[Review] Y.O.U – DONGKIZ I:KAN

Making their subunit debut on Tuesday was DONGKIZ I:KAN. I personally wasn’t aware that DONGKIZ was debuting a subunit (I thought it was a group comeback when I say it on the list), so this was a surprise for me. The subunit consists of Jae Chan and Mun Ik and this follows the group’s Lupin comeback earlier in the year (a comeback that I really enjoyed). Subunits usually offer listeners a different sound to what their main group usually offers, so it will be interesting to see what DONGKIZ I:KAN will delve into, given that DONGKIZ doesn’t really have a strong association to any genre.

The one thing I do remember as a common theme in DONGKIZ’s track is its funky and retro vibes. And in a sense, Y.O.U (the title of the subunit’s title track) conforms to that common string in their main group’s release. At the same time, the subunit brings forward the new jack swing genre from the early 90s. And this music direction is great! It is full of energy and there are some fun vibes to it. There is also a refreshing appeal to the song, given that I don’t think the group has ever delved into this particular genre yet. The most exciting part of the song was the dance break that brought me a strong sense of nostalgia. While I do like the sound they had gone with, the main flaw of Y.O.U was how lacking their vocals and rapping were. I wanted more oomph to their delivery of both elements to add some depth to the song. What we got was good, but it is another situation where I wanted them to go further. If they had somehow defined their vocals and raps, this would help make the hooks more catchy and addictive.

The duo is singing about a girl they see passing by and that is exactly what the music video is showing. The two members are competing against each other to get her attention. I liked that it showed the two’s facial expression while they are on a mission to get her attention. That is a little different from similar music videos. However, it was revealed at the end that the girl already had an interest in a guy named Kirin, which shocks the guys. I thought that was a fun little twist, despite it being a card played multiple times in the past. Aside from the generic storyline, I really liked how simple the video was, yet how retro the video ended looking. From the outfits to the post-production editing of the dance break, everything looked like it would have fitted into the 90s.

The bright atmosphere which they show on stage is very fitting for both the members and the song. I do like the twisty moves they pull off. It looked weird at first, but it soon became interesting as I tried to work out what they were doing. The dance break was fun, though it wasn’t as intense as I hoped it would be.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.3/10

[Review] Telephone – EXO-SC ft. 10CM

The second SM Entertainment release came unexpected last night. EXO-SC has been confirmed to making a comeback and will be releasing an album on the 13th of July (that’s just under a week!). And while fans are preparing for that release, EXO-SC released a pre-release track that no one saw coming titled Telephone, which features 10CM. This is the unit’s first comeback since their debut with What A Life last year (another review which I haven’t gone back to update once the live performance came out).

What A Life came off as dull and lackluster. That is essentially all I remember about their debut song. And it is looking like Telephone is shaping to be the exact same. It delves back into the hip-hop genre, with the duo going with a rap-sing delivery of the lyrics. More specifically, Telephone delves into the chilled side of hip-hop, with the entire track going with a laid-back vibe, similar to their debut track. Though, I felt the song might have gone many steps too far into the chilled spectrum, that both Chanyeol and Sehun’s vocals were pretty expressionless and this really dulled out the song. Same comment can be made with the instrumental. It is pretty much straightforward, with the repetitive and simple tapping of a piano key. Not really the most exciting piece of music. It was pretty much empty and sparse of sounds, besides some phone sounds and the duo echoing the lyrics and providing some ‘few words’ in the background. And even they didn’t do a good job of filling up the song. The most exciting bit of the song is when 10CM joins in, providing smooth vocals and this leads to Chanyeol and Sehun doing a little more with their own vocals to close off the song. But by then, I had already tuned out and became distracted. It sucks that I have to echo the disappointment I gave in their debut review, but that is the reality. Hopefully on Monday, the pair will give us something a little more exciting to breakdown.

I felt that the music video had a lot more substance than the song. The lyrics is all about their reservation to the phone, which everyone (including their crush and themselves) to communicate to other people. Chanyeol and Sehun are trying to get their crush’s attention. When they are together, their crush to too busy looking at their own phone. When they are not and Chanyeol/Sehun are trying to communicate with them, they blame their phone and use phone-related excuses for not being able to answer (i.e. the phone was charging, I was driving so I couldn’t pick my phone etc.). This leads to Chanyeol and Sehun entering the phone and destroying the attention stealing stuff on the phone, leading their crush to have nothing to do, other than message the two guys back. At least that is my take on the lyrics and the visuals from the music video. I also think there is some sort of hidden message at the start of the video, that we would be too busy doing one thing (i.e. reading the messages that popped up on the screen) to notice some of the stuff the pair were doing, such as applying wood filler to a toothbrush, overfilling a bowl, wearing odd socks and oversalting food.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 5.6/10

[Review] Monster – Red Velvet – Irene & Seulgi

It has been a while since we heard from Red Velvet, which I assume is due to Wendy’s recovery from the stage accident that grounded their Psycho promotions to a halt at the very of last year. But now Red Velvet has returned to the stage in the form of a duo subunit, Red Velvet – Irene & Seulgi, which is up of (you guessed it!) Irene and Seulgi. The official release of their debut title track Monster occurred on Monday, but the music video was not released until Tuesday. And I accidentally napped unexpectedly, resulting in a further delay in the review. And before I nap again today, here is my review for Monster.

If you go into this song thinking we will be getting something Red Velvet usually puts out (as that is what you might think given the name Red Velvet is retained in the unit’s name), be prepared to be surprised. Monster has a very distinctive sound. It is like Monster took Red Velvet’s darkest and edgiest sound and amping it up to the next level. It starts with a high pitch and slightly distorted ‘Na Na Na‘, which undoubtedly sets the tone of the song. We then enter a very sinister and suspenseful verse, before launching it a more energised chorus made up of trap elements and dubstep. The song’s vibes and sound essentially repeat itself once that ‘Na Na Na‘ distorted vocals return at the end of the chorus. But while the song does have that unique distinctive sound for current times, I do find the repetition to dull the song’s appeal. It could have been intriguing and interesting, provided they change up the song’s textures a bit as it progressed to give it some variety and freshness. I do commendable Irene and Seulgi’s vocals, which were superb in this song. They added character to the song and helped Monster achieve those sinister and suspenseful vibes that I mentioned earlier. I particularly liked the entire second verse, as there was some interesting colours and vocal profiles there. The chorus had nice melodic hooks, but like the repetition flaw, it soon became dry and dull. There ‘I’m A Little Monster‘ was impactful and came off strong in a subtle manner. Overall, Monster was a fair effort. Just not as mind-blowing as I hoped it to be.

