[Album Review] Gateway (7th Mini Album) – ASTRO

I ended up passing on an album review last Sunday as I was a little busy. So today’s album review was meant to be released on Sunday. And that album is ASTRO’s recent album release, Gateway. The featured track on this album Knock, which I rated quite highly at the time of its release. And even though it has been released 3 weeks ago, I can confirm that the high rating still stands. This album also serves as the return of Moonbin, who was noticeably absent from their previous comeback, Blue Flame. The group did release One & Only between the albums, which did feature Moonbin, but that was no album. Let’s see what album has to offer.

Gateway Album Cover

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

2. When You Call My Name (내 이름을 부를 때)When You Call My Name starts off with a playful tone and features a retro video game-like instrumental, which helps the song develop into a fun number. It reminds me of their earlier works before they adopted this mature sound that we have heard all of last year and through the title track, Knock. If you know me, I really liked textures in my songs. So, the choppy nature of the instrumental, particularly around the chorus was quite enjoyable. The brightness in this song gives it a nice fresh tone and quite upbeat. Their vocals were nice, with MJ’s voice being the most memorable of the group. They were used sparingly during the chorus, which was obviously to direct the attention to the instrumental as that was a centerpiece. But it did mean we didn’t much material from the group. So, I did want more out of the vocals, especially the rappers who were quite forgettable in this song. (8/10)

3. Somebody Like – In comparison to the preceding track, Someday Like is definitely very full. No major choppy instrumentals or sparingly used vocals in this track. Instead, the instrumental falls under the pop domain and feels quite suitable for a nice feel good day. I really like the guitar that is used throughout the song and the funky beat that the chorus features. It is quite energetic and refreshing in a pleasant way. And the group’s vocals bring a nice brightness to the song. I find Somebody Like to be quite catchy, as the hooks were quite memorable. Note how I said there was no ‘major’ choppy instruments at the start. At the very end of the bridge, we are treated to some choppiness in the song. It is quite minute in comparison to an entire song. But it managed to stand out in this song. Talking about the bridge, I thought JinJin’s rapping sequence layered over a trap sequence was another good stand out moment. In comparison to the other songs on the album, it doesn’t feel like the best and hence why the rating is a little less than the higher ranking songs on the album. (8.5/10)

4. We Still – Kicking We Still off is nice piano. This piano piece remains throughout the song, despite synths becoming much more dominant during the chorus. This is something that ASTRO has done before, so unfortunately it isn’t unique in any way. But what I liked about We Still is that it continues that very upbeat and bright feel that the album has been channeling throughout the song thus far. And this allows the song to come off as quite fresh. I find that both the vocals and rapping, despite that latter definitely being a lot more intense then the former, manages to bind the song together quite nice. I was very impressed with both elements and these made the song’s hook quite powerful and memorable. Apart from the title track, I reckon We Still is a strongest effort, even though it took the path of something that the group has done before. (9/10)

5. 12 Hours (12시간) – ASTRO tones it down a fair bit with 12 Hours. It is another pleasant pop R&B track, fitting in with the rest of the album, without the energetic buzz or exciting synths that drive the song forward. Instead, the song features a mellow and soft piano instrumental, accented with various guitars to give the song some small details. Their vocals are quite nice and soothing in this track. The rapping was a bit of a miss for me. I wanted to hear something a little more aligned with the song, but JinJin ended putting too much edge in his section. If Rocky and JinJin made their sections a little more mellow sounding, I think this would be a perfect combination. (7.5/10)

6. Lights On (빛이 돼줄게) – I liked how Lights On started off with. Very soft with the vocals and the ‘Tik Tac Toc’ being a nice accent to that section. JinJin then kicks up the song by bringing in his powerful delivery and rough tone to the song. Unlike in the previous song, it felt appropriate given what was brewing in the background (i.e. the synths that allowed the song to build to the chorus). The chorus of Lights On has the similar aesthetics as the title tracks on their special mini-album releases. If anything, this song’s instrumental is less intense. And the hooks were a lot more typical and boring (aside from that ‘Tik Tac Toc’ detail, which I was glad to hear in the second verse). But still feels the same, in a way. I do note that I feel like I have been a little more critical with the rapping on this album. But I think both Rocky and JinJin shined in Lights On. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Gateway Teaser Image

[Review] Knock – ASTRO

Also kicking off the month of May is ASTRO, who makes their comeback with the title track, Knock, and the mini-album GATEWAY. This is ASTRO’s first comeback since the release of Blue Flame late last year and it is also the first official comeback which marks the return of Moonbin, who sat out of promotions for Blue Moon for health reasons. ASTRO, with Moonbin, did release a special single, One & Only, in March for their fourth anniversary. I am also very glad that ASTRO is coming back today as opposed to a week from now due to the intense competition due next week. It gives ASTRO an opportunity to shine, which will help them immensely in this crazy month ahead.

