[Review] Room Shaker – Ailee

If you have only become a KPOP fan in the last year, chances are you haven’t heard of Ailee. Known for amazingly powerful vocals, Ailee has proven herself to be an artist to keep an eye out for. Tracks like I Will Show You, U&I, If You and many others are just solid proof of that. Today, she returned for the first time in 2 years with Room Shaker, the title track from her second studio album, Butterfly. This is her first comeback since her 2017 single (Reminiscing) and her very popular OST hit, I Will Go to You Like the First Snow.

I think the majority of her tracks that made her popular prior to 2017 either delved into the pop genre or were a ballad to showcase her vocals. But with a long absence from the music scene standing in her way, Ailee could only return with either a sound that makes people remember her more successful tracks or a sound that is completely different but extremely memorable. Room Shaker chooses the latter option, with Ailee redefining her usual sound. It focuses on a powerful hip–hop sound that does not hold back. I think one of the star attractions has to be the instrumentation. It is energetic and acts as a memorable hook, especially the brass-heavy post-chorus section. She raps in the track, which is something new from the solo artist if I am not mistaken. One of my favourite parts has to be the ‘Go Merry Go Round‘ whisper in the second verse. And while it is a hip-hop track, her vocals do manage to be another star attraction. Her high note brought back fond memories of her high notes from the past. Overall, I thought this was a successful return music-wise for Ailee, who definitely reminded me why I missed her.

With an edgy sound like in Room Shaker, you expect something equally as edgy in the video. Otherwise, the video would have completely missed the plot. However, Room Shaker hits the bullseye. It is definitely edgy and there is a lot of the attitude visually in this video, perfect for the track. And there is a literal shakeup in the classroom for this comeback, which goes hand-in-hand with both the lyrics (having a good time) and the title. Ailee looks amazing in the video as well, with all her close-ups leaving a stunning image of her in your mind.

And with an energy-filled song, the choreography is something to look out for. I really liked how the moves got her going low just for the first chorus. The second and final choruses didn’t have her repeating the same moves, as this will keep the first chorus looking impactful each time we see it. I think the moves during her post-chorus dance breaks were awesome and her back-up dancer seat lift was an awesome way to present the high note.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

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[Album Review] Sweet Girl (6th Mini Album) – B1A4

Today, we restart the Past Album Review (PARs) segment. I know I said I would restart it in June. But my assignments got extended, exams were demanding and the catch-up reviews was quite intensive (which is still ongoing). Starting off this re-launch of B1A4. There is no particular reason to why  I am starting off with B1A4, other than they were the next group to complete a PARs for before I dropped the segment. I did pick Sweet Girl (released in August of 2015), as it contained 2 of their b-side tracks that I most familiar with. So before I somehow end up delaying it a third time, this is my review of B1A4’s Sweet Girl mini-album.

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Sweet Girl Album Cover

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

2. You Are A Girl I Am A Boy – ‘Girls and Boys cannot be friends’. While my opinion doesn’t matter regarding this statement, B1A4 made a whole song about how the validity of this statement. With the meaning of the lyrics out of the way, let’s turn to the actual music. It earns a big tick from me. It takes a pop-rock form and I thought the energy they put into it (and what we got out) made it memorable. It is definitely a Summer tune, with a very upbeat instrumental and B1A4’s well-known youthful charms making it into the track. I think the vocal and rapping work in this track is pretty good. It isn’t the strongest display of technique. But the balance they managed to strike to compliment the upbeat nature of the song was spot on. (8/10)

3. After 10 Years (10년 후) – Somewhere on this site, within the many posts from the last 8 years or so that I have been writing on this blog, I have stated my praises for After 10 Years. And it is definitely worth revisiting as it is my most favourite b-side track from B1A4. Firstly, it is the vocals and rapping. Each member brings a very different dynamic to the track but they managed to fuse together so nicely. The harmonies make this track sound so heartbreaking. The way Jinyoung started off the track was amazing. Baro’s rapping was so striking. Secondly, the melody stayed in my mind and helped make it memorable. And finally, I found the instrumental to be just perfect. It leant more to the ballad side but there were some rock elements in there, which I fondly enjoyed. And after all these years, as soon as this track finishes, I wanted to press replay to listen to it all over again. (10/10)

4. Wait – We don’t often get to hear Baro sing, as far as I know. So, to hear him open up Wait was a genuine surprise back then (and it still does). But it makes absolute sense, given the song is a ballad. The entire track is quite slow and paced nicely. So, there isn’t really any room for any rap tempo. And with such a ballad, we get to hear the purest form of their vocals (without listening to them live in concert). The other four members each sounded spectacular alongside a beautiful melody, showing off their vocal talents once again. It is another heartbreaking song, with a harmonica centrepiece. This time around, however, they are waiting for their lover to appear once again. (8/10)

5. Love Is MagicLove Is Magic is a jazzy R&B number that sounds quite pleasant. Once again, it is a nice display of vocals and rapping, which I think might be a recurring theme in this album. And while the vocals do sound amazing, with the members managing to go an extra step with falsettos, harmonies and other techniques, I must point out that the song contains a fair amount of rapping. I am not complaining as I found the rapping to fit in nicely with the jazzy side of the track. An odd combination but it manages to work. But while the elements were good, it didn’t necessarily make the track memorable. It isn’t my style, so I think I glossed over the track back when it was released, and I still want to gloss over it now. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

