At the end of 2022, MINHO made his long awaited solo comeback with his first mini-album ever, CHASE. This is led by the single of the exact same name, along with four additional side tracks and the single Heartbreak (which was released a year prior to this mini-album release – link in the review below). MINHO becomes the final member of SHINee to release a solo mini-album, nine years on since fellow member Taemin made his solo debut – the first SHINee member to do so. But this review is all about MINHO, so let’s see what I thought about MINHO’s solo debut mini-album.
2. Runaway (ft. Gemini) – Runaway is the song with the most substantial hip-hop influence of all on the mini-album. I really liked the smoothness of the instrumentation, which translates well to the melodies and both MINHO and Gemini’s flow in Runaway. I enjoyed the oriental influences that came off the instrumental as well. It creates a really intriguing atmosphere in the song, and the combination with the hip-hop made was a very interesting vibe. (8/10)
3. Prove It – Next up on the mini-album is Prove It. It is more of a R&B track, with a bit of groovy vibe thanks to the guitar riffs. This is further emphasized by the presence of some brass, which brings a splash to colour to the instrumental yet also maintaining Prove It’s mature exterior. Minho himself brings a lower and breathy tone to the song, which I quite enjoyed. I just wished the melodies and hooks were more memorable. (7/10)
4. Waterfall (ft. Lim Kim) – Waterfall, to me, was the mini-album’s most interesting side track. I really liked the wobble-like sound effect in the background, which mimics the idea of how water wobbles. You might also stretch out and describe as the sound of what a ripple effect in water might sound like. Either way, it is definitely a scene setter. Lim Kim’s unique vocals really bring some freshness to the song, while Minho’s showcases a higher tone in this song. Both harmonise extremely well with one another, and this creates such a harmonious yet atmospheric track to listen to. (9/10)
5. Choice – Choice brings a breezier vibe to the mini album. It is also a lot brighter, thanks to the pop direction that the R&B song takes in the chorus with the retro video game-like synths. MINHO also supplements this, by bringing a more expressive delivery through both vocals and raps present in the song. I also enjoyed the keyboard present in the song, especially during that outro, which just gives Choice a bit more colour and character. (8/10)
ONEW made his solo comeback earlier this week, with his third solo Korean release since his solo debut back in 2018. O (Circle) headlines this comeback, as part of his first studio length album, Circle. Both Circles follow the release of BLUE and Voice (from his solo debut in 2018), DICE (title of both his second Korean solo single and second Korean mini-album) and his Japanese comebacks last year.
O(Circle) reverts away from the retro city pop that ONEW had opted for his last comeback, and takes us down what almost sounds like a balladry path. But it isn’t like BLUE, which was pretty much your standard ballad with stunning orchestral instrumentation and amazing vocals from ONEW himself. Instead, O(Circle) takes on a softer and delicate R&B tone. The heavy bass line and organ-like synth in O(Circle) helps create a riveting backing piece to the song, while ONEW shines with his velvety vocals. Altogether, O(Circle) comes together to be a dreamy and soothing piece that stands out in the influx of comebacks, debuts and other releases we are experiencing. The use of the gospel choir as a backing to the chorus made for an excellent centrepiece and gave O(Circle) some deep impact. It also helped heighten the message of the song – just like the seasons are slightly different but also similar each year, life is quite similar as we have different experiences, but we are similar in the end. Relatively, it does make the verses sound lacking and very much less memorable. But it doesn’t necessarily stop O(Circle) from being an impactful and gripping song on a whole.
The montage at the start of the video of ONEW singing was one of the most captivating moments in a music video that I ever seen before. And this pretty much sets the aesthetic tone for the rest of the music video. We have some artistic shots of other things throughout the video. At one point, the items are colourful and alive, depicting the happier moments in life. Then, we see a bloodied phone screen, an unlightened light bulb cast aside and some crayons with dust around them, which depicted the darker moments in life to me. In the latter half of the video, we have a similar montage of items. The acting sequence of the video is probably the part that I find hardest to connect to, as I don’t know what is on going on there. At the end of the video, we get another montage of ONEW. It is a lot quicker and looks like the video is buffering. But I see it as a quick montage of a life, with the life being the entire music video.
Just like the music video, the choreography has this aesthetic side to it, which I really enjoyed. It definitely made for a captivating routine. I honestly did not expect to see a choreography routine for the comeback, given the song is very close to the balladry side of music. But I am glad it did, as it makes the live performances worth returning to. I also like how graceful the movements were, which not only fits the song, but give ONEW the opportunity to focus on the vocal work for the performance.
Song – 8.5/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.6/10
Casting out minds back to the end of August of last year, KEY returned as a solo artist with GASOLINE and his second studio album of the same name. Just over five months later (i.e. today), KEY returns with the repackaged version of GASOLINE, retitled as Killer. KEY’s latest title track also shares the same name.
I am super pumped to review this track. Without holding any of it back, Killer emerges with and consistently delivers an instrumental made of retro 80s synths (which reminds me of The Weeknd’s hit Blinding Lights). In fact, it features an unapologetic amount of 80s synth that just makes me so excited and feels like it could have been an amazing follow up to KEY’s Bad Love from 2021. Killer is also very up-tempo and upbeat, with the beat falling into the foot tapping category at the very minimum, but more so a track to get up and dance about to. I really enjoyed the intensity that comes with the choruses, which makes Killer feel explosive and powerful. To compliment, KEY projects one of his best and most impressive display of vocals ever, particular in the choruses, which ultimately helps fuel the intensity and power of the chorus. He also provides some falsetto, upping the ante to the song further. There are moments of reprieve, but they are very brief. Just enough to give you an opportunity to breathe for a second, before jumping right back to the energy that is Killer. I do think an intense rap segment, either from KEY or a featuring artist, would have been the icing on the cake and intensify the song even further. But what we got is absolutely fine and forms part of a super strong comeback.
I would have liked a stronger and more fleshed out story to the music video. It starts off with a flipped burning car and KEY zipping away on his motorcycle. Later we see KEY walk away from the wreckage with a flame thrower (or another type of flame gun). Based on the lyrics, KEY likens the pain memories cause following the breakdown of a relationship, where he likens the pain to killing his partner. The fiery crash most likely depicted his partner/past relationship, while his action of causing the fire signifies the end of the relationship with his partner. However, I do like details and would have liked to know the leadup to the the burning car. Apart from that, the music features a fair amount of passion and emotions, ranging from sadness to anger. All of which KEY nailed amazingly in this video.
From what I can see, the performance features equally passionate and intense moves that compliment the energy that comes off Killer. The entire chorus routine looks super cool based on what I could see via the snippets we got in the choreography. I also excited to hear KEY nail this song via a live performance, especially if he is dancing to the same calibre as in the music video.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 8.5/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.9/10
Apologies for the lack of album reviews (and reviews in general) over the weekend. I opted to not post anything during the festivities of the Lunar New Year, instead focusing on family (although through video calls and group chats this year) per tradition. I will reserve my wishes to you all that celebrate Lunar New Year in the Weekly KPOP Charts post that will go up tomorrow. For now, I leave you with the album review I had originally intended to post on Saturday – KEY’s 2nd studio album, GASOLINE. The studio album was released at the end of August 2022 and features the title track of the same name (and 10 other side tracks). GASOLINE follows KEY’s first mini-album, BAD LOVE from 2021, which many people can agree on it being a very successful solo album. While I don’t think GASOLINE reaches the heights of BAD LOVE, it definitely continues to show KEY’s individuality and potential as an artist (not that he really needs to prove that – BAD LOVE for sure cemented that confidence into anyone who had doubts about KEY).
