[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.

[Review] Pinky Love – Momoland

Momoland is nominated for Best Female Group and I’m So Hot is eligible for Best Song of 2019. To support Momoland, click here to vote for them and list I’m So Hot as Best Song. Make sure you do before the 31st of December, as that is day the survey closes and I start counting the votes!!

2019 has been an eventful year for many artists. Momoland is no exception. 2019 saw comebacks in both Korea (I’m So Hot) and Japan (Pinky Love – the focus of this review). The group is also confirmed to be returning to Korea at the very end of the year with Thumbs Up!. However between comebacks, the group has said goodbye to Yeonwoo and Taeha, who have both departed, effectively reducing the group to 6 members (Daisy’s status is also being discussed at this very stage). But in the meantime, let’s have a closer listen to Pinky Love.

I have been very satisfied with Momoland’s Korean releases. However, their first original Japanese track is a step in the wrong direction. It just felt too overly saturated with the ‘idea of cuteness’ that is becomes literally too much. Opening the song is Nancy’s really unnaturally high pitch vocals. This criticism does apply to some of the other members, but Nancy’s was definitely the most obvious. The pop instrumental was incredibly plain and bare. It was literally begging for something bold or defined. But this was never delivered. The hooks felt cheap and plain, and hence it didn’t feel memorable. One thing that I did not like whatsoever was the rap-chanting bridge, which I believe overtakes ITZY’s DALLA DALLA chant breakdown as one of the worst sections in a song of the year. Unfortunately, the comeback just doesn’t sit well with me and I wish there was at least something positive to say about the song.

I am no expert when it comes to makeup. But I feel like an overuse of blush never looks cute. Apart from that, the music video for Pinky Love seems to suffer from a low budget, based on the emptiness of the set and their plain outfits. The only good thing that I can comment on is regarding the editing/post-production, which at least makes the video feel bearable.

The choreography isn’t as terrible as the rest of the comeback, which might be the saving grace. However, it doesn’t really offer anything new, fresh or dynamic. But it worked well with the song that we got. I just wished that they had better material to work with.

Song – 3/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 4.7/10

[Review] Vampire – IZ*ONE

IZ*ONE is nominated for Best Female Group and Best Female Choreography. Violeta is also eligible for Best Song of 2019. To support IZ*ONE and your other favourite artists, click here to vote before the 31st of December (which is 10 days away!)

The review catch-up blitz (I really need to think of a better name for this) is also applicable to the many Japanese releases that I have missed out. And there is a lot to cover in the two final Saturdays of the year. IZ*ONE, a month or two prior to the ongoing voting controversy and the postponement of their Korean comeback, made their Japanese comeback with Vampire. The track was officially released at the end of September and I personally apologize that it had taken me this long to review it. But as many say, better late than never.

We have seen the two sides of the spectrum when it comes to IZ*ONE’s Japanese releases. From the amazingly sounding I Want To Say I Love You to the poorly pieced Buenos Aires, it is safe to say that Vampire sits in between the two extremes. Where it lies on the spectrum exactly is up to debate. Vampire has a really nice Latin inspired instrumental. It felt polished and I think it could have been an amazing backdrop. It just is a mega pity that Vampire ended up getting vocals similar to Buenos Aires. The cutesy sound that feels very stereotypical of Japanese female groups pop release just did not fit the instrumentation. Though it is a little bearable compared to Buenos Aires. There are hooks in the song worth mentioning, but they come off lackluster thanks to the poor vocals. I really hope that (if given the opportunity) IZ*ONE will ditch whoever is producing their recent J-POP tracks and return with something like I Want To Say I Love You that shows off maturity and style.

Interestingly, the music video for Vampire is pretty well produced. With a title such as Vampire, I don’t think cutesy bow ties and polka dots would cut it. Hence, a dark concept such as this really worked well. The sets were stunning, the members outfits looked very dark and even the post-production looked very promising. I am not exactly sure what the music video is showing but it seems like it shows the members turning into vampire. I thought the bridge (being the best part of the song for me) was very nicely put together in this video as well.

