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

BTS’ Dynamite was voted by you to be the Best International Song By a Korean Artist. All songs in this review will be eligble for the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Check them out and remember to vote for your favourite at the end of the year. In the meanwhile, check out the winners for the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards.

Last week, I covered some 2020 international releases that occurred in November through to January of this year. This included Chungha’s Dream of You, Baekhyun’s Get You Alone, Dream Catcher’s No More, Jung Daehyun’s Amazing and TWICE’s Better. This week, I will be covering another five releases including Japanese songs from MONSTA X, NCT 127 and TREASURE, and Western songs from Mark Tuan and Jackson Wang. For those who are wondering, I will be covering The Boyz’s Breaking Dawn in the next edition of this International Song Review segment, which will be whenever I can fill up the next post with five songs. Let me know of any comebacks by KPOP artists in international markets, so that post can be published sooner! (However exclude songs that already have a Korean version).


Wanted – MONSTA X

I personally didn’t enjoy this latest release from MONSTA X the first time I heard it. It felt like it was missing the surface of the instrumentation because nothing really stuck out at me. However, listening to the song a couple of more times really helped the song grow on me (which is the usual case for me) and that initial thought has left my mind. The song pretty much fits in with MONSTA X’s works. The verses actually felt very typical for the group, though I must say everything had a melodic tinge to it and is not as aggressive (but it was getting there). Even the rapping had that tinge. The chorus is where Wanted becomes quite dynamic and more interesting, thanks to its impactful bass and heavy synth usage. I really like the consistent thumping and the vocal work from Shownu and Kihyun throughout the section. Joohoney and I.M follows up with a bit of their usual rapping abrasiveness, before the focus moves onto Minhyuk and Hyungwon, and then it moves back to the already mentioned members. I do wish there was a bit more heft, especially when it came to the verses to make the song even more appealing and bring it up to par with their Korean releases. But overall, Wanted was a decent song to add to their choreography. The music video for Wanted was quite simple but cool at the same time. I really like how the video embraced an industrial look for the first part when the members are dressed in black outfits. The video becomes a little more sleek with their outfits infusing a little more colour that really stands out amongst the flashing lights and black outfits. The camera work is also commendable. The choreography looks good, but I didn’t see anything new or dynamic within it. (8.1/10)


Gimme Gimme – NCT 127

Gimme Gimme taps into what seems like a more intensified version of the EDM that NCT 127 is known for through their Korean songs. Just this version mixes in a more prevalent form of hip-hop, but also feels a little annoying thanks to that one whiny squealy synth that just sticks around for what pretty much felt like the entire song’s length. There was just so much of this synth throughout the song, it was pretty to not to notice it. In some of the parts that didn’t have the squeaky synth, the rest of the instrumentation made up for it by reincorporating the same sound just with different synths. If we were to take away the EDM and squealing synth, the members sound pretty good. They had to do a lot of competing to be heard over Gimme Gimme‘s instrumentation, but they handled it just fine. The rappers were super aggressive, but this worked out well as it gave the some some additional edge. Taeil, in particular, stood out with his vocals from the rest of the members, especially with that high note that just took the song to a new level. As for the music video, I felt it was pretty plain. SM Entertainment’s music videos have been quite top notch lately. But this felt like a let down. I am not keen on their outfits as it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it could have been with the warehouse like setting they are in. They do like stylish, but they just stick out. I did like the solo shots of the members and the various transitions between them. As for the choreography, Gimme Gimme lives up to the expectation that NCT 127 had set for themselves. It is very impactful, intense and powerful all at the same time. The dance break is definitely the peak of it, showing us exactly what we hoped to see from this high-octane song. (7.1/10)