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Sweet Girl Teaser Images

[Review] That’s Okay – D.O (EXO)

To me, a missed opportunity with EXO is the lack of solo promotions for the Korean members. It wasn’t until this year, 7 years after their debut, are they finally focusing on solo promotion, given that it will be the main driver for EXO’s immediate future. This is because of impending military enlistment. Xiumin enlisted earlier this year and the next member to follow him (shockingly) is D.O. For those who don’t know, today is actually D.O’s enlistment date. And to coincide with his departure from the public eye for the next 2 years, D.O also released a special single as part of SM Station.

That’s Okay is the title of this special single. And being a solo single, That’s Okay puts D.O’s slightly raspy voice on full display. I like it how the song isn’t sung in a straight forward manner. There are some textural aspects present thanks to the melody and the way he ended some lines, allowing him to showcase some techniques that he never got a chance to show off within EXO releases. The way he harmonises with himself is also beautiful, a very obvious sign of a good ballad. Knowing that is he is one of the main vocalists of the group, it is expected that the single would be a ballad. But it is a good ballad. It is mainly acoustic, with guitars being the only instrument in the instrumental. And I like it this way because it doesn’t sound overly emotional, which could have been a cliche thing to do. The lyrics also don’t go into an emotional overdrive, with D.O telling you that time will heal all wounds, regardless of how deep they are.

The music video for this release is animation. I am not sure if there are any laws that prevent D.O from appearing in the music video (as Xiumin did for his single), given the complexity of military enlistment, as it would have been nice to see him one last time (before he goes away for two years). But the animation was quite nice. A guy finds a sad looking cactus and brings it home. His nurture over time helped heal its limp nature and it regained some flowers. On the flipside, it was revealed that the guy lost his dog and this caused him to stay indoors. And I am certain the flowering cactus ended up nurturing him over time, showing him that no matter what state you are in, there is always a way to get back up. You just got to let time do its thing.

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

[Review] Fever – GFriend

Over the last few years, a group that we cannot forget about in the season of Summer is GFriend. The group has had countless hits in Summer including Me Gusta Tu, Navillera, Love Whisper, Summer Rain and Sunny Summer. 2019 will be no exception for the group, with today’s release of Fever as their next Summer track. We previously saw the group through their promotions of Sunrise at the start of the year and their Flower promotions in Japan.

My review for Fever is going to be harsh but honest. Fever is not like any other GFriend title track. It actually takes a more conventional route, forgoing any sound had we have grown to incorporate with GFriend. But as disappointing as that might sound, it might be time GFriend tried to reinvent their Summer, given the not-so-successful releases of Summer Rain and Sunny Summer over the last two years. Personally, I found this track to be quite lacklustre. Fever takes on moombahton sound, which is still quite new territory for KPOP. And while we heard a few good tracks with this sound, GFriend’s approach didn’t have the energy to make it memorable. In fact, the energy felt quite weighted, preventing it from sparking like how other Summer releases do. While the vocal work was fine, there wasn’t any catchy hooks or melodies to draw my attention in. They placed a fair amount of emphasis on the chorus drop. But with the mentioned weighted nature from the energy, I don’t think they got anywhere. There are some benefits that did arise due to the music but I don’t think their discography was one of them.

I personally want to know what is going on in the video. There seems to be something to the use of the cactus, the way Yerin walked into the set at the start of the video, the girl’s gaze etc. Moving past the potential plotline, I did fail to mention one detail regarding the song that I was impressed with. The group went with a mature sound (which might be the reason why the song ended feeling weighed down) that ended being edgy in a very subtle manner. This isn’t entirely new with the group. But it looks like the girl’s concept and outfit managed to blend in well with the extra matureness you could hear while listening to the song.

One clear benefit from the bland music that I observed was the dancing. I thought the choreography was quite good, given the music that they had to use. While the energy wasn’t there musically, they did well executing the various dance moves. I thought the chorus looked cool and GFriend got to show off more of their dance side through this release.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.7/10

[Review] Goblin – Sulli

Making her grand return to the industry is Sulli. The former member of F(x) has been missing in action from the music industry since her departure from the popular group back in 2015. I will be honest, I don’t keep up with her (other than through news outlets, where it was reported she had a few social media posts that didn’t get rave reviews). But finally, after 4 years, Sulli has finally dropped her solo debut single titled Goblin. This occurred yesterday (Saturday), which is an uncommon day for the release of a new song.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the concept of this release before I get to the music video. But this is definitely a direction that I did not expect, given that they were going for a creepy concept with this release. I find Goblin to be similar to how an innocent nursery rhyme can be so scary in the right surroundings.  It is very bright and almost cheerful in a way, which I found to be very nice. I also found the track to be soothing. But there are a number of elements that did allow it to stray away from a flowery song. Firstly, the ambiguous nature of the lyrics is an interesting topic. Some people say it is about accepting oneself as they are. Other people are putting into the context of mental health. I do prefer the first meaning, as it puts some lines into context, such as ‘don’t be afraid of the cat without fur‘. Secondly, the instrumental has some creepy moments such as the extremely soft chatting just before the choruses, the wind chimes at the start and the very airy harmonies throughout the track. But the most memorable part of the track has to be Sulli’s vocals. I really like her airy approach. And her voice gives so much tension in a lightly instrumented track.