The choreography looked like it was confusing about being mature or cutesy. And hence, it looked very weird. Naturally, I am drawn to every move that isn’t cutesy, as I think that is more fitting for their concept. The bridge was the best part (once again), with the moves and formations looking bold.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 6/10
Overall Rating – 6.1/10

[Review] Utopia – ATEEZ

ATEEZ is nominated for Best Male Group, Best Male (Group) Choreography, and the Rising Star category in the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support ATEEZ and your other favourite artists before the 31st of December!

2019 has been one crazy roller coaster. There have been many up and downs this year, which I am sure even the newest of fans are able to name a few. One particurlar group that has been experience the more positive events of the year is ATEEZ. They have had three comebacks this year in Korea and recently made their debut in Japan with Utopia. And as we find ourselves on a Saturday, I thought I bring back Japanese reviews for the remainder of the year, as there is a fair amount of Japanese tracks I need to review.

Utopia was originally released as part of the group’s 3rd mini-album (Treasure EP.3: One to All). I never wrote an album review for it, which leaves the songs on the album open for a review (which is obviously why we are here today!). The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Utopia is that it is a lot more colourful and vibrant, matching up with the title tracks of their 3rd mini-album, but basically different in that sense to any of their other title tracks. The track does align with their the rest of their promotional singles, as the chorus in Utopia is quite powerful. It packs a punch that makes the song so appealing! The instrumental has this edge thanks to its dynamic percussion and upbeat tempo that just keeps on giving. The vocal line was really showcased in this song, particularly during the chorus, but this also gives way to a very addictive post-chorus hook. The rapping as well works very well, enhancing the song further and giving it a very edgy touch. I also really like how the song slows down at the end, calming us down from the high they gave us in Utopia.

While I was very impressed with the music video, I couldn’t help but think it got a tiny budget. I say this because ATEEZ has had grand sets in the past or were flown to countries with strong and picture perfect scenery, which suited the song that they were filming for. Here, they filmed in a rather simple set and it was pretty much bare. They could have been going for a minimalist vibe, but the way the video was edited didn’t give off that impression (i.e. the editing made the video feel busy). But nonetheless, all the scenes were very crisp and the lighting/colour really reflected the brightness/vibrancy that the song had maintained.

ATEEZ is nominated for Best Male Choreography for Say My Name. And it seems like Utopia is a clear indication to why they would deserve the performance. There was always something happening in the choreography, despite the tempo being fast or slow. There was a captivating and alluring dynamic to the choreography that made it a strong routine.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Review] Tattoo – The Boyz

Recently, The Boyz made their Japanese debut with Tattoo. But Tattoo is one of the most confusing releases yet. It is their entrance to the Japanese market. But as far as I am concerned, the song only contains a line of Japanese (the rest of the song is in Korean). I have yet to find an explanation for this yet, as I have no idea of what to make of this situation. Furthermore, I am not exactly sure which category of music this goes into. But anyhow, we are here to have a closer listen to Tattoo!

Tattoo departs from the brighter sounds we got from the group through the releases of Bloom Bloom and D.D.D this year. Tattoo does seem to satisfy my craving for an edgy comeback from the group, particularly since they left 2018 with No Air, which happens to be one favourite song from tracks from the group. But I felt the instrumental to be very boring. There wasn’t anything added to the mix to really grab our attention or help make the track somehow standout. The vocals were pretty much similar. And together, it resulted in a bland track. However,  there were a few parts of the song which I enjoyed. These are small details, so they don’t cancel out the blandness encountered. The chorus had a nice melody, especially the opening line to the chorus. I really liked how the bridge was posed as well. I also enjoyed the rapping of this track. The ‘Black and Blue‘ in the pre-chorus was also quite memorable alongside that first line of the chorus. Actually, anything that involved English sounded really good in this track (i.e. Kevin’s line in the bridge).

Two things the music video did really well was its cinematography (i.e. camera work, angles etc.) and the constructed sets. They really helped give the video and song an epic feel. I also liked the closeups of the members in this video. There was something captivating about them, especially for the members who were dancing for their closeups. The video does have this blandness to it, thanks to the hazy nature. But I thought everything else was done well and this really helped the video stand out in my opinion.

