Making their comeback yesterday is SEVENTEEN with their fourth studio-album titled Face The Sun. Leading the album is the title track simply titled as HOT. This comeback comes after the group’s Attacca mini-album and Rock With You comeback from October 2021, their Power of Love Japanese comeback and the first English language single Darl+ing (which is also getting its own review via the International Song Review segment and is featured on this fourth studio length album).
I liked that SEVENTEEN has returned to a heftier, harder and edgier dance track for this comeback. While I do like their other works, like their more recent pop-rock infused Korean comeback, SEVENTEEN’s darker (i.e. Getting Closer) or their powerful dance tracks (i.e. HIT) have also been favourites of mine. And HOT really encapsulates (without a doubt) that ‘powerful dance track’, with its high-energy instrumental elements, vocals and raps. I felt the darker profile of the group is there to a degree in HOT, but that might also in play thanks to the music video for this comeback (more on that later). Personally, I don’t mind HOT‘s chorus. There was a sexy and edgy hip-hop motif to it in the first half and an explosive feel to the second half of the chorus. The energetic dance instrumental is quite exciting, powerful but also fun, though I feel that there is potential for that whistle repetition to do my head in if I were to play the song excessively (though we are not there yet). The pre-choruses and bridge were quite impressive, showcasing their vocals so well. Talking about vocals, I got to mention the autotune usage in this song. I will definitely say it is a bit much, practically blasting us with autotune as soon as the song start. But I will hold back in describing its usage as ‘excessive’ (though it did occur to me briefly at first). I see the charm in the use of autotune in this song, as it really added a dynamic vibe, excitement and ups the energy to HOT. All of which works towards HOT’s favour. I did wish we got to hear punchier rap deliveries from the group’s rappers that weren’t smothered in autotune, as HOT would have been a great piece for them to flaunt their energetic styles. But overall, HOT was still one hot-damn piece for me.
SEVENTEEN turns up the temperature with their fiery music video for HOT. It definitely works with South Korea’s upcoming Summer season and the members’ more mature looks that they have been developing since their debut seven years ago (!). There are a lot of sun and fire imagery throughout the video, though offset with some darker scenes to allow the red fiery colour to pop out. And also part of the video is also set in the desert and these scenes give off Mad Max-like vibes (but not really). All of these references and vibes makes sense, as the video and lyrics depicts the members’ willingness and confidence moving forward with their journey as a group in even the harshest of conditions (taken from SOOMPI). For this video, it is their references to heat, which we all know can be extremely harsh. I enjoyed the intricate editing that strung all the scenes in this video together. The most memorable scene in this music video is THE8’s beat box-like moment at the start of the song, where his image dominated the screen. It was a cool moment and definitely left a strong impression on me.
Per usual, the synchronisation between the SEVENTEEN members is on point throughout the performance. It amazes me each time and takes everything to the next level. The body rolls we get in the performance make sense (how else does KPOP show off ‘HOT’!) and the rest of the routine for the chorus felt powerful and strong. Hoshi and Dino from the performance team caught my attention in this performance, as they really put their all into the stage and made their centre parts memorable.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.2/10
It is time for another round of International Song Reviews. Unfortunately, the songs released by our beloved Korean artists have fallen to the back of the pack, and so they haven’t had much attention over the last few months. But I will eventually catch up and get around to reviewing them. Last post (way back in February) featured MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, TWICE, WONHO and Jeon Somi. This time around, I am focusing on WOOZI (from SEVENTEEN), Eric Nam, Golden Child, Changmin (from TVXQ) and (new group) NIK.
Ruby – WOOZI (SEVENTEEN)
WOOZI kicked started off the year with his mixtape solo release, Ruby. This track genuinely surprised me because I was under the impression that the track would be a Korean song. But it ended up being a full-English song. I was totally prepared to write a full review for it at the very start of the year, before I realized that it was in English. Anyhow, Ruby starts off as an unsuspecting ballad thanks to the strings that started off the song and gave a classical vibe. But that is just the intro to Ruby, which ended up being a unrelentless head-banging worth rock track. I liked that WOOZI maintains a light vocal tone throughout Ruby, but is also kept on top of the instrumental and isn’t drowned out by the backing piece at anyone point. The way the autotune comes into play throughout Ruby helps adds texture and amps up the energy, confirming Ruby‘s status as a top notch song to kick off a solo career. My only complaint is that Ruby could have been longer. As for the music video, I liked how the colour red was used in a balanced manner. Never was any scene was oversaturated in the bold colour (plus, there were some scenes that didn’t have a lick of the red colour!). But yet, you can tell that red was the central colour to the video. WOOZI also donned some sleek looking suits and got his boogie on during some parts, which felt refreshing and unique compared to other music videos we have seen for rock songs. (9/10)
I Don’t Know You Anymore – Eric Nam
It has been a while since I reviewed Eric Nam, with my last review for Eric being 2020’s Paradise. Since then, Eric Nam has released a handful of solo tracks, such as 2021’s I Don’t Know You Anymore (which was rereleased as a track on his second English studio length album, There and Back Again). I have picked I Don’t Know You Anymore as Eric Nam’s next review on my blog because it was such an an ‘easy on the ears’ track to listen to. It remains within the pop realm and is quite upbeat, but never does it feel too much. This is a style Eric Nam excels at, based on his many hits that I have covered on the blog. I like how his vocals flow through this song, the simplicity of the hooks and melodies, and the prominence of guitars that makes up the instrumental. It does get a bit repetitive, and I wished there was something within the song that dispels the repetitiveness. But still a great listen nonetheless. For the music video, I liked the simplicity of the scenes and shots we got. Eric Nam showed character and let himself loose for this video, which made it is a fun video to watch. Some of the post-production effects felt unnecessary, and it felt like the editor got a little too excited on their part whilst editing the video. (8/10)
A WOO!! – Golden Child
Earlier this year, Golden Child made their debut in Japan with the single A WOO!!. Knowing what Golden Child has put out in Korean, I am disappointed with A WOO!!. While the track dabbles in a synth-pop like dance track, it never hits hard and the instrumental never really catches on, for the most part. The ‘A WOO‘s we get as part of the lyrics and hook falls flat and doesn’t really excite me. Similarly, their vocals and rapping doesn’t really appeal to me. But they do hold their ground well. But it isn’t all bad news for A WOO!!. My favourite part of the song is actually the post-chorus that follows the first and third choruses. It is when the song hit hardest, is the most abrasiveness (and so is the most interesting part of the instrumental) and the intensity is quite memorable. It is just unfortunate that the rest of the song is generic and doesn’t live up to the same level. For the music video, it was a fairly simple setup of choreography shots/closeups. Like the song, the video is pretty plain-looking. But it isn’t the end of the world for me, as the stylists did a good job of making the members look edgy throughout this video. For the choreography, A WOO!! doesn’t really have much going on to stand out. But I note their sharp moves (as always) and the wolf references we get in the choreography. But nothing as strong as their Korean routines. (6.2/10)
Human – Max Changmin (TVXQ)
In addition to making his solo comeback in Korea earlier this year through Devil (title of both title track and mini-album), Max Changmin also made a solo comeback in Japan with the track Human (though at the end of 2021). Human is a three language song, with Korean, Japanese and English lyrics. To me, the song could have been epic. Key words being ‘could have been’. The lacking element to Human is the instrumental and this prevents Human from fully entering that epic territory. Instead, it felt half-baked and didn’t have much going on within it. I personally have no idea how else to even describe it! I wish the instrumentals went with either dramatic orchestra, or intense EDM, or powerful rock to really take Human to the next level. What does give Human some hope and drives the song towards epic possibility is Max Changmin himself. He really packs a punch in Human and doesn’t hold his vocals back. I like how loaded the lyrics felt, and the way Max Changmin delivered his lines definitely emphasised this point. As for the video, I like the premise of what we see. I would go the extra length to say the plotline, but what I got out of the video is based on my imagination. My interpretation of the story is that Changmin makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end to save the younger boy, who I am guessing is himself. I am basing this on the fact that he seems prepared to take that plunge and spends the moments beforehand reminiscing about the ocean through his hands. Also we don’t see the young boy in the sandstorm until after Changmin take the plunge. (8.5/10)
ANOTOKIE – NIK
NIK is a new group whom I have not reviewed before on this blog. They are Japanese-Korean male group consisting of 11 members, some of which are former and current members of KPOP groups, that made their debut in 2021. For more information about NIK, check out their profile on Kprofiles. ANOTOKIE is a Japanese single released by the group in December 2021, but it didn’t get my attention until early this year. For me, it is the warmth of the chorus and comforting nature of the melodies that really got me into this simple song. There is also a hopeful atmosphere to the song that I was also drawn to. This is partly thanks to the pleasant pop instrumental, which paired well with the straight forward vocals in the chorus. Elsewhere, I heard solid vocal and rapping potential (Though the heavily autotuned rapping in the second verse could have been omitted). I am not entirely sure what the music video was meant to show, given how the ending some of the members seem to be happy that they are together. Throughout the video, some of the members were reflective, frustrated or sad. I guess they are encompassing the emotions that they sing about in ANOTOKIE, which is all about wanting that extra chance to make things right with their partner (but knowing that chance has passed). But the ending doesn’t make much sense. Also, their outfits look like they shot this between schedules. The all white outfits don’t look natural in the urban setting. Maybe some refinement and clearer direction could have helped the video. (7.8/10)
I am finally getting around to posting my first International Song Review post in a long while. My last post was way back in October 2021, and since then I have been fairly busy and unable to write any of these posts. But I am now back on the bandwagon. For those who may be unfamiliar with this segment, I review songs that aren’t in the Korean language (or are not marketed for the Korean music scene in some cases – such as some side tracks on Korean albums) that have been released by Korean artists (or artists that have a direction connect with a KPOP group). In this post, I will be covering songs released by MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, TWICE, WONHO and Jeon Somi.
