[Review] Black Swan – BTS

In addition to Interlude tracks, I don’t often review pre-release tracks. The main reason for this is that there usually isn’t any music video (which would reduce my review to a 2 paragraphs. Last week, BTS unveiled Black Swan, the pre-release track off their upcoming album release, Map Of The Soul: 7. Accompanying this pre-release track is an art film, which I have decided to be the music video for this release. Hence, this fulfills the criteria for a review. Map Of The Soul: 7 has been confirmed for release on the 21st of February 2020.

The more I listen to Black Swan, the more I find it to be extremely calming. There is something about the song that just relaxes me. It might be the instrumental, which doesn’t go into any ‘hard’ territory and remains relatively light throughout. The Eastern influences that you can hear in the instrumental give off complexity, definition and personality. All elements that you definitely want to find in a song. The more modern trap beats keeps it grounded and adds robustness to the song. The combination comes together nicely and allows for a flow like water trickling over a riverbed. Their vocals could also help make the song feel calming. Their harsher vocals (for both rappers and vocalists) were not present in this song. Everything was a lot softer and more melodic, which helped smooth out the song even further. The use of autotune usually would have countered this. But somehow, BTS managed to utilize this element without disrupting the atmosphere. If I was to be honest, I didn’t feel this way about the song the first few times I heard it. It felt awkward and I just didn’t get it. But more listens definitely helped out and I am looking forward to the rest of the album when it comes out in February.

The art film contains a slightly different version of the song, where the song features more traditional instruments and a more acoustic profile. And I think this version really helps make the choreography stand out. I find the following explanation to the performance to make a lot of sense and is more detailed that whatever interpretation that I would have made.

To me, the level of aesthetics in which the art film reaches is a very fine point on any scale. That takes a lot to do and the producers nailed the film perfectly, capturing everything that needed to be captured. It is definitely one of check out. I highly recommend it.

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

[Review] Interlude: Shadow – Suga (BTS)

This review contains my personal opinions regarding the song and music video. This is my interpretation and mine only.

This is the first time I am doing a full review for the Interlude track for BTS (or any artist). Why am I finally doing a review for the Interlude track? Well, I have noticed that these are actually tracks worth talking about themselves. The music video that accompanies these tracks also tend to be full of symbolism and hence there is more to talk about. The Interlude track is titled Shadow, courtesy of Suga. It was the first track unveiled after the announcement of their upcoming comeback in February with Map Of The Soul: 7.

There is something haunting with the start of the song in the ‘I Wanna Be…‘ montage. Suga’s signature husky and low tone brings this section to life, making it a memorable part of the song. Suga then start to throw lines at us through the rapping. And it is in this part do we get more of an idea of what the song is all about. Essentially, the ‘I Wanna Be…‘ montage at the start is more like the dream that we keep on repeating to ourselves to help make it a reality. But the verses and chorus paint a darker picture. That sometimes this dream isn’t somewhere we would want to be. In this sense, Suga says as part as of the world’s leading musical act, he is lonely and is often followed by a dark shadow that stays with me no matter whats. He doesn’t want to fly nor does he want to fall from the top. The rock sound in this part was really good and well accented. He then repeats the montage and then the song manages to flip a switch. It becomes a lot more intense and powerful. Suga’s rapping becomes more erratic and chaotic, as opposed to the control at the start. In the lyrics, I think he is referencing that darker side, which I thought was interesting. There is a lot to take in, but I thought Suga nailed this track with a very likable backdrop/instrumental.

I think my interpretation of the song lyrics and the musical intentions of the song reflect well with the music video. Remember that this might not be the actual interpretation. We see shadows at the start, with Suga standing in front of door. I think this foreshadows the shadows that will follow him once he rises to the top. We then see the same corridor with Suga, but no shadows, which shows his desires prior to realizing the darker side of show business. He runs, which shows his climb to the top. This lands him on the stage, with everyone watching. In this era, social media is like a double-ended sword. It help create his career. But at the same time, it allows for the focus to be too much on him. There is a scene in which the camera angles continually changes but the focus remains on him the entire time, further emphasising this part. The more erratic part of the song shows cameras directed at him, similar to how paparazzi tends to get. We see the shadows run after him. But we see human hands instead, showing that some fans can be the shadow. Overall, I thought this was a really cool video. The different ways symbolism was shown in the video was really profound. The post-production also helped out.

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

[Album Review] First Collection (1st Studio Album) – SF9

This is a studio album review. It is lengthy.

SF9 made their return last Monday with Good Guy and their very first studio length album, First Collection. And a bigger congratulation to the members as this comeback has scored them their first (few) wins on the weekly music shows that we see each weekend. Good Guy scored first place on MCountdown and Music Bank this week, further proving that their popularity is growing between comebacks. Good job to the group and hope to see more wins the future, as they do deserve it. But before we go anywhere into the future, let’s have a close look at what their first album had to offer.

