[Album Review] UNIVERSE (3rd Studio Album) – NCT

Another album review that has been a long time coming. UNIVERSE is the next instalment in NCT’s career, with 21 of the 23 active members participating in the release of the group’s third studio-length album (Lucas is on hiatus from his controversy, while WinWin had schedule conflicts, preventing both of participating from recording and promotions). UNIVERSE officially dropped mid-December, on the same day that Beautiful was officially released as a promotional track. Another title track, Universe (Let’s Play Ball), dropped four days prior. In addition to these two tracks, there were another 11 tracks on the album (3 of which were based on the group’s standard units – NCT 127, NCT DREAM and WayV, while the other performed by their rotation unit, NCT U).

Overall, I would say this is a very good album. There were some standout tracks mixed throughout the song, and NCT definitely showed themselves off strongly throughout UNIVERSE. But that is just my thoughts on the album. Check out the tracks and my review of each song below to see if you agree!

Universe Album Cover

1. New Axis – Impressively kicking off the third studio album was Taeyong, Mark and YangYang with this short track. New Axis takes on a hip-hop profile. The focus is purely on the three members, with the instrumental opting for a minimalistic approach. The trio definitely opened up the album in spectacular fashion with their dynamic and immensely powerful rapping performance. They don’t hold back in this track! (9/10)

2. Universe (Let’s Play Ball) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Universe (Let’s Play Ball). (9/10)

3. Earthquake – NCT 127 shakes up the world with their side track Earthquake. If you want a really powerful and intense dance track, Earthquake is the song you are looking for. Such words are usually what you associate with NCT 127 already, so it should not come as a surprise. I really enjoyed the amped up nature of this hip-hop track. It is quite a noisy one (which may be a flaw to some), but this just made Earthquake even more impressive to me. As for the members, they did a great job with their vocals and rapping. I found they fitted right in with the noisy and intense environment that is the instrumental and their delivery made the song even more dynamic. (8/10)

4. OK!OK! is brought to you by Taeyong, Yuta, Ten, Mark, Hendery, Jeno and Yangyang. With a line up like that, I think it is clear that OK! also encroaches into hip-hop territory as well. OK! is a satisfying listen, with another strong display from all the members who participated in the song. There is also a memorable ring to the ‘OK!’ in the chorus. The bridge was my favourite bit, especially when some of the members bring a faster pace to their delivery. The instrumental was quite minimalistic, with a few added details that I thought gave OK! an intriguing nature to it. The metallic xylophone percussion is a good example of this. The flutes, however, reminded me a bit too much of NCT 127’s Favorite (Vampire) for my liking. (8/10)

5. Birthday Party – Johnny, Yuta, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung come together to give us Birthday Party. Based on the initial seconds of the song, it appears that Birthday Party takes on a more energetic tone. I liked the rapping in this song, with the members bringing a bit of a playful tone to the mix. The elongated ‘Woooow’ was questionable, but I think it can be overlooked. The vocals were superb when they were in play. For the instrumental, I liked how colourful it felt. I also appreciated the attempts to change up the song towards the end as Birthday Party was borderline repetitive at that point. (8/10)

6. Know NowKnow How features Johnny, Doyoung, Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Jaemin, Yangyang and Sungchan. It starts with (and ends with, completing Know Now as a full circle) some scratchy gospel samples that made for a cool opener. Following that opener was a fun melody and a bright instrumental piece. I like how that melody was a consistent piece in pretty much all the elements (for most of the vocals, rapping – to a degree, and the instrumentation), which cohesively pulled Know Now together. Know Now was such an enjoyable listen for me. (9/10)

7. DreamingDreaming is performed by the members of NCT Dream. I liked its mix of softer tones for the verses vs. the harsher nature of the chorus. The softer moments of the song had this music box-like focus piece, which felt very nice. The harsher chorus features a funky synth EDM piece, which provided a decent rush of energy to the song without taking it too far or making it feel too different. I also liked the layering of vocals and rapping throughout, regardless of the backing piece. (9/10)

8. Round & Round – Taeil, Ten, Jaehyun, Xiaojun, Haechan and Sungchan comes together to bring us Round & Round. It is a decent mid-tempo R&B track. The instrumental had a dynamic touch to it, with the various effects added in to increase the momentum of the song. I quite appreciate that, as it didn’t make Round & Round a typical mid-tempo track. But aside from that, nothing else really stood out at me. (7/10)

9. Miracle – The final NCT fixed unit track on this album belongs to WayV (sans Lucas and WinWin, who I already mentioned didn’t participate in this release). Miracle also opts for a mid-tempo R&B profile. But I felt Miracle was more impressive. The song came off as quite sophisticated, expensive, classy. This was felt most in the instrumental, which was smooth. The guitars were definitely the icing on the cake for me. It also effected the rapping in this song, with the rappers really jumping out at me due to the energy they put into their delivery. The vocals were clear and crisp, and the layering of both vocals/rapping at the end was extremely satisfying. (10/10)

10. Vroom – The album takes a turn from here with its sweeter sound. Kun, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Hendery, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung features in Vroom, and it’s a nice melodic track (for the most part). The pre-chorus really stuck out, mainly because it didn’t go with a sweet sound, or can be described as a ‘nice melodic track’. Instead, it intensifies briefly before reverting to a sweet sound in the chorus. It is interesting and different, and unexpectedly work. Still a bit foreign after all this time, but not detrimental to the track. (8/10)

