[Album Review] HEART*IZ (2nd Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

I am so sorry that it took me an entire month to write up this album review! Despite April being a relatively quiet month for KPOP releases, I have been extremely busy with my studies and the few releases did come out had a lot of interesting albums that I felt that it would be more interesting to review. Hence, this bumped HEART*IZ around. Just I have been so busy that I haven’t listened to any recent albums, so I thought I take this opportunity to finally look at IZ*ONE’s second mini album. After all, they always say ‘better late than never’.

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HEART*IZ Album Cover

1..Hey. Bae. Like It. (해바라기) – Starting off the album is a combination of cuteness and typical tropical-esque instrumentation. The combination of the two actually works well, with the cuteness in the vocals not too overwhelming and the tropical side of the instrumental was quite refreshing and bright. I also enjoyed the lightness of the track, which really made it a promising starter to the album. I think the only downfall is the typicalness that the song suffers from. But apart from that, I like this track (which is also titled Sunflower as well). (8/10)

2. Violeta (비올레타) (Title Track)Click here to read my review for Violeta. (8.5/10)

3. Highlight –Highlight starts off with what seems to be an edgy sound. It gave me hip-hop vibes, so I was excited to see what direction the song was going in. They seem to lose this for a bit of the verse, but it returns for the pre-chorus. The entire verse seemed to be a nice steady incline to the minimalistic chorus, which featured a simple beat and the lines ‘Highlight (Look at Me)’. I did not know what I had expected the first time around but the chorus did catch me off guard (but I think it is quite sophisticated this way). I also liked the saxophone touch for the final chorus, which delivers a different feel altogether. Both the vocals and rapping were nice in this track. (8.5/10)

4. Really Like You – We now come to a ballad. Really Like You is an acoustic track that showcases some of their vocals. I thought it was a rather nice song, even though I felt it was a little messy when it comes to the melody. The way they sing with their airy voices and the floaty instrumental reminds me of Berry Good’s My First Love, which was also a similar concept (but Really Like You isn’t as heartfelt as the latter song). It was a nice break amid all of these dance-centred tracks. (7.5/10)

5. Airplane – Following Really Like You, I think IZ*ONE strengths are definitely in more upbeat songs. While Airplane seems a lot more comfortable for the group, the song felt like it went in the ‘typical girl group debut title track’ route, where the song ends up being too bright, youthful and poppy. Even the rapping reflected and the main hook in the chorus reflected this thought. The group does nail the track perfectly without any hitches or awkward patches. I do have a special playlist on my phone for songs like this and I think Airplane will fit perfectly into it. (8/10)

6. Up – I think out of all the tracks on the album (besides Violeta) Up is probably my favourite sidetrack. It does fall within that ‘typical’ category once again. But there is a fair amount of appeal in the track to make me become drawn to and enjoy it. The instrumental was very nice, especially the bounciness at the start of the track (that is ongoing throughout the track). I also like the bright vocals in this track, going perfectly with the pop vibes of the song. The track was very addictive with the hooks and vibrancy of the track being pretty much unforgettable. (9/10)

7. I Want To Be A Cat (고양이가 되고 싶어) (Korean Version)I Want To Be A Cat (otherwise known by the Japanese title, Neko ni Naritai) was previously sung and performed by Sako, Yuri, Yeni, Nako and Minju on their Japanese debut album. But the Korean version is sung by all the members of IZ*ONE. I really like the more chilled sound that the song had going on. It is rather different from the harder pop styles earlier on in the album. I did like the vocals, which were showcased well. The melody was pleasant. I just thought the song could have done a bit more in terms of memorability. But other than that, it was decent. (7/10)

8. Happy Goodbye (Korean Version) – Otherwise known as Gokigen Sayonara is also from the group’s first Japanese album. Listening to the track, you can tell it was distinctively J-POP previously, as it has all of those elements that make J-POP what it is. I am in no way saying that the Korean version is bad. I really like the chorus, which was catchy vibe to it. I also enjoyed the slightly techno-pop instrumental (which is once again a distinctive sound for J-POP). I also enjoyed the song because it was light and pleasant as well. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.1/10

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HEART*IZ Teaser Image
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[Review] Violeta – IZ*ONE

It is time we turn our attention to one of the biggest groups to debut last year. IZ*ONE, for those who may not remember or no, was formed through Produce 48 and debuted with La Vie en Rose. And while the industry is in full swing for the next season of Produce 101, IZ*ONE makes their long-awaited Korean comeback with Violeta. The new track features on the group’s second mini-album, HEART*IZ. In other related news, IZ*ONE made their official Japanese debut earlier this year with Suki to Iwasetai (or I Want To Say I Love You).