2. Bound– Following the title track is Bound, a dark and sexy pop track that I personally feel is fitting for KEY’s style, brand and personality. The pairing of deep vocals that KEY brings to Bound via the verses and the higher pitched he gives us in the choruses shows off KEY’s vocal capabilities, but also creates a captivating atmosphere. The sassy attitude vibe that the instrumental is so unapologetic dark and alluring, with the instrumental breaks we get being so charismatic. (9/10)
3. Villain (ft. Jeno of NCT) – Villain joins the forces of both KEY (as this is his album) and JENO (from NCT) in a really cool and funky sounding track. There is also a dark vibe to the track, but not as much as the previous track, which allows it to both follow on and ease us away from the first two tracks of the album. I liked the back and forth between both KEY and Jeno, and the differences between the two idols musically and with the lyrics (which were about a villain wanting to be a main character). KEY’s vocals bringing smoothness whilst Jeno’s vocals/raps were rough and raspy. Together, they melded with one another to create a nice ‘icing on the cake’ scenario for the song. (9/10)
4. Burn – Burn begins as an emotional break up song, with KEY’s passionate and soaring vocals delivering the start of the song. But as the song progresses, Burn ends up falling into the funky and groovy territory of pop music, which was a pleasant surprise in terms of trajectory for the song. This gave the song character and a uniqueness to that I personally enjoyed. However, to keep the Burn interesting, I wished the second verse was a bit more creative and not necessarily a repeat of the first verse. I appreciate that it snaps back to the roots of the song (i.e., the emotional feeling from the first verse), but the second verse just didn’t feel as interesting as it could have been. (8/10)
5. Guilty Pleasure – You could expect Guilty Pleasure in the clubs! I really enjoyed the consistent drive of the retro house synths, which just makes it idea for that club environment. I do feel that KEY’s vocals and Guilty Pleasure’s melodies could have been a bit more captivating and interesting. But it is a solid track, nonetheless. (7.5/10)
6. G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) – G.O.A.T stands out with its atmospheric and bubbly synths that make up the song’s instrumentation. KEY sounds really pleasant throughout G.O.A.T, with the melodies having a swaying effect, similar to the ones I tend to mention when I talk about ballads. At the bridge of the song, the producers insert an orchestral touch to heighten the peak of G.O.A.T, which I personally thought was a cool and unique twist to a synth-filled track. While I do think it was successful, the final chorus should have followed through with a better drop, just to carry on that momentum more naturally. (9/10)
7. I Can’t Sleep – I Can’t Sleep is one of my favourite side tracks on the album. I just feel like it is the most straightforward and simple song on the album that also manages to speak volume. There is also a fun and vibrant tone to it. Another reason to why I picked it as one of my favourite because it also feels nostalgic to me, thanks to the song’s pop instrumentation. (9/10)
8. Ain’t Gonna Dance – Ain’t Gonna Dance is a lot more complicated, but still sits in the pop realm. It starts off atmospheric with balanced and measured vocals from KEY. But this is short-lived, as the percussion comes in boldly, making a statement to what is come with the rest of the song – textured trap beats and funky undertones, all of which feels miles away from the start of Ain’t Gonna Dance. KEY sounds amazing in this track, showing off falsettos in the chorus that allows the textures from the spacious instrumentation to do some of the speaking alongside his vocals. Altogether, it creates an interesting energy that I would gladly replay over and over again. (10/10)
9. Another Life – Based on my understanding, Another Life was previously performed as part of KEY’s first solo online concert from 2021 – Beyond LIVE – Key: Groks in the Keyland. It is also an all-English track. Another Life kicks things off with a synthwave instrumental that gets more intense and bolder during the chorus. It is quite a strong instrumentation, and so I am quite impressed with how powerful KEY’s vocals come off as. There was also some good hooks and moments that bumps up Another Life in my books. The choreography for Another Life is also remarkable and showcases KEY’s performance skills very well. (9/10)
10. Delight – The piano at the start was misleading, suggesting for a second that Delight was going into ballad territory. But in a matter of seconds, the track picks up with very bright/vivid vocals and ultimately progresses towards disco-pop territory. I love how breezy KEY’s vocals sound in the track, especially during the falsettos he delivers in the chorus. Altogether, Delight is a purely fun and playful track that I have definitely been replaying since the album’s release. Aside from the first few seconds, Delight can also be described as straightforward and simple. (10/10)
11. Proud – Ending the album is a track that delves into a genre that hasn’t been heard elsewhere on the album just yet. Proud kicks things off with a prominent hip-hop beat and reflects on his career so far. I do like the tone and energy that KEY puts into the song, but I felt the melodies were a little dull for my liking. But still a neat ender to the album which quality is consistent with the rest of the album. (7/10)
Fellow SHINee members KEY and ONEW are nominated for a range of categories include Best Outfits, Best Concept and Best Album in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support KEY and ONEW by clicking here to vote today!
MINHO makes his comeback a solo artist this past week with the single and debut mini-album that shares the same title, Chase. This is his first comeback since the release of Heartbreak at the end of last year. Since then, MINHO refocused on his acting career and released new music as a solo artist in Japan earlier this year. MINHO has definitely been busy.. In a rather interesting move (though not necessarily unheard of), MINHO released Chase (both the single and mini-album) digitally last week, while the physical version of the album and the music video dropped today.
Chase, as a whole, comes off as your typical R&B track. The slowness of the track helps makes the track sensual in nature, while the instrumentals help create a moody atmosphere. All of this was pretty successful. The instrumental was a combination of a neat piano loop, trap beats and a heavy bassline. Altogether, these instrumental created an alluring background piece. Another interesting aspect of Chase was the lyrics, which expresses the emptiness that one feels after chasing someone they cannot get to. Again, it feels like a message that is suited for the R&B genre. But aside from that, there isn’t much else from within Chase that attracted me to the song, and this limited appeal is why I put Chase down as a ‘typical R&B track’. In the vocal department, MINHO sings his lines for the entirety of Chase,. And while he does a decent job, they aren’t vocals that we can rave about, not like how I did in his previous solo releases. He handles the job well, but there are other compelling vocal performances out there. You might argue that it might be a bit harsh for me to judge MINHO as a singer, when he usually takes on the role of main rapper during group performances with SHINee. But from how I see it, he (or his company) had the opportunity to put out a song that showcase a better side of him, but the decision was made for Chase to be MINHO’s best foot forward. I get the need to show a different side of an artist in their solo work, but I don’t think Chase was the best choice. It also didn’t help that Chase didn’t have much of a hook to help make the track more memorable (i.e. during the chorus), not did it have melodies that could act in place of a hook. Overall, a fair effort from MINHO for his solo comeback, but I am sure that there are other styles and songs that fits MINHO’s profile better..
I found the whole music video for Chase to be quite an interesting watch. The very start of the music video features a suspenseful montage of shots from later on in the music video that perks up your interest. We see an affectionate couple, followed by a fiery accident and finally a shot of a female whispering into MINHO’s ear. The plot of the video then starts with MINHO waking up. We see flashbacks to a time when MINHO was lying in bed with his partner, but it is apparent from his messy surroundings in his solo shots that she is no longer around and he is heartbroken. At night, he visit bars to seek out his missing partner, but it earns him a bashing and bruised face. To be fair, he was pretty much disrupting the patron’s night. After failing to find her, he sits on the streets and his mind takes him back to the fiery accident I mentioned earlier. We see that he is practically unscathed from the car crash, but it turns out his lover was not as lucky as him. She was a fatality in the accident. In the midst of the accident, Minho notices his lover standing afar. But despite chasing after her, he cannot reach her. It is later revealed that her ghost has been haunting him by staring back through the mirror and whispering messages into his ear, which is probably why he cannot get her out of his head and ends up ‘chasing’ her every night. In the end, he takes a gun and shoots the mirror to stop her. As a quick sidenote, there was a sinister scene at the start of the video which flicked by where his lover staring directly at the camera whilst on the bed (see the 0:19 mark on the video), which gave me creepy chills.
