[International Song Reviews] ONEW (SHINee), Jackson Wang (GOT7), MONSTA X, aespa, TXT, Stray Kids

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.

Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] CASE 143 – Stray Kids

Now onto the new releases of the week. There were a few comebacks that need to be covered, but I am starting off with the latest one. Well, because it is Stray Kids. That’s right, Stray Kids made their comeback yesterday with the new title track CASE 143 and their 7th mini-album, MAXIDENT. This comeback follows their MANIAC (Korean) and Circus (Japanese – yet to be reviewed) comeback from earlier in the year and their newest mixtape release, Time Out.

CASE 143 was a mildly confusing song at first. But the more listens I gave it, the more interesting and less confusing it became. CASE 143 is primarily a playful and fun track, but it also taps into the heavy hip-hop sound we got in MANIAC at times. The two don’t usually go together, but I am not surprised that Stray Kids made it work. The choruses is where CASE 143 is most playful and fun, with a descending melody that is, without a doubt, an addictive feature of the overall song. I also enjoyed how the lyrics were delivered in a syllable-paced manner, which added to the addictiveness of chorus and CASE 143. It does give off a repetitive vibe that might dull CASE 143 in the long run, but I am not too worried about this yet. The verses is where CASE 143 takes on that heavy hip-hop influence, which is pretty synonymous with Stray Kids. I don’t have any issues with the very contrasting sides of the song, simply because the lighter feel of the chorus allows the rappers to really be slightly more playful than usual with their rap delivery in the verses. Take Chan’s sequence in the second verse as an (extreme) example, which ended up gearing towards the lighter and perky side of CASE 143. Aside the rapping, CASE 143 also features some decent vocal moments that we don’t usually get in a Stray Kids title track. The vocal melodies in the pre-chorus and bridge were much smoother than usual and works well with the lighthearted side of CASE 143. Lee Know’s lines in the bridge in particular feel so lovely. The last aspect of the song that I really enjoyed was that entire final sequence (i.e. from the 3 minute mark of the music video), where CASE 143 pretty much falls into place and finishes off in a satisfying manner. Overall, a slightly different take on Stray Kids, but still a fun and addictive song.

Stray Kids continues to battle big monsters in this music video. Their Thunderous days saw them fight the Sound Monster. In this video, the police version of Stray Kids (the more serious side of the group) investigates and tracks down the Heart Monsters (not entirely sure if there is a name for them). These Heart Monsters appear adorable, but they seem to take over their host’s minds (i.e., the version of Stray Kids in more colourful clothing) by weakening them to be cute and also cause havoc (i.e., causing Felix to flip the table and the place ends up on fire and some late night graffiti). The police gets pretty far into their investigations and tracking down the liar of the Monsters, unplugging the power source of the Heart Monsters. But it appears the Heart Monsters have taken full control of the all versions of the members in the video. The appearance of the group at the very end (i.e. when they crash out the video/screen) maintains the serious side of the group via their black outfits, but the way the members carry themselves are lighter and carefree, which suggests that the Heart Monsters also got to the police version of the group. Aside from the plotline, the video features amazing post-production (i.e., editing and CGI), which adds that cute and playful side to the video. A great video, overall.

The energy and powerful side of the choreography peaks towards the end of the song (at the similar part mentioned above) and this serves as my favourite part of the whole performance. On top of that, I quite liked the waves in the earlier choruses and the 2PM Heartbeat reference in the choreography.

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

[Review] Time Out – Stray Kids

As I constantly hinted throughout the last week when I was preparing for the group’s ODDINARY album review, I would be review Stray Kids latest release some time this week. And so, the time has arrived to review the group’s latest mixtape release, Time Out. This release unexpectedly dropped last week on Monday to celebrate four years since the naming of their fanclub, STAYs. Time Out follows the release of three other mixtapes from the group – Gone Days, On Track and Oh.

Stray Kids jumps onto the rock train through Time Out. There was a few aspects that I enjoyed about the song. The first is the intensity of the rock in this track. It brought forth a vibrant, bright and refreshing atmosphere, which makes Time Out suitable as a Summer season. I also like it how it is a different sound to what Stray Kids usually put out, so again it demonstrates Stray Kids’ potential to be versatile. The guitar work was extremely satisfying and packs a punch. In terms of vocals, I liked the liveliness that each member brought to the song. It is a different side to the group that we don’t hear often, as they are usually more serious and edgy. So this goes back to the point about them showcasing their ability to be versatile. I did like Changbin’s part in the pre-chorus. His vocals was very textured thanks to his raspy and deeper tone, and the energy he put behind his part in the pre-chorus made it dynamic and striking. On the more critical side, I did find the hooks and melodies to be on the weaker side of the spectrum, as they don’t come off as memorable. For Time Out, it is the praises for the elements above (namely the instrumental and Changbin’s line) that does this for me.

The accompanying music video is quite simple. It is footage of the members enjoying time with one another on the beach and at a beach house, which makes sense given the song’s sound alignment with the Summer season. It is great to see the members in a more light hearted and carefree manner, full of smiles and uplifting energy. It is very different to the darker notes of their music videos from their latest mini-album.

