[International Song Review] MONSTA X, SEVENTEEN, JACKSON (GOT7), CIX

It is time for another review of non-Korean songs, a usual review theme for Saturdays prior to the start of 2020. For those who don’t know, I have decided to cover more than just Japanese songs by Korean artists and I do this through this segment, International Song Reviews. This posts focus will be on MONSTA X’s latest Japanese and Western releases, Seventeen and CIX’s Japanese comebacks and Jackson’s recent Western comeback track. I have stuck to five songs per post as I think this is an reasonable number. Let me know what you think in the comments section!


Wish On The Same Sky – MONSTA X

We start off the review post with something a little easy on the ears. MONSTA X recently returned to the Japan with this pop ballad, Wish On The Same Sky. The song itself is one that won’t benefit when we dissect the song under a microscope. With just one listen, anyone knows that Wish On The Same Sky is to be taken in as a whole. The instrumental builds into something quite grand and extravagant. The loud thumping during the bridge is direct proof of this, giving the pop sound an uplifting boost. This gives the song a very alluring appeal. The vocal work is definitely the main focus of the song and it is also built upon to match the music, with Kihyun definitely shining in this song. The song also features Jooheon, who sings and raps throughout the song, despite being on hiatus for health recovery at the time of filming this music video and release. The only thing I dislike with the song is the shouting by I.M in the background, echoing what the Hyungwon and Minhyuk were singing during the pre-chorus. Moving to the music video, I found the breezy feel of the song was well reflected in the video. I liked how the music video didn’t take on any trends to give it that modern feel. What we got in the visual department was nice, simple and blissful. I also like the pale colour tone they opted for, as well. (8.6/10)


You Can’t Hold My Heart – MONSTA X

The second MONSTA X song, You Can’t Hold My Heart, is a pop-rock for the Western music industry and features the return of Jooheon, who was absent from their above Japanese release. I was lowkey expecting the song to drop or go into a dance overdrive, as that is is the usual style with MONSTA X in Korea (at least). But I also like how they aren’t staying with just that sound in their international releases. You Can’t Hold My Heart brings the spotlight over the group’s vocals talents, where the singing about the fact that love doesn’t stay around forever. Even I.M and Jooheon, the fierce rappers, sing over a nice band-like instrumental. I like the subdued nature of the song, soothing and peaceful in a way. The music video is quite simple as it is simple shot in a red box. The video gets a little complicated once you see members sitting on top of each other, walking upside down and even emitting coloured clouds that match colour of thier outfits. The simplicity and complexity comes together in a way that doesn’t over complicate the song and makes it worthwhile to watch. There is no choreography for this comeback single, as the group simply sings the song with microphone stands in a recent performance. (8.7/10)


Fallin’ Flower – SEVENTEEN

It seems that SEVENTEEN’s latest Japanese single, Fallin’ Flower, follows that mature and aesthetic sound that their Korean releases have opted for in the past year. Initial impressions of the song is that it has a very beautiful, refined sound and there this also this glowing vibe. The song has a nice melody that places emphasis on the vocal capabilities of the group, which puts a different limelight on the group. The falsettos we get for the chorus puts the song on a whole different level. The rapping was well mixed into the song, as well. The song’s ‘Fallin’‘ hook was also very flowy and catchy. The music video is extremely aesthetically pleasing, complimenting the aesthetics in the song. There is a fair amount of imagery in this video – most of which is a bit above me to understand, so I would love to hear your theories on it. But a very beautiful video nonetheless. For the choreography, I like their flower formation that they started off with. I also like the performance still remains quite powerful despite the song bring a lot more subdued than usual. It looks great as a result and definitely a showing of Seventeen’s talents. (8.9/10)