Knock may be the song that pushes the group further into the spotlight. I feel like All Night and Blue Flame did a fine job at putting the group into the spotlight, but it hasn’t been enough to make them the centre of attention based on the resultant reception that I got from my research. After all, the group is charting higher than ever with Knock. I put my finger on a number of aspects of the song that may be helping with this. The first has to be the song’s robust and very dynamic chorus. I like how the song’s main hook (i.e. the ‘Knock Knock Knock‘) felt like mini jabs throughout the chorus that really reeled you in and grabbed your attention. The second has to the be powerful rapping. Both JinJin and Rocky shined in the verses. But once the bridge came, I wanted more and they delivered with an extra powerful sequence. And as a cherry on the top, JinJin had a final section with was rapping overload for me (in a good way). The third has to be the vocals. MJ, Moonbin, Eunwoo and Sanha all sounded really clear and crisp. The powerful dance instrumentation was very loud and I was concerned that the members would be drowned in the midst of the music. The fourth has to be the instrumental, which I have just touched on. I liked how the chorus contrasted with the instrumentation in the verses, which was a lot more melodic and calmer. Put everything together and you get Knock.

The concept of the music video and comeback is dimension travelling, which isn’t a unfamiliar concept in the KPOP world. I am a little hesitant calling it time travelling, even though their image teasers hinted towards it, as I didn’t see much references to time. But what I think I find very unique about the music video is that they focus on the middle region of this travelling between different worlds, which is often not even shown in music videos related to time travelling or going in between worlds. It was stunning video and you could see how the multiple worlds was accessible in this realm or limbo that they are in. The visual effects for the spiraling staircases and the floating planets looked amazing. Even the members looked very attractive and captivating in this video.

The choreography left a very strong impression on me. In an interview published by Soompi, the group expressed how tiring the choreography. And what I saw in the music video looked really exhausting. But it was a very powerful routine that shows off the group’s dancing ability. Just watch look at each moment where they sing ‘Knock Knock Knock‘. There is no resting period in this choreography and it requires stamina. So props to the members for this powerful choreography, especially in the weeks to come.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10

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

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

SBS Gayo Daejun – 25th of December 2019

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

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

KBS Gayo Daechukje – 27th December 2019

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

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

MBC Gayo Daejejeon – 31st December 2019

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

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

[Album Review] Blue Flame (6th Mini Album) – ASTRO

ASTRO is nominated for Best Male Group and Best Male Choreography. Click here to support ASTRO and your other favourite artists.

The next album to be reviewed as part of the ‘album review blitz’ is ASTRO’s Blue Flame. The album also features the title track of the same name (and the link to the review can be found tomorrow). I found the title to be intriguing and thought I give the album a listen. And I know how cheesy this sounds, but I am glad I gave it a listen as there are a few extra good tracks on here. Overall, I found the album to be promising release for the group and you can find out why below.

Blue Flame Album Cover

1. Blue Flame Click here to read the full review for Blue Flame. (8.5/10)

2. Go & StopGo & Stop is a memorable song thanks to a few elements. The hooks in this song are quite strong and catchy, such as ‘Go & Stop’ in the chorus (sung by MJ) and ‘Bye Bye Bye, You’re My Lie Lie Liar’ towards the end of the song. The instrumental was also enjoyable, with the synthetic flute-like sounds and the rhythmic drive that the guitar and percussion brought throughout the rest of the song. There is a subtle Latin flair in the instrumentation. And whilst it is an overwhelming and overused genre in KPOP, I found the subtle nature to be somewhat refreshing than the usual use of Latin influences. Their vocal work and rapping were also awesome, aiding in the song becoming quite enjoyable. (8/10)

3. All About You (다야) – Another catchy and upbeat pop number. The ‘Daya ya ya ya’ (the Korean title of the track) is addictive and added a fun element. The pop instrumental had a bright and energetic feel, continued this fun vibe, which automatically felt like a throwback to some of their earlier releases. This one just feels a lot more mature sounding for the group. Unfortunately, there is a typical side of the track that does seem to weave its way to the forefront on the song. Despite it being catchy, there wasn’t anything special with the instrumentation. The vocal work and rapping were easily forgotten (despite the catchy chorus).  (7/10)

4. When The Wind Blows (찬바람 불 때면) – When I look at the title of this song, it really yells out ‘ballad’. But instead of a ballad, we get more of a dance track. I like When The Wind Blows, as it toned down in a fashionable manner during the verses. But it picks up instantly during and after the rap sequences, giving the song an influx of energy to really make it standout. Sure, there might not be a special element when it comes to the instrumentation. But I found that the vocals and rapping gave the song some edge, helping it stand out some more. (9/10)

5. You’re My WorldYou’re My World is another great track. One thing that I really found interesting in this track is how the vocals pulsed during the pre-chorus and chorus. I thought this was a very nice and unique effect to give the song. I also really liked the rapping sequence in this track. Jin Jin emphasis certain words by shouting them out in the background. Rocky had very smooth delivery and flowy lines. Other than the pulsing effect, all the vocalists helped give the song a nice melodic touch which helped make the song a pleasant number to end of the album with. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

Blue Flame Teaser Image

[Review] Blue Flame – ASTRO

The next major comeback of the week is by ASTRO, who returned today with Blue Flame, the title of both the song and their 6th mini-album. This is ASTRO’s first comeback since their January comeback, All Night. For this comeback, Moonbin will not be participating in the promotions as he is currently taking a break due to health problems. Hope he gets well quickly so that we can see him on stage soon! But it isn’t all bad news for fans, as we still get to hear him in the album and see him in the music video.