11. Sweet Dream – Wishing the listeners a ‘Sweet Dream’ are Taeil, Kun, Jaehyun, Haechan and Chenle. Extremely velvety vocals are the centrepiece of this song. They are present on top of a warm R&B instrumental. It started off like a piece as you would hear in a coffeehouse, but the instrumental built over the course of the song. I liked the addition of the subtle brass in the background. I do think that coffeehouse impression was still maintained throughout even as the song built. (8/10)

12. Good Night – Taeil, Doyoung, Xiaojun and Renjun sings us a soft and delicate ballad. It starts as a lullaby, with a slow swayable melody – one of the highlights of the song. The instrumental does build over the length of the track, and this does bring it back a soothing ballad territory. Not complaining though, as it helped maintain Good Night as a decent piece. Elsewhere, the vocals from the quartet were also quiet soothing and captivating. The emotional input from them made the song even better! I also loved the way Renjun ended this song. (8.5/10)

13. Beautiful (NCT 2021) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Beautiful. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

NCT 2021 Teaser Image for Universe

[International Song Reviews] Ten (NCT), Jackson Wang & Internet Money, Ten & YangYang (WayV), Yuqi ((G)I-DLE) & 2PM

It has been a while since I focused on the International releases of KPOP, so I will spend the rest of today looking into these releases. If you want to read my review from the last time I covered International Songs from KPOP artists (TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee, Jackson Wang and Rocket Punch), you can click here for that review. In this particular, I will be covering Ten’s SM Station release, Jackson Wang’s collaboration with Internet Money, WayV’s subunit release, Yuqi’s solo debut and 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese music market.


Paint Me Naked – Ten (NCT)

Early August saw Ten release the all-English single Paint Me Naked. It is a super energetic and expressive solo track that seems to take on a mixture of pop and punk. Personally, I thought the more pop-centric moments (i.e. verses and bridge) were a bit dry, but the punk side comes through via the chorus and definitely kicks the song up a notch. I liked how the song progress, with the final chorus giving us a satisfying blast of energy that helps peaks the song in a very strong manner. This vocals were consistently good throughout Paint Me Naked, showcasing his potential for the industry. The music video was okay. It channeled some of the energy from the song, but not entirely. It also wasn’t memorable and didn’t give you much reason to return to. The performance that came along with this release was a lot better and did a much better job of channeling the energy that we got from the song. Ten sang live on his performances, so unfortunately this hindered the energy he could have put into the performance. But this didn’t mean that the performance didn’t come off as fun or had a satisfying kick to it. (7.4/10)


Drive Me Home – Jackson Wang & Internet Money

Jackson Wang has consistently pushed out new songs this year and has featured in three of the six ISRs posted by me this year (not including this one, which will be his the fourth appearance this year)! Back in July (I know, a long time ago), Jackson released the English single Drive Me Home with Internet Money (a music producer). This isn’t Jackson’s most impressive song of the year, but it definitely one of his most heartfelt and emotional releases yet. Once again, his husky and raspy vocals are on full display. I really like how he used his vocals in this song to deliver that emotional side, especially during the choruses. I liked the consistency of the instrumental. It bubbles away in the background. It isn’t special (actually more typical than anything else), but it added necessary drive and substance to the song to make it more engaging and Jackson more expressive with his vocals. The music video was an interesting story. It began with the future, with Jackson being a successful applicant in a job. I noticed his workplace felt sterile and typical. It is like whatever happened to him lead to this outcome. From then on, we see the events of his life happen in reverse. Jackson is drunk, thrown out of the club after smashing it up, all the while crying his way through the club. Then we see him in rags on the road, stopping and slowing traffic and looks quite injured. The ending showed the unfortunate events that occurred, which explained everything that happened prior in the video. Jackson had fallen in love with the girl in the picture frame. So in love that he is distracted by her while driving, causing him to crash and accidently kill his lover. It is a heartbreaking story that was creatively and uniquely told in this video, and matches the emotional side of the song. (7.8/10)


Low Low – Ten & YangYang (WayV)

After releasing and promoting Paint Me Naked, Ten returned soon after with YangYang for the release of Low Low, another all English song. Low Low is a pleasant track, with smooth melodies and a somewhat fun and upbeat dance instrumental that carries hip-hop influences. I quite liked how Ten and YangYang sounded in this song, but I wished they were more striking with their vocals. I think this could have taken the song to a whole new level and not by limited by the ‘pleasant’ descriptor. For the vocals to be more striking, the instrumental would have needed a bit of a revamp as well to support any attempt for bolding, in my opinion. I did notice the producers seem to add a bit of inclination/build towards the final chorus by adding a bit of electronic synths into the the bridge for a dance break. And I would have liked it, had the final chorus continued that momentum. For the music video, I watched it once and didn’t even bother returning to it again since its release. It was also a pleasant video, but not memorable whatsoever. Like Ten’s earlier song, Low Low faired a lot better with the choreography. It isn’t anything grand, but it was a fun choreography overall, especially that brief dance break/battle we had between the pair. (6.8/10)


Bonnie & Clyde – Yuqi ((G)I-DLE)