100 Ways – Jackson (GOT7)

GOT7 may just have returned to Korea with their first comeback of the year. But Jackson (and other members – I shall get around to Mark’s release in a later post) returned in March as a solo artist with 100 Ways. By the far the most catchiest song in this review post, Jackson really delves into the hooks and beats that no doubt with thrive in the Western industry (and has already proven to as the song had topped iTunes charts in multiple countries). I also found the song very easy to get into. On top of that, the music was very robust and there seemed to be a slight funky vibe. Both ended up making me groove along to the beat of the song. The thumping beat drives the song forward, while the synths form a concoction that is very addictive. Jackson’s raspy vocals shine through this song as well, adding to that dynamic appeal. The music video was equally as good as the song. The set design of that forest was awesome. I also really liked how Jackson and the female character rose from the grave and how Jackson went down with her at the end. The costume that Jackson donned also looked cool, but that armour sequence really looked looked epic. The other part of the music video has to be the cleverly choreographed hand motions. That was on a whole different level and very epic. Definitely as song, music video and choreography that you must check out. (10/10)


Revival – CIX

CIX’s main songs, while they have only released a few title tracks so far, have been of the intense EDM dance nature. But what CIX does differently is that is conforms to the trend of incorporating an epic drop into the song. Revival starts off slow, as a medium tempo ballad. But the instrumental they used opted for electronic synths, which foreshadowed the epic drop. But I liked how the vocals keep on that slow ballad-like feel. Then the chorus comes out of nowhere. And well, if you haven’t noticed so far, it is pretty epic. Not in the sense that is just throws every single synth known to mankind to make a ‘loud’ drop. In fact, it is more of a tropical based drop and is done so in a manner that sounds so refreshing. The rest of the song follows something of the same line, but they managed to do something slightly different every time. For example, the second verse added more of a beat to it, while the bridge took everything away. The second chorus added more synths to the tropical drop, while the final chorus incorporates violins to make it even more epic. The music video is filled with a lot of different closeups that look cool and interesting. I wonder the screen full of fire in the desert, the ball of many balls and the many other objects and effects in the video mean anything. The rest of the music video is made up of choreography shows, which shows CIX performing with string. There is a fair amount of tangling happening this music video. But that is just one of the complexity of the performance. Their individual moves also look quite cool and definitely features that intensity that CIX has associated with them. (8.9/10)

[International Song Review] EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X, CIX

Welcome to the very first International Song Review post. This segment will replace the Japanese song review that I publish sporadically on Saturdays. The segment will also allow me to cover more of those Japanese releases, which was an issue I previously had (I used to post once a week and this would mean some releases won’t be reviewed until many weeks after – which is the case for all of the songs to be reviewed today). On top of that, I wanted to keep up with the KPOP advancement into the Chinese and Western music industries, a niche that I was not reviewing as I could not dedicate more time. By putting these all together, it saves time and it allows me to cover more songs. The artists I will be focusing on today include EXID, ONEUS, TWICE, MONSTA X and CIX.


Bad Girl For You – EXID

Bad Girl For You is a very different song from any of the Korean releases. The group’s Korean releases have this level of vibrancy that I feel is noticeable absent from this track. Instead, the song has this mature and sensual feel to it that I think is very suitable for EXID. I liked how the instrumental is very toned down and almost quite eerie. The chorus has a heavier beat to it, which offsets the song from becoming plain and boring. Their oval work complimented the style, which was definitely a nice fit to the song. I do find the use of that laser shooting synth a little random and doesn’t fit well with the rest of the song. The song may not seem much at first, but after many listens, you will be coming back for even more. For the music video, I liked the use of the 5 colours (green, blue, yellow, red and purple) in the background and how each colour is usually concentrated to a particular area of the set. It helps give the video a minimalist feel. The choreography is also quite nice but not really memorable.


808 – ONEUS

I think 808 is a smashing song. The sound of the instrumental was posed in a manner that really caught my attention. I love the strings that feature in the instrumental, along with the intense style they had adopted from their Korean releases. There is an epic vibe to the song, but they do it in a manner that masks it. You think you are getting another typical song, but you will be blown away by the song’s sound. The song is vibrant and definitely knows how to bundle a bunch of energy in a fashionable sense. The vocal work was good and the rapping gave the song a little more edge. The music video looks really artistic. I am not sure if these are music video sets or whether the group filmed their music video in some sort of modern art museum. It looked very cool. The performance looked good with cool moves. Just not memorable like EXID’s performance.