Blue Flame starts off with a reggae-like beat, which I thought was rather interesting. It gave the song a nice infusion of energy that we usually don’t get during the season of Autumn in Korea. But as a person who loves high energy and upbeat comebacks, I am not complaining. We lose the reggae influence during the chorus (though I am quite sure it is lying underneath the erratic and extremely loaded chorus instrumentation). But we get an extra kick in the energy department, which ends up tying the verses and chorus together quite nicely. I think both vocals and rapping are both strong aspects of this song. Everyone had a moment to shine in this comeback. I did want something a little more melodic, which is what we got in their All Night release. I think that could have smoothed out the song a little bit and made it even more interesting. But Blue Flame is a pretty good track, showcasing ASTRO once again in very strong limelight.

Visually, this is another strong music video from the group. This applies to both the members and the imagery found in the video. The sets are rather elaborate and complex, which makes the music video intriguing. Not exactly sure what the storyline is in this video. But there are books burning, wolf sightings and floating mirrors, which I am sure would mean something. I also find it surprising that the video isn’t overwhelmingly blue. Instead, it is rather mute and toned down, which I think works really well.

I thought this was a good routine for the performance. I imagine that they had to do a quick reshuffle with the announcement of Moonbin’s break only occurring last week. But watching the formations, you can tell the remaining members did an extremely good job of covering for Moonbin’s absence. The chorus was quite powerful, matching with the high energy we got from the chorus. I also liked Rocky’s solo moment with the female dancer and MJ’s section just before the final chorus.

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

[Review] Blooming Future – ASTRO

It is Saturday, which per the post schedule means a Japanese review is coming your way. I was originally going to do another release from a few weeks back. But ASTRO dropped their Japanese debut, Blooming Future, just this week (It did feel a little out of the blue as I did not see any news or teasers beforehand). And to avoid any delay, I decided to write the review for it today! Blooming Future is featured on the group’s first Japanese mini-album, Venus, alongside the Japanese version of Baby, All Night and Always You.

Blooming Future (or Hanasake Mirai) is a pretty decent beginning for their Japanese career. I felt like the direction they were going for was really good, with it fitting both ASTRO’s youthful charm and the typical upbeatness we tend to hear from Japanese releases. However, listening to the song, I felt like it lacked definition. The song felt very consistent throughout and didn’t seem to depart the synth sound that they were aiming for. I feel like if there were some bass or background vocals during the chorus, for example, the song would have had that added definition to really make it sound better. Apart from that, the song was pretty good. I liked the vocals and the funkiness that the Rocky and JinJIn brought to the song through their raps. The instrumental was actually quite good., apart from what I mentioned above. I did like the lightness during the verses. But like I said, the chorus could have had more to it.

I guess to fit in with the lightness of the track is a very minimalistic vibe to the music video. There wasn’t a whole lot going on during the music video, especially when we talk about the sets. And this allows the individual members to really pop out. The video consisted of solo and choreography shots. I did feel the editing could have eased on the number of cuts throughout the video (i.e. when the scenes change to the next one). They felt very sudden and cut the flow of the music video, especially in the chorus, which prevented me from admiring the members (hahaha…).

From what I can see in the music video, the choreography looks decent. But due to the magnitude of cuts (mentioned above), it was really hard to really focus on anything. Unfortunately, we don’t have a live performance of it yet, so I guess I will have to rank according to what I saw in the video.

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

[Album Review] Dream Part 01. (4th Mini Album) – ASTRO

Today’s ‘Past Album’ Review is ASTRO’s 2017 comeback, Baby and Dream Part 01 mini-album. This review was actually intended to be released earlier in the year. But since ASTRO returned with All Night and their All Light studio album, I decided to postpone it to avoid any clashes between the two albums (I am worried that it might cause confusion for some fans to why I reviewed a previous album and not their latest one). But fast forward 2 months, I think it is time to release this album review to read! So let’s get going!

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Dream Part 01 Album Cover

1..Dreams Come TrueDreams Come True begins with a quirky bubble sound in an 8-bit format, which really starts off the album on a unique touch. It progresses into a standard pop dance track for the chorus which I think was nice, but I am a little disappointed that it lost some of that uniqueness. I did like the violins in the background, which I thought was a nice small detail to add to the song. The vocals were nice, especially with that falsetto high note towards the end. The overlapping with the rapping did make the ending a tad messy for my liking but it was still a good ending overall. (8/10)

