[Album Review] CONNECTION (2nd Studio Album) – UP10TION

It is the weekend, and weekends are when I write my album reviews. And first up this weekend is UP10TION’s second studio-length album, CONNECTION. The group released the album, which featured the title track SPIN OFF, mid-June of this year. It is the group’s first comeback since in almost a year (the last being Light in September of last year) and three years after the release of their first studio album (Invitation, lead by the single Candyland) in 2018. Alongside SPIN OFF, CONNECTION also included nine other new tracks, including three exceptional unit tracks from the group. CONNECTION features only seven members, with Kim Wooseok and Lee Jin Hyuk still absent from the lineup and Jinhoo still on a health-related hiatus.

CONNECTION Album Cover

1. SPIN OFF (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of SPIN OFF. (9/10)

2. LiarLiar is one of those standard dance tracks that satisfies but doesn’t necessary blow your mind. It has a bit of a groovy flair in its house-based instrumentation, which helped the song be more appealing. I also felt a sense of smoothness in the song thanks to the same flair, especially during the pre-choruses of the song (which were also the most memorable part of Liar). The vocals and rapping work was pretty good as well, adding a heavy tone to the song, which in turn works well with the lyrics (i.e. the song is all about the feeling of being betrayed by their lover). (7/10)

3. Summer DriveSummer Drive is an appropriately titled pop track and gives off the perfect feel for a road trip or a summer nights drive where you just want a blast on the road from your speakers. Summer Drive already starts off with a good level of energy, but the chorus incorporates a bit more to make the song more satisfying and upbeat. The rapping in the second verse stood out for me, as I felt the rappers balanced out the song by adding in an appropriately level of oomph that works well with the rest of Summer Drive. (8.5/10)

4. Parade – I liked how wholesome Parade felt. I recommend Parade if you are looking for a synth-based track that isn’t forceful or high impact. It is another satisfying pop song, with a smooth tone that carries you along for the length of the track. It is also a super easy track to get into and appreciate. The rapping and vocals were really nice, and contribute to that overall wholesome appeal of the song. I do have one minor gripe about Parade however. I am not liking how they added the deep autotune backing to some of the vocals/raps. It didn’t feel necessary and undermined the smoothness of the track. (9/10)

5. Destroyed – Compared to the songs before and after it, Destroyed has this dramatic and epic flair to it, which ultimately made it stand out on the album. It started off calm with a piano backing, before building up to the dubstep infused chorus. Bridging the two was an orchestral/electronic mix, which I thought was clever at joining the two extremes. I anticipated that the song would build up once those electronic thumps made themselves apparent, but I still thought the dubstep side was a surprisingly element. (9/10)

6. If (만약) – The next song, If, is a ballad duet between Kogyeol and Hwanhee. It was a beautiful sounding song that captivates you. The ballad’s instrumental was exceptional. There was a jazzy touch to it, which helped give the instrumental a bit of a spark of colour and identity. This really helped If sound more appealing and interesting than your common everyday ballad. The vocals from the pair was also stunning. Their harmonies and chemistry in this song just made it even more captivating to listen to. (10/10)

7. Forever (혹시라도) – The album’s second unit track is by Kuhn, Sunyoul, Gyujin and Xiao. Forever is another beautiful sounding ballad, however this one leans towards pop more and has a bit more energy to it (as a result). I liked how each of the four members brought a different colour to the song. However, they all came together like puzzle pieces fitting correctly with one another. I also like how Forever elicit the swaying effect that I find in ballads and how easy it was to get into the song. (9/10)

8. Believe in YouBelieve In You features all the members (odd that it is placed between two unit tracks). It is also their most outstanding side track (as an eight-member group) on this album, from my perspective. I just love the bright colours in this song, brought to you by their energetic vocals and the pop rock styled instrumentation. The melodies and hooks were exceptionally easy to get into and enjoy. A surprising number given its placement, but definitely a gem on this tracklist! (10/10)

9. Sky Line – The final unit track on the album is a duet between Kogyeol and Bit-to. And out of the unit tracks, it is the one that I would definitely recommend to you! I really like the contrast between the synths and the acoustic guitar in the instrumentation. Both elements were distinct in their own right, but they worked really well with one another. Kogyeol and Bit-to’s delivery was also exceptional. Kogyeol’s vocals added freshness to the song, while Bit-to’s rapping delivery and deep tone kept the song grounded. (10/10)

10. Honey Cake – Ending the album is a pop track that has a pleasant and fun bounce to it. But I felt like Honey Cake had a bit too much going on during its chorus. Everything else about Honey Cake was great, but the chorus was overwhelming for me. Will that stop me from liking the song, overall? Nope. It was still a great song to end the album on, though it could have been executed a bit better. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.9/10

CONNECTION Teaser Image

[Review] SPIN OFF – UP10TION

Kick starting this week is UP10TION with their first comeback of the year! The group returned today as a seven-member lineup (yup, still no Kim Woo Seok and Lee Jin Hyuk, while Jinhoo has extended his hiatus by enlisting into the miltary in November of last year) with the new single SPIN OFF and their second studio album, Connection. This is the group’s first comeback since the release of Light last year in September and re-release of Destiny in November, which I have yet to review (I believe I had flagged the song to be reviewed as part of an album review and the music video as part of a music video catch-up segment, but had since dropped the album review for Light Up due to falling behind on them).