Fake & True – TWICE

I was blown away with Breakthrough when it was first release for its mature and edgy style, something that was a little foreign for the very pop-based and cutesy TWICE. And it seems like Fake & True continues the momentum and extends TWICE’s reach into this new territory. I thought the brass in the chorus was very nice and the rest of the instrumental was very energetic and vibrant in a way that suits the group. I also liked the synths that they employed throughout the song, especially for the dance break bridge. I did think the chorus was a little one-dimensional as it repeated the title of the song all throughout and felt a little awkward. The vocals were good but the rapping in this track was epic. It was also nice to see Mina as part of this November release, as well. The music video was pretty typical for TWICE but I thought it did a really good job of showing off their visuals. The choreography was also very nice and continued that mature vibe that I really enjoyed as part of their previous Japanese comeback.


My New World – CIX

My New World is CIX’s debut track into the Japanese music industry. It is also an extension of their KPOP works, with the group’s intense sound definitely channeled and presented in this song. I like how eerie and dark the song sounds. The dance style is very well suited for CIX, given that this is their title track style for their comebacks in the KPOP industry so far. I also like the kick of energy that the song gives during the chorus, which contrasts neatly with the shout-y style of vocal works. The rapping that dominates the second verse was also extremely promising and intense. I also like the piano that featured very quietly over the top of the dance instrumental. I think the music video shows the members on a new world. Other than that, I am not exactly sure if the video is showing anything else worth mentioning. Their dance sets looked really cool, with the floating stairs and the moving lights. The choreography is very intense and reconfirms that when it comes to the dance side of the industry, CIX might be a group to look out for.


Middle Of The Night – MONSTA X

The final song on today’s reviewing agenda is Middle Of The Night and it is also the very first Western song that I am reviewing on my blog (I am not including English versions that I have done reviews for in the past). Middle Of The Night is different from the rest song on the list as it is also an R&B track. A song that I can finally understand as well. Hahaha… I can really say much else but to tell you to check out this song below as everything felt flawless. It is one of those songs where the main complaint was that it was over so soon! The vocal work was superb from very member. I really love that Jooheon finally got to showcase his vocals that he previously showed off during a performance of Versace On The Floor. The music video was shot with every scene is interlinked with the previous and next scenes. I think that this was a really good way to show off the smoothness of the track. There is no choreography for this song, so this finishes the review.

[Album Review] HELLO Chapter 2. Hello, Strange Place (2nd Mini Album) – CIX

CIX is one of the groups nominated for the Best New Male Group award in the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support CIX and your other favourite artists!

Unfortunately, I will be ending the album review blitz today and the next album review will be published as per the original timetable (Friday). I think there are one or two more album reviews from the past few weeks that I have yet to touched and I will get to them before the year ends. Today, we will be having a listen to CIX’s first comeback, HELLO Chapter 2. Hello, Strange Place and their title track, Numb (link below). I previously reviewed their first mini-album, which featured their debut track, Movie Star.

Hello Chapter 2: Hello, Stranger Place Album Cover

1. Black Out Kicking off the album is Black Out, which is a powerful starter. I liked the seriousness that came with this track, the epic intensity that the song channels and the tune gives off the ‘don’t mess with me’ impression. I also like the focus on the rappers, with majority of the song going back and forth between BX and Hyunsuk. The song did lack strong vocal moments, which I think would have been more enticing. I felt Bae Jinyoung’s pre-chorus segment the most awkward in the song and that is why I thought so. (8/10)

2. Numb (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Numb. (7/10)

3. RewindRewind starts off with really smooth harmonies before launching into a loaded rap sequence. For the chorus, they went with melodic vocals and light bouncy synth-based instrumentation which gave off some hip-hop influences. My favourite part is when Hyunsuk said ‘Let’s Rewind’ before the song throws in a rewinding effect and we launch back into smooth vocals and a bumping rap sequence (similar to how the song started, but with a few changes to keep the song interesting). I thought the chorus was also quite catchy. All of this made the song standout for me. (9/10)