2. Baby (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Baby. (8/10)

3. You Smile (니가 웃잖아)You Smile has that Summertime band instrumental feel but ASTRO manages to transform it into a dance track. Come to the think of it, this reminds of their previous comeback at the time of release (Breathless). It is slightly different with the chorus sung individually and the track isn’t overly pop. I enjoyed the vocals in the song. But I think I liked the rapping more, as it felt more suited. The deep voices of the rappers go really well with the fresh feel of the song, hence why they stood for me. (8/10)

4. Because It’s You (너라서)Because It’s You is a ballad that thanks their lover for being there for them and the joy for being by their side. It is a really nice ballad at the start that gradually builds up to a very melodic chorus. It showcases their vocals in a light that I personally have not really seen too much from ASTRO, especially in their earlier days. I would love to hear the rappers sing in the song alongside the rest of the members, especially since they only got a very small portion of the song. I felt like that could have really been nice as it could have doubled up as a song for fans, given the message of the song. (8.5/10)

5. Dream Night Dream Night takes on an upbeat pop instrumental. I did enjoy the energy and bright atmosphere they had within the song. I also thought that the song did well with their vocals. It just didn’t have that excitement to really make it… well… pop. It is another one of those songs that have an instrumental that felt too typical and consistent over the entire length of the track. Furthermore, I wanted a little more to the raps. They could have been more interesting and defined to really stand out. (6.5/10)

6. I’ll Be ThereI’ll Be There is another ballad-like song. But instead of relying on a beautiful melody like in Because It’s You (see track 4), the song relies more on their youthful side. It seems light-hearted and more carefree. Once again, the vocals are on full show but not to the extent as the previously mentioned ballad. The rapping seems to be more reminiscent of their title tracks hence why I can’t really describe the song as ‘beautiful’. I would have liked a more memorable instrumental and less abrupt ending. Personally, the song in passing would be overlooked as it was forgettable for the most part. (7/10)

7. Lie (다 거짓말) – We have another ballad-like track and this one features a very nice orchestral-like instrumental, which really makes the track feel so much more heartbreaking. Lie seems to hint at a broken relationship caused by the lies of their lover. A lot of the lyrics seems to show the members alone due to their lover not being there anymore and that they have to lie as a result to keep up the impression that they are okay (That’s my personal take on the lyrics. The translations that I found don’t really make sense). I thought the song was also a nice presentation of vocals and I really liked how they integrated the rapping into the sad song. (9/10)

8. Every Minute – The album ends with Every Minute, which is a return to their bright and youthful style that ASTRO presented for this comeback. The song features a slight retro and funk touch within its electro-pop instrumental. As a result, it felt like a fun song. I liked their change up for the bridge and the rebound-like transition between this part. I do have to admit the ‘Every Minute’ repetition feels like it would get really annoying with repeated listens but for the time being, it is keyed into my mind as a good hook. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

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Dream Part 01 Teaser Image

[Album Review] All Light (1st Studio Album) – ASTRO

With their growing fanbase, I spent the last year awaiting a comeback from the one and only ASTRO. But we were left with a special album that was barely promoted in 2018, which was a disappointment (not at the album but rather their lack of promotions). But now, the male group from Fanatigo returned last week with All Light, breaking their promotional drought. It features 10 tracks in total, one of them being the title track All Night, which I have enjoyed since its release. Today, we have a little closer look at the group’s album release.

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All Light Album Cover

1..Starry SkyStarry Sky is an R&B dance track that starts the album off on a bold note. And by that, I mean the song is very defined and robust. I like the thumping instrumental and the small details within the instrumental, which really gives off the effect of a beautiful night sky. The vocals were really good. The rapping was also quite good but it felt ordinary. I felt like the song could have benefited from a rougher or stronger rap sequence, showing off the rappers even more. (8/10)

2. All Night (전화해) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of All Night. (10/10)

3. Moonwalk – The deep pounding in the instrumental continues in Moonwalk. And this is one of the biggest attractions of the song. There is something about that really pulls me into the song. I thought the choppy nature at the start of the song, the use of autotune throughout the song, the pounding instrumental and their vocals/raps really create an aesthetically pleasing track. Overall, it left a very strong impression on me and it is a track (other than the title track) that I would personally recommend. (10/10)

4. TreasureTreasure continues the electronic touch to the album thus far with a nice dance track that has influences in tropical house. It isn’t as strong as other songs in the same sphere, which I think is quite nice. I liked the small details scattered throughout the track such as the whistles and the layering of vocals and raps. I think the track could have benefited from a better hook, as this would have made the track more memorable. But other than that, it is another good track. (9/10)

5. Roleplay – Taking a break from the electronic nature of the album this far, Roleplay is an acoustic R&B track that really stands out. It is a style that sounds extremely mature for the group and I personally would like to hear more of this. I like the chill nature of the instrumental, fitting neatly into an urban setting. The vocals were quite nice. Interestingly the song contains no raps, which I think was unfortunate because a rap sequence could have done wonders to this song, if it was executed right. (9/10)

6. 1 in a Million – This song is probably an example of what many people would think boy groups do. It is bright, youthful and very energetic in nature. The electronic instrumental returns once again, this time it has pop-infused into it. I don’t mind this song, but it does feel rather generic, like it is a go-to style of song. I thought the rapping was nicely done in this track and the vocals were amazing, like everywhere else on the album. The chorus was catchy, so what more could you ask for! (8/10)