The oldest release on this list is Bonnie & Clyde, one of the solo debut singles from Yuqi, who hails from the female group (G)I-DLE. It was released way back in May of this year. Bonnie and Clyde is a fantastic song. I really liked the uniqueness of the instrumental here, combining the likes of trance and rock. It is of a low register and it is bounces forward continuously, which kept the song moving towards its end. It pairs with Yuqi’s vocals extremely well, who also took on a much lower tone for this release. Altogether, the elements of this song really gets me reaching for the replay button. How it took me this long to actually review it is a concern that I need to reflect on! For the music video, Yuqi goes on the run after finding some diamonds. But first. she takes the diamonds to a very risky game of chess and wins back her diamonds which she had bet with. Then the police comes and she makes a run for it. We also see another version of Yuqi. I am not too sure what the relation here, but my wild mind says she has a split personality. One side is the risk taker, while the other side of her is more proper. But both are aware what happens when the other personality takes hold. (9.2/10)


With Me Again – 2PM

I end this ISR with With Me Again, the most recent track on this list.. It also doubles as 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese industry, which they had spent a lot of time in before the group had to enlist in the military. With Me Again encapsulates all the mature and sexy vibes that they are known for into one track. It comes off as stylish, classy and trendy. I liked the vocals throughout and I quite enjoyed the higher note that the main hook is in. I also liked that subtle tango tinge to the song’s instrumentation and the funky touch from when Taecyeon raps. I wished the rest of the verses were more memorable, as I don’t remember them as much as that main hook (which is quite striking over the classiness of the instrumentation). The music video was fine to watch. I really want to say ‘Nothing was memorable’ with this music video (as for the most part, this was the case). But unfortunately, one member’s scenes just stuck out for all the wrong reasons. I am not too sure how Chansung’s bull riding scene fits in with the entire concept and thought it looked ridiculous. I would gladly like to press the erase button on that and hopefully never want to think of it ever again. Thankfully, no bulls appeared in the performance version of With Me Again. Instead, the group reverts back to that stylish and classy manner that I had already mentioned. (7.5/10)

[International Song Review] TXT, MONSTA X, Kun & Xiaojun (WayV), CN BLUE, BTS

Back again with the International Song Review. I think I did flag that I might do a weekend of these a few weeks back, and I have enough releases to write two of the same post. For those who don’t know, this segment on the blog is where I cover songs released by Korean artists that are in other languages other than Korean. These songs are predominately Mandarin, Japanese and English. For this particular post, we will be checking recent international songs from TXT, MONSTA X, Kun & Xiaojun (from WayV), CN BLUE and BTS.

Magic – TXT

For those who visit my blog, you probably have seen Magic on my Weekly KPOP Charts, featured as the non-Korean KPOP Release of the Week corner of the segment for two or three weeks now. And it is obviously a song which I have really been dying to review for a while now. Magic is TXT’s first full-English track, featured on the group’s latest mini-album, The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE. There is so much to enjoy in this track. The upbeat, groovy and funky energy we get in the instrumentation, the energy that comes off said instrumentation, the catchy and repetitive hooks that we get. All of these are reasons why I cannot stay away from the track. The chorus is an exceptional peak for this song, encapsulating all of the above into sequences that are literally keyed into my mind. I also like how the members deliver the chorus in a falsetto matter. I also like the addictive chanty ‘everybody clap your hands‘ lines that follows the second and final choruses. For the music video, I liked the futuristic concept and story that was being told. TXT are humans, sent from the white spaceship to rescue their fellow humans who were held captive by the robots. TXT ended up getting caught and information was being extracted from their while they were in captive. But being clever (and I think they were of a high status), the members escaped captivity and spread their message or ‘magic’ throughout the robot population (i.e. the robots went from robotic mannerisms to becoming very freeing, dancing along to the music). In the end, the members ‘freed’ the robotic population and were zapped back to their spaceship. Aside from the plot line, I liked the white sets (looked sterile, which is fitting for the robotic theme for some reason). But I also liked the use of the colour of blue, which really popped out. Choreography-wise, TXT really shows off their stamina with a routine that just keeps on going. I really like the ‘Oh, Oh, Oh‘ part in the choruses and how only one of them moves and then everyone joins in. It is a simple move, but it looks really cool. (10/10)

Flavors of Love – MONSTA X

Flavors of Love is the title of both MONSTA X’s most recent title track in Japan and the title of their 3rd Japanese studio album, released in May 2021. If you are looking for that intensity that MONSTA X, then this isn’t the right song for you (I recommend WANTED, which is also on the same album). Flavors of Love is more of a casual song, consisting of a mid-tempo pop acoustic guitar instrumentation and a light-hearted tone. If you are an avid MONSTA X fan (or Monbebe), you will realize that this is very foreign territory for the group. But it is a nice change of sound for the group, whose songs tend to be harsh and intense (as mentioned previously). The members vocals also reflect this change. I do find their voices to be more pure in this release, with less processing and autotune applied to it their voices as usual. They also sound much sweeter than usual. The rappers (Joohoney and I.M) also tweak their sequences to be softer and warmer. The song has a decent melody and hooks, making it a nice addition. I do prefer their harsher sounds, however, though this would be a nice b-side. The music video is cheerful and shows the members chilling and enjoying some free time as their leisurely record the song. Nothing really that interesting in the video, other than the fact that the video reflects well with the song. As far as I know, there isn’t a choreography for this comeback. There is a performance version, but they sit on chairs and happily deliver Flavors of Love to the audience. As a result, this wasn’t reflected in the final rating. (8/10)

