[Review] I Am – Lee Hong Gi (FT Island) ft. Cheetah

As previously mentioned, I will be posting a review for Lee Hong Gi’s collaboration with Cheetah. It actually took a lot longer than expected due to various reasons and I apologise for that. I Am was released a week before Lee Hong Gi’s official solo comeback, Cookie, was released. It is one of the three collaborations on his solo mini album, Do n Do.

Now, this is a collaboration that really works. Lee Hong Gi brings his perfect vocals to the party, while Cheetah brings her well-known rapping style (which felt more like rap-speak for this song. But I am not too troubled as I thought was an excellent touch for this song). And the two really drive the song forward. The party occurs over a really funky backdrop which has brass and energetic vibes which really make the song feel impactful. The song is quite catchy and the chorus is engraved into my mind. It has to come to the point where I become very excited when I know I am going to be listening to the song. And the way they overlap each other at the end of the song, gave the song the perfect ending in my opinion.

The song felt like a party but I didn’t really get that feel from the video. Both Cheetah and Hong Gi sat in a barn and then stood in front of a green screen. I did like the camera work during the scenes in the barn, with the zoom-ins and panning really making up for the lack of liveliness in the video. However, I was less impressed with the camera work in front of the green screen, as it felt too shaky for my liking.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

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[Review] Cookie – Lee Hong Gi (FT Island) ft. Jung Ilhoon (BTOB)

Another solo return from another artist! This time, it is Lee Hong Ki with Cookie. Lee Hong Gi made his solo debut back in 2015 with Insensible, which earned him two weekly music show awards. And while it has taken him 3 years to return, Lee Hong Gi has been active in dramas, variety shows and also FT Island comebacks (the most recent being Summer’s Night Dream.

I personally expected Lee Hong Gi to release a ballad for his solo comeback. So it was very unexpecting to hear tropical influences in his song. It feels like an attempt to modernise his sound for the current market, which is a complete opposite to what FT Island is doing. But it is still a fairly decent song. And even though it is a tropical house sound, Hong Gi brings his signature husky vocals, so you can’t really go wrong there.  I personally really like the bridge as it brings out the best out of the vocals and instrumentation. Jung Ilhoon (from BTOB) also makes an appearance in the song. Surprisingly, his section is earlier on in the song and was fairly short. As the song progressed, I was kind of expecting Ilhoon to rejoin to fully complete the song, Just it never happened. I am also not too sure about the odd whisper of ‘You should wait for the cookies‘ at the end. What context is this in?

I am not too sure on what is going on in the video. It looks like Hong Gi is some alien with anti-gravitational powers that he may not be able to control. When he walks inside the building, the things around him start floating away. When he is supposedly meant to face off with Ilhoon, he causes both of them to float around. And everyone comes around him for some floating experience. I guess it would be cool. It isn’t the most interesting video but it boring in any way. Fun observation: Hong Gi also released a pre-release single with Cheetah featuring on it (review coming soon), which was also shot in a barn (and I assume it is the same one).

What perked my interest with this comeback is that it was going to feature some choreography Lee Hong Gi doesn’t dance when it comes to FT Island comebacks, so it was going to be interesting. I have to admit, while it isn’t much, he pulled it off well without looking awkward (which is the case for first-time dancers) and he looked really proud of himself. Good job!

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

 

[Special] Personal Favourite Songs from the First Half of 2018

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).

[Review] Still Love You – Lee Hong Gi (FT Island) & Yoo Hwe Seung (N.Flying)

FNC Entertainment recently launched FNC Lab, which gives an opportunity, for artists who participate, to experiment with music and release new songs for listeners to hear. In a way, the program seems to be the company’s own version of SM Station. The first song to come from FNC Lab is Still Love You, a collaboration between FT Island’s Lee Hong Gi and N.Flying’s Yoo Hwe Seung.

Obviously, the main focus of this review will be on the vocals. But before we get to that, the song is a ballad with such an amazing instrumental that really gives the song that solid foundation to build on. And now we snap back to the vocals. We all know how capable Lee Hong Gi is with his voice. We have seen in it his amazing solo debut and through FT Island. Per usual, he sounds spectacular in this song. I really liked the way he started the song and the chorus. However, the true winner in this track has to be Yoo Hwe Seung. While he does seem like a capable vocalist in N.Flying, I did not expect him to outshine Lee Hong Gi by miles away. That high note was amazing. I may not be a singer but damn, that was something. I also listened to the audio before watching the video, so imagine the surprise I got when I realized who did the high note. Even after all this time, I am still blown away by that particular section. He managed to pair so well with Lee Hong Gi and this is a collaboration that I am happy to see again (fingers crossed) in the future. 