7. Love Wheel – Once again, we depart the EDM direction with a sweet pop track. Sure, the song fits ASTRO’s profile perfectly. The track has a very consistent instrumental but it doesn’t feel repetitive as each section (apart from the chorus) sounds slightly different but remaining tight together. The vocals were nailed, and the rapping was perfectly fitting for the song. It is one of the songs where despite you not being able to understand the meaning of the lyrics, you are able to smile along. (8/10)

8. Heart Brew Love – Another great pop song on the album. I can’t really find much to say about the song besides repeating a lot of the things I have said thus far on this album review. I must commend the rappers for doing a really good job of really ensuring the song doesn’t become too repetitive. Vocals were nice. I think the song could have had a stronger hook but I am happy with what we can hear based on the instrumental of Heart Brew Love. (8/10)

9. Merry-Go-Round – I really like the cheerful nature of the track. And this cheerful nature is quite infectious, given the major repetition of the song’s title as the main hook of the song. It is another song that fits ASTRO’s profile perfectly. Harmonies at the end of the song were nice. I think the verses could have been a lot more memorable, but I am not sure how. But that is me nit-picking at the smallest details. (8/10)

10. Bloom (피어나) – We come to the end of the album and we have yet to hear a ballad. Well, Bloom ends the album with just that genre. The instrumentation to this track is quite beautiful and somewhat dramatic. The vocals were really nice. Started off quite husky but soon built up alongside the instrumental. The rapping is a different story, however. It felt too heavy for a ballad of this nature. Rocky’s rap speak section just didn’t really click with the song. But apart from the rapping, everything was quite good. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

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All Light Teaser Image

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[Review] All Night – ASTRO

It has been a very long wait for fans of ASTRO but the male group is finally back with their first studio album and the title track, All Night. We last saw the group officially promote a music release at the end of 2017 with Crazy Sexy Love. 2018 was incredibly bare for ASTRO, with a lack of group promotions throughout the year to further grow their fanbase. Instead, we got solo promotions, concerts and a special album (Always You) that was not promoted. The good news is that they are back and this lack of promotions will finally end today!

I am calling All Night ASTRO’s best title track so far. The song starts off quite minimalistic, with a really soft instrumental and the vocalists singing. In words, it doesn’t really sound all too good. But when you hear it, the start of the track is a nice bundle of pleasantness and freshness. For the chorus, the drop was completing unexpecting and the dance electronic sound just comes out of nowhere. And I really liked that because it makes the track become very dynamic and contrasting nicely from the pleasantness preceding it. The rapping is amazing. I really like both Rocky and JinJin’s delivery. I also like how JinJin’s section had a little bit of fun with the brief pauses, creating some texture in the song. The highlight of the song has to be Eunwoo’s ‘Such a Good Night‘, which also came out of nowhere. My description of the song probably doesn’t do it much justice so do check out All Night so you can experience what I did.

The video I thought was rather cool. Minus the delay in release due to ‘technical issues’ (whatever they may be), I thought it was a good video to show off their charms. ASTRO is working in a greenhouse and from the start, it seemed a little eerie. This feeling continues throughout the video and I was lowkey expecting something dark to happen. The closest was that vampire-like scene between Eunwoo and Rocky. It could all be in my head but I very interested to see if anyone else felt this as well. What the video does perfectly is show off the visuals off each member. Towards the end, we see each member smile, showcasing their charming looks. That left an impression on me that is so great, I am down to continually replay the music video.

And once again, ASTRO showcases freshness in their routine for All Night. I really like how they spent a large portion of the performance on the floor. That doesn’t happen all too often. I also like how they kept their moves in check with whether the sound was pleasant or explosive. The best part has to be that awesome explosive dance break at the end, which ends the performance on a solid note.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10

[Review] Always You – ASTRO

ASTRO has been gaining momentum in the industry with their last comeback in November, Crazy Sexy Cool. However, with indivudal schdueles and the previous concern of Fantigo’s stability due to company politics, ASTRO’s comeback was delayed. But that is no longer the case, as the group have finially released their second special mini-album, Rise Up, and the title track, Always You.

Always You is a more mature sound than what we are used to from the group. It is a shift from their previous work which tends to focus on a brighter canvas. It is even a big shift from their last comeback, which was quite mature sounding as well. For this comeback, they went with a pretty epic piece of instrumentation that really sets the tone of the song.  It is nothing special when you think about how it contains synths and electronic influences but it is definitely something. I really like the drop during the chorus, which really does make the song memorable and grabs your attention. I felt that despite it not being your usual Summery song, the song does have momentum and does feel refreshing. Their vocals were pretty good. But I think the real winners of the track are the rappers. I feel like their part showed off a different side of them, a side that we don’t see all too often in their bright and bubbly songs. While it is different, I do like this new sound and hope that they can incorporate it somehow into their future releases (but doing so in a unique manner).