The choreography for this comeback comes off as striking for me. There were a lot of moments that I liked (i.e. chorus, the start of the bridge etc.). I liked how the dance really fitted into the different beats of the song. Most groups do this. But I thought this was well-balanced and worth mentioning. During the slower moments, everything was flowy. During the chorus, when the beat was a lot harder, their moves reflected this change in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 9/10
performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Fallin’ Light – GFriend

After countless weeks of promises, here is the first of many Japanese music reviews to come in the following weeks.

GFriend is another one of those groups that have had a busy year. They kick-started 2019 with their Sunrise comeback, followed by their Japanese single, Flower, and their latest South Korean comeback, Fever.  And just last week, the 6-members female group has returned to Japan once again this year with the release of their 1st studio length Japanese album, Fallin’ Lights. The main title track from this album shares the same name as the album Their Japanese releases have been great so far, so let’s see what GFriend has to show us this time!

Once again, GFriend returns with a dance track that is infused into classical instrumentation. This isn’t unexplored territory for the group. However, I would consider this a ‘return to form’ scenario as it felt pretty much like their earlier days. The only difference is that they have obviously matured and this comeback showcases this maturity. The only thing missing (that I would also argue that the tracked needed) was some sort of electric guitar riff during the final chorus to take it full circle and add to the classical aesthetics in a modern way. I felt the latter happen during the chorus, where they amped the chorus up with a beat that drew me into the song even more. Besides the instrumentation, the other aspect of the song is the vocals. Two members stood out for me, but that isn’t to say that the other four members were not exceptional as well. Umji’s filtered part that opened to the track and featured post-hook worked exceptionally well, giving the song some texture. I find how Yuju not going down the high note road to be quite smart. The song doesn’t build much and a typical high note would not really go well with the classical aesthetics that they have gone for in this song. This is definitely another standout Japanese track from GFriend!

Something that I try to do with the majority of the music video section of my reviews is look for a plotline or theory behind the video. Sometimes the story feels a little more obvious, other times I rely on theories that I can get my hands on to write up the review (could be too complicated or press for time).  The latter happens to be the case this time around, so I have pinched (props to Nukimen) a theory from the YouTube comments sections that look like a lot of people are agreeing with or liking.

gfriend_fallinlights_mvtheory

I have to say the video is rather plain this time around. I know I can’t really expect anything flashy after reading through that theory post (see above) as it tries to create a relatable connection to us by looking a lot more ‘normal’, I just feel that it could have used a little more work in the visual department.

The dance is very elegant, fitting with the mature sound that GFriend has opted for. I thought the formations and how they move about during the performance were really cool this time around. I wish that there was a dance version up, which I am sure will contain additional sections that are equally as elegant as what we have seen.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] Breaking Out – Dream Catcher

The last few weeks I haven’t been able to focus on the Japanese reviews due to being a bit busy. But I have finally set aside some time to start attacking the pile that is growing. I am going to start on the more recent side of the spectrum, focusing on the Dream Catcher’s music video release last week. The new single is titled Breaking Out and it is the lead title track on their first-ever Japanese studio album, The Beginning Of The End. The album also features the Japanese version of all their Korean title tracks. The group also just made their Korean comeback with Deja Vu.

When I first heard the first verse, I thought it would be such a waste of an opportunity for the group not to venture into that rock sound that they have maintained in all of their Korean title tracks. Especially since I (and a lot of other people) have described it to be fitting for the Japanese music scene. But I thought too soon, as the chorus is essentially exactly what I wanted. And while the chorus does pack a punch thanks for its rock sound, I found the verses to be very forgettable. It felt boring in comparison to the chorus and I was obviously longing for that rush of energy and intensity. I thought their singing was good but Dami’s rapping didn’t feel like it fitted in well with the rest of the track. I feel like they could have polished Dami’s section in, as it is sticking out a little too much for my liking. Overall, Breaking Out was okay. I just don’t feel like it is up to par with their Korean releases, which is a little odd given my past comments regarding their ability to fit into the Japanese music scene.

