One of the new comebacks that started off this new week is WONHO’s, who returns with his new mini-album, FACADE, on Monday. Featured on this new mini-album is the title track CRAZY, which follows his earlier comeback of this year, EYE ON YOU, from February.
CRAZY knows exactly how to tease, opting for a uniquely groovy and sensual atmosphere that only an artist like WONHO can pull off. I can think of a few artists who may have potential to deliver part of what CRAZY achieves, but no one could nail this exact vibe like how WONHO has. I love the feeling that CRAZY leaves behind once I am finished listening to the song – I simply want more from the track. But in a good way, as in I want to go back to CRAZY to continuously satisfy my craving for that groovy undertone that oozes from the song and the brief rock detailing that adds a refined sense of oomph and abrasiveness to the song that makes the chorus so damn good. The track intentionally under delivers by just a hair, just to get me to click that replay button one more time – but time and time again. CRAZY starts off with and revisits these crunchy yet deep rap-like vocals. As far as I am aware, no one is attributed to these vocals, which are worked into the background. But they kick off the title track with some flair and excitement. Following that, an electronic bass riff kicks in and this is followed up with WONHO’s sleek and silky vocals. The verses a bit bland, if I have to suggest something critical about CRAZY. But that is easily overlooked once the chorus kicks in, coming off as how I have already describe the track with the groovy underlay and the rock detailing. In hindsight, I do think the bridge could have gone further, just to prevent the song from being overly consistent and push the boundaries a bit. But overall, CRAZY is a top notch track that plays towards WONHO’s strengths.
It is not a WONHO video if he is not teasing us visually as well. And it is definitely not a WONHO video without some form of abs or muscles showing. Aside from the usual talk of muscles and abs, there is a modern aesthetic that suits CRAZY so well. The simplicity from those choreography sets is wonderful and much appreciated, given the amount of dancers that accompanies WONHO for this comebacks. However, I do like the busy nature of the car yard scenes and the some of the solo sets thanks to the way the background is staged or the lights. The ending is a bit cryptic, with the massive head and mouth opening up. I wonder if this is the start to some series (or are we possibly already in the midst of some series?).
The choreography for this comeback is lowkey, but I like how it took on that groovy feel. It definitely looks cool. It fits in with the music, as the music doesn’t really call for much intensity. However, I did like the intensity that WONHO and the dancers delivered for the final sequence, and like how they eased out with a slow rock vibe. I also like the domino effect the female dancers delivered in the second pre-chorus.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8.5/10 Overall Rating – 8.9/10
I am finally getting around to posting my first International Song Review post in a long while. My last post was way back in October 2021, and since then I have been fairly busy and unable to write any of these posts. But I am now back on the bandwagon. For those who may be unfamiliar with this segment, I review songs that aren’t in the Korean language (or are not marketed for the Korean music scene in some cases – such as some side tracks on Korean albums) that have been released by Korean artists (or artists that have a direction connect with a KPOP group). In this post, I will be covering songs released by MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, TWICE, WONHO and Jeon Somi.
You Problem – MONSTA X
MONSTA X spreads the ongoing groovy and funky trend that we are currently experiencing in KPOP to the Western music scene. The group, now down to five members as Shownu has enlisted in the military, released this disco number early December 2021. It is quite unlike any of their Korean title tracks, which have been very EDM focused and performance heavy tracks. You Problem settles for a simpler approach, and one that is quite pure and fun. I love the guitar work in this backing of You Problem, along with those disco vibes we get in the chorus (as already mentioned). I also enjoyed the vocal focus of the song, which each member (even the rappers) singing in this track, complimenting the lighter than usual tone for MONSTA X. Kihyun and Jooheon’s falsettos in the chorus make the song even cooler! The hooks are super memorable, and the hooks are so damn catchy. Even after two months, I am still digging You Problem!
For the music video, it is set in a bowling alley that is reminisce of bowling alleys from the 70s. Definitely suiting the light tone, fun vibes and retro direction of the song. There are also heavy presence of other retro elements throughout the video, such as the checked pattern (commonly associated with racing) and neon lights. Even the glittery tinsel decoration behind the group when they are performing as a ‘band’ screamed out retro. The performance I saw also had a fun vibe. It was loose and fluid, as if the group was freestyling their performance. But also showed their personality, which made it even more enjoyable.