You Problem – MONSTA X
MONSTA X spreads the ongoing groovy and funky trend that we are currently experiencing in KPOP to the Western music scene. The group, now down to five members as Shownu has enlisted in the military, released this disco number early December 2021. It is quite unlike any of their Korean title tracks, which have been very EDM focused and performance heavy tracks. You Problem settles for a simpler approach, and one that is quite pure and fun. I love the guitar work in this backing of You Problem, along with those disco vibes we get in the chorus (as already mentioned). I also enjoyed the vocal focus of the song, which each member (even the rappers) singing in this track, complimenting the lighter than usual tone for MONSTA X. Kihyun and Jooheon’s falsettos in the chorus make the song even cooler! The hooks are super memorable, and the hooks are so damn catchy. Even after two months, I am still digging You Problem!
For the music video, it is set in a bowling alley that is reminisce of bowling alleys from the 70s. Definitely suiting the light tone, fun vibes and retro direction of the song. There are also heavy presence of other retro elements throughout the video, such as the checked pattern (commonly associated with racing) and neon lights. Even the glittery tinsel decoration behind the group when they are performing as a ‘band’ screamed out retro. The performance I saw also had a fun vibe. It was loose and fluid, as if the group was freestyling their performance. But also showed their personality, which made it even more enjoyable.
Overall Rating – 8.8/10
Power of Love – SEVENTEEN
Power of Love‘s music video officially dropped at the end of November, and closes out their Power of Love project that started earlier in 2021 with the release of Mingyu and Wonwoo’s Bittersweet (ft. Lee Hi). It is a neat ballad with a really meaningful message that even in difficult times, having the Power of Love can help you through it. I liked how even though the instrumental had sleigh bells ringing throughout the whole instrumental, Power of Love doesn’t feel constricted to just Winter or the Christmas season like other songs that ultilises sleigh bells. It was also quite soothing and it was a nice display of all the members’ vocals. Unfortunately, however, Power of Love doesn’t fair well in the memorable arena. It is a good ballad, but I am not necessarily looking for the song when I feel in a mood for ballad. I guess Power of Love was produced to be more on a sweet side. I do think there could have been room towards the end to oomph up the ballad a bit, just so it didn’t feel the same from start to end. I think Power of Love would have come off better if it went down this path.
The parts of the video where some of the members were in built sets (I believe it was just limited to Joshua, DK and Vernon) looked quite cool, and I wished the video had more built sets (as it felt stylish and modern). But instead, the producers for this video chose to just use green screen, and I felt this really cheapened the video. While the actual backgrounds applied through the use of the green screen looked aesthetic and the members look good as always, I wished the post-production team incorporated the members better. We have seen great use of green screen in the past, and this is just not one of those instances. It is just quite unfortunate.
Overall Rating – 6.2/10
Doughnut – TWICE
Doughnut was released on 15 December 2021 and the track itself comes in the form of a ballad. Not exactly the first genre of music you think of when you hear of a sugary treat. But it does create an abstract appeal, which makes Doughnut memorable for me. Talking about abstract, I also like how the members likened the void they experience without their partner, and the constant looping they refer to in the lyrics to the shape of a doughnut. To me, the song definitely needed this extra appeal, especially since I thought it was a bit of a blur. Everything from start to end felt similar, and I couldn’t work out where the chorus was in the song had it not been for the music video. While I did like the city-pop direction the instrumental was going and the delicate nature of their voices (which isn’t something we get in TWICE title tracks that much), I just wished parts of Doughnut were more distinct. The most significant distinct moment of the song was during the finale sequence with the use of synths to give off textures. But it was too late to really sell Doughnut to me.
Visually, I thought this was a very neat video. The snow, warm indoor settings and dress colours compliments the Winter season in which the song was released. That scene in the bridge where Mina and Chaeyoung are lying on the ground over a wreath was extremely memorable for me. I am a bit confused about the start and end of the video, with the ‘doughnut crime scene’. My guess is that the crime scene symbolises that the loop and void represented by the shape of doughnut is broken and that the members had moved on from what they thought were ‘the only one in the world’. Though, I am more confused about the amount of jam spilling from the doughnut (How did they get so much in the doughnut to begin with? And in a doughnut with a hole?). As for the choreography, it felt fitting for the balladry nature of the song.
Overall Rating – 6.8/10
ON THE WAY～- Wonho
Wonho’s Japanese debut single, ON THE WAY~, is actually the oldest song in this review post as it was first unveiled on 27 October 2021. It is a decent track that pleases with its sweet lyrics, thanking fans for staying by his side and that he treasures them greatly. Don’t be fooled though. ON THE WAY~ is no typical ballad. Instead, it features a satisfying band instrumental that really makes this song more appealing. I also like how amped the chorus gets. It did feel somewhat overpowering at first, but Wonho manages to shine throughout ON THE WAY~ with his blissful and honey-like vocals. I did wish there was something more to the song, like a more profound electrical guitar solo sequence (we did get an instrumental break, but it did feel enough) to make it even more satisfying.
The accompanying video was also quite nice. Not one that I see myself going back to however, since it just Wonho acting sweet and grateful to match the lyrics of the song. There are also some band shots and some decent outdoors shots. I am sure fans would adore this video.
Overall Rating – 7/10
Anymore – Jeon Somi
The final song on this post is Jeon Somi’s Anymore. You would have heard Anymore way before the music video dropped (which occurred on Christmas Day), as it was originally featured as a side track on Jeon Somi’s first solo studio album, XOXO, which dropped at the end of October (the 29th to be exact). It is an all-English track that delves into pop-rock territory. I quite like this song because it doesn’t feel complicated or difficult to navigate like EDM tracks. Anymore just sounded pure and doesn’t mess or fluff around. The soft pop rock sound that we hear in this song just suits Jeon Somi’s tone and she sounds very good. The melodies were also very memorable and satisfying, as well.
I need to applaud Jeon Somi’s visuals and acting in this video. Both were highlights that draw me back to the music video. I liked how she well she portrayed her heartbreak and emotions, whilst looking stunning as always. As for the music video concept, all looked terrific and worked extremely well with the song. I liked how chaotic the chorus appeared to match the increased energy we get from the chorus, while the verses were more still.
Bittersweet is nominated for Best R&B Song, while SEVENTEEN is nominated for Best Male Group and a range of other categories. Support SEVENTEEN in all their nominated categories by clicking to vote today.