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

[Album Review] ODDINARY (6th Mini Album) – Stray Kids

Over the last week or so, I have been reviewing some of Stray Kids’ older (given that they did release new music at the start of this week – I will be reviewing it soon!) but recent releases. And this is all in preparation for this particular album review. ODDINARY is the group’s 6th mini-album, and was released back in March of this year. Headlining this mini-album is the title track MANIAC. But like their recent comebacks, there have been multiple music videos for different tracks as part of the promotions for their comeback. For this mini-album, VENOM, FEVER and Lonely St. all got the music video treatment alongside the title track.

But that is not all, ODDINARY also features 3 additional tracks (one full group and two unit tracks), giving this album a grand total of seven songs. And ODDINARY is another solid release from the group (though not their best to date). The tracks are right up Stray Kids’ alley and were all pretty much cool in their own way. There was a range of good to amazing tracks, with the mini-album containing another 10/10 track on this album, in my opinion. Find out which one by reading onwards.

ODDINARY Album Cover

1. VENOM (거미줄)Click here to read the full review for VENOM. (7/10)

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

3. Charmer – The first track on the mini-album to not get a music video is Charmer. I quite like this song for the catchy flute work we get in the instrumental-centric chorus. It is quite a focal point for such a hefty and serious sounding track like Charmer. The rest of the track falls squarely into Stray Kids comfort zone of hip-hop and raps, just without the noisy EDM that has become synonymous with Stray Kids’ title tracks. All of this is makes Charmer a strong track. There was also a great display of vocals, especially when all the instrumental was all stripped away. (8/10)

4. FREEZE (땡)Click here to read the full review for FREEZE. (9/10)

5. Lonely St.Click here to read the full review for Lonely St. (7.5/10)

6. Waiting For Us (피어난다)Waiting For Us is the first of two unit tracks. It features Bangchan, Lee Know, Seungmin and I.N, with the quartet giving us this atmospheric rock ballad. My first impression of this song remains vividly in my mind, simply because it was stunning the first time around and it still is! The vocal work in this song was spectacular and riveting, especially the harmonies during bridge. In particular, Lee Know genuinely surprised me with his ability to keep on par with the other members in this song. The melodies were so drifty, and I really liked the kick and amplification of everything during the chorus. It was all captivating, and that earns this song a 10/10. (10/10)

7. Muddy Waters – The other half of the group (Changbin, Han, Hyunjin and Felix) show off their rapping skills with this old school hip-hop track. Again, I am not a hip-hop or even a rap song person. But Muddy Waters was definitely cool and hip. I really enjoyed the jazzy roots of the instrumentation, which gave the song a golden and vintage type of feel. The members went hard with their raps, impressing me with their delivery. Altogether, we have a groovy and enjoyable track to round out the album. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

ODDINARY Teaser Image

[Review] Lonely St. – Stray Kids

The final track from Stray Kids’ ODDINARY mini-album to receive the music video treatment was Lonely St.. And so, before I can proceed to an album review for ODDINARY, I will also be reviewing Lonely St. in this post. It follows the release of music videos for VENOM, MANIAC and FREEZE. Following the album review, there will be one more Stray Kids review next week, for their unexpected release earlier this week. So keep your eyes out for that.

Stray Kids brings the emotions out with Lonely St., with the song taking the form of a ballad. But it isn’t your usual type of ballad, given the hefty pop/punk rock instrumentation and the use of autotune. I don’t mean to suggest that the song is a let down or terrible. It was just an interesting take on a ballad. Obviously, these elements to Lonely St. allows the song to fit the grander picture of ODDINARY, given that Stray Kids music is usually heavy on the synths and autotune and the three tracks from the album that I have reviewed thus far. As expected with a ballad, however, the vocals of Stray Kids are on full display and I quite liked the push the members give to their vocals. Also, the autotune usage was nice and all. It didn’t get too much in the way of showcasing the vocals – though I am always for dialing down autotune to hear a rawer approach to the vocals (such as during their concert). The rappers also have a push on their end, enabling emotionally charged sequences to come about and fit in with the rest of Lonely St. I feel the pop/punk rock instrumentation also enables this. I think the lacking aspect of Lonely St. are the melodies. I find them straight forward and I feel this straight forwardness I find the melodies to be straight forward and I feel this pretty much rubs off on the rest of the song. There is nothing wrong with being straight-forward, but I think Lonely St. could have used something more enticing in this department to be more appealing. I also thought the ending was too abrupt, which you know is something that I don’t personally like.

The music video features the members running away and being isolated, as per the title of the track. I quite liked the mix of studio and outdoor shots in this video, which made it more interesting than it should be. The grey palette of the music video also sets the tone for the video really well, complementing the likes of the song perfectly. The members’ acting was quite decent, as well. The only aspect of the video that I am not entirely sure of is the ending with Lee Know getting up (and all the members lying around him). The abrupt ending to the song does justify something to follow after the ending of the song, but what we got just raises questions regarding that end – like how did all the members get there and what does it all mean?