Overall Rating – 8.8/10
Power of Love – SEVENTEEN
Power of Love‘s music video officially dropped at the end of November, and closes out their Power of Love project that started earlier in 2021 with the release of Mingyu and Wonwoo’s Bittersweet (ft. Lee Hi). It is a neat ballad with a really meaningful message that even in difficult times, having the Power of Love can help you through it. I liked how even though the instrumental had sleigh bells ringing throughout the whole instrumental, Power of Love doesn’t feel constricted to just Winter or the Christmas season like other songs that ultilises sleigh bells. It was also quite soothing and it was a nice display of all the members’ vocals. Unfortunately, however, Power of Love doesn’t fair well in the memorable arena. It is a good ballad, but I am not necessarily looking for the song when I feel in a mood for ballad. I guess Power of Love was produced to be more on a sweet side. I do think there could have been room towards the end to oomph up the ballad a bit, just so it didn’t feel the same from start to end. I think Power of Love would have come off better if it went down this path.
The parts of the video where some of the members were in built sets (I believe it was just limited to Joshua, DK and Vernon) looked quite cool, and I wished the video had more built sets (as it felt stylish and modern). But instead, the producers for this video chose to just use green screen, and I felt this really cheapened the video. While the actual backgrounds applied through the use of the green screen looked aesthetic and the members look good as always, I wished the post-production team incorporated the members better. We have seen great use of green screen in the past, and this is just not one of those instances. It is just quite unfortunate.
Overall Rating – 6.2/10
Doughnut – TWICE
Doughnut was released on 15 December 2021 and the track itself comes in the form of a ballad. Not exactly the first genre of music you think of when you hear of a sugary treat. But it does create an abstract appeal, which makes Doughnut memorable for me. Talking about abstract, I also like how the members likened the void they experience without their partner, and the constant looping they refer to in the lyrics to the shape of a doughnut. To me, the song definitely needed this extra appeal, especially since I thought it was a bit of a blur. Everything from start to end felt similar, and I couldn’t work out where the chorus was in the song had it not been for the music video. While I did like the city-pop direction the instrumental was going and the delicate nature of their voices (which isn’t something we get in TWICE title tracks that much), I just wished parts of Doughnut were more distinct. The most significant distinct moment of the song was during the finale sequence with the use of synths to give off textures. But it was too late to really sell Doughnut to me.
Visually, I thought this was a very neat video. The snow, warm indoor settings and dress colours compliments the Winter season in which the song was released. That scene in the bridge where Mina and Chaeyoung are lying on the ground over a wreath was extremely memorable for me. I am a bit confused about the start and end of the video, with the ‘doughnut crime scene’. My guess is that the crime scene symbolises that the loop and void represented by the shape of doughnut is broken and that the members had moved on from what they thought were ‘the only one in the world’. Though, I am more confused about the amount of jam spilling from the doughnut (How did they get so much in the doughnut to begin with? And in a doughnut with a hole?). As for the choreography, it felt fitting for the balladry nature of the song.
Overall Rating – 6.8/10
ON THE WAY～- Wonho
Wonho’s Japanese debut single, ON THE WAY~, is actually the oldest song in this review post as it was first unveiled on 27 October 2021. It is a decent track that pleases with its sweet lyrics, thanking fans for staying by his side and that he treasures them greatly. Don’t be fooled though. ON THE WAY~ is no typical ballad. Instead, it features a satisfying band instrumental that really makes this song more appealing. I also like how amped the chorus gets. It did feel somewhat overpowering at first, but Wonho manages to shine throughout ON THE WAY~ with his blissful and honey-like vocals. I did wish there was something more to the song, like a more profound electrical guitar solo sequence (we did get an instrumental break, but it did feel enough) to make it even more satisfying.
The accompanying video was also quite nice. Not one that I see myself going back to however, since it just Wonho acting sweet and grateful to match the lyrics of the song. There are also some band shots and some decent outdoors shots. I am sure fans would adore this video.