I thought the video was nice. I liked the white set and the red strings were felt bold as a result. I think the dull atmosphere was rather fitting, as it gave the girls an edgier look. I know, it isn’t something that I would say when it comes to something dull. But I thought it worked fine in this video. There is a lot of symbolism, but I think I will leave it up to the fans to decipher this video. Overall, I liked it and wouldn’t mind watching it again.

I thought the performance looked quite cool as well. It doesn’t feel as intense as their Korean performances, but I think that can be blamed more on the actual song. After all, the dance can only be created with the song in mind. There seemed to be some elegance present during the slower sections of the song and then a little more fierceness when it came to the chorus.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Happiness – Pentagon

I wasn’t planning on doing any Japanese reviews this week. This was partly encouraged by the lack of new releases (I do plan to go back to some other Japanese releases in the coming weeks). But then Pentagon dropped their music video for Happiness. And I didn’t want to neglect more Japanese reviews. So today, we will be delving into their latest release. The group previously returned to Japan with Cosmos and more recently returned to Korea with Humph!.

Happiness is another typical pop track. Interestingly, I thought the song delved into more KPOP roots, rather than particular JPOP sound that we all know of. Despite that possible crossover, there isn’t anything new within the song breaking ground, especially considering the group’s discography. The song did lose that carefree and easy-going vibe that I have noticed Pentagon has been pulling off since Shine. But this loss did not amount to anything new. Apart from that, Happiness does manage to include a nice hook that made the song catchy. That post-chorus was probably my favourite part. The vocals were good but I felt the rapping managed to etch forward by being a little more dynamic in nature. The instrumental was rather plain, upon reflection, which gave the song that typical vibe. I think there is enough done by the members to make the song ‘relatively okay’ as opposed to disappointment. The ending was probably the most questionable part, with their pronunciation of the title, Happiness. I had to replay the ending a number of times to confirm if I heard it right. I think this mistake has been done before in the KPOP/JPOP world due to the way syllables were emphasised. But you would expect the group to nail the title of the song in a non-questionable manner.

The music shows the members as office members. Pretty much done with their jobs and in a much needed of a holiday. All of a sudden (might be part of their imagination), they are transported to the beach and have from then on. We later see them partying on in the office, which supports my imagination theory. It is a rather typical video when I try to describe it. But it looked rather fun and suiting the Summer season. Not much else to say here.

The choreography was good. Once again, it aligns with the rest of the choreographies and performances from the week, which just wasn’t captivating enough for me. I did like some moments but I don’t think they are worth my time going through as they didn’t make it as captivating as I would have liked it to be.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.8/10

[Review] X-Phenomenon – Monsta X

Monsta X is one of the (now) many groups leading the charge of KPOP into North America and the world! The group recently embarked on a world tour after wrapping up their Alligator promotions. Despite that heavy schedule, the group released the Japanese version of Alligator back in May, featured on the animated We Bare Bears TV show and released a number of English tracks including Who Do U Love?. And now, the group has returned back to Japan with a brand new original single, X-Phenomenon, which is due for an official release in August.

To me, there are two versions of Monsta X converging for the release of X-Phenomenon. The verses showcase a current form of Monsta X. There was intensity to the verses but it felt like the type of sound we would have gotten from the group over the last few years. The more melodic sections prior to the chorus give an opportunity for the vocalists to shine (due to the makeup of the song) and is a newer side of Monsta X we haven’t seen in a title track yet. But I would put this with current Monsta X. Once we launch into the dubstep heavy chorus, it is like we were launched back to the early days of Monsta X. The instrumental is a lot more mature and tame in comparison to their earlier releases. But I feel a similar vibe and kick coming from it. I think the rappers shined brightly in the song. Their respective sections definitely had the most oomph to it, which I really liked. Personally, I liked their many change-ups in this song. Though, I wasn’t a fan of them standalone. Also, since the song wraps up in literally 3 minutes, it felt quite short, which was a little disappointing for me.

Best editing award for a music video this year has to go to this video. based on the shot footage, I didn’t get too much of an edgy vibe, which was called for by the song. But it was the editing that compensated for this. The framing, the transition, the overlays. It was like the editor turned a dial to amp up the edginess of the music video and succeeded by turning that dial to the right degree. I also like the member’s visuals for this music video.

