[Review] Q – ONEWE ft. Hwasa (Mamamoo)

Since ONEWE’s last comeback with Regulus in August 2019, we have not heard too much from the band. The only thing I do remember coming from the band since their last comeback was their cover of MAMAMOO’s Hip, which they performed a number of time on the live stage. Today, the band returns with their 3rd single, Q. It features their Hwasa from MAMAMOO, their senior label-mate. I just dug up some information that Q is a pre-release single for their upcoming album, which will be released some time in the future. So keep your eyes peeled for ONEWE’s impending comeback.

As a band, ONEWE is quite rare in the KPOP industry. So to hear some R&B with actual instrumentation in Q is probably the rarest of rare treats, especially with the current synths and dance music environment. At first glance, the song does fall on the dry side. But with the many listens that I need to write a review, I am slowly warming up to the song. Overall, the song felt very restrained, which is where my initial ‘dry’ reaction to the song came from. But as I listened on, I felt the restrained feel of the song was definitely a charm, rather than a flaw. The use of actual instrumentation really makes the song feel warm, a feeling that would not possibly be achieved if it was artificial. The instrumental itself enables the singers to use a lower tone. This means that they showed off a huskier and raspier tone in their voices, which compliments very neatly with Hwasa’s widely known husky voice. That high note in the background was a memorable part, as well. There is a really neat melody and ‘ga’ hook in the chorus, which I find to be catching on. The song gets very interesting at the bridge, with the vocals going with a slightly different melody and the guitar solo brings a bossa nova feel to the song.

The video seems to reflect well with the lyrics. Based on the lyrics, it seems like the guys are in love with partner (who is played by Hwasa) and vice versa. But it is not a good relationship. The guys question why their lover acts differently every time they meet up, while Hwasa’s lyrics basically shows us that she is fed up. In the video, we see Hwasa putting make up on, making an effort with a very pained and depressed facial expression. We then see the members experience some ‘pain’ as she puts make up on. After Hwasa finishes, she throws things around the room in anger. Both of these represents how bad their relationship has gotten, but they don’t know how they got to that point.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] Magnolia – TOO

There is a new male group entering the industry. TOO (Ten Oriented Orchestra) is a 10-member male group under N.CH Entertainment. The group was formed through the show WORLD KLASS, which aired in 2019. They were originally scheduled to debut on March 18 with Magnolia, but this was rescheduled for today (1st April). And even though they are newly debut, they have already been confirmed for their first competition show, Road To Kingdom, which is the male version of last year’s Queendom. They will be particpating/performing alongside Pentagon, Golden Child, VERIVERY, ONEUS, The Boyz and ONF.

I enjoyed TOO’s Magnolia and the group’s direction with this song. I just waited for an explosion that never came. I personally felt that it would really bolster the song and add some definition to their sound. Magnolia is a dance track, described to be a blend of trap and euro pop. It is a good mix and pleasant mix. But with a dance track, a pleasant mix doesn’t sound right. I wanted it go that extra mile, but we just never never got to that point. We get a teaser of this through the chorus when the electric guitars and rock influence are brought in, adding some depth to the song. But I just wanted more (sorry, if I sound a bit greedy). Their vocals and rapping infused some hip-hop influence to the song, which was good and helped out to an extent. But it feels very typical in that regard, as many other male groups have been doing that in the past few years. The transition from second chorus to the bridge was very awkward and sounded odd. I think that was the only section that had the song’s flow disrupted, but they managed to patch the rest of the bridge up with electric guitars.

This is a hard video to interpret, as I have very little clue on what is happening plot wise. Usually, I give the interpretation a go (see most of my other music video reviews that involve a plot line or my music video theory posts). But I am not going to try with this music video because I know I am going to screw up the interpretation of this story regardless of which direction I take the story. All I know is that it revolves around a flower (the magnolia) and focuses around a rebellion. Do you have any theories? Comment below! Apart from the story line, the video was well shot and the post-production edits/ transition made the scenes look more intense and cool. I also enjoyed their edgy look in the music video.

It seems like TOO has a lot to offer in the performance department. And watching them dance, it makes me excited to see what they will bring through their upcoming Road To Kingdom appearances. It is intense, edgy and powerful. I really liked the moments they have where two members versus each other. I thought that was a dynamic part of the performance.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Review] Unfamiliar – H&D

It is time to familiarise ourselves with a new group. Well, new group in the case for my blog. H&D is a male duo, consisting of former X1 members Lee Hangyul and Nam Dohyun. They have yet to make their official debut, but they did release a track (and promoted it) back in February 2020, Toward Tomorrow. I haven’t reviewed this track and will do once I get some free time in the near future. But rather than waiting around for that review, let’s dig into their comeback pre-release single, Unfamiliar, which is released ahead of their upcoming official debut on April 21.