Overall Rating – 7/10
Anymore – Jeon Somi
The final song on this post is Jeon Somi’s Anymore. You would have heard Anymore way before the music video dropped (which occurred on Christmas Day), as it was originally featured as a side track on Jeon Somi’s first solo studio album, XOXO, which dropped at the end of October (the 29th to be exact). It is an all-English track that delves into pop-rock territory. I quite like this song because it doesn’t feel complicated or difficult to navigate like EDM tracks. Anymore just sounded pure and doesn’t mess or fluff around. The soft pop rock sound that we hear in this song just suits Jeon Somi’s tone and she sounds very good. The melodies were also very memorable and satisfying, as well.
I need to applaud Jeon Somi’s visuals and acting in this video. Both were highlights that draw me back to the music video. I liked how she well she portrayed her heartbreak and emotions, whilst looking stunning as always. As for the music video concept, all looked terrific and worked extremely well with the song. I liked how chaotic the chorus appeared to match the increased energy we get from the chorus, while the verses were more still.
Making his comeback today is WONHO, who returns with the single Eye On You and new single album, OBSESSION. This is the first comeback since his September release BLUE. It also follows a few Japanese releases, including On The Way ~ Embrace ~ (Wonho’s Japanese solo debut single – I will be reviewing this a later date in the International Song Reviews segment) and Winter Miracle.
EYE ON YOU is a decent comeback. It is an electro house pop track that has pretty darn good rough textures, but the instrumental maintains a hollow effect. The balance to get this on point is something I quite appreciate, as the song could have leaned too much to one side and it wouldn’t have been pleasing. I also appreciate the subtle groovy vibes of the instrumental, which added a bit of fun to the very serious and mature direction of how EYE ON YOU sounded. The roughed textures also brought out that raspy nature in Wonho’s voice. The autotune helped heighten this as well, making Wonho’s vocals quite blissful sounding in EYE ON YOU. However, the reason why I say EYE ON YOU is ‘decent’ is because I had hopes the song was going places. But EYE ON YOU never really resulted in that. Instead, it stayed pretty stagnant throughout. There were some mini curveballs throughout the song, such as the delayed drop that headed the second chorus, the more atmospheric bridge (that ultimately stayed within the boundaries that were set by the instrumentation), and an extension sequence at the end of the song that felt purely like an extension of the chorus (and didn’t add much to the final moments of the song). As implied, none really cause much difference, and so EYE ON YOU felt pretty much the same throughout. I wished there was some sort of change, maybe a hard-hitting instrumental break or some sort of amped up final chorus to really bring the song home and/or give it a bit more bite.
Tight shirts, abs and clothing that shows off Wonho’s muscles (and in some cases teases us with them) definitely makes it a Wonho music video. Aside from his body (which is pretty much on display), I quite liked the various shots of Wonho and his closeups throughout the video. It looked artistic and cool, as well. I also felt the same way as with the sets. The colours used in this video really made Wonho stand out and that is one of the reason’s why the video really sells. The post-production also made the video cooler (my favourite was the smashed glass around the edges and towards the middles of the video). Even though the choreography and closeup set up was pretty standard, the video is still worth watching for the visuals.
The performance aspect of this comeback was pretty decent, just the like the song. I don’t have anything particularly negative to say about the performance. It just a bit dry and could have done with some more exciting moves. I did like the moments where Wonho was paired with the female dancer. That looked cool, and I feel like there could have been more chemistry had there been no mask on the female dancer (Wonho’s contribution was on point!). I also like picture-sque (at least in the music video) start and end of the performance, with the dancers forming a frame-like formation with their bodies around Wonho.
Song – 7/10 Music Video – 8.5/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 7.7/10
It has taken me over two months to get around to reviewing this album release, but it is finally here. WONHO made his solo comeback mid-September with BLUE (the title track) and BLUE LETTER (this mini-album which I reviewed today). This is his second mini-album since his solo debut, with the mini-albums Love Synonym Part 1: Right For Me and Love Synonym Part 2: Right For Us forming his first and debut mini-album. I will correct that point in the respective title of the second album review that I wrote up earlier in the year. Anyhow, regarding BLUE LETTER, it was a nice album release that really showcases WONHO vocals very well. It is something that I consistently commenting in this album review, so keep your eyes out for those comments when you read my thoughts on the individual songs below.