Mentioned above, the video plays the creepy concept card. We start off with a commentary by Sulli (or her character, I cannot tell) at the start, which introduces us to the idea of a dissociative disorder, where she mentioned she had 3 different personalities (not including the one we saw in the commentary). The first is more a quiet and introverted personality. We see three girls entering the house and despite being there, Sulli doesn’t interact with them. The second is a more extroverted and flamboyant, where she is dressed in huge colourful dresses and interacts with the people around her. The third is the evil side, which I think aims to kill people. While the music video does have some creepy vibes going on, it didn’t feel that creepy up until the end, when she ends her commentary. She says ‘I think they all disappeared. Would not it be better for everyone to disappear?‘. I found this closing statement to really amp up the creepy factor.

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

[Album Review] RPM (7th Mini Album) – SF9

This will be the last weekend completely full of album reviews, which has been occurring for the past two weeks or so. I will be reverting to the usual timetable for album reviews (publishing every Sunday and Friday for new albums, and Tuesday for older albums starting this week). And to end this album review rush is SF9’s 7th mini-album, which features the title track RPM. Bound to give you a rush of energy and intensity, let’s see how the rest of the mini-album faired.

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RPM Album Cover

1..RPM (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for RPM. (8/10)

2. Round and Round (돌고 돌아) – If I was to follow how I have always written my review, Round and Round is a ‘standard’ pop track. And truthfully, there isn’t anything mind-blowing or new regarding the track that sets it apart from the rest of the other pop tracks we listen to daily. But I dislike the use of the term ‘standard’, as that can give off the impression that the song is boring. It isn’t. Despite its typical approach, I found the track to have some good energy, smooth vocals, neat rap sequences and catchy melodies. Furthermore, the instrumental was quite soothing and calming in moments, despite it still being a heavy dance track. Combining it all together and you get a standout combination. (9/10)

3. Dreamer – I have described many songs as dramatic in the past. But I think we have a new leader in the dramatic song category. The song starts off like an adventure film’s soundtrack. Knowing it is SF9, however, the instrumental will turn towards synths and dance-based sounds. But they do maintain that dramatic nature, which makes this song sound very epic and grand. I thought the vocals were nice, but the rapping comes out on top as the most likeable element. Mainly because the instrumental and the rapping combined together forms an intensity powerhouse. And I enjoyed the continuous build-up that the song featured, allowing the ending to be very powerful. (8.5/10)

4. Liar – Note that this song was the final song I wrote about, as I didn’t have much to say initially when I was writing the review in order. By seeing how dramatic Dreamer and epic See U Tomorrow surrounds this track, I find Liar to be a suitable middle-man that bridges the two together. The song starts off slow and you can sense the rough EDM creeping into the track. But I like despite it transforming into a dance track, it maintains its pace and doesn’t become saturated with synths that just fly through. Once again, the rapping stands out, adding intensity and texture. But also adding a smooth texture of the song are the vocals, which I think were nice. The bridge is my favourite vocal section of the track, along with the ‘Beautiful Liar’ repetition during the chorus. Overall, another nice track. (9/10)

5. See U Tomorrow – If I described Dreamer as dramatic, then See U Tomorrow is epic. This is thanks to the instrumental, which is a mixture of electronic and classical. Several artists have successfully pulled off this combination in the past, but I think SF9 played it smart by matching up this mixed instrumental to their vocals and rapping. Kicking off the song are polished harmonies that put the track in the pop genre. They revisit the harmonies during the chorus, which I think allows the track to become a full circle. The rapping in this track is amazing, giving the song more of those epic vibes and intensity. But the best part, overall, has to be the energy-intensive EDM dance break, as they were the most epic sounding sections of the entire song (and definitely going to be scene-stealing moments when performed in concert). (9/10)

6. EchoEcho manages to mash up SF9’s electronic dance side and an acoustic sound. But unlike See U Tomorrow (where the two different genres are incorporated together), Echo manages to keep the two sounds separate and don’t really have much fusion going on. And I think it sounds amazing this way, as well. You can hear the two genres without interference and get a sense of how they would handle them separately. I find that the acoustics allowed them to focus more on their natural voices before the chorus kicks up the energy with the intense EDM sound. And I find this song to be a great closer to another amazing album from the group. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.7/10

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RPM Teaser Image

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[Album Review] The ReVe Festival: Day 1 (6th Mini Album) – Red Velvet

Zimzalabim zim-zimzalabim Zim-zimzalabim zim-zim~

If anyone knows how to remove catchy song lyrics from a person’s mind, could you please let me know. It has been one week and I still cannot get it out of my head. While I work on that, let’s focus on their new mini-album, titled The ReVe Festival: Day 1 (which is also the start of a new trilogy). Eagle-eyed fans have noticed that the album cover for this release (shown below) features the concepts from all Red Velvet’s past title tracks, such as a conveyor belt from Dumb Dumb; the colourful landscape, wardrobe and creature from Rookie; a fruity Ferris wheel representing Red Flavour; the wolf’s head from RBB (just to name a few), leading fans to speculate that this new trilogy may be a blend of their Red and Velvet concepts.