Unfamiliar is a mid-tempo R&B track that is bound to blow you away for a number of reasons, especially if you are unfamiliar with the members or H&D, in general. At first, the song is structured liked a ballad with a simple instrumental and the start zones right into the duo’s vocals. But as the song progressed along, a beat became more apparent and in the forefront. It started to build up into a really stunning piece and I liked how the song kept the classical roots as it built up. That’s the first aspect that I enjoyed with this track. The second aspect has to the vocals. Both members sounded so damn good. The harmonies are beautiful. I really like the slight husky touch in the back of Hangyul’s voice, helping bring a very mature feel to the song. Also remember that Dohyun is only 15 years old, his deep voice is remarkable in the song. And while we are talking about Dohyun, his rapping is something that cannot be missed. There was just so much depth in his rapping voice, I was in awe. The final aspect has to be the emotion that they put into the song. It sounds so heartbeaking and emotionally driven, with the latter usually being a good sign of a song. With Unfamiliar in mind, I am definitely looking forward to what this duo can bring to the world in late April.

When it comes to the visual representation of an amazing song, such as Unfamiliar, sometimes simplicity is the key. You want the viewers to focus on the song, to feel the emotions and power of the vocals. You don’t to steal that away ability from the viewers. The producers of the Unfamiliar music video did just that. In a grey setting, they placed two black pianos in the centre and dressed the duo in white, creating a strong and striking contrast. And that is it to the video. Visually, the pair stood out. But the video wasn’t over complicated with colour and plotlines that would have distracted you from the song. I find this to be a perfect music video.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10

Overall Rating – 10/10

[Review] Let’s Love – Suho (EXO)

We kick off the new week with a solo debut that I am sure many fans will be overjoyed to hear about. I am talking about Suho’s return to the music scene with Let’s Love. For those who may not know Suho, he is the leader of EXO. Recently, the group was announced to be focusing on solo promotions this year and Suho’s solo debut would be the first of the many solo activities we can expect from the EXO members. We last saw EXO and Suho through their Obsession comeback in late November/December.

Let’s Love takes on the modern rock genre and it sounds amazing. There is a level of aesthetics in the sound profile to this song that amazes and floors me at the same time. And it is genre that I need to get back into as Let’s Love just shows me how blissful the genre can be. But enough about the genre. Let’s Love capitalise on Suho’s vocals, as you want to in a solo release. I have never really been a fan of Suho’s voice, as I do find it plain in most EXO’s songs. But here, there is a sense of balance that just makes his voice feels right. He doesn’t push himself too hard, which definitely compliments the softer rock style. His ad-libs are definitely within his range and adds that ‘main vocal’ touch to the song. My favorite part has to be the ending, where he sings in a very huskily manner, ‘You’re My Dream, You’re My Dream‘. The main concern I have with the song is its lack of a strong hook to really make listeners want to return to the song. There is a decent melody that makes me sway along to the music, but I don’t think it will serve in that purpose. But other than that, this is another great solo debut.

The song itself is about the desire to go back to a previous relationship. It talks about how his former partner completed him and how he followed them to get their attention at first. We essentially see the aftermath of the relationship, that period of desire in the video. Now that his partner had left, his world is barely nothing. We see his world is full of infinite darkness and the long concrete corridor extends further and further as he looks into the distance. But as they always say, there is light at the other end of the tunnel. And that is what Suho experiences at the end of the video, that there is that chance to go back. But that chance is reliant on that former partner. That is is my interpretation and understanding of the song’s lyrics and music video. Please note: I may be completely wrong (I have been told many times previously) and would like to hear what you thought the video. I thought the imagery was quite nice and the monotone colour palette to be very suiting.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

[Album Review] Dystopia: The Tree of Language (1st Studio Album) – Dream Catcher

It is time for another album review! And (once again) it an album that I should have reviewed a while back. I am talking about Dream Catcher’s very first studio album, Dystopia: The Tree of Language. It is definitely long overdue for the group as it has been four years since their debut (officially) and countless intense and unique comebacks. The album, released mid-February, features the title track Scream and 13 new tracks. Per usual, I will review all tracks excluding the intro, outro and instrumental tracks. Let’s get going!

Dystopia: The Tree Of Language Album Cover

2. Scream (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Scream. (10/10)

3. Tension – The title gives us a little teaser of the tension and intensity the song will feature. And it blasts you with just that from the very first second in which the song started, opting for a predominately rock instrumental. For all you dedicated fans of Dream Catcher (otherwise known as InSomnia), this is something we all know is within Dream Catcher’s repertoire, given this is the style that they debuted and consistently pull out. But rather than being the same as the past songs, Tension manages to make it refreshing. The song features a change in the intensity throughout the song but manages to make it well balanced. There are also interesting vocal textures thanks to the use of autotune (Dami’s line just before the chorus is just perfect) or a more delicate backdrop (see the bridge). (9/10)

4. Red Sun – If you think the title track is amazing, wait until you have a listen to Red Sun. The song seems to go towards of a hip-hop based sound, which I think it is unfamiliar territory for the group. But it keeps that edgy sound that we know Dream Catcher for. But there is more to the instrumental than just hip-hop. It is haunting in some parts and employs trap synths in other parts. The vocal work brings very interesting and mature twist to the song, as well. The repetition of the title post-chorus and the overall aesthetics are very memorable. Red Sun ticks all the boxes for me. (10/10)

5. Black or White – As we go down this list, the songs get more interesting. There is no going back with this album. I love the thumping beat at the very start, the orchestral touch during the pre-chorus, the funkiness we got in the chorus (on top of the orchestral touch). In addition to that, I really liked how they autotuned the main hook to be part of the instrumental for the bridge. Their vocals and Dami’s rapping fitted right into the track, like a key and lock. Altogether, Black Or White is another mindblowing, addictive and very unique song. (10/10)