4. Bystander – I found Bystander to be a very smooth number. The vocal work and the subtly groovy instrumentation went very well with one another. It was extremely pleasant overall, and this gave the song an appealing feel. I liked how low this song went, which kind of reminds me of their Movie Star track in that sense. Despite its ‘smooth’ impression, the song is loaded with textures in a very subtle manner. From the rapping to the crunchy instrumentation, followed by the pauses in the music towards the end of the song. Finally, I liked how they all sang together at the end. (8.5/10)

5. Maybe I – The final song on the album is a R&B number that feels extremely chilled in comparison to the rest of the album. I give the group an opportunity to show off their vocal and rapping skills in a more wholesome manner. I feel like BX’s rapping is the cleanest in this song, alongside the vocals, which isn’t hidden or masked by much autotune in this song. The song is about a breakup, but I could help think about the lack of emotion in their voices. I feel like it needed more of that to be more impactful. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] Numb – CIX

2019 has been a big year for rookies, particularly the ones formed featuring the members of Wanna One. All of the members have released music in the past year and many have or are gearing up for their second comeback. Joining this list is CIX, which features Bae Jin Young. Alongside ‎BX, Seunghun, Yonghee and Hyunsuk, CIX returns today with Numb, and their second mini-album, Hello Chapter 2: Hello, Strange Place. This follows CIX’s Korean and Japanese debut with Movie Star.

Numb felt like a smooth song at first. The verses give off a nice melodic feel, which made the song feel promising for me and potentially a great followup to Movie Star. But the EDM drop that featured in the song dispelled this quite quickly. It did break that promising feeling and it feels very different to their debut track. But it isn’t all bad news. Instead, it introduces a new level of intensity, which makes the song feel intriguing. It all leads the song into unexpected territory for me (relative to how the song started). I just felt there should have been a transition between the verses and chorus to make the song feel more cohesive. Instead, the chorus is literally detached from the rest of the track. I also felt like the song could have been a little more catchy as I find it hard to identify any strong hooks in the song minus the foreign influence in the chorus. The vocals and rapping are great. The lyrics of the song also seem to add an extra layer of tension, with it looking like the lyrics are taking a stab at modern societal pressures of students in a school setting, around friends, bullies and overall doing well at school.

The music video even goes to that length of depicting a school setting. But in a very dramatic and almost apocalyptic way. I think it shows the members being friends at one point. But I think the way the Korean education system operates is a competition between students to see who is the best, with parents assisting their children in any way possible to place their kids on top of the others. It seems like this drove a stake into the friendship of the members, as seen by the building being torn apart with two students on each half of the building. Using the school logic, if something was to happen to the other then you push ahead to place higher than them. But Bae Jin Young takes a stand in the music video, offering a hand to the friend who would have fallen to their death in the music video, which I think is a subtle way of saying that things should be just that one way. It is a video concept that depicts the problem in an extreme manner. But it effortlessly makes the point clear.

I thought the dance for this was really good. The chorus routine was very powerful, fitting for the EDM that the song opted for in that section. The verses were good but I don’t think they were amazing standout parts like the chorus. I also think the choreographers/company are favouring Bae Jin Young a little too much. He was in the centre of the performance a fair bit, leaving the best of the members with little centre time. Not his fault though, as this would be at the discretion of their company and production team. 

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Album Review] Hello Chapter 1: Hello, Stanger (1st Mini Album) – CIX

It is always exciting to write album reviews for groups that had just debut. As there is a very high chance that I will be following their careers through albums reviews for as long as they are around. CIX debuted two weeks ago with Hello Chapter 1: Hello, Stranger. They have also won a music show award with their new track, Movie Star. This made them the fastest male group to win a music show award after debuting (i.e. 7 days). Let’s see the album that helped contribute to this win!