It has taken me a few listens for me to warm up to the song. And while I am still warming up to Violeta, I am liking the song. One of the reasons why I haven’t really warmed up to the song yet is due to the first verse. It didn’t feel as captivating. But from the pre-chorus onwards, I am quite into it. Talking about the pre-chorus, I like the dramatic flair. I also enjoyed the rush of energy that the chorus gave off. It makes the pop and tropical mix very intriguing. The vocals were nice, especially during the chorus. The rappers, however, were amazing. I know they didn’t have enough definition to their part but the fact that it stepped back from the high energy filled chorus was ideal. I also like that dubstep effect at the end of the song, which really gave the song a little interesting effect to end on (and not be too repetitive). Maybe a few more listens will do it for me. But so far, it is looking (or sounding, in this case) good.

The entirety of the video has this pale colour tone to it, with some emphasis on the violet colour due to it being part of the title. While I do think anything pale is a little old fashion, there is a swing towards this at the moment in the industry, judging by the pale colour tones in music videos over the last few years. The video, from what I have read, is based on the ‘The Happy Prince‘ book. I know of the book, but it isn’t my first pick when it comes to literature. So since I haven’t read it, I don’t feel confident making connections. But this may be something to look into for a future Music Vidoe Theory post. I did like the choreography sets and the scene with the solo member dancing in the water looked really cool and trendy.

The choreography was quite nice. I enjoyed the majority of it. The first and last chorus (when there is that rush of energy) was probably my favourite parts. Unfortunately, the butterfly effect that started off the second chorus was not that great and I felt like that was a mismatch to the fast paced section.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] I Want To Say I Love You – IZ*ONE

What makes IZ*ONE unique,, in comparison to I.O.I and Wanna One, is that they incorporated trainees from Korea and Japanese members from AKB48. This allows the project group to debut in Japan, which their other Produce 101 counterparts have yet to do. And this event occurred last week with IZ*ONE making their Japanese debut with I Want To Say I Love You or Suki to Iwasetai. The actual song isn’t available until later this week but as the music video has been revealed in full, I thought we might as well have a closer listen/look at it.

My experience with the JPOP culture and industry is very limited. But Suki to Iwasetai does remind me fondly of the sounds and music that I commonly associate to mainstream JPOP, particularly girl groups. I don’t know how to exactly describe this particular JPOP sound, however, so that ends that observation. But I did like the piano and violins in the background during the chorus. Talking about the chorus, I also enjoyed the small blast of energy they give us.  I did think the vocals were nice. They didn’t seem as clear as their Korean releases but it works with this JPOP sound that I have linked to the song. And the combination of the vocals and instrumental does make the song quite catchy. There is a side to me where I think they could have gone beyond this but it was a good track to start off their careers in Japan, from what I know of.

The music video is the main element of this debut that I wanted to talk about. I really liked the colours in this video. The backgrounds and scenery the producer chose for this video was definitely a highlight of the video, as they looked spectacular. The cinematography also complimented the choreography and amazing scenery. I liked how that choreography scene with the light strobes was set up. Aesthetics through the roof. I also thought the landfill set looked really cool and pretty with the colours. But my question is – did they really film at a landfill site? But once again, aesthetics.

There might be two choreography version to this debut, which I think is really interesting. The first would have to be the one performed on the road, whilst the second one is with the long coats. And I thought both were equally cool looking and definitely left a longing impression of their style.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Album Review] COLOR*IZ (1st Mini Album) – IZ*ONE

Unfortunately, I did not follow Produce 48 despite promises to myself that I would actually check out the show this time around. However, as usual, a group was produced from the Top 12 members from the show, who are now known as IZ*ONE. They made their debut two weeks ago with La Vie en Rose (link below) and their mini-album COLOR*IZ. Today, we will be having a closer look at their mini-album, starting now!