Beautiful – TREASURE

This release caught me out of the blue. At the time when I discovered the song, I only found out that this was a soundtrack for the anime, Black Clover. Upon some further research, I found out today that TREASURE will be making their official debut in Japan at the end of March with Japanese versions of their title tracks and Beautiful. Beautiful taps into a more refreshing side of EDM, opting for lightness and pop, rather than going heavy handed with the synths and other instrumentation. In many ways, Beautiful aesthetically feels like an extension of TREASURE’s more pop centric Korean releases. The vocal work and rapping sounds pretty good. Nothing impressive from the group this time, but it works really well with the pop sound. There is no official music video or choreography for Beautiful that features the members (though this might change with an unannounced release of a music video between now and the end of March). Instead, the music video that was released was a little over a one and a half minute long video of the anime. So I don’t have much else to say about the video. Because of this, I have only decided to give a song rating for Beautiful. (8.5/10)


One in a Million – Mark Tuan & Sanjoy

We move away from JPOP for the remainder of this post, with the next artist is someone whom I haven’t actually reviewed any solo work for yet. I am talking about Mark Tuan, who has previously dabbled in solo work through a Chinese single (Never Told You, 2020). The song I am focusing on today is his most recent release, One in a Million, which features Sanjoy. It is also his first release since leaving JYP Entertainment. One in a Million delves into R&B, mixing up the genre with a bit of dance electronica. Together, the two genres combines to make the new song feel quite sleek and subtly upbeat. It is quite a pleasant combination and outcome for the two genres. I find Mark’s vocals to be quite interesting. He draws out his lines, giving the song a slow pace. That on its own isn’t my cup of tea. But in combination with the subtle upbeat touch, the vocal work surprisingly comes off as quite hypnotic and drives me to wanting to replay the song as there is an alluring charm to it. The music video that is released alongside One in a Million is a cute animation that fits well with the song’s lyrics and features two people who some might say are fated for each other. The video shows the girl leaving behind an umbrella behind at a convenience store. The guy recognizes the umbrella as hers (as it was the one that was opened in his face) and rushes to the station to return it to its owner. But unfortunately, fate at this instant does not want them to be together. When he arrives at the platform, she has already boarded the train. They get off at the same station and recognize one another. But this time, the rest of the city’s population doesn’t want them to be together. They both then run into each other a bar, with a happy relationship blooming from that point I presume. Mark and Sanjoy also feature in the video as the artists playing in the bar, and they seem happy to the new couple they are witnessing. (8.4/10)


Alone – Jackson Wang

Shortly after his departure from JYP Entertainment, Jackson Wang made the announcement of a single release unexpectedly. The single was titled Alone and is actually a Mandarin pop single. Based on the tone of the song, along with his vocals, you can tell that this is a hefty song. Alone lyrically shows his feelings about his life and journey thus far. Musically, it shows off Jackson’s versatility. Most of this songs thus far (that I can remember) have been dance centric songs. His works as a GOT7 member has been primarily in the hip-hop or pop domains. Alone is more so a ballad, mixed with some synths to give it is a modern and trendy feel. It remains consistently paced and neutral for the entirety of the song. The momentum comes through his vocals, which sounds really emotive. The raspy nature of his voice really shines and this just elevates the song to a whole new level. is also quite easy to get lost in this song, especially since it gets me swaying along quite early on (swaying is my self-made indicator of a good ballad for those who don’t know). The music video reflects the tone and lyrics of the song quite well. For the entirety of the video, he is alone. This makes perfect senses, especially as he sings about being alone on this journey. I am not completely familiar with Jackson’s life story. But it seems like there are references to a warming family (the table with an abundancy of food) and his time has a fencer (the Olympic rings), to which he left behind to pursue music and his career as a singer. His face is scarred and bruised, testament to the hard journey he had to endure along the way, as it isn’t an easy path. The end of the music video gives a little bit of advice to never give up on our own journey. It will be lonely and it will be hard. But if you enjoy what you are doing, it will turn out fine. (9.6/10)

[Album Review] MY FIRST STEP: TREASURE EFFECT (1st Studio Album) – TREASURE

TREASURE was nominated for Best New Male Group, amongst other categories in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to see if TREASURE won any of the categories they were nominated in, and who else won in other categories.

