A week ago, I wrote a review for five international songs by Korean artists. In that post, I revealed that had another five reviews coming your way. And as promised, here is the next edition of the International Song Review. TTo be honest, the last post is probably more fitting for the term ‘international’, as this post focuses more the Japanese music industry as that is where KPOP has an obvious stronghold and market power. And this is something expected as many more artists have made their debut in the Japanese music industry compared to the Chinese or Western music industry. Moving away from that little ‘analysis’, this post contains brief reviews for five Japanese tracks from Stray Kids, IZ*ONE, FT Island, N.Flying (though this is more of a cover) and Super Junior KRY.
All In – Stray Kids
2020 has been one busy year for Stray Kids. Their 2020 resume consist of a mixtape release, one Japanese single, a Korean OST and back-to-back Korean comebacks. And if you deemed any of the releases for the group as ‘the best’ according to your personal taste, then you probably have not heard All In yet. It builds itself around an epic brass piece that reminds me of primetime sporting events and prestigious award shows. In this song, it makes the atmosphere feel adventurous, theatrical and playful at the same time. Per Stray Kids’ forte, the song is very rap centric, adding to the powerful nature of the song. There are small vocal moments throughout the song, but it is the rappers (and rap sequences) that really steal my attention in this song. Adding more to that playful vibe I mentioned earlier, All In features a hilarious ‘WHAT?‘ from Jisung just before each chorus, which are preceded with the female spoken line ‘There is no search results for STOP‘, which I thought makes perfect sense with the continuous energy that comes from the song.
All In‘s music video takes a page out of their God’s Menu and Back Door music videos by incorporating a similar concept. I wouldn’t be surprised if the music videos are linked. There are background figures standing around the members doing nothing, whilst the same suited older men appear at the table. If you watch the music video carefully, you will see the members interact with the background figures, which I think is a first for the members and this concept. The video also matches the epic vibes of the song with that very bold burning billboard. For the choreography, the dance is equally as powerful, energy driven and epic as the song. For my favourite bit, it has to be the chorus routine, which I am digging very much.
Overall Rating – 10/10
Beware – IZ*ONE
IZ*ONE’s schedule in both Korea and Japan were put on hold due to the controversy that embroiled the Produce series and left an equivalent group disbanded well ahead of their contract ending. But IZ*ONE has managed to bounce back, with all members returning for two Korean comebacks so far this year. And now, IZ*ONE makes their long awaited comeback in Japan with Beware. Aside from their debut single in Japan, all of their Japanese singles have been terrible (harsh, but the honest truth) or forgettable (which is mildly better). Beware doesn’t have the ability to overtake their I Want To Say I Love You debut single. And if I was being honest, I foresee the song falling into the ‘forgotten’ category over time. Beware is delivered to us in a high pitch cutesy manner. Personally, I wished they grounded their vocals in some form and hadn’t gone head first into the cutesy sound. Their melody did help make the song appealing to a degree. It was flat for the most part, though it had its moments and had a nice ring to it. The strongest aspect has to be the song’s electronic synth-based instrumental. It did overpower some parts and did feel somewhat typical, but overall it brought great energy to the song.
With a cutesy sound comes a colourful music video. It is what makes the most sense. For Beware, the colourful video is saturated with pink and some yellow. I like the concept, where IZ*ONE is in in their own world in that suitcase. It isn’t new, but IZ*ONE’s take on it is pretty refreshing. For the performance, I like the energy that comes from the dance. It is fitting for the song and their youthful charms. I really like Chaewon and Minju’s little part during the bridge.