It comes as no surprise to me that the moves in this routine were of the slow and smooth nature, which is complementary to R&B tracks of this nature. But it wasn’t the slow moves that stole the show for me. The formations of the dancers at the start and end of the performance, and their small bobs in time with the piano made me go wow. I also found the routine during the bridge to be quite cool, especially when MINHO and the female dancers all did a wave to bring him back up.
Song – 6/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 7.3/10
Finally getting around to another International Song Reviews post. I originally had intended to post one of these every fortnight since the start of September, but I have failed to keep up. So, I am hoping to smash through some of these as fast as I can, especially since I feel like the songs that I cover in this segment of the blog have been really forgotten (on my part) this year. In the last International Song Reviews post, I covered ITZY, Mark Tuan (from GOT7), Jackson Wang (from GOT7), CIX, Golden Child and Woosung (from The Rose).
This time around, I will be focusing on ONEW (from SHINee), Jackson Wang again (from GOT7), MONSTA X, aespa, TXT and Stray Kids.
Life Goes On – ONEW (SHINee)
Life Goes On is the title of both the lead single and first studio length Japanese album from ONEW, the leader of SHINee. It dropped officially back in July of this year. Life Goes On is a cheerful summery track that has a simple message – even in the most boring or hardest times, life will continue. It features a bright and up-tempo acoustic instrumental that really sets the mood and makes you look/think in a positive light, which is the whole purpose of the song. ONEW’s vocals were dreamy and light, and worked well with the brightness that radiates from the song. My only issue (and it is a minor one!) with the song is how it transitioned from the pre-choruses to choruses. The buildup in the pre-choruses was done well, but the chorus slowed down just by a tiny hair. It isn’t much and doesn’t ruin the song for me. But it is one of those things that now I have noticed it, it just stick out me every time I listen to the song.
As mentioned before, the song is quite bright and gives off positive energy. ONEW’s solo scenes are all shot on a beach on a very sunny day and the ocean is just so blue, a perfect setting for the song. Elsewhere in the video, we see actress Hinako Sakurai come face to face with a few hiccups in her day (knocking over a plant, bumping into people, nodding off, dropping her lunch). But while she does become upset over these events, she manages to still enjoy her day, as depicted by her bright smiles and dance scenes. We also see some sadness, so the video covers all bad moments that are possible, but her ongoing dance parties are a nice resolve to get through to the next day. Even the ending, where the world had disappeared, is passed off by her as another day or something to worry about later.
Overall Rating – 8.4/10
Cruel – Jackson Wang
Another July release, with Jackson returning with the single Cruel, another pre-release single from his second studio length album, MAGICMAN (which was later released in September). This time around, Jackson Wang delves into grungier rock territory with Cruel. Personally, I prefer the likes of Blow over Cruel, but I appreciate the nostalgia that Cruel brings forth for me (i.e. the grungy styled tracks from my youth). I also enjoyed the fact that the song is vastly moodier and darker than any song he has put out previously – a nice change to his music. The use of his raspy tone and the filtering of his vocals throughout Cruel were one of the highlights of the song. Another highlight was the way the electric guitar acted as nice detailing to the grungy tones of the song, balancing out the song.
The music video probably the best part of this release. And to sum it up, it is amazing. Essentially, Jackson Wang and the people we see in the video are demons who have wrecked havoc on the world. But now it is the fight of the fittest demon, with all of them fighting each other for ultimate power. Jackson, as the main character, manages to succeed in eliminating them all over a well choreographed sequence which also includes playing some of the other demons as guitars. He takes their souls and faces off the one on the throne, who appears to have overpowered him. But that twist ending where he reappears might suggest he has a few tricks up his sleeve. The setting and even their ashy appearances all worked super well in the video.
Overall Rating – 8.8/10
Late Night Feels – Sam Feldt MONSTA X
Late Night Feels was a fun number between Sam Feldt (Dutch DJ) and MONSTA X. I liked the groovy and funky instrumentation of the song, with the disco undertones and brass giving the song extra liveliness and additional colour. Late Night Feels‘ backing is also quite light and airy, perfect for the type of late night feels one might have to just have some fun and escape their troubles. Pairing up nicely with this element are the vocals of MONSTA X, who also add a further layer of brightness to the song with their higher pitched vocals. The simple melody of the chorus definitely caught on and I found myself humming the song to myself quite a fair bit after its release. Late Night Feels all came together to be a straight-forward and enjoyable track.
I recognized a few faces from the video including LeenaDong, Alan Chikin Chow and Brooke Monk. Essentially, they are treated poorly by their bosses, strangers and loved ones. Instead of continually putting up with such treatment, each of person are transported to a different world, where they are dressed in PJs, surrounded by dancers and neon lighting and get to have fun with some carefree (or awkward in Alan’s case) dances. Their peers end up joining them, and they also lose the serious tones we first saw them in and see them in a more lighthearted manner. The video definitely sums up the song quite well.
Overall Rating – 8/10
Life’s Too Short – aespa
aespa released their first English single, Life’s Too Short, back in June of this year. The single later featured on their 2nd mini-album, Girls, which I will be reviewing soon. Life’s Too Short is a mid-tempo R&B pop single with a simple yet breezy melody that draws my attention to the song. I quite appreciate this release, as it is vastly different to their main EDM-based title tracks, which can be overwhelming at times. Even though this is a pop track and doesn’t necessarily pack a punch like those title tracks I just mentioned, Life’s Too Short still manages to showcase potential behind their vocals, especially when they single together. It is all unfiltered and uncomplicated, which allows the listener’s focus to be just on the vocals. The pop instrumentation is quite light and pleasant, which in turn enables the vocals and melodies to do most of the talking.
Despite having seen this side of aespa through their past remake singles, I still find it weird to see the members in a more innocent vibe. I am just so used to seeing and thinking of them in edgy gear/concepts. But it is a neat change of image (even if it is brief). I guess even aespa needs their off days from their KWANGYA travels. I found the teenage-like concept the members take on board to suit the simpleness of the song. However, I did wish the music video was a bit more interesting, just to make it more memorable, as it is pretty dry for the most part. As for the choreography, it is nice. But pretty typical.
Overall Rating – 7.3/10
Valley of Lies – TXT ft. iann dior
Valley of Lies is also another July release, and features the likes of TXT and iann dior (rapper and singer). Together, they form a neat indie pop rock track that is very easy on the ears. There really isn’t much to this song, if I am being honest. I quite like the heavy presence of the strumming guitar in this song. I really liked the husky and raspy tones that both TXT and iann dior bring to the song, as it gave the song some grit and substance. Otherwise, I would have passed on the track and ignored it. But they gave me a reason to listen to Valley of Lies. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to comment on. This lack of talking points doesn’t mean Valley of Lies is lacking or boring. It is just a simple track that I enjoyed and I don’t think I need elaborate further.
We don’t get a music video for this release. But we did get an official visualizer, which in the grand scheme of things, acts as a music video. In this visualizer, we see an animation of a figure walking through the valley of lies (and at one point, flying through the sky). This appears to be in line with the song, which “speaks about a lonesome journey that one takes towards the end of a relationship, along a trail of countless lies”. I do want to know what the different backgrounds mean, as I feel they add more meaning to the video than meets the eye.