6. Jazz Bar – Like how the title suggest, the song delves into jazz. It is a very subtle groove to the song and its flows effortlessly from start to end. The melody was very pleasant and the chorus was satisfying good. Their vocals were very refined and delicate, matching with the jazzy nature of the song. But the real winner in this song has to be Dami. How awesome does she sound? Her nasally voice just works wonderfully in this song and has to be the best section of the song. (9.5/10)

7. SAHARA – We now return to a song with a rock touch (aka. the group’s roots). And it is a good song. But I don’t think it is as good as what we have heard so far. I found the verses to be forgettable for the most part. I did enjoy the rock rush the song had incorporated during its building up moments and during the chorus. Sadly, I also found the hook in this song to be rather weak. But I did enjoy their vocals and Dami’s rapping was pretty decent. As you can see, I would better describe as the song to skip on the album. (7/10)

8. In The Frozen – We re-enter the more interesting sounds on the album. In The Frozen starts off like any other dance track and it remains locked in that gear for majority of the track. It may sound like I am trying to saying it is typical, but I still liked it. There is an adventurous tone to the song, in my opinion. It just took its time to build up. But once we reached the final chorus, everything dropped (or should I say twist) and the entire song’s dynamic changed through the tempo, the incorporation of the song’s title and Dami’s ‘Limit no more’. This is pretty unique from other dance tracks, which once again brings another interesting song to the album. (9/10)

9. Daybreak (새벽)Daybreak delves into the R&B genre. It seems like Dream Catcher is captialising on the number of songs by showing a lot of variety in their sound, yet still showing some of their roots in others. The instrumental has this deep yet striking beat, which reminds me of Red Velvet’s Be Natural (a song I felt was boring at first but has grown on me over time). The vocal and rapping work brings life to the song and adds a sense of refinement. The ending is one of those abrupt kinds, which I still don’t like. But overall, another nice song. (8/10)

10. Full MoonFull Moon was a single for the fans by Dream Catcher, released back in 2018. As you can tell by the rock influences in this song, it is one of the many songs by Dream Catcher that I refer to when I talk about their roots in this review. This is one is a little more straight forward and doesn’t really do add to the sound that we are already familiar with. But this was released in 2018, when the group was still cementing their footing in the industry. I enjoyed the momentum of the song and remember head banging to it every time I had listened to it in the past. I also love the delicate ‘Full Moon’ ending to the chorus, which contrasts strongly with the rock sound that dominates the rest of the chorus. Great track, overall. (9/10)

11. Over The Sky (하늘을 넘어) – And here is another example of their roots, released in 2019 for their fans. The way this song starts off reminds me of many opening themes to animes. They literally throw you into the mix and they probably have no regrets. It is a little overwhelming at first, but you get used to it with multiple listens. Their vocals add more of a cheerful tone to the song and the melody/hook feels very pop-like in comparison to the rush of rock energy that we get in this song. But the two merges neatly with each other and sounds very decent, overall. (9/10)

14. Paradise (Siyeon Solo) (Pre-Release Track) – Not exactly sure if this was ever marketed as a pre-release track, but the final song on the album (even after the outro) Is Siyeon’s solo debut, Paradise. Paradise reminds me of old Western pop tracks and takes on an instrumental profile of a dance track through its use of EDM. But vocally, the song is steered towards the ballad domain. But it is not one or the other. However, the use of the dance instrumental gives it an engaging appeal, while Siyeon’s vocals are on full display in this song. I do feel this combination is rather safe and feel like the song would have been epic if the producers pushed in one or both regards. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

Dystopia: The Tree of Language Teaser Image

[Review] Hold – Winner

No, I haven’t forgotten about Winner’s review. Winner’s latest single, Hold, was released on Thursday this week and I had somehow missed the news that the quartet would be releasing a single ahead of their upcoming 3rd studio album in April. Once I realized that they had a release (which was after I had published the Lie review for Favorite), I put Hold‘s review right into my agenda and Saturday was the first free day without a review. And now, here it is!

There are two sides to Winner. One is their more serious side, as we saw in their debut and in their most recent comeback prior to Hold (i.e. SoSo). The other side is the more carefree and bright tone Winner, which we have been seeing a lot lately (i.e. Millions and Ah Yeah). It is definitely obvious where Hold sits (i.e. carefree and bright tone). The cheerful vibes that the song contains do project on you, just by listening to it. I couldn’t help but smile upon hearing the song. The song’s falls under the ‘lighthearted hip-hop’ umbrella and features good level of energy in the instrumental hook. I liked how upbeat and loud the chorus was, similar to when you hear the right number of consecutive cymbals clashing in some songs. But it isn’t perfect sounding. The weakest part of the song was the vocals. The verses, where the vocals were most present, were pretty forgettable. If it wasn’t for the loud energy of the chorus, I don’t think the song would have been deemed memorable. The rapping just before the chorus was decent and gave the song some buildup/momentum towards the chorus. The song earn some major ticks, but not all major ticks from me.