1. Intro: Seasons and Patterns (Intro: 시간과 잡화점의 무늬) – Kickstarting BLUE LETTER is an instrumental intro track, titled Seasons and Patterns. A mixture of soft synths and piano come together to create such a beautiful and stunning piece. It also feels light and airy, warm and inviting, and soothing and calming – all rolled into one.
3. No Text or Call – Following the title track is No Text or Call, an all-English R&B track. I quite enjoyed the mix of acoustic guitar, synths and bass in this song. The two come together to form a track that would definitely fit in well with Western music industry. No Text or Call has a rather simple melody to it, but it is effective and it definitely caught my attention. It also definitely brings out Wonho’s vocals in a warm and likeable manner, even though the song dives into the more delicate topic of a breakup. (9/10)
4. Come Over Tonight – Keeping the acoustic guitars, adding a more profound amount of synths and diving deeper into the R&B genre is Come Over Together. And that was all present in the opening sequence of the song, which in turn was a great start. I really like the swaying effect that the melody brings to this song, but I will admit that the melody was a touch on the generic side and doesn’t offer anything special in addition to that. As for Wonho’s vocals in this song, I find them quite enjoyable. There is also a slightest touch of autotune added at certain parts of the song, which did a fantastic job of blending his already fitting vocals further into the song. (7.5/10)
5. 24/7 – 24/7 is an aesthetic pop track that really draws me into the song. This is thanks to the buzzing and pulsing synth that forms part of the song’s hook. While I do think the instrumental for 24/7 is a big positive to the song, I am not a fan of the bleeping-like synth that follows up the commended synth hook that I just mentioned. It just stuck out and didn’t fit the aesthetics of 24/7. Wonho’s vocals, both autotuned and in falsetto mode, sounded so great throughout the track, complimenting those aesthetics I mentioned, but also sounding so drifty and airy. (9/10)
6. Stranger – The final song on the album is Stranger, which is the album’s mandatory ballad. While this ballad doesn’t necessary bring forth that swaying effect that I tend to notice in ballads, Stranger has other strengths that make it such a great song nonetheless. The acoustic guitar instrumental returns a one-track omission, but without synths and hence is the dominant element within the instrumentation. It was so nice and soothing, while Wonho’s vocals really bundled the emotions behind the lyrics up so well. The melodies were very beautiful, particularly the very typical but well executed ‘La La La’ in this song. (9/10)
The next comeback of the week belongs to Wonho, who returned yesterday with the new single BLUE. The new single is featured on Wonho’s third mini-album, Blue Letter, which also dropped yesterday. This is Wonho’s second comeback of the year, following the release of Lose and Love Synonym Pt.2: Right for Us. More recently, Wonho released a music video for Ain’t About You (a collaborative single with Kiiara that was featured on Love Synonym Pt.2: Right for Us), held an online concert, and will be making his Japanese solo debut in October.
Since his solo debut last year, Wonho’s two solo title tracks have stayed within what I would describe as ‘sexy synth’ territory (I aimed to find a term that describes the combination of music and direction of the two songs). For this release, he opts for the pop genre with BLUE. It is definitely a bit refreshing to hear something different from the soloist and I find this suitable for the Summer season. But while BLUE is a solid song that is quite consistent throughout and shows off Wonho’s in a different light, I also felt that BLUE was a bit lackluster. To me, the song felt like it stayed in a neutral gear for the entirety of the song. BLUE‘s main selling point was it lightness. The instrumental was pleasant and upbeat, but it was also not hard-hitting nor substantial. Wonho’s vocals were a combination of high pitch and breathy, which is quite light in tone. As you see, this lightness was pretty much a common thread and hence why I am describing BLUE as overly light. When I listen to the song, I feel like I could easily be distracted, knowing that I would not have missed out on much if I was distracted for whatever reason. I also felt the chorus suffered as a result of the lightness. While the Korean version doesn’t sound too bad, the English version (featured on the mini-album) felt slurred and rushed. I wished the lightness was held down somehow, as this would helped to a degree. Thankfully, we did get more definition in BLUE when it got to the post-chorus segment (following second chorus), bridge and final chorus, as the hook here felt meatier in terms of how it sounded and its catchiness. The zappy synth breakdown in the bridge that allows for a dance break also helped. But this was concentrated at the end of the song, and I wished there was something like this earlier on. Overall, BLUE was a decent and different track. But it isn’t Wonho’s best work, in my opinion.