First Collection Album Cover

1. Good Guy (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Good Guy. (9/10)

2. Am I The Only One (나만 그래) Am I The Only One could easily have been a title track. There is a very classy profile to this track that I think many people might miss if they gloss through the album. I find this contrasts in a very distinct manner, as the song talks about being the only one in a former relationship to have their thoughts linger towards their former lover. The chorus was really smooth, and I thought the husky vocals Inseong brought to the song really ‘upgraded’ the song. The rappers also stood out in this song, which their parts providing a little interesting push and texture. There is a lot more that I wanted to say about this song. But due to the nature of the album review, this is not possible. However, I think the song can be described in one word: perfection. (9/10)

3. Shh – Another fantastic song on this album comes right after a perfect song. I like how seductive the song sounds. The limited brass that featured in the instrumental (during the pre-chorus and ending) was very smooth, while the guitar helped make the song groovy. I liked how they amped up the bass for the chorus, which made the instrumental sound so bouncy. I thought every member sounded really good in the song. The rappers did not have much of a presence in this song, relative to the second track. But their parts sounded really good, complimenting the vocalists and their slight seduction. (9/10)

4. Lullu Lalla (룰루랄라) – I wasn’t exactly sure what direction the song would take, given the song’s title. But once I heard the pop sound and the upbeat instrumentation, it all made sense. The instrumental or backdrop to the song was very vibrant, which I thought gave the song a strong appeal. There is a much brighter tone to the song, which does take everything we have heard in a different direction. I thought it was a nice palate cleanser, given its position after a number of intense tracks (the intensity in some was more subtle). There is a bit of autotune to the song, which I thought gave good textures to the otherwise traditional sound. The vocals and rapping were good. (8/10)

5. One Love One Love is another upbeat dance pop track. But unfortunately, it sounds pretty typical for its pop sound. And hence I find the song not as impressive when compared to the song around it. What the song does good is that it pushes forward with an instrumental that just keeps on going. I thought this was a good aspect of the song, as the flow does not get cut for majority of the song. The only break in the instrumental comes just before the final chorus and it does so in a neat manner. The momentum returns in full capacity for the final chorus and gives the song a decent ending, ending with how it started. (7/10)

6. Like The Hands Held Tight (널 꽉 잡은 손만큼) – Chosen as a secondary promotional track (i.e. promoted during their comeback week), Like The Hands Held Tight is a mid-tempo R&B track that sounds pretty decent. It shows off their classy side, as mentioned earlier in the review, and this makes this a good lead-in to their actual comeback title track. The track also reminded me of their O Sole Mio era, based on the way Taeyang sings ‘Take My My Hand’. To be honest, I wanted a little more to the song. I wanted it to be more engaging. The instrumental was bland and needed to be spice up in some capacity. The song would have benefited from this and developed a more engaging appeal. (7/10)

7. Fire (타) – For a song named Fire, I expected a little more when it came to the verses. I expected it to come roaring at me, as other tracks titled Fire have done in the past. But I thought the start (and second verse) was pretty tame in comparison. The chorus does make up for the flawed start by amping up the instrumentation, tempo and energy. The hooks were very catchy and addictive. I did place a huge question mark over the rapping, because I thought it needed more intensity. But more listens have removed this question mark. The vocal work was also quite good as well. (7.5/10)

8. Stop It Now (더 잔인하게) – Despite the song being on the shorter side, I thought Stop It Now was a very good song. There is a slowness to this song that I thought was aesthetically pleasing. I personally don’t think the song was ‘slowed’ to be seductive, though I am confident that these guys can pull off a concept of that type. Instead, the slowness drives the song. I liked how the beat is accented in this song, make it even more powerful. The vocals are dragged out, but in a way that works with the rest of the song and doesn’t feel unnecessary. The rapping is a tool used to add intensity to the song, making it even more engaging. (8.5/10)

9. Dance With Us (춤을 출 거야) – Given the title, I thought it was going to be vibrant and fun sounding. I wouldn’t say I was 100% right, but I was thinking in the same direction. What I didn’t expect was the song’s first verse to be very similar to Pentagon’s Humph!. It gave off the same vibe. The rest of the song doesn’t really sound the same, however. I did expect a little more ‘dance-centric’ or lively sound in the instrumental as the tempo may come off sluggish to some. However, I thought that the song was interesting as it is and had a SF9 profile to it. The ending was very unique, as the members kick up the tempo and give us that lively sound, I had desired. It was just short-lived. (8/10)

10. Beautiful Light – Based on my YouTube search, Beautiful Light was revealed at their concert last year. I seem to can’t find an English translation for the song. But given its position as the final track on the album, along with its performance at their previous concert, Beautiful Light is probably a track dedicated to their fans. The upbeat and happy instrumental is very upbeat and different from their usual style. There is a nice melodic ring to the song. The vocal work and rapping were also very good. Thus, ending the song on a happy tone. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

First Collection Teaser Image

[Album Review] Treasure Epilogue: Action To Answer (4th Mini Album) – ATEEZ

ATEEZ returned at the start of last week with Answer and a surprising continuation of their Treasure series. As mentioned in the song review I published last week (link below within the album review), Treasure is made up of 4 mini-albums (including this one), 1 Korean studio album and 1 Japanese studio album. Throughout this series as well, we have seen ATEEZ’s popularity grow exponentially and this latest album is bound to continue their growth into the future. The album contains an outro track as well but it will not be included in the final album rating.