The dark and edgy sound that the song opted for was reflected in the visuals of the music video through the horror influence. While it was quite good to watch, this horror concept came off as rather tame. I wanted to see them go that extra mile as they could have explored a lot of imagery and stories, conceptually. We see the members dressed in white doll-like dresses that resemble the clothing that we see young girls wear in horror movies as they die or haunt the living. Seulgi creepily crawling in one scene towards herself and then walking confidently in the next, similar to how I remember some demonic ghosts would haunt the living in some movies. We see Irene playing with dolls in a creepy manner and in one of the choreography shots, we see a devil’s face edited over Irene’s face. It didn’t scare me, but it had me jumping up and down excitedly as that was the type of scare that I wanted to see. I did like the sets, as they gave off a haunting without going explicitly into cliche haunted house land.

I really liked the outfits they wore and the makeup they donned in the music video. It really suited the music video. And I can’t wait to see them on stage with those exact same outfits and makeup. For the choreography, it looks like a stunning routine. Best parts include their starting formation, (which looks like a creepy creature) and Seulgi twisting Irene to include the ghost face (simple yet effective in terms of coolness).

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

[Review] Play – Chungha ft. Changmo

Over the last few months, Chungha has been leaving breadcrumbs for her upcoming solo comeback which yet to be announced. The first breadcrumb was the release of the pre-release single, Stay Tonight (a track that I want to revisit when I revise my ratings for some songs in a new segment). The second breadcrumb is Play, which was released today and features Changmo. Since Stay Tonight, Chungha has also collaborated with the popular rapper pH-1 on the track My Friend, which I have yet to review. But we are here for thoughts on Play, so let’s get to that first.

By the time I had finished listening to Play for the first time, I knew that this was going to the be the 2020 Summer song to beat. The energy and atmosphere she creates for herself in this song is so epic and grand, it really helps to overlook the song’s flaw, the Latin pop genre. While that has been a typical sound throughout the Summer seasons over the last few years and Play itself incorporates with brass elements and synths that we have heard many many times before, Chungha manages to somehow reform it to make it come off refreshing and exciting in Play. That is already a strong cause for an applause. I really like her vocals in this song. The instrumental could have easily overwhelmed and masked all of Chungha’s vocals. But Chungha’s vocals soar high enough to be in the forefront of the song. And that is saying a lot, considering how blastful and bombast this instrumental got, especially as we approached the end. Also featuring on this song is Changmo, who’s rap sequence added a cool dynamic to the song. It somehow balances out the upbeat energy of the chorus and gives us some relief after the first chorus. Same thing can be said about the bridge, which slows the song down (but allows for the return in the final chorus to be super impactful). The melodies and hooks were catchy and may become super addictive if I give the song any more listens (which will happen!). Overall, I am in awe and loving Play.

Once again, the music video takes on that closeup and choreography approach, which I have (many times) stated was a bore. But the music video for Play is captivating enough to override that statement. There were some epic moments, aside from her beautiful visuals (which alone were enough to steal my attention away from the formula), that really wowed me. Chungha becoming a bullfighter with the red sports car was definitely one of those. Actually, any moment in that particular setting was amazing. I also really liked the birdcage choreography scenes, as that set looked really cool.

It is unknown whether Chungha would be promoting this time around. It soon became apparent that Stay Tonight would be extremely difficult to perform on stage due to various formations formed. But I don’t see any of that in this choreography, which may present hope that we will be seeing a stage performance of Play soon. I really like how the atmosphere from the song came through in the performance and how charismatic Chungha looked throughout the performance. I also liked the energy that came from the chorus routine alone, as that looked cool.

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

[Review] Summer Breeze – SF9

Six months ago, SF9 kicked off 2020 with their Good Guy comeback. It proved to be SF9’s most popular and best-performing comeback ever, with the group earning their first-ever weekly show music win during the promotions of Good Guy. And exactly six months from that comeback, the group is back, now helping to kick off the second half of 2020 with Summer Breeze. Their new title track features on the group’s eighth mini-album, 9loryUS.

SF9 begins the song with an intriguing synth sequence that reminds one of those Western movie themes, before reverting to a foot tap worthy house beat for the verses. The pre-chorus creates suspense with a typical but workable buildup. The chorus combines that Western movie theme synth sequence with those house beats to create a really pleasant and enjoyable combination that takes the positives aspects of those two sounds to form a wholesome feel. The bridge brings forward refreshing acoustic guitars that stayed hidden between the Western theme synths and house beats during the chorus. Overall, it is safe to say that the Summer Breeze‘s instrumental earns a big tick from me. It is just so suitable yet so refined for Summer. And it is this refined sound that makes it suitable to be a follow up after Good Guy. Some of the other aspects of the song are good to great, but they just don’t feel as amazing as the instrumental. The vocal work and rapping were strong efforts. Zuho’s rap sequence just before the final chorus had a nice punch to it and was a highlight in my opinion. There are some good hooks in this song and the melody is pretty easy to follow. But each of these components (the vocal/rapping, hooks and melodies) have a hand in creating a generic atmosphere. I wanted something more exciting and addictive, which would easily help lifted this song to be one of their best. What we have is good and I feel like it will be enjoyable at the very least if the subsequent listens don’t help it grow on me. But per usual, I wanted more from the members in Summer Breeze.

It is a bit unclear what the concept of the music video really is. I thought they were part of different gangs with the mission to eliminate each other at first. Though, it doesn’t explain the part when one of the bullets broke the mirror to reveal the sunshine, which then caused the members to redirect their gunfire. One source says the music video was similar to a James Bond movie and that the members are playing a dangerous game. Though, that also doesn’t explain the sunshine scene. Apart from the confusing plot line, I liked how the music video set gave me the same feels as their Good Guy music video. I also liked how classy the video felt, especially in the hotel scenes where the gunfight occurs.

