[International Song Review] BTS, Stray Kids, TWICE, Dream Catcher, Lee Jun Young (U-KISS)

It has been a while since I stuck my head into the world of Japanese releases made by Korean artists. So today, I will be reviewing Japanese releases from BTS, Stray Kids, TWICE, Dream Catcher and Lee Jun Young (from UKISS). Some of these are recent and some of these dates back to the start of the year. Early this year, I reverted to a bulk review post for International releases by Korean artists as they go global. If you would like to see the two bulk review posts that I have released so far, you can do so by clicking here and here. If you know of any other international releases (that have a music video), please comment them below so that I am aware of them!


Stay Gold – BTS

Out of all the releases on this list that I have chosen to review today, Stay Gold has to be the most generic. While the song does shine a golden light onto their vocals and rapping, the pop ballad just doesn’t have much to hold my attention. The lyrics of Stay Gold directs the song down the inspirational path, but the overall atmosphere of the pop ballad did not have that same feeling. And no amount of good vocals can compensate for that. The instrumental felt very mostly linear and the titular hook was just repeated too much throughout the chorus. Obviously, this is intentional to get the hook stuck in your mind. But by the time we get to the pre-chorus, it just feels too overdone and dried out. Lights (last year’s Japanese release) is quite similar in terms of its ballad direction, but there was a soothing feeling and attractive instrumental. The music video seems to show that no matter what dark place you in, there will always be light somewhere in it. At the end of the video when V touches the tree trunk, the golden lights that come from the tree and into the dark hallways may symbolises that is BTS is the guiding light for their fans (which I am sure is the truth for most fans). It was a nice video, with a good meaning. (7.2/10)


Top – Stray Kids

Top is Stray Kid’s first original Japanese single and since its release, we have seen a Korean and English version. It is also used as a theme song for the Japanese anime, Tower of God. When I listen to Top, I get this really cool epic vibe to the song which leaves a very strong impression on me. It starts off with some dramatic violins before adopting a rough and heavy synth base for the chorus. And it is this combination that really helps makes Top become one of their most powerful releases to date. The rappers benefit with this rough style of music, with both their rough textured delivery and angst shining throughout the song. The vocal moments were meh, in my opinion. But the slowdown we get to give way to the vocalists do help make the drop more epic. For the music video, I really like their spaceship premise. It is fitting with the epic vibes of the song. Standlone, it is still pretty cool setting. It is a song all about gettng to the top, no matter what. We see the members struggle as the road to get to the top becomes difficult, but they always perservere. I do wonder what Seungmin and I.N were meant to represent as they walk into the light. Are they the ones that gave up? Not too sure. As for the choreography, powerful and epic, just like the song. (9/10)


Fanfare – Twice

TWICE’s recent Japanese release is Fanfare. The song’s instrumental just keeps coming for you and it might be overwhelming for some. Even I had to debate whether I should say the instrumental assaulted us with its noise or was just very overpowering but bearable. For the time being, I am leaning towards the latter, as it doesn’t seem to much as everyone else is saying. But if you caught me on a bad day, I might be going with the first option as my description of Fanfare. I really like its energy and powerful upbeat nature, which is all highly suitable for the Summer season. The marching band adds a fun and robust feel to the song. It might be overpowering, but the members bring a bright tone to the song to help level it out. The song’s hooks were catchy and I would gladly add this to my playlist if I wanted to infuse some energy into my day. For the music video, it looks like a bunch of ill-fitting closeup shots and a stage-like set up for their choreography scenes, where the members are dressed in marching band gear. I assume those closeup shots are meant to give off a happy and joyful impression to match the lyrics of the song. Though, I do question Jihyo’s scene, which is a world full of laundry. No one ever enjoys laundry, it is such a chore. For the choreography, I thought it was pretty good. Not their most impressive routine, but still fun and bubbly. (7.4/10)


Endless Night – Dream Catcher

Endless Night is one of the older releases in this post, dating back to March of this year. While Dream Catcher has been long associated with bringing the J-POP rock sound to K-POP, Endless Night feels like it brings a Western rock influence to the Japanese industry, which was rather unexpected. It is also a lot moodier than any of their other title tracks. But while these are different directions, Dream Catcher makes it work. I do just wish their vocals and rapping had a little more oomph to them, which would help make the song more appealing. Aside from the chorus, everything else was rather forgettable and dry. For the music video, I really liked the use of colours. It just makes this otherwise boring music video pop, which definitely helps with the video’s appeal. Wait, but why do I find the video boring? Well, the video takes on that typical closeup and choreography formula that I have grown to dislike. I do admit the closeups seem to try to be aesthetic, but they don’t just hit the mark like other music videos. The choreography looks pretty good and works pretty well with the song. The chorus has to be the best part of the routine for me. (7.4/10)


Come Alive – Lee Jun Young (U-KISS)

Lee Jun Young is probably more known as an actor, rather than UKISS member. At the end of 2019, he reminded fans that he is a singer with the release of his first single album and Curious About U. Right after his domestic promotions, Lee Jun Young also released his first mini-album in Japan, featuring a number of solo singles from the second half of 2019. It also featured Come Alive, which was formally released at the start of 2020. It is a fun hip-hop dance track, that is both bass and brass-heavy. It is quite addictive that I am always nodding or tapping along to the beat when it appears on my playlist. The song is pretty dynamic when it comes to the verses. His rapping is quite captivating and alluring. I really like how the song punctuates some of the lines with the added emphasis of the ‘You‘ and ‘Do‘ (and associated Japanese words). His vocals are also quite good. There is a good beat to this section to help give it a club feel. At first, I didn’t like how dragged out the ‘Come Alive‘ felt. But after multiple listens, it has definitely grown on me significantly. The music video has this urban feel to it, which was nice. It just didn’t have anything more to it worth talking about, unfortunately. For the choreography, it fits in with the urban hip-hop feel that both the song and music video had. I do like how clean and smooth it felt during some parts of the choreography. Other than that, it is just another case of not his best, but still good. (7.5/10)

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