Treasure Epilogue: Action To Answer Album Cover

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

2. Horizon (지평선) – All of ATEEZ’s tracks that I have grown to really enjoy (or enjoyed from the first listen) have been of an intense nature. Horizon fits in perfectly into this description, going with a strong dance instrumental that is bound to get you excited. There is this voice in the instrumental that is very yodeling-like. I thought it was a good addition to the song during the chorus, as it added an extra layer of character to the song. However, I felt that its addition at the start of the verses to be conflicting. It masks the vocals that kick off the song and makes it a tad messy. Horizon features awesome vocals and rapping as well, which makes another great addition to their discography. (8.5/10)

3. Star 117Star 117 is more of a ballad and it brings us down from the thrill of their title and preceding track. I thought it was rather soothing, with its flowy melody and touching band instrumentation. There is a little more of the instrumentation, with a rolling drum beat and electric guitars at the end to give the song that peak. Vocally, I think this is an excellent song. It shows off their vocals in a pleasant manner without going into the ‘high note’ territory. The rappers also sing in this song and I honestly can’t tell as they all sound so good. (9/10)

4. Precious Precious may be familiar to some fans as ATEEZ previously included a shortened version of the song on their studio length album, Treasure EP.FIN: All To Action. On this album, however, Precious is a full-fledged song going for almost 3 and a half minutes, featuring the same raps as the Overture track did and includes some new vocal work that we have heard yet. My previous comments regarding the instrumental and rapping (‘suspenseful and intense’, ‘on-point’ respectively) still stand. The vocals and additional rapping added to the song this time helps fill up the blank space and adds a more grounded feel to the song. (8/10)

5. Outro: Long Journey – Kicking off the entire Treasure series was the Intro: Long Journey, which started off Treasure EP 1: All To Zero. That track spoke about finding treasure and dreams. The outro is about how they found the treasure and their dreams over the course of the series. But at the same time, there is more to the story based on the line ‘Can you hear those voices?’. The ending is tweaked a little to include what fans are speculating to be a teaser to new song/release for the future.

Overall Album Rating – 8.9/10

Treasure Epilogue: Action To Answer Teaser Image

[Review] Dear Me – Taeyeon (SNSD)

Despite not promoting her solo work in 2019, Taeyeon has managed to prove herself and her status in the industry by sweeping awards for her Four Seasons single earlier in the year. In addition to that, Taeyeon returned with Spark and her second full length album, Purpose, in November 2019. Both Spark and her album were very good and you should give them a try if you have missed out on them. But the focus should be on what happened yesterday, as the soloist returned with a repackaged version of Purpose and the new title track, Dear Me.

Dear Me is a pop ballad all about self-confidence and self-love. In this era, a song like this speaks volumes to everyone and will truly makes them feel better. You could also describe the song was warming, which would be a fitting way to see the song given its message. Apart from the message, the song features Taeyeon’s usually soothing vocals over a band and orchestral instrumentation, which I thought was quite nice. The verses seem to be quite lower register, allowing the chorus to explode in a fashionable manner that makes it seem slightly epic. I wish there was a little more to the verses, as they were the weakest moments of the song. The melody for the English lyrics during the chorus was quite cool, being one of the highlights of the song. I think the best highlight has to be the buildup during the bridge, leading to the final chorus. The song coincidentally needed a ‘spark’ and it got one in that moment. I don’t think Dear Me will be described as Taeyeon’s best song ever. But it is a really good one, if you were to ask me.

The music video is rather simple, made up of shots of Taeyeon walking around and sitting in a built set. I think the simplicity works well with the song. The song isn’t complicated and wouldn’t call for a video chock full of symbolism, a crazy colour palette or flashy lights. It is another video that highlights her beauty in a more natural sense, which also would make sense with a song about self love. I just feel that watching the video too many times would make it come off as dull, which is always a problem with these types of music videos.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] TOP GANG – MCND

TOP Entertainment has their fair share of male groups (Teen Top and UP10TION). But interestingly, none of their current lineup have delved into the hip hop genre that many male groups have been tackling. However, it seems that MCND is going to TOP Entertainment’s answer to this. The soon-to-be six member group made their pre-debut on the 2nd of January with a five member lineup (Castle J, BIC, Minjae, Huijun, and Win), with the sixth apparent member being Yechan (who currently is promoting as part of the project group 1THE9). No actual debut date has been set yet.

The group pre-debuts with TOP GANG, which is a track that has a heavy hand in the hip-hop genre. As mentioned on Monday through Zico’s review, this is not my cup of tea. It is loaded with raps and feels extremely weighted, which isn’t my personal style. But the rapping does have some momentum to with it, which drives the song forward in a neat manner. The song is no doubt a good introduction to the group’s rap line. After all, a lot of the hip-hop centric tracks tend show rappers in a strong, vigorous and tough limelight. However, their group’s current vocal line is short handed in this song, with their parts being forgotten and doesn’t even spark any curiosity about their potential. Other groups manage to find a balance in some capacity, but this track didn’t feel like it even tried. Hopefully their debut will find a little more balance between the two elements. I also wish their instrumental isn’t too typical in their debut track, which was the impression that I got in this track.