Best part the choreography is during the ‘Bang Bang Bang‘ parts. I also found Jaeyoon to be the most captivating member, with his body rolls during his solo parts. As for the rest of the performance, there isn’t much else to comment on. It may not have been captivating, but it felt refined and classy, which is definitely the direction that SF9 was aiming for with this comeback.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 6.5/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] Tag Me (@Me) – WEEKLY

It is time for another Monday release review. Rather than a comeback, it is a debut. WEEEKLY’s debut, to be more specific. WEEEKLY is a female group, with an average age of 17 and comes from PlayM Entertainment, which is also the home-base of APINK and VICTON. There are seven members to this group and they are Soojin, Jiyoon, Monday, Soeun, Jaehee, Jihan, and Zoa. Their debut single is Tag Me or @Me and it features on their debut mini-album, We Are. (For this review, I will be using the plain English title).

Tag Me may not seem like your strong debut song at first. But it gets better and better with every listen! There are parts of the song that I still don’t enjoy. And frankly, I don’t see myself falling for those parts any time soon given how they are relative to the rest of the song. But there are sections and elements that I am really digging. And I will quickly run through those. The first section has to be the chanting starter/pre-chorus of the song. It starts the song off in a bold manner and the guitars that accompany this section (and features throughout the verse) adds a little cool flair to the song. The second section has to the chorus. The catchy melodies, the great vocals and the refreshing energy that comes the instrumental are all just so likeable. I will gladly put the song on replay just for the chorus alone. The third is the second half of the bridge, which is where the vocals come into play. The good thing is that the positive aspects outweigh the bad ones. It is mainly the trap sequence for the rap sequence that follows the first chorus. It just did not fit and felt very unnecessary. Likewise, the first half of the bridge with the instrumental break was not needed in this song. It just didn’t fit in with the bubbly sound that Tag Me presents us.

It is a cute music video, featuring the members as part-time school students and part-time social media addicts. The entire song’s lyrics are all about being individualistic and showing this to their crush on their timeline, which explains the social media references in the lyrics. Aside from the choreography and closeup formula, the music video also shoots a bit outside, which I like. It doesn’t feel like the members are cramped up on a boxed set.

While I thought they were just there for stylistic purposes, the group does perform on stage with the desks. This is pretty unique and suits the school concept. The way they move the desks about doesn’t distract you from the actual choreography. As much as I dislike the instrumental break in the first half of the bridge, the dance that accompanies was actually quite good.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] Thunder – VERIVERY

Crashing in as the first release of the second half of 2020 is VERIVERY’s Thunder. VERIVERY recently just participated in the Road To Kingdom competition and placed 5th overall. Whilst on the show, the group performed and covered Photo, Mansae, On and gogbebe. And as part of the finale episode, VERIVERY released Beautiful-X, which is featured as a sidetrack alongside Thunder, on their fourth mini-album. Prior to all of this, we last saw VERIVERY promote Lay Back at the start of the year. But that was pre-Road To Kingdom. Let’s see what VERIVERY has to offer us post-Road To Kingdom.

Thunder rivals Lay Back as the group’s edgiest and darkest comeback to date. What makes Thunder just a step more edgy and dark than their previous comeback are those eerie background sounds you can hear in the instrumental, along with the deep autotuned whispering at the start of the song (courtesy of Donghyun). The instrumental consist of a strong synth base and 808 bass. And all of this helps deliver a very captivating instrumental in my opinion, as there was a lot of textures to really dig into and enjoy. In addition to the instrumental, I find the vocal work to be quite powerful. This really helps make the song sound even more epic and fitting for the energy that the instrumental really aims for in the chorus. The rapping also adds a dynamic layer to the song and adds further intensity to the song that makes it sound even better. While a dark and edgy sound might not be the most original thing in the industry right now, what VERIVERY has managed to do with it is quite impressive and feels like they are evolving.

If you cast your mind back to their gogobebe stage of Road To Kingdom, VERIVERY had incorporated a missing poster for Kangmin, which is from this music video. And that poster is the basis of Thunder‘s music video. Kangmin is missing and the members go searching for him (Stranger Things vibes). They manage to track him down towards the end. But thunder starts striking Kangmin. And it starts coming out of him, as well. Determined to save their friend, the other members run up and grab him. Our screen goes black, and during the credits, we see all the members huddling in a group. But they aren’t celebrating the success of their mission. Instead, they are very still. I was lowkey expecting a jump scare or some sot of a post-credit scene for us to see what happened to the members. In addition to the ‘what happened to the members’ question, we need to ask whether Kangmin was possessed, as his facial expressions and body language hints towards that. However, it wouldn’t explain why he was running away from the members for most of the video (did he know he was possessed or dangerous?). I also wonder how (or if) this video relates to Lay Back, as they are part of a series. Many questions to be answered. But a really intriguing storyline and close up shots in this video.

What a performance. I really enjoyed how in sync they were with one another. It made the performance really powerful and worth watching. And I really liked how this powerful nature extended for the dance/instrumental break just before the final chorus. The ending of the performance was super eerie, carrying that feeling over from the music video. My favourite part of the performance, however, has to be that segment right after the first chorus where they are yelling ‘Keep Going On‘. Them yelling and dancing at the same time looked pretty cool and showcases a different level of edgy.

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

[Review] Bedlam – Lee Jin Hyuk (UP10TION)

I now take a bit of a breather from the Monday releases to review 2 more recent comebacks. The first is the major comeback that Lee Jin Hyuk made yesterday with Bedlam. This is the UP10TION member’s first solo comeback after he made his solo debut earlier in the year with I Like That. Fellow member Kim Woo Seok who participated in Produce X 101 alongside with Lee Jin Hyuk also made his solo debut in May. Yet, we have not seen these two members return to their UP10TION lineup and capitalise on their newfound popularity. It is a bit of a mystery to why this has yet to occur. But we can only hope that a comeback will happen soon with all 10 members soon. In the meantime, here is Lee Jin Hyuk to hopefully appease those UP10TION cravings.