TREASURE is definitely one of the next big groups with great potential to make it big in the KPOP industry. And they begin their next step in the KPOP industry in the year 2021 with their 1st Studio Album, MY FIRST STEP: TREASURE EFFECT. This studio album has topped album sale charts. Together with their other single albums combined, the group has sold over a million albums since their debut. A massive feat, given that they just debuted six months ago. Their first studio album combines their three previously unveiled single albums (including title tracks BOY, I LOVE YOU and MMM) and three new songs (which include the title track for this album, MY TREASURE) – all revovling around the pop genre. The album also features a pre-debut single and new versions of I LOVE YOU and MMM. All tracks aside from the new versions of those songs are reviewed in this post. Let’s go into the deep dive!

The First Step: Treasure Effect Album Cover

1. MY TREASURE (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for MY TREASURE. (8/10)

2. Be With Me (나랑 있자)Be With Me is a pop song follows MY TREASURE. It is pleasant, at best. But it doesn’t really excite me or reel me in. There isn’t much else to the song aside from its simple tune and melodies. There are notable aspects of Be With Me including: solid vocals, raps that give the song the little playfulness, that whistling that adds a little more dynamism into the song. But these aren’t enough to overlook the song’s lack of excitement or dulled appeal. (7/10)

3. SLOWMOTION SLOWMOTION has a bit more heft to it thanks to the addition of a thumping beat. It may not be much as the song does fall into the pop realm (like the other songs on this album) and there is a tinge of plainness due to the lack of uniqueness. But I find the very small differences between this song and the preceding song are the reasons why I find the listening experience to be quite enhanced. I personally enjoyed the direction in which the vocals were taking us, but I felt the rapping brought it down as it felt typical. (7.5/10)

4. BOYClick here to read the full review for BOY. (9/10)

5. Come To Me (들어와) Come To Me was released alongside BOY in August 2020. The song, too, falls into the pop genre that has taken over the side tracks of this new album. But it is slightly quite different to the other side tracks thus far.  I really like how the energy pops in Come To Me really pops out, which makes the song quite appealing. The melodies of this song are quite easy to get into and helps makes this side track stand out even more. The vocals and rap work fit well in the song’s pop profile, serving as a great introduction to the group and their potential (which followed through). (9/10)

6. I LOVE YOU (사랑해) – After many many listens, I LOVE YOU has become a favourite of mine throughout 2020. Hence, I have adjusted the song rating for I LOVE YOU to be 10/10 (originally 7.5/10). This is not be reflected in review post (for now). Click here to read the original review for I LOVE YOU. (10/10)

7. B.L.T (Bling Like This)B.L.T has more of a dance profile to it. It is quite energetic and there is a bit of groove to the chorus, which makes the instrumentals of the song stand out amongst the other side tracks. Them exclaiming the title was quite catchy as well. It helped make the song become quite infectious, as I could help dancing to it whilst listening to the song for reviewing purposes. The song’s biggest letdown was the trap-based sequence for the rap. It wasn’t necessary to have this sequence as it just ruined the funky energy that I was enjoying a second before the breakdown happened. (8/10)

8. MMM (음)Click here to read the full review for MMM. (6/10)

9. Orange (오렌지)Orange was released alongside MMM in November 2020. It is the album’s slowest song. But instead of giving us a typical and straightforward ballad, TREASURE manages to give us a mid-tempo R&B track that feels fitting for the Fall season that it was released in. It feels warm and sounds touching. Orange showcases potential behind their vocals and rapping, whilst also showcasing a more delicate and emotive side of the song. It shows range and definitely a highlight on this album. (9/10)

10. Going Crazy (미쳐가네)Going Crazy was a previously performed track, dating back to January 2020. Like the majority of the side tracks on this album, Going Crazy opts for a pop style. It is extremely pleasant, with the dance instrumental bringing a really stylish and sleek polish. I quite enjoyed the song. Despite it being released a year ago, Going Crazy slides quite well into the album and it is a great canvas to show off both their vocals and raps. It isn’t the most exciting song out there, but it serves as another great introduction to TREASURE and ender to their first studio album. (9.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