The dancing is quite cool. From what I saw in the music video, the majority of their moves manage to pack a punch and channel the song’s energy appropriately. Not sure about how the ‘slow parts’ of the song will turn out but I am assuming that it will be channelling he appropriate energy levels as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Review] Lights – BTS

It is completely surprising to see how far BTS has led the industry. They started as a group from a small agency and are now global stars throughout the world. And while they are at the forefront of the KPOP industry, this hasn’t stopped them from focusing on their JPOP market venture. A few weeks back, BTS made their Japanese comeback with a brand new single, Lights. The single is featured alongside the Japanese version of Boy With Luv (which they returned to Korea with earlier in the year) and Idol (their breakout single last year).

It has been a while since I reviewed a Japanese single from the group. To be fair on my part, it is scarce with the majority of their Japanese releases being Japanese versions of their Korean title track. But there have been a few, with For You being the most memorable. Similar to For You, Lights opt for a more ballad approach with their track, departing from the usual upbeat tracks that dominate their promotional cycles in Korea. And I appreciate that, as sometimes dance tracks can get overwhelming over time. What I like about Lights (and these types of tracks) is that it showcases the best of the group without wasting too much energy. Lights ends up being soothing and the only energy you are using is by swaying along to the music. Their vocals were very dreamy and the rapping was quite calm and relaxing to go well with the song. The song talks about supporting each other during a hard time, with the group depending on the audience as the light that leads them out of the darkness.

I thought the music video was quite nice. Instead of showcasing choreography throughout the video, the video focuses on a small storyline. But I think the bigger picture shows that the members will not be happy alone. Instead, they are happiest around each other. Set in a movie theatre, the group is shown to join one another and watch what I think is a home-video (as opposed to an actual movie), reflecting upon their time together and how it brought them joy. There might be some other meaning that I haven’t pinpoint yet, so share if there are other theories. I know the Armys are always creative in this field.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] Love Loop – GOT7

Right after wrapping up their Eclipse comeback (which occurred back in May), GOT7 (minus Jackson) has returned to the Japanese music scene with a new release. The track is titled as Love Loop and is featured on the same-titled mini-album due for release at the end of the month. This is GOT7’s first Japanese release since the official release of I Won’t Let You Go at the start of the year. Currently, the group have officially kick-started their world tour, Keep Spinning, which is stopping at many more cities than ever before.

Looking back at the review I wrote for I Won’t Let You Go, the group departed from their usual EDM heavy tracks that they started their Japanese careers off with. Love Loop continues with this departure, going with a much more breezy and melodic track. The song manages to maintain the dance sound that GOT7 is known for in the majority of their title tracks. But the instrumental made the song feel like almost ballad-like, which I thought was very interesting. While this isn’t something new, I liked this changeup with GOT7’s sound. One important factor about the track is that the rapping took the back seat this time around. The vocals are the forefront of the song and drive its melodic nature. JB and Yugyeom’s vocals opened the chorus and I felt they were so impactful. In fact, I think there was a subtle show of intensity through the chorus, thanks to their vocals. Youngjae’s high note, even though it was more in the background, managed to blow me away. Based on what I am hearing and have written thus far, Love Loop is (obviously) different but quite memorable.

I really like the music video for Love Loop. The literal artistic touch to the background made the video looked so cool. I mentioned that the song was breezy above and the strokes and moving drawings in the background made it feel so visually as well. I also liked how the strokes/movement of colour was applied to their outfits as the video progressed, which was nice incorporation of the members into the video concept. I did mention in the Eclipse music video that it seems like their company is overusing the ‘green screen’. It is obviously used here but in a manner that looked amazing, so I don’t share those concerns this time around.

The snippets of choreography that could be seen in the music video (no live performance as of yet) felt very elegant and fitting for the song. Apart from that, I can’t make any other comments about the choreography as we didn’t get to see much in the video. But fitting and elegant are great observations to make, regardless.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8.1/10

[Review] Buenos Aires – IZ*ONE

As mentioned last week, there were some recent Japanese releases that needed to be addressed. Today, I will be having a closer look at one of them. IZ*ONE, earlier this year, made their Japanese debut with I Want To Say I Love You and their Korean comeback with Violeta. So, the group has already had a jam-packed half-year already. But they managed to sneak one more comeback just before June wrapped up with the release of Buenos Aires in Japan.