Overall Rating – 7.7/10
Circus – Stray Kids
The final release to be part of this post is Stray Kids’ Circus, their latest Japanese single, which was released in June. A Korean version of Circus featured as part of their latest mini-album, MAXIDENT, which I will be reviewing some time in the future. Circus is a hip-hop dance track that has is centered on a circus theme, which I thought was cool and unique. I quite enjoyed the release, as the members made sure it was dynamic and fun, whilst also trendy and modern. There were many good moments throughout Circus, like the circus theme coming through via the melody during the bridge and the whispery lines at the start of the choruses. There was also a strong showing of rapping and vocals from the members, per usual. But my favourite part of Circus has to be Lee Know’s line in the second chorus. It is super ear catching and goes back to that idea that the song is dynamic. I constantly replay Circus just for that moment.
Like the song, the music video features a circus theme and circus performers, alongside the members. But we don’t see just one set of the members. There are two sets of Stray Kids featured in this video, which instantly bring up the cool factor in my books. One of them are actual circus acts, while the other version of the group sneak in. By the end of the video, the two sides are performing together. Like the song, there are other cool moments in this video, but Hyunjin stole my attention with his visuals. As for the choreography, I liked how they interwoven references to circus acts into the music video. It keeps the circus theme going. I also liked how they kept it punchy and dynamic. I would have loved to see the four members (can’t tell who) do that spinning move they did at the back of one of the scenes of the music videos. That looked cool in the video and would have been super awesome to be pulled off on stage.
We are still a couple of months out from a year since KEY impressed with his solo comeback. BAD LOVE (title of both the title track and first mini album). But that hasn’t stopped KEY from returning with a new music. More specifically, a new single and his second studio length album, both of which have been titled Gasoline. The new material dropped officially today, even though he did informally pre-release the sides tracks Another Life and Proud and performed Gasoline at the recent SM Town concerts.
But the focus of this review is purely on Gasoline, the title track. The biggest question that I have for myself heading into this comeback was whether Gasoline tops the likes of BAD LOVE (which knocked my socks off last year). Unfortunately, I can confirm that the new release does not exceed the standard that was set by last year’s release. I will explain why in a bit. Gasoline is a hip-hop dance track that really grabs our attention from the get-go with its bold and fanfare instrumentation at the start and during the choruses. Heavy thumping takes over the in verses and the brass elements that contribute to the fanfare influence in the chorus is taken down a few notches. All of this was very good and definitely is very memorable. I quite liked the decision to skip the chorus following the second verse, going straight into the bridge. It was an interesting change of momentum and the thumping beat was quite exciting and thrilling. It definitely got the adrenaline running through my body. My issue with Gasoline was the lack of melody. There was some, but none of it was rewarding or fulfilling like in his previous comeback. Also, the boastful and confident main hook of the song (i.e. the ‘A-List, The Latest, Made It, I’m Ready, Big Rings, Your Scream‘) felt so cringy and was very questionable to me. I see how the first four compliments the idea of being confident and ambitious, but the latter two that I quoted makes no sense. The start-stop manner it was delivered in was also a bit plain and wearisome, and I wished the hook was more gratifying to listen to. KEY’s rapping throughout the track was good, but it is the way Gasoline‘s centric moments were delivered that I find to be a letdown.
The music video makes up for the Gasoline‘s lacking aspects. I am blown away by the quality and jaw-dropping visuals that KEY delivers in this comeback. My guess is that KEY is like a god in this video, with the dancers worshipping him. This would work well with the confidence and ambition that KEY expresses in the lyrics of the song. The golden colour that appears throughout the video (and subsequently becomes a memorable aspect of the video) also helps out with this. Another thing I quite liked about the video is that KEY isn’t scared to show off a completely different style to other idols and isn’t shy of trying unique outfits. It left such a strong impression on me, as a viewer, which works hand-in-hand with the message he is trying to get across. The sets were also grand and imposing, helping to make KEY stand out.
I quite liked the powerful aspect of the choreography, which felt fitting to the way he delivered the track. The routine was definitely quite busy, as well, thanks to the number of dancers featured in this comeback. But I think this helps give the choreography a boastful image as well, which works well with the message the song gives out.
Song – 7.5/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 8.5/10 Overall Rating – 8.5/10
I hate to admit it, but I actually forgot about ONEW’s April comeback. I was only reminded of it whilst I was plotting down dates for when certain album reviews would need be to posted by. However, I made sure that ONEW got his mini-album review for DICE, which is the title of both the lead single from the mini-album and the 2nd mini-album itself. This comeback followed his 2018 solo debut, where he debuted with the single BLUE and mini-album VOICE.
ONEW’s second mini-album is astounding, to say the very least. So much so that I ran out of words to describe a very key aspect of the album and ONEW himself – his vocals. So much so that I gave out 3 10/10 songs in this album review. It (probably) makes DICE one of the best albums so far this year (in my opinion). I need to update my personal records to make sure of this. But with such a high rating overall, I am certain DICE is up there.
2. Sunshine – Sunshine goes slightly harder with its pop sound, whilst also staying lighthearted and carefree like the title track. ONEW’s vocals find a balance between being dreamy and light, whilst also complementing that the harder tone of Sunshine (as mentioned). The flow of Sunshine helped make the song fun and captivating for me. The post-chorus, which had a memorable ring thanks to the English phrases and its rap like approach, was probably my favourite part of the song. That is closely followed by his incline towards the final chorus. The ad-libs we hear as the song fades out to a close brings back that dreamy nature. (9/10)
3. On The Way – On The Way takes down the energy a notch with a more subdued track. The instrumental takes on a disco like approach, but it has been refined to be more fitting of the subdued nature of the song/vocals. The winning element of On The Way is ONEW’s vocals. I had to listen to the song a number of times to write this review, simply because I keep on getting distracted by the vocals. Needless to say, they are stunning throughout this song, especially when he effortlessly goes into the falsettos and the more dynamic moments such as the brief jab that is the song’s title. Overall, a very perfect and well-rounded song. (10/10)
4. Love Phobia – Again, we are taken down an extra notch with an even more subdued track. Here, ONEW really conveys his emotions well and gives Love Phobia a fragile and vulnerable characteristic. Just take a listen to the bridge if you have yet to (or another listen at the bridge if you already heard the song). You can hear the fragile nature of his vocals so clearly. It is riveting. ONEW also provides harmonies in this song, helping to soothe the piece. His vocals are backed up by a R&B piece. Together with the vocals, Love Phobia is another undeniably strong track on this album. (10/10)
5. Yeowoobi (여우비) – Excuse me while I pull out the thesaurus. I am running out of ways to describe ONEW’s vocals. Enchanting, alluring, charming etc. All could be used to describe the singer in this song. Unlike in the previous songs, however, ONEW sounds a lot stronger, taking an upfront position in Yeowoobi compared to the subdued tracks that preceded Yeowoobi. I liked this change in pace, which gives us an intense look at his vocals. The chorus is so gratifying to listen to, as well. And the “Your love takes me higher than how I ever been” line is quite memorable and catchy, especially with how it ended the song. This is all over a simple slow rock instrumental, emphasizing the fact the focus of this song is on the vocals with little doubt. (10/10)
6. In The Whale – Both vocals and instrumental throughout In The Whale were captivating (no surprises here, to be honest – just look at every other song on the album). I don’t see myself having any problems with closing my eyes and drifting away to this atmospheric and ethereal track. What does set In The Whale apart from the rest of the album is the fact that the instrumental is quite prominent. The producers do an amazing job of ensuring the track is balanced out (hence why I made the drifty comments) so that ONEW isn’t overtaken. A soothing end to the album. (9/10)
After another brief absence, I am back and coming to you with more reviews. This review focuses on the second comeback that occurred on Monday. The track in question is DICE and belongs to SHINee’s leader ONEW, who is returning to the music scene as a solo artist for the first time since 2018. He debuted as a solo artist in 2018 with the single BLUE and mini-album Voice. Since then, ONEW completed his mandatory military enlistment and last year returned as part of SHINee through Don’t Call Me and Atlantis. He also resumed his acting and musical careers, whilst also releasing a few collaborative singles and solo OSTs.