The music video features Suhyun from AKMU, a label-mate of Winner. Known for her innocent looks, Suhyun plays the youngest member of the Winner family (with Winner playing her obnoxiously annoying brothers). In this episode of the Winner family, the brothers notice that Suhyun is dating/have a crush and make fun of her. She invites the guy over, and the brothers break into her room (whe the crush was there) to embarrass her. The video is shot in a sitcom like manner, incorporating laughter from the audience. As the song sounds, the music video is intended to be lighthearted and fun to watch. There is also some dialogue that points in that direction. Overall a great video to watch.

There is a bit of choreography in the music video. Though I am not exactly sure if it is the actual choreography. But given the nature of the song and music video, something simple and entertaining like kicks in the air (what we see the members do at the 2:33 minute mark of the music video) makes total sense.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Album Review] Dark Side Of The Moon (1st Mini Album) – Moonbyul (Mamamoo)

It is time for another album review (and I am in the process of drafting another one for Sunday!). As you can see I am busy catching on album reviews that I should have published weeks ago (major hint for the next album review). As you can also tell from the title, I will be reviewing Moonbyul’s very first mini-album release, Dark Side Of The Moon. It features the title track Eclipse, which was also released on the 14th of February 2020. Moonbyul has since wrapped up promotions for her solo release (which is another reminder of how overdue this album review is). So without further delay, here is my album review!

Dark Side Of The Moon Album Cover

1. Eclipse (달이 태양을 가릴 때) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Eclipse. (9/10)

2. Mirror – When there is a choreography routine, the vocals and rapping are usually ‘reduced’ in KPOP to facilitate a flawless routine by the artist. And Moonbyul’s Eclipse is no exception, especially since the choreography was very powerful. Mirror, a song about the realization of the need to let go in a relationship, zones right into Moonbyul’s rapping and vocals, layered on top of a very soft and delicate R&B instrumental, filled with piano and synths to add definition to the song. I really liked how Moonbyul went into a higher tone for the end some of her lines. It really creates an interesting melody and also demonstrates more of Moonbyul’s range. Her rapping gave the song some edge and the way her rapping was packaged was perfect for the softer tone. (9/10)

3. ILJIDO ILJIDO provides the album with a little more light-heart nature, which was definitely absent through the two songs preceding. From what I understand, the song is about wanting more in life. I find the song to be very well balance and I think Moonbyul’s huskier vocal tone was very fitting for this song. The song features another light instrumental and featured a jazzy instrumental break. Prominently featured in the instrumental are flutes and I believe they sampled Hwasa’s Twit, as the flutes here sound very similar to the latter song. I do think the song is a little safe and traditional, but it is still pleasing to listen to. (8/10)

3. Moon Movie – How awesome is Moon Movie? I am declaring this is the hidden gem of the album, even before we dive into the song. Kicking it off is a really alluring piano piece that replays throughout the song. The track’s beat is equally as alluring. The combination of all makes this track stand out in my opinon. As mentioned many times previously, I am not a major fan of the hip-hop genre. But Moon Movie delves into the genre in such an appealing fashion that I cannot help but enjoy it. Moonbyul’s rapping is so rhythmic and it just pulls you into the song even more. (10/10)

4. Weird Day (낯선 날) (ft. Punch) (Pre-Release Track) – We get a simple jazzy instrumental in Weird Day. It is then paired with the sweet vocals from Punch, along with Moonbyul husky vocal tone and soft rapping. And you effectively have created a really amazing track. The track shows how versatile Moonbyul can be, a key skill needed in the industry nowadays. The melodies are really nice and the track is very peaceful to listen to. The only problem, it goes by so quickly despite it going for 3:15 minutes. Other that, I liked this pre-release track (9/10)

5. Snow (눈) (Pre-Release Track) – We end the album with a ballad that was first unveiled in December. And this is a beautiful ballad that focuses purely on Moonbyul’s vocals. I like how Snow manages to incorporate some rhythm to the song, as if Moonbyul is rapping. The harmonies with the backing vocal really make this a strong track. I was going to say that the song feels very versatile, but the Winter theme kicks in later in the song in my opinion, which restricts it to only the Winter season. If it didn’t do that, I think I would have given the song a slightly higher rating. But it is still amazing nonetheless. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.9/10

Dark Side Of The Moon Teaser Image

[Review] Lie – Favorite

It is time to tackle another track from the ‘Coming Soon’ list. Today’s focus will be on Favorite, who returned the other week with Lie. Favorite, for those who may not remember, is a female group currently under Astory Entertainment. They debuted with Party Time in 2017 and have had a number of comebacks over the years. Most recently, the group returned with their Korean single, Loca, and their Japanese single, Catch Me.

The major issue with Lie is that it doesn’t offer anything new that we haven’t of. Nor does it take what we have heard previously and try to repackage it into something refreshing or bold. Right off the bat, the song opens up with guitars that are play into the Latin genre, an already heavily used and tiring genre nowadays. The song then adds a little more to the instrumental by incorporating a very neutral sounding dance beat. Together, I felt the instrumental to be extremely plain and helplessly dry. The vocals do add a level of sweetness to the song, which I can deem as helpful. But only to a certain extent. Like the instrumental, the vocals do not add much momentum to the song. The rapping is a little bit better, with it being the best part of the song for me. The chorus was weak, in my opinion. I did like the melodic and flowy nature of the chorus. But paired with the already neutral instrumental, it just isn’t enough.