Listening to the track when it first came out and listening to it now, I honestly do not know what to say. The work that IZ*ONE had done to grow through the releases of La Vie en Rose, Violeta and I Want To Say I Love You surely would not result in a song like this. Instrumentally, I thought the song was good. Pop electronic does sound fitting for the Japanese market. That continuous extension for the instrumental break during the bridge was probably my favourite bit, providing intensity and an awesome platform for a creative dance sequence. Vocally, the song is haywire. Let’s start at the start. The introduction and first verse were okay. I thought the monotone effect and the buildup of autotune to be intriguing. But they should have changed for the chorus. They kept the same effect, rendering the vocals into a state of permanent monotone. They had cutesy yelling in the background that did not fit in. The melody was very unimaginative. The excessive autotune for the post-chorus hook was over the top. Urgh… And the rapping is even worse. I am hugely disappointed in the outcome of the track. And the disappointment is quite heavy, as I can hear so much potential in the instrumentation.

While I don’t enjoy the song, I thought the music video was a little better. I have warmed up to the visuals which I didn’t enjoy so much initially. The emphasis on the green was a nice pick, overall. But it was the filter that ruined everything, making the video feel pale and overwhelmingly bright. That feeling still stays with me but it isn’t as strong. I do still think the video is more on the bland side of the spectrum, as the close-ups and images of venus fly traps didn’t really add anything interesting to the video. To be honest, I felt the venus fly traps were a little odd, as they didn’t serve any meaning to the video, based on my knowledge.

The choreography was pretty good. I think the best word to describe it would be prance-y. I really like the dance break during the bridge, which was my favourite bit overall.

Song – 3/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 4.7/10

[Album Review] Muse (2nd Mini Album) – Leo (VIXX)

Since we are back on schedule, there will be two album reviews coming out this weekend. Both album reviews will be focusing on solo releases that have occurred recently. And it might extend to the album reviews in the next week (so I guess you can start guessing who these albums might belong to).  Today’s album review will be for Leo’s recent comeback. The main vocalist of VIXX returned with Romanticism a few weeks back, which is featured on Muse, Leo’s second mini-album to date. 

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Muse Album Cover

1..Romanticism (로맨티시즘) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Romanticism. (7/10)

2. Things About To Happen (다가오는 것들) (ft. Choiza of Dynamic Duo) – One of the elements I really liked about this very emotionally charged track is the minimalistic instrumentation. It is like the blank canvas analogy that I sometimes use to describe a track. However, there are accents within the instrumental that makes the song so much more impactful and bone-chilling. Despite the extra addition to helping boost the impact potential of the track, the main strokes that make art on the blank canvas are Leo’s voice. There is no doubt about it. His singing in this track is filled with emotion, which makes the track feel so captivating. I am not too familiar with Choiza (from Dynamic Duo) but his rapping really fitted in well and added to that serious atmosphere the song has oozing from the track. (10/10)

3. Nostalgia (향수병) – As Leo is the main vocalist, it was inevitable that a ballad or two would be included on the album, even if he went with another R&B track as his title track. Nostalgia talks about the uneasiness that arises from a good memory that comes from a former relationship. He doesn’t want to remember it. But at the same time, he is afraid he will forget this memory. I am sure many people can relate to this dilemma. Per usual, it is a heartbreaking song. But that is one of Leo’s fortes. His voice suits these emotion-heavy tracks, so he is in his element. His raspy vocals does wonders in the track. I like how the classical instrumental adds to the heartbreaking feelings he portrays and I often find them coming in at the right moment. Even though it is a slow ballad (which isn’t often my ballad style of choice), Leo enchants once again. (9.5/10)