Overall Rating – 6.7/10
Sunrise Yellow – FT Island
It has been a while since we have heard from FT Island, who have reached that point of their careers where they are currently enlisting in the military. But that doesn’t stop them from releasing a single. FT Island current lineup only consist of 3 members (Hongki, Jaejin and Minhwan), with Jonghoon leaving the group/retiring from the industry when he was implicated in a scandal, while Seunghyun left the group to continue his acting career. Sunrise Yellow is the most recent FT Island and it features Seunghyun as his final FT Island release. It is a feel good song dedicated to their fans, with the Sunrise Yellow title referring to their Sunshine Yellow fanclub colour. When it comes to my reviews, I tend to say I love the energy that comes from a particular song. And it is true. But it feels completely different when real instruments are at play and it releases that energetic charge. Sunrise Yellow, hence, blows me away when we enter the chorus territory, with the fast paced energy and unrelenting momentum coming at you. Hongki’s vocals are quite nice, but I love the unique texture that Jaejin gives the verses in this parts. There is a punch to it, which I enjoyed. I wished Seunghyun and Minhwan had a part in this song, which would have increased the impact factor for fans and made Sunrise Yellow extra special.
The song is released as part of their 10 year anniversary for Japanese promotions and there is no other way to make the video special by including their fans in it. The music video simply consists of a mixture of close ups that I assume they shot prior to their concert (so that they don’t ruin the live performance with a cameraperson walking in front of them to film the closeups) and live footage of them performing on stage in front of their fans. Seunghyun is also featured alongside the other three members, making the whole video a little more special for fans. Overall, a fitting video for the group and their fans.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Amnesia – N.Flying
Released back in July of this year. N.Flying made their Japanese comeback with Amnesia. It is also the first Japanese comeback to feature Seo Dongsung, who was officially inducted as a member of the group ahead of their Oh Really Korean comeback. I loved that the group returned to something within the rock genre. It is something that I am yearning for in the KPOP industry and I am hoping that N.Flying returns in the future with something similar to this song in Korea, as Amnesia tells me that they can handle the intensity of the rock genre. In the meanwhile, Amnesia fulfils my rock craving. Once again, Amnesia has really epic energy coming from it. The appeal of Amnesia is slightly different to FT Island’s release (reviewed above) because the energy take shape as more of a head-banging form than ‘feel good’. It was intense and it definitely ‘hits hard’ as some might say nowadays (look at me using young people speak). Vocally, both Seunghyub and Hwesung are powerful vocalists and Amnesia proves that they can handle the genre flawlessly. The slowdown in the bridge comes in at the right time, providing a moment of relief if you think the song is overwhelming. I didn’t, but I still found it fitting for the song.
The music video is made of black and white closeups of the members being emotional. But the good stuff is when the group are performing their instruments in front of that very large screen/projection. The visuals we see are amazing, due to their large size and how they come into play at the right moments. The explosions of coloured dusts and flowers were all timed really well to match the explosion of energy we get in the song. It was something simple, yet they magnified it in a way that made the video so much more monumental.
Overall Rating – 9.6/10
Traveler – Super Junior KRY
It is time this review post goes on a slightly different path. So far, we have two dance tracks and two band tracks. It is time to step into the ballad domain, with Super Junior’s experts – Super Junior KRY. This follows their Korean comeback earlier this year and is their first Japanese release in over five years. However, don’t mistaken the term ballad in this review for something emotional or a track to ball your eyes out. Traveler is a more of a pop-ballad with an upbeat instrumental background. I was caught off guard with this direction, as I had expected something of that emotional route from the trio. I am not complaining, as it does mean that I am not ending this review post on a sad note! I really liked that acoustic guitar solo during the bridge of the song, though it could have easily been missed. It was a subtle change and wasn’t something in the foreground. Aside from the change in sound, Traveler captivates the audience with the trio’s vocals. Their singing is super powerful over the pop instrumentation and their harmonies during the chorus really make the song so much better. Their ad-libs towards the end was extra icing on top. Definitely a vocally charged song in its own right.
Traveler‘s music video was quite simple. The members sat in a chair on a platform singing their lines into a microphone. The camera panned around them. In the surrounding vicinity, we saw coloured balls, three floating light rings and a few pillars to add some colour, lighting and something to fill up the space around them, otherwise the video would have been too plain. Smart move there.
Overall Rating – 10/10