Back To You – Kun & Xiaojun (WayV)

Next up is Back To You, a ballad performed by Kun and Xiaojun from WayV (which is a NCT subunit, for those who are wondering why I am reviewing a Chinese group). It is an extremely nice ballad, instrumented with classical instrumentation typical of the ballad genre. There is a bit of deep brass (tuba, I think?), which is different from other ballads which are usually piano and strings oriented. I really liked how the instrumental built upon itself. This is always a good sign, as it means the song is developing as it goes and the ballad isn’t just a ‘straight line’. But that is one half of the song. The other half is Kun and Xiaojun, whom brings beautiful vocals to Back To You. They helped make Back To You into a captivating piece. It followed the same development as the instrumental, with their vocals building as the song progressed. Kun and Xiaojun also do a good job of giving the group a slightly different spotlight. I am more used to WayV’s dance tracks and I wasn’t known that the group had vocalists had capable vocalists who could handle stunning songs like this. It definitely makes me more aware of WayV’s skillset. The music video was good, but not as stunning as I hoped. We see the pair hang out in the forest and along the shoreline. A lot of the video has been edited to be slow, which made sense. I liked the views of the setting they gave us (particuarly that night time shot in the forest) and the pair looks good. I feel the video could have included more breathtaking shots of the scenery, as this would have provided a slightly different dynamic but still keep true to the ballad style. (8.6/10)

Zoom – CN BLUE

CN BLUE makes their first Japanese release since 2017’s Shake. This is their first work since the release of their most recent Korean comeback, Then, Now and Forever. Zoom is the group’s first upbeat track in a while, which is very refreshing and more captivating that their ballad comeback in November 2020. That instantly says a lot already. I like the brightness that the song has and the lighthearted energy that it emits. Though I do think it is the least captivating track out of the bunch I am reviewing today. I do yearn for something more meaty from the band, though I guess I have wait some more for that. I do like Yonghwa’s vocals in this song. I miss his voice and am happy that I am hearing his vocals once again. I am also glad that Minhyuk and Jungshin also leant a hand in the vocal department, providing backing vocals for the chorus’ hooks and Jungshin rapping that sequence in the second verse. I wish there was more of this, especially in their Korean releases, as CN BLUE is not just a one-man band. Though sometimes, it feels that way with just Yonghwa singing. For the music video, we see the members alone and this is rather frustrating for them. They all get invited to something, but we don’t see the resolution of the frustration. I wished we got to see that, so that the video had some sense of closure. I did feel the lighting in this video was a bit much and wished it was toned down a bit. It made the video look a bit glary and took away the effect of the colours. (7.3/10)

Permission To Dance – BTS

The release everyone is talking about. I liked the message and energy they are spreading with this song. But out of their Western releases thus far, I feel Permission To Dance is their weakest. I really liked both Dynamite and Butter as they had that heftiness that helped make them catchy and addictive. Permission To Dance is nothing more than a lighthearted piece and pretty much side-track material. They could have been more intense in some parts, but I felt the song had too many ‘soft edges’. There are aspects of the song I did like, however. I liked how the instrumental didn’t rely on much synths. Rather, a hearty selection of ‘classical’ instruments were used to form the backing of the song. I find this to be different and gives off a unique appeal. It also enables the presence of various percussion effects in the song , which added a nice textural flair. The vocal processing is something that I think could have gone out the door, once again. It feels so heavy and icky. Knowing BTS’ skills, they don’t need it whatsoever. So I wonder why the producers feel it is necessary to process their vocals in such a heavy manner. There were some decent hooks, though they don’t have that same level of appeal as Dynamite or Butter‘s had. Though I do hear they added a bit of the Dynamite hook to the song (the ‘Da na na na‘). I liked how the music video had inserts of ordinary people ripping off their masks and dancing along to the music. It reflects well with the message of being free and able to do your own thing. I also liked how the music video isn’t in a ‘set’. It isn’t as fake as their previous music videos, which is a good thing. Choreography-wise, I liked how BTS brought that lighthearted feel to the routine. It looks relatively simple and it looks like the members have a bit of fun in the performance as well. I also like the inclusive nature of the choreography, as they incorporated internal sign language into the choreography. Not exactly the first time it happened, but definitely something that should happen more often! (7.7/10)

[International Song Reviews] Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, The Boyz, AB6IX & Why Don’t We, Jun.K, WAYV

It is time for another post International Song Review segment. As promised last time, I would write the post as soon as there are five songs eligible for review (i.e. any song by a Korean or KPOP-related artist who has released a song in a non-Korean market). In this post for this week, I will be reviewing the collaborations between Jackson Wang & JJ Lin, the remix collaboration between AB6IX and Why Don’t We. I will also look at The Boyz and Jun.K’s recent releases in the JPOP market and WAYV’s return.