The First Step: Treasure Effect Teaser Image

[Review] MY TREASURE – TREASURE

Also making their comeback yesterday was TREASURE. For those who missed the second half of 2020, TREASURE made their debut with BOY back in August and made comebacks with I LOVE YOU and MMM. And with these releases under their belt, the newest male group to the YG Family have been sweeping the rookie awards of this ongoing award season. They are also my pick for best rookie of 2020 (hint hint). This comeback with a full length album and (I guess) the title track, MY TREASURE, was originally hinted to be a December release. But their company made the decision to delay it slightly to allow the members focus on more special performances which they are performing at award shows and end of year music festivals. But as we are now in mid-January (and YG delivered on their promise), we are here today to check out MY TREASURE.

I personally find TREASURE to be a very interesting group, given their company’s background. MY TREASURE doesn’t conform to anything that YG Entertainment is known for. I had that inkling through their earlier releases. But MY TREASURE seems to confirm that TREASURE is going in a different direction to what the roots of the company were based on. The new song itself is very cheerful and vibrant in a pop music manner, which works extremely well with the uplifting nature of the lyrics. I feel that the company/members ultimately chose this song as their comeback track for these characteristics. It definitely brought some light back into our lives after such a hard year. I appreciate this greatly and think the effort pays off, as the song does make you want to smile as you listen to it. I also really like the warm feeling the song gives off thanks to the brass- and string-based instrumentation, particularly during the chorus. Another positive aspect of this song is that with this style, more of TREASURE’s vocals are showcased. I definitely enjoyed this as well, as it really allowed TREASURE to show more of that side of their music. The rapping was still quite good, giving the song some much needed oomph and additional intensity. The hooks were catchy and memorable. But while this upbeat and pop sound is fantastic, I just wished there was more to the song. At the moment, MY TREASURE feels like it could have been pulled off by any other male group. I just wanted a bit more personality and indivduality, adding to what we saw in their earlier works from last year. I also wonder where TREASURE would go from here and how this more pop-centric sound would alter YG Entertainment’s portfolio. But it still a great listen, nonetheless.

With such uplifting lyrics and such a vibrant sound, it was clear that this music video would be along the lines of that bright and cutesy style. I am glad that the members didn’t get dragged into a cutesy concept, as that would be a bit much for me (as always). ‘Bright’ would be the best term to describe the song with. There is a lot of smiles in this music video, and also frowns being turned upside down. I also liked the splash of colour in their sets, making this a really pleasant video to tune into. The video does take a slightly serious turn, showing a lonely child, students taking exams in a very harsh environment and a child blocking their ears from hearing their parents arguing. But we see their hearts shine, showing us that they will shine through the hard times no matter what.

Like the music video, the performance was definitely bright and vibrant. But I will be honest, there isn’t much else to the performance. I didn’t find any moves that were captivating or worth mentioning. You could blame the song, but I felt the creative minds could still manage to find somehow one-up their MMM and other performances.

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

[Review] MMM – TREASURE

TREASURE is back with their final release of 2020. The group has definitely been quite busy since they made their debut in August of this year with BOY. They followed up their debut single with I LOVE YOU in September. Once promotions for the second single was wrapped, the group was confirmed for a third single (MMM, the focus of this review) which dropped earlier today and a full-length studio album in January next year. For those who are wonder, December won’t be a month off for these guys as they prepare for and perform at a number of award nights and those end of year music festivals.