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The ReVe Festival: Day 1 Album Cover

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

2. Sunny Side Up – One of my original comments that I ended up scrapping from the Zimzalabim review is that the vocal bridge was like a throwback to their Velvet side. But listening to Sunny Side Up, it feels like this R&B styled track could be the actual throwback to the Velvet side. While the title does resemble something we expect from the Red side of the group, the track engages smooth vocals and melodies, which make it extremely pleasant to listen to. I also think there is a reggae-influence in the track, though I am not entirely sure. It is extremely subtle and not as explicit as other Summer tracks. I also believe more rapping could have transformed the track, as I did want something more towards the end to accompany the cool rap sequence we got in the first verse. (8/10)

3. Milkshake – The way Milkshake started almost felt like the song was going to be a retro explosion. But instead, the track remained on the R&B side. I found the track to be groovy and upbeat (but with a sense of style and class). An applause must be given to the vocals for this track, which really made the song stand out for me. It isn’t their most impressive work. But accompanied alongside the instrumental, the vocals do hold up the track a fair bit. I am on the fence regarding the rapping, however. It felt like it went in a cutesy direction, which I wasn’t that fond about. The intro was revisited a number of times as a post-chorus hook and they actually fitted in quite well, given the boundaries of the track had now been provided. (9/10)

4. Bing Bing (친구가 아냐) – My pick for best track on this album is Bing Bing. We get a little more energy with this track, departing from the previous R&B theme. Repetition is the major technique used that keeps me (and other listeners) hooked onto this song. However, I can see the repetition technique being a barrier, preventing some people from enjoying the track, as it could result in blandness and uneventful sound. But I find their vocals bring in colour and personality to the track. The vocals are outstanding, particularly as we get to the end of the song. And the repetition makes the track so much catchier and more memorable, in an aesthetic way. I also like the continuous build-up that is enabled in this track, bringing the track to a climatic ending. (9/10)

5. Parade (안녕, 여름)Parade has this fun sound to it and contains a fair bit of colour that makes it fit in with Red Velvet’s sound. And the energy does provide a youthful touch to it, which I enjoyed. But I can’t really pinpoint the parade in Parade. It sounds more like a playful playground tune, which results in the song going down a more childish route as it progressed. The dings featured in the background reminds me of bicycle bells, for example. I think the best moments of the track is when the members come and sing together. It hides some of that childish sound. The vocals were nice. It is just disappointing that the song didn’t fit my expectations, as it felt like it had a lot of potential. (7/10)

6. LPLP kicks off with some elevator music (and I think the tune is maintained throughout the track). But the overall song featured a slightly faster tempo, making the elevator music less elevator music (and draining). So overall, I think it is a solid track. I did like other sections of the song as well, such as the saxophone solo for the bridge and use of brass to give the track some character. I thought the vocals were good. Once again, not as impressive. But given how it seemed like they were working with elevator music as its backbone, I can’t blame for not bringing out the vocal guns. But despite that, the vocals manage to bring some hooks to the space and definitely making this track stand out a little more. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

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The ReVe Festival: Day 1 Teaser Image

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[Album Review] Clé 2: Yellow Wood (1st Special Album) – Stray Kids

Today’s album review will be focusing on Stray Kids’ latest release. As you can tell by the title of the post, this isn’t the traditional album release from Stray Kids, like in past comebacks. Apart from three new songs (which includes their latest title track, Side Effects), the album also compiles their 4 past mixtape tracks, which were previously only found on the physical version of each of their 4 past mini-albums. Usually, I do not review these mixtape tracks. But as this is a special album, I have decided to make an exception.

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Clé 2: Yellow Wood Album Cover

1..Road Not Taken (밟힌 적 없는 길) – Kickstarting Yellow Wood is an introductory track that throws you into the deep end, with the song featuring a very energetic and robust electronic dance instrumental. Interestingly, we do not get that same level of energy that comes from the vocals or raps. But the seriousness in their voices reminds us that they are not here to mess around with. And I think this contrast is spectacular, matching the inspirational nature of the lyrics. I really like the drop, foreshadowing the exact same glitchy effect in the title track. It is rather disappointing that it was a short one, as I would love to hear a full track out of it. (9/10)

2. Side Effects (부작용) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Side Effects. (10/10)

3. TMT (별생각) – The third new track on this mini-album is TMT. The first thing I noticed about the track is that it takes a more ordinary approach, compared to the previous two tracks. It relies less on theatrics and a dramatic instrumental, refocusing on the vocals and rapping techniques of the group (which I did enjoy). With this more ordinary and less intense approach, the track feels like a potential GOT7 title track, especially after the release of Eclipse. I really like whiney synth in the background of the chorus, giving the song a memorable sound. It is not necessarily a stand out track from the group but it still contains a kick that I enjoyed. (8/10)