The group opts for their most mature image yet. Dressed in red suits, the group performs in a cathedral or church like setting, with a red carpet running through the place. While red on red isn’t the greatest visual idea ever, both the red suits and carpet standout in the dark setting. The rest of the music video is closeup shots, which show off the beautiful faces of the members. And that’s all to the video. I’ll be honest, this is one of the few better looking ones. But the basic formula of closeup shots and choreography just makes it sound plain.

The choreography takes that mature path that I had mentioned as part of the music video review section. It definitely felt refined and pleasant to watch. But it just didn’t have anything memorable within it to really make me come back to continually view it.

Song – 5.5/10
Music Video – 6.5/10
Performance – 6/10
Overall Rating – 5.9/10

[Review] GRAVITY – Ong Seong Wu

Ong Seong Wu was the only member of Wanna One to make his official solo debut in 2019 after the disbandment of the project group. He did release a special single, Heart Sign, in collaboration with Pepsi and Starship. But that wasn’t marketed a debut single. His official debut single was released earlier this year, We Belong, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Hence, this makes today’s release his very first solo comeback. GRAVITY is the title track off Ong Seong Wu’s first mini-album, LAYERS.

The way GRAVITY sounds reminds me of Western dance tracks, particularly it came to the chorus of this song. The instrumental is very typical for this style and it doesn’t really offer anything unique. But there are a few things within the song that stood out for me, which made me enjoy the song as well. First of all, the lyrics tell of the gravitational pull one would feel towards another and discovering one’s self along the way. I thought that was an interesting topic. With a topic like that, the mature vibes was the second aspect of the song that stood out to me. The serious tone is unforgettable, even though it is something we hear quite often. Thirdly, it has to be his amazing and powerful vocals. His voice pushes high up when he sings the word ‘gravity’, going in a completely different direction to ‘gravity’, which is an interesting concept to think about. The rest of the song feels rather weighted (I mean this in a good way) and adds that ‘gravity’ component to the song. I also liked the soft whispering of the song title as part of the bridge. It is like an echo that edges you towards the direction that you would be going in (in this case, the person he is being pulled to). Putting everything together, GRAVITY leaves a strong impression and I am definitely going to replay this song constantly while I stay at home for the foreseeable future.

The music video shows an aesthetically pleasing depiction of the lyrics. Ong Seong Wu’s life is relatively plain. He lives in a cabin made of wood in the forest. One day he wakes up and discovers an abandoned car nearby. Upon investigating the car, he is drawn towards a mysterious female character, whom we suspect is the owner of the car. He follows her and it is shown that everytime he follows her, he is becoming even more consumed with the idea of finding her (i.e. shown through the underwater scenes and how frantic he gets each time the story repeats) and that he unsuccessfully catches up to her. But yet the same thing happens everyday and he cannot avoid the gravitational pull that he experiences towards this mysterious figure. Even his dreams start replicating the same event and he gets even deeper. And deeper. Not exactly sure who this figure is, but it might be a past lover who may have drowned, which would explain why he would consistently go after her and why he would be shown to be underwater. I thought this was a well shot video and his acting in this video is far better than in some parts of the We Belong music video. I liked the grey and darkness of his video as well, adding to the aesthetics.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.4/10

[Review] Mixtape: On Track – Stray Kids

The next comeback to be reviewed is by Stray Kids, who just dropped their second installment in the Mixtape Project as a present for their second anniversary. The title of the new track is Mixtape: On Track and this follows their 2019 mixtape track, Gone Days. 2019 was also another big year for the group, with the release of Miroh, Side Effects, Double Knot, Astronaut and Levanter. This magnitude and high standard of comebacks in 2019 by Stray Kids lead to me picking them for Best Male Group in the KPOPREVIEWED Awards for 2019. Let’s see if Stray Kids can replicate the success of 2019 and possibly go further in 2020.

Gone Days is right up the alley of a mixtape, aligning itself with the genre in which a mixtape is usually strongly associated with. On Track is completely different path, opting to be more a traditional pop track and missing a heavy hip-hop influence. The instrumental that acts as the backdrop for this song is relatively plain and it does bore me. But thankfully, the vocals and limited rapping did help drive the song into a more appealing light. On Track is more vocally driven, as a result for its pop alignment. And I don’t mind this. Since Stray Kids commonly goes for a rough exterior with its sound, I wouldn’t mind any easygoing or melodic tracks from the group. When I am listening to the song, I find myself feeling a little heartbroken with the tone, for some odd reason. The song’s lyrics are a lot more brighter, mustering up courage to chase one’s dream (Source: Soompi). Not sure why I feel that way, but that was the initial impression I got from the song before looking up a translation or the source article.

For the music video, the group are film and acting students and are currently in production for some sort of love story short film (I assume short film). The main characters are Hyunjin (the cameraman), Lee Know (the main actor) and the female actress. Essentially, Hyunjin has this massive crush on the female actress but has never acted upon his feelings. While filming the various acting scenes, he becomes extremely jealous over the scenes that the female actress and Lee Know share. In the end, he makes his move on the female actress while filming. Poor timing, but it matches up with the meaning behind the lyrics of the song (i.e. gaining courage). It is a good plot line and was enjoyable to watch.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] 2U – Kang Daniel

Kang Daniel was the biggest name from Wanna One and was expected to soar high in the industry upon making his solo debut with What Are You Up To. But certain events got in the way of that and his debut was fast forgotten due to a lack of promotions. He returned in late 2019 with Touchin’ but cut promotions short to focus on his mental health (good on him, though!). But it is 2020 now and it is time to turn over a new leaf. Kang Daniel kicks off 2020 with the release of his second mini-album, Cyan, which features the title track 2U.