As mentioned previously, I will be reviewing songs or releases from artists from categories in which I had not reviewed before this year throughout the remainder of 2021. Today’s reviews will all be focused on the ones that I have yet to review from the Best R&B Song category. First up is Bittersweet, which was a collaboration single between SEVENTEEN members Wonwoo, Mingyu, and soloist Lee Hi. This single was released back at the end of May 2021.
Bittersweet is a very mature R&B song. While we have heard all the artists in this song in some sort of mature light before, I find Bittersweet to really emphasise this and this was a very major drawing point in my opinion. You could also gather the emotions and the literal bittersweet tone behind their each of their voices, which I found to also be another strong aspect of the song. While they are two of SEVENTEEN’s rappers, both Wonwoo and Mingyu changed up their delivery/style and opted for vocals and I thought this was well executed. Wonwoo’s husky and deep tone and Mingyu’s raspier voice works really well with one another in Bittersweet. There was the tiniest smidge of rapping, however, when Mingyu switch between vocals and rapping for a brief second in the song’s first pre-chorus. I remember Lee Hi’s vocals being unrecognisable when Bittersweet was first released. I guess I am really used to hearing low tones and huskier tones from the soloist, not something as smooth and higher tone like what we got in this song. I am not entirely sure if that is a good or bad thing after all this time, but it was interesting. Both the higher tone and smoothness contrasted with the SEVENTEEN members’ vocals and I felt her vocals helped tied the song together. For the melodies, they were quite nice. Not too memorable, but just enough to get this song over the line in that regard. Regarding the instrumentation, Bittersweet was quite a straightforward R&B release, with a subdued instrumental that mainly features acoustic guitars all throughout. While this isn’t a mind-blowing or innovative combination, the simplicity and straightforwardness as definitely appreciated.
The song was all about the switch between friendship and love. In the music video, we see the friendship between the three characters played by Wonwoo, Mingyu and the female actress. But throughout the video, we see glimpse of the male characters staring at their female friend, seemingly contemplating their feelings for her. But never do we see them make the move, probably in fear of what would happen to their friendship trio if the feelings were reciprocated for one friend and not the other. At the end, it seems like the male counterparts of the friendship choose friendship over their feelings, keeping their bond. Though the ending is ambiguous, as it would make better sense for all three of them to skip into the distant in the rain if that was the case. Instead, we are shown only Wonwoo and Mingyu, so maybe the music video is trying to suggest that the pair were in love all along? Who knows! Apart from the two possible stories, I like the moody atmosphere of the music video, which went for the traditional R&B colours of brown and golden tone.
Song – 8/10 Music Video 8/10 Overall Rating – 8/10
SEVENTEEN is nominated for Best Male Group, while their tracks – Not Alone, Bittersweet and Rock With You – are nominated for various song awards in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support SEVENTEEN and the listed songs, along with your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote!
SEVENTEEN returned made their comeback on 22 October 2021 with Rock With You and their ninth mini-album, Attacca. A little over a month since their comeback, I am finally reviewing the album! Overall, Attacca delivers the group’s next great album, though it isn’t my vote for their best. In addition to the already mentioned title track, the album consist of two additional full group songs, 3 unit tracks and a bonus all-English track from members Joshua and Vernon. Keep on reading for my thoughts on the individual songs!
1. To You (소용돌이) – Before the album went to the title track, RockWith You, we were treated to an synth pop track, To You, which merged the airiness of synths with a bit of pop rock together into a simple sounding track. It was an ideal track to start off with. It wasn’t too light or too heavy, but retaining the benefits of both. It was also quite atmospheric. I liked its consistency and enjoyed it until the end. Their vocals approach was extremely nice and soothing, though I wished the group employed a bit of rapping in To You to add a bit more flair to the song. (8/10)
3. Crush – Crush lands very impactful and ‘in-your-face’ start, setting the song apart from the rest of the album. This definitely ticks the boldness box that I consistently mention on the blog. The chorus was definitely Crush’s most standout section for the exact same reason. The use of falsettos and textured rapping was very nice, and gave the song a lot more to appeal with. It is a bit repetitive, but I honestly look past this flaw thanks to the other elements. (9/10)
4. Pang! (Performance Unit) – Despite the album’s promotions lacking both Jun and The8 due to their schedules in China, they participated in all the full group songs on this album and the Performance Unit song, Pang!. Pang! was a fun number without a loaded instrumentation. Actually, the more accurate way to describe the instrumental in Pang! is underloaded, which brought on a whole different aesthetic than what we are used to. The chorus was very catchy and alluring, with the spoken ‘Don’t Come’ feeling quite punchy. Dino’s rapping in this song is top notch and very unique sounding. Definitely a standout for me. (10/10)
5. Imperfect Love (매일 그대라서 행복하다) (Vocal Unit) – As expected, the vocal unit’s song enters ballad territory. But Imperfect Love features a soft pop rock vibe, which is a nice change up to the usual classical instrumental we get when it comes to ballads. The harmonies are really nice and help fill up the song’s instrumentation. The electric guitars came in at the right time, and helped added a bit more colour and flair than if they were omitted. Interestingly, I didn’t find their solo parts to stand out as much, with everything else overtaking their individual moments. Not entirely sure about this, but Imperfect Love manages to work just fine anyway. (7/10)
6. I Can’t Run Away (그리워하는 것까지) (Hip Hop Unit) – The most surprising track from the units is I Can’t Run Away. While the song does include raps, I was taken aback by the delicate and ballad approach the quartet has gone with. To me, this is unexplored territory for the four, but one I would gladly be happy to revisit in the future. The raps were very nice, and I liked how it emphasises the members husky and raspy tones. But what shocks me even more was how good the vocals were. They definitely made the song standout. Also, both vocals and balladry instrumentation gave added an emotional and fragile touch to I Can’t Run Away, which works well with the lyrics of the song. (8/10)
7. 2 Minus 1 (Joshua and Vernon) – 2 Minus 1 is a song I highly recommend to have on blast. It is an extremely satisfying way to enjoy the song. It is a bit slow to begin with, but the energy that ultimately comes through during the chorus in this all-English punk-pop song is just so good. Both Joshua and Vernon have a hand in this as well with their awesome vocal pairing! But their solo parts are equally as good. Joshua shows off his vocal potential (which isn’t usually highlighted), while Vernon’s raspy tone is also well showcased in this song. I wished the energy was a bit more consistent and we didn’t have slow downs or moments where the instrumentals were stripped back, but overall a great bonus track for fans. (8/10)
The next comeback is one that I am really excited for. Of course I am talking about SEVENTEEN and their comeback today, Rock With You. The new song is featured on their ninth mini-album, Attacca. This release follows their Ready To Love comeback earlier on in the year, which was followed up with their side track Anyone. On a side note, Jun and The8 are not part of the promotions due to schedules in China. However, they were part of the album recording and the music video shoot, so you can expect to still see them in some capacity during the Rock With You era.
Over many recent reviews, I have continually saying I want more from the songs. And I feel that SEVENTEEN’s Rock With You delivers that ‘more’ that I am desiring. Rock With You takes on a pop rock sound that has a lot of great and vibrant energy. This alone is enough as a selling point to the song. Sure, I acknowledge the fact that they could have turned up the dial with some of the rock elements to make the song even better. But that doesn’t mean the song is not satisfying enough. I do question the use of the squeaky bed spring synths in the pre-chorus, but I am glad they are masked by the rest of the instrumentation and it doesn’t become a distraction. Rock With You is quite a vocal track, with the rapping taking a bit of a backburner in this song. There is still a bit of rapping, but it makes up only a small portion of the song. And I think this is a good call. Rock With You has that rock influence, and the rappers bring either a raspy or hoarse voice to the song when they sing. Both goes hand-in-hand, adding texture to the song. S.Coup, in particular, handles his part of the bridge really well, despite having all the instrumentation stripped away for a brief second. Another good call here, as it makes the final chorus explosive. But his vocals also had a delicate touch to the song. The rest of the group do an amazing job on the vocal front. Melody-wise, Rock With You is quite strong in this department, and this enables the song to be very catchy and addictive. Overall, another amazing song from the group.