As boring as I felt I Like That was, I can’t help but think it is a lot more refined than what we have here. Actually, no. The word to use instead of ‘refined’ in that initial statement is ‘better’. From what I could get, Bedlam has a really nice fun-sounding instrumental, suitable for the upbeat hip-hop style that Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo release was aiming for. And from what I can hear, it had a decent level of brightness to make it well suited for the Summer season. However, it is all masked with Lee Jin Hyuk’s vocals, which I did not think was fun or Summery. You might want to give a song a listen first before seeing how I judged his delivery, in case this song might be your style. The last thing I want to do is turn you away from a track that you would have enjoyed. For me personally, I felt Lee Jin Hyuk was shouting the entire time. It felt overwhelming and it felt too much, to the point where I fund it hard to register the instrumental. In his defense, the song matches the title, as Bedlam can be defined as a scene of uproar of confusion. Though this doesn’t explaing the overwhelming nature of his delivery. The only part of the song that I enjoyed (coincidentally, it does not have any of Lee Jin Hyuk’s shouting in it) was the dance instrumental sequence at the ending. I liked the premature ending to the song before it threw us into that intense sequence, as this made it more impactful. It felt fitting for what had preceded it, mainly because it was also just a bunch of noise. But it gave the song some edge and something more appealing than his vocals. I hate to be brutally honest, but I just couldn’t sugar coat things this time around.

If the music video was indicative of what Bedlam was meant to sound like, it was definitely meant to be upbeat, bright, hip-hop and fun-sounding. It is quite disappointing that the visuals had to tell you what type of song it was meant to be. But for the music video specifically, it wasn’t that bad. Lee Jin Hyuk starts off as an office worker, who seemed to have a really tough day. So once the day was literally over, he let loose in the office. He definitely makes a mess in the office and in life (based on the breaking news story segment). He also goes wild at a Chinese buffet restaurant and on the computer screen. But it nice to know that Lee Jin Hyuk knows when to tone it down once the day restarts, returning to a professional office manner (and a mask!). Apart from making a mess, I really enjoyed the different choreography shots, as they looked quite flashy thanks to the lighting and post-production.

The best part of the performance has to be the dance sequence at the end of the song. Not because it was my most favourite part of the song, but it showed off a really intense choreography that allowed Lee Jin Hyuk to flex some of his dancing skills. The rest of the performance was quite chaotic, even during the routine moments. And I must admit, they do fit in well with the song.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] Yessir – 3YE

The next Monday comeback that I want to review is 3YE’s YESSIR, the title track off their 1st mini-album, Triangle. For me, 3YE was basically a 2020 underrated discovery, with both their first (OOMM) and second comeback song (Queen) attracting a great deal of my attention. So when I heard they were making their comeback, I had to schedule the review to be much closer to their actual comeback date (or else this review would have been scheduled many weeks later, which wouldn’t be ideal). It is still a few days late, but it better than a month later! And before it turns into a month late review, let’s get into it.

Powerful would be the word that I would describe YESSIR. The music and aura that the trio of members gives off in this song are just so powerful, that I find it well-aligned with their previous releases that I have reviewed. The song’s instrumental consist of a marching band line and brass elements, which is a pretty solid base. I really like how the brass goes from a deep tone in the verses to more vibrant in the chorus. It keeps the song from becoming overloaded by playing with what is already there. The synths in this song go with an electro dance-pop sound and the melodies go into a strong hip-hop domain. It may sound quite messy and loaded, but that is actually how the YouTube description describes the song. And everything comes together quite well. I liked the way they came at you during the verses and that is thanks to their rapping and vocal work. The chorus was a bit of a miss for me. While I did like how the instrumental felt more defined and that it continued the momentum and energy that the members built up in the verses, it noticeably lacked a strong hook to help bring the song into the ‘memorable’ category. The melodies were fine, but they didn’t seem enough. The post-chorus instrumental (which also played at the start of the song, kicking the song off in a bold manner) was powerful, but I wanted more out the members than the shouty ‘Yessir‘ and ‘A-Ha‘ lines they keep throwing at us. But overall, it is still a powerful song that continually proves my point about their underrated status.

The song is about attracting attention once they had undergone a dramatic transformation. The lyrics question why people have become surprised at what they have become after the change and how those people feel now that they had underestimated the members. And to match that, we see guns being pointed at the members, masked people all turning their heads towards the members and the members just becoming intimidating in this music video. I liked the cinematography in this music video which really helps capture some epic and impactful moments. What also helped the epicness of the music video was the sheer amount of dancers they had in it. It felt like an army and it felt like the members had a following to intimidate us with.

Unfortunately, the stage doesn’t share that same epic feeling as the group has to downgrade to only a few dancers. But they don’t tone down their dance moves, keeping with that powerful concept that you could feel in the music and video. I also really liked their charisma in the performance, which helps to make the performance more powerful.

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

[Review] Love Me Harder – WOODZ

The fourth release from Monday that I will be reviewing is Love Me Harder, which is the solo comeback by soloist WOODZ, who may be more familiar now as Cho Seung Youn. Fans started to know of Cho Seung Youn through his participation in Produce X 101, where he placed 5th and debuted as part of the now-defunct X1. But the solo artist has quite an extensive connection to the KPOP industry including being a former member of UNIQ (a South Korean and Chinese idol group), participated in Show Me The Money 5 and went on to debut as a solo artist under the name Luizy and WOODZ, with the latter being his currently used name in the industry at the moment. So with a history like that, it seems like WOODZ is an act to look out for. Let’s have a listen to his return to mainstream KPOP through his new single.