What drew me to the song before it was released (via the teasers) was the energy of SPIN OFF. It has been a long time since I was so excited for an UP10TION release, so the expectations have been raised. And within seconds of start of the song, UP10TION unleashes the energy and hits the expectation bar that I had set for it. This start was more of an introduction, rather than starting with the chorus. But we were still teased for what’s to come and I am already digging the funky vibes that come from the guitar in the instrumentation – very 2021. The funky guitars are removed for the verses, and hence these sequences felt pretty plain. It would disappointing that you couldn’t really feel the funk anymore in the verses. It would have been great for they continued the momentum and energy from the intro, as that would have made the song mind-blowing. But I guess the funky elements in the chorus would not have been as mind-blowing and exciting as they were, if they were left in the verses somehow. What I did like was the pre-chorus, which brought some sleekness to the song by stripping the song more of its instrumentation. It opted for the clear showcase of vocals, and a simple and uncomplicated backdrop. And by stripping back the instrumentation in this crucial part of the song, it made the chorus feel more blastful and impactful. For the chorus, it feels more weighted and substantial in comparison to the introduction of the song. The energy was definitely fulfilling and quite explosive. Same could be said about the vocal work, particular Sunyoul’s vocals. I would have liked the chorus more if it had a more memorable hook within the lyrics. But the instrumentation itself was quite unforgettable already. Right after the chorus, we get the second verse rap sequence. While I was going to say it was a good rap sequence, I was distracted by a really brief, repetitive and high-pitched screech that I found somewhat annoying. But I liked how the overall rap sequence changed up the dynamic of the song, especially with the deep voices of the rappers. Fast-forwarding to the bridge, it is interesting that despite such a high energy track, SPIN OFF was able to be stripped back without really ruining the song in any way. I thought the bridge of the song was really well executed, showcasing Hwanhee’s vocals this time around. I also really like the relaunch into the final chorus, delaying it with an electronic percussion sequence without it feeling like a delay. Pretty clever. It is unfortunate they had to close with another rap sequence that has that same annoying repetitive screechy effect, though this time it was briefer. Overall, SPIN OFF is definitely their best title track in a very long time, showcasing top energy and their skills. Hopefully, the rest of their album reflect the same (hint hint, nudge nudge).

Though the music video does really have much substance other than choreography and closeups, I really thought the mixture of coolness and classiness really made the members look so good. It was a great visual concept! I also really like the kaleidoscope shots throughout the video. They gave off a very unique and mysterious feel to the video. I also really like the set locations for the choreography shots in this music video, particularly the room full of mirrors. That looked really cool. I am not sure if that is a permanent building somewhere in South Korea (please let me know where if this is the case, I would really love to visit it one day once it is safe to travel again) or if it was a specifically designed set. But the aesthetic and architecture look amazing!

For the choreography, I would have liked to have seen some impressive moves. That would have really made the performance memorable. But SPIN OFF‘s choreography (as it is currently) is quite dynamic and matches the energy of the song. I did like the introduction to the performance, along with the twisty moves in the second verse.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Album Review] SCENE26 (3rd Mini Album) – Lee Jin Hyuk

The next album which I wanted to delve into for a closer listen is Lee Jin Hyuk’s recent comeback with SCENE26, his third mini-album since his solo debut in 2019. At the forefront of this mini-album is 5K, which dropped with the mini-album at the start of April 2021. Personally, I am not a fan of his releases in the past (which includes I Like That and Bedlam) and this detered me from sitting down to write an album review for those past mini-albums. But as I was vetting albums by a casual listen recently, I was drawn to a few tracks on this mini-album that caught my attention. Furthermore, 5K garnered the most positive review I had for Lee Jin Hyuk since his solo debut. So with those factors combined, I am excited to finally sit down to have a closer look at one of Lee Jin Hyuk’s mini-albums.

SENSE26 Album Cover

1. 5K (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for 5K. (7/10)

2. Silence – If 5K’s tone was playful and fun, then Silence is edgy. The second track on the album is an EDM track, which isn’t really the ideal genre to push for some ‘silence’. In fact, I really like how loud this track ended up being. There is also a lot of character to the song, which isn’t standard with typical EDM song. There is just something more to the song that I find very exciting. I really like the layering of all of the rough and harsh synths and textures, which creates an energy that sounded like it could easily have fitted into an intense, suspenseful and ‘edge of your seat’ type of action movie. For Lee Jin Hyuk himself, his rapping was quite dynamic and robust. And he too inserted a lot of character into the song himself. (9/10)

3. Asteroid (소행성)Asteroid is my favourite track on the album. While his vocal work at the very start wasn’t really the best foot forward, the rest of the vocals were extremely fitting for this rock song. I really like the harshness/roughness of his vocals, which make it fitting for the rock genre. And he sounds so good throughout the rest of the song that I am willing to overlook that tiny detail at the start. The rock instrumental is relentless and powerful, blasting us with energy from practically the first second. Altogether, everything felt like an anime OST. And I would be willing to watch any anime with a lead in track like Asteroid. (10/10)

4. HATI-HATIHATI-HATI is a blast of intense hip-hop energy. If you are a person is easily overwhelmed with intense songs, then this one might not be for you. But if you enjoy that thrill, then definitely check out HATI-HATI. For me, I don’t mind being blasted by energy, but I much prefer the song’s more melodic moments in the pre-choruses and bridge. That being said, Lee Jin Hyuk really pushes himself to deliver lines that really stand out on top of the instrumentation, showcasing an ability that definitely can be helpful with some songs. On top of that, his rapping was impeccable and definitely shows promise. (8/10)

5. Be Half Awake – We return to a more playful and fun track, allowing us to take a break from all that intense energy from the pervious songs. It isn’t my personal favourite song on the album, as I felt that the harshness in his tone was competing with the synths and instrumental. Sometimes they clashed, and this was a jolt of sound that I personally did not enjoy as much. Be Half Awake‘s more melodic moments were appreciable. But once again, it is rapping that steals the show for me in this song. I just wished the energy from both the song and Lee Jin Hyuk was toned down a bit to gives us more of an opportunity of a break from the album’s intensity. (6.5/10)