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] FREEZE – Stray Kids

It is time to review another Stray Kids release. But not the new one just yet. That is on hold until I complete the other Stray Kids Korean releases that I have passed over so far this year. Instead, I am prioritizing the side tracks from Stray Kids’ sixth mini-album, ODDINARY, that got the music video treatment, ahead of their impending album review which I am looking to (and hopefully post later this week). Last week, I covered their VENOM track. As for this review, I will be focusing on the release FREEZE, the album’s fourth track.

FREEZE is quite an aggressive and abrasive track (if not one of their most aggressive and abrasive tracks to date), something that is pretty much up Stray Kids’ alley. I am sure these are the first words that pop into most people’s minds. I also find it bold, dynamic and packed full of energy, the latter two being noticeably absent from the group’s first track on the album. Therefore, I quite enjoyed the likes of FREEZE. The EDM is, without any doubt, very strong, and I quite like the trap elements in the chorus. It is quite a centrepiece and definitely embodies all the adjectives that I have used thus far in the review (and possibly even taking them to the next level). I would also describe as the bigger picture that is FREEZE to be balanced. Interesting word choice for an EDM track like this one, but not once did I find the overload of synths and texture to be overwhelming. Per usual, the rappers definitely stand out in this song. They were rough and harsh, complementing the abrasive nature of the song. The vocals help bring a bit of relief, and I liked how they stayed on top of the synths. They easily could have slipped and been smothered by the synths. I like the smoothness from the ending, with that contrast being a highlight for me. I did think the ending was a bit abrupt, but I do understand that the nature of this song calls for an abrupt ending. It doesn’t make sense for a fade out to be featured at the ending. If anything, I wished the hooks were meatier. That was the only element I thought was lacking in FREEZE, especially since it relied so heavily on the instrumental for its memorable factor.

It seems like the group are going after the white coat gang in this music video, with half of Stray Kids going undercover into a meeting with said gang and the other half listening close by to the events of the meeting. Not sure if the group are like police, but based on the fiery ending, I don’t think so. An epic shoot out happens (though, I am going also going to describe it as impossible) and the members listening in rush in to provide backup. But the white coat gang manages to capture all of them, and tie them up. The gang then leaves the group alone in a warehouse. Not sure why there is no one watching them, but okay. Stray Kids find the green chemical that seems to be causing some trouble in the media (see the Korean news paper article at the start – I presume the white coat gang are behind such an attack). They then confront the gang and use the green chemical against them, causing that very strong warehouse fire at the end. But the ending seems a bit confusing. We close out the video with I.N smiling in a manner that is a bit suspicious (as if he is making fun of Stray Kids), while posing with a gun. I don’t know if this suggest that Stray Kids is after the wrong people, and should have looked internally with themselves. Aside from the plotline, there were some really great visual effects, particularly during the shootout scene.

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

[Review] VENOM – Stray Kids

Next up on the catch up is the string of Stray Kids’ releases from earlier this year. Alongside the promotions of the group’s most recent title track MANIAC from back in March of this year, they also released music videos for some of the other side tracks from their 6th mini-album Oddinary (an album review is also coming soon, as well!). One of these videos accompanies the opening track of the album, VENOM. Per usual, a music video makes the song eligible for its own song review on my blog.

As an opener for the mini-album, VENOM is definitely an intriguing track, thanks to the bold choice of the song’s ear-catching centric synth. The synth in question is that slow and deliberate strumming of guitar strings (or elastic bands that are stretched out over a box), which brought chills to me when I first heard the song. Multiple listens since March has helped me become more acclimatised with the synth, but there is a haunting factor that remains with it. Its use just really pops out and gives so much profile to the song. Aside from the main synth, the pre-chorus in VENOM also caught my attention. It gave us a brief reprieve from the intensity of the song before ramping back up to the chorus in such a short space of time. Hyunjin’s laidback soft rapping in the second verse was also cool, and contrasted really well with Jisung’s rapping that followed right after. Finally, the closer hook was catchy. The rest of VENOM felt somewhat plain and standard. With the intriguing and promising elements already discussed, I wished this was not the case. I felt the chorus could have been tweaked (but also maintaining that main intriguing synth) in a way to feel punchier. I just feel the song is quite heavy as it is, and could have been even more appealing if the chorus was more dynamic. The bridge, the heaviest point of VENOM, felt very abrupt and this presented a flow issue as a result. Overall, VENOM fits in with Stray Kids edgy profile and style. And while the song has same very promising and bold aspects, it could have gone the extra mile.

Working with the heavy and dark nature of the song, VENOM‘s music video concept goes down that route. Decked out in black outfits for the entirety of the video, controlling robot spiders, having guns directed at your head and being surrounded by darkness in some scenes pretty much feels heavy and dark. But also edgy. And that is something I felt was quite the aesthetic in the video. The spiky ball and boxing gloves really consolidated that thought for me. However, I have no clue what the plot to the video is. Everything felt very disjointed unfortunately for me to really piece anything together and the visuals/aesthetic is quite distracting. Though it seems connected to some of their past videos with that exit door at the end. But aside from that, it is a cool video nonetheless.