The music video is fantastic. I really like the fast paced nature of the song, which matched the tempo of the song. I found that it helped amp up the vibrancy and energy of the video. I liked the used of the ripped borders around the image, and how those images were used as transitional elements in the video. I also quite liked the sets, especially the stage. It just felt fitting for the song and looked perfect in this video. I also quite enjoyed the camera work in this video, especially when they shot the members from the side during the choreography shoots. It added an ‘up close and personal’ type of feel to the video, making it as if we are watching them from the side of the stage.
I really enjoyed the performance. The choreography was just fitting and perfect for the song, as expected from SEVENTEEN. The energy that comes from this performance is so cool. But what really makes this performance even better was the ad-libs we got at the end of the stage performance. It heightens everything that is already in the song and adds hype to the final part of the performance.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
SEVENTEEN made their returned in mid-June as well. This comeback was titled Ready To Love, which is the title track of their 8th mini-album, Your Choice. This promotional run for the new song and album was a bit of a whirlwind. COVID-19 brought upon a pause in their promotions of the comeback, with the group going into quarantine for two weeks. The group then returned to promotions without S.Coups who was recovering from an injury. But the group still managed to clinch four weekly music show wins and they also sold more than 1.3 million copies of their album. So I would say Ready To Love is a successful comeback, despite the hiccups along the way. Anyhow, that was a brief recap of what has happened since the comeback dropped. Now, it is time for my review for the album!
1. Heaven’s Cloud – Kicking off the album is Heaven’s Cloud. It is definitely is a song of no commitment, with such a light and airy vibe. It eases you into the album. Everything just rolled along and felt breezy in this song. Heaven’s Cloud also does a good job of showcasing the members in a more pleasant light. The vocals and rapping were just that, while the melodies had the right level of catchiness to make this song memorable. The “Gimme your Gimme your Love’ part in the bridge was my favourite bit. Overall, a nice listen and a great start to the group’s eighth mini-album. (8/10)
3. Anyone – The promotions may have biased me with this, but Anyone is my favourite side track on this album. Anyone has the edgy and intense vibe that I enjoy and prefer when it comes to music in the KPOP industry. Many groups have edgy songs, but I like how Anyone doesn’t necessarily go down the ‘dark route’’. Rather, Anyone focuses more on maturity. I like the stompy nature of the instrumentation (which is emphasized in the performance of the track) and the tinge of electro-rock that gives the song a subtle electrifying feel, which keeps you on your toes for the full duration of the song. The vocals and rapping packed a punch, making Anyone that more alluring. (10/10)
4. GAM3 BO1 (Hip-Hop Unit) – The chipmunk and synth-heavy instrumentation reminds me of old video games. It has this really bright and cheerful feel to it, which I quite like. And it is a very dynamic track. Unfortunately, the autotune in this song gets to me. It helps blend the quartet unit into the song and creates a more cohesive track. But it is quite obnoxious at the same time. When it comes to the song’s main hook (a consistent repetitive string of just the word ‘Game’), I am a bit torn. It is memorable and I definitely have it stuck in my head. But I find it a bit bland, at the same time. Overall, Gam3 Bo1 is a massive mix bag of likes and dislikes for me. (7/10)
5. Wave (Performance Unit) – Out of three unit tracks on this album, Wave is my favourite. In comparison to the Hip-Hop Unit’s track, Wave is a lot smoother and more hypnotic in a way. Compared to the Vocal Unit’s song, Wave is a lot dreamier. Wave taps into the house genre of EDM and creates a very fulfilling song. It is moodier and definitely more something up my alley. I really like the punchiness of the chorus and the satisfying nature of the drop in the same sequence. The Performance Unit does an impressive job of showcasing an aesthetic delivery in terms of vocals (and I am sure, the same for their performance), which ups the appeal of Wave. (9/10)
6. Same Dream, Same Mind, Same Night (같은 꿈, 같은 맘, 같은 밤) (Vocal Unit) – The final song on the album belongs to the Vocal Unit. Same Dream, Same Mind, Same Night is another impressive display of vocals, which is expected from the quintet. The instrumentation reminds me of a soft 90s R&B ballad, which is great if you are looking for something soothing to listen to. Even the vocal processing has that tinge from the 90s era. I do think they had too much going on towards the end as it felt slightly overwhelming for me. But overall, still a nice song overall. (8/10)
Making their comeback yesterday was SEVENTEEN with their latest title track, Ready To Love. The new song is the title track off the group’s 8th mini-album since debut, Your Choice. This is the group’s first comeback since the release of HOME;RUN last year in October. More recently, we saw SEVENTEEN make their Japanese comeback, Not Alone, while member Hoshi also made his solo debut with the single Spider back in March of this year. On a separate note, Ready To Love and Your Choice is the second part of SEVENTEEN’s Power of ‘Love’ project. Very little is known about project from what I can find on the internet. However the group did drop a concept trailer for it, hinting it as the recurring theme of SEVENTEEN’s forthcoming 2021 work. The first part of the project was the release of Bittersweet, a single featuring members Wonwoo, Mingyu and soloist Lee Hi I have yet to review this single, and will do so when I have a bit more time. But in the meanwhile, here is my review for Ready To Love.
Ready To Love opens up with a sentimental introduction, before the song starts incorporating a thumping beat to get the momentum going. From there, Ready To Love remains quite constant, with the occasion burst of energy. We get a small-ish dose of energy part way into each of the verses, and then one substantial one to amplify the chorus. For the chorus, that substantial dose of energy turns the instrumental into a pop rock-style, which I thought was extremely satisfying. I like how this energy doesn’t stop or pause between the two halves that make up the chorus, keeping it all thoroughly connected. While on the topic of connection, I feel that Ready To Love is the a good example of how constant and consistent a song can be, but remain engaging and doesn’t result in a bore. That being said, I do think Ready To Love isn’t as powerful or memorable as like many of SEVENTEEN’s past comebacks, but it is a different side of the group. And this different side of the group comes from the matureness they display in the vocals and raps. Sure, the group have had their fair share of serious and dark styled comebacks. But Ready To Love feels like they have aged liked fine wine. From the vocals and rapping, nothing felt like their usual fun or upbeat ways. Instead, each of their members sound like they are tapping into an emotional side that we know SEVENTEEN has but never really gotten to showcase until now. Similarly, the song’s melodies also give off a similar vibe. I particularly liked the second half of the chorus, which felt almost chant-like. It works well with the instrumentation and gives the song a catchy melodic hook. Overall, I like the song. But Ready To Love isn’t my favourite release from the group. But who knows? Maybe a few more replays of the song might change that.
To fit with the more mature vibe of the song, I think the music video opted for that same dynamic. For the first part of the music video, we see the members walkthrough their relationship with the female character. One of these moments is when the members make the decision of being friends or lovers with her. I think the video shows the members choosing to be friends, which how this whole song came about and this is back up by the face Mingyu makes while he is in the lover phone box and the presence of the friend phone box in THE8’s scene with the female character. Throughout the video, we see the members wanting to make that change from friendship to relationship, which is backed by the English phrases present on the walls and on the bus (which are some lines in the song). It isn’t the most SEVENTEEN video out there, but it is still a good video to watch. My only complaint is regarding the heavy raining at the end. I didn’t see the point of it, given that we could barely see the members amongst the rain. I wished the rain was toned done, so that we can see the members more clearly.
For the choreography, I feel that the performance (and I forgot to mention it above in the music video part of this review) takes a page out of their Japanese works. It looks quite aesthetic and pretty, which is something that recurs in their work in Japan. I really like the formations they are in, especially the formation which allowed them to form three units in the second half of the second chorus (and how the members who are not the centre of the choreography are still moving in the background). I also really liked how they ran to switch places in such an organised manner for the final sequence. That looked pretty cool.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 7/10 Performance – 8.5/10 Overall Rating – 7.8/10
It is time to look at another five songs from outside of Korea by some of our favourite Korean artists. Last time (way back in February), we looked at songs from Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, The Boyz, AB6IX & Why Don’t We, Jun.K and WAYV. Today, we will be having a look at SEVENTEEN, TWICE and CIX’s latest Japanese releases. Alongside those three songs, we will also be looking at BTS’s Japanese single Film Out and their highly anticipated Butter release, which officially dropped on Friday. A lot of get through, so let’s get going!