The first that came to my mind upon my first listen to 2U was that everything was very easy on the ears. And this is a stylistic choice that I really am enjoying. With the amount of focus I am placing on current events, songs that are this easy on the ears are able to provide some brief but much needed relief to my mind before I need to refocus. The song’s main synth may sound pretty bland and plain at first, but the combination of the beat and the song’s melody really helps mitigate this. Together, I find the track to have a subtle groove, which I thoroughly enjoy. I do like his vocals, which feels fresh and gives the song a shot of vibrancy. There is a tad of smoothness that makes this song even more enjoyable when it comes to the melodic chorus. I do find it interesting that there was no rap-speak type of rap sequence, which I think would have suited the song perfectly. But what we got served in 2U is amazing already.

Kang Daniel works as the really fashionable and trendy janitor at a theater, which employs a pretty unfit security guard. No judgement here though, as I am equally as unfit as the guard. He seems to invite his friends to a night in at the theater. But after some time, he was caught by the security guard. Not sure if the whole thing was imagined by Kang Daniel, which may have been the case with that ending. Kang Daniel is still the janitor, didn’t lose his job but the security guard is very suspicious of him. I found the video to be lighthearted and not too heavy, like the song. It was enjoyable and matched the atmosphere of the song.

The choreography was pretty good. Everything was casual and easygoing, which is essentially the song (and entire comeback) described in two words. I like how the choreographers added more dancers as the performance progressed, seeming like a friendly and fun congregation was being formed. I particularly liked the ending of the choreography (onwards from 2:55 of the music video). I liked the interaction with the backup dancers and the casual vibes that literally came from this section of the performance.

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

[Review] A Song Written Easily – ONEUS

ONEUS received the honorable mentions in the KPOPREVIEWED Awards for 2019, after a massive debut year consisting of their debut track, Valkyrie, and comeback tracks, Twilight and Lit. Now, the group is back to tackle 2020 with their first single, A Song Written Easily. This comes after the group released their first original Japanese single (808), their Korean fanmeet and Japanese concerts. And just recently, the group has been confirmed to be participating in the TV show, Road to Kingdom (the male version of Queendom). Given how good Queendom was, I will be watching the male version for sure. But that isn’t until the end of April. So until then, lets break down ONEUS’s new song.

Described as a Moombahton dance track, A Song Written Easily seems to take a step back into typical dance music territory, particularly since their last comeback track (Lit) was slightly unique for its heavy usage of traditional Korean instruments in a dance track. But regardless of the direction in which the song steps in, ONEUS manages to do a pretty good job with A Song Written Easily. I found the song to be very refreshing, thanks to the wide reach that the synths employ. None of the synths feel tight or restricted, hence the revitalizing appeal of the song. The track also employs whistling in the instrumental. The melody that we hear the whistle in is reflected in the synths during the chorus and I thought that there was a beautiful feel to it. There is an easygoing vibe, despite the song being a dance track. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself humming to the melody after more replays. Both vocals and rapping were impressive in this track, in my opinion. The vocal work sounds pretty good, pairing well with the instrumental. The rapping is the more interesting front, providing the song with an added layer of texture.

The refreshing vibes that I mentioned in the song were translated into the music video. I love the breathtaking and stunning nature shots that featured in this music video. For those who are wondering where this video was shot, I am reading that it was shot in New Zealand. Despite the music video looking stunning, the song is actually a little heavy on the heart. The members sing about how easy a song came together when they thought of their former lover, after everything they had been through. Based on the interpretation of the music video by Soompi, the flowers depict new beginnings and the member’s interaction with the flowers (seen in the teasers) show how they faced hardships in their relationships and how they overcame them.

It seems like due to the ongoing health pandemic, many artists won’t be doing any live showcases for the time being, which is always my first look of the choreography. We do see bit in the music video and I like what I see. I find everything pairs well with the music. There is a bit of intensity and boldness in the choreography, which I haven’t picked up yet in the other components of this comeback.

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

[Album Review] i DECIDE (3rd Mini Album) – iKON

It is finally time for me to sit down and knock out some album reviews that has been sitting on my to-do list. First up is for a comeback that occurred in early February, which means this review is almost 2 months late (really sorry for this). For those who may not remember this comeback, iKON returned with Dive at the start of February, their first comeback since the departure of B.I from the group. It was reported that the group had to re-record the album again and hence the comeback delayed to earlier this year. Let’s have a closer (and belated) look at the album.

i DECIDE Album Cover

1. Ah YeahAh Yeah kicks off with a rolling marching drumbeat. It gives the song an epic lift-off. While there was a bit of dramatic flair to it, the song moved into more of a rock sound, which makes complete sense. More unexpectedly was that there was a perky melody and tone to the song, which I don’t mind. But I would have loved for the rock sound to add onto the dramatic flair we got. The group handled the song well, despite it containing parts that we all know B.I once filled. There were two parts that I didn’t enjoy. First the trap-like breakdown for the bridge. We all know how overused this is now and it is becoming more and more obvious with each song. And second, iKON keeps on pulling out the anthem card. It is becoming slightly overused and this might ruin the appeal that card has. (8/10)