VENOM was not promoted alongside MANIAC on stage. But they have performed the track on their recent world tour concerts. The slowness behind that intriguing synth allowed for the performance to go down a sensual path, which I thought was an unexpected route to take with this song. But the moves were still cool and edgy.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Special] Personal Favourite Songs from the 1st Half of 2022 + more

As already mentioned on this blog somewhere (most likely the Weekly KPOP Charts posts), we are officially in July 2022. And that means that an entire 6 months has already past. Per usual, a substantial number of KPOP releases have been released, many of which have been on repeat. Keeping to tradition in July, it is time to post a list of my personal favourite songs from the 1st half of 2022.

I am doing things slightly different this year. In addition to the usual 10 songs (in no particular order) for the first half of 2022, I will also be posting two songs from the November – December 2021 period, which were ineligible for the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards due to the cut off date being in October. And I will be posting 3 non-Korean songs (i.e. English, Japanese etc.) by Korean artists that caught my attention so far this year. So without furtherado, here are the list of my personal favourite songs of the year thus far (in no particular order, of course).

From November – December 2021

Personal favourite non-Korean songs of 2022 thus far

Personal favourite KPOP songs of the year so far (January – June 2022)

[Review] MANIAC – Stray Kids

The comeback that finished off the busy week (but not the list of reviews of songs I intend to cover from the past week) belonged to Stray Kids, who returned with MANIAC, and their sixth mini-album, ODDINARY. This comeback follows Thunderous/NOEASY and their Japanese comeback single Scars, (which the group re-released in Korea as part of their SKZ 2021 compilation album). Unfortunately, their album promotions this time around has hit a speedbump, with some members testing positive to COVID-19, joining a string of comebacks and debuts that have been affected by the pandemic. At this stage, the members are all isolating and I presume (provided no one else test positive), Stray Kids will be back on stage shortly to continue promotions.

Right off the bat, I will say that MANIAC is not my favourite Stray Kids track. To me, it lacks the same flair and intensity that their other comebacks thrived on and is not as adventurous. But while Stray Kids does take a bit of a different approach with MANIAC and the fact that I am not heads over heels for it, MANIAC is still a great song. It still has some of the tropes that I would say are associated with Stray Kids, including noisy instrumentals, some boldness and a killer hook when it comes to the chorus (more on this in a bit). It also conforms to the current trends, with a funky tone hidden in the midst of the noisy instrumentation. The instrumental features various sound effects like birds tweeting and drills, which I thought were cool additions to the song. Very different in terms of connectivity, but definitely attention grabbing over the rest of the instrumental. As mentioned earlier, MANIAC doesn’t have the same intensity (that being said, there are still enough intensity coming from the song’s rap segments). But this allowed the group to showcase more vocals, balancing out the rap vs. vocals competition that I think is sometimes occurring in Stray Kids’ title tracks. I liked how the vocal moments felt clean, particularly the bridge of the song. As for the chorus, it was an impressive one. Felix and Hyunjin really stole the show with their MANIAC opening lines, while Hyunjin (for the first chorus) and Lee Know aggressively follows up in the second half. Overall, MANIAC still has that powerfulness to it that is Stray Kids known for, despite holding back on some aspects.

What a music video. For the most part, it felt like the members were quite aggressive throughout the video (which fits the ‘MANIAC‘ concept). But the plot twist the end with Lee Know simply installing the picture frame (instead of threatening the screen with the drill, which is what Felix did for the first chorus) caught me off guard. I am sure there is a reason to why the video ended this way and a story underneath all of this. Aside from that, I was blown away by the post-production and editing. Piecing this video together would have been a crazy task, especially with the transitions and such. But it definitely made the video look cool. I really like the camera tilting effect when it came to the choruses, and how the world flipped upside down for the second chorus (alongside the drill sound at that moment).

Before the promotions were put on hold, Stray Kids did film a few performances for MANIAC. And they are proof of another show-stopping and captivating performance from Stray Kids. It is so good that I cannot wait for them to return to the stage once again! Felix seems to be injured, which prevented his full participation in the performance. But I liked how they still weaved him into the performance. The sharp spin alongside the drill sound and the head screwing move was super amazing as well (‘blew my mind type’ of amazing).

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

[Album Review] Christmas EveL (1st Single Album) – Stray Kids

Stray Kids Stray Kids is nominated for Best Male Group, while Thunderous is nominated for Best Male Choreography (Group), Best Electronic Song and Best Music Video, and Changbin and Seungmin are nominated for other categories. Support Stray Kids, their members and Thunderous by clicking here.

Merry Christmas everyone! Fitting in with tomorrow (and as a small Christmas present), I have decided to review Stray Kids’ latest single album release, Christmas EveL. The single album consist of four songs, three of which I have reviewed before. They include Christmas EveL, Winter Falls and Domino (for this single album, the English version is featured, but I am carrying over my rating from the NOEASY album review). There is also a fourth song, which I will review below. Anyhow, I hope you have received great presents and the opportunity to spend time with family or friends this Christmas. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I wish you a great day.

