[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)

[International Song Review] MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, JACKSON (GOT7), CIX

It is time for another review of non-Korean songs, a usual review theme for Saturdays prior to the start of 2020. For those who don’t know, I have decided to cover more than just Japanese songs by Korean artists and I do this through this segment, International Song Reviews. This posts focus will be on MONSTA X’s latest Japanese and Western releases, Seventeen and CIX’s Japanese comebacks and Jackson’s recent Western comeback track. I have stuck to five songs per post as I think this is an reasonable number. Let me know what you think in the comments section!


Wish On The Same Sky – MONSTA X

We start off the review post with something a little easy on the ears. MONSTA X recently returned to the Japan with this pop ballad, Wish On The Same Sky. The song itself is one that won’t benefit when we dissect the song under a microscope. With just one listen, anyone knows that Wish On The Same Sky is to be taken in as a whole. The instrumental builds into something quite grand and extravagant. The loud thumping during the bridge is direct proof of this, giving the pop sound an uplifting boost. This gives the song a very alluring appeal. The vocal work is definitely the main focus of the song and it is also built upon to match the music, with Kihyun definitely shining in this song. The song also features Jooheon, who sings and raps throughout the song, despite being on hiatus for health recovery at the time of filming this music video and release. The only thing I dislike with the song is the shouting by I.M in the background, echoing what the Hyungwon and Minhyuk were singing during the pre-chorus. Moving to the music video, I found the breezy feel of the song was well reflected in the video. I liked how the music video didn’t take on any trends to give it that modern feel. What we got in the visual department was nice, simple and blissful. I also like the pale colour tone they opted for, as well. (8.6/10)


You Can’t Hold My Heart – MONSTA X

The second MONSTA X song, You Can’t Hold My Heart, is a pop-rock for the Western music industry and features the return of Jooheon, who was absent from their above Japanese release. I was lowkey expecting the song to drop or go into a dance overdrive, as that is is the usual style with MONSTA X in Korea (at least). But I also like how they aren’t staying with just that sound in their international releases. You Can’t Hold My Heart brings the spotlight over the group’s vocals talents, where the singing about the fact that love doesn’t stay around forever. Even I.M and Jooheon, the fierce rappers, sing over a nice band-like instrumental. I like the subdued nature of the song, soothing and peaceful in a way. The music video is quite simple as it is simple shot in a red box. The video gets a little complicated once you see members sitting on top of each other, walking upside down and even emitting coloured clouds that match colour of thier outfits. The simplicity and complexity comes together in a way that doesn’t over complicate the song and makes it worthwhile to watch. There is no choreography for this comeback single, as the group simply sings the song with microphone stands in a recent performance. (8.7/10)


Fallin’ Flower – SEVENTEEN

It seems that SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese single, Fallin’ Flower, follows that mature and aesthetic sound that their Korean releases have opted for in the past year. Initial impressions of the song is that it has a very beautiful, refined sound and there this also this glowing vibe. The song has a nice melody that places emphasis on the vocal capabilities of the group, which puts a different limelight on the group. The falsettos we get for the chorus puts the song on a whole different level. The rapping was well mixed into the song, as well. The song’s ‘Fallin’‘ hook was also very flowy and catchy. The music video is extremely aesthetically pleasing, complimenting the aesthetics in the song. There is a fair amount of imagery in this video – most of which is a bit above me to understand, so I would love to hear your theories on it. But a very beautiful video nonetheless. For the choreography, I like their flower formation that they started off with. I also like the performance still remains quite powerful despite the song bring a lot more subdued than usual. It looks great as a result and definitely a showing of Seventeen’s talents. (8.9/10)


100 Ways – Jackson (GOT7)

GOT7 may just have returned to Korea with their first comeback of the year. But Jackson (and other members – I shall get around to Mark’s release in a later post) returned in March as a solo artist with 100 Ways. By the far the most catchiest song in this review post, Jackson really delves into the hooks and beats that no doubt with thrive in the Western industry (and has already proven to as the song had topped iTunes charts in multiple countries). I also found the song very easy to get into. On top of that, the music was very robust and there seemed to be a slight funky vibe. Both ended up making me groove along to the beat of the song. The thumping beat drives the song forward, while the synths form a concoction that is very addictive. Jackson’s raspy vocals shine through this song as well, adding to that dynamic appeal. The music video was equally as good as the song. The set design of that forest was awesome. I also really liked how Jackson and the female character rose from the grave and how Jackson went down with her at the end. The costume that Jackson donned also looked cool, but that armour sequence really looked looked epic. The other part of the music video has to be the cleverly choreographed hand motions. That was on a whole different level and very epic. Definitely as song, music video and choreography that you must check out. (10/10)