DICE is a retro city pop track that is extremely pleasant. For those who have been reading my blog knows that the word ‘pleasant’ can either be a good or bad thing. With DICE, the use of the term is a bit ambiguous. The pleasantness of DICE makes it palatable and balanced. But at the same time, however, the pleasantness is a bit of a disappointment, as I expected the song to kick it up a notch along the way. But it never did. ONEW sounds really good in this song, with smooth vocals bringing life to DICE. It was silky and the flow from one end of the song to the other just felt flawless. The retro influence on the instrumental gave DICE a very nice subtle groovy touch, whilst also being rhythmic. For the final chorus, I liked the leadup and that refinement when it came to the mini explosions in the instrumental. There were some smooth hooks and I can see the song growing on me even more as I continue to replay the song. But whilst DICE comes off as a great song, it ultimately lacks oomph. There is definitely potential for DICE to really have a bit more meat to it in both the instrumental and vocals department. It didn’t have to just be pleasant. We all know how good ONEW’s vocals are, as evident through the many hits SHINee have provided us. And we all know how good city pop songs can be if the instrumental was just a tad bulkier or bolder. Overall, DICE is promising and a nice return for ONEW, but it definitely felt like more could have been done.
The music video features ONEW as the main character, who notices the female character from afar. But she is soon kidnapped by these pale green masked people and ONEW goes in pursuit to find her. At the start, you can tell that ONEW is a bit scared and timid when going into the hotel and following the path of green gloop. But as he roles the dice, he becomes more comfortable and relaxed in his surroundings (though there are parts of him that is still scared and timid). He notices some unusual practices in the hotel including injecting lemons with some mysterious substance (that seems to be the life source of these masked people) and the use of chainsaws throughout the hotel. He later finds the female character, who has dealt with the masked people herself (i.e. ending their lives with high heels), and she runs away with ONEW in a happily ever after type of ending. I thought it was a neat video, with a small plot twist and creepy factor, all rolled into one.
The performance felt pleasant as well, which works well the version of the song that we got. But it is bit plain and looked loose. Had DICE had what I felt was lacking from it, and the choreography was intensified and made to look sharper and tighter, this would have been a smashing performance piece.
Another comeback that occurred in December 2021 that I have not yet reviewed is Minho’s Heartbreak. It is Minho’s SM Station single release, I’m Home, from way back in 2019. Since then, he has enlisted in the military and completed his two year mandatory enlistment. He also participated in SHINee’s Don’t Call Me and Atlantis comebacks last year. But apart from that, it has been fairly quiet from Minho. That was until December 21, when Minho’s dropped his first solo single, Heartbreak.
Dipping into the R&B genre, Heartbreak was a decent release back in December (and remains as is even today). There is a lot to like in Heartbreak, but it didn’t feel enough for me. Maybe it is because Heartbreak is not a full fledged release, with an album to sink into. Or that Minho’s solo career has yet to deliver the same impact as his fellow members have and Heartbreak doesn’t really have momentum to give us said impact. Or that Heartbreak is a relatively simple and straightforward song that doesn’t really offer anything new in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, I am left wanting more. Anyhow, Heartbreak has such a smooth atmosphere to it that really pulls me into the song each time I am listening to it. The bass and synths were pretty simple, but they definitely gave Heartbreak substance and meat to the song. And together, they have a straightforward backing piece. There is nothing wrong with this, but it isn’t the most innovative piece. However, it works splendidly with his vocals. Minho is more well known for his rapping sequences in SHINee’s releases, so to hear an entire song of just Minho’s vocals is very rare. I like how well suited his voice is for the R&B genre, with his husky vocals making Heartbreak so much more alluring and seductive. I wouldn’t mind more of this. His ad-libs were also quite decent as well. Like the atmosphere., the melodies and hooks are very smooth as well. Overall, an overall great return to the solo scene for Minho (though I think more is definitely needed!).
The music video is the most promising aspect of this comeback. In the video, we see two timelines. 2021 and 2049. From what I can tell, 2021’s Minho is manipulating the future to communicate with 2049’s Minho. This leads to 2049’s Minho to travel back in time in his car, to which he is told to torch it. I presume that the original 2049 version of Minho was still heartbroken over a relationship since the year 2021, and the 2021’s version is giving 2049 a chance to go back and move forward with his life. That’s my take on the video. Other than that, I liked the Matrix-like computer coding effect we get and overall futuristic concept. Minho also looks very cool and charismatic throughout this video.
Performance wise, I felt Minho looked a bit tense for the performance. Not too sure why that was the case, but it made the performance look a bit rigid for me. Other than that, it was a decent performance with some good moves. It could have been more, like the song. More seductive, more alluring. But it was nice to see Minho back on stage.
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 7.5/10 Overall Rating – 8.2/10
Key is nominated for Best Male Choreography (Solo), while BAD LOVE is nominated for Best Electronic Song and Best Album in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. SHINee and fellow member Taemin are also nominated for other categories, as well. Support Key, Taemin and SHINee in their respective categories by clicking here and voting for your favourite acts of this year.
On September 27 of this year, Key made his solo comeback with the amazing BAD LOVE. On the same day, he also dropped his first mini-album of the same name. BAD LOVE not only features the title track BAD LOVE, but also the pre-release single titled Hate That which also featured Taeyeon from SNSD. Originally, I had planned to review the pre-release single separately before the album review. But after putting it off for so many weeks, I have decided to just push forward with the album review without the separate review for Hate That. Otherwise, this album review will not see the light of day. Regarding the album (spoiler alert), I highly recommend to anyone who just want to discover something new. It is so good that BAD LOVE has managed to score a Best Album nomination in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards and is also my pick for Best Album of the year! Though not all songs scored a 10/10, there is not a bad song on this album whatsoever, so I am sure you will find something that you like. But that’s the whole overview of the album, let’s dive into each of the songs.