Not Alone – SEVENTEEN
The other day, I was reading comments for SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese release, Not Alone, that said something along the lines of “SEVENTEEN’s Japanese releases are quite aesthetic sounding”. This is a statement that I agree for the most part and is quite evident through the release of Not Alone. The song has this atmospheric style instrumental that was very calming and soothing to listen to. To aid this, SEVENTEEN strays aways from harsh synths, piercing effects, heavy beats or vibrant colours in the song. Instead, SEVENTEEN opts for a graceful sounding instrumentation that floats about. There are still synths in this song (enabling the song to still include soft yet delicate sounding dance breaks following each chorus), but they give Not Alone a melodic push and hence that aesthetic vibe that I quoted from above. This allows the members to showcase their vocals in a more touching and delicate manner, which is slightly different to the usual style in which we hear from the members. Even the rappers get into this mindset with softer deliveries. We favourite part is Hoshi’s lines in the bridge. They stick out for me and sound so smooth. There is also this inspirational and uplifting tone to the song that comes through via the members. Overall, a really nice and touching song form the members. The music video for Not Alone is quite fitting for the past year, in which we all spent seeing our family and friends through laptop, computer or phone screens. We see the members do the exact same at the start of the video. They were alone and then joined one another to celebrate DK’s birthday. The second half of the video see the members regroup to hang out and have some fun. While this isn’t a reality yet for some of us, the hopeful tone of the song really gives us hope that is the future that we will be returning to soon. Fitting to the song and MV suggested, the choreography for this comeback is a lot softer and delicate. It is actually nice to see something different from SEVENTEEN that isn’t so energetic and upbeat as their choreographies usually are. The lifts they incorporated into the performance added a nice touch that emphasised this. (9.4/10)
Kura Kura – TWICE
While TWICE is gearing up for Korean promotions next month, the very popular female group made their Japanese comeback last month with Kura Kura. Kura Kura starts off with epic percussion in the background, which gives the pop song a unique and memorable colour, and really promises great things to come. Soon, the song reverts to a more typical pop setup. It was nice and pleasantly upbeat, but it was not as amazing as the epic percussion that started the song off had promised. And this disappointed me slightly. I wished the melodies and hooks in this ‘between’ part were more memorable and impressive enough to continue that initial impression. The epic percussion does make a return two more times in the song (i.e. before the bridge and at the end of the song to close it off). I did like the vocals work, which again can be describe as pleasant and sweet. I did like how they didn’t change their vocals as much when it came to the Kura Kura‘s bolder and more memorable moments, finding a balance between their pleasant and sweet profile to the instrumental’s more grand nature. For the music video, I am not entirely sure what they are trying to depict. There seems to be a mixture of really happy scenes in the video (i.e. when the nine members catch up) and a mixture of loneliness and sadness (i.e. their solo scenes which seem to show this). But I might be reading to it wrong, as the lyrics of the song don’t really give off that impression. But it was still a visually appealing video to watch. I really like the emphasis on the colour blue in the choreography scenes, which gave a nice artistic and calming appeal to the video. I really liked the choreography for this comeback. I enjoyed the imagery of the flower at the start, which was fitting for the music video which had a heavy emphasis on floral decorations. I also enjoyed the choreography for the chorus, which had a definite tinge of matureness to it, despite all the members having really big smiles – which both felt fitting for the image they are now pushing for themselves and the song’s upbeatness. (7.2/10)
All For You – CIX
Like their earlier Korean release this year, CIX’s latest Japanese release also takes a step away from EDM and their serious tone that they had adopted when they first started out. All For You is another pleasant listen that looks to replicate the easy on the ears nature that Cinema succeeded in achieving. And while CIX has done just that, I can’t help but have to point out that other parts of the song is lacking. Aside from the funky instrumental which I think is the song’s main highlight, All For You lacks memorability. This includes hooks, melodies, vocals and rapping. All of these contribute to the song’s undeniabley pleasant and easy going nature, but none hits it hard. I am not seeking any hard drops or intensity that is reminiscent of their earlier works, but rather I wanted to hear elements that had a stronger backing or substance to them. For the music video, All For You was colourful, fun and enjoyable. I liked the carefree nature the members brought to the music video, which was fitting for the overall style. It also shows a different side of the members. I did find the opening few seconds a bit cringy, but it definitely wasn’t the cringiest thing out there in the Korean/Japanese music scene. For the choreography, I liked how they fully embraced the groovy and funky notes of the song in their routine. As a result, the entire performance feels ‘just right’. That being said, All For You‘s choreography still contains their signature sharpness to it. In addition to that, there is also this light atmosphere to the routine, which also works well with the music. (7.4/10)
Film Out – BTS
The first of the BTS releases in this post is Film Out, a single off BTS’s upcoming Japanese compliation album. The single itself was released back at the start of April. so apologies for the long delay. Film Out taps BTS back into the ballad genre, with a (once again) pleasant ballad that is a bit generic for my liking. Film Out has this rich and sentimental tone to it. It would also side nice as a side track that I would tune into if I had a craving for the album. But in comparison to their more well known ballads (such as Butterfly), Film Out falls short of hitting the mark (for me, at least). I think it is mainly because the vocal processing that their voices were put through and hence they don’t sound as pure like in those past ballads had sounded. That being said, Film Out did have its moments. I really liked the beat when the rappers were brought into play. I also liked it when the vocalists were brought in to back each other up. The subtle rock and (more obvious) orchestral influences were also quite nice and added some additional heft alongside the vocals to prevent the song from falling into more into that generic ballad trap that Stay Gold fell into. You always feel like you are watching a cinematic release when it comes to BTS’ music videos and Film Out is no exception. While I have no clue on what is going on in this video (my best guess is that the video is about the members’ reflecting upon past memories that once brought them joy, but now brings them pain – represented by the explosion), I must acknowledge that the music video for Film Out brings out the emotional factor to a whole new level. On top of that, the cinematography was exceptional. (7.8/10)
Butter – BTS
BTS’ most recent release, Butter, dropped on Friday. And since it is the biggest release in the global music industry from this week, and with its strong ties to the KPOP industry, I had to take some time out of my own personal break to have a listen and review it for you all. First impression, I liked it. I wasn’t keen on how it started off at first, but once the groovy and funky instrumentation kicks into gear (plus the pre-chorus melodies presented itself), Butter instantly threw all of its catchy and dynamic energy right at me. Before I knew it, I was nodding along to the music! The chorus is quite addictive, thanks to the melodies in the section. I really like the breakdown, which really concentrated the song’s grooviness into a simple yet ear-catching synth. Vocally, I think Butter really shows off what we know BTS is capable of. The vocalists all gave us solid vocals (and I am super happy that Jin recieved more lines in this song, compared to his limited lines in Dynamite. Hopefully, the remixes that follow this release keeps that trend up!), while the rappers packed a punch when they came into play towards the end of the song. I think Butter is a logical step up/forward from Dynamite and definitely has me reaching for my mouse to press replay! For the music video, I really liked how classy it looked. At the start, the sleekness that BTS’ visuals brought to the video with the black and white filter. When the colour comes into play, all of this fun energy infused into the video, making this a fantastic watch. In addition to the classiness brought to us via their suits, I really liked the colourful and casual trackies they wore in subsequent parts of the video. I also liked how each member that their moment to shine with their dance moves on the elevator and how they brought their individual colours to the video throughout all their solo shots. But visually, the best part of the music video has to be that epic stage they perform on with the lights coming through from underneath. For the choreography, I really liked how BTS kept the energy and momentum going with their moves. I like how fitting the routine is with the title, as the chorus actually looks like smooth (i.e. like butter). We won’t be able to see a full choreography until the Billboard Music Awards tomorrow, but it definitely looks like BTS’s live performance will be amazing without a doubt. (9.5/10)
For the entirety of this weekend, I will be focusing my reviewing efforts on solo artists. This includes both song and album reviews, for recent comebacks involving established solo acts or new idols embarking on their solo careers. First up on the reviewing block is Hoshi’s mixtape single, Spider. This is Hoshi’s first solo release since his debut as part of SEVENTEEN in 2015 (which was six years ago!). The release of Spider has caught fans off guard with its sudden announcement on 26 March and its unveiling within a week (with a few teasers per usual in between). As the release occurred while I was on break, I haven’t had the opportunity to review it yet. But since I am back and dedicating this entire weekend to solo releases, it is perfect time to finally listen to Spider in detail.