4. Mixtape #1Mixtape #1 (originally from their first mini-album, I Am Not) is a standard track, structure wise. It is surprising to hear such a pleasant sound from the group, which is very different from what we are used from Stray Kids. It showcases the vocals of the group, which I think was very nice, especially in an album that features District 9 (which was loaded with raps and intensity from memory) as its title track. Mixtape #1 talks about self-deception into thinking that you got everything under control to achieve what you want later. Overall, a nice track. (8/10)

5. Mixtape #2Mixtape #2 featured on the group’s second mini-album, I Am Who. The track features acoustic guitars, miles away from the dance tracks that Stray Kids have presented us. It focuses purely on vocals, with the rappers even opting for a more melodic form of rapping for the track. The lyrics focus on the bonds created between the members of the group and the bond formed between Stray Kids and Stays (their fan club), along with how they will not give up. I find them all singing at the end to be a very impactful moment, given the message of the track. Soothing and peaceful, a stand out track that I can’t believe I opted to miss out on when I reviewed I Am Who. (9/10)

6. Mixtape #3 – I know these songs are probably not connected in any way. But Mixtape #3 takes the acoustic nature from Mixtape #2 and redefines it into an upbeat sound. Once again, it is vocally driven. But I find the rapping in this track to be impactful and attention-grabbing, emerging as a strong component. But ruling the track has to be the beautiful sounding melodies. I also like how it doesn’t necessarily feature the members singing together but you can feel their presence as a group at the end of the track. (8/10)

7. Mixtape #4 – Featured on the group’s fourth mini-album (Clé 1: Miroh), this is the style I had expected more when it comes to the term ‘mixtape’. The track is more intense than any of the other mixtapes on this album and it feels more aligned with the title tracks we have heard thus far. The track talks about pushing forward regardless of any troubles. The rapping is more dominant, which is a nice change up to line-up. The vocals were good, but I felt like they were a little weaker, especially around the chorus. But still good, overall. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

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Clé 2: Yellow Wood Teaser Image

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[Review] Dear. Rude – JeA (Brown Eyed Girls) ft. Cheetah

It has been a while since we last heard from Brown Eyed Girls. As a group, their last comeback was in 2015. Since then, solo works have been the main focus of the individual members. But it seems like the BEG drought will be ending in 2019. Reports were published regarding an impending comeback this year. I am very excited about that. And just last week, JeA (the group’s leader) made her solo comeback with a new single, Dear Rude, which features Cheetah. Let’s take a look at this new release closely, as the peek I had over the weekend blew my mind).

As suggested above, this isn’t my first time listening to the track. I am quite concerned because this comeback could have been easily missed, given the limited amount of teasers and lack of promotions for this comeback. But that is a discussion for a different day. Dear. Rude is a powerful track filled with the message of female empowerment. From the very first second, it aims to be striking and bold, which it succeeds in doing. The instrumental doesn’t stop to ease the momentum, which builds throughout the track. JeA’s vocals just continue to come at you. Cheetah’s rapping is powerful, strong and packs a punch. If I were to describe the song as a real-life scenario, I would say that the song backs you (the listener) into the corner, forcing you to hear the message of the track. I found the track to be thrilling and suspenseful from start to end. As mentioned previously, I have been blown away with this return and anticipate any future releases in a very eager manner (let’s hope I don’t miss them).

As a song about female empowerment, the music video and its accompanying story is quite twisted. If you don’t like 19+ concepts (not the sexy kind, but more of the gory type), then this video isn’t for you. But if you like a little zombie or vampire action in your movies, then do contribute to the views for this music video. The video revolves around zombies. Each male zombie represents a figure in society that looks down or have previous;y ‘controlled’ females. The older zombie is like a father figure, the more normally dressed zombies are like society. They are turned to vicious monsters and act like animals because of this behaviour. A female neighbour came by and ends up getting turned into a zombie as well. But she appears to be more civilised and receives a balloon from JeA. As for JeA, she becomes the Queen and leader of this little zombie crew. The tables have turned and she uses the animal-like behaviour of the male zombies to infect the world, going back to the message that she can do whatever she wants. It is a dark video and it is a very different way of putting female empowerment into context. I liked the black and white shots throughout the majority of the video before the golden colour comes in at the end, suggesting the start to a new day and JeA as a new sun.

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

[Album Review] DEAR N9NE (9th Mini Album) – Teen Top

This whole weekend will be dedicated to reviews. Songs and albums, I am stockpiling them for future releases! While it is not the weekend yet, to make sure things fit in as planned, we will be kicking off with an album review today! Teen Top made their comeback a few weeks back with Run Away, which was the title track off their 9th mini-album, DEAR N9NE. I am not a major fan of Teen Top when it comes to their b-side tracks. But one brief listens to the album got me interested in writing an album review.