2. Yellow Tape – Continuing on from BAD LOVE with the electronic instrumentation is Yellow Tape. I really like how hard-hitting Yellow Tape was from start to end. It is the type of consistency that I quite like, with a refreshing tone also coming through at the same time. The bolstered beat and electronic textures in Yellow Tape makes this a knockout song. I also enjoyed the hype and satisfying energy that Key himself brings through his vocals. They were powerful and well-defined over the instrumentation. The breathy ‘breathe in, breathe out’ whispers were catchy and iconic, increasing the memorability of the song. A solid follow-up track to BAD LOVE. (9/10)
3. Hate That… (ft. Taeyeon (SNSD)) – As mentioned previously, Hate That… is the pre-release single of the album, and was released a month in advanced to the rest of BAD LOVE. It is a R&B track that brings out the best of both Key and Taeyeon. It is pretty much an outlier in the album, but it also gives us a bit of reprieve from all of the electronic influences. The pair really dug deep for this song, with each of them bringing a lot of emotion. To me, I find the instrumentation to be quite stilling for the most part, aside from the somewhat pulsing beat that adds depth to the song. This really compliments the emotional and R&B roots of the song. Their harmonies took the song to a new level, while the melodies for the main hook in the choruses were definitely memorable ring to it that just stayed in my head even after the song had wrapped up. Apologies for not reviewing this song earlier. (9/10)
4. Helium (헬륨) – Helium brings funky vibes to the album and also uses this opportunity to incorporate an all-English track. While the funky instrumentation was great, I wished it was bolder and had more gratifying bass, all of which would have taken the song to the next level. But that being said, my suggestions don’t mean that Helium is a bad song. I really enjoyed Key’s falsetto vocals and his rap-speak delivery during some parts of the song really helped make this one a memorable track. Not exactly my favourite off the album, but definitely still ana amazing track. (8.5/10)
5. Saturday Night – Saturday Night is blissful and atmospheric during the verses, before ultimately unveiling its true nature as another funky and groovy track when it came to the chorus. This one is a laid back and chill in terms of its energy, but effective and impactful at the same time. Key’s falsetto vocals return in this song to compliment the funky notes of the instrumentation. I really enjoyed this song and was definitely grooving along to it when I heard it the first time. (10/10)
6. Eighteen (End of My World) – The final song on the mini-album is Eighteen and is a nice ribbon to tie the entire album together, in my opinion. To me, Eighteen felt like a concentration of everything that came before it and definitely showcases Key’s abilities. It started off as an emotional sounding track, similar to a ballad. The twist here would be the instrumentation, as it still emerges with that electronic influence that is throughout most of the album. When the chorus kicks in, the song brings forth a slow rock vibe, which in conjunction with the electronic created a very impactful and powerful instrumental. Key’s vocals were consistently powerful during the entirety of the song, emotionally charged and wholesome all at the same time. (10/10)
Also making his comeback yesterday was Key (from SHINee), who returns with his first comeback as a solo artist. In 2018, Key made his solo debut with One of Those Nights (ft. Crush) and the studio length album, Face. In 2019, Key did make a comeback, but it was marketed as his first repackaged album, which was retitled I Wanna Be and featured the title track of the same name (ft. Kim Soyeon from (G)I-DLE). Yesterday, Key returned with his first mini-album, BAD LOVE, which is lead by the title track of the same name and the pre-release single Hate That (ft. Taeyeon from SNSD – which I haven’t reviewed yet).
I may have already teased my thoughts on BAD LOVE yesterday with a subtle reference to Key’s new song in AB6IX’s CHERRY review. I mentioned that I was glad that there wasn’t two overwhelming songs yesterday, which means I was hinting towards BAD LOVE being the other overwhelming song. I am kind of glad I did give myself an extra day to recalibrate my senses, as I don’t find BAD LOVE as overwhelming anymore. Multiple listens has really warmed me up to this song. But is the chorus still a bit too thick for my liking? Yes, I felt there was a lot going on and to digest as the song’s synths really ramps up in the chorus and you can tell that Key was really pushing his vocals to be in the forefront of all the synths. But, I do see how memorable the chorus is, how Key really shows and impresses with his vocal chops when his vocals soar in the song and the constant delivery of those high notes, and why some people might consider it a ‘out of the park’ song. Unfortunately, those initial thoughts still seem to float around in my head when I listen to BAD LOVE, so I can’t really share the exact same perception. Elsewhere in the song, BAD LOVE really flourishes with its retro and electronic mix. While this sound isn’t original, I feel that BAD LOVE really (and literally) takes the sound profile to the next level. I am not keen with the synths at the very start of the song, but everything else in BAD LOVE was definitely rocking and shows the creativeness of the producer. The bridge was very interesting with the really deep and raspy ‘I’m not thinking of you‘. That was wow moment for me that stood out for me initially.
The only thing I am a bit wary of in this music video is that red outfit in the choreography scenes. I think that was the only negative aspect of the music video. Aside from that, the music video was equally as aggressive as the song (but obviously in a visual sense). From what I can tell, Key seems to be portraying a celebrity who is starring in his own BAD LOVE sci-fi story (that ultimately ends with his demise). It drives Key insane and he wants out of the story, as he doesn’t want to relive the events that he himself had already gone through. I really enjoyed his acting and Key definitely makes the video a worthwhile watch. While a lot of the sets seemed to bring forth that modernish vibe, I feel the stage platform with the disco balls above it was a nice tie in of the retro influences to the video.
Also like the song and music video, the choreography for this comeback also took an aggressive approach that felt very fitting for the song. From the scenes in the music video, you can feel a lot of artistic flair within the choreography. I would also like to see Key replicate that ending (with the dancers lying down on stage) on stage, as that was a very memorable image to finish on.
Song – 9.5/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance –10/10 Overall Rating – 9.5/10
It has been a bit of a break since the last International Song Review post. So today, I will return with five additional reviews for the non-Korean music released more recently around the world by some of our favourite Korean artists. On this post’s lineup, we have TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee and Rocket Punch with their latest Japanese releases, and Jackson Wang (one seventh of GOT7) with his not-so-recent new English single. So without further ado, here are the reviews!
Perfect World – TWICE
For those who follow my blog, you may recognize that this isn’t the first time that TWICE’s Perfect World is being featured on it. For a number of weeks, Perfect World has been my pick for the Non-Korean KPOP release of the week corner of my Weekly KPOP Charts posts since its music video was released at the end of June 2021. What really draws my attention to Perfect World is the Latin influence that is featured in the song. While I do find the Latin trend to be overused in KPOP, I found its use in this song is be pretty dynamic and refreshing. I attribute this to the combinational use of rock and brass in the song. I also like the theatrical nature of the ‘Get out, Get lost‘ section of the chorus, which adds depth and punch to the song. it also helps that particular sequence was super catchy and I cannot get it out of my head. Perfect World itself also shows off an additional mature side of the group that is a lot darker and fiercer that usual. For the music video, I really liked the two sides of styling in this music video. One shows off an alluring side of the group, with the members donning sophisticated and stylish outfits that distracts the males in the population, causing havoc around them. The other takes on that fiercer look, almost militaristic. I liked the concept, but pretty much thought the video went a bit crazy (in terms of plotline) when the car crashed into the theatre. I did like how the stage came crashing down behind them. Just thought the idea of audience going crazy a bit over the top. For the choreography, I really liked where they were going with it. I liked how they showed off their mature side in this performance, with the ‘Get Out. Get Lost‘ sequence being my favourite. I also think the Latin influenced instrumental break was another great moment, though I wished there was more of that Latin influence in the choreography. (8.5/10)
Dreamers – ATEEZ
ATEEZ released their first original Japanese single, titled Dreamers, at the end of July. It also doubles up as one of the ending themes for the recently rebooted Digimon series (now that is one throwback to my childhood). Dreamers is probably ATEEZ’s most melodic release to date, opting for a tropical pop vibe that definitely reminds you of Summer. If you had expected something intense like their Korean title tracks, then prepare to be disappointed. That being said, I am all for spotlighting unexplored territory for groups. And Dreamers does just that, showcasing a more delicate and light side of the group. The song focuses more on melodies, allowing the vocal line of the group to flourish. The ‘Oo La La La’ part is such a catchy hook. However, the rappers are given equal opportunities to bring some of their inherent intensity to the song through their rap sequences. I am glad they did, as they kept the song going for me and gave us brief breaks from the melody. Otherwise, I fear that Dreamers would have been overly repetitive and evolved to be a boring song just simply by reaching the end of the song, if not multiple listens to the song. As for the music video, it was a pretty simple one with the members outside in the forest and along the beach. It was pleasant and Summery, matching the tone of their new song. I also liked how breezy the video was, highlighting the refreshing side of the song as well. (8/10)
