[Album Review] HUTAZONE (1st Studio Album) – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

Many male groups that have been active for a number of years so far have reached that stage where their members have started to enlist into the military, a mandatory requirement for all males in South Korea. However, not many do send-offs like BTOB does. Changsub enlisted earlier this year and in December 2018,, he made his solo debut through the mini-album, Mark. Now, Minhyuk (or HUTA) is due to enlist in the coming week and has bid farewell with the release of HUTAZONE, his solo debut album, which features two title tracks (and is the focus of this album review). I personally hope that they continue doing this for all the members who enlist as this is an excellent way to say farewell for the next 2 years, whilst also leaving a treat for fans.

HUTAZONE Album Cover

1..Hutazone (Intro Track) – Opening the album is the track that shares the same name as the album. HUTAZONE is a great taster for the audience, showcasing his vocals and raps. But not only that we get a range of vocals and raps, which I think is quite impressive. It also gets you into the mood for the album, going with an R&B infused hip-hop track. But the music doesn’t spoil what is come. It just merely introduces the album, which I quite like. (8/10)

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

3. You Too? Me Too! (너도? 나도!) (ft. Jeon Soyeon ((G)I-DLE) – For some reason, this party sound, which is very vibrant and colourful, is quite unexpecting. I particularly like the high-pitch vocalisation in the background for the post-chorus hook. It gives the song that quirky feel on top of the fun vibes. I like his vocals in the song, especially when it was slightly husky. I also liked Soyeon’s featuring in the song as the song suited her tone and delivery quite well. (9/10)

4. Pretend Like I Don’t Care (아무렇지 않은 척)Pretend Like I Don’t Care takes a step back and goes for a vocally driven song (however, he does rap in the song. Just the rapping felt more like a featuring). I liked how the instrumental sounded piano, giving the song a sweet sound. His low notes were shown off during this song and those were my favourite parts of the song. It is definitely interesting to see a change in pace for Minhyuk with such a song. (8/10)

5. This Must Be A Dream (ft. Yoook Sungjae (BTOB))This Must Be A Dream is a duet with Minhyuk and fellow BTOB member, Sungjae. It is a nice jazzy-influenced ballad to really showcase their harmonies and voices. I also liked Minhyuk’s rapping in the song. It didn’t feel needed, but it was still good. It isn’t the standout track for me though, but I am sure some fans (Melodies and co.) will think otherwise. (7/10)

6. Falling Flowers (화) (Interlude) – It was this Interlude that got me writing this album review. Falling Flowers is the hidden gem on the album. It only goes for a minute or so, but it is the best minute or so on the album (no offence to any of his amazing tracks on the album). His vocals are spectacular in this track. It brings chills to me when I think of this song. The instrumental is equally as profound and impactful. (10/10)

7. Fallin’ – Following the previous song, I did not expect something so cheerful right off the start. I expected some easing to occur. But nonetheless, it is another energetic and fun sounding track that really catches on quickly. Once again, both his vocals and rapping stands out in this track. I quite like its pop-centred and colourful instrumental, even though it did feel slightly squeaky. I also liked that xylophone ending. It is something different and refreshing. (8/10)

8. All Day (Korean Version)All Day is a single that featured on Minhyuk’s Japanese solo album which he released last year. For this album, he obviously had it rewritten in Korean. To me, it is another passable track on the album. I liked how it flowed but it was necessary interesting. I think the most catching moment of the song was the synthesizer keyboard in the instrumental. (6/10)

9. Purple Rain (ft, Cheeze)Purple Rain was previously released as part of the Piece of BTOB series back in 2017. You can read about what I thought regarding the track by clicking here. In that review, I did not post a score then but will do so today. (8/10)

10. Tonight (With Melody) (Title Track) – The second title track on the album is Tonight. The song, as suggested from the title, is for BTOB’s fans. It is another fun track. But this one was more light-hearted than the other tracks we have heard of the same nature. Everything about the song is quite likeable but it doesn’t feel memorable for me (though I would think fans would say otherwise). Watching the live performances for this track, I liked how the track was designed to let the fans sing along, which lives up to the ‘With Melody’ part of the title. (7.5/10)

11. Waiting For You – Bring his Minhyuk’s album to a close is Waiting For You, which I thought was a pleasant track to really tie everything together. It brings his vocals and raps together, once again, but in a way that it feels like a send-off. Not serious like his title track nor fun like his other tracks on the album. In a way, it is touching. The instrumental was very appealing due to the violins in the background. I quite liked this song. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

HUTAZONE Teaser Image

[Review] Ya – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

As male groups become more superior due to the amount of time they spent active in the industry, the inevitable occurs. BTOB has reached the stage where their Korean members must enlist into the military. We saw Eunkwang enlist suddenly last year. Changsub enlisted yesterday after his solo debut with Gone. And now it is Minhyuk’s turn to enlist next month. But before he leaves, he is treating fans to the release of his 1st solo album. Under the name HUTA, Minhyuk has two title tracks, Ya and With Melody off his album, HUTAZONE.

New fans of BTOB may know Minhyuk as a rapper of BTOB while some more long-term fans may know he started off singing in the group’s earlier days. Ya brings the two worlds together, giving Minhyuk to showcase his raps and vocals. Ya is actually a very smooth song. While it delves into the hip-hop side of KPOP, Ya starts off with Minhyuk’s deep and husky rap tone. I particularly like that roughness he brings to the table at the end of the final rap section of the song.  Once he starts singing, it beings a refreshing feel to the song. Given his vocals in this song, it makes you wonder why he hasn’t shown it as much in BTOB’s work. I really like the entire chorus of the track, particularly the ‘flexing with ya’ line in the post-chorus hook. It kicks the energy level of the song to the whole new high. Talking about the energy of the song, I liked how everything flowed in this song, particularly the instrumental break at the end of the song, which channelled the energy perfectly.

And like the song, the music video takes full commitment to that dark direction. I am not exactly sure what is happening but it seems like there are two sides of Minhyuk. The presence of these two sides is based on the person he likes, whom he describes as dangerous and should be avoided. His darker self (represented by the black outfit) seems to have the upper hand to his more good side (which is represented as being in the white stray jacket). And as his darker side tells him to stay with his dangerous lover, this results in his apartment catching on fire (a consequence he knows was going to happen). This is also the first time I saw a male idol gradually lose their shirt. In the first set of choreography shots, he was wearing a shirt and jacket. Next set of scenes was a jacket buttoned up. The final set of scenes was abs galore for all the fans out there. And visually, he is very good looking in this music video.

I thought the choreography was nice. It gives him an opportunity to really focus on rapping and singing. But it didn’t seem too simple if you understand what I mean. The moves at the ‘Flexing with ya’ post-chorus hook was rather simple but had attitude. His solo dance at the end was equally as cool and gave him to showcase his dancing ability, giving fans and the audience the trinity.

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