Unlike the song, the music video for BLUE follows a similar set-up, with Wonho having his abs and muscles on full display at some point in the video. It wasn’t as in your face like his previous videos, but that element was (not surprisingly) still there. The video does feature a bit of a romantic storyline, but it isn’t a grand plotline. Essentially, Wonho, a successful jock (literally no surprises there), asks the female character out. Pretty plain, but I think it works.
From what I can see in the music video, the choreography fits the upbeat and lighthearted nature of the song. I also didn’t see anything mind-blowing, so I am guessing the moves were more on the standard side. However, they did highlight the fun side of the song, which I think shows Wonho under a different dynamic.
Song – 7/10 Music Video – 7/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 7/10
And the focus is on solo artists this week, I thought I knock out some album reviews for solo artists that I have flagged that I will be reviewing. One of the albums on that list is the second part of Wonho’s first mini-album, Love Synonym Pt.2: Right For Us, which was released at the end of February 2021. I believe this album was originally scheduled for a 2020 release at the end of the year, but we never heard anything more other than confirmation that Wonho was preparing for a comeback. Right For Us features the title track, Lose. In addition to Lose and its five other songs, there is also an English version for Lose and an outro track (both of which I have chosen not to review). So without any more delays (one and a half month wait is a long time), here are my thoughts on Wonho’s second mini-album.
2. Devil – Devil is a very slow-paced R&B track. For the most part, Devil is a successful song. Wonho’s execution of his whispering vocals and the consistency of the instrumentation pretty much hypnotizes you as you listen to it. The one thing that does hold the song back for me is the slow pace of the song. While it does have its benefits (i.e. that hypnotic vibe), it does bring a level of plainness to the song. But that dramatic, abrupt yet brief twist of clashing percussion and deep autotuned vocals we get towards the end of each chorus really helps draw your attention back to the song as your attention fades away from it. Cleverly crafted. (8/10)
3. Best Shot – Best Shot changes up the momentum of the album with a more upbeat sound. I really like the funkiness of the pop song, brought to you by the guitar work. The song is very animated and the energy is something much appreciated after the two preceding songs. The ‘Hit me with your best shot’ just before the chorus was really catchy and helped hype up the chorus. Wonho’s vocals, especially his falsettos, were effortless showcased in this song. As a package, Best Shot gave me Michael Jackson vibe, which is one of the highest compliments anyone can receive in the music industry, given that MJ is the King of Pop. (10/10)
4. WENEED – Next up is WENEED, a song entirely in English for his fans. In fact, the song’s title features his fanclub’s official name, Wenee. I am sure fans of his are touched, especially with how great this ballad sounds. Aside from his vocals, which sound sweet and reflective, WENEED also incorporates an atmospheric instrumentation that feels modern for a ballad. There is a lot of synth and percussion use, something atypical for a ballad genre. But given how open minded Wonho is, I am not surprised he pulled this style out of the bag for his fans. It would have been nicer if the melodies were a little more memorable. (9/10)
5. Ain’t About You (ft. Kilara) – Another full English song follows. This one isn’t about fans though, as it is more of a breakup song. But it is no ballad. Ain’t About You is a collaboration between Wonho and American sing-songwriter, Kilara. It features a funky yet trendy instrumentation that feels lively and full of energy. The pair appears to sound like they are flirting through their vocals in this song, showing us chemistry (which is so important in a collaboration). On top of that, but there was some really good vocal work from the pair throughout the song. If I had one wish for this song, I would have loved to hear more explicit harmonization. But Ain’t About You is good enough as it is. It is a show stopping song and is my pick for this album’s hidden gem. (10/10)
6. Flash – From what I understand, Flash was previously unveiled to fans at his online concert last year. And based on his lyrics and the fact that he cried while delivering the song to his fans at his concert, Flash is another song dedicated to Wenees. His vocals are wonderful here, exploring his higher vocal range once again. But that wasn’t surprising as the rapping that Wonho provided through this song. He is a decent rapper and this song shows us that. Hopefully, we hear more of rapper Wonho in future songs. Other than that, it is pleasant song that I am sure touched many fans. (8/10)
The final big comeback of the week was courtesy of Wonho, who made his first comeback since going solo last year. Yesterday, the solo artist made his anticipated return to the stage with Lose as the title track and the mini-album Love Synonym #2: Right For Us. As mentioned, this is his first comeback since debut as a solo artist with Open Mind. As a little side note, Wonho and Open Mind was nominated for Best New Male Soloist and Best Male Solo Choreography of 2020 in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to find out if Wonho was voted to be the winners of those categories in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Apart from that, let’s move on with the review before we ‘lose’ any more time.