2. Dive (뛰어들게) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Dive. (7/10)

3. All The World (온 세상) – We get a blast of 90s energy in this song at the very start, before the song settles for a pop sound. Everything in All The World is very vibrant and lively, a side of iKON that we get to see from time to time. The group’s rapping and vocal delivery really made this song feel so much more energetic and appealing to fans. And based on the comments from other listeners on YouTube, the song’s lyrics add to that regard, as well. Once again, they pull out the anthem card for the end. Here, however, it did feel like it made more sense and helped create a wholesome profile for the song. (8.5/10)

4. Holding On (견딜만해) – Following the same tone and energy as the previous track, Holding On brings in the vibrancy with some brass. Within the instrumental seems to be also some orchestral and classical instruments, all built to form an upbeat and playful track. This is a vocal centric track, containing no rapping sequences. The raspy vocals brought to you by Ju-ne and Bobby was an amazing texture. The ad-libs at the end were pretty good and I loved how the instrumental moulded around them. The chorus was catchy and definitely got me in a good mood (especially since the lyrics give empowerment to those who recently broke up). The song also pulls the anthem card out towards the end, but it was more for a backing rather than straight up singing the final chorus (as previously done in the above songs). (9/10)

5. Flower (너란 바람 따라) – The album ends with a song that is almost like a ballad. When I look at the lyrics of the song, I can’t help but think that iKON is paying homage to their former leader. Lyrics like ‘Hope your way is not painful, Hope you just smile happily’ strongly suggests that mentioned meaning. And I am sure this provokes tears in loyal fans of the group. I really like how the instrumental takes a slightly heavier tone, suitable for the song’s message, as opposed to following the upbeat tone that preceded the track. I also find the instrumental to be rather soothing with the acoustic guitar and violins and in despite the drum beat we do get. Vocally, the group did amazing and Bobby’s rap gave it that little push. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

i DECIDE Teaser Image

[Review] Queen – 3YE

The next song on the ‘Coming Soon’ list that I wanted to look at is 3YE’s latest comeback. I recently reviewed first comeback track. OOMM (Out Of My Mind), which the trio released back in September of 2019. That track put them on the map for me and convinced me to give Queen a go. And that is where we find ourselves today. For those who may not be aware of the existence of 3YE, they are a three member female group (consisting of Yuji, Yurim, and Haeun) from GH Entertainment. They made their debut earlier in 2019 with DMT (Do My Thang).

As established in the OOMM review, the group dabbles into the hip-hop dance genre. And Queen is no exception. Many groups are now doing this, as we move to a more mature and darker sound of KPOP (as it seems like fans enjoy this more nowadays than the more cutesy stuff we saw many years back). To me, 3YE manages to make their song feel engaging which is definitely one strong foot forward in this current climate of similar sounds. I love the start of the song, when Yuji is rapping for the first verse. The lines were definitely punchy and there was a decent flow here. The momentum continued for the rest of first verse and the pre-chorus managed to incorporate a subtle buildup. The chorus manages to change the song up by going with a different beat and line delivery. It felt very stripped down and minimalist, despite there being a prominent fast tempo beat in the background. And this helps it become unique, as we don’t get to hear much of this trance-like sounds in KPOP. The sing-speak we heard also makes it memorable. The short dance break that we heard after the first and final chorus felt like the most typical part of the song and felt they could have forgone this if they couldn’t find something more unique to add to the appeal. The rest of the song follows a similar line of comments as I have made already and this all helps the song become engaging as I said before. The members put a lot of attitude into this as well, which is commonly expected from a hip-hop based track. But I felt they added heaps more, which really helped the rest of the comeback.

There are some suspicious dealings happening in the music video, yet only one member triumphs in the end. The story line that I get from the video is that Yuji, the leader of the suit-wearing gang, is working with Yurim (the member wearing a hanbok) and pays her a hefty amount of money. But it seems like Yurim has been feeding Haeun (whom I believe is a no-nonsense cop) information to take Yuji down. Yuji finds out and decides to off Yurim (hence the burial scene at the end and all the suits wearing gang members are suddenly standing in Yurim’s room as opposed to sitting earlier in the video – i.e. they turned on her). Haeun is kidnapped and I presume is offed as well. This is a very dark yet awesome concept, taking girl crush to a much more powerful and scary level. Beware of 3YE. All other aspects of the music video look cool, as well.

There is a bit of everything in the choreography. There is some bounce to the routine, a lot of attitude and sass. It gives off the impression not to mess around with them, as their music video strongly hinted at. While no move was memorable, everything felt right for the song and that is another strong footing to the comeback.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Double Review] My Gravity + Home – Yezi

It is time to get back on the review grind. And hopefully, I can stay on the grind. Kicking things off is Yezi’s latest comeback. It has been a while since we heard from Yezi. For those who may not remember this artist, Yezi was formerly the rapper for Fiestar, up until their disbandment in 2018. Over the years since her debut in 2014, Yezi has released a number of solo tracks (some of which I have reviewed in the past) and participated in Unpretty Rapstar 2. Up until a few weeks ago, Yezi has been absent from the industry since Fiestar disbanded. Today, we review Yezi’s recent tracks, My Gravity and Home.

