[Review] Horololo – EXO-CBX

With the subunit just finishing up their unit promotions in Korea with Blooming Days, EXO-CBX is looking at Japan for their next hit. Horololo is the title track off their upcoming first album in Japan, which is titled Magic. This is the subunit’s first comeback in Japan since their debut with Ka-Ching!. This is also my first JPOP review in a very long time. I have allocated Saturdays in the month of May for Japanese songs sung by the Korean singers that I review often on this site.

I think the first thing that jumps out at you is the chorus. It had me a little speechless the first time I heard it and it felt a little ridiculous the many listens that followed. But hey, they made it work and now it is the one thing that I am constantly hearing my head. The vocals and raps were nice. The chorus also added some intensity and energy into the song, which made me enjoy it to an extent. However, when you take the chorus away, the song was rather plain. It was like a rollercoaster. Song started off on a low and once we reached the chorus, we were at a peak. And then this repeated once we got back to the verse.

I wasn’t exactly sure what they were trying to get through with the video. It just felt like a bunch of sets purchased randomly and the production team just went with it. One moment they are in an olden styled reporter or detective office, the next they are on the streets and then they stop at a countryside train station. The cinematography did manage to channel the energy with the camera angles, so I guess that is a plus. But it just felt like a standard music video.

The choreography was extremely well suited for the song. Especially with the hook like that in the song, it doesn’t really offer much room for creativity. It also worked well with the intensity and energetic vibes highlighted earlier in the review.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6.2/10

 

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[Album Review] Blooming Days (2nd Mini Album) – EXO-CBX

EXO-CBX made their long-awaited return with their second mini-album last week. The title track and mini-album share the same name, Blooming Days. A common theme that you will continually read throughout the review are comments in regards to how awesome the vocals and harmonies are within the album. For other comments, scroll down below!

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Blooming Days Album Cover

1..Monday Blues – Opening the album is a smooth R&B track which features amazing vocals and harmonies. It is one of those songs that I can’t help swaying along to (which is a good thing though). It is rather slow-paced but it still features a decent chorus that seemed catchy. I really liked the ‘owoo-owoo-owoo‘ repetition, which was my favourite part. I am not a fan of the bridge, however, which felt rather boring when compared to the rest of the song. But overall, it was rather easy on the ears and felt like a well-paced song for the opener, leading onto the title track. (8/10)

2. Blooming Days (花요일) (Title Track) Click here to read the full review of Blooming Days. (9.1/10)

3. Sweet Dreams (내일 만나) – The song has a moderate upbeat nature, which made the track extremely pleasant to listen to. Also featuring (and it seems to be a common theme in the album) are the harmonies and amazing vocals from the trio. I can say everything about the song was decent however it just didn’t seem to catch on. Likewise, the song just didn’t seem to peak, instead remaining consistent with how it initially started. (7/10)

4. Thursday – Returning to another R&B (and somewhat jazzy) song, first impressions for this track was that it was rather soothing and calming to listen to. The chorus shined brightly as the chorus was a lot louder compared to the verses, with the contrast working extremely well. Out of all the songs on the album, I like the vocals here the most. Especially, that falsetto bridge where Baekhyun and Chen alternate. (8/10)

5. Vroom Vroom – Upbeat track that sounds like was it was going to be an addictive addition to the album. And that it was. The chorus was rather unexpected, being dominated by loud synths that competed with the vocals. Yes, it was rather chaotic but it worked surprisingly well. The retro vibes were also quite strong. Also, almost non-existent on the album so far are the raps, which were nice and well-fitting to the song. (9/10)

6. Playdate – While this song showcased great vocal work and harmonies as well, it felt relatively plain and just didn’t feel captivated. It seems like a sweet swoon designed to swoon some fans but it just doesn’t really appeal to me. The falsetto was nice and the bridge was rather good. (6/10)

7. Lazy (휴일) – Like the previous track, I wasn’t really falling for this track. It had a nice sound and was pleasant sounding. I thought the chorus was rather simple, yet classy and elegant. The instrumental break was interesting, with a somewhat quirky synth in the background.But it just didn’t feel as memorable as I had expected it. Once again, nice vocals and the harmonies were great. I also felt the ending was a little too soon, as they should have eased off with the song, instead. (6/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

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Blooming Days Teaser Image

[Review] Blooming Day – EXO-CBX

EXO-CBX has made their grand return with Blooming Day and their 2nd mini-album, which also shares the same name as the title track. It has been over a year since their subunit debut with the addictive Hey Mama!, which I am always grooving to when it randomly starts playing on my phone. Given that testimony, I am extremely excited to hear what they have in store for us.