6. Wave (끄덕) – If I were to pick a song which showed off his rapping off the most, then Wave would be my pick. His rapping in this song is definitely his best work yet. The energy, the character and the charisma are all showcased in this song to a high degree. If he had started off his solo career with a song like Wave, then I would have been an avid follower. I also like the underground vibes of this song, which is really cool. Not only was it a great style to showcase Lee Jin Hyuk’s talents, it is also very different from most rap songs we hear in a KPOP album. (9/10)

7. Coup-d’état (활) – In addition to ending the album, Coup-d’état was selected as the follow-up promotional song to end 5K promotions. The powerful and intense nature of the EDM that makes up Coup-d’état makes it a song that is extremely fitting for the stage. Actually, I think this would have been a strong contender for the title track position of this album The energy from this song would have been thrilling as the entrance track to SCENE26 and would have started everything with a bang! In addition to the intensity and stage-worthiness for this song, Coup-d’état also showcases Lee Jin Hyuk in an explosive manner that doesn’t feel like was capitalized in any of the above songs. We have heard impressive rapping from the soloist in the above songs, but I don’t think we have heard him like this before! (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

SCENE26 Teaser Image

[Review] 5K – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

The final review this weekend’s focus on solo artists (I really need to get back to the usual program of reviewing all artists) is Lee Jin Hyuk’s comeback. Lee Jin Hyuk made his solo return to the stage on Monday through the release of 5K and the mini-album, Scene26. This is the soloist’s first comeback since Bedlam in June of last year (and we are still awaiting for the day in which Lee Jin Hyuk makes a return to UP10TION). Since Bedlam, Lee Jin Hyuk was scheduled to make his acting debut early this year through the drama Dear. M, but the drama has been put on hold due to a scandal involving the lead actress. But that is acting and I am not here to review that. I am here to review 5K, so let’s get going.

Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo work have been a miss for me, so far. We have the boring single (i.e. I Like That) and the (to put it bluntly) off-putting releases (i.e. Bedlam). 5K seems to not fit in either of those categories. Gone are the shouting vocals that dominated his previous song, with Lee Jin Hyuk opting for a more pleasing delivery of traditional raps and vocals. When he isn’t overwhelming, he actually sounds quite skilled. I do like that he goes in and out of rapping and singing, which gives the song a wide range of variety. It also seems like Lee Jin Hyuk infuses a bit of a fun character to his delivery, which makes his vocals and rapping even more appealing. I don’t follow Lee Jin Hyuk personally, but my assumption is that this character is what fans would commonly associate with him (based on what I am reading in the YouTube comments). To match the colourful profile lee Jin Hyuk presents us in 5K, the song’s instrumentation opts for a fun profile. Brass, which seems to be the industry’s go to sound for something fun, is heavily employed in the chorus. The jazzy piano that features as part of the chorus is also a nice addition. I also enjoyed the funky sound profile that the song opts for in the verses, further tapping 5K into current trends. So far, so good. But it is the song’s major hook that acts as the hurdle this time around to liking the song. The constant repetition of ‘5K’ (which is a pun on ‘OK‘, as 5 sounds similar to O in Korean) wears off by the midpoint of the song and frankly is annoying by the end of the song. But given his past two releases, I think 5K is his best yet. There are still some improvements that can be made to make the song (and his title tracks) more appealing.

I thought the music video was fantastic. It was a little dizzying, given that the camera constantly spins around to capture Lee Jin Hyuk (and his many counterparts) walk around it in a circle. The whole point of that was to follow the female actress who catches his attention at the start (and the artwork that he is featured in). The music video is set in an art gallery. At first I wasn’t keen on this setting, but it soon made sense to why they had chosen this concept. Obviously, the producers wanted to highlight that 5K is a step up from the ultra high definition of 4K. The 4K that I have seen makes me feel like I am watching the video live (i.e. in the room). So obviously a step up would be that in a literal form, hence the art gallery was an excellent choice. I also like that Lee Jin Hyuk is ‘The Walking Man 2’ and does a lot of walking to play that part. The part in which the female actress was an actual piece of artwork was a bit predictable for me, but it still made for a fun video to watch.

I felt the choreography for this comeback was a let down. There wasn’t anything great about, let alone mind-blowing or new. It just felt like we have seen the moves done before. On top of that, it felt like the choreography was very repetitive. I did like the energy and smiles he brought to the stage. But that isn’t enough in this instance to save the choreography.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Sugar – Kim Woo Seok (UP10TION)

Kim Woo Seok made his solo debut with Red Moon back in May 2020. Since then, nothing much has been going on with Kim Woo Seok. It is still a shock to me to know that he (and fellow member and soloist Lee Jin Hyuk) have yet to return to the group for a full lineup promotion. There is so much opportunity to group both the group and the solo acts alongside one another, yet TOP Media has decided to promote the two singers seperately from the group. And must I say in a poor manner. While other soloists were enjoying two comebacks throughout 2020, Kim Woo Seok was only given the opportunity to promote Red Moon and that was it. Flashforward to 2021 (i.e. 8 and a half months), Kim Woo Seok is finally making his solo comeback with Sugar and the mini-album 2nd Desire [Tasty].