It seems like the Lee Hong Ki and Yoo Hwe Seung is in some sort of love triangle with the lady. Interestingly, it seems like she parts way with both of them in the video after seemingly realized that both vocalists are in love with her. She is clearly distraught about making the decision and ends up leaving them both. It is a relatively simple video and storyline that still manages to be captivating but lets the song do the talking.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 10/10

[Review] Wind – FT Island

FT Island is back with a brand new album, which celebrates their 10 years since their debut. The group debuted back on June 7, 2007. Exactly 10 years later, the group dropped their 10-year anniversary album, which consists of Wind (the title track), a remake version of Lovesick and 11 other self-produced tracks. 10 years is a very long time and I wish to say congratulations to the guys for reaching 10-year milestone. While their album is quite lengthy, I too smell an album review coming your way.

Wind is amazing. Breath-taking. Spectacular. Throw in any other positive adjective that makes the song sound amazing. I think we all expected some grand and ultra high quality, especially given their recent releases and this being their 10th-year celebration. And I personally think they delivered. The song started off with the orchestral sound and Hongki’s raspy’s voice. And for a while, it does stay like that, up until the second verse. That was fairly interesting, giving how they are a band. The entrance of the drums and guitars lifted the song up even more. It also allowed the song to build up and feel more impactful, which made it even better. Likewise, I love the instrumental break/bridge of the song. You think that the start was slow, the rest of the song would follow suit, but rather, it ended up turning into a rock ballad, in the end, that was equally as jammable as other songs released by other bands. I think before I end the review anymore, I have to return to Hongki’s vocals. It was just pure bliss to hear him sing this song alone. And he does an amazing job at it (the live is even better, given his condition). If you want to listen to his vocals or to a great rock ballad, this is the one to check out.

Ahhh… another indecipherable music video. First of all, it is a beautiful video to watch (even though I had to watch it a few times to try to understand it – I got distracted by the music). The visuals and cinematography were just perfect. The burst of sound we get for the final chorus was paired very nicely with an exploding flower, which blew my mind. Moving onto the plot, my guess is that they lost their lovers and hence why they all look heartbroken. Not exactly sure if that is it, but it seems to be that way every time I rewatch the video. There seems to be more to it, especially since how eerie the start of the video was and how Jaejin was running after her in the end. My other guess would be that the members died (or only one of them) and might be the reason why she was running away (in response to the news) and why the members all looked heartbroken. I don’t know. But it didn’t take away from the aesthetics of the video, which made it worthwhile to watch.

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

 

 

 

End Of Year Chart 2015 + Happy New Year!

Welcome to the end of the year! Each year, I do this “End Of The Year Chart” where I properly rank songs via a personalised ranking system, which shows which songs I liked the most (and which songs I did not like at all – but I won’t name and shame). How do I rank the songs? Simply taking the score that I gave them in the review published earlier in the year, adding it to new review scores for the music, video and performance. Then I add those to other scores from “Songs of the Month” in my Rewind posts and to ensure that I can properly order them, I turn to my iTunes play count. And when I say “add”, there is a mixture of mathematical operations (and I am going to stop here, before I can bore you). In no way is this chart influenced by my choice of best song in the BOBs. But I do highlight them here :).

1 Ah Yeah EXID
2 Paradise Lost Gain (Brown Eyed Girls)
3 If You Do  GOT7
4 Closer Oh My Girl
5 You G.Soul
6 Love Me Right EXO
7 I Need U BTS
8 Sing For You EXO
9 Shake It Sistar
10 4 Walls F(x)
11 Dumb Dumb Red Velvet
12 I Taeyeon (SNSD) ft. Verbal Jint
13 Like OOH AHH Twice
14 Oh Um Ah Yeah Mamamoo
15 Mansae Seventeen
16 Just Right GOT7
17 Crazy 4Minute
18 Insensible Lee Hong Ki (FT Island)
19 Run BTS
20 Yey Beast
21 Between Night n Music B.I.G
22 Shake That Brass Amber (f(x)) ft. Taeyeon (SNSD)
23 Hot Pink EXID
24 Beautiful Liar VIXX LR (VIXX)
25 Brand New World Brown Eyed Girls
26 Ring My Bell Girls Day
27 Hurt Locker Nine Muses
28 Growing Pains Donghae & Eunhyuk
29 Run Away Royal Pirates
30 Black Swan Rainbow
31 Congratulations DAY6
32 Catch Me If You Can SNSD
33 Me Gustas Tu Gfriend
34 The Answer Kim Sung Gyu (Infinite)
35 Dope BTS
36 Pray FT Island
37 Cinderella CN Blue
38 You’re Pitiful Fiestar
39 Hopeless Love Jimin (15&)
40 Bad Infinite
41 Might Just Die History
42 We Like 2 Party