4. Tight (타이트해) – Leo changes things up with Tight. It isn’t another ballad. Instead, Tight is a smooth and sensual dance track. And while it is nice for a change, Tight wouldn’t be the first thing that comes into mind (given the nature of the lyrics). But it is still a good song. His voice lends well for this R&B style as well, which I think is what he enjoys more. There are a number of moments that grab my attention. The first is the pre-chorus. I really liked that sudden brief pause before going onto a small tone change that still manages to fit into the rest of the song. As the chorus was more sensual and doesn’t have a drop, this pre-chorus really built up momentum. The chorus contains whispers that I think fit the nature of the track, pushing whoever Leo (or the writer) had in mind onwards (you can decipher the meaning of that sentence). The most awkward moment comes from the chorus as well, in the form of ‘La La La be dab’. I want to know what the meaning of this is. (8/10)

5. Muse – Unlike the other tracks, Muse is not emotionally centred. This provides us with a chance to breathe from the heartbreaking or sensual emotions that have been the main focus of the album thus far. However, I find Muse charged in a vocal sense, as Leo’s voice does manage to shine brightly in this track. He pairs well with the slow rock ballad nature of the song, which ends up showing us another side of the artist that I would love to hear more from. Apart from Leo’s voice, I liked the ballad start and end of the track. By completing the song with how it started, it felt like the track completed a full circle and hence providing us with a very satisfying feeling (as if you are full) once the song ended. (8/10)

6. The Flower (Pre-Release Single) (ft. Maximilian Hecker) – The album ends with a ballad collaboration with Leo and Maximilian Hecker, who is known for his dream pop music (according to Wikipedia). I find that Leo’s voice isn’t showcased as well as his previous track. But instead of the vocals, it is the stunning instrumental that is showcased. I find that Leo’s voice is on the softer side, complimenting the soothing and calming nature of the predominately piano instrumental. But I think the winning moment must be when Leo passed the vocal baton over to Maximillian Hecker. Both their voices sound alike, and I honestly thought Leo was still singing (just in English). Overall, I thought the track was a nice end to the album. It was as if it was leading us to prolonged sleep so that when we wake up once again, Leo would have returned with another album. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

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Muse Teaser Image

recommended red round grunge vintage ribbon stamp

[Review] Happy Ending – SEVENTEEN

Once again, we find ourselves on a Saturday, which means it is time for another Japanese music review. Unfortunately, I missed out on last week’s review due to some time constraints. And while I do know there are some more recent releases, I can’t get to them until I clear one more review. So, today we will be focusing on SEVENTEEN’s return to Japan with Happy Ending, which was released at the end of May (Sorry that it took one month for me to publish this review). Their previous Japanese release was their debut with Call Call Call.

To me, I am not a fan of Happy Ending. I felt the track was an extremely typical pop track that honestly did not offer anything to extend SEVENTEEN’s discography. This is a disappointment, as I expected something more along the lines of their Japanese debut track. What does set Call Call Call and their many amazing Korean title tracks apart from the rest of the competition is that the energy they expel is usually phenomenal. It gives me excitement. Happy Ending had an instrumental that was underwhelming and best described as tame. I just don’t get that rush of excitement in this track. On a more positive note, I did like the vocals and rapping in this track. I liked the more serious tone but I wished there was more energy to add definition the serious tone. Vernon’s opening ‘Happy Ending‘ was quite striking and ended up being one of the more memorable moments of the track. But I guess that the track, as a whole, just doesn’t do it for me, especially since I had a whole month to warm up to it.

From the lyrics that I found, Happy Ending is the end goal of the members, who are the main characters of their films. They want the best possible outcome for themselves and their lovers so that they can have their happy endings. With this mind, you would expect a film concept, which they practically did. It seems like some members are watching the movie, some members are behind the scenes creating, while others the main characters in front of the camera. I have to admit, while the song doesn’t suit my preference, the members look really good in this music video. Very charismatic and charming at certain points of the video.

I thought dabbing is dead. But I guess it isn’t if SEVENTEEN is bringing it back for this routine. I did like the choreography but I have to admit it isn’t as impressive as their previous dance performances. Can’t really blame them when they don’t have an impressive song to work with.  I did like how flowy the verses felt and how the chorus picked up, matching the music of both sections.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7/10