Seeing Yezi return to the industry, I jumped right to My Gravity as soon as it was released (even though my review is 4 weeks late). And I am glad that I did. I am astounded with such an amazing song. Yezi presents us with a power ballad, something you would not expect from a rapper. But she handles all the notes amazingly. The power ballad has this grand feel, starting off with orchestral-like instrumentation. It remains in this mode up until the final chorus where the synths become a little more up front. I do find the instrumental to be a little hazy. Not sure if it is its true intention, but the haziness holds me from giving the song a perfect rating, unfortunately. It just makes My Gravity feel a little unclear, in my opinion. But that is only a minor issue. Other than that, I would recommend putting this song on in the background, closing you eyes and getting lost in its sound.

Home is a very bold track. The song opens with a soothing instrumental and this stays pretty much consistent during the verses. Her vocals are very refined and polished in this track and everything feels extremely clear, unlike in the latter track. It makes the opening verses more interesting. She does a bit of rapping. But to match the delicate nature of verses, her rapping is quite melodic (rather than her harsh delivery in the past). To me, the verses are the calm before the storm. For the chorus, she blasts with an EDM-pop instrumental and the hooks help transform the song into an anthem-like song. Her hooks in Home are quite punchy and this makes the song super catchy for me.

I do find the My Gravity music video to be poorly processed. If you don’t watch the music video in high definition, you may think the video is very dull and hazy (same complaint as mentioned for the song review). But when you do watch the video in high definition, everything looks spectacular. The nature setting was very beautiful and a lot of the drone shots looked stunning. It is also very artistic and aesthetically pleasing to watch. The video did get boring as it progressed, with Yezi walking in solo motion away from the car one of the driest shots ever. Sorry that I feel that way. Home takes things back into the studio and combines it with some outside shots in a dark laneway (that looks blurry, but I assumed that this was a filter applied post-production). This video is also aesthetically pleasing. The choreography shots were all taken with cool lighting (making way for a pretty cool stormy transition for the bridge) and performed in a very shallow amount of water. But more on that later. You can appreciate Yezi’s beauty more in this music video, in my opinion.

Home is the only track that has a choreography routine associated with it. And it looks amazing. The umbrellas make everything look so elegant. I really like pretty everything felt at the start. The choreography picked up for the choruses. I also liked the mini duo moment Yezi and her male dance partner performed at the end during the final chorus, along when they separated the genders during the final chorus while they perform all at the same time.

My Gravity
Song – 9.5/10
Music Video – 8.5/10

Overall Rating – 9.1/1
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Home
Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.5/10

[Review] WANNABE – ITZY

The second comeback of the week belong to ITZY. This four member female group had a smashing 2019 debut year with two massive hits, Dalla Dalla and Icy. And we are all confident that ITZY will do it again in 2020. Kicking off their year is Wannabe, which is featured on the group’s 2nd mini-album, It’z Me. In other related news, ITZY took out all of the new female artist awards during the 2019/2020 awards season, including the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Award for Best New Female Group. Congratulations ITZY!

The first thing that grabs my attention with ITZY’s new song, Wannabe (like many other songs) is the energy. I said a similar thing in my ICY review, but Wannabe manages to take things to the next level. Paired with the energy is a set of shouting vocals from each of the member. I have mentioned in the past this isn’t a great tactic and can bring a song down. But ITZY manages to commit throughout the song and use this technique to their advantage (even though they sounded pretty strained again at some parts). I mean, they get right into it when the song starts and I think this is fantastic. Otherwise, they would have been lost in the instrumentation. Together, they make the song very bold and defined. When it comes to the instrumental, I think this trap based background is amazing. There are many textures that makes it so interesting to listen to. It doesn’t rely solely on the trap, however. There is a bit of guitar in the mix that really stands out in the sea of synths. Rock vibes and house influences as well. Heck, the start had a very intriguing and eerie music box sound to it, capturing our attention from the very beginning. The song’s hooks are also another strong aspect and it had me singing along as soon as I heard it the first time around.

One way to gauge a group’s popularity nowadays might to see the presence of fan theories (fans need to be invested and dedicated to their group to write lengthy and detailed theories). ITZY’s latest music video has all these fan theories in the comment section. And instead of me interpreting the video, I thought I pick one of those theories as they would explain it better than me. The following was written by the YouTube user mich (so props to them for the theory below).

But I thought the video was interesting even without a theory. You could see what the video was about with just the English lyrics and the visual cues in the music video. I liked the balance between colour and darkness in this video. It wasn’t overly colourful, yet it wasn’t dark like the serious concepts we see in KPOP.

The choreography has two amazing moments in my opinion. The first has to be that music box start. The second has to be the sassy dance break bridge. The routines for each of these sections looked so cool. The rest of the performance looked very intense and energetic, as well. I thought they paired well with the music, especially the bouncy moments of the music. The only minor issue is the lack of smiles throughout the performance. The smiles switched off as soon as the camera diverted away from the members and I thought this brought down the aesthetics of the performance.

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