cix-hello-2
Hello Chapter 1: Hello Stranger Album Cover

1..What You Wanted – Kicking off their debut mini-album is What You Wanted. The song has a very nice sleek feel. The instrumental is very standard and feels very weighted. But this is a good thing as it gives rise of their ‘downward melody’ that they feature in the chorus. And this downward melody was very catchy, meaning the album opened with a memorable tone. Likewise, the vocals were quite good. The rapping was a little hit and miss for me. I thought the first half of the rapping was good. But things got messy during the second half of the chorus. (8/10)

2. Movie Star (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Movie Star. (9.5/10)

3. Like It That Way – We move to something a little brighter through Like It That Way. The instrumental primarily features a reggae beat. There is a little more percussion to it as the song progresses. But overall, I would consider the track to be light in terms of its tone. Other than that, I thought the singing was okay. It doesn’t really showcase anything new, which is my overall impression of the song as well. The rapping manages to give it a little more definition. But it really isn’t enough to really make it memorable. It is more of a skippable song if I was to describe it in some way. (6.5/10)

4. Imagine – And now we move onto a track with a more upbeat nature, in conjunction with the song’s previous brighter tone. With the way the song directs itself to the pop genre, I already find it more captivating than the preceding track. There are a little disco and groovy influence on the song instrumental, which really helps make the song slightly more memorable. Unfortunately, I did think the member’s vocals were a little weak. I think if they managed to boost their vocals with some sort of definition aid, I think they would have stood out more. With that said, I find the rapping and Jinyoung’s whispering in the bridge to be my picks for more captivating moments of the song. (7.5/10)

5. The One – To me, The One finds itself within a very typical territory. It does have a feel of a ballad, as it does lack loudness and energy. But the instrumental was more dance centred, with synths present and an R&B tone to really bring everything together nicely. I find their execution of the different elements to be very interesting. I have been unimpressed with the vocal work for the last two tracks on the album. But I found the vocal work to be very nice here. Sure, there aren’t new techniques being shown off. But it sounds really well balanced over the synth R&B instrumental. The rapping had some oophm to it, which I thought was very cool as well. It ended the album in a wholesome way, based on its message as well. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

cix-hello-3
Hello Chapter 1: Hello, Stranger Teaser Image

[Review] Movie Star – CIX

It is time to look closely at a new debuting group! CIX (Complete In X) is a 5-member male group debuting under C9 Entertainment, consisting of Lee Byoung-gon, Kim Seung-hun, Kim Yong-hee, Bae Jin-young and Yoon Hyun-suk. Several of the members are familiar faces we have seen previously throughout the industry.  I think the majority of fans will recognise Bae Jin Young, who is a former member of Wanna One (and made his solo debut a few months back). Byoung-gon and Seung-hun were previously on YG Treasure Box but failed to join the lineup of Treasure13 (another upcoming group). They made their debut today with Movie Star.

Two words that I have been using often to describe songs this year is smooth and sleek. Both these words are great descriptions for Movie Star. But I think an even better description is that the song is rather seductive. The way Jinyoung started off the song with his deep voice was very appealing. It is a side of him that we have yet to see, so there is an intriguing side to it. The rest of the song falls in place quite nicely. The song builds up in aesthetics with its rather typical sounding dance instrumental. But there are some small details within the instrumental that draw my attention. The vocals take a soft approach, which I think compliments the seductive and aesthetic nature of the song. Even the melody does the exact same thing. The rapping adds that dynamic touch (its that other word I word too often) that feels like ‘icing on the cake’. I really like the outro, which really draws the song to a close in a fitting fashion for fans who want to listen to just that tiny bit more.

The music video takes what I mentioned above on board and manage to transform it into a very appealing visual aid for the song. Each member is quite handsome, so the music video already has that box ticked. Somehow Jinyoung makes a jumper with many holes in it look fashionable, proving my point. The music video sets look really cool. And with the different camera angles, the video shines quite cool. I really like the use of white and black in the video, along with that one dominant colour when it comes to coloured lighting in the video. I find this is very stylish and modern.

The choreography also encapsulates what is said above. The moves play on that seductive nature of the song. But it keeps it relatively simple, which matches the more aesthetic nature. You don’t need bold moves to really show off style and this proves just that. Well played by CIX and their choreographers.

Song – 9.5/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.6/10