The music video starts off with some closeup that shows the members names, making it easy for new viewers and fans to identify the members (like an opening montage to some TV shows). And I think that is a great tactic when it comes to the first release of a group (rather than have rely on more physical features, such as face shape or hair colour, to determine who is who from their teaser images). For the rest of the video, there really isn’t much to it other than the members rapping and dancing along to the song. Plus some more solo closeups and group shots. There isn’t anything else that adds substance to the video to make it worth watching in my opinion.

One good thing about the performance that I noticed was that it gave some of the members an opportunity to perform without the other members in the background. I think this is a good way to be fair to all the members, especially after the unbalance nature of the song. The song also seems challenging to perform on stage, since it requires a lot of energy to rap and dance together in such a powerful manner like what they did. So props to them.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.4/10

[Album Review] Solo Day (5th Mini Album) – B1A4

The first Past Album Review (PARs) of 2020 goes to B1A4. I thought I revisit them as it has been a while since we have heard from them (they are another group to have hit the age of military enlistment and are currently inactive due to this). The album chosen is Solo Day, which was released in 2014 (July 14th, 2014 to be exact). It featured the title track of the same name and 5 other songs (two of which are standout tracks, in my opinion). To see what they are, scroll down below.

Solo Day Album Cover

1. Solo Day (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Solo Day. (9/10)

2. You Make Me A Fool ( 내가 뭐가돼) – What really stood out to me in 2014 and what still stands out to me today with You Make A Fool (hereafter Fool) is the casual vibes. The lighthearted nature of the guitar strumming and refreshing tone that their vocals and rapping bring to the song really make it a nice sound. It is easy on the ears and I liked how they managed to get everything mould over the simple instrumentation that the song has. Fool is one of the many examples of Jinyoung’s songs that has blown me away. (10/10)

3. Are You Happy (With Him)? (잘돼가) – I liked the R&B and hip-hop infused side of this song. I think, at the time of release, B1A4 was known for more of their pop sound and energetic pieces. This is a mature side of B1A4 that sounded really good. Baro was extremely well highlighted in this song. His rapping really worked extremely well with the song, which featured a ‘golden’ instrumental feel. The other members do a good job as well, complimenting the song as well. There was good melodies and textures when it came to the singing. But Baro still managed to shine over the top. (8/10)

4. A Glass Of Water (물한잔) – This is one of the non-title tracks that I really enjoyed back when it was released. A Glass Of Water also made it onto a potential 5 Favourites post. But I cut the segment before even publishing that particular post. If I remember correctly, the song was meant to be A Glass of Soju. But as their fans were underage, it was changed to Water. It is another Summertime song that feels refreshing every time you listen to it. It is lighthearted and very B1A4-like (when it was released). The vocal and rapping was ideal and the instrumental really made it attractive to the ears. The hooks were also addictive, as well. (9/10)

5. Drive – I think out of the songs on the album, this one is most skippable. Drive does have a vibe that would suit a nice breezy drive. I liked the slightly bouncy nature of the instrumental. But it just didn’t feel different to song released by any other male group in the industry. It also didn’t peak and felt flat towards the end. The vocals did sound wholesome, while the rapping did help push the song along. But other than that, there isn’t much else to the song worth mentioning. (7/10)

6. You (ft, Sunmi)You ends the album with a surprising feature from Sunmi, who at the time only became recently active again through the release of 24 Hours, which pushed her back into the spotlight. It brings back B1A4’s mature sound and the group pairs well with Sunmi’s husky vocals. But when I listen to the song, I thought the two parties had a barrier that really prevented them from coming together neatly. There were good harmonies in the song, which I enjoyed. But I just thought they felt distinctly apart. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Solo Day Teaser Image

[Review] Any Song – Zico

A Zico-centric Catch Up Review will be posted on a later date (to be determined – looking to be during February). This review will quick contain reviews for Human, Daredevil and Being Left, which are tracks that the solo rapper released in late 2019 that I have yet to cover. In the meantime, I present to you my review for his latest single, Any Song, which was released today. Zico has also brought in Chungha and Hwasa from Mamamoo to help promote the track through small videos of them dancing to the song on social media recently.

Any Song is actually a pretty decent song. As mentioned before on the blog, I am not a fan of the hip-hop or rap genre. But over the years, I have been introduced to songs of these two genres, opening my mind up to a new genre entirely. One name that does keep on popping up is Zico and I think I have been satisfied with all the songs released by Zico in the past. What I really like about this song is that it is pretty laid back. It doesn’t get heavy in any department, keeping it relatively calming (which is perfect for me in many ways). I also like the jazzy elevator music that he uses as the backdrop of the song. I thought that was quite cool and gives the song a unique character. He pushes the song along neatly through his rapping delivery (as expected from Zico), which has good melody as well. His rapping and the use of saxophones also helps lift up the instrumental vibrantly, keeping it from going boring. The energy of the track is fun, whilst the lyrics do hint at the opposite (i.e. toning the fun down) after a while. Overall, a good song indeed.