Kicking off Love Me Harder is this addictive whistling melody in the instrumental. It is short at first, but its repetition really drives it into your memory. It also adds a classy yet fun element to the song. The rest of the instrumental is made of a deep bass beat, which really drives the song along. When the two would merge together for the final chorus, you would have a very strong and exciting instrumental combination. And all these elements seem to quite trendy, which helps the song fit in neatly with the current era. WOODZ, for a sub-vocalist and main-rapper during his time in UNIQ, has a very strong and versatile set of vocals which he shows off really nicely in this song. There is a breathy nature to the vocals that adds colour to the song. I really liked the bridge of the song, where it sounds like he far away. Interesting texture there. He has a strong rap in the second verse and I would definitely like to hear more of it in the future. In addition to all of this, Love Me Harder has great rhythm, catchy hooks and appealing energy that will have me returning for many more listens. For someone who was practically unknown to me, WOODZ has proven to be worthy of my radar and I will definitely be checking in with his future releases. And you can attribute Love Me Harder to this.

We see two alter egos of WOODZ in the music video. Let’s say one of them is the Edgy one (i.e. leather jacket) and the other is the ‘Boy Next Door’ type of guy. The video starts off with WOODZ’s ‘Boy Next Door’ version getting into an argument with his girlfriend, who leaves him. Edgy WOODZ gets on top of the car that they were in and this forced ‘Boy next door’ WOODZ to get out and exit a crime scene (i.e. his car). We presume that the girlfriend is dead. Confused, ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ searches for Edgy WOODZ thinking that Edgy WOODZ had something to do with the crime. This leads ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ to a hideout full of illegitimate bills. Edgy WOODZ sends the ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ back to the car and we see the start play out all over again. ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ gets angry and has a go at Edgy WOODZ, but then it dawns on him. WOODZ’s girlfriend had shot him and stole the money that ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ had printed. The crime scene that he stepped out of was his own (which allowed him to leave the scene unnoticed, as he is dead) and Edgy WOODZ was basically taunting ‘Boy Next Door’ WOODZ the entire time for his naivety and stupidity. It is a bit confusing in words, but I thought this was a great music video with an awesome storyline.

Not only do the dancers help fill up the stage, but they also give WOODZ an opportunity to focus on the live element of the performance. During the verses, they do all of the choreography while WOODZ sings and rap. A prime example of this is the entire second verse when they form a circle on the floor around him. When WOODZ does participate in the choreography, those moves actually looked quite good. WOODZ puts a lot of effort in to make up for the lack of choreography on his part during the verse for those sections and I liked the hand gun action. I would like to see a version where he does more dancing, but overall a good stage.

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

[Review] THE ANSWER – AB6IX

Screenshot of AB6IX in The Answer

It is time to catch up on those Monday reviews from yesterday. The first for today (and the third from yesterday overall) is AB6IX with THE ANSWER, which is featured on the group’s second mini-album, Vivid. This is also the group’s first comeback with a four member lineup, after Lim Youngmin departed the group after a DUI incident at the end of the last month. This resulted in the postponement of the comeback, which was originally scheduled for the start of June, so that the remaining members could rework their comeback to fit the altered lineup. Let’s see how the group fairs as a quartet.

AB6IX’s previous two songs, Breathe and Blind for Love, both had a very distinctive house sound to it, which really helped form the group’s solid first steps into the industry. But it seems they step away from that and enter more trendy areas of music with THE ANSWER, which conforms to the trendy mashup of a funky style and trap. While I would have liked them to keep to their original sound in some capacity, THE ANSWER is definitely a great segue into a different area of music. The song is quite upbeat and colourful, which brings a completely different atmosphere to the group. It is definitely less moody and more lighthearted, which helps makes the song more enjoyable especially for the Summer season. There seem to be hip-hop vibes in the song, thanks to the various melodies that the group employs throughout the song. I personally don’t mind the bulk of these and thought they blended well with the new sound. The only hook that I wasn’t completely satisfied with was the pre-chorus. It should have had the strongest and punchiest hook of the song, but it ended up bringing a sluggish feel. Something a little bolder or powerful would have really helped give the song some of that much-needed impact. The same thing could have said about the backing of the Woojin’s rap sequences. His delivery was quite good, but I just wished the backbone was a little more captivating. Overall, it is a good song to reintroduce us to AB6IX. While this might be a step into other genres of music, I wish that their company will allow them to revisit their original sound in the future.

You may notice that the music video for features all five members. That is because the company decided it would be too difficult to re-shoot the music video and hence Lim Youngmin would be edited out instead, whilst the songs and album would be re-recorded. To me, I find this a bit cruel for both Lim Youngmin and his personal fans. I personally would have preferred to wait a little longer for a music video with just the remaining four members. Aside from that topic, the music video was quite colourful to match the upbeat atmosphere of the song and the Summery season. It did capture a playful and youthful side of the group. But overall, it was rather boring for me. There just wasn’t much else going on in the video aside from choreography and closeups (its that formula again).

I am unsure of the situation, though it seems like Woojin is still injured. During the more intensive sections of the performance, he would walk off stage instead of joining in. When he is present for the final chorus, his moves seem a little stiff. I am not complaining about his lack of participation, though. I am actually more impressed that they still found room for him in this performance, rather than making him sit in a chair on the side (which is the case for most injuries). I also like the playfulness of the performance, especially the human swings formed by the backup dancers and members for Daehwi and Woong.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] pporappippam – Sunmi

The second comeback of the day belongs to Sunmi, who is make her comeback with pporappippam. This is Sunmi first comeback since the release of the LALALAY in August of last year. Earlier in the year, Sunmi released Gotta Go, which is part of the official soundtrack for XX (a Korean drama). Interestingly, this OST has a choreography version, which is rare in the world of OST releases in KPOP. I didn’t get around to reviewing it as it is an OST, but maybe I will be in the future (hint hint!).

What jumps right out at me is the retro feel that pporappippam has. More specifically, its music profile revolves around 80s disco. An upbeat retro like this one in Summer, which sounds very refined and also very Sunmi-like, feels very refreshing and appealing. The violins at the start had a very intriguing feel to them. And I like how the funky guitar peeks through the instrumental verses, before going full blast for the chorus. I also enjoyed the bass during the pre-chorus, which helped build the song towards the upbeat chorus. The bridge revisits those violins from the start and I liked the peacefulness that comes from this section. A very fun and captivating instrumental, if you asked me. As for the other elements in this song, they were also quite good. Sunmi’s vocals are pretty plain in this song but I am sure she (or the producers) intended for it this way so that the vocals do not mask the greatness of the instrumental. But while they are plain, they are also quite light and airy, which helps with the refreshing appeal of this song. The hooks are quite memorable and the melodies replay in my head even after the song had stopped playing. All signs of a great song.