Sugar is a sweet pop track. Not overly sweet, thankfully. Despite that, Sugar is quite a change for Kim Woo Seok, given that it has been a while since I have heard anything quite fluffy from him. I am guessing an UP10TION track was when I last heard Kim Woo Seok approach that sound concept. After the sensual vibes that Red Moon carried, this is pretty much a polar contrast. But while Sugar is more upbeat and colourful in its musical approach (which can be my thing if it is done well), I am disappointed with the song. No matter how times I have played the song since the music video dropped this morning, it just doesn’t excite me. It felt plain and typical. I would have enjoyed the song more if it had more energy or more of a pop to it. Maybe something a bit more punchy or texturally captivating. This just feels like candy that tastes a bit flat. The most promising part of the song was the ‘Right/Ready, Tasty, Yum, Yum‘ deep whipser that we got after the first chorus. I guess what savours the song for me is Kim Woo Seok’s vocals, which were solid throughout Sugar. That high note at the end was quite good. I am tempted to say that I like the bounce that came along with the song’s melody. But I just cannot get over the fact that the song’s instrumental was dull as a whole, and that practically sours that comment. Overall, I feel like Sugar feel victim to UP10TION’s plainness. I don’t want to constantly make the link of the two acts, as they are meant to be different and standalone. But I feel like the plainness of both are on par with one another this time around.

The visuals of the music video faired a lot better than the song itself in my books. To match the song’s pop tone, the music video opted for colour. And it isn’t KPOP if all the colour is not in its pastel form. It is still quite bright and there is a noticeable innocent vibe that comes from the video. Alongside the colour and the youthful tinge, we have a pretty solid set design that ties the sweet aspect of the title and lyrics together nicely by moulding the sweets concept. If you have a sweet tooth, this might be the video to indulge in.

For some reason, his company made him promote prior to the offical release of the song and album. I guess it is to hype up the comeback before it actually drops. So naturally with this technique, we are treated to an early taster to the performance version. I find the choreography to be quite fitting for the pop sound of the song. The entire chorus routine seems pretty decent and showcases some skills. I was nervous that the song would hevaily impact appeal of the performance. The sliding chair moves while Wooseok is sitting on it does seem quite tacky, however.

Song – 5.5/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.5/10

[Review] Light – UP10TION

It is almost two years since UP10TION moved to an eight member lineup, as TOP Entertainment continues to promote Lee Jin Hyuk and Kim Woo Seok as solo artists after their participation in Produce X 101 (and in Kim Woo Seok’s case, the short-lived X1). Since Produce X 101, the rest of UP10TION have not had much promotions aside from their last comeback, Your Gravity, which is quite disappointing (and I solely blame their company for the lack of promotions). However, that changed slightly during the week after the remaining eight members of UP10TION dropped Light (their new song) and Light Up (their new mini-album).

My number one issue with Light is that it still doesn’t offer anything new for UP10TION. The song, as a whole, plays it safe and sounds quite pleasant, which I have mentioned before is not always a good thing. And here I am hoping for UP10TION to have a smashing comeback for once. I want a really dynamic and impactful sound, that would highlight their performance skills and make people go wow (and hopefully garner enough attention to get the other two members back into the group’s lineup – bold ideas, I know). If I were to breakdown the instrumental background of Light, you would have that squeaky synth at the very forefront of the song and funky electric guitars, over a future bass backbone. Not really the most inspiring combination of sounds ever. But I liked the direction of what the first verse was going in. When it came to the chorus, the producers left me uninspired even further with a pretty generic drop. It isn’t exciting and placed an imaginary weight on the song, which ruined the light (pun unintended) vibes from the verse. And from there, the song just doesn’t get back to the level at which it started promisingly. What I do think Light did pretty well at was highlight both the vocals and rapping potential of each member. They were solid and consistently good element of the song. Overall, I clearly wanted more to the song. It is pleasant and I don’t mind it. It just isn’t something I would go out of my way to search for.

Another music video that uses the choreography and closeup formula. This one joins the ranks of the music videos that use said formula but captures the strong visuals of the members. Other than that, the sets are rather plain and I think the sets could have been a little more dynamic, which may have added more energy to the song (and helped added an additional tinge of appeal).

I don’t have much to say about the choreography. It works well with the music, but it isn’t anything new that we haven’t seen before.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 6.5/10
Overall Rating – 6.6/10

[Review] Bedlam – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

I now take a bit of a breather from the Monday releases to review 2 more recent comebacks. The first is the major comeback that Lee Jin Hyuk made yesterday with Bedlam. This is the UP10TION member’s first solo comeback after he made his solo debut earlier in the year with I Like That. Fellow member Kim Woo Seok who participated in Produce X 101 alongside with Lee Jin Hyuk also made his solo debut in May. Yet, we have not seen these two members return to their UP10TION lineup and capitalise on their newfound popularity. It is a bit of a mystery to why this has yet to occur. But we can only hope that a comeback will happen soon with all 10 members soon. In the meantime, here is Lee Jin Hyuk to hopefully appease those UP10TION cravings.

As boring as I felt I Like That was, I can’t help but think it is a lot more refined than what we have here. Actually, no. The word to use instead of ‘refined’ in that initial statement is ‘better’. From what I could get, Bedlam has a really nice fun-sounding instrumental, suitable for the upbeat hip-hop style that Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo release was aiming for. And from what I can hear, it had a decent level of brightness to make it well suited for the Summer season. However, it is all masked with Lee Jin Hyuk’s vocals, which I did not think was fun or Summery. You might want to give a song a listen first before seeing how I judged his delivery, in case this song might be your style. The last thing I want to do is turn you away from a track that you would have enjoyed. For me personally, I felt Lee Jin Hyuk was shouting the entire time. It felt overwhelming and it felt too much, to the point where I fund it hard to register the instrumental. In his defense, the song matches the title, as Bedlam can be defined as a scene of uproar of confusion. Though this doesn’t explaing the overwhelming nature of his delivery. The only part of the song that I enjoyed (coincidentally, it does not have any of Lee Jin Hyuk’s shouting in it) was the dance instrumental sequence at the ending. I liked the premature ending to the song before it threw us into that intense sequence, as this made it more impactful. It felt fitting for what had preceded it, mainly because it was also just a bunch of noise. But it gave the song some edge and something more appealing than his vocals. I hate to be brutally honest, but I just couldn’t sugar coat things this time around.