Christmas EveL Album Cover

1. Christmas EveL (Title Track)Click here for Christmas EveL’s full review. (8/10)

2. 24 to 25 – I am aware that 24 to 25 ended up getting a music video, but I will put that long list of Stray Kids music videos that I was supposed to review, which will now be a 2022 task. 24 to 25 is a ballad. A soothing, sweet and warm one, might I add. 24 to 25 showcases Stray Kids vocals. We don’t encroach into powerhouse vocal territories, but Stray Kids sound really comforting and stunning in this song. The rappers, who are usually harsh and rough around the edges with their tone and delivery, tweaked their style to be more of a rap-singing style, which works extremely well with ballad approach. I do wish the melodies made 24 to 25 stand out a bit more to make it more memorable. (8/10)

3. Winter Falls (Title Track)Click here for Winter Falls’ full review. (9/10)

4. Domino (English Version) – I have previously reviewed Domino as part of Stray Kids’ NOEASY studio album. Click here for Domino’s review. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

Christmas EveL Teaser Image

[Review] Winter Falls – Stray Kids

Stray Kids is nominated for Best Male Group, while Thunderous is nominated for Best Male Choreography (Group), Best Electronic Song and Best Music Video, and Changbin and Seungmin are nominated for other categories. Support Stray Kids, their members and Thunderous by clicking here.

As mentioned in my most recent review (i.e. Christmas EveL), Stray Kids have returned with a double title track comeback. In this post, I will focus on Winter Falls, the second title track of the comeback, as the music video for this dropped the day after Christmas EveL. This new release follows the group’s second studio album comeback, NOEASY and Thunderous‘, and their Japanese comeback, Scars.

Winter Falls is very different track to Christmas EveL. Whilst the other title track is a hip-hop themed Christmas track, Winter Falls is a lot more traditional with its approach. I must note that this particular track isn’t Christmas themed (there was no holiday references in this song), but rather just a Winter ballad-like single about holding onto past love. Winter Falls manages to still deliver a punch though, as the song technically doesn’t conform to the typicalness of a ballad. I really like how the acoustic touches in the instrumental, and the upbeatness the pop influences add to the song. However, the punch comes from the melodies that the group delivers, complimenting the emotional weight of the lyrics and the sentimental tone of the song. The ‘Winter Falls‘ and the subsequent ‘Fall‘ (and its echo) we get in the chorus was very memorable. It also helps that the melodies were very warm and inviting in this song, further adding to the appeal of the track. Bringing those melodies to life are the vocals. I mentioned in the review for Christmas EveL that I am not a fan of the hip-hop direction that vocalists follow as they don’t do the vocalist justice. Well, Winter Falls definitely compensates for that. And if I had to name a member who shined, it definitely had to be Seungmin who was effortlessly stunning throughout Winter Falls. They still managed to throw in rapping into the song, and expertly weave it into without it being too disruptive to the song’s melody, though the shouty line in the first chorus could have been omitted. I particularly like the rapped lines that is between the ‘La La La‘s at the end of the song. It helped create a nice outro that wrapped with the song well. Overall, Winter Falls is a very strong track with a stunning showcase of vocals and melody that I cannot put down.

Like the song, the music video takes an emotional approach. You can tell so from just the colours of the video, which were predominately grey. Definitely not exactly a white Christmas in this video. The members appear to be in this limbo, holding onto the memories of their past relationship. They are in the phone booth calling their past lovers, and their facial expressions show that their mind are heavy in such thoughts. The video ends with the phone booth on fire, which I assume represents that they are moving on. We don’t see who lights it up or how it came to its burning fate. But it tells us that they won’t be able call their former lover anymore. Lee Know also drops the necklace he was holding onto for most of the video, further fueling the change for the members. I don’t mind the video, and thought their acting portrayed the emotions well.

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

[Review] Christmas EveL – Stray Kids

Stray Kids is nominated for Best Male Group, while Thunderous is nominated for Best Male Choreography (Group), Best Electronic Song and Best Music Video, and Changbin and Seungmin are nominated for other categories. Support Stray Kids, their members and Thunderous by clicking here.

Stray Kids is the first group to begin the annual Christmas season in KPOP, with the release of two title tracks from the seasonal celebrations. The first of the two, Christmas EveL, will be reviewed in this post, while the second track, Winter Falls, in the next post. This new release comes after the group’s second studio album comeback, NOEASY and Thunderous‘, and their Japanese comeback, Scars.

Christmas EveL was quite an unexpected song. Sure, it is a pretty much an odd ball when you think about – a Christmas themed hip-hop track. But I am quite certain that this isn’t the first time that a Christmas song had been crossed with hip-hop. It just seems to be the case in KPOP. And while the song did take a few listens for me to really get into it, Christmas EveL now comes off as fun and lighthearted track for the holiday season. These might not be words I would usually use for a pretty traditional hip-hop influenced track, but as I always say, there are exceptions. And I am sure that this is the original intention of the song. Since it is also Christmas themed, the cliché Christmas bells make an appearance throughout the song. I liked how they were tweaked for the chorus as well, to match with the overall hip-hop sound. I also like the references and tweaks to classic carols in this song, such as Jack Frost reference in the first pre-chorus, Jingle Bells in the chorus and Feliz Nevidad anthem chant at the end of the song. Its definitely added to the fun side of the song. Since it is a hip-hop based song, the rappers of the group definitely stand out and show off their skills in this song. Han, Changbin and Hyunjin do an amazing job with their rap parts, keeping the flow and maintaining the hip-hop vibe on top of the Christmas influences. Felix and Chan have the most memorable sequences of the song (i.e. the ‘Feliz Nevidad’ anthem ender), which I don’t mind replaying Christmas EveL for. The vocalists have a few good moments, but they seem to follow the hip-hop influence and I don’t think vocals are usually well presented in this manner. But overall, while Christmas EveL might come off weird, it surprisingly works well and successfully marks the start of the Christmas season.