While I like a good plotline in a video, I also do like it when there isn’t one. Though, they have to compensate with interesting visual elements to earn that like. And the prime examples of music videos that do just this are Sunmi’s. There is just always something captivating with Sunmi’s closeups that work so wonderfully on their own. It might be her visuals or her expressionless facial expressions she always put on, such as at the end of this video. Note that she is quite happy and all smiles throughout the music video, which shows experiencing the positive sides of being in love with her partner. I really like how the music video emphasis the colour purple, which she refers to quite often throughout the music video. Doing some research, the colour purple in dreams symbolises intimacy, affection and devotion, which is highly appropriate for her video.

I really like the dancers’ big brim hats. They add a very interesting vibe to the performance. I also like their use at the end of the performance. While her performance during the initial and second choruses was pretty good, I found the bridge and final chorus routine to be the most captivating. Final chorus because more people were present to fill out the stage and help give a strong end to the performance. The bridge because Sunmi walks on her dancers and falls into their arms. It looks glamourous when Sunmi does it.

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

[Review] Maria – Hwasa (Mamamoo)

It is one busy Monday with a total of four releases that I intend to review as soon as possible (may need to split over a few days to get them done). First up is Hwasa’s solo comeback. Hwasa made her official solo debut at the start of the year with the hit, Twit. That, however, was only a single and actually features on her first mini-album, which shares the same name as her new title track, Maria. She is also the third member of Mamamoo to release a solo single this year, following Moonbyul and Solar, with Eclipse and Spit It Out (respectively).

If we were to judge the song based on its title, we would be expecting Maria to go full steam ahead with the Latin influence, the trend that KPOP in Summer probably will never escape. Mamamoo too also contributed to this trend with the release of Egotistic in 2018. But don’t be too quick to judge, as the Latin influence is very small. In fact, it localised just to the dance break, which gives off energy in a very fashionable sense for this song. Its presence doesn’t necessarily fit in the rest of the song, but it is definitely needed. The rest of Maria seems like a blank canvas, in terms of its instrumental. Sure, it is an upbeat and, at times, intense track. But apart from a minimal amount of synths, the instrumental is quite plain. It isn’t plain in a dull way though, as the vocals give the song some much-needed action and Hwasa’s vocals help fill in those gaps. I really like her nasally delivery during the verses and her raspy whisper that kicks off the chorus. I also a fan of her vocalisation in the latter half of the chorus, which is where the song gets a little intense and sensual. Together, it forms a decent song that plays towards Hwasa’s strength as a performer and vocalist. Maybe a more captivating instrumental would have been more appealing and made this into a winning track.

The music video reflects the lyrics well. We see Hwasa being hurt by others at the very start of the music video with all the photographers taking photos of her body at a crime scene and all those people providing a lighter for the cigarette she is holding. In the hospital, she is surrounded by all these pencils pointed towards her, as well. But what the music video also shows is that she gets up and stands up for herself. We see that during the hospital scene once again, where she escaped the pointy pencils and walks down the hall as if she never had that encounter. The start where she is serving a heart seems to be her bouncing back as it looked like she just killed the person who hurt her and serving it to other people who are going to hurt her. That is just my take on the video though, so there can be many other views out there. For the other elements in of the video, the sets and the camera work during her solo shots were nice. Some of her closeups in the choregrahpy shots were a little ‘in your face’ for me, as I wanted to see more of the choreography.

The one thing I really like about Hwasa is that she doesn’t hold back. If the performance is going to be sensual, then she will make it happen. We have seen that through her solo stages at award shows. While I am sure this performance will get some flack in Korea, it looks pretty good. There is a fair amount of hip grinding action in the chorus which seems very bold and I liked how the final chorus had a different routine to feature both genders of dancers and end the song with a more powerful vibe.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Special] Road To Kingdom Review – Finale

Welcome all to my very special review to Road To Kingdom. I may have been very silent about the recent series. But I have been eagerly awaiting each performance to appear on YouTube after broadcasting on Thursdays to see what Golden Child, ONEUS, ONF, Pentagon, The Boyz, TOO and VERIVERY have prepared for us. In this special review series, I will be going through the actual rankings that came about from the first three rounds, short reviews of each performance and how I thought the rankings would go! This post will only cover the finale of the show. Please remember, these are my thoughts only. Feel free to comment your ones below.


Finale

Like the Queendom finale, the remaining groups released new songs a week ahead of the final episode to compete for the secured spot on the upcoming Kingdom series. With these new songs come new stages and concepts never seen before. Like usual, I will be focusing on their new songs, concept and performance to see which group had the superior performance and the title of Road To Kingdom winner.


Come Back Home – ONEUS

Come Back Home starts off with a grungy and angsty rock vibe, before settling on a subtle form of dubstep for the chorus (a bit typical, if I were to be honest). There is also a strong dance beat mixed within the song that reminds me of ONEUS’s other title tracks such as Valkryie and Twilight. The final instrumental break at the end of the song carries the same vibes as the choruses of those mentioned songs. I really liked the rapid drum beats at the end of the choruses, which offsets the paced nature of the chorus (which was a unique drawing point). I also really Leedo’s parts in this song, going from a dark and deep rapping voice to smooth vocals for the bridge. Seoho’s high note is also commendable.

The roles in which ONEUS plays in this performance, concept-wise, are protectors of the young child. The backup dancers played the evil people who rose from the dead to kill the young child. The VCR that starts off the performance adds context to the performance, but it doesn’t add much substance. Likewise, I did think the presence of the child for the performance did very little.

The actual choreography was really good. I really like the Leedo and RAVN dynamic that the performance focused on. At one point, Leedo and RAVN also played each other’s shadow. I also like their visual effects by using the big screen. The group does a few stunts in this performance, but I did wish the stage lighting was a lot better to see this more clearly. I did like the suspenseful ending when all the members disappeared.