Blooming Day is extremely groovy. That is the first thing that clicked in my head once the chorus kicked in. But it isn’t the type of groovy like in Hey Mama. Rather it employs a more subtle approach to present that grooviness, which allows the song to become more impactful. I really like the start of the song, which felt very minimalistic with the drum beat in the background. What was a little interesting was how every so often they included a drum beat that had a rough texture, which I thought was cool. I thought the chorus was quite nice, with the softer first half and the louder ‘Oh Baby‘ second half. What also screams at me (not literally) are the vocals, which just sound so smooth in this song. It goes well with the subtle nature of the instrumental. When they sing together during the bridge, my breath was taken away (especially when Chen’s high note was thrown into the mix). In summary, while it does sound a lot different to Hey Mama, it manages to have the same effect on you!

While I don’t think it was their intention, the video actually came off as mysterious. They were lurking in the trees (or bush) and some of their solo shots just added extra mysteriousness (especially in the wide shots with no one else). There was one particular scene where Baekhyun shoots Chen in the head with the slingshot. That reminded me of Red Velvet’s Russian Roulette (by the way he fell). It is another aesthetic video that is visually appealing. The minimalistic vibes in this video work extremely well with the song. Overall, I thought it was a nice and pleasant video to watch.

[Updated] I liked how everything was well-timed to each drum beat and clap. It made the entire choreography quite cohesive with the song. Besides that, I didn’t find this choreography to be that memorable. I guess that is due to the level of seriousness that weighed down the performance.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7/10 [Updated]
Overall Rating – 9.1/10 [Updated]

 

[Review] Ka-Ching – EXO-CBX

EXO-CBX will be making their official debut on the 24th of May, with the drop of their first min-album, Girls. While that date is two weeks away, they have already released the short version of the music video and gave a full performance for their debut track.  The EXO subunit previously made their Korean debut with Hey Mama last year. This is the third JPOP review of the four I promised, with the last one being released later today.

I was genuinely curious what style the subunit would go for. Hey Mama was so good and was a song that was more up my alley. Given that this release is more for the audience in Japan, it would be interesting to see what style the song delves into. And I am glad that I clicked on this song. Ka-Ching really catchy to listen to. Even after the song ends, I want more of it. The instrumental sounds like a soundtrack for the playboy who just arrived at a Las Vegas casino and has a bit fun in the casino. Which is obviously appropriate for a song that revolves around money. I love the vocal work in the song, especially the buildup during the pre-chorus. The “Ka-Ching” that is engraved into our minds by the end of the song sounds alluring and does a good job of keeping that catchiness of the song. Trust me, but “Ka-Ching” is probably the one thing you will remember for a while after listening to the song. The one thing that doesn’t sit well with me is the rapping in the song. It was pretty bad, to the point where I has to be one of the worst rap sequences I have heard in a long time. The song needed a rap sequence, just not that one. But overall, the song was pretty good.

I am honestly not too sure about the music video. A part of me likes it. Another part of me wants to ask what was going on during the circus scenes. Not exactly sure about those backup dancers and their creepy makeup. Sure, they added a little colour to the video to give it a more vibrant feel, but it looked really scary. The green screen for the circus background has a lot going on, so it felt overwhelming and complicated. The casino scenes looked a lot simpler and felt more open but those backup dancers were still there. I like the speech bubbles and the comic themed writing that appeared. Just not the word art for the line “We’re on a payroll”.

Getting on the trend of body rolls, Ka-Ching makes use of the body rolls during the chorus. It actually looks quite cool. My favourite part of the dance is the end, which isn’t shown in the music video linked below but rather the live performance that you can search up on YouTube, where Baekhyun starts off, then Chen and Xiumin, then the backup dancers.

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

 

KPOPREVIEWED 2016 Awards – Part 1

I am officially back everyone. And finally, I am moving along with the posts. This is the replacement to the normal Best of the Bests that I do at the end of each year. Essentially, they are the same thing, just a different name for them. This is just for fun and is just my thoughts relayed into a post. I did want to include you guys in the voting this time around, but because of my vacation, I had skipped over it. Maybe next year, if nothing pops up.

I usually post the nominees up in a separate post. However, because of time constraints, I have linked the nominees on a separate page by clicking the link below, instead of writing them out.

CLICK FOR THE NOMINEES AND CHECK OUT THE WINNERS FOR PART 1 BELOW


RISING STAR AWARD

This award goes to the groups that have seen the most growth in 2016. Past winners have risen from the rookie status (usually) or ‘nugu’ status and conquered the year they were awarded in. Looking back there are a number groups that took over 2016. But the rising star award goes to Twice and Seventeen. It is quite obvious why. Both groups had a following already in 2015 but 2016 saw more success, proving them to be a force to look out for.


BEST INSTRUMENTAL

This award is self-explanatory, given to the song that has the best instrumental. This is something that I talk about in review and is vital to the song (though I have heard amazing acapella in the past). It seems like simple took out the award this year with the instrumental of The Rain by Ladies Code taking out the award. But don’t worry because the EDM based song Fire by BTS took out Honourable Mention.