Not exactly sure how the video adds up. Besides the fact that the atmosphere is a lot darker and serious, the members do a good job at portray what I am taking as sorrow and pain. There is a scene within the video which shows the members coming together, which may allude to the fact that they are coming back as a group very soon. That is my guess at the meaning of the video. I did like the cinematography and the use of colours throughout the sets. It makes this video feel even more powerful, going hand-in-hand with the music.

It seems like Moonbin, JinJin and Rocky partipated in the choreography of this song, whereas the other members did not. Not too sure why that was the case. But doing so, the choreography looks extremely well down and powerful, which also goes well with the song (as mentioned previously). [Note that they are not promoting this release so I am basing my review purely on what I saw in the video].

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

[Review] Crazy Sexy Cool – ASTRO

November is proving to be one KPOP party with the number of confirmed comebacks for just next week alone. Kicking off the November comebacks is ASTRO, with their latest title track, Crazy Sexy Cool, and mini-album Dream Part 2. The boy group previously promoted Baby in June, serving as the main song of their Part 1 of the Dream series.

Listening to the song for the first time, I am worried that the song doesn’t have that needed impact. The start of the song is very underwhelming and slow. But the song does get better along the way, with that thumping bass during the chorus. The instrumental is quite funky, described as a nu-disco genre, but it doesn’t feel that way. I am not too sure what exactly it sounds like (it is not bad, so don’t misunderstand), I just can’t place my finger on it. There isn’t much of a hook, in my opinion, that leaves the song forgettable for the most part. The vocal and rapping work in the song is quite good and the instrumental (during the chorus) adds energy to make it sound more lively. That part just before the chorus, where they strip everything away, is pretty damn good.  To sum up, it is a pretty nice song to listen to. If there was a more decent hook, I would have enjoyed it more.

Curious boys meet Narnia? Mistaken boys believing things they are seeing in the dark? I have no idea what this video is about. They happen to see a silhouette which somehow leads them to their wardrobe, which leads them to different places. Following the silhouette, they have a few wardrobe changes along away (a perk of having a magical wardrobe?), until they realize that the silhouette was a figure of their imagination. That’s my understanding. Though those plot twists at the end make things a little more confusing. But I will admit, it was fun to watch. It was a great video, which went well with the song.

Their performance is okay. Not exactly memorable but it has that ASTRO vibe that reminds me of their past choreographies. Maybe that is because they are performing it but it feels just right for them.

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

[Review] Baby – ASTRO

ASTRO is back with a brand new mini-album, titled as Dream Part. 01. Baby is the title track for the mini-album. ASTRO previously returned (without promotions) with their fourth and Winter-themed mini-album, along with the track Should Have Held Onto You in February.  The group has also been announced perform at their first concert in July this year.

Fitting in with the upcoming Summer season in South Korea, ASTRO’s Baby is a great song to open up the extremely close season (Excuse me, while I start shivering down here in Melbourne). The overall sound is fresh and bright, which are ideas that you associate with Summer. The sound also goes hand-in-hand with their previous releases. The song is rooted firmly into the pop sphere, but there is a strong tropical sound that comes out of it. The vocal work is great here and the raps seem to come in at the right time. It’s the type of song that you wouldn’t mind dancing to or you can’t help smiling too. The only thing I have against the song is that it isn’t as catchy as I wanted it to be. Not necessarily a bad thing in this case though, because I would listen to it either way for that Summer feel. There is something in the chorus that would perk my ears up, but it isn’t at the level I want it to be. But overall, great song!

The music video features the guys working in a cafe that serves 6 different coloured soft drinks. And each member represents a single colour. Moonbin is red, Eunwoo is blue, JinJin is green, MJ is orange, Sanha is yellow and Rocky is indigo/violet. And each drink somehow transports you to a different coloured room, with each respective member in there with you, having a bit of fun. The use of colour is obvious but it goes well that Summer season. I liked how the rooms were next to each other and would have liked for a longer montage to be shown of the rooms next to each other. There was one thing though. As the music video progresses, the video seems to lose its touch that it started off with. But that might just be my perspective. But overall, great music video, as well!

And here is a great (should find a new word to use) choreography. Something that left me surprised was their footwork. All of their previous performances have proven the group to be great dancers. Likewise, this performance does as well! Like most of the performances this year, not that memorable. But nonetheless, you should check it out!

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

KPOPREVIEWED 2016 Awards – Part 2

Click here to see the list of nominees for this year’s awards and scroll down to find out who wins!!!

If you have yet to see Part 1 (which also explains this corner) please click here.


BEST MALE ROOKIE GROUP

2016 saw a lot of new boy groups make their debut on the stage. Compiling the list of nominees for this section was extra hard because there were so many great debuts that just missed out on a spot on the list. The winner of the Best Male Rookie Group 2016 is Astro, who made continuous comebacks after their debut, pushing them into the spotlight. Honourable mentions are given to VRomance for their debut song, She.