Known for his performance skills and is also the leader of the Performance unit of SEVENTEEN, it was expected that any solo release from Hoshi would be a dance song that focuses on the performance. I never thought of Hoshi to go down the ballad route for his first solo release, and Spider confirms that. Spider is a very charismatic R&B dance track, pulling me in right during the first listen with its alluring and engrossing energy. Hoshi starts the song with a melodic whisper, before progressing to vocals that do the building towards to the chorus. For the most part, the instrumental felt very neutral up until the chorus. When the chorus kicks into gear, Hoshi presents us with sensual energy that felt very aesthetic. I really like the sleekness of the whisper-like syllable-by-syllable start to the chorus which incorporated guitar work into the instrumentation and infusing a very minute amount of funkiness into the song. And like the verses, the chorus builds itself to be a substantial centrepiece of vocals and instrumentation that fits into the R&B realm of music. The rest of the song continues the momentum that has been built up so far, with the addition of falsetto vocals in the second verse and electrifying guitar work as the main backing for the song’s dance break. While it sounds like I am only praising the song, I did feel that Spider had one flaw at first. Initially, I thought the song had weak melodies and hooks. But after a week’s worth of listens, I find that they are growing on me and anything different would obviously ruins Spider’s aesthetic, which is a major appeal point of the song. Overall, Spider showcases some of the best parts of Hoshi. Aside from his performance skills (which I will talk about in the bit), Spider shows off potential as a solo artist and his vocal skills as well.
Spider‘s music video is an excellent visual concoction that caught my attention during the first pass. One of the strongest aspects of this music video is the cinematography. One really great example is the slow spin of the camera at the start of the video. It plays with us, using the fact that Hoshi was actually hanging upside down in the choreography at that point. It also felt like the POV of a spider crawling down using its web. I also really like how the camera angles and zooming made those ‘corridors’ (like the one in which he is hanging upside down in) feel longer. The second aspect of the video has to be Hoshi’s visuals. He looked amazing throughout the video. Just by seeing him in this music video, he has shown that he can be sensual, charismatic and hypnotic. And those a three big boxes to tick.
Obviously, the biggest element of this solo release has to be the performance (I know, I have already rambled on about how this comeback is all centric on the performance). And I think Hoshi fulfilled all expectations of him. Right from the start, Hoshi hang upside down, delivering us with an impactful view. He moves in a very sleek yet powerful manner throughout the performance. I also really like the choreography for the second verse and chorus, where he is held, blocked and pulled by the dancers. We see interactions with dancers commonly. But that how sequence is complicated timing wise and felt very calculated. A very strong routine from the Performance Leader.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.5/10
Prepare yourselves for the influx of really overdued album reviews coming your way over the next few weekends. SEVENTEEN’s ; [Semicolon] was released back at the end of October and features HOME;RUN as the lead title track. The album also features five other tracks, four of which are actually ‘unit’ tracks based on the members age groups. I found this to be an interesting way to split up their tracks, given that SEVENTEEN already has dedicated units for vocals, performance and hip-hop. However, I am glad that they did do this, as it gives us a bit more variety with their music – some of which just doesn’t fall into the vocal, performance or hip-hop categories. Keep on reading to find out what styles they opted for with these age-based groups.
2. Do Re Mi (도레미)– Do Re Mi is performed by the maknae (or ‘youngest’) line (i.e. Seungkwan. Vernon and Dino). It is a nice mid-tempo pop track. Do Re Mi is subtly playful and very colourful, which I find suitable for their personality. The vibrancy of the pop instrumental in this song matches their youthfulness, as well. The chorus was catchy and had a pleasant vibe to it. The vocal work from all three members was quite good and Vernon’s rap had a nice oomph to it which made it stand out for me. Personally, I am not a fan of the change in the instrumental when it came to the bridge. I didn’t like the mild choppiness that it brought into the song, which disrupted the feel of the song’s consistency. (8/10)
3. Hey Buddy – Hey Buddy has that retro fanfare that reminds me of Bruno Mar’s Uptown Funk. This is thanks to the use of the brassy synths and trumpets in the instrumental. It is fun and upbeat throughout, making it another consistent track. I am digging the energy of the instrumental, particularly the end sequence that just keeps on coming. Hey Buddy features DK, Mingyu and The8. Each member brings a different element to the song, all of which I have never really picked up before in SEVENTEEN’s releases. DK has this musical-like delivery style of his vocals that makes his part so much punchier. Mingyu’s raps is quite sleek, while his vocals have this really cool nasally texture to them, while The8’s vocals have this freshness to them that I like. Altogether, Hey Buddy is a banger. (10/10)
4. Light A Flame (마음에 불을 지펴) – For some odd reason when I saw the title of this song, I thought we would be getting some edgy. But Light A Flame opts for a Latin influence. It is a bit more subdued and held back than the Latin releases that we are used to in KPOP. But this allows for a more sensual nature that makes Light A Flame feel unique. To me, the song is mature and well-thought out. Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo and Woozi bring amazing vocals to this piece, with a mixture of standard vocals, deep tones (for the rapping and ending of this song) and falsettos throughout. I particularly like jazzy style instrumental bridge we got. It fitted in nicely and worked well with the rest of the song. (9/10)
6. Ah! Love– Ah! Love is performed by S.Coups, Jeonghan and Joshua. To fit their status as the hyung-line (or eldest line) of the group, Ah! Love is actually quite mature sounding. That being said, the song does manage to develop into something along the lines of a R&B pop track. The acoustic guitars dominated the instrumental and helped the song grow its refined style. The song’s ‘Ah! Love You, Ah! Love Me’ hook was surprisingly quite catchy and enjoyable. It also happens to be the group’s most memorable hook from this album. (9/10)
7. All My Love (겨우) – The final song features the regrouping of Seventeen. It is soft pop balladry track that is enjoyable. There are nice melodies in the song and an impressive display of vocals and rapping throughout the song. I am not exactly a fan of the synthetic nature of the instrumental. It felt a little too distorted for my liking. But I do admit that when paired with Seventeen’s vocals, All My Love’s instrumental actually comes off as warm and inviting. Overall, a pleasant ending to the album. (8/10)
For those who may not know or remember, Saturdays used to be when I dedicated a review to a Japanese release made by a Korean artist. This year, I made the move to expand to more music releases that aren’t Japanese based and now the segment includes music releases by Korean artists in other languages such as Chinese and English. Since we find ourselves on another Saturday, and now that found enough releases to post two International Song Review posts (this one and another one next week!), it is time to revisit the segment. The releases in this post are more of the recent releases including SEVENTEEN, SNUPER, Taeyeon, NU’EST and Jackson Wang.
24H – SEVENTEEN
Two days after I published my last ISR (i.e. the 24th August 2020), SEVENTEEN dropped their latest original Japanese single, 24H. To me, 24H impresses with its refined take on their Korean releases, opting for maturity in the way they deliver 24H, without necessarily using an ‘edgy’ and dark concept to relay this maturity. The start of the song, which features S.Coups’ vocals, opens as if it was a Western pop song. I particularly like this as its allows the song to kickstart with something different than what we are used to. As the song progresses with acoustic guitars at the forefront of the background, the song gets heavier with its beat. The chorus feels rugged, with the guitar used here moving the song forward with a chugging momentum. The bridge amps up the chorus with what seems to be the song version of going ‘all out’, before returning the song to how it started before launching us into the chorus once again. Over its structure, the more vocal-centric side of the group appears, allowing that refinement to be taken to the next level. 24H‘s melodies and hooks are quite strong as well, giving myself an excuse to return to the song.
24H‘s music video continues the aesthetics from their Fallin’ Flower music video, albeit more darker. However, it doesn’t look like the members opted for a dark concept, just more serious. They do end up showing more of a masculine energy through this video, something I would love to see them show off in their Korean releases. Not exactly sure what it going on in the video plotwise, especially with S.Coups’ scene at the end with that metallic floating wire attacking him. I haven’t seen a theory for this video just yet, though I can tell it is going to be interesting. The choreography also carries some of the aesthetics, especially the sequence in which they form circle around Hoshi and The8. Overall, a strong Japanese comeback for SEVENTEEN.