If the music video was indicative of what Bedlam was meant to sound like, it was definitely meant to be upbeat, bright, hip-hop and fun-sounding. It is quite disappointing that the visuals had to tell you what type of song it was meant to be. But for the music video specifically, it wasn’t that bad. Lee Jin Hyuk starts off as an office worker, who seemed to have a really tough day. So once the day was literally over, he let loose in the office. He definitely makes a mess in the office and in life (based on the breaking news story segment). He also goes wild at a Chinese buffet restaurant and on the computer screen. But it nice to know that Lee Jin Hyuk knows when to tone it down once the day restarts, returning to a professional office manner (and a mask!). Apart from making a mess, I really enjoyed the different choreography shots, as they looked quite flashy thanks to the lighting and post-production.

The best part of the performance has to be the dance sequence at the end of the song. Not because it was my most favourite part of the song, but it showed off a really intense choreography that allowed Lee Jin Hyuk to flex some of his dancing skills. The rest of the performance was quite chaotic, even during the routine moments. And I must admit, they do fit in well with the song.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] Red Moon – Kim Woo Seok (UP10TION)

Let’s kick off this week with reviews for two solo releases. The first belongs to the solo debut of Kim Woo Seok, otherwise known as Wooshin when he is apart of the UP10TION lineup. Though, you may be familiar with Kim Woo Seok for his more recent endeavours. Last year, he was one of the two members of UP10TION (the other being Lee Jin Hyuk) to participate in Produce X 101. He placed second overall in the survival show and thus was one of the 11 trainees from the show to make their debut as X1 with Flash. However, due to the voting rigging scandal, the project group disbanded earlier this year. Since then, Kim Woo Seok took a short break and has now returned as a solo artist with Red Moon. Let’s see what he has to offer with Red Moon.

Kim Woo Seok’s debut title track is a sensual styled song, made up of heavy bass and electric guitar. It isn’t a song that I find instantly powerful like many of the current dance tracks. Instead, it slowly builds as Red Moon progresses to become a really bold track. The song knows when to make an impact with its sound, such as the consecutive thumping that appeared between the more classically geared bridge and final chorus. This really helps boost up Red Moon to a whole new level. I say this because while I did enjoy the resulting instrumental, the ‘blank canvas’ or the trap-based layer that was heard underneath those already mentioned instruments above were incredibly dry and boring. Without those thumping beats, heavy bass and electrical guitar, I would have passed over this song and not looked back. If I could have my way in some capacity, I would wanted the song’s instrumental backbone to be a little more exciting as this could have provided the song with a little more electricity and power. But as I said, I did like the effects that were added to give that power and boldness. What I have no criticism for as I believe that Kim Woo Seok nailed from the very start was the vocal works. The song really does captialise on his vocals, bring that sensual nature to life. I really liked the relatively low tone he uses in the song’s verses. I also really liked how his voice amped up to match the increased energy flow from the chorus. All working well together to deliver Red Moon.

The music video looks pretty good. Sure, the music video heavily adopted the close up and choreography formula, which I have grown to dread. And this does bring a dry energy over the video. But I thought the sets designed looked cool. Furthermore, the warm hue in this video really reflected well with the song. The warm colours really made the video shine in a subtle manner and the song pop out of the video. The more vibrant coloured scenes ended up going well with the rest of the video. Kim Woo Seok takes on a homme fatale type of look throughout the video, which I am sure fans would love seeing. I do notice a growing trend of cutting fabric from clothing

The music video was definitely strong sensual vibe. And this is thanks to the performance. I think the main choreography points of the video is when his fingers run down his body and he proceeds to perform hip rolls. There is a lot of body rolling this in performance, which I am sure will excite fans. I particularly like the choreography during final moments of the bridge, leading into the final chorus. That looked powerful.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] I Like That – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

Back when Produce X 101 started, UP10TION sent two of its members (Kim Wooseok and Lee Jin Hyuk) onto the show to gain exposure. Lee Jin Hyuk placed 12th and missed out on a spot alongside his fellow member. Right after the show, his company provided him an opportunity to rest and threw UP10TION back into promotions with Your Gravity without him. It was a confusing move on TOP Media’s behalf, especially since he was there to help gain UP10TION attention. And he hasn’t promoted with the group at all since then. Instead, TOP media confirmed his solo debut for November the 4th and that is what I will be reviewing today.

The song is titled I Like That. Positioned as a rapper while promoting as part of his main group, Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo debut track takes on a club party hip hop style that used to be very popular as idol rappers made their solo debuts. There is a bit of nostalgia, as a result, with how the song is presented. But it is a style that I  never grew fond of and it seems to still be the case. It fails to deliver any of that ‘impact’ that I always mention and the track doesn’t come off as memorable. There are some fun vibes to it, which I did like. But they weren’t strong enough to really reel me in for a second or third listen. Apart from that, there are still some good elements of the song which I also liked. The instrumental isn’t too heavy-handed and it comes off as pleasant in a sense. “Pleasant’ isn’t a word you would necessarily use to describe a rapper’s song. But it did genuinely feel this way relative to other rapper-based tracks. His delivery was nice and tried to add a dynamic touch to the song. I think the song was a good starting point. Though I think the song could have been enhanced if there were more memorable moments/lines and if the producers pushed the song a little more.