Lose continues the really stylish and sleek profile from his solo debut, something that I really enjoyed. But instead of being a proud and loud song like the synths in Open Mind, Lose is more atmospheric and ‘dark’. When you listen to Lose, you can feel this intensity and dark aura (amongst other things which I will touch on in a second) rolling off the instrumentation, vocals and everything else which I won’t have room and time to mention. The new single is concentrated with chugging guitar work, driving the song forward. The guitar also brings out a subtle sense of funkiness, which makes the song weave into the ongoing groovy trend that KPOP has been experiencing. But while it does fit in, Lose does have massive appeal and stands out thanks to the already mention atmosphere that it created, the intensity and ‘darkness’ that comes from the music. There is more of the grooviness towards the end with the outro of the song being an instrumental extension featuring an even funkier guitar piece. My favourite part has to be the violins, especially in the final chorus. The opening to this section of the song was definitely the peak of the song, whilst the use of classical violins empahsises everything that I have mentioned thus far. Adding a sensual vibe to the song are Wonho’s vocals. For the most part, he whisper sings his way through the song with a husky tone. It is very alluring and definitely fits in with the already mentioned appealing aspects of the song. While everything in Lose is literally perfection thus far, I wanted more to the song. And I felt that the song could have used rap sequence, either from Wonho or a featuring artist. Call me cliché, but I think that would have added an extra layer of intensity and appeal. And if Wonho was to pull it off, well, I am sure fans (Wenee’s) would be mindblown with Lose.
Lose‘s accompanying music video is a Wonho video. So, abs are a mandatory element. So I am sure fans and other viewers will be overjoyed if that is the thing they like to look out for. I felt a lot of the video’s setup was done so to really emphasis his body, like the rain and the associated choreography shots. His outfits definitely enable use to see more of this body (thought it makes you think why they even both with a shirt or jacket in the first place). But at the same time, it definitely made the video worth watching. Aside from a distractingly good body, I really like how the video taps into the song’s dark aura by using darkness and dimming the lights.
The choreography for Lose is quite good, fitting for the music as one would expect. It really fits because of the balanced mixture of the fast and sharp movements, with the slower and smoother moves. Wonho also makes the performance more alluring to watch thanks to his facial expressions. They just really captivate and shows off his showmanship.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
As per the Sunday schedule, it is time for another album review. And the focus on today’s album review is Love Synonym #1: Right For Me a.k.a. Wonho’s debut mini-album. Featured on this album are both the Korean and English versions of the title track, Open Mind, and the pre-release single, Losing You. To avoid duplication, I will only be including the reviews of those respective songs once and only consider one version of them each for the overall album rating score that I give at the end of the album review. But for the other songs on the mini-album, continue reading onwards!