BEST FEMALE ROOKIE GROUP

Like the male rookie group section above, a lot of girl groups made their debut in 2016. And a lot of them provided us with the hottest tracks of the year. WJSN, otherwise known as Cosmic Girls, made their debut with Mo Mo Mo and came back with one of the best tracks of the year: Secret. They are my pick for Best Female Rookie Group. Honourable Mentions goes to BlackPink and I.O.I (It was very hard to choose for this category).


BEST MALE SOLOIST

As every other year, solo artists are debuting and making comebacks. 2016 saw the long-awaited debuts of some main vocalists of different idol groups and the return of solo artists that we have known for a while. The winner has to be Zico (Block B) with his ballad track: I Am You, You are Me. This one track alone has been a chart topper and gave the rapper a new side. Honourable mention goes to Eric Nam and his surge in popularity this year with his releases.


BEST FEMALE SOLOIST

2016 was a very big year for female solo artists. Like the male solo artist awards, big names came back, while long-awaited debuts were made. My pick for the winner of Best Female Soloist goes to Taeyeon (SNSD). Her singles have been remarkable thus far. Honourable mentions goes to Hyosung (Secret), whose song is still being replayed, half a year after release.


BEST MALE GROUP

So many to consider. Can’t count with my fingers for this category and the next. But it has been a big year for male groups (and likewise female groups). Out of all the artists, I have to pick Seventeen as the group that stood out the most and hence are the winners here. As for honourable mentions, GOT7 takes it this year.


BEST FEMALE GROUP 

As mentioned above, girl groups have also had a very big year in KPOP. And there were too many to count as well. But my overall pick for Best Female Group has to be Mamamoo. 2016 has been their best year yet and I hope there are even better years to come. Oh My Girl receives honourable mentions for their releases of high quality and catchy songs.


BEST ALBUM

Now, I promised album reviews this year and my apologies, I failed to deliver. I asked you guys again (thanks to everyone who contributed to the survey) and album reviews are still something you guys want. I can’t review every one of them, but I will try my best to cover the main and biggest releases. As for 2016, Wings released by BTS as their 2nd Studio album is my pick for best album. I also thoroughly enjoyed the songs released by B.A.P as their third studio album, Carnival, which also takes Honourable Mention.


BEST MUSIC VIDEO

Many great videos were released this year. From amazing plots to great cinematography, or just the standard video that looks amazing, 2016 had it all. My picks for both the winner and honourable mention were videos that were long in length, but one focused on an action-packed story and the other for its complexity. The winner is B.A.P‘s Skydive and honourable mention goes to BTS‘s Blood Sweat & Tears.


BEST DANCE/PERFORMANCE

And as with every year, KPOP groups and solo artists have amazing dances that should be commended. There were so many top contenders, that it was quite hard to compile the list of ten. But nonetheless, my pick for best dance would have to be GOT7‘s Hard Carry and honourable mention goes to The Eye by Infinite.

 


BEST SONG OF THE YEAR

The hardest award to decide for. Hahaha… I put down 22 songs for this award. 22 amazing songs. And now I have to narrow the list to just 1. The difficulties. That being said, I won’t announce it words. Just watch the video below. But before that, let’s look at the honourable mentions that I manage to narrow down from that list of 22. Hover over the pictures to find out who and which song were picked. Note that these honourable mentions or the winners are not chosen via the end of year charts, but my thoughts alone.

And my pick of Best Song of 2016 goes to……

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VERY NICE – SEVENTEEN

Congratulations to all winners, honourable mentions and nominees. Everyone in general!!

[Review] Confession – Astro

Astro is back in the season of Fall with a brand new song, Confession. This is their third mini album to date since debut, with their previous releases including Hide & Seek in Spring and Breathless in Summer.

To me, Astro’s songs keep on getting better and better. Currently, they are probably one of my few picks to be the best rookie of the year. The song boasts a very strong and defined instrumental that shows off guitars and drums (aka. a band). The vocals and rapping by the band are superb in this song. None of their parts seems to be awkwardly placed or irrelevant to the song. The combination of the song and vocals make it feel as if it is an anime opening song. More on that a little later, though, but sounds perfect for an anime. There is just one thing that disappoints me and that is the ending of the song. It is too sudden. Just by writing this review and playing the song in the background, I honestly thought that YouTube crashed or something. It’s quite disappointing since the song is quite good and is left hanging like that. As if the producers had no idea how to properly end the song and left it as it is. The song peaked (for me) at the end, so the ending pretty much ruined the upbeat and happy feels that I was getting from the song.

Now, about that anime opening. I am reading everywhere that this video reminds people of the drama W(which I believe is anime or manga as well). I haven’t watched W yet but I know enough to agree with some people who say both drama / video are similar. Not saying one copied the other, just very similar. Essentially what happens is at the start of the video, the girl confesses to a guy with her drawings but is rejected (quite harshly, may I add). She then goes around being alone. Astro is part of her drawings and follows her around. Not sure if she sees them, but they are a part of her imagination. Towards the end, when all the members are gathering around her, Eunwoo remains behind and sheds a tear. He probably realises that he is just a fragment of her imagination or an image on several pages, and that means he will never be with her. I enjoyed watching the video. The way it was shot looked really cool. The close up shots looked as if they were introducing characters in a TV show or anime as well.