TREASURE has so far stepped away from YG Entertainment’s association with hip-hop. BOY was more of a departure than I LOVE YOU was, but both felt to be outside the common hip-hop bubble. MMM, on the other hand, pretty much steps back into that bubble. While I do like their individuality, I also liked that MMM plugged themselves back into the roots of their company. It says that they are still a YG group despite the different musical influences that they are drawing upon. MMM retains the modern KPOP hip-hop influenced structure (rap intensive verse, followed by a vocal-heavy pre-chorus, which leads into the chorus – a typical structure nowadays from how I see it), whilst also incorporating the EDM that they have really embraced in all their releases thus far. The peak of the EDM in the chorus was a very interesting centerpiece to the song. It works really well with the more serious nature of the song and it seems to add a bit of dramatic flair to the song. For the hooks during this part of the song, I thought they were weak at first. But those ‘Mmms’ and ‘Treasure you‘ whispers ended up feeling quite substantial for the song in retrospect. To me, the chorus was probably the only impressive part of the song. Everything else felt a little hit and miss for me this time. The instrumental had a nice Middle Eastern flair, but it failed to excite me for the most part. MMM manages to change it up by throwing some energy at us and keeping the EDM more consistent for the final chorus. It was a needed move, but I wanted more oomph to really get out of the repetitive loop that the song felt like it was stuck in. Similar ‘repetitive loop’ comments can be made in regards to their vocals and rapping. MMM doesn’t feel like their most impressive foot forward, in my opinion, and I will be picking their earlier singles over MMM any day.

The music video looks quite good. I like their use of the industrial look of their setting and the use of black and white throughout the video. It gives off a stylish look and adds a bit of simplicity to the music video. This also make the choreography scenes that feature their more colourful outfits feel like a ‘splash of colour’ and thus stand out a bit more. They do opt for the choreography and closeup formula, but it isn’t really that noticeable to me. I only realized it when I was typing out their review. Some fans mentioned that the video features YG Entertainment’s new building, which I thought was a little fun fact to add to the review. I think you can definitely say that this is a YG video. Hahaha… 🤣

The choreography for this comeback is definitely a highlight. Let’s definitely talk about the choreography they had for the EDM centrepiece. It looks amazing, complicated but very sophisticated. I didn’t want to say this before in the song review section, but those ‘Mmms’ had a sensual sound to them. And it looks like the choreography had that effect as well!

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] I LOVE YOU – TREASURE

Making their first comeback literally weeks after their debut is TREASURE, with I LOVE YOU. This hastiness to make a comeback is quite rare in YG Entertainment’s world, given that their artists tend to go for months and years on end with no signs of a comeback. That being said, YG Entertainment have already confirmed plans for an ambitious end for 2020 with confirmed BLACKPINK and AKMU comebacks and it is rumoured that iKON, WINNER and BIG BANG will be also making their comebacks before 2020 wraps up. Today, the focus is on YG Entertainment’s latest addition to their family and their comeback single, I LOVE YOU.

In my BOY review, I noted that the group stepped away from YG’s strong association with the hip-hop genre, going with what felt like a pop sound instead. I am not sure if I LOVE YOU confirms that observation, as it seemed to take a step back towards the hip-hop genre. It isn’t strong throughout the track, but it prevalent during some parts (i.e. the second verse). Personally, I don’t mind this as both BOY and I LOVE YOU manages to breath some freshness into their company’s discography. I LOVE YOU‘s opening verse promises more of that pop feel. I really like the lightness of both the guitars and their vocals. The pre-chorus brings about a build up that felt typical, but makes total sense given the fast-approaching epic, deep and abrasive drop for the chorus. I personally enjoyed this drop as it totally throws your expectations for the song array. I liked how the chorus doesn’t stay in this rough gear for its entirety, instead emerging out of the deep and abrasiveness nature to help bridge to the other parts of the song. The second verse was a typical trap-based rap sequence. I am not entirely against this trap-rap sequence, but it did feel dry and unoriginal. Skipping forward to the bridge, we return to that pop feel briefly before we are launched right back into the pre-chorus. The one part of I LOVE YOU that I am not a fan of is the anthem-half of the final chorus. It is very YG to do an anthem at the end of the song and (as I have mentioned before) it is pretty cliche. I wished that they just made the second half of the final chorus be the actual final chorus. I would have been fine with that. They could have also thrown something dynamic into the mix to change up the final chorus if they wished. To sum up, a good followup to BOY in my opinion.