SUPERSTAR – SHINee
SHINee’s return to their group’s music career isn’t complete without the return to the Japanese market, which they have been active in since 2011. Earlier this year, the group returned with Don’t Call Me and Atlantis in Korea. And before Taemin enlisted into the military, the group returned with their first ever Japanese mini-album which shares the same name as the title track. SUPERSTAR, while is another pleasant track, it also rather forgettable for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that SHINee didn’t do a good job. Their vocals and rapping were all pretty good and showed solid effort. The funky instrumentation was a good element, which helped give the song that aforementioned pleasant vibe. I also liked incorporation of brass and when the members sang together. I feel that SUPERSTAR could have been better with stronger hooks and melodies. But overall, still a decent song. For the music video, it begins with the members at a press conference and in front of the cameras. But the rest of the video shows the more homey life of the group. Not too bad of a concept. I did like the cool transition in the video into the SuperStar Revolution arcade game. The best aspect of this release for me is the choreography. It is simple but definitely works extremely well with the pleasant feel of the song. I also liked the chemistry they brought to the performance, interacting with one another and keeping the choreography light and carefree, rather than a strict and precise routine. It made everything enjoyable and definitely showcases their bond after 13 years. (7.6/10)
LMLY – Jackson Wang
I feel that Jackson Wang is a recurring artist on this segment, as he continually pumping out songs in English and Chinese (and I already I put him down for the next post as well for a more recent release). But I am not complaining and I am sure that IGOT7 and AGHASEs are enjoying the continuous release of songs from Jackson. LMLY (Leave Me Loving You) was a single released way back in March (sorry for the delay with this review). It was a surprising listen. After songs like 100 Ways,Pretty Please and his more recent ventures into balladry, I didn’t expect Jackson to return with a synth-pop song (though I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest). But guess what? I have been loving it! I really like the light nature of the instrumentation in the song and the retro touch is has. It contrasts really nicely with Jackson’s husky vocals which are on full display throughout the song. I also like how you can hear that tinge of heartbreak behind his voice, fitting for the lyrics and the concept of the video. To me, LMLY and the rest of Jackson’s discography that I have reviewed so far has shown me that Jackson is capable of anything. Excited to hear what he releases next and what direction he will go with in his upcoming Korean release that he has been talking about. For the video, I just love the control that Jackson has over what he releases, ever since he left JYP Entertainment. He continues bringing in that 90s Hong Kong movie style and atmosphere. For LMLY, he is a dishwasher who falls in love with a customer. Throughout the video, we see him make moves towards the customer, but it all turns out that it is in his head and not real life. The bummer twist is that she goes off to marry another guy (who looks like he didn’t want to be in a relationship with her, but I guess that might just be Jackson’s imagination as well), leaving Jackson heartbroken and sad by the time the video wraps up. (9.4/10)
Bubble Up! – Rocket Punch
This is Rocket Punch’s first time on this segment, thanks to the release of Bubble Up!, which is the group’s Japanese debut single. I was a bit reluctant to put the group up for review in this segment, given that their releases (with the exception of Ring Ring) have been misses or long forgotten for me. But I am always willing to give groups another chance and I am glad that I did for Bubble Up!. It may not be the best song out there and it isn’t a song that I would usually listen to at all. But Bubble Up! definitely has its merits. First and foremost, it is enjoyable and pleasant. It is another cutesy song, fitting neatly into the group’s discography thus far. But it isn’t over to the top sweet or cutesy, which I appreciate. Secondly, I liked how dynamic the instrumentation was. The various effects and synths all came together nicely to create a cohesive piece. With the exception of the slow down in the first verse, I am practically fine with the song. That slow down felt a bit random and was unnecessary. I am glad the second verse didn’t have anything similar. Thirdly, the vocals were quite consistency, and did a good job of making the song catchy and enjoyable. The build to the high note was commendable. I thought the rapping was good, but there wasn’t any substantial part though. Overall, a bubbly and appreciable release (quite a change from the usual criticism I give the group). For the music video, I thought the bright and pastel colours were well used. Definitely fitting that cutesy profile of both group and song. I do question the plummeting of plastic balls and earthquakes throughout the video though. Not what I think of when considering what bubbles are. For the choreography, I thought it was fine and matching with the song. (7.3/10)
The next album to be on the reviewing block is Advice, Taemin’s third mini-album, which was released at the end of May of this year. The title track for the album shares the same name with the album itself. This release is particularly important as it is the artist’s last solo release for a while. For those who may have missed the news, Taemin recently enlisted into the military, as like every other Korean male citizen. While we might not be able to see for him in the next two years or so, we have gotten a lot of Taemin this year already. Prior to this solo comeback, we also saw Taemin participate in SHINee’s promotions of Don’t Call Me and Atlantis, their first promotion as a group since 2018. SuperM (the other group he is also a part of) also released a single earlier this year, as well. And he managed to slip in a solo comeback before enlisting? He definitely spoiled his fans. All the best for military enlistment and see you in two years or so Taemin!
2. Light – Following the title track is another very Taemin-esque song. The song starts off with this groovy and sensual vibe, which screams out all things Taemin for me. But as the song progresses, Light develops more into a R&B synth track and maintains that grooviness. I would have liked to hear the sensual nature of the start be maintained as well. But I guess we cannot have it all. Taemin’s vocals are very prominent in the song as well. My favourite bit is the bridge of the song. I really enjoyed the aesthetics that the bridge and how it slowed down the song without stopping the momentum of Light. I really appreciate that. (8/10)
3. If I Could Tell You (ft. Taeyeon from SNSD) – If I Could Tell You stays within the R&B realm of music, but also features a bubbly synth instrumentation that was moody and definitely sleek. The song also features the likes of Taeyeon (who also recently returned to the KPOP scene with Weekend). I really like both Taemin and Taeyeon’s vocals in this song, particularly that really fast delivery of lyrics in the verses. It was a memorable part and definitely gave the song a bit of a wow factor. Unfortunately, the song sounded a bit repetitive by the time it reached the pairs duet. But overall, still an enjoyable song. (8/10)
4. Strings – Aesthetics continue with Strings. To me, Strings is definitely on a whole different level compared to the rest of the album. I really like the guitar work at the start of the song, giving Strings is moody vibe. The pace and that really brief humming synth we hear is really creates a dark atmosphere. The song progresses more into a R&B track once we get into chorus territory. The bass in the chorus continues that darkness from earlier in the song in such a satisfying manner. The presence of the female backing vocals gave a great impression of depth and added an extra bit of appeal to the song. Overall, my favourite side track on the album. (10/10)
5. Sad Kids – Ending the album is Sad Kids, which is a continuation of 2 KIDS, which was a pre-release track last year and re-released as part of Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1. When it comes to the song’s instrumental, Sad Kids is rather simple. It is a mid-tempo pop track that comes to life thanks to the guitar work. It is a blissful and uplifting song, but with a lot of emotional weight coming through via Taemin’s vocals. I liked how he found a balance that didn’t make this song come off as a ballad. A really nice ender that makes me want more from the artist. (9/10)
While I was on break last week, a number of comebacks occurred that I could not review. Now that I am back, I will try my best to get on top of the last week and this week’s comeback. First up is SHINee’s Taemin, who made his last comeback with Advice (the title of both the mini-album and its lead single) before his impending miltary enlistment at the end of the month. While his fellow group members have completed their miltary enlistment, Taemin pushed forward with his solo career, releasing massive hits like Want, Criminal and Idea. Luckily for all the Shawols out there, SHINee was fortuate enough to make a group comeback earlier this year just before Taemin enlisted with Don’t Call Me and Atlantis (Album Review Here!) in addition Taemin’s solo release.