BEST COMEBACK

Comeback after comeback after comeback. It is like shifting through a needle in a haystack. Any artist could have been nominated for this but I chose VIXX as the winner for this. Their comebacks have been consistent but unique each time. Their releases have you asking what they have planned next. As for honourable mentions, BTS takes it. Given their releases in the past year, I have to say I was very impressed.


BEST SUBUNIT

It seems like subunits have dropped off the trends list this year. Actually, they have become quite rare. That being said, there have been some notable subunits in 2016. My pick for the winner is EXO-CBX, which consists of Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin. Their song, Hey Mama, was extremely catchy and fun to listen to. Honourable mention go to NCT Dream for their release of the fun and equally catchy Chewing Gum (plus they performed on hoverboards).


BEST RAPPER

Not a big fan of rapping but I have to be honest, there are many great rappers here that show me otherwise. A few rappers in idol groups have released mixtapes this year as part of their solo work, further showing their influence on the industry. The winner I have chosen is Zico (Block B). All of his solo releases and collaborations have been extremely popular and successful in the past year. Honourable mention goes  Suga (BTS), whose mixtape and work within BTS have also amazed me this year.


BEST VOCALIST

Vocals are something that I admire the most. So, it was rather hard for me to narrow down just 5 nominees, particularly since there were more shows where vocalists of different idol groups and actors/actresses could participate in. My radar jumped when I heard the winner sing on those shows. I am talking about Sandeul (B1A4), whose voice sounded amazing in his solo work and collaborations on Duet Song Festival. I chose Mamamoo for honourable mention as their vocals are no joke, slaying with almost everything they release.


BEST COLLABORATION

Collaborations are still popular and with SM Entertainment’s SM Station in full effect for 2016, we saw a more diverse range of collaborations that have never been seen before. My pick for the best collaboration of 2016 is Hit Me by MOBB, which is a collaboration between Mino (Winner) and Bobby (iKON). Honourable mentions go to Tiffany (SNSD) and SanE for their SM Station track, Heartbreak Hotel.


BEST NON-TITLE SONG

These songs include songs that were simply released as a part of the album but forgotten as it was never promoted. Some of them were performed with the title track for one week but have since not been performed. Songs that deserve some sort of recognition as well. My pick of honourable mention is I Miss You by Mamamoo, which was included in their first studio album. The winner of the best non-title song goes to Sistar with their track: String. String is actually one of the few songs that are not a title track that was replayed constantly on my phone.


To find the second part of the 2016 KPOPREVIEWED Awards, Click Here!!!

 

[Review] Hey Mama – EXO-CBX

EXO has made a comeback with the reduced form of 3 members. Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin had joined forces to form a new subunit and perform as a trio on stage.  It has been previously rumoured that EXO would launch a subunit.This is not their first release as a trio. The three has released an OST for the drama – Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. As per any EXO release, the song and album have topped charts as soon as the release was dropped.

The song is freaking amazing. I liked everything about it. I had my doubts about some aspects, but those doubts were crushed as soon as I started listening to the song for the first time. The song has a very dominate retro vibe (very funky and reminds me a lot of the disco era), which I like a lot. I loved the very dominate guitar sounds in the instrumental. It made the instrumental interesting and added an extra layer of depth to the song. Even the vocals of the song were really good. Baekhyun and Chen are known to be the powerhouse vocals in EXO. This song does justice to that fact very nicely. Chen even got the spotlight on him for his amazing high note at the end of the song, which does show to the world the hidden gem in EXO. Xiumin sounds amazing here and it is a pity that the line distribution for EXO songs isn’t in his favour sometimes. Even his rapping caught me off guard (but for good reasons). Baekhyun rapping is something that I am on the fence with. Works in this song, but sounded weird. An excellent song, in my books. And extremely catchy. Definitely, a song that will be replayed constantly.

The video shows a more playful side of the trio. EXO music videos are quite dark or masculine. This video moves away from that and gives the members a more colourful side to them. Have little to no clue on what is going on in the video. It seems like Chen and Xiumin are hard at work, but with a little persuasion from Baekhyun, they join Baekhyun in some sort of rebellion against society. The red papers seem to be important, but the pages are ultimately trashed. Even the rest of society are too busy banging their drinks on the tables. But with the trio stepping up onto television, everyone breaks free from the really boring drinking-banging ritual and join on in with the fun. Because life is only great, when you have fun. They even threw in a side romance for Chen in there. There is also a nice refreshing feel from the video. I feel like this is a music video that is easily relatable to and it isn’t over the top or complex to read. It’s simple and straight to the point (provided my interpretation is right).

The choreography is pretty cool as well. It looks cool and fits nicely with the song as well. The love their hand movements during the “Ooh, Ooh” that appears at the end of each chorus.

Rating – 9.5/10