The song talks about their feelings towards their lover and the music video was a pretty good representation of that. There were a lot of love hearts and youthful visuals throughout the video, matching with the song’s innocent theme. I wasn’t a fan of the closeups of some of the members during the second half of the rap sequence. It felt a little try-hard and mis-matching. I actually preferred the visuals and choreography closeups during the first half of the rap sequence, as it binds nicely with the rest of the music video. My favourite bit of the entire music video has to be any scenes in front of that huge screen. Especially when it came to the chorus and the screen showed this huge wave and a really nice blue/green hue to it.

The choreography is fantastic. I liked how powerful they made the chorus feel from just the moves alone, emphasizing the bass and power that the chorus had musically. The head bopping and finger hearts was definitely a killer part in my opinion. This might just be a visual component in the music video and not necessarily replicated on stage, but the dancing in the water looked epic.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] BOY – TREASURE

I break the catch up transmission with a review for a new release! TREASURE officially makes their debut with the release of the title track BOY. This is YG Entertainment’s latest addition to their company, consisting of 12 members (Hyunsuk, Jihoon, Yoshi, Junkyu, Mashiho, Jaehyuk, Asahi, Yedam, Doyoung, Haruto, Jeongwoo and Junghwan). The group itself was formed through the 2018 trainee survival show, YG Treasure Box. The show formed two male groups to join the YG Family and was collectively 13 members earlier this year. However, Yoonbin left the group prior to their debut and the decision was made to merge the two groups together to form Treasure. The group’s debut was teased since January 2020 and Bang Yedam debuted as a solo act earlier this year as well with Wayo (to be reviewed).

Previously, YG Entertainment has been heavily associated with hip-hop music in the KPOP industry, with some noticeable exceptions. And I think TREASURE, based on BOY, is another one of those exceptions. They stray away from their company’s heavy reliance on hip-hop and goes down more of the pop route for the group’s debut single. I am basing this observation on one song, so there is a chance that the group might end up going for something more towards YG roots in future releases. That being said, the producers still employ a notable YG element in BOY, which I predicted was coming. More on that later. BOY is quite dynamic and intense. I actually felt this at the very start of the song and they managed to continue this throughout the song. I also find the EDM drop (the genre of EDM is so familar but I cannot pinpoint its exact name) in the chorus to be very profound and refreshing. Their vocals and rapping adds to the song’s dynamism and energy. I really like that they were very clear and crisp throughout the song. The song’s memorable hook ‘I just wanna be your boy‘ was handled by Junkyu and Yedam, who both together form a very powerful duo. Definitely members that I will keep an eye out for. However, the song isn’t perfect. The song starts to unravel after Hyunsuk’s shouty bridge. BOY could have done without the anthem-like ending. It is a very overused YG tactic, so it is very plain and boring. It was good the first few times. But since it is now overused, I just roll my eyes at it. It is done to give the song one last hype moment, but I just felt it overwhelmed everything that came prior to it. But apart from that, BOY is definitely a strong debut song.

The music video definitely has great visuals. From the members to the sets, everything looked exciting. On a side note regarding the sets, there seems to be a lot of depth in comparison to other YG music videos. I say this because compared with this video, other recent YG music videos end up looking more like box sets now. The music video does follow a closeup and choreography formula. But there is a lot of dynamism in the music video as well, so I am not as fussed. I really liked the special effects they added during post-production. They helped heighten that level of fun we get from the visuals in the music video, which compliment the song in a variety of ways.

From what I can see, the choreography is going to be superb. The air guitar-like move and the footwork during the chorus looks very impressive. They seem to use their space very well, as seen in the second chorus. The dance break we get as part of the bridge also looked really cool!

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.3/10