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DEAR N9NE Album Cover

1..Run Away (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Run Away. (6/10)

2. Your Man – There are many different genres of music that I enjoy. But what has me coming back to KPOP time and time again must be the way energy is presented. And the best energy comes from very addictive and catchy tracks, such as Your Man. IThe track kicks things off with such a good impression, it forces me to dive in more (hence the album review). I think the upbeat party-like dance nature was very well done, complimenting both the vocal and rapping work by the members. The chorus was just so-in-your-face that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Your Man is also quite loud, and I think Teen Top is the best when they are ‘loud’, especially if we are looking at tracks such as Going Crazy and Rocking (which is still my personal favourite from the group). (9/10)

3. SwagSwag takes the momentum that Your Man left us with and transformed it into a classy song. To me, this style is very Teen Top. It is also another very catchy track filled with very cool and ear-catching hooks that really draw my attention to the track. The emphasis on the word ‘Swag’ during the chorus, the post-chorus kick, the Gimme Gimme that…’ bridge and the very familiar Uptown Funk vibes that came off the instrumental made the track so enjoyable. Once again, singing and rapping were quite good. Another great track that gives off very satisfying energy that makes you want more. (9/10)

4. What Do You Think – Once again, What Do You Think continues the upbeat energy from the previous tracks. But this one ended up feeling lacking, which sets it apart from the other tracks that we have gotten thus far on the album. I felt the song missed out on some potential punchy moments, which they could have delivered with some more bass. The squeaky horns did add some colour and character to the track but there wasn’t really anything else to make this song develop (i.e. another track that felt a little too consistent for my liking). The vocals and raps were good. But they didn’t have an impressive nature to them, as the previous track did. (7/10)

5. That Night (비 그친 밤) – Changing from the upbeat and dance-centred nature of the album is That Night, which opts for a slower and calmer R&B track. Like Swag, I find the track to be quite elegant and classy. In many ways, I find it to be a polished track. The instrumental was nice and felt relaxing to an extent. While the instrumental here was quite typical and consistent as well, it paired well with the smooth vocals and rapping. These components felt well handled by the group and I felt like they managed to make up for that ordinary sounding instrumental. But still enjoyed the vibe that came from it. (7.5/10)

6. Happy EndingHappy Ending serves as the ballad of the album. It too departs from the upbeat nature featured throughout the first number of songs on the album, opting for a very calming and soothing sound and instrumentation. I think the first impression regarding the track is that is much simpler. But as I have stated many times on the website, simple might be a good thing. In Happy Ending’s case, simple allows for a beautiful melody to be present and a nice showcase of vocals and rapping. If you are expecting anything intense or powerhouse vocals, this isn’t the track for you. But if you want a calming track that ends an album full of energy, then this one is for you. (8/10)

Overall Album Review – 7.8/10

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DEAR N9NE Teaser Image

[Review] Uh-Oh – (G)I-DLE

Also returning today is (G)I-DLE, with their latest digital single, Uh-Oh. We previously saw (G)I-DLE through their Senorita promotions back in February this year. However, it felt like they just release Senorita a few weeks back. So my initial feelings regarding the comeback were that it was so soon. Not exactly sure why this was the case but I guess that goes to show how much their previous comeback has grown on me. Let’s see if Uh-Oh will be able to have the same effect.

Uh-Oh takes on a hip-hop sound, reminiscent of the 90s era. There is a lot of aspects like the disc scratching and urban beat that makes it fit perfectly into this era. I also really like the use of violins in the instrumental, which I find to be quite cool and it gives off an epic vibe. I thought Soyeon’s opening vocals were surprising, as I am more used to her rapping. I find their vocals to be quite strong, as they do a good job of filling up the more minimal sections of the instrumental. Soyeon’s rapping is undeniably fire, like always. And the track is quite catchy, ticking boxes that we always knew that (G)I-DLE would have no hard time doing. I want to stay on that point, however, as it may sound like the group is going all over the place with their different sounds for each comeback. But there are a few aspects that make me think otherwise. LATATA does have a hip-hop feel to it, though it might not be explicitly showcased. So I feel like Uh-Oh is a nice revisit to that side. But more importantly (and I know I have mentioned this for a number of recent comebacks), the song contains attitude, which is definitely a (G)I-DLE characteristic. The songs that (G)-DLE already have under their belt are loaded with sass and attitude, which makes this track ideal to continue their portfolio. 

I like how (G)I-DLE channels the 90s hip-hop scene very well. It is a bold video as a result, which is an indication of a successful video. The start did seem like the television/VHS effect that I remember so fondly from that period of time. The use of bikers in the video was ideal and very intimidating, with the backup dancers doing a good job of continuing this intimidation. However, as expected in KPOP, you would expect a splash of colour. So their outfits (whilst still fitting into that era) and bouquet of flowers on the hummer helped offset that by a bit. I also like the underground hip-hop scene that they end the video with. Quite a cool video, overall.

Like the song, there is attitude to the performance, which makes it extremely fitting. I like how bold their outfits are. Given how conservative the Korean public is, I don’t think this would sit well with them. But it is a concept that works in my eyes, and I think we won’t see much of a change despite any forthcoming backlash. I thought the moves were cool, especially Soyeon’s dance break in the middle of today’s performance.

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

[Review] Insomnia – Euijin (BIGFLO)

BIGFLO is a group that has continually appeared on a number of ‘underrated artist’ list. And based on their comeback last year (Upside Down), they have crept onto mine. However, we haven’t heard much from the group since then. Until today, that is. Euijin, probably the most well-known member of the group (thanks to his participation on The Unit), released his first solo debut mini-album, titled E:motion. It features the title track and focus of today’s review, Insomnia.

