With the first 6 months of 2018 officially over, it is time to look back at my personal favourite songs from the first half. Last week, I recapped the top songs from the Weekly KPOP Charts. But some songs that I personally liked didn’t really make that list. So here are 15 songs released over the last 6 months that are my personal favourites AND continually listen to (irrespective of the charts and the reviews – as opinions do change).
It has been a very long wait for fans but BLACKPINK has a mini-album under their name! Woo! With multiple digital hits, BLACKPINK have gone past the level of success which their previous hits have reached with their latest title track, DDU-DU DDU-DU. Many records have been broken by the ladies themselves with this comeback. So without waiting any further, here is my review of their Square Up mini-album.
1..DDU-DU DDU-DU (뚜두뚜두) (Title Track) – Click here to read the full review of DDU-DU DDU-DU. (10/10)
2. Forever Young – Opening up the song is Jennie, whose voice in this song reminds me of CL a lot. The song ended up being quite memorable, with a catchy beat and vibrant sound. The song feels very Summery, which would make sense with its youthful lyrics. The vocals and rapping were quite cool. And for that, the first two minutes of the song becomes quite memorable. The only issue I had with the song was the last minute. I think it could have been a song on its own and created this massive mismatch with the sound/vibe that came off the first two minutes of the song. It did bring the members together as a closer but it just didn’t feel right. (8/10)
3. Really – Really has a very simple R&B/hip-hop beat and hook, which makes me hear the song as ‘standard’. As a result, it doesn’t really hit the mark or feel that memorable. The vocals and raps were nice but not exactly their best. The raps attempted to give the song some texture but sadly I don’t think it was enough to make me fall for the song, like what the other songs on the album did. Personally, I think it is their weakest track on the album and in their portfolio. (6.5/10)
4. See U Later – I really liked how the song started for some unknown reason. I cannot pin the reason why but it set the verses up for success. And they delivered as a result. The verses had this bright feeling to them which made them pop out for me. But what was unexpecting was the chorus’s drop, which also included a drop in the tone and entrance into a more serious hip-hop domain. But it works wonderfully. The raps and vocals were awesome. Best part of the song has to be the sassy ending. (9/10)
Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10
BLACKPINK is officially back. And finally, it isn’t a single. Instead, this is BLACKPINK’s first comeback with an actual mini-album. DDU-DU DDU-DU (뚜두뚜두) is the lead title track off their first mini-album, Square Up. Their last comeback was As If It Is Your Last, which was released back in June 2017. Since then, they did release a mini-album of their past hits in Japan and also released a very questionable lightstick.
DDU-DU DDU-DU has already topped the charts in South Korea and I can see why. First listen in and I was already enjoying the song. It takes on the hip-hop sound which their respective company centres around and they turn it into something that BLACKPINK can only release. I love the bass and the beat in the song, which really hypes up the song. The verses are made up of raps, while the pre-chorus focuses on the vocals. Can I just take a moment to just point out how the members sound flawless in this song, especially Jisoo and Rose during the pre-chorus. However, the standout section of the entire song has to be the chorus itself. I really like how simple it sounds but also it also presents a really catchy sounding instrumentation. I also like the change-up at the end with the exotic/foreign feel and the fast-paced flute (not too sure of the instrument), which ended the song on a bold yet strong note.
To me, the music video is BLACKPINK’s version of I Am The Best. The entire video shows BLACKPINK as strong and fierce women, which goes hand-in-hand with the song’s message. But there were some scenes that made me think of 2NE1’s famous video. The entire video is definitely on another league with me liking every single scene and set. I really liked the giant chessboard, the Audrey Hepburn/rain scene, the chandelier, the post-apocalyptic dance set and literally everything else that I haven’t listed. Each member looked flawless and bold with their stylistic choices.
It seems like the ‘gun’ dance that opens up the chorus (and occurs at the main hook) is going to be the next big thing. Actually, the entire choreography during the chorus looks amazing, with the group not holding back on the fierceness. While the entire performance isn’t out yet, I have high expectations. From what I saw in the music video, I think I can confidently give a rating.
Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 10/10
BLACKPINK is the first YG group in a very long time to not disappear without a trace from the KPOP scene and then make their comeback 5 years down the track. With their seniors, 2NE1, now gone, BLACKPINK has big shoes to fill and their first attempt is with As If It’s Your Last. That being said, BLACKPINK has their own colour and style, which has already proven to be extremely popular. Without a doubt, they have what it takes to fill the shoes of their senior labelmates.
As If It’s Your Last starts off as a strong song. A little different but it suits Summer quite nicely. I love the bass during the verses and the pre-chorus. It reminded me of Boom Bah Yah (which I grew to love). Just the end of the pre-chorus build up didn’t sit right and it felt too instantaneous. The chorus turns the song into a more pop-styled song, which is good and all. But it just doesn’t suit the bass and well, the start of the song. It made it sound generic. The song does throw it back to the great start for the second verse, but it doesn’t save the song. Usually, the final chorus is where the artist changes things up a bit. Here, the final chorus felt just simply like another copy from the previous two choruses. Their vocal work in this song is quite strong and definitely, makes the song sound so much bolder and defined. Something that I have noticed is that their title track’s first impressions have been let downs. But I have grown to love their songs after many replays, so maybe that might just happen here. But for now, I will leave you with those comments.
