. But they put their own spin on it.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Album Review] Regulate (1st Repackaged Album) – NCT 127

NCT is nominated for Best Male Group, while NCT Dream and NCT 127 are nominated for Best Subunit. If you haven’t voted for NCT or your favourite artists yet, then click here to vote!

NCT 127 made their comeback with the repackaged version of their first studio album, which has been retitled Regulate. Leading the repackaged promotions is Simon Says. I debated whether to create a separate album review for this as I would only be reviewing one new song. I decided to do it anyway in order to help support NCT in the KPORPEVIEWED Awards (see above). Initially, it was meant for publishing on a later date but due to some scheduling changes, I have decided to publish today. I hope you don’t mind this really short album review.

Regulate Album Cover

Regulate features all the songs from their Regular-Irregular album, which I have previously reviewed. If you wish to check out the song reviews from the Regular-Irregular album, please click here.

4. Welcome To My Playground – The song, compared to the songs on the Regular-Irregular, has a more bright and playful tone. It is a different side of NCT 127 that we saw briefly in Touch but incorporates that hip-hop genre that NCT has been marketed towards. The verses were half Korean and English, which I think was a smart way of interacting with both their Korean and international fans. The song was quite soft and I actually liked the prolonged build up in the verses. It made the chorus a lot more dynamic. I also liked the jump and fast-paced nature of Mark and Taeyong’s rap sequence, which gave the song a profound kick of energy towards the end, ending the song on a very energetic note. (9/10)

9. Simon Says (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Simon Says. (9/10)

12. Chain (Korean Version) – I previously reviewed the Japanese version of Chain. I did feel like the song was a lot slower when it is in the Korean language. It might just be me, however. Click here to read the full review of Chain. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10 (This incorporates the scores of all 12 songs on the albums)

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