The dance by the group was quite cool. This time around, the group still went with that playful vibe and added a cool vibe as well. Their movements are a lot more precise and in sync with each other.

Rating – 8/10

[Review] Breathless – Astro

It has been a few days since my last review and I (once again) apologise for that. I have restarted the second semester of the year and will be a little slower with reviews. I should still be able to publish reviews, though. Which leads me to Astro! They have returned with a brand new mini-album and their newest track, Breathless.

As you may know from my previous review of the guys, I was not as fond of their debut track, Hide and Seek. This song, however, is definitely an improvement. It isn’t the best song out there at the moment, but it is still a good song. It is a lot catchier and it suits the Summer season really well. Give it a few listens and I guarantee you will be singing along (that is what happened with me and this song). The instrumental puts you at the beach straight away. Upbeat, bright and fresh. The rapping is pretty good (but ain’t impressive). The vocals are pretty good as well. The chorus sounds pretty good because there are backing vocals there. The verses do sound a little bit empty and dry. Maybe a tiny bit of backing vocals will improve the verses, it doesn’t need to be as excessive as the chorus. The “Ppa Ppa Ppa Ppa” is really addictive and those “shouts”that they do after the “Ppa Ppa” do leave a good impression on me. The guys are definitely improving with their songs.

The music video is okay. They call it a music video, but from start to end I feel like it is more of a promotional run of that orange soft drink. The essence of the video is basically the guys are the orange soft drink bottles that we see with the girl constantly. It makes it funny, but yeah, it would be the perfect product placement video if the product actually existed. The video fits the Summer vibes of the song and it situates you perfectly at the beach. The guys also come in different colours. I don’t know you, but that duck is definitely the highlight of the video. Following the girl around and all. Beside that, there isn’t much else to the video. Not a video that I would go to watch constantly, but it was okay.

The dance can described simply as “cutesy concept with the guys trying to act cool”. I don’t think it is a great performance. Like their debut, not that impressive. Though, it looks like they are having the time of their lives on stage.

Final Rating – 6/10

Rewind: February 2016

Welcome back to another monthly rewind. February is officially gone and it went super fast (despite it having an extra day, as this is a leap year). Before we all know it, March is gone and April passed us like the wind. Let’s get started shall we?

Major News

I think there are two major news that we need to cover. One that talks good about one band, and the other isn’t that good. But bad publicity is good publicity right?

GFriend made their comeback at the end of January 2016, but managed to sweep the charts with their newest mini album and title track, Rough. And when I mean “sweep the charts”, the girls stayed at the top  of the digital for over hundreds of hours, a proportion of those hundreds of hours were actually perfect all kills (which are apparently extremely hard to get, but the girls did it somehow). This led them to win their first music show trophy since debut and they managed to do pretty well. And when I mean pretty well: Triple Crown on Show Champion, MCountDown and Inkigayo, 4 trophies on Music Bank and 2 on SBS The Show. That is a lot. Their hard work has finally paid off, with the help of their fanclub and fans.

In other news, Beast is in the limelight for the wrong reasons. Hyunseung was caught falling asleep during an interview, which disappointed fans and garnered a lot of criticisms. Falling asleep in an interview seems a little too much my opinion, but it just shows how tired they artists are with multiple schedules in one day, concerts, comebacks, practice, interviews, the lot. Junhyung also saw some criticism when he failed to attend a fanmeet due to sickness, but somehow managed to attend his friend’s (Jung Joon Young) birthday party. While it was cleared up with Junhyung, Cube Entertainment and Jung Joon Young each making a statement saying how he came for only a few moments, just to drop off a present. Honestly, some people need to give these guys a break. Sometimes, you need to take a sickie (or sick day) just to go somewhere or to relax and take it slowly. So why are these people so annoyed with that, when they probably do it too, when everything becomes too overwhelming?

Major Comebacks

Number of groups made their comeback this month. 4Minute, Winner, Mamamoo, B.A.P, Taemin (SHINee), NU’EST, Rainbow (even though some are speculating this will be their final release) and many other smaller, rookie bands.

Major Debuts

Astro is the first group that comes to mind with their debut this month. Actually, it is probably the only group that debuted in February that I have reviewed thus far. Their title track is Hide & Seek.

AOA has been around since 2012, but they recently debuted a brand new subunit called AOA Cream. Odd name for a subunit though. Chanmi, Hyejeong and Yuna make up this group. They made their debut with I’m Jelly Baby.

Polls

I am skipping polls this month as I am a little busy. I will be able to write about one of the polls that I have made in next month’s review.

Top 5 Songs of The Month

  1. You’re The Best – Mamamoo (reviewing coming soon)
  2. Feel So Good – B.A.P
  3. Whoo – Rainbow
  4. Hate – 4Minute
  5. Galaxy – Ladies Code

Just a small note: I have started university again, so the rate at which reviews come out will decrease dramatically. And I have to go in everyday, so it is going to be hard to make some time.