Zico channels me in any party situation. It has gotten to the point where I don’t get invited to any more parties as my friends know I won’t have any fun (that or I am the one that is no fun, but I tend to think optimistically). Hahahaha… I really liked how they added more people to the party to really highlight the introverted feeling that he had at the start already. I also found it funny how he danced alone at the end and ran when his friends started to sing Happy Birthday to him. I probably won’t go to that length if I were to continue comparing him to me. But I thought it was hilarious nonetheless.

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

[Album Review] The ReVe Festival: Finale (3rd Studio Album) – Red Velvet

Red Velvet made their comeback with Psycho and their third studio album at the end of 2019. Unfortunately, it was not part of the 2019 album review lineup due to its late release and hence it becomes the first album review to be released in 2020 (which obviously is occurring today). This studio album features 4 new tracks (including the title track, Psycho) and all the tracks that was part of the ReVe Festival series (to be linked within the review). These will not contribute to the final rating, however. In other related news, Red Velvet is no longer promoting Psycho due to the injuries that Wendy sustained during the 2019 SBS Music Festival rehearsal.

The ReVe Festival: Finale Album Cover

1. Psycho (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Psycho. (9/10)

2. In & Out – Red Velvet delves into R&B pop for this track. To me, the track felt like if a song from the group’s Red side was remade for their Velvet side, with the song feeling and sounding like it was polished and refined. There is a smoothness to the track, which I thought was very cool. I really like the heavy beat that features in the instrumental, followed by the trap sounds that really give the song some character. I thought the group’s execution of their vocal and rapping were top notch and worthy of a listen. As for the lyrics, the song portrays an on and off again relationship that they are experiencing. (8/10)

3. Remember Forever Remember Forever is a pop ballad that is bound to get you swaying along to the music. I really like that flowy side of the song, which really makes the song appealing to me. There is a grand nature to the song, which really made it feel extra special. I also enjoy how they incorporated some rapping. Usually, I wouldn’t be a fan of this tactic. But it worked really well this time around. Finally, I really enjoyed the harmonies that all the members contributed to at the end by singing together, bringing the series to a close in an inclusive and warm manner. (9/10)

To read the album review for The ReVe Festival: Day 1 (Sunny Side Up, Milkshake, Bing Bing, Parade & LP), click here. For the full review for Zimzalabim, click here.

To read the full album review for The ReVe Festival: Day 2 (Carpool, Love Is The Way, Jumpin’, Ladies Night & Eyes Locked, Hands Locked), click here. For the full review for Umpah Umpah, click here.

16. La Rouge – A special track included at the very end of the third studio album is La Rouge. La Rouge is actually the name of their recent concert and the track itself was also performed at the concert. I thought the instrumental was very ear-catching, going with that 1930s sound in modern way. The upbeat chorus also made the song appealing. Vocally, the members sound very sensual and different from their past tracks/styles (referring to both their Red and Velvet side that we have heard so far). It is a pity that this is a bonus track, as I would love to see more live performances of this track. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

The ReVe Festival: Finale Teaser Image

[Special] My Favourite Performances from the 2019 End Of Year Music Festivals

At the end of each year, the three major broadcasting companies in South Korea (SBS, KBS and MBC) organises and broadcast a very fruitful and dynamic music festival, bringing together the top KPOP acts of the year. 2019 is no exception and with a year as busy as 2019, it is often quite hard to get invited to these festivals. And with each show running for a couple of hours, different stages/performances/remixes of the year’s hits and one-of-a-kind collaborations, it is often hard to keep up with these festivals. Today, I have decided to organise a list of performances from each of these three festivals that I thought were excellent, different and worthwhile in checking out. I have done this before but over the years dropped it as I had very little time. Now that I have some time on my hand, I thought I return to this segment for the 2019 festivals.

SBS Gayo Daejun – 25th of December 2019

When we talk about the SBS Music Festival, we need to address the issue of safety. After all, it costed Red Velvet full group promotions for their Psycho comeback, due to injuries sustained by Wendy due to the unsafe nature of SBS stage. We did manage to get one full lineup of the group performing Psycho on stage as it was pre-recorded. because of that, I put Red Velvet’s Psycho performance on my list of favourite performances from that day. Other performers also had falls on the SBS stage, from what I remember reading. Other stages at stood out for me were:

  • Stray Kid’s Miroh – I did not know how Stray Kids could top Miroh’s intensity by rearranging the performance to be even more intense.
  • NCT Dream’s Boom & NCT 127’s Superhuman – Both tracks had a really cool dance addition to it. On top of that, we got to see the same ‘switching of jackets’ that Mark did at the 2018 SBS Music Festival between Dream and 127’s performance. Only this time, it was Haechan!
  • Oh My Girl’s Bungee (X-mas Version) – Always good to have a X-mas themed remix on Christmas Day. It made Bungee, an already vibrant and colourful track, more suitable for the season.
  • Mamamoo’s Gogobebe – The rock remix for this performance was superb.
  • Seventeen’s Home and Snapshoot – We got to see a warmer side of the group and the more joyful side, especially after all the darkness we got from HIT and Fear.
  • TWICE’s Medley of Tracks – I really liked the band element to their performance and how they tweaked the concept for Fancy and their more light hearted tracks. I just wished the band was DAY6 (where is DAY6 in all of these festivals), which would have made the performance even more worthy of a view.
  • BTS’s Dionysus – I have always been a fan of BTS’s darker side. This performance is a return this side, which I greatly appreciate.

KBS Gayo Daechukje – 27th December 2019

I personally did not have much interest in the KBS Music Festival as I thought the stage looked really bad and the camera work wasn’t the best. This wasn’t also the only problem that occurred that same night. APINK’s %% performance was cut short, disappointing fans, APINK and viewers in general. If I were to choose one standout stage, it would have Golden Child’s Wannabe stage. Their dance intro was very good and showed off intensity that was aligned with their new look/concept. And I really liked how smooth the transition between dance intro and actual song was. Only a few toehr performances caught my attention and they include:

  • Song Gain’s Introductory song – Song Gain, for those who don’t know is a trot singer that trended this year. For Song Gain’s performance, she managed to incorporate all artists into her song, which I think would be a challenge.
  • NU’EST Love Me – It wasn’t so much their choreography or song that caught my attention. But I thought the raised stages for the end really highlighted the good parts of their overall choreography, providing what could be said as an epic end to their stage.
  • ASTRO’s All Night + Blue Flame – I was waiting for ASTRO to do All Night in some capacity during these festivals. But with Moonbin out of action, it seems like the group would opt for the 5-member Blue Flame instead. So automatically, ASTRO’s stage for All Night alone would make this list. Blue Flame ended up being very epic as well, which is why their entire segment is on this list.
  • Oh Ha Young, Joy and Yerin Mr. Mr. collaboration – I haven’t heard this song for some time now and I really enjoyed this throwback. Also surprised that they covered the entire song, which usually isn’t the case.

MBC Gayo Daejejeon – 31st December 2019

MBC’s Music Festival is one to always watch. Their stages always have a look that shows that they have been planning for a while. The collaborations for this festival are always something to talk about. And why not watch it live as the year goes out! There is nothing like ending 2019 and start 2020 with KPOP! However, the MBC Music Festival was also plagued with an early termination issue. This time around the victim was Kim Jae Hwan, who only got to perform Nuna (he should have performed The Time I Need as well. For standout performance, I am putting down ASTRO and Oh My Girl’s creepy and jazzy cover of IU’s Red Shoes. It was different and colourful. Other stages to check out:

  • Stray Kid’s Side Effects – Another intense song that they managed to upgrade and make darker. The creative minds that put together these stages for Stray Kids are killing it (and need a pay rise instantly).
  • Seventeen & Mamamoo Collaboration – Two of my favourite groups have come together to form one dream team. And this was such an amazing stage.
  • Seventeen’s HIT – Mingyu shouldn’t be playing with fire. It is dangerous. But one epic opener to the stage. Also, somehow Seventeen managed to insert a dance break in the midst of the stage, which I think earns a mention at the very least.
  • Hyuna’s Flower Shower – Her choreography is essentially the same as the one she performed in the past. But the chorus instrumental is changed slightly, which I thought made the stage a lot cooler for the end of year festival.
  • Taemin’s Move & Famous – MBC’s Music Festival had a theme, The Chemistry. And you can’t have a theme about Chemistry without Taemin. While he didn’t do anything special to Move‘s stage, his dance alone is already 100% fitting for a ‘Chemistry’ themed music festival.
  • (G)i-DLE’s Lion – Another reason to why we need to look out for this girl group is their special stages. Lion is practically a game changer for the group.
  • Lovelyz’s Beautiful Day – I really like their ballad start to their stage and how they built it back up to the original song in an effortless manner.

[Review] We Belong – Ong Seong Wu

As mentioned in Park Ji Hoon’s 360 review, all of the former Wanna One (excluding Ong Seong Wu and Lai Kuan Lin) had made two comebacks throughout 2019. With the release of Ong Seong Wu’s We Belong today, we add the soloist to the list of former members having multiple comebacks (and I am sure we will see Lai Kuan Lin’s second release someday). The main reason to why we have seen so little of Ong Seong Wu on the music front is due to his focus on his acting career. He did, however, participate in his drama’s OST.