What a fun video, which was expected based on the direction of the song. It was cringy at times, but still a well produced video. From the start of the video, we are told that Santa had lost his voice due to the Sound Monster that Stray Kids was battling in the teasers of Thunderous. And this presents a problematic issue with the current circumstances which the world is in and just weeks out of Christmas. So, Santa enlists the help of the Stray Kids members to hand out the presents to all the good kids in the world. And also from the start, the group has been busy doing so – groaning when Chan asks if they are ready for another trip. Interesting to see that Santa did not offer the help of any elves or reindeers, so the members had to collect their own toys from the store, self-wrap the presents and hand them out themselves. They have a truck that helps them hand out the presents though. They crash though, which leads to them being discovered by the little girl, who essentially schools them on what present to give to her (I hope that was the case, and she wasn’t schooling them on what type of presents of hand out, or else they would need to do the whole world again). They then proceed to have a full on party with the girl, before completing their mission. At the end of the video, though, Chan is sent another text message and the members all groan at the sight. Possibly another Christmas present run, or maybe there is something else that the members need to attend to.

[Update]There seems to be no stages for Christmas EveL and no news that promotions will be undertaken, so the likelihood of choreography for this track is dwindling. As a result, I will omit this section of the review and will keep the final rating based on song and music video.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[International Song Reviews] TWICE, MONSTA X, Stray Kids & LOONA

It is another edition of the International Song Reviews segment. Last week, I posted an ISR consisting reviews for Ten, Jackson Wang, WAYV, Yuqi and 2PM. This week, I will be focusing on another set of releases brought to you by TWICE, MONSTA X, Stray Kids and LOONA. I am keeping this post to just four tracks today, rather than the usual five, so I can focus on some other things today. As this post have a lot to cover, let’s get started!

The Feels – TWICE

I listened to this full English song when the music video dropped at the start of this month. I didn’t think much of it then (and honestly I never returned to it until today). But I have to say, the ‘Boy, I know you got the feels‘ repeated one-liner hook is so damn catchy. It somehow gotten stuck in my head since that first listen, even though it was very much delayed. Anyhow, The Feels is a funky pop track, and listening back I am surprised I didn’t return to the track sooner. It is a very vibrant and colourful track, suitable for my personal taste and TWICE’s overall discography. I really enjoyed the energy that comes from it. The members sound fantastic, and I just love the elongation of the word ‘feels’ in that hook. My only gripe about the song is Chaeyoung’s lines in the pre-chorus. They just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. I liked the music video, but it isn’t that special. The theme seems to be prom-queens, but it seems to be more than that with the red carpet and stage sets. Regardless of what the theme is, The Feels music video is fun and pleasant to watch. For the dance, I thought it was great. Again, nothing special with it. But it works wonderfully with the music. (8/10)

One Day – MONSTA X

A month prior to the above song’s release, MONSTA X released another all English track titled One Day. Since then, the group has been confirmed for a Korean and Western comeback in the next two months, so do expect to see more of MONSTA X on the blog. Now, back to the song in question. One Day is an atmospheric yet simple synth-heavy ballad that I quite enjoyed. One Day really does a good job of presenting stillness and comes off as soothing and calming. The instrumental also comes off as dreamy. For the vocals (which appears to be the song’s sore point for some), I thought MONSTA X did a really nice job. I did think they could have pushed themselves more to be even more expressive, but their delicate tone and emotional touch fits the bill perfect for the song’s meaning and overall sound. The melodies were stunning, as well, adding to this. Both the song and music video features Shownu, who recently enlisted into the military. It was definitely nice to see him one more time. Unfortunately, Hyungwon was missing from the group shots for this music video for unknown reasons. For the music video, I liked the simplicity of the video as well. I also liked the mature visuals that the members gave off. They look good and somehow the mature vibes fitted in with the idea of the song being a ballad for me. (8.6/10)