Overall Rating –8.8/10
Oxygen – SNUPER
It has been a while since we have heard from SNUPER. Domestically, the group has not released anything since 2018. On the Japanese front, the group was more active in Japan with releases in 2019 and now Oxygen in 2020. Oxygen is a song that is driven by a deep house club beat. We don’t get that deep house club beat until the chorus hit. At first glance, it was thrilling drop that felt wholesome and quite pure. But the more I listened to the song, the more I felt that the chorus could have been a little more ‘spicier’, if you understand what I mean. What we get in Oxygen leans slightly to the more generic and unimaginative side. The verses that surround Oxygen were pretty lackluster and failed to really bring anything more to the song. Even the rap sequences opts for a trap-based background, which is pretty generic move.
With the lack of promotions, it seems like SNUPER no longer has a substantial budget for their music videos. While the visuals were quite crisp and high definition, the uninspiring sets and location really dulled the music video. The dark lighting was probably done so to make the group feel more mysterious. However, it was a poor choice as we couldn’t really see the members in the poor lighting. For the moves, I thought they mismatched the upbeatness of the song, especially when it came to the chorus. The moves felt sluggish and could have been snappier.
Overall Rating – 5.7/10
#GIRLSPKOUT – Taeyeon
Taeyeon made a surprise drop earlier this month with the release of the music video, #GirlsSpkOut, the title track from her upcoming Japanese mini-album release of the same name. It is pretty disappointing that SM Entertainment haven’t done much promotions for this MV release. It literally dropped out of nowhere. That aside, when I first heard the song, I thought it was going to be a 2.0 version of Taeyeon’s Spark due to its use of acoustic guitar. However, #GirlsSpkOut ended it being quite different. It sounds a lot funkier and it had more of a substantial pop feel to it. And as you listen to more of it, the song builds into something decent. If you were to judge the song by listening to only the first chorus, you are listening to it all wrong. It isn’t an active representation of the latter choruses, which both have more of a kick to them. Unfortunately, this extra energy never actually amounts to a peak, leaving #GirlsSpkOut as a somewhat flawed release. #GirlsSpkOut also features Japanese rapper, Chanmina, alongside Taeyeon’s nice (and well-known) vocals. This is something new, Korean artists have never really collaborated with someone from the Japanese music industry as far as I remember for a release. Chanmina’s featuring in #GirlsSpkOut was needed to give more energy to the song and help build the song. But her delivery was something I was not a fan of.
Based on the title alone, anyone can tell that the song is about female empowerment. And the music video tells you just that. Taeyeon is approached by a guy who doesn’t seem to understand the answer ‘no’. He is involved in an accident (a falling light sign – what are the chances?) just moments after Taeyeon leaves him. He is taken to the hospital in a full body cast. Taeyeon and her female friends band together to teach him a lesson. Chanmina also features in the video, which was also a nice treat. The choreography scenes were okay. They just didn’t show anything impressive or amazing-looking to make me go wow. Her visual game and outfits though looked awesome!
Overall Rating – 7/10
Drive – NU’EST
It has been a while since we last heard a Japanese release from NU’EST. Their last was 2015’s Nanananamida, the title track of their first Japanese studio album, Bridge The World. 5 years on, the group dropped Drive earlier this month, alongside their second Japanese studio album of the same name. Drive is a little different to your standard Japanese release, opting to step away from a choreography-required song. Drive focuses more on the singing and rapping, upfronting a pretty pleasant instrumentation made up of nice rhythmic guitars and an upbeat pop melody. I like this change up in style for the Japanese music industry, which separate the group’s release from the pack for uniqueness. The singing pulls you in and captivates you. It also compliments the instrumentation, adding to Drive‘s pleasantness and softness. As a result, I would gladly put this song to listen to the NU’EST vocalists. I did feel that the rapping was a little mismatched for the song. It could have potentially been more fitting if it was a tad smoother. But overall, a really good display of style and refinement from the members of NU’EST.
If I were to breakdown the music video, it is simply a music video full of a bunch of closeups. ‘There is a storyline embedded into those closeups, with JR approaching each member and pulling them to the circle of chairs we see in the video. I am not sure what this is supposed to mean and whether it represents something in the lyrics or not (I couldn’t tell). My best guess is that it something about coming together after being separated for so long. As mentioned previously, there is no choreography for this comeback. Instead, the group scenes were shots of the members singing into microphones, which was a nice touch that compliments the softness of the song. I liked the golden aura that comes from these scenes.
Overall Rating – 8/10
Pretty Please – Jackson Wang & Galantis
The final song on this list today is Jackson Wang and Galantis’ collaboration, titled Pretty Please. For those who are not familiar with Galantis, they bring the funky and groovy electronic-based instrumental that forms the backbone of Pretty Please to life. It is a really awesome backing for the song and feels super addictive. Jackson brings the vocals to the song. I really like his deep and raspy vocals in this song. He adds some unique colour to the song and the texture is super appealing over the electronic instrumentation. Music-wise, big ticks from me. My only complaint is the song goes by so quickly. Two and a half minutes is nothing. And especially with such a fun, groovy and upbeat instrumentation, it literally blurs by in a matter of seconds. I wished there was more to it, as every time I listen to Pretty Please, I am caught off guard by the unexpecting ending that comes out of nowhere.
The end of the music video gives a bit of context to the idea behind the video. Jackson has always wanted to shoot something along the lines of ’90s Hong Kong movie’ concept. And I agree with him that it is a pretty cool setting to shoot in. The video starts off with Jackson and his friends at a Chinese restaurant, watching a documentary about wolves, emphasising the idea of loyalty of friends and to partners. Enters the actress, the same one who played his love interest in 100 Ways. He notices that she left a pendant of a wolf and starts following her to get her attention down the street in a cool montage. And he doesn’t stop, presenting us with the first of the two loyalties. The second of the two loyalties is shown in the lead up to the dance choreography, where his friends (shown as wolves for a brief moment) come running from the restaurant to join him in the choreography shot at the end of the video. The video cuts to dark and it is revealed at he is still in the restaurant with his friends and he is holding the pendant. His eyes turns white, revealing him to be a wolf and is probably going to go searching for his female counterpart later on. The choreography in this video looks really cool and matches with the funky vibes of the song.
Unfortunately, at this stage, I only have capacity to write up 2 reviews per night. Please be patient, I will get through all the releases eventually. NCT U and LOONA reviews will be published tomorrow.
SEVENTEEN is the next group to be making their return today! After the highly successful release of Left & Right, which was featured on their million-unit seller album, Heng:garæ, the thirteen member male group has returned today with HOME;RUN (the title track) and Semicolon (the title of the special album that HOME;RUN is featured on). Tipped to be their next million-unit seller, SEVENTEEN seems to have already exceeded the bar set from their last comeback with over a million pre-orders already made prior to its release. Definitely great news for SEVENTEEN, who once again, has proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with.
HOME;RUN is a pretty exciting and fun song. It features a swing based style instrumental that is loaded with energy and retro vibes thanks to its 1920s roots. It is also a form of retro that SEVENTEEN has never done for. While I have enjoyed pretty much all SEVENTEEN releases to date, HOME;RUN‘s energy is definitely something you should not overlook or underestimate. It might not be as energetic and vibrant as AJU NICE, but it definitely up there. I really like how it just kept on going and it felt like a song that never really takes a break. It also enables SEVENTEEN a chance to show off some moves, as it contains a profound showtime influence from how I hear the song. Another aspect of the song that I liked was the instrumental. It kept true to its 1920s influenced swing form and didn’t contain any noticeable synths. I love the piano in the bridge and the brass throughout the song, particularly in the instrumental/dance break that followed the bridge (or formed part, not too sure). For the vocals and rapping, both elements were really good. I was shocked that there wasn’t more of a high note to bring HOME;RUN to a climax. I think that would have suited the song pretty well. Mingyu’s vocals in the first chorus was probably the standout moment for me, followed by the catchy melodies and hooks that the song had. Overall, a swingin’ track that really proves SEVENTEEN’s versatility and performance potential.