We Belong is a fresh song, unlike Heart Sign (which reminded everyone too fondly of Energetic). We Belong has this vibrancy that I really like, thanks to the instrumentation and vocal work. The song featuring this one synth throughout that was so piercing (I cannot figure out what it sounds like though). But this is not a bad thing, as it made the song so memorable for me. In addition to that synth, the chorus is very upbeat and lively. So much that it draws me in and brings a smile to my face, even though I had no idea about the lyrics (which I think is all bout declaring his love to his significant other/fans). I also like the acoustic guitar strumming during the pre-chorus and start of each verse, as well. The other element I really like are Ong Seong Wu’s vocals. He pushes himself in this song and this makes the song sound so good. The different melodies that features definitely helps make this even more dynamic. Overall, We Belong is an awesome track and a step above his ‘debut’ track.

Ong Seong Wu opens many doors in this music video. Behind each door was a way for Ong Seong Wu to declare his love. To whom is based on how you interpret the lyrics. I really like how the producers presented him in the music video, showing off his visuals and handsomeness. To put it shortly, the video is very sweet and I think fans will really like this particular music video.

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

[Review] My Angel – B.O.Y

As mentioned in a previous post, some reviews may be posted later as I will be moving interstate for work. VERIVERY‘s review was the first to fall victim to my move and now B.O.Y is the second late review that I am rushing to complete. B.O.Y is a duo made up of Kim Kook Heon and Song Yu Vin, both of which released the single Blurry last year. Their duo name was confirmed after the release of their first single. Their comeback from two days ago, My Angel, is the first single under their new name.

When I heard that both Kim Kook Heon and Song Yu Vin would be returning with a new song, I was worried that they were going to keep the ballad side that Blurry adopted. There isn’t anything with wrong a ballad and that the genre can be be very popular if done right. Blurry just didn’t get to that level and was forgotten easily. So when I listened My Angel and heard a more EDM based sound, I became excited. In addition to the dramatic and dynamic synths that the song delivers, the track does borrow emotions from their ballad predecessor, which helps makes the song a little more epic. Their voices did give a captivating appeal to the song, which I personally like. These two elements to the song alone drew me in and got me hooked. The hooks themselves didn’t feel as memorable as you would hope with a dance track. If they managed to do something more with a little spark in this domain, the track would have really stood out. I felt the song could have used a rap sequence somewhere, to up the intensity.

The music video looks like a whole heaps of different were shots put together, with it seeming like there was very little connecting these shots together. However, my guess that this was intentional as we do see the two members come together at the end, showing that they are from two different worlds initially. Kim Kook Heon represents a wolf, while Song Yu Vin represents a horse. I personally don’t know the symbolism of these two animals, so it will be interesting to find out what this is all about. With this, I find it captivating to watch.

Another reason to why I liked the music video is the choreography shots. Like the song, the choreography put together for the duo for My Angel is extremely dynamic and fitting for the epic nature of the song. Their chemistry on stage was pretty good, as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] Lay Back – VERIVERY

As mentioned last year in VERIVERY’s Tag Tag Tag review, both Gugudan and VERIVERY have big shoes to fill due to the inactivity of VIXX (as their members are approaching military enlistment age). However, it seems like Jellyfish Entertainment have under utilized them in 2019, with each of these group promoting only one song in the past year. With their debut and two other comebacks, VERIVERY has taken reign as the most active groups under the company in 2019. Despite that, however, I personally hope that Jellyfish actively pushes their two active groups in 2020 to be a better performing company. And VERIVERY’s comeback yesterday is a step in the right direction for the year ahead.

The comeback title track is titled Lay Back and I feel like this could have potentially be a unique track. It just needs a slight boost out of the ‘typical’ domain to really give it that status. The deep house genre could be a little more epic and this would have given the song what it needed. The energy that they had going in the chorus can be stepped up a notch as well. But apart from that, it was a decent track. I really like the whispering rap that featured in the second half of each verse/pre-chorus. That was quite unique and gave the song a smooth feel, contrasting with the more upbeat funky vibes that VERIVERY is widely know for and featured during the chorus. Their vocals were loud and clear, which I really like. I did not care for the rougher rap sequence during the second verse. It did feel a little cliche and added a slightly ill-fitting hip-hop infused sequence to the song when it didn’t feel necessary.

I personally think the music video has a similar vibe to their creepy hide-and-seek theme that they had going on in Tag Tag Tag. This time around, however, the group meet up with their reflections. That creepy vibe is present and I thought that made the video worth watching. The lyrics seem to be directed towards a second person, but I thought it was really clever that the director/producers made the video so that the lyrics are directed to an alter ego or their inner self. Another plus is that the group isn’t always dancing in front of a mirror, which is what I meant by reflection. Instead, the reflections ended up dancing side by side one another, which I thought was cool.

I thought the choreography was quite good. I really like the slight leg bobbing that they do at the start of the chorus. The energy that the song was channeled well throughout the choreography, making this a really good one from the group.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Answer – ATEEZ

When you thought the Treasure series came to an end, ATEEZ throws another comeback right back at you. Today, the group returned with Answer and the album, Treasure Epilogue: Action to Answer. This is the group’s sixth installment (and possibly final – don’t quote me on that) of the Treasure series. Five of the installments were released in Korea and a sixth was released in Japan last year as well. Their previous comeback, Wonderland, occurred in November of 2019.