Scars – Stray Kids

Knowing fully what Stray Kids is capable of, Scars is quite underwhelming for me. Coming off the high of their recent Korean comeback, I would have liked to hear something with the same level of impact and energy. But Scars didn’t deliver this. It doesn’t mean that Scars is a bad song, however. But it is definitely not their best. Scars was a pleasant EDM track – nothing more, nothing less. The members opted for a sentimental tones that sounds nice. But once again, nothing more, nothing less. Vocally, the sentimental tone came naturally and actually sounded quite good. Rapping wise, I thought it was plain. The EDM sound that Scars opted for attempted to add impact, but it more so fizzled out once that impact is delivered. Hence, everything came together to contribute towards an underwhelming and not-so-memorable track. For the music video, it seems like the members are running away (well, more so slowly walking) from ghostly apparitions. They seek shelter in a caravan and kick start a device that repels the ghosts during the night. Then, the story kind of repeats itself and doesn’t really resolve. I hope there is a second part to this, as I think it could potentially be an interesting story to dive into. The choreography for this comeback was quite good, fitting in with the sentimental and mature tones of the song. It doesn’t hit hard, but there was some intensity in the choreography that was quite satisfying to watch as well. (7/10)


I was quite nervous to hear that LOONA’s company is in the financial red, which puts a massive question mark over the group’s future. But seeing LOONA still pumping out music is a bit of a reassuring sign. Mid-September saw the group release their first original Japanese single, HULA HOOP. It is a dance pop track that is very chirpy and energetic. Actually, in comparison to their debut track which I would say is the equilavent of this track (Hi High, if you are wondering), HULA HOOP seems to let its go a bit. Nothing wrong there, if I am being honest, but I do miss the certain aesthetic that we associate with the group when it comes to their tracks. I liked their vocals and the hooks throughout HULA HOOP quite a bit. They are fun and definitely cutesy. This isn’t usually my cup of tea, but as I always say, there are exceptions. The music video is very unique, with everything moving in an upward direction. I will give them points for that. But I also feel that the video overwhelms us with all the post production applications. It made everything feel a bit much. In the midst of all the overwhelming graphics, you can see a lot of throwbacks to the group’s previous releases through the images, outfits and props (including some of their pre-debut works). No surprises come in the choreography. I enjoyed the fun and energetic side of the song, and the synchronisation between the members makes the performance cooler (as always). (8.2/10)

[Album Review] NOEASY (2nd Studio Album) – Stray Kids

As you may have seen, I was busy in the latter half of the week reviewing some the sides tracks off their second studio album. And now it is time for the album review! Stray Kids released their second studio album, NOEASY, back in August of this year. It is lead by the title track Thunderous, and is accompanied by an extensive promotional campaign. Both The View and Domino were also promoted alongside Thunderous, while a bunch of music videos were released for a handful of other tracks (some of which covered earlier this week). The album also consist of WOLFGANG, the group’s original release as part of Kingdom: Legendary War, and the single Mixtape: OH. And there are still a few more tracks on the album that I have yet to mention. To get my thoughts on those tracks and more, continue reading below!

NOEASY Album Cover

1. CHEESEClick here for the full review for CHEESE. (9/10)

2. Thunderous (소리꾼) (Title Track)Click here for the full review for Thunderous. (9.5/10)

3. Domino – I was very disappointed to find out that there wasn’t a full music video for Domino. I had high hopes for one, especially after the cool choreography we saw in their follow-up promotions. But anyhow, Domino is a super dynamic track. It is catchy and fun, but also quite serious and heavy with its electronic instrumentation. I particularly liked the domino synth they had going on in the chorus, and the vocalist’s sequence in the pre-chorus. Relevant and refreshing! The rapping slayed and definitely added a lot of power behind each sequence. The dance break was also freaking cool and added a trendy change to the song. (10/10)

4. Ssick (씩) – Four songs in and it seems like Stray Kids is not shying away from this element, nor noise, throughout this album. Ssick had some of the strongest moments of intensity and noise on this album. While this could really be a powerful tool to get reel listeners in, I find it not to be as cohesive as some of the other tracks of a similar nature. And as a result, it was the most forgettable for me (of all the intense electronic tracks on this album). I don’t know why, but the song just didn’t stick with me. I wished the group stuck with the playful nature that we got at the start of the song as I feel that would have been a unique take. But I feel the intensity and ‘noise’ takes hold of Ssick and overdoes it. It isn’t a terrible song, but it sounds more like flair than anything else. (7/10)

5. The ViewClick here for the full review for The View. (10/10)

6. Sorry I Love You (좋아해서 미안) – The first ballad of this album. This one takes a hip-hop approach, which was an interesting combo. The instrumentation is quite a bore for me, and I wished there was something within the background that drew me into the song. I like the intensity that the rappers bring to the song, with their parts being the most memorable. The vocals were nice and the melodies caught on, but I don’t think they were the most impressive element of Sorry I Love You (the rappers take that honour). It was an okay song, as a whole. But it isn’t the best track on the album. (6.5/10)

7. Silent Cry Silent Cry is an interesting track. It starts off with a haunting intro, before electronic music emerges from the darkness. And from there, the instrumental gets abstract at times and ultimately intense as the song progresses. This all results in a very cool track that pushes you to the edge of your seat. What really stood out for me over the cool instrumentation was the vocals and the subsequent melodies that they brought to life. They were super loud and very clear despite the different and relentless nature of the electronic. Similar things can be said about the rapping. I would really like to see a performance for this song, as I think there can be many creative paths taken for a song like this. (9/10)