I thought the music video was very boring. Apart from the shaky camera work, which worked well with the music, the video doesn’t offer much besides closeups and choreography shots. The sets were plain. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. The visual aspect of a comeback is very important, for me at least. It pretty much could enhance and added to the song’s atmosphere but I felt it did nothing of the sort.

The choreography was pretty good. Based on his showcase performance, Lee Jin Hyuk puts in full force like his backup dancers despite performing live. It definitely shows his performance skills. In addition to that, I thought his facial expressions were on point, which made the performance looked a little more captivating.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.1/10

[Album Review] The Moment Of Illusion (8th Mini Album) – UP10TION

The next album review (and this one is on time!) is for UP10TION’s return with The Moment Of Illusion. This is the group’s first album release since Blue Rose and Laberinto in 2018. The group has been absent from the stage as two of their members was participating in Produce X 101. And as a result, the same two members are also absent from this set of promotions (i.e. Kim Woo Seok due to promotions as part of X1 and Lee Jin Hyuk due to a break). Let’s see how the group’s latest album fair with the absence of two members.

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The Moment Of Illusion Album Cover

1. Your Gravity (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Your Gravity. (6/10)

2. Sky Surfer – A part of me thinks that Sky Surfer would have been a little typical for the title track. The chorus, its drop and the synths used throughout the song weren’t exactly exciting or fresh. But the song almost could have been an alternative as a title track. I find the song having this breezy vibe coming from it, suiting the Summer season. I also like the guitar that is slightly hidden away by the electronic components in the instrumentation. It had Goblin (the South Korean drama) vibes, which I really liked. I thought the vocals and rapping was nice. Maybe if they gave it a twist, I wouldn’t have had my initial doubts about its title track potential. But it is still pretty good. (8/10)

3. Look At MeLook At Me takes a similar typical approach to Sky Surfer. But they manage to change it up to make it slightly different from the rest of the competition. The song opens up with a sort of foreign guitar-like instrumental. It gives way to a very dynamic track in my opinion, with everything in the instrumental a level lower than what we would typically here in KPOP. The chorus drops and repeats the title, which is pretty standard. But I liked how they put the brakes on the drop, making it slower than what you had expected. Overall, I thought to Look At Me was another great track on the album. (8.5/10)

4. Skyway – I think we have another contender for the title track status. And this one doesn’t face any doubts like I had expressed under Sky Surfer. Actually, I wonder why they didn’t pick this one instead. It is strong and very energetic, which I have mentioned before ticking boxes for me, And I like it how it doesn’t stop. It just keeps going and doesn’t take an unnecessary pause. I thought the chorus had a catchy melody. The vocals and raps were amazing, especially Kun’s rap sequence at the end, channelling the song’s momentum until the very last second of the song. (9/10)

5. Restore – The album thus far has been mainly upbeat dance tracks of varying genres. Restore tones everything back, opting for an R&B track. But still, I can definitely see a choreography routine for this track with backup dancers. Melodically, I find the track to be very nice. The vocals and raps were also good, with a large focus on the vocals thanks to the slower nature of the song. I do question why they chose to push themselves for the chorus, as it almost felt like the vocals in the chorus were overpowering everything else. But for the time being, I think they manage to not step over into that domain. (7/10)

6. Lover – The album returns to and ends on another dance track. It is probably their most intense on the album, thanks to its dramatic and crunchy synths. Once again, I find the track slightly typical. The chorus felt a little plain and I had expected it to ‘add’ to the intense, rather than continue on with what we heard in the verses. The vocals were strong and I thought the rappers shined in this track, thanks to the intensity. Their rap sequences ended up having a little oomph to it. While I did make comments about its typicalness, I think the choice of Lover at the end of the album is a bold and memorable choice. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.8/10

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The Moment Of Illusion Teaser Image

[Review] Your Gravity – UP10TION

While I am reviewing the biggest comebacks of the week, we need to mention UP10TION. This is their first comeback in a while and their first post-Produce X 101. UP10TION’s Kim Woo Seok (Wooshin) and Lee Jin Hyuk (Wei) both participated in the show. Kim Woo Seok placed second on the survival show and will be making his debut alongside the rest of X1 next week. Lee Jin Hyuk missed out on a position in X1 and it was expected that he would return to UP10TION as a result. However, he will be sitting out of the promotions for UP10TION’s comeback, Your Gravity, which was released yesterday (alongside their 8th mini-album, The Moment of Illusion).

The first thing I noticed about the song while listening to it yesterday was how closely it resembles Pentagon’s Sha-La-La (released earlier in the year). I just hope that this wasn’t intentional. The entire backbone seems to be a replication of the mentioned track and I am not exactly sure what to think of this. It does manage to pack a punch with a little more vibrancy in its synths. The rapping and vocals were very strong as well. But the song doesn’t really showcase anything ‘new’ from the group. It also doesn’t go all the way to bring us a dynamic chorus, something that could have really boosted the song up a few more levels. As a result, the track doesn’t stick out as much as it should have. Overall, I think this was a great opportunity for the group to try out something new to attract the attention of new listeners and reinvent themselves. But I felt like the group stuck with what they had always done. And this resulted in a passable track from the group.

I think the music video was a little more intriguing and appealing. Matching that vibrancy I mentioned was the set, which had colour to it, allowing it to stand out in the background. The video shows a glimpse of the members having fun. I think to play around with the idea of gravity, the video opted for very dynamic cinematography. You wouldn’t think that this would help transform a built set like in this video, but it made the video 10 times better than if it was shot in a balanced manner. Like they went 360 degrees with the camera in this video.

I think the choreography for the comeback was awesome. And that is something that I think I have felt with the majority of UP10TION’s comebacks. I really liked their start, when they are in the circle formation. I also like how some of their moves were soft but followed up with a lot of sharp moves, which looked really cool overall.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Album Review] Laberinto (7th Mini Album) – UP10TION

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UP10TION recently returned with their new single, Blue Rose, which was featured on the group’s 7th mini-album, Laberinto. Something that I have noticed with the UP10TION releases this year is that they tend to be of the pop nature (excluding their title tracks). And while the group’s pop songs tend to be standard, their latest album contains a few good tracks that I quite liked. Hence, why today’s album review is for UP10TION! Their album contains 7 tracks in total (with one intro that I have not included, as usual).

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Laberinto Album Cover

2. Blue Rose (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Blue Rose. (7/10)

3. BurningBurning started off as a standard pop song. The first verse was quite plain and ordinary. However, the chorus added some funk and colour to the song, giving it a very interesting and satisfying appeal to the song. And from then on, the song felt lively, which is rather odd as I think they used the same instrumental for the two verses. The vocal work was nice, especially that refined note at the end of the bridge (that leads into the final chorus). I liked the rapping in the song, which really fitted in well without causing any issues to the flow of the song. (8/10)

4. Turn Up The Night – I thought Turn Up The Night was a decent track but I am not a fan of the repetitive chorus that they opted with. By the end of the song, I got bored with the song’s main hook. I think it is the other elements that made me like the song. The use of brass throughout the song was nice and gave the song a fun energy. The vocal work gave the song that explosiveness that added to that energetic vibe and the rapping gave the song the much-needed edge that rapping usually gives to songs. (8/10)

5. MidnightMidnight has a softer tone that leads nicely from the preceding song. It starts off as a standard pop song but it slowly builds up into a sweet yet refreshing sound. Despite that, the song does maintain that level of energy that allows it to have an accompanying choreography, which matches the UP10TION style that I associate with them. Once again, the instrumental was a pop song but it too incorporated some brass. (7/10)

6. Happy Birthday – No, this isn’t a copy of the infamous song we all sing to celebrate someone’s birthday. Instead, it just another standard pop song on this album. I have to say that the song was a little underwhelming, particularly around the drop to the chorus, which could have given the song a more dynamic vibe. Instead, it stays safe and it fails to really liven up the song. I think this is the weakest song on the album. Nothing really appeals to me and I am not blown away with the final product. (6/10)

7. With YouWith You is the closest song on the album that you can get to that mandatory ballad. It is still upbeat and takes on that pop route which doesn’t really make it feel unique or special. It does focus on the vocals of the members, which I think isn’t something we get all too often when it comes to UP10TION. There was some rapping and I thought those sections were appropriate for it. I also find the song somewhat fitting for the festive season, as there is a certain level of warmth to the song. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.3/10

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Laberinto Teaser Image

[Review] Blue Rose – UP10TION

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Continuing the blue theme for the last few reviews (Onew’s solo release, titled Blue and Mamamoo’s album review for BLUE;S)  is UP10TION’s latest release, Blue Rose, which is featured on the group’s 9th mini-album. This is the group’s first comeback since the release of their special single, So Beautiful back in August of this year. The group has also been active in Japan with their Chaser comeback.

Blue Rose starts off with what seems to promise to their most edgy sound yet. And they do a pretty good job with maintaining that level of edginess throughout the song. The rapping during this start (along with the rest of the rapping) was really cool, giving the song a really rough exterior. The instrumental gave the song a powerful kick, especially during the choruses. I really liked that brief pause after the first line of the chorus, giving that striking impact to the song. The bridge was also quite nice, bringing in a minimalist dance break, which I thought was quite cool. However, there were some things that hold is back from being an amazing song. The vocals felt bland. Because the song felt like the first verse/chorus was just copied and pasted, it left the vocals hanging and not really build up all that much. I felt like they could have spiced the song up a tiny bit towards the end, which would have made it a lot more interesting.

The music video seems to show two opposing sides. The more casually dressed UP10TION seemed to represent the fugitives, while the smartly dressed UP10TION shows the Chasers (based on the teasers). The fugitives have the Blue Rose, which the chasers are trying to obtain. We don’t really see any plot development, as the teasers made it out to be, which was a mega disappointment. In the end, we just see the chasers confront the fugitives and the video ends there. Pretty boring, if you ask me. Where is the action or the mystery? Moving to more positives, I liked their outfits and sets of the video, which I thought was classy.

Looking at the dance in the music video, there seems to be a sensual side to the performance which I think fits in with their sound really nicely. I also enjoyed that minimalist dance break hat they had, which I thought was quite cool. It is something a little different to usual dance breaks (which tends to be intense and powerful).

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] Chaser – UP10TION

UP10TION made their Japanese comeback one month ago today with Chaser. Yeah, it has been some time since its release and I apologise for the delayed review. Actually, it was meant to be reviewed last Saturday but due to personal reasons (and most likely tiredness), I decided to delay it until this week. Hence, it will be one of the two JPOP reviews published this week. So, let’s stop chasing the review so you can have a read of my thoughts about it.

At first, I thought it would be the Japanese version of Runner as the two words used in the titles are essentially synonyms of each other. However, they turned out to be different. Chaser has a very intense feel to it, which I actually like. The suspense built during the pre-chorus and the actual drop to the chorus definitely made the song sound so good. I liked how the vocals were louder than the instrumental, as it could have been easily drowned out during the chorus if it was any lower. I liked the vocals to the song, especially how breathy the verses were. And I liked how the rapping gave some impact and wasn’t just thrown into the song. It could have had some more individuality, considering the use of EDM by Korean artists in the JPOP industry. But overall, Chaser is definitely a great song.

The music video was good but it could have been a little more interesting by throwing in a short storyline. We are shown a very dark city (possibly futuristic), Wooshin running, a golden stopwatch slowly dropping to the ground and time reversing. I have no idea what to make of this. There was some intensity but I think it would have been better with some more background. I like the use of lights in the open space for the choreography shots, which matched the sound of the song very well.

The choreography is another positive aspect of the comeback. I personally do not have much else to say in regards to choreography. But I liked its energy and (once again) the intensity it delivered alongside the song.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] So Beautiful – UP10TION

As I was planning the reviews to be published this week (aka. the start of the catching up that I promised weeks ago), I realized I completely forgot about UP10TION’s latest summer release, So Beautiful. It was released last week and is the title track off the UP10TION 2018 Special Photo Edition. This is the group’s first release since Candyland back in March of this year. The group also recently released their Japanese comeback track, Chaser, which I will be reviewing later this week.

So Beautiful is a pretty cool song. Though it doesn’t have a strong hook that gets me repeating a certain line over and over again (like most KPOP songs), there is enough within the instrumental to get me into the song. The instrumental seems to buildup in a fantastic manner and there were sections which reminded me of Wanna One’s Energetic for some reason (the rapper’s section during the verses and the piano during the verses, for example). I really like the kick that the rapper’s part bring along to the song in the verses and during the bridge, which was my pick for the highlight moments of the song. The vocals were quite good as well but that momentum and energy wasn’t the same, which was quite unfortunate. I feel like if the song had a more stronger hook, the song would have been a lot more memorable.

The music video shows the behind the scenes for what I assume is their photoshoot for their photo book. Not really much to say here. Though, this is a song that could have benefited with some sort of modelling concept, as that is what I imagined after listening to the song for the first time. I am not disappointed but rather have different ideas floating in my head as I was listening to the song.

I personally do not know if they will be promoting their new release. While photo books are not promoted, Going Crazy was released as part of another photo book release and was subsequently promoted on stage.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.3/10 

 

[Album Review] Invitation (1st Studio Album) – UP10TION

After 6 mini-albums, UP10TION had returned to the industry with their very first full-length studio album, Invitation. While they have yet to release a hit since their debut, this high-quality sounding album seems to confirm that this chart-topping track is just right around the corner. So let’s get this album review going! Per usual, I have left the intro track off the list.

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Invitation Album Cover

2. Candyland (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Candyland. (7.7/10)

3. Target On (반해, 안반해) – Despite having a very standard instrumental, I think the song has potential to be a contender for the title track. Right off the bat, it suits the UP10TION’s sound. It had a great level of intensity and the chorus can be deemed as catchy. While I don’t have that much to say about it, I would return to the album to listen to this song. (9/10)

4. Finally (오늘이야) – In general, I liked the instrumental for this, particularly the drum beat. This pop song managed to showcase both the potential for the vocalists and the rappers of UP10TION. The fading out at the ended seemed a little force in my opinion. But other than that, its simplicity speaks volume, especially when we are continually inundated with EDM and more intense genres. And like the previous, it is another track that I would love to hear continuously. (9.5/10)

5. Habit (습관) – We have the first ballad on the album. The stormy sound effects do set the mood of the song, automatically making the song emotional. The start of the chorus was amazing and it is another ballad that has that swaying effect (which earns big ticks for me). The start of the rapping sequence was awkward but the rapping (overall) was decent. The change-up in the bridge was nice, while the vocalists got another chance to shine. (8/10)

6. Mixed Signals (모호해) – Opening Mixed Signals are some odd synths and a cough. And while it might be a little non-traditional, its uniqueness makes the song intriguing. I hope my ears are not playing tricks on me, but those some synths seem to play throughout the song (though very quietly). The song is perfect for hanging out on a Summer’s day. I particularly thought the bridge was cool and the drop into the final chorus made the final moments of the song pop out even more. (9/10)

7. Always (이대로) – Right off the bat, you get this cheerful sound from its uplifting instrumental. This makes the song pleasant and refreshing. Once again, the raps and vocals were on point. It features a catchy chorus and melodic hook. While the song does suffer from the ‘standard syndrome’, the group managed to nail its delivery very well. (9/10)

8. Superstar – I really like the ‘secret agent’ styled instrumental, which made his track feel quite cool. I also liked the ‘Superstar’ repetition at the start of the song (which was also played throughout the song). The chorus was also quite nice and it reminded me of a song that I just cannot think of right now. I think both the vocals and raps could have been more powerful, with some aggressive vibes fitting the instrumental perfectly. (8/10)

9. Love Sick – The song has this one guitar riff which I thought was awesome (just before the chorus). While we are also talking about the chorus, it was extremely explosive. I think the song could have benefited more if you listen to it with good speakers capable to inserting some bass into the song. I personally want to see a performance to this song and I think it is another track that could have rivalled the title track. (8/10)

10. Still With You (시간아 멈춰서) – This is the second ballad on the album and it is the one song that I am on the fence on. One part of me likes the normal pitched vocals, but I am not a fan of the falsetto vocals by Jinhoo here. Its effect is decent but it just felt pushy. Only the vocalists performed this song if I am not mistaken. And other than the falsetto, I think it was a decent track. (7/10)

11. I Need You (예고 없이) – I love the explosive nature of the instrumental of this track, which grabs your attention. It also is the one that features the rappers to an approximate level, who tend to be limited to a few seconds in some of their songs. And before you assume that I was not a fan of the falsetto songs here (I know, how contradicting of me), I think they were a much better match for the song. Once again, I would love to return to listen to this track, mainly due to its energy. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

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Invitation Individual Teasers (taken from Wishnote)

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