To me, sudden starts are quite similar to sudden ends when it comes to music. Sometimes they work, sometimes they feel awkward. Insomnia falls under the ‘awkward category’. Euijin just launches right into the song without any introduction or tease, which really displaced my mind the first time around. A few listens after and it seems like I am slowly getting used to it. But we will have to see. I think that was my only major complaint about the track. Insomnia is a solid track that showcases Euijin’s vocals. I don’t remember complimenting Euijin for his vocals before. But based on his release, he has a decent set of lungs that must be underused if I don’t remember them. The instrumental was rather typical, which is a little disappointing. But its consistency works well, allowing for the showcase of his vocals (as I have already mentioned) and his dance performance, which I will comment on below. My favourite part of the song has to be the entire chorus package (pre-chorus, chorus and post-chorus). Just because they are the parts that stick in my mind.

Insomnia’s music video is typical. That would be the most ideal description I would give the video. There seems to be a tiny plotline in the midst of the video, where Euijin was originally dating his lover. She broke up with him, which left him heartbroken. Typical. The sets didn’t offer much. The camera work was not ideal. Everything just didn’t feel as neat and clean as it could have been. I felt like there was also too much focus on the ‘storyline’ that Euijin’s choreography shots were neglected, which shouldn’t be the case when it comes to someone who we all know has potential in that department (given his previous works).

I thought the performance was good. I did notice that he toned some of his moves down to allow for a live performance. There were a number of things that impressed me. First has to be the transition of how they introduced the female backup dancer. I thought was cool. Secondly, the moves with the female backup dancer looked pretty loaded with emotion. I also liked how the male backup dancers moved him from various places on stage. And the bittersweet ending was something different as well. 

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.3/10

[Review] Pink Magic – Yesung (Super Junior)

One comeback that occurred last week was Yesung’s solo return to the music scene. However, I put the review on hold as I was hoping for a performance of some sort accompanying this comeback. However, it seems like Yesung does not plan on promoting Pink Magic and his third mini-album (which also shares the same name). So, here is the review for Pink Magic, exactly one week after its release! This is also Yesung’s first official Korean comeback since 2017 with Paper Umbrella and Hibernation.

The main reason to why I held onto Pink Magic’s review was because of its bright and slightly upbeat nature. I thought that there would be a nice routine featured in this comeback. It is unlike Yesung for a song of this style, mainly because we know him as one of the main vocalists of Super Junior (and main vocalists tend to take the ballad route with this solo promotions as proven time and time again). Even his previous Korean and Japanese releases have been of a ballad nature. But despite the style change to a retro 80s pop track, Yesung puts his husky and raspy vocals on display. I like how he goes on soft on some parts of the track, which goes to show that a rough textured voice can actually be delicate in nature if it is presented correctly. I personally don’t mind the track as it is quite pleasant and has this chilled sound to it. I also like its retro roots, which takes me back to a style that The song almost felt linear but that high pitch and  funky effect that was showcased as part of the bridge and post-chorus really cut that feeling down. Overall, a satisfying song.

Yesung, appropriately, dyed his hair the colour pink for this comeback. I also liked the video because it used a more pale approach with its colours, without the help of filters. I get the lighting helped out there. Also making cameos in the music video is Donghae and Kyuhyun (who recently was released from the military). Essentially the video shows Yesung being captivated by his crush, who he describes to be like the colour pink. It is also the only reason why he can see her because his eyes have the ability to only observe the colour pink (based on his eye test results). Don’t know if he should be driving then… Apart from the plot, there wasn’t much else interesting to comment on.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10

[Review] Illusion – ATEEZ

Two weeks ago, ATEEZ made their comeback with two music videos. The first was for WAVE, which I reviewed on the day of release. The second music video is for ILLUSION, which I said I would review at a later date. Fast forward two weeks, we find ourselves looking a little closer at ATEEZ’s ILLUSION. In other related news, ATEEZ won their first weekly music chart with WAVE on MCountdown last week.

To me, ILLUSION sounds like the song that you would expect if we were to put all ATEEZ’s title tracks onto a spectrum. The song isn’t as upbeat and bright like how WAVE turned out, while it isn’t as intense as Say My Name (from earlier this year). However, there was a level of energy that makes it quite suitable to follow off WAVE and a level of fierceness in their vocal and rapping delivery that brings it in line with their past tracks. It isn’t a track that stands out within the first listen. There isn’t anything ‘new’ offered in this track that adds a layer of uniqueness to the group (as I had already established).  So, it took me a good few listens to get into the track. I personally find the rappers to stand out the most in this track, with it feeling like a dominant component. Even the rappers filtered onto the vocal sections, which I thought gave off a decent effect. There some good hooks in the track but it could have been better if they were more profound to make the song feel more blastable.

Based on the ending of ILLUSION’s music video, it might be the prequel to the fun that existed in the WAVE music video. The location they end up in the final sections of the song is those which we find them in during WAVE. Using this mentality, the group would be in dream-land for this video, which makes sense given the different backgrounds, flying pirate ship, floating objects and the purple island they end up exploring. But it is another fun-filled video to enjoy. The only thing that confuses me is the ‘Open Your Eyes‘ whisper we get at the end. It doesn’t seem to connect to WAVE, so my guess it is hinting towards something larger.