Song – 8/10
Concept – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10


New World (신세계) – ONF

New World kicks off with a rapid beat and dramatic flair that really captured my attention from the very first second. It is the one song leading up to the final episode that I continually replayed and enjoyed. Like ONEUS’ track, I felt New World compliments ONF’s discography. It was dynamic and captivating, all common descriptors to ONF’s songs. The chorus was very memorable with that ‘Higher‘ delivery being my favourite part of the song, which also adds a tinge of light into this otherwise intense sound. I also liked the lead into the final chorus from the bridge, as this part was very powerful and makes sure to grab your attention, just in case the earlier sections didn’t work.

The performance started off with a whole cinematic montage from their past music videos. It seems like the performance’s concept is unlocking the doors to the New World, which is shown through the emphasis of keys in the opening montage and also the presence of keys in the performance.

With such a good song, it already has that edge. And the group did an amazing job in extending this edge and making this a very captivating performance. The entire sequence of them using the keys to unlock the silver box was very captivating, though Wyatt slamming the box though made me feel uncomfortable, just based on the way the box landed on the ground. I just wished the performance reflected the change in tempo speeds, which would have made everything feel more natural.

Song – 9/10
Concept – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating 9/10


Basquait (바스키아) – Pentagon

To me, Basquait felt like another version of Dr. Bebe at times. While the other groups have performed songs that complimented their existing discography, Pentagon is the only group on this list ‘replicate’ an existing song, which doesn’t come off well. That thought aside, I did like how the song didn’t rely on EDM or electronic synths to become a dance track, instead opting for rock elements to give that angst and grungy vibe throughout the entire song. I also think the vocal and rapping work from the members are on point. The song does lack a memorable hook or moments, which doesn’t help the song gain an advantage.

I am unsure what their concept is, but Pentagon looks like they have been part of a rebellion with their ripped up outfits. They did have a VCR at the start of the performance, but it doesn’t shed much light on the concept. It does, however, look like they were running from someone but ended up being captured.

And that is where we start off the performance. I really liked how the stage theatrics really helped make their performance a lot more epic and captivating to watch. I liked their use of props and how their dance moves seemed to pack a punch, which goes hand-in-hand with the assumed concept. I do need to say that Hui nailed his high note, which sounded extra epic on stage. That alone adds a tonne of leverage to the performance, helping them boost the song’s appeal by a great amount (which was pretty much needed).

Song – 6/10
Concept – 7/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7/10


Checkmate – The Boyz

The Boyz’s Checkmate isn’t the strongest song in the bunch. But I liked how the song seems to be fixated on the idea of a fast tempo in terms of both their instrumental and some of their vocal melodies. I also liked the use of the piano in the instrumental, which gives the song a very unique vibe, in comparison to the rest of the other songs. I also enjoyed some of the vocals moments, such as that ‘Royal Royal Catch A Royal‘ and the equivalent in the second verse. I am unconvinced that this is the best track of the bunch (as suggested by the results of the finale – spoiler alert, they won), as it took a fair amount of time for me to get into.

Concept-wise, the start performance revolves around the crown that The Boyz had focused on since the first round. To have the crown feature in all their major performances where possible is quite clever and really intrigues me. But for those who are joining for the first time (where have you been), the group also has a chessboard concept.

Amazing performance. The start was epic, with the passing of the crown and Sunwoo falling from that height into the mattress. I like the one-take camera work for the first verse. Everything that happened during this first verse looked really cool, as a result. The group was also the only group to dance on the audience side of the stage (i.e. where the other groups are sitting the performance). The use of the dancers to doing that tutting like action just before the bridge was really cool and the use of that box on stage somehow blew my mind. Oh, and their dance moves were really fluid. Everything on that stage was just captivating to watch.

Song – 7/10
Concept – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10


Beautiful-x – VERIVERY

I commend VERIVERY for going with the most brightly energetic song out of the bunch, which does help them stand out from the competition. This is a risky move, given that the industry does prefer male groups with a dark concept than these youthful ones. Beautiful-x has a strong beat that had my foot tapping along. There is also a bit of funkiness to the song, which makes it very fun sounding. I liked the vocal melodies, particularly around ‘Nal Wihae‘ (‘For You‘) part of the chorus, but I wished that the rapping was a little dynamic, which I think would have supported the song. It, to me, felt like the most forgettable part of the song.

The group goes with that high school concept, which is pretty unoriginal. The entire montage at the start was boring and failed to excite me to keep watching the performance. The fact that they kept on confessing their love by putting items in the one locker felt cheesy.

As the performance progressed, things got a lot more interesting. It does look like your typical KPOP stage performance, as the moves looked quite typical at best. I really like the basketball routine and also the band scenes (though it did look somewhat cheesy as well). The cheesy note could also apply for the ending as well.

Song – 8/10
Concept – 5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.1/10


And The Winner Is…

Road To Kingdom crowned The Boyz as the overall winners of the entire show. That was based on digital points of the new singles from its release date; the accumulated points from the first three rounds; view counts from the performances on online platforms and fan votes! Unfortuately I don’t have access to all of that information, so I will be basing my pick for overall winner based on the rankings I have given to them thus far, including the ones above.

With that being said, the group whom I think should have been crowned as the winner to Road To Kingdom is ONF, with The Boyz coming runner up. It is a bit of a reversal, as ONF were the runner up in real life. To see my version of the final rankings, they are in the table below.

Final Ranking PositionArtist
#1ONF
#2The Boyz
#3Pentagon
#4VERIVERY
#5ONEUS
#6TOO
#7Golden Child

And with that, I have completed my review for Road To Kingdom. A lot of work was put into this, but it was quite fun. Now I just need to return to the usual posting schedule, which I haven’t really adhered to while working on this review series. With The Boyz confirmed for the upcoming Kingdom series, who else do you want to see on the show? For me personally, I want to see Stray Kids, SF9, ATEEZ and NCT as part of the lineup. That will definitely be very exciting! Let me know who iswill be on your version of Kingdom in the comments section below!