The music video quality from YG Entertainment is always excellent. And it happens to be the case here. But there is nothing too mindblowing or impressive. Just a standard music video. But there was something that caught my eye. Lisa’s outfits are quite questionable in this music video. And I think some fans are also questioning the style behind the outfit. The first is the blacktop with the sparkly bra or bikini top (most likely sewn onto the blacktop). The second are those denim shorts and two massive pieces of obnoxious fabric on her legs…. Watch the video if you haven’t seen them. And you will most likely see why I question some of these fashion choices in KPOP sometimes.
[UPDATED] Apologies for the lateness. But the performance was actually quite good And that’s the best that I can describe it. There wasn’t anything that felt new or different with regards to the performance, in comparison to other groups out there. However, for a relatively new group, their stage presence is amazing.
Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10 [UPDATED]
Overall Rating – 7/10 [UPDATED]
Click here to see the list of nominees for this year’s awards and scroll down to find out who wins!!!
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.
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.
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……
VERY NICE – SEVENTEEN
Congratulations to all winners, honourable mentions and nominees. Everyone in general!!
BLACKPINK has finally returned with their very first comeback ever! They made their debut in September with Whistle and Boom Bah Yah, which per everyone’s expectations, did incredibly well for a newly debut girl group. And they are expected to continuation with their success through their double title track comeback: Playing With Fire and Stay. This review will only focus on Playing With Fire. I may review Stay at a later date (not too sure yet).
Playing With Fire is one hell of a track. It is a lot different to their debut songs. It focuses more on delivering the energy and vocals. I personally like this track more than their debut tracks. I love the EDM sounds that ran throughout the chorus and the later parts of the song. YG artists tend to be quite versatile with their song types and this just further proves it. I love the EDM, but also loved the slow hip-hop and RnB in the song. The untuned piano at the start made the introduction a whole heap interesting. I do agree with a lot of people when they say it sounds like a 2NE1 song. There are 2NE1 vibes throughout While I said the song focuses more on the vocal side for the group, I was not much of a big fan of their vocals. They should have just let loose but instead, they sounded like they held everything back. I do love the bass that the song had going. Another song of just a few with the bass up to the right level.
The music video was incredibly dull and boring. It just normally consisted of normal pace choreography scenes and slow motioned close up shots. Their facial expressions in the video looked too forced and whoever is getting them to lip sync to the music should get fired. For a song that is moderately paced, I don’t understand the need for the slow motion. It just dragged the video on for longer. To be honest, the video looks like it was slapped together within just minutes. I expected something more speedy after listening to the song. Not slow. The sets look empty and needed something to make it more eye-catching. And finally, the use of fire or “Playing With Fire” was quite limited. Okay, half of me expected something decent and the other half wanted the whole set to be on fire. Just what they released didn’t live up to those standards or expectations.
The performance was meh. The dance isn’t amazing and it didn’t impress me.
Rating – 6/10
One of the newest groups on the block. BLACKPINK is a four member girl group under YG Entertainment. The group is the first girl group from YG Entertainment, since 2NE1 made their debut back in 2009, which was 7 years ago. Countless rumours over the years have suggested YG would be debuting another girl group, but those plans fell through. Glad to see that one of their plans managed to make it in the end. The group consist of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa.
Whistle is a song that is quite addictive and is firmly rooted with its hip hop influences. When I say it is addictive, I think we can thank the continuous whistles in the song. While they do seem somewhat annoying and repetitive, it made the song feel alive and more likeable. I really liked the completely slow verses and then the sudden buildup to the chorus. The chorus + bridge had such a nice soulful vibe to it, which pretty much showed me their vocal abilities (which are quite strong). I am on the fence when it comes to their raps in this song.
However, Boom Bah Yah shows their rapping and vocal talents off pretty well. This song is quite bass heavy and still have that hip hop influence in it. It also has a nice powerful vibe to it. I like this song more (over Whistle) because there is more of a vibrant colour to the song, plus a much better hook that reeled me into the song.The words “Boom Bah Yah” are the perfect way to start off the chorus. The insturmental is more likeable here. Overall, Boom Bah Yah was my more preferred song.
The music videos that were released alongside these songs really failed to capture my attention. I basically watched each once and haven’t returned to any of them at all. Both videos were shot inside sets that felt a little too constricting. That was the first thing that I noticed. But even the dance scenes were constricting. Boom Bah Yah had great colour in the video. It just lacked the powerful feel the song had going. It seemed weak and needed something to make it seem stronger. Maybe more flashing lights that were in time with the beat? Whistle had a more stronger vibe in the video, but it didn’t suit the song. Majority of the scenes in the video showed the girls stuck to one spot and only the camera moved. That made it boring. I would liked to see more of the scenes where the girls were dancing or at least moving. Might have given me more to talk about. I did like the sets for this video though.
Dance wise, not that memorable. That goes for both performances. The dances did suit the songs to a certain degree, but I feel like they fall short compared to other artists with (what I see) is great choreography.
Whistle – 5.5/10
Boom Bah Yah – 6/10