What I think the performance for ILLUSION could have benefited from are freestyle moments. Moments that are more like on stage improvisations. If these were embedded in these routine, the performance could have been more lively and fun, fitting in with the atmosphere of the song. But what we got is already quite energetic and upbeat, so it is good enough.

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

[Review] Snapping – Chungha

Jump-starting the final week of June is Chungha with her solo comeback! This time around, she is snapping her way back into the industry with the title track, Snapping and fourth mini-album, Flourishing. Her last comeback, Gotta Go, confirmed her growing popularity in the industry. And given how fast Snapping has risen on the charts so far today after a few hours of release, Chungha is definitely an artist to look out for.

To me, Snapping gives me 00s Western pop vibes. Surely, if someone was to repackage this song with just English lyrics, I would have a very hard time thinking this came from the KPOP industry. You might think that I am basing this on how she sings the very addictive and repetitive hook, ‘Snapping’. But I am also looking at other aspects, like the very attitude-heavy instrumentation that really gives off some flair that undeniably suits Chungha and the way she sings some other lines throughout the song. While Chungha does place a lot of emphasis on her performance routines, her vocals do a lot of flourishing here. In fact, I think she managed to overtake what she showed us in her previous comebacks, showing her growth in a very stylish and smart way. Finally, the brief pause before we get the final sequence of ‘I Know I Know, Snapping Snapping‘ ended the song with the attitude I mentioned before fresh in your mind, making perfect sense for a singer like Chungha.

Hands down, I think this has to be one of the best set of outfits that I have ever seen in a music video. I may be no fashion designer or fashionable in any sense. But what I saw in this video was captivating, beautiful, modern and so full of impact, bringing it into line with the attitude the song had. All of the sets looked very refined and stylish in their own way, going hand-in-hand with her outfits and looks. I really liked that fencing platform, which doubled up as a catwalk for Chungha as well. And as much as the water scenes are pretty much a cliche idea nowadays, I loved how elegant that set looked with the fabric hanging from above.

When I watch the performance, I see the words attitude and sass throughout it. This fits in perfectly with the song. But while I did see a lot of snapping, as expected from the title, it just didn’t have the same impact as Gotta Go had, which was the main reason to why she didn’t get a perfect score for this comeback.

Song – 10/10
Music Video -10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.8/10

[Album Review] For The Summer (1st Special Album) – WJSN

South Korea (and the Northern Hemisphere) have already kicked off Summer with a number of Summery time comebacks, filled with bright energy and catchy hooks that make any KPOP fan want to party and dance to. One of the more successful acts of the 2019 Summer thus far is WJSN, who returned with Boogie Up back in May. The group has topped charts including MCountDown, SBS The Show and Show Champion with the very infectious and addictive song. Today, we will have a look at what WJSN has accompanying Boogie Up on their album.

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For The Summer Album Cover

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

2. Oh My Summer (눈부셔)Oh My Summer is a nice pop song that gets you in the mood for the Summer season. I find the slight retro approach in this instrumental to be quite fun. I find the pace of the track to be quite interesting. There is nice energy level in the track and it is a track fitting for the Summer season. Other positive aspects of the track are that it is catchy and an addictive song. Both the vocals and rapping were pretty good, as well. If there were any negative aspects in the track, the positive aspects outweigh them, meaning WJSN delivered another good track in the form of Oh My Summer. (8.5/10)

3. My Type – Kicking the energy to a higher notch is My Type. It is another pop track that has a very bright and vibrant sound. I like how straight forward the song. It doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point with its sound. The chorus does have the potential to be an amazing hook. But I feel like the melody was a little lacking, as it didn’t reel me as I had expected from such a bright song. I did think Yeonjung’s vocals were nice, in the chorus. But the highlights of the track have to be Exy’s rapping and that outro segment at the end, which provides a beach party-like atmosphere. (8/10)

4. Let’s Dance (우리끼리) – If you are looking for a song to put on speaker, this is probably the one. The synths used in the track seems to conform to the electronic genres that we get more typically nowadays. There is also some attitude to the song as a result, which I am totally enjoying. The addition of saxophones was very nice and gave the instrumental a party/club sound, which resulted in it in being fun and less serious. Though, if I was honest, I think the saxophone could have had a solo or been slightly louder to really add to that party feel. The vocals were nice and I like the rap opening, which I don’t think WJSN does much of. I can imagine an awesome dance routine to it, increasing my expectations for the track even further. (9/10)

5. Sugar Pop Sugar Pop is exactly like how its title portrays it to be. It is a sweet upbeat pop track that has an infectious energy that you cannot help but be addicted to. It is another good to put on blast due to its almost explosive chorus nature. While I find the song to be very catchy and very suitable for an album full of energy, there is a section that I particularly love. The pre-chorus reminded me Bohemian Rhapsody and I thought this was a very cool effect to have in the song of a sweet nature. The vocals and raps, once again as superb. Yeonjung’s high note came out of nowhere and it also stole the show. Overall, another great song. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.7/10

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