Preliminary Round – Preliminary 90 seconds Review & Rankings
1st Round – Song Of King Review & Ranking
2nd Round – My Song Review & Ranking
3rd Round Part 1 – Collaboration Review & Rankings
3rd Round Part 2 – Your Song Review and Rankings

[Review] How You Like That – BLACKPINK

It has been over a year since BLACKPINK made their comeback with Kill This Love and fans have been wanting more ever since. And after that gruelling long wait, BLACKPINK has finally returned with a new single, How You Like That. It is said that 2020 is going to be a big year for the group, as they are ‘confirmed’ for their album, which will be due in September 2020. Well, at least YG Entertainment claims so. We will have to wait for its actual release to actually believe it, given YG Entertainment’s track record with BLACKPINK’s past releases and the ‘promised’ solo singles for Rose, Lisa and Jisoo (these have been ‘confirmed’ for later in the year). But until then, we have How You Like That to relieve that BLACKPINK itch.

You might already know where this review is heading if I am going to say that the most enjoyable part of the song is the ending sequence. This is where the song delivers an instrumental piece that is both powerful and enjoyable for a number of reasons. The first reason was that everything before that was extremely lacklustre and boring. It failed to excite me, hype me, maintain suspense or capture my attention. The first verse was okay, but it needed a powerful drop once it got to the chorus to enforce the preceding section. Instead, the chorus opted for a dry and bland drop. It was quite emotionless, to put it frankly and this resulted in drying out the first verse as well. I know the final sequence is just an extension of the chorus (as you can hear the chorus behind the increased tempo and heavy beats), but it was something that that I was looking for because it added momentum and energy to the song. The rapping and vocal work were quite good. I liked how Lisa’s rapping really helped make up for the lost momentum of the chorus, delivering some impact. If only the instrumental was more interesting to help support that mindset. I will also give the song its How You Like That chorus hook, for the exact same reason. Another thing that I noticed as I listened to the song for the first time early tonight – I had the thought that How You Like That was a Kill This Love or Ddu Du Ddu Du version 2.0 as it basically went for the same formula. For their upcoming release, I would love to hear something that strays away from the same formula and hopefully is a lot more exciting to this than compared to this song.

It is a YG video and it expected that it will be a good music video. And I feel like they hit that mark, once again. The colours are very vivid, the lighting puts everything into focus and most importantly, the video highlights all the pretty visuals of the group. I really liked how their outfits and looks really had a wow factor to them in this video, which made it more captivating to watch. The same thing can be said about the set design. My favourite looks in this music video include Jisoo’s headwear that accompanies her red outfit, Rose’s casual outfit when she rips off the flower blindfold, Lisa’s red hair, Jennie’s look under the umbrellas, their dark angel dresses and all their outfits for the final sequence.

Dance wise, I thought it was a good routine. There is a lot of attitude in the choreography to support the chorus and this fits well with the lyrics of being better after breaking up with someone who doubted them. I also really like the strut they did as they launch right into the final sequence. Attitude and definitely boldness to kick off the best part of the song. I did think the line was a little odd. But it still worked.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.8/10

[Review] Stand By You – A.C.E

Ahead of the official release of a digital single tomorrow, A.C.E has unveiled the music video for their new release, Stand By You. We last saw the group thought their Savage promotions back in November of last year. Since then, we haven’t heard much from the group. While that is the case for the last few months, it seems like we will be seeing A.C.E more in the foreseeable future. The music video for this release ends with the title card ‘A.C.E: the beginning’, along with the member’s nametags on a window sill. What does this all mean? I guess we will know in due time. In the meanwhile, here is my review for Stand By You.

Stand By You is unlike the songs that I know A.C.E for. For those who are unfamiliar with A.C.E, they are commonly associated with powerful EDM dance tracks. I am not familiar what their side tracks are like, unfortunately, so maybe something a long the lines of Stand By You has popped up before. But for me personally, Stand By You is very different. It is a soft rock ballad that brings out the vocals of all the members. There isn’t much to the song in terms of complexity, which the group is widely known for through their title tracks. The instrumental feels like your typical soft rock track. It isn’t bad in any way. It is rather light and quite calming. It just doesn’t have a unique factor to it, if you were to compare it other soft rock ballads. But this allows their vocals to be in the forefront of the song and the song does an amazing job of showcasing the member’s vocals. The harmonies that come about in the song and the lightness of the song feels very youthful and innocent, which comes into play when I will discuss their music video in a bit. Overall, I quite liked the track. Everything comes together well, giving the song a refreshing tone. Other than the vocals and the instrumental, I don’t think there is enough to make this song memorable. As just a digital single, it could get lost in the mix of various comebacks we expect in the coming weeks. But there is enough for me to enjoy with an occasion listen or if it popped up on my playlist.

The music video is definitely the beginning (or sequel) to something a lot darker. It opens up with Jun narrating over a scene where he is kneeling in the rain, in front of a girl. He says ‘The world rejected me, so I tried to burn it down. But then I no longer had a world. When I opened my eyes, inside the prison that is my heart, I discovered a cactus reflected in a small mirror‘, whilst crying and shivering in the cold. The scene is quite dark, contrasting with the many light scenes that follow. The video then flips to the same girl in a classroom. Interestingly, she is alone and goes to the one table in the classroom. She fumbles around and opens a diary, where a photo flies out. She leans down to pick it up and we then see Jun looking up back at her (and the other members in the classroom). The photo is of all of them wearing coloured skirts and a feathered headband. They plan an outing and we get some sort of indication of the members having a crush on the girl. We don’t know for sure yet, but there seems to be some awkwardness while they plan the outing. The members turn up to school one day with a gold cart and with their female friend, they embark on their trip. The golf cart breaks down and they all set up camp under the stars. It is there they dress up in coloured skirts and a feathered headband. Not sure what this means, but it seems like this all occurred before (based on the photo). The next day, they all turn up onto the beach. While their friend takes in the sights, the members hang back. For a moment there, the members look at her fondly, as if they are all watching over her. She realizes something, turns back and the members are no longer there. She then grabs something from her pocket and becomes emotional about it. This music video definitely brings forward a lot of questions and definitely leaves me intrigued for what is to come.

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