8. Secret Secret (말할 수 없는 비밀)Secret Secret is a decent balladry track from the entire group. But it was pretty typical and didn’t really attract my attention as much. The vocal work was quite nice, but I felt like the typical instrumentation held back the vocals from their full potential. I did like how the rappers kept true to their skills and worked their rapping into the song using a lower tone and slower delivery.  Usually, I am not a fan of rapping in ballads, but I think it was well done here. (6.5/10)

9. Star LostStar Lost combines the likes of pop melodies and electronic music to create an awesome track. As a whole, I quite enjoyed this song. Most of the elements felt just right and extremely pleasant in Star Lost, aside from the instrumentation. I do think they could have toned down the electronic side in the instrumentation at certain times of the song, like the EDM drop that we got. It wasn’t necessarily off-putting and I liked the idea behind it. I just felt to was a bit over the top for the song. But apart from that, great song. (8/10)  

10. Red Lights (강박) (Bangchan & Hyunjin)Click here for the full review for Red Lights. (8/10)

11. Surfin’ (Lee Know, Changbin, Felix)Click here for the full review for Surifin’. (7/10)

12. Gone Away (HAN, Seungmin, I.N)Click here for the full review for Gone Away. (9/10)

13. WOLFGANGClick here for the full review for WOLFGANG. (8.5/10)

14. Mixtape: OH ()Click here for the full review for Mixtape: OH. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

NOEASY Teaser Image

[Review] Gone Away – HAN, Seungmin & I.N (Stray Kids)

The final side track that I will be reviewing separately from the upcoming album review for NOEASY is Gone Away. This side track is performed by the three remaining members who have yet to appear in a unit track, HAN, Seungmin and I.N.

Gone Away is a beautiful ballad. It too takes us on a different direction from the other tracks on the album, but it isn’t a new direction for Stray Kids, who have put out ta few heartfelt songs in the past. Due to the nature of ballads, the vocals of all three members were on display throughout Gone Away. Seungmin, the group’s main vocalist, takes my pick for outstanding members as his voice resonated the greatest for me. HAN and I.N did a great job themselves. HAN manages to surprise me every time he sings. Every time he sings, I forget that he is one of the rappers on their team. I.N vocals are extremely pure, and this aspect of the youngest members’ vocals are definitely highlighted in Gone Away. For the instrumentation, the piano and classical elements really helped concentrate more of that emotive side of the song. I also liked how Gone Away‘s instrumentation builds and progresses. The change up for the bridge was probably my favourite bit in the whole song, as it allowed the members to add some power behind their delivery and give the ballad the peak it needed, whilst also allowing HAN (and Seungmin to a lesser extent) to add some emotional rapping to further this peak. Overall, the trio presents with a stunning ballad that sounds so good.

The song is about letting go someone who loves someone else. In this video, the three members are all interested in the same girl (though at different points in time). I.N wants to confess to the girl by buying flowers. HAN becomes shy when she enters the store and buys the top she was looking at to gift to her. Seungmin is staring at her lovingly while on their field trip and pulls the blanket up on her while she naps away. But each realises that she is with someone else, so each member makes the decision to not pursue her. I liked how the members are shown to be older at the end, reminiscing over the memory. It is a bittersweet moment for them, but it was what felt right and ultimately a decision made with the best interest of their crush in mind. I feel the acting from the three members in this video was really good, with Seungmin standing out, particularly during his closeups around the campfire.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Review] Surfin’ – Lee Know, Changbin & Felix (Stray Kids)

Next up on my way to review Stray Kids’ second studio album is Surfin’. This side track is performed by members Lee Know, Changbin and Felix, and is the second unit track from the studio album.

Fun, light-heart and care-free are the words that I would use to describe Surfin’. Once again, it is a different dynamic to the other tracks on the album, But this time around, it isn’t necessarily new territory for the group overall. This doesn’t harm the song, as Surfin’ does have some charm. But unlike the other side tracks, I am not drawn to Surfin’ as much as the other side tracks I have/will be looking at. The song’s upbeat nature definitely suits the Summery season, and definitely has this undeniable bright energy within it that I feel would fit the group’s overall personality. But apart from that, I don’t find anything that memorable within the song. The vocal work and rapping felt like it had too much autotune applied to it, which really distracted me. While there is some appeal to it (I assume its main intention is to make the song fun, which kind of came through), I just didn’t like how it was used to style the vocals/rapping in this song. I am usually fine with Stray Kids’ usage of autotune in other songs, but it just doesn’t feel the same in Surfin‘. But Surfin’ still a decent listen, especially if you are looking for something fun in the midst of the loudness that the NOEASY album.

The music video starts off with some spoken vocals, with Lee Know playfully mocking Changbin, who is in turn mocked by Felix. Based on this, you can tell that the video was going to be fun and non-serious. We then get a snippet of them in the dance practice room, before they are magically (by the power of editing) transported to outside. From then on, it all was a pool-side party. It looks fun and feels fitting for the song.

There is a bit of choreography for this release, and I am have opted to review it in a separate paragraph as it felt secondary to the music video. It more so a simple routine that highlights the lightness, brightness and carefree nature of the song.

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