Should’ve Let Go – Jackson Wang & JJ Lin

Should’ve Let Go is a collaboration between Jackson Wang (member of GOT7) and JJ Lin (a famous Singaporean artist) and was released at the end of 2020. The biggest asset in this song are both Jackson’s and JJ Lin’s vocals. They sound stunning throughout the song with their raspy vocals. The melodies in which carry their vocals are so smooth and this makes the song even more impeccable. And don’t get me started when they harmonise with one another. Those sections are just blissful. Another really great aspect of the song for me is the R&B instrumentation. While I do describe the song as a ballad, the R&B roots are very prominent and give the song a little bit more appeal than a usual classical instrumented ballad would. Oh, and per usual, the ballad makes me sway along (Props to you if you know what that means). The music video shows two love stories. The first is a couple who have been together for some time. The male partner gets into college or a job that requires the pair to go into a long distance relationship. The female partner does not like this idea and chooses not to kiss him one last time before he leaves. The second story is of a high school crush. The male partner has a crush on the female and hesitantly tries to get close to her. One day, she drops a necklace and he picks it up. Using this as an excuse, he plans on confessing to her through a letter. But when he is on his way to the next day, he witnesses his crush accepting flowers from another guy. At the end of the video, we see what should have happened (i.e. the guy moving away hugs his partner as he leaves, and the younger guy makes his move earlier on). I have an interesting theory that suggests Jackson is the guy who moved away as all his scenes are on the bus (which was the mode of transport the guy was taking to move away), while JJ Lin is the high school guy as he is seen holding the necklace that the female character in that story dropped. I liked how the stories felt fitting for the emotional side of the song, and the ambience of the scenes that involved JJ Lin and Jackson were optimal for a ballad like Should’ve Let Go. (10/10)


Breaking Dawn – The Boyz

The Boyz made their return to the Japanese market at the end of February with Breaking Dawn. However following the confusion caused by Tattoo (their first original single in the Japanese market), I still feel like The Boyz, their company and their producers are a little confused with the Japanese market. Three quarters of Breaking Dawn is prosed in the Korean language, with the other quarter being in Japanese (and is limited primarily to the end of the song – i.e. half of the bridge and the final chorus). Moving away from the language confusion, Breaking Dawn is a okay dance track. It isn’t one that I am super excited about. It doesn’t really offer us anything different to what we know The Boyz for. The only observation I made in regards to the song that I felt was a substantial difference was that the vocals and rapping sound a lot rougher in Breaking Dawn, compared to their other releases. While I usually would be praising this modification in sound because I really enjoy textures in my song, its instrumentation is plain and doesn’t provide any dynamic backing to these vocals. The chorus was also okay. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t necessarily terrible. I would have enjoyed it more with better hooks and maybe a punchier instrumental piece to liven the song. The ‘Breaking Dawn‘ deep toned whisper that kick starts the chorus doesn’t really do achieve any of that. I feel like its whisper really sets the tone for the chorus, which resulted in it not being as dynamic as I thought it could potentially be. For the music video, I really like the visuals that we got. This includes both the visuals of the members and the sets in general. I really like how they used fluoro colours as the main colour palette of the video, which looked stylish and trendy. The choreography was pretty good. To me, it felt like a continuation of the same themes and style as their The Stealer choreography. They show off their performance skills in this routine and there is also that tinge of sexiness in the performance, thanks to the bending back move that kicks off the chorus and the outfits worn by some of the members. (7.3/10)


Fallin’ (Adrenaline) – AB6IX & Why Don’t We

While there is no music video for the collaborative remix for Fallin’ (Adrenaline) by AB6IX and Why Don’t We (one of the criteria a release usually must have to be reviewable), I still want to write a review for it. While the main differences between the two versions is simply the multi-language approach of the lyrics, I have classed Fallin’ as an International Song because it was previously released as Western single and this particular version still involves the original singers of the song. Why Don’t We’s version was already really captivating, thanks to its instrumentation. But I also have really enjoyed AB6IX Remix for a number of reasons. Firstly, I enjoyed the instrumentation of both. They are effectively the same background piece, with really thrilling drumming that really get the adrenaline pumping. Secondly, I really liked how AB6IX really fitted into this song and alongside Why Don’t We. There synergy really made it feel like this was the original version of the song. Thirdly, I really enjoyed the addition of the rap sequence that Woojin contributed as part of the bridge. It continues that momentum from the chorus and it didn’t ruin the integrity, structure or overall feel of the song. I wish that one day (after this pandemic) we will have the opportunity to see a live performance of this collaboration. Just imagine Why Don’t We playing their instruments in the background and bringing us a live performance of that adrenaline rush, while AB6IX throws in a bit of choreography that taps into that energy and vibe. Already sounds like a performance to watch out for. (10/10)


Hide & Seek, 1995 – Jun.K

A release that has probably gone under the radar for a lot of people is Jun.K’s most release Japanese release, Hide & Seek, 1995. The song dips its toes into that groovy trend that has been ongoing in the KPOP music scene, however still keeps a R&B profile. I quite like this combination. It might be a bit typical in hindsight. But it is a good listen, nonetheless. I really like Jun.K’s vocals in this song. His husky tone is used really well and his vocals in general feel really lively and upbeat. Interestingly, his more recent Korean release (30 Seconds Might Be Too Long) actually has a similar sound. But yet, Hide & Seek 1995 seems to sound like a complete turnaround in sound thanks to his brighter sound. The music video for Hide & Seek, 1995 actually looks nice. Through the short previews that you get when you hover your mouse over the thumbnails on YouTube, I thought it would be a dull video. But the post-production, including colours and effects, all really helps the video work in harmony with the song. It is also a stylish manner to make the video appear more energetic. Jun.K also had good chemistry with the camera, which also helped as well. I quite enjoyed it in the end. (8/10)