Another amazing song from ATEEZ. This time, however, the group pushes you further into the barrel, effectively trapping you in a deeper sound than their already quite intensive Wonderland comeback that they left us with. The song isn’t intense in the moment, in my opinion. Instead, it has that impression once you finish the song, reflecting upon the powerful energy that was exuded from the song. Answer starts off with more traditional instruments, before the hip-hop infused synths kick in. What it is interesting, is that the song manages to keep the two different sound going concurrently. I really liked the flute that was incorporated in the pre-chorus. I also liked the vocals in the song, especially how they keep on layering it on, contributing to the intensity that I have mentioned. The raps were quite powerful, but they sat more in the back-seat this time around. When I listen to the song, I cannot point out any flaws. And that, along with every other praise, earns Answer a perfect rating.

I assume that because it is one series, the music videos have to be interlinked somehow. It is a trend that is ongoing in Korea and I think it applies to ATEEZ’s Treasure series as well. This video is clearly connected to HALA HALA/Say My Name music video, as it features the members in their black hats and outfits. The other alter egos this time are the ATEEZ members in their Answer era. The start and end of the music video, showcasing the white and black masked figures seem to allude to something else. But as I am aware/from my memory, these characters never appeared in the other music videos (though they seem familiar somehow), which may suggest more is coming our way.

The choreography was definitely quite good. The hip thrusts did seem a little wild. But the rest of the choreography was definitely as intense as the song. And this is all expected from ATEEZ after the reputation they have built themselves throughout 2019.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.5/10

[Review] Good Guy – SF9

It is always exciting to see and hear the release of a group’s very first album. Some groups are much fortunate than others, releasing their first full length album in the second year of their careers, while others have to wait a longer period. SF9 debuted in 2016 and have been releasing mini-album after mini-album. And finally after four years, the male group has finally released their first studio length album titled First Collection. An album review for that will come in the future. For now, let’s focus on their title track, Good Guy.

Listening the synths from the very first second of the song, I had flashbacks to the drip-like synths they had in Now or Never (which I still think is their best track to date). Good Guy changes it up a bit by lacing piano during the verses in the instrumental. It is another clean cut song, as a result. The song builds up nicely to a very bold chorus. I like the repetitive nature of the lyrics for the chorus, which really keys in the song into your memory bank. I also like the intensity of the chorus, which really enhances the sound and makes everything feel so much bolder. The vocal work was pretty good and the rapping really helped provided a rougher tone to the song, as most raps are made to do. What I wanted was a bolder end. Like the song is already quite bold (as I have mentioned a few times). No doubt, Good Guy is an excellent addition to SF9’s discography, sparking a little throwback whilst also remaining fresh at the same time.

The setting of the music video seems to be a men’s club for the elite or rich. Not sure what the correct term for this is because ‘men’s club’ might allude to something else. But let’s not go there. What they do in this club is pretty ordinary (darts, billiards, tennis etc.). But the setting makes feel like the activities they are doing are of the wealthy kind. To be part of this club, each member is seen wearing a gold bracelet. I was particularly wowed at the end of the video when the bracelets come together and the members are dancing under the bracelet structure. Thought that was really cool and definitely a step up from other videos from their past.

The group has gone with another masculine yet powerful choreography, which no doubt fits the group’s image. Them dressing up in suits this time was shows off a pretty elegant and sophisticated side, while their moves tell us a completely different story. Yet the two manage to merge to together so effortlessly once again.

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

[Review] Count down – TST

And the ball starts rolling with the first release of 2020. TST is one of the first artists to make their comeback in 2020. They returned today with Count down and a four member lineup (K is absent from this comeback for unknown reasons, while it is assumed that Wooyoung is still absent due to health reasons). This is also the group’s first comeback in almost a year, since Wake Up, which was released last February.

Both Wake Up and Paradise (the two songs by the group that I have reviewed) have been acknowledged with high ratings (both tracks earned 9/10 in the song department). Within a few listens, I could tell that Count down will be the third song from the group to earn that high 9/10. Count down has this smooth exterior, which makes the song exceptionally appealing. There is almost a jazzy vibe to the song, which I really like as well. Within the instrumental, the guitar seems to be versatile, used in the foreground in different manners. This made the song standout for me. Their vocal work this time around is so-so. There were some good moments, but I feel like the song could have benefited from some more interesting hooks. The rapping was limited and I wanted to hear a bit more from this department. Overall, another well deserving 9/10 song.

It seems like TST and their company have taken note from their Wake Up music video, where it was shot in a contemporary art gallery setting. For Count down, they went with a more aesthetically pleasing museum which projected art on the walls. This made the video look very elegant and really helped the song become appealing in a visual manner. I also liked how they used coloured lighting to blend the car park into the music video, matching the projections that appeared in the background during their solo and group parts.

There is a mature aura that comes from this comeback that I haven’t mentioned yet. And I feel like this particular aura was well portrayed in the performance. There is also an edgier vibe to the performance that we have yet to see from the group, which was very good. The moves, on the other hand, just felt standard and didn’t really standout.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10