2. I Just – Blissful is how I would describe I Just. It is a very stunning song that demands your attention. It is a rather simple song, as the instrumental doesn’t go further than its pop ballad direction. Nor does the song incorporate any complex melodies or vocals, opting to repeat the same smooth sailing melody that is brought to your ear’s courtesy of Wonho’s oozing vocals. Its simplicity and repetitiveness shouldn’t be seen as a flaw though. It is still a wholesome track that I couldn’t stop replaying. I particularly loved the ‘Oh I’ hook, which made the song very memorable for me. (10/10)
3. Lost In Paradise – I found Lost In Paradise to be a generic track. I do admit that the preceding track did set the bar high and those expectations just wasn’t not met. There were some good moments, such as his solid vocals, catchy lyrics and falsetto approach leading into the chorus. But the instrumental really dragged down the track for me. It was one of those ‘heard before’ instrumental that didn’t excite me. For some uniqueness points, there was the repetitive high pitch squeaky synths that felt ‘one of a kind’. But they were an odd touch to the song. (6/10)
5. Interlude: Runaway – The interlude steers the album in a completely different direction. It is largely an instrumental piece, thus I won’t be including it in my final review score. Following three tracks, Runaway steps into a more intense and upbeat domain of music, similar to how Wonho set up the album with the title track and what I expected more of on the album. However, I question its purpose. There is only one new track following this one (the English version of the title track and Losing You features right). But it is a good introduction and segue way into the next track.
6. With You – With You steps back into the upbeat domain of music, as suggested by the preceding interlude. There were moments in With You that reminded me of the level of aesthetic usually reserved for Taemin. And these were really strong moments that I really enjoyed. However, the song manages to stray away from the Taemin mindset when the beat drops, opting for something a little harder than what I associate with Taemin and more so with Wonho. His vocals are extremely nice and follow the same pattern as suggested by the music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come off as iconic as the title track or I Just. But it still a good song, nonetheless. (8/10)
It has been a while since we have heard Wonho. Aside from his pre-release single (Losing You) release last month, Wonho has been absent from the music industry after his abrupt departure from MONSTA X. After his name was cleared from all allegations made about him (which lead to his abrupt departure from his former group) in March of this year, he signed with Highline Entertainment (a subsidy of Starship Entertainment) and started to prepare for his solo debut to the excitement of his fans, whom have been named WENEEs. His solo debut title track is Open Mind and is (obviously) the focus of this review.
Right from the start, you could tell that the driving force of Open Mind is the groovy instrumentation. But this isn’t some standard fun filled groovy KPOP track. It matches Wonho’s style, going down a classy, expensive-sounding and sensual direction instead. I like the pulsating nature at the start and how the song built to accommodate this pulsing effect. When we approach the first chorus, we get some funky guitars and a strong retro-centric instrumentation. As Open Mind progresses and we approach the second and final choruses, we get smoothness vibes from Wonho and lyrics as well! I liked that the first chorus was simply instrumentation, allowing Wonho to flourish with his performance skills, before getting down to business with vocals in the later sections. I also liked his voice in Open Mind. No doubt that the song was tailored to Wonho’s voice. Smooth (as I already mentioned), refined and mature. All great signs for a groovy track like this. Personally I would have preferred a strong hook when it comes to the choruses. The melody is great, but I felt it was lacking that something that we could always associate to Open Mind and Wonho in the future. But apart from that, big ticks for Open Mind.
Whilst it was expected that abs and muscles would be on full display for this music video, Wonho still manages to blow me away with his visual game throughout the music video for Open Mind. Sensual and masculine is the concept and Wonho nailed it! And I am quite sure fans aren’t complaining about the heat coming from this video. Aside from the visuals of Wonho (which are so damn captivating – he is making it hard to talk about everything else), I really like the straightforwardness of the sets throughout the video, which works excellently with Wonho’s visuals (literally keeps on coming back to this).
When it comes to the performance, I don’t think any other KPOP artist can pull off a choreography like this. There is a uniqueness that Wonho brings with this sensual choreography. It might be his visuals (well, well, well), but it could be his charisma and skills that make Open Mind‘s choreography work perfectly for him and just him. The best moments of the dance routine is whenever he moves slowly. There is just a captivating aura when he does just that and it wows me each time.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.2/10
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)