Kick Back – WAYV

Kick Back is the latest release from WAYV, the Chinese based unit of NCT. Kick Back starts off like your typical male group dance track. I did like the hefty momentum of the song and the percussion in the background. The song then progresses into the pre-chorus, which brought in some dramatic flair. They merged some classical instrumentation into the song and I found this part of the song to be the most engaging. Just before the chorus, we get a long note from Ten, a bit of rapping from Lucas and what I would describe as ‘sparks’ in the instrumentation. This transition felt quite smooth and really connected well with the catchy and repetitive chorus simply. I really like how amped up everything felt in the chorus, but I think it could have gone an extra mile (more on that in a second). Moving along, I also really liked the bridge of the song. The focus is more so on the vocals, which I think was a very strong aspect of Kick Back, and I really like it how the instrumental felt like an extension of the pre-choruses (which I have already mentioned that I enjoyed a lot). The rapping in Kick Back was more forgettable. I felt like this was a missed opportunity to have the rappers deliver a sequence with a little more power and dynamism to offset the ‘neutral gear’ that the song was stuck in. And that is something that I must admit really stuck out at me. While the song was good and what I have described Kick Back is quite positive, I can’t help it but think the song was ‘safe’ for the group. We did get a tease of an octane sequence at the end with a dance break sequence at the end. However, I would have preferred it more if the producers somehow integrated this into the song, rather than just sticking it at the end. I think this would have helped make the song a lot more appealing in the long run. Based on what I am reading, WAYV’s music video for this release is connected to past NCT and WAYV music videos. Watching the music video a couple of times for this review, I didn’t really catch any references to those videos. But maybe my mind isn’t working right today. But the video has good cinematography, which made the video engaging for me to watch. The sets also looked good. Their outfits felt questionable for me. Their choreography routine looks really cool. I really like the footwork that you can see throughout the video and their jelly leg move during the chorus. While the footwork does look easy, I am sure the balancing act they had to do at the same time on the other foot made it really hard. I also liked the subtle tinge of aggressiveness in the choreography. (7.6/10)

[Album Review] NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 (2nd Studio Album) – NCT

NCT completes 2020 with the return to full group promotions under the collective name of NCT. This means that NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV, along with new members Shotaro and Sungchan have come together to promote under name of NCT and NCT U for their two part album. Today, I will be focusing on the first half of their second studio album, titled NCT 2020: Resonance. It features Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and From Home as the title tracks, alongside a bunch of new songs from various NCT U lineups (all of which we haven’t seen before) and the three units of NCT that I already mentioned above. It is a long album review, so let’s get moving along.

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 Album Cover

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 also features ‘Interlude: Past to Present‘ as the sixth track. But per usual protocol for album reviews on the segment, this track was not reviewed due to lack to lyrics. There are also a Korean version of From Home and an English version of Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which were not reviewed as I had already reviewed the original versions (links below).

1. Make A Wish (Birthday Song) (Title Track)Make A Wish (Birthday Song) was performed by Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Lucas, Xiaojun, Jaemin and Shotaro. Click here to read the full review of Make A Wish (Birthday Song). (7/10)

2. MisfitMisfit delves into the world of rapping, with Johnny, Taeyong, Mark, Hendery, Jeno, Yangyang and Sungchan all bringing their A-game for this track. The song is an excellent hype track, with rapping taking you back to earlier eras of rap music. The energy is quite full-on, but I won’t describe it as intense. Rather, it is fun and definitely a highlight to listen to. Mark’s leads us into the song with a sequence that confirms his talent and skillset. And each other member follows suit to show us what their skillset is capable of. I really like the more concentrated instrumental when it comes to the chorus, amplifying and intensifying Misfit’s energy, pulling you into the hype song even more. (10/10)

3. VolcanoVolcano features Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Lucas and Mark. It takes on a hip-hop influence that also brings me back to earlier eras of the music, just a little more recent than Misfit’s throwback. I like how the energy in Volcano is more subtle than compared to the preceding track. I am digging the sleek nature of the chorus, especially with layering of raps and the simply spoken ‘Bounce’ over it. It isn’t much of a standout track, compared to the two tracks before it. The inclusion of the vocals was nice, but I felt it made the song confusing. Overall, this is what I would call a ‘pleasant’ listen. I would listen to it if it was on my playlist. But I wouldn’t go through the effort to seek it out. (8/10)

4. Light Bulb (백열등)Light Bulb is performed by four out of 23 of the members (Taeyong, Kun, Doyoung and Sungchan) and it is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The song features a really soothing instrumental and a slower tempo, which is thanks to the piano that we hear. There is also percussion to give Light Bulb a bit of a kick and enable the song to feature rapping. The combination of both gives Light Bulb an R&B profile. Taeyong and Sungchan’s rapping is superb and very mature sounding. It also follows the same pattern as the preceding side tracks, giving off a nostalgic vibe. Doyoung and Kun’s vocals were breathy and very gripping. No one felt out of place and no element felt like they outdid another. Light Bulb was a very balanced track that deserves praise and attention. (10/10)

5. Dancing In The Rain Dancing In The Rain introduces Taeil, Yuta, Jungwoo, Xiaojun and Chenle to the album, performing alongside Johnny, Jaehyun and Kun. I really like the melodies of this jazzy R&B mashup song, especially when it comes to the catchy ‘Drip Drop’ line. I really like the opening and closing piano sequences, bringing that jazz influence to life. I also think it is these jazzy influences that allows the rapping sequences to slide into the song effortlessly. The vocals showcase really nice harmonies amongst the vocalists in this NCT U lineup and also bringing some of that R&B touch to the surface. A stunning song. (9.5/10)