Revival – CIX

CIX’s main songs, while they have only released a few title tracks so far, have been of the intense EDM dance nature. But what CIX does differently is that is conforms to the trend of incorporating an epic drop into the song. Revival starts off slow, as a medium tempo ballad. But the instrumental they used opted for electronic synths, which foreshadowed the epic drop. But I liked how the vocals keep on that slow ballad-like feel. Then the chorus comes out of nowhere. And well, if you haven’t noticed so far, it is pretty epic. Not in the sense that is just throws every single synth known to mankind to make a ‘loud’ drop. In fact, it is more of a tropical based drop and is done so in a manner that sounds so refreshing. The rest of the song follows something of the same line, but they managed to do something slightly different every time. For example, the second verse added more of a beat to it, while the bridge took everything away. The second chorus added more synths to the tropical drop, while the final chorus incorporates violins to make it even more epic. The music video is filled with a lot of different closeups that look cool and interesting. I wonder the screen full of fire in the desert, the ball of many balls and the many other objects and effects in the video mean anything. The rest of the music video is made up of choreography shows, which shows CIX performing with string. There is a fair amount of tangling happening this music video. But that is just one of the complexity of the performance. Their individual moves also look quite cool and definitely features that intensity that CIX has associated with them. (8.9/10)

[International Song Review] EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X, CIX

Welcome to the very first International Song Review post. This segment will replace the Japanese song review that I publish sporadically on Saturdays. The segment will also allow me to cover more of those Japanese releases, which was an issue I previously had (I used to post once a week and this would mean some releases won’t be reviewed until many weeks after – which is the case for all of the songs to be reviewed today). On top of that, I wanted to keep up with the KPOP advancement into the Chinese and Western music industries, a niche that I was not reviewing as I could not dedicate more time. By putting these all together, it saves time and it allows me to cover more songs. The artists I will be focusing on today include EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X and CIX.


Bad Girl For You – EXID

Bad Girl For You is a very different song from any of the Korean releases. The group’s Korean releases have this level of vibrancy that I feel is noticeable absent from this track. Instead, the song has this mature and sensual feel to it that I think is very suitable for EXID. I liked how the instrumental is very toned down and almost quite eerie. The chorus has a heavier beat to it, which offsets the song from becoming plain and boring. Their oval work complimented the style, which was definitely a nice fit to the song. I do find the use of that laser shooting synth a little random and doesn’t fit well with the rest of the song. The song may not seem much at first, but after many listens, you will be coming back for even more. For the music video, I liked the use of the 5 colours (green, blue, yellow, red and purple) in the background and how each colour is usually concentrated to a particular area of the set. It helps give the video a minimalist feel. The choreography is also quite nice but not really memorable.


808 – ONEUS

I think 808 is a smashing song. The sound of the instrumental was posed in a manner that really caught my attention. I love the strings that feature in the instrumental, along with the intense style they had adopted from their Korean releases. There is an epic vibe to the song, but they do it in a manner that masks it. You think you are getting another typical song, but you will be blown away by the song’s sound. The song is vibrant and definitely knows how to bundle a bunch of energy in a fashionable sense. The vocal work was good and the rapping gave the song a little more edge. The music video looks really artistic. I am not sure if these are music video sets or whether the group filmed their music video in some sort of modern art museum. It looked very cool. The performance looked good with cool moves. Just not memorable like EXID’s performance.


Fake & True – TWICE

I was blown away with Breakthrough when it was first release for its mature and edgy style, something that was a little foreign for the very pop-based and cutesy TWICE. And it seems like Fake & True continues the momentum and extends TWICE’s reach into this new territory. I thought the brass in the chorus was very nice and the rest of the instrumental was very energetic and vibrant in a way that suits the group. I also liked the synths that they employed throughout the song, especially for the dance break bridge. I did think the chorus was a little one-dimensional as it repeated the title of the song all throughout and felt a little awkward. The vocals were good but the rapping in this track was epic. It was also nice to see Mina as part of this November release, as well. The music video was pretty typical for TWICE but I thought it did a really good job of showing off their visuals. The choreography was also very nice and continued that mature vibe that I really enjoyed as part of their previous Japanese comeback.


My New World – CIX

My New World is CIX’s debut track into the Japanese music industry. It is also an extension of their KPOP works, with the group’s intense sound definitely channeled and presented in this song. I like how eerie and dark the song sounds. The dance style is very well suited for CIX, given that this is their title track style for their comebacks in the KPOP industry so far. I also like the kick of energy that the song gives during the chorus, which contrasts neatly with the shout-y style of vocal works. The rapping that dominates the second verse was also extremely promising and intense. I also like the piano that featured very quietly over the top of the dance instrumental. I think the music video shows the members on a new world. Other than that, I am not exactly sure if the video is showing anything else worth mentioning. Their dance sets looked really cool, with the floating stairs and the moving lights. The choreography is very intense and reconfirms that when it comes to the dance side of the industry, CIX might be a group to look out for.


Middle Of The Night – MONSTA X

The final song on today’s reviewing agenda is Middle Of The Night and it is also the very first Western song that I am reviewing on my blog (I am not including English versions that I have done reviews for in the past). Middle Of The Night is different from the rest song on the list as it is also an R&B track. A song that I can finally understand as well. Hahaha… I can really say much else but to tell you to check out this song below as everything felt flawless. It is one of those songs where the main complaint was that it was over so soon! The vocal work was superb from very member. I really love that Jooheon finally got to showcase his vocals that he previously showed off during a performance of Versace On The Floor. The music video was shot with every scene is interlinked with the previous and next scenes. I think that this was a really good way to show off the smoothness of the track. There is no choreography for this song, so this finishes the review.