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COLOR*IZ Album Cover

1..Beautiful Colour (아름다운 색) – IZ*ONE opens their debut mini-album with a fairly strong song. It is a bright and bubbly song that is quite colourful at the same time. I thought the chorus was rather soothing and melodic. The vocals were strong, showcasing different techniques. It particularly like the second half of the chorus and the falsetto leading up to it. The raps were decent and fitted in well with the rest of the song. It does sound typical when compared to other b-side tracks of other artists but other than that, it was quite nice. (8/10)

2. O’ My! – What stands out for me in this song is the instrumental. It does feel a lot cutesier than the previous song and it isn’t overwhelming, which is always a good thing when it comes to cutesy songs. Going back to the instrumental, I really like the dynamic electronic side of it. I thought that added a nice touch and kept it balanced. I thought the main hook of the song (O’ My!) was quite addictive. Vocals were good but I thought a little more rapping could have brought a little extra something to the song to really being to the next level. (8.5/10)

3. La Vie en Rose (라비앙로즈) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for La Vie en Rose. (7/10)

4. Memory (비밀의 시간)Memory is the first ballad of the album. And the way it sounded reminded me of the ballad that Produce 101 Season 2 ended with. There is a touching side of the song and it doesn’t feel as emotional as a love song ballad. I think their vocals in this song was their very best throughout the entire album. I would love to hear more ballads from IZ*ONE if this is the quality and standard they will continually release. I really like it when they sung together at the end. The instrumental was plain for my taste but other than that, it was almost perfect. (9/10)

5. We Together (앞으로 잘 부탁해) – We have now entered the Produce 48 territory, where the girls have re-recorded their songs from the finale using the final IZ*ONE lineup. We Together was quite nice, giving off nostalgic vibes through their instrumental and chorus. It fits squarely in the pop genre and there isn’t much to the chorus to really differentiate the song from other artists. However, I did like the extra kick in the bridge, which I thought gave the song a unique twist. I also liked the electric guitars at the end. (8/10)

6. Crush On You (반해버리잖아?) (好きになっちゃうだろう?) – This may be due to my lack of musical skills or just my personal preference, but I thought the combinations of vocals and instrumentation is a little off-putting. They just didn’t seem to be connected and it felt a little uncomfortable (but not all the time. It was mainly felt during the lead up to the chorus). The instrumentation for this song reminded me of 8-bit music (i.e. like the music you get with retro video games), However, since IZ*ONE is both a Japanese and Korean music group, it was still nice to see something for the Japanese market despite the album being promoted in Korea so far. (6/10)

7. In Our Dreams (꿈을 꾸는 동안) (夢を見ている間) – I mentioned in Memory that the latter song felt like the ballad that ended their run on Produce 48. Well, here is the actual ballad that did end their time on the show. Many of the same comments under Memory can be rewritten here. What I did like about the song that hasn’t been motioned yet is that In Our Dream felt a lot warmer and you could feel a lot more emotion in this song. Once again, good vocals are present, but I actually preferred the vocals of the earlier song. But given its position on the album, it was a nice finale for the debut mini-album. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

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COLOR*IZ Member Teaser Images

[Review] La Vie en Rose – IZ*ONE

Produce 48, the third season in the Produce 101 series, recently wrapped up in August of this year. While it follows the same concept of allowing the public to choose the final lineup of the resulting girl group, it is an extra unique season as the Produce 101 series collaborated with AKB48 (and its sister groups) to form the contestant pool. Hence, the final group, IZ*ONE, which is made up of the top 12, is made up of both Korean and Japanese contestants.  Today, they dropped their debut title track, La Vie en Rose.

La Vie en Rose started off with a bit of guitar (which sounded very unnatural) as the main instrument. It combined with standard synths, which didn’t feel too special at first. However, once we got to the pre-chorus, it had impact and energy which I really became fond of. I think the vocals aid in this and it results in what seems to be a pleasant sounding song. The chorus was lacklustre. It wasn’t what I expected and following the powerful pre-chorus buildup, I was expecting something a little more feistiness. However, the aesthetic of the chorus was rather interesting and fulfiled. So I am a torn between the two opinions. I personally did think the chorus was too repetitive, especially at the end of the song, hence why I am leaning towards the ‘I am disappointed’ opinion. I wanted to hear more rap because those small segments didn’t feel enough for me. It isn’t a terrible song by any means but I wanted more (if you know what I mean).

I like the concept of the use of red in the video. With everything very pastel and ‘bland’ in the video, the red allows the members to really pop. The song seemed to go in that direction as well, so I thought it as rather fitting. The video was made up of the closeup shots with the members interacting one way or another with the colour red and choreography shots, so there wasn’t anything too amazing with the video. It was a nice video and that is all that matters.

I really like the choreography for this song. Especially during that powerful pre-chorus buildup, which was definitely my highlight for the entire debut. I also really like the choreography during the bridge as it felt very strong and showed the girls off in a very promising and confident light.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 7/10