What makes Advice sound stunning was the piano present in the instrumentation. It was definitely captivating for me to listen to, especially since it was incorporated really well into the electronic trap-centric instrumentation and made the otherwise standard electronic influence a bit more gripping than if it was packaged as a standalone. Furthermore, I really like the vocals throughout the song. Taemin slips into falesetto mode for some of the song, especially when it came to the chorus, giving the song a bit of dynamism to make it a little bit more exciting. I really like it how his vocals are backed up when it came to the chorus, adding some depth to the song. And I feel that the additional dynamism and depth were much needed. Without the much needed dynanism and depth that we got, Advice would have been a bit shallow and too ‘safe’ for my liking. As a whole picture, Advice is good. But I will admit that Advice isn’t as show-stopping as some of his previous hits. There is a couple of reasons for this, but I feel like this boils down to one of two reasons (or maybe a combination of both). Advice felt overly consistent and stuck in neutral gear for the three and a half minutes or so. Also, Taemin’s solo releases tend to explore unexplored territory for KPOP, or repurposes rare styles to be his own. I felt that Advice didn’t have that individualistic spark which always perks my interest. But nonetheless, Advice is still a listen and might be a good song if you want to ease into Taemin’s discography. But as someone who has reviewed all of his solo tracks, Advice lacks what it takes to be at the top end of Taemin’s discography.
While those are my thoughts about the song above, it doesn’t mean the same thoughts necessarily apply to the rest of the comeback. The music video for Advice, to me, is haunting. And this is all done without slipping into a dark or twisted theme. The initial scene with Taemin’s body marked with grease and covered only by a black mask with white stitching and web-like overlay (whilst playing the piano) was very impactful and made the video feel sinister and creepy. We are then shown Taemin in a choreography shot with long hair with grey-blue ends, which make him look chraismatic as a vampire. Very impactful imagery. The rest of the shots (I don’t have time to go through them one by one) follow a similar pattern. This is also complimentary to the atmopshere which the lyrics create. Based on what I understood of the lyrics and visuals aspects of the video, his lover is driving him insane and makes him a crazed person (“The more you trap me, the more I go off the rails“). Based on his lyrics, he warns this lover to stay away from him, but they don’t. This results in Taemin going insane completely, driving recklessly on the road and dying at the end of the video. A very interesting set of events.
Once again, Taemin pulls off an impressive routine for this comeback. There was a lot of footwork and I really like how he carried that haunting atmosphere from the music video over to the stage performance. I really like the dancers contributed to the start, setting the scene of the performance. I also really like how they were slowly brought in using small body rolls at the end of the bridge.
Song – 7/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.3/10
SHINee’s back! Apologies that it has taken me this long to review the album. The group’s 7th studio album, titled Don’t Call Me (after the title track), was released way back in February 2021. Other albums and songs got in the way, hence why I have pushed the album review so far out. And it was pushed so far out that SHINee had time to release a repackaged version titled Atlantis (also after the title track of the repackaged album). So I thought, why not wait until the entire album is released in its entirety to write an album review. Well, that is where we find today. As a heads up, Don’t Call Me and Atlantis were both very strong releases. I think I found majority of the album to be of a high calibre, which is expected of SHINee given their legendary and powerful status in the industry. To find out about my thoughts on the album, continue reading!
2. CØDE – CØDE features a deep house instrumentation and a powerful chorus that really grabs your attention. I really liked this effect, but I wished the verses weren’t as boring as they were. Aside from that, CØDE has this nostalgic factor to it as it felt like a SHINee song from its various highs and lows in the instrumentation. The vocals obviously add to that nostalgia, making it a decent song to be included on the album. (7/10)
4. Area (같은 자리) – To me, the falsettos within Area really make this a captivating and aesthetic track. In addition to the vocals, I also enjoyed the warped brass at the end of the song. This is in combination to the subdued and subtle groove that the rest of the instrumentation had. In Area, the consistency was a powerful tool that was well used and helped kept the track engaging for me. This is quite rare for me, as I do enjoy my changes within songs to keep them interesting. But there was so much load and heft in the vocal department, I honestly did not mind. (9/10)
5. Heart Attack – Heart Attack thrives on its bass heavy, bouncy and groovy instrumentation, keeping true to current trends. It feels like a song SHINee would nail on stage, showing off the best of SHINee in the vocal department. (In fact, they did as the song was selected to be their one of their secondary promotional songs, which was performed alongside Don’t Call Me in this comeback week!). I really like how satisfying the chorus sounded when all the members sang together. One element noticeably missing that I think would have made Heart Attack even better was a rap sequence. It would have been great to have one to concentrate the subtle intensity the song exuded without knowing. (8.5/10)
6. Marry You – Taking on the nostalgia of 90s R&B, Marry You zones straight into the vocals of SHINee. From their solo parts in the verses to the extremely smooth chorus, Marry You sounds extremely dreamy. Even the instrumental (aside from the use of that squeaky synth throughout the song, which honestly could have been replaced with something a little more grounded and natural) complimented the vocals so well. (8/10)
7. Days and Years– Days and Years is also another awesome song from the album. I find everything to be so pleasantly captivating. The synth pop instrumental isn’t heavy or overbearing, which makes the song so appealing. It gives off the same vibes and aesthetic that an acoustic song would have, which is remarkable to replicate. The focus on the vocals, once again, makes this song a worthwhile listen. The chorus, sung by all the members together, had a memorable and enjoyable hook. The verses also showed off great technique. Altogether, Days and Years has that edge over the songs preceding it. (10/10)
8. I Really Want You – I Really Want You is the song you want on your playlist for a jam session. The energy that comes from this song is so addictive. So much that I had to force myself away from the replay button or else this album review will never be seen on the blog. Their vocal work is superb and the song finally gives us those rap sequences that was missing from the album (note: this comment was based on the tracklist of Don’t Call Me). I Really Want You also delivers with catchy lines and hook, making this song even better. To me, I Really Want You is this album’s hidden gem. (10/10)
9. Kiss Kiss – Continuing the momentum from the last song is Kiss Kiss. If we were to compare the two songs, Kiss Kiss is more subdued as the instrumental isn’t as explicitly as upbeat as the former. But like the previous song, Kiss Kiss is also quite catchy thanks to the constant repetition of the title and the English lines. I also enjoyed the acoustic nature of the song. However, the song still has its share of synths. Altogether, it really makes the song another great listen on this album. (9/10)
10. Attention – Attention takes an even more subdued approach, opting for a clear example of upbeat R&B. It is also the first song on the album that I am not really digging. While I do like their falsetto vocals when it came to the chorus, it didn’t feel as exciting as had they employed the same technique earlier on in the album. You can blame this on the instrumentation I felt didn’t do the song justice. The instrumental, to me, felt like it was stuck in neutral gear and never really got out of it. (6/10)
11. Body Rhythm – From the first seconds of the song, you can tell that Body Rhythm was going down the sensual route. The song has reggae influences that probably made it even better. While the vocals were solid and worked with the reggae influence, I wished they had a bit more oomph to really make this song click. It felt pretty plain and neutral as we got to the end of the song. (7.5/10)
12. Kind (빈칸) – Kind is the album’s take on a ballad. But knowing it is SHINee, they switch it up by incorporating synths and piano work to give this song a more modern feel. Some of the vocals were also autotuned to give off, what I assume, would be a similar modern feel. And I feel that SHINee delivered on that front. In addition to that, Kind’s vocals were breathtaking, delivering more of that typical ballad front to the song. It was really captivating and engaging as the final song on the album. (10/10)