I really like how the video started off with where Left & Right‘s video was left (i.e. S.Coup’s car crash). Here he discovers a diamond (or a Carat – hey I see what you guys did there!) and it becomes the primary focus of the music video. It seems like each member is out to get it for themselves. It definitely creates an exciting music video to watch, which matches up with the song. I just wished it showed how each members got their hand on the diamond throughout the music video. And how the diamond ended up being locked away behind that glass panel in the wall, opposite S.Coup’s crash site. As you can tell, I like a good story and I felt like this one would have been one hilarious, twisty and clever one to watch. I liked how the video also stayed true to the 1920s swing vibes with its setting and outfits. Definitely cool and very sleek looking. I also really like the golden colour that the video had, which definitely shouts out ‘showtime’, which is highly relevant.
Best part of the music video has to be the ending with The8’s kneeling spin, bringing the performance to a close. The music video shot that part so well. I also like the musical stage vibe that the final chorus brought, giving the performance a very stage compatible climax. Aside from the final chorus montage, SEVENTEEN hits the woah during the earlier choruses and I will be interested to see how SEVENTEEN pulls off the integration of all the members following Hoshi, Jun and Chan’s unit moment earlier on the video (which looks cool nonetheless).
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
SEVENTEEN achieved the title of ‘million seller’ with the release of their seventh mini-album, Heng:garæ, which features the title track, Left & Right. Congratulations to the group! For those who may not know what ‘million seller’ refers to, it is the title given to a group who sells over a million copies of their album within the first week of its release. The only other group to achieve this feat is BTS, who has done so with three of their most recent album releases including Map of the Soul: 7 which was released earlier this year (which makes SEVENTEEN the second group to achieve this feat this year!). It is definitely exciting for the group and for the fans who support SEVENTEEN! And this makes diving into this album more thrilling, so let’s get listening!
1. Fearless– Kicking off the album is Fearless and it makes sure the album starts off with a strong one. Fearless is quite heavy, unlike other songs that start off an album in a lighter manner. But a strong song can result in a bold entrance, which is the case we have here. When I listened Fearless for the first time, the song felt like it was swinging at you, as if the members were fearless of whatever was holding them back. It had nice momentum, vocals and raps. It also felt very clean and organized, which was quite appealing to me. There was potential for it to be a title track. Fearless also incorporated some of Fear (their previous title track) melodies during the bridge, but they change the lyrics to show the difference between the Fear and the Fearless. It caught me off guard at first. And now I consider it to be the killing part of the song. (9/10)
3.I Wish (좋겠다) – I Wish reminds me of those KPOP ballads we used to get on albums in the past. It was all about a one-sided crush, how they yearn to confess to their crush and how lonely they feel as the days past. Pretty much a cliché topic to sing about. Aside from the sprinkling of nostalgia that I Wish does give off, I don’t find the pop ballad to be that special and I haven’t fallen for it. I find everything (melodies, vocals, raps) in the song to be good, but that is the extent that I would give it. There were two parts that did perk my interest, but it didn’t do enough. First was the layering of Wonwoo’s rapping and everyone singing and second is the synthesizer (I think it was synthesizer) used in the instrumental break towards the end of the song. (7/10)
5. Kidult (어른 아이) – Kidult has more of a kick to it, thanks to the use of the band instrumentation, which gives off pop-rock ballad vibe. It feels and sounds a lot more captivating than I Wish. It is a lot more suitable and refreshing for the Summer season. The song is all about being a kid and adult, or at times, a mixture of both (hence the title). And it seems like their lover has the same issue and the members are telling them to embrace it. Their vocals were very fitting for this style and that is definitely apparent throughout the song. DK’s ad-libs and high pitch vocals were on point. The rap-singing was a good choice, giving the rappers a chance to fit into the song. The melodies were great, and I had the swaying effect come to me while listening to the song (which is a positive determinator in my level of enjoyment of the song). (9/10)
6. Together (같이가요) – Together is all about being together no matter what. And like how it feels like a more upbeat version of Kidult and has an OST type of vibe to it. I like the classical instrumentation that is mixed into the upbeat band instrumentation. This entire track is very foot-tapping worthy (another positive determinator in my level of enjoyment). I find their vocal work in this song to be the best on this album (DK is definitely shaping to be my new favourite main vocalist), with my favourite parts was when all the members would sing together at the end of the chorus. I liked the inclusive atmosphere that comes about in those sections and from this song, overall. The inspirational feel was also a plus, thanks to the members’ delivery of the lyrics. What a positive way to end the song. (10/10)
2020 has proven to be an eventful year so, without a doubt. But since we are at the halfway mark already, let’s have a little reflection post on the last 6 months. In no particular order, here are 10 of my personal favourite KPOP releases since the start of 2020. I have also added some of my favourite sidetracks that I have encountered so far in the year as part of my top 10. This is also irrespective of my reviews and Weekly KPOP charts posts.
Giving us directions into this week is SEVENTEEN. The 13 member male group makes their grand return comeback with their 7th mini-album, Journey of Youth or Heng:garæ, and the title track Left & Right. Alongside Left & Right, the group also pre-released My My (which I reviewed already). In the My My review, I said that Us, Again was another pre-release track for this new mini-album. But upon the album’s release, I see that this single is not part of their 7th mini-album and is just a fan single (with no formal release aside from the lyric video they dropped a few weeks back). Aside from that little note, let’s see where SEVENTEEN is going to take us with this release.
SEVENTEEN has been focusing on very mature and dark sounds over their last few releases. As it is Summer time in South Korea, the group’s new single takes on a more energetic and upbeat feel to suit the season full of bright energy and colour. Left & Right takes on a modern hip-hop sound, a different style to what SEVENTEEN has released before. This might because SVENTEEN had retained that mature sound from their previous comebacks, whilst infusing it with a brighter sound. And it is because of this that I find Left & Right is unlike their previous Summer tracks, such as Oh My or Aju Nice, which each had a teenage vibe to it. And unlike those tracks, I find the the dynamic profile of this song to be well hidden in the music. What I like already about the song is that everything comes off as easygoing. From the light instrumentation to the laid-back nature of the hooks and melodies, SEVENTEEN really makes sure we are not overwhelmed in any way, making this an ideal Summer track to kick back to. And to match with this approach, their vocals and rapping are not overly dominate in the song as well. Everything just feels well-balanced and I liked that. Sure, Left & Right doesn’t have their most impressive vocal and rapping delivery to date, but their easygoing tone really appeals to me. The song’s main appealing point has to be its casual hook. Its presence in the teaser already sold me this comeback, but to hear it in full with the rest of the song really adds that more melodic touch to it. I am thoroughly enjoying this song and I can definitely tell it will be one that I will be replaying in the weeks to come.
The song is all about doing what you believe in. And I think the video does a good job presenting that. Take the race as an example. The old man starts the race off with the gun and seems to represents all the grownups that tell you what you should and should not do. Seungkwan seems to be the only one who listens and runs off, while all the other members stayed back and danced. When Seungkwan stops running, he is faced with two signs – ‘Early bird catches the worm‘ and ‘Youth can change everything‘. They don’t spark happiness in him, as you can tell with this facial expressions. Those signs talk all about being successful and don’t really tell you much about growing up and learning from your mistakes. The members burn a book about becoming successful and a trophy to go against becoming successful and perfect. The graffiti on the wall says to ‘Do Your Best’, but the members respond with ‘But maybe not sometimes‘ to say that it is okay regardless of the outcome. The biggest moment of the music video is when the members run into the dilemma of going left or right. Joshua instead doesn’t follow the two paths that are set and redirect the arrows to go up (i.e. doing what you believe in). As S.Coups is the oldest, it is logical he would go up first. He is strapped into car pretending to be like a rocket ship, which only goes up. Lift off was okay, but the car explodes and end up going back down, signifying failure. I final scene where S.Coups get out of the car and starts dancing represents that is whatever the outcome of a choice you make is, everything will be okay.
I really like how the choreography really brought that fun aspect to the performance. It just makes the stage so much more engaging and appealing to watch. I think the chorus looks like one of those that will go onto becoming viral and everyone will be dancing along to it. I also like how the performance related to the song’s easygoing vibe and didn’t incorporate anything complex looking, which obviously wouldn’t work well. I say this because SEVENTEEN is notorious for difficult dance moves.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.3/10