7. Déjà vu (무대) (NCT Dream)Déjà vu is the first song to be released by NCT Dream since the confirmation that NCT Dream’s lineup will become permanent and that Mark will officially return to the unit. I wondered what NCT Dream’s direction would be, given that they are no longer young as when they first debuted and that their sound has matured exponentially since Mark’s graduation. Déjà vu hints that mature NCT Dream will remain. That being said, it isn’t as captivating as past NCT Dream’s promotional track and this feels best as a side track. (7/10)

8. Nectar (月之迷) (WayV) – WayV’s discography has been quite mature from the get-go. So Nectar fits in perfectly. It feels and sounds very sensual. I really liked the subtle energy that the song contains. I also really like the main hook of the song, as it was quite simple yet very addictive. That high note was impressive. But what I find the most exciting about Nectar is that the song is in Chinese, which is the start of the multilingual approach on this album (the second title track, From Home, also features Chinese and Japanese lyrics). (8/10)

9. Music, Dance (NCT 127) – To me, NCT 127’s addition to Part 1 of NCT 2020: Resonance was the weakest of all. Music, Dance’s best moment was when the instrumental had an upbeat persona. It felt satisfying and does feel like a great track to dance to. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the song. I thought the verses were really weird with its choppy intro approach and those vocals sequence (while were very good) diverted the song away from what should have been a wholesome dance track that should have been satisfying across the board. (6/10)

10. Faded In My Last Song (피아노) – We return to another NCT U track, performed by Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Lucas, Renjun, Haechan and Jisung. It is a R&B track that features awesome melodies over a stunning piano/trap beat instrumental background. I really like how the vocal and rapping were extremely cohesive in this song. The way the song’s title, ‘Faded In My Last Song’, was sung in the song really stuck with me and has become my most favourite line/part to listen and look forward to. (10/10)

11. From Home (Title Track)From Home was performed by Taeil, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Renjun, Haechan and Chenle. Click here to read the full review of From Home. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

[International Song Review] BTS, Sunmi, Wonho, WayV & EXID

It has been a while since I have posted a review for non-Korean songs by KPOP artists. The last post was published back at the start of July and this mainly featured Japanese releases. With several KPOP artists releasing songs in English over the last two weeks, I thought it would be a nice to sit down and review them now, rather than wait a few weeks (as the original intention was to knock out a few other reviews from my ‘To Review’ list. Joining BTS, Sunmi, Wonho and WayV’s English releases from earlier in the year and EXID’s very recent Japanese release.


Dynamite – BTS

The first release to be reviewed on this list is also most recent release. Without a doubt, you probably have already checked out Dynamite despite it only being dropped yesterday. Dynamite is a funky pop track, tailored for the Western music industry. It is a fun and vibrant song that focus purely on the members’ vocals. Jimin’s high pitched vocals were amazing and even the rappers showed off their vocal capabilities effortlessly. It is super addictive, with the ‘Like A Dynanana‘ replaying constantly in my head. I have no problems with this track, given that they hit all the right notes and made it super appealing – not just to Western audience, but also the average KPOP listener. As for the music video, we are thrown back into pastel land and similar sets to what we saw in Boy With Luv. I don’t mind that we have a similar copy to a past music video, given the current global pandemic. I just don’t want it to be the default for BTS’ happy, energy filled and funky releases. The choreography isn’t a central piece of this comeback, but it looks fiting for the funky side of the song. It is a little different from what we get from BTS usually, but given the vibrancy of the song, it works like a charm. (9/10)


BORDERLINE – Sunmi

Sunmi dropped the unexpected music video for BORDERLINE earlier this week, as well. While the song has been known for a number of years now (Sunmi has previously performed BORDERLINE at her solo concerts and released its lyrics in 2019), the song has yet to be formally released. It seems like Sunmi is keeping this song to herself for the time being. BORDERLINE is a self-penned English track, that has this slow churning momentum that plays on the more sensual side of R&B. This is definitely new ground for Sunmi and it is nice to hear something different from her usual retro sound. The lyrics also zone into her personal stuggles over the years, making this an extra powerful song for her and her fans. Her vocal style were an excellent delivery mechanism for these lyrics, as you can hear how much emotions are behind the song. For me, it also made the song more thought-provoking. The music video is quite simplistic. Sunmi and her dancers are dressed in black and perform a very aesthetic interpretaive dance routine. The background was simply shadows projected into a wall. Everything was dark and it was hard to make out their faces, which I would say is suitable for the meaning behind the lyrics. Overall, a captivating and immenseful informal release of a song. (9/10)


Losing You – Wonho

Ahead of his solo comeback next month, Wonho pre-released Losing You last week as the start to his solo career. It is all in English, which is why it is being reviewed here instead of its own review post. Listening to the song the first around when it was released last week, I was speechless. It is a very emotional number, so prepare yourself. Lyrically, Losing You is all about him willing to putting another person (lover, friend etc.) ahead of himself regardless of the situation. Whether the song is directed to a former lover, his fans or to his former group members is all speculation, but damn these lyrics are definitely heartbreaking and very moving. The song is a R&B ballad, made up of the simple combination of piano and soft percussion. Wonho’s voice stuns and leaves me in awe. You can definitely hear the emotions behind his voice. I really like the extended ‘You‘ that features in the bridge of the song. The autotune seems unnecessary, but it is bearable. The music video is another dark video, but it was quite captivating to watch. Throughout this video, he is very emotional and lost. Every setting we see him in depicts the reflective road he took while he was on hiatus. At the end, we see two different scenes. Wonho standing in front of a car, telling us that he is still willing to sacrifice himself no matter what happens in the future. But we also see him standing in the midst of a sea of lights, which looks like mobile phones, suggesting that he will return to the stage soon (with the support of his fans, WENEE). (10/10)


Bad Alive – WayV

Despite being a subunit of NCT members, I have actually yet to review any WayV releases. That should hopefully change when I do a dedicated International Song Review post for just WayV and their 2019/2020 Chinese releases (some time in the future). In the meanwhile, WayV did release an English version of Bad Alive, one of the songs from their first Chinese studio album. And since that is a predominately English version (with some Korean and Chinese mixed into it), it has landed itself on this list for a review. Aside from the question marks that I would like to throw against the lyrics, Bad Alive‘s instrumental backbone definitely has a lot of potential. There are a lot of textural synths and high intensity in this trap-influenced piece. There also seems to be some hip-hop influence in the song as well. When it comes to their vocals, I feel that their voices are rather tame. I wanted more intensity and growls from the members to match the harshness and roughness of the instrumentation. What we got was decent, but not that powerful. I did like the layering, as that was differey. But amped up vocals and raps would have been appreciated. As for the music video, it is definitely overloaded with amazing visual of the members. The emphasis of red shows the fierceness of the members and I think that aligns with the image that I have come to associate with WayV through their most recent comeback in China. The sets were boxes, but they seemed fine in this video. The worst aspect has to be the white/gold jackets they wore over casual wear. They don’t go together. As for the choreography, powerful and masculine. Definitely going hand-in-hand with the fierceness mentioned before. (7.5/10)


B.L.E.S.S.E.D – EXID

The werid thing about EXID is that while they are considered inactive in South Korea, the group still needs to regroup for Japanese promotions as they are still under contract as EXID. This is a very interesting situation. But I am not complaining, since we get to hear more releases from EXID! B.L.E.S.S.E.D is an enjoyable pop track filled with a feel-good vibe. I like the slghtly jazzy vibe that the brass brings to the song. When the chorus comes into the play, there is a little kick to it and it feels like an cute anime OST, which adds to that enjoyable factor. I also like how all the member’s voices compliment the style choices. This also applies to LE, who is known for her nasally and harsh texture. But she fits into this song fine as her approach isn’t too serious, matching the song’s feel-good vibe. However, I do wish that some of the hooks/melodies that were just spoken/shouted in the chorus were more dynamic. I just wished they were a little more melodic and sung. The music video just shows the members doing some ordinary things while looking pretty. Nothing that really captivating and interesting to be honest. The group shots were nice, but that was essentially it to the music video. (7.2/10)

[Review] Jopping – SuperM

This has to be the biggest release of the week. After all, fans and the media are dubbing this as the Avengers of KPOP. SuperM has made their debut, consisting of many familiar faces. Featuring Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, Taemin from SHINee, Mark and Taeyong from NCT and Ten and Lucas from WayV (the Chinese subunit of NCT), this very special unit group has dropped their first single, Jopping. It seems like this is SM’s approach to the American market, especially with the growing fanbase for many male groups in the American market. So why not kick start the career of a new group in the Western music industry with the fanbases of four different and established groups?!

Jopping almost didn’t make the cut for a review. To this day, I haven’t reviewed any songs released in only English by any KPOP group. I am in the process of reconsidering, especially since I do Japanese music videos by KPOP groups. But that’s not the point here. Despite the song almost being in just English, there are a few Korean phrases scattered throughout. It is almost inverse of what we see in the KPOP industry (where the English phrases are the sprinkles instead). The title is a mash-up of jumping and popping, which I think makes senses with the song’s meaning of going all out on stage. Anyway, Jopping starts off true to the group’s nickname. It felt almost fitting for the Avenger’s soundtrack. It promised a fair amount of epicness and I think the song delivered this superbly as its progressed. The electro-pop track was fast tempo, powerful, impactful and very energetic. I think the track managed to showcase really good rapping and vocals from each member, with the two being massive highlights for me. I also like their rock ending, which I thought gave the song the chance to end with a bang. Overall, it is a memorable track and definitely one I will be listening to in the coming weeks.

The video manages to pull out some of the best special effects I have ever seen in the KPOP music video universe. You would expect the producers to do that when they are combining the forces of several of the popular KPOP groups in the world at the time. I did think some of them were questionable, such as the green screen stadium they performed in. Liked the idea but it felt cheesy. There is definitely a lot of tension and intensity in the video, matching the song in a very logical manner. A part of me wanted the producers to bring elements from NCT, EXO, SHINee and WAYV videos, which I think would have been a special treat for fans and made the video even more epic. But this is already as fantastic as it is.

With such an intense song, there was no doubt that the choreography would match this. There hasn’t been a live stage for this just yet (I am anticipating their Hollywood debut showcase but that won’t be for another two days where I am), so I am basing everything off the music video. The entire dance looked very cool, with the members looking almost like animals (I say that with total respect). Their charisma flows through. But that would be expected, especially since SuperM brings together some of the best dancers in SM Entertainment.

Song –  10/10
Music Video – 9.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10