It has been a long time coming, but I have finally decided to make a start on reviewing a certain type of song that I barely looked at in the past but have wanted to write about for a while now – OST songs. OST (otherwise known as Official Sound Tracks) have been a big part of KPOP. Many of the idols we know and love have gone onto being big name actors, whiles others have had to the privilege to sing some of the most famous tracks to some of the greatest drama scenes of all time.
I personally feel that there is a misconception that OSTs are usually just ballads, but I want to prove that wrong. Furthermore, there will be a Best OST category in this year’s KPOPREVIEVED Awards (hint hint). So I have picked five OSTs throughout 2020 to review and introduce to you here (and over a number of posts). Note that I have not watched all of the dramas, so I will be reviewing the song itself – like how I write my song reviews.
Give You My Heart – IU
Drama: Crash Landing On You
Release: 15 Feb 2020
I kick off this segment with the unstoppable IU. Every song she releases, regardless of whether it is her actual songs off her latest album, a digital single or an OST, it rises to the top of the charts. This was also the case for Can’t Give You My Heart. It is a ballad and one that you can’t really do anything whilst listening to it. Or else you will ‘miss it’. The background is made simply of classical strings, piano and acoustic guitars. The main highlight within the background is this really nice whistling that gives it an almost folksy profile and helps separates it from the other ballads that dominates the OST category. The other half of the song is IU’s beautiful voice, that without doubt captivates the listener with her soft voice. The melodies that she brings to the song helps make this ballad ‘swayable’, which is my self-made indicator of a good ballad (since I don’t have much music expertise myself). I really liked that acapella moment we get during the bridge, which essentially floored me. And how they brought the instrumentals back for the final sequence was really stunning. Overall, captivating and riveting to listen to. (10/10)
Hello Stranger – Stray Kids
Drama: Pop Out Boy!
Release: 16 Jul 2020
Stray Kids changes up the OST playlist (literally) with a more intense and energetic style of music that stands out for being different from the rest of the OST realm. Hello Stranger brings forth the group’s usual style of dance music, with rock and hip-hop influences that gives additional dimension to the song. And this is simply because the song was composed by the group’s main composing team. That being said, the song does also draw some similarities to other OSTs. Most relevantly, the song is much more melodic than what Stray Kids have put out this year promotionally. This makes complete sense, as rapping could be a bit much in a drama scene where you want the writing of the drama or the acting to be the main star (and not the background music). I did like this shift in focus for the group though. It allows the group to show off more of their vocal chops in a different manner from a ballad or R&B song, but rather something of their upbeat style. I find that Hello Stranger could have easily been released as part of their latest albums. While it is executed differently by the members, the song would blend in well with the rest of the albums. I only have two complaints. The first (which isn’t really a complaint, because the song does go for a substantial amount of time in reality) is that it felt like a blur. The second would be it sudden ending, something that I still haven’t gotten used to. (9.5/10)
Sweet Night – V (BTS)
Drama: Itaewon Class
Release: 13 Mar 2020
After that little detour, V (from the widely popular BTS) bring us back to the ballad front with his OST addition to Itaewon Class (probably one of the biggest dramas of the year). This is his second OST song. His first was a duet with fellow member Jin for Hwarang (which he was also part of the cast for). V impresses with Sweet Night on a number of fronts. Firstly, the song is a track written completely in English by the artist himself. That is definitely a feat in itself for anyone who’s first language isn’t English. Secondly, his husky vocals were so good to listen to. We need more of this husky voice – something that I have mentioned on my blog before when reviewing his solo tracks on BTS’ albums. However, listening to his voice is one thing. Unfortunately, I found it slightly difficult to make out some words given that the huskiness was so strong. I was only comfortable in acknowledging that it was a English track once I saw that people were praising him for his efforts and on media sites (gotta fact check everything in this day and age!). That is my only complaint with the this particular song. Thirdly, while V does get all the attention – the female vocals that harmonised with him and complimented his voice added more layers to the song, making Sweet Night more than just husky vocals and acoustic guitars. But nonetheless, it was a soothing and swayable track to listen to. (9/10)
Not A Sad Song (이별 노래가 아니야) – ONF
Drama: Love Revolution
Release: 22 Oct 2020
ONF’s first OST as a group is a pop track, brought to life by drums and electric guitars. The opening eight seconds make it seem otherwise. But after that piano centric introduction, we are blasted with that mentioned pop instrumentation, which I enjoyed. I feel that the song almost had this musical approach to it, which would have been fantastic to see be brought to life conceptually in the drama. I haven’t checked out the drama, so I have no idea. But the music video suggests that my wishes didn’t come true. Like what the song’s title suggest, this is Not A Sad Song. It is quite upbeat, full of energy and sunshine. It feels perfect for a teenage romance drama (which Love Revolution would be categorized as). I liked that the members sing the chorus together, which instantly boosts up the song’s appeal. I feared that the pop instrumentation that they had going on would be a bit cliche for my liking. But them singing together to really bolster the melodies and match the song’s blast of energy (courtesy of the instrumentals) when we get to the chorus worked really well. During the verses, their solo parts were quite good in itself. I liked how they still managed to fit in a part for Wyatt. As mentioned before under Hello Stranger, an intense rap sequence would not have been a perfect fit for a drama, especially a teenage romance drama which should be light. His style is usually more intense, but it was tweaked well enough to allow him to fit in a softer manner. Overall, a pleasantly upbeat track to listen to. (8/10)
Something – Kang Daniel
Drama: Backstreet Rookie
Release: 19 Jun 2020
I hope that I have showed you all that there is more to OSTs than just ballads. That being said, ballads still do make up an overwhelming portion of the OST market, so I will save some other non-ballad OSTs for next weeks post. I end today’s segment with Kang Daniel’s first OST. It is also a ballad and it taps into the more typical nature of the genre (i.e. classical and acoustic instrumentation). I did like the melody that Kang Daniel brings to the song, which gives the song an even smoother appeal. His voice is a lot softer and raspier than usual, which instantly gives Something a delicate profile. I do find this song is quite consistent and I wished there was more to the song to give it some depth and exciting energy. While this is fine for a romance drama and it doesn’t make the song boring as much as it would to other songs, this is seems like the style of OST that everyone is familiar with and would generalise the entire market as. Not that this was a bad move on Kang Daniel’s part, as the song manages to showcase the singer in a new light for me. Overall, Something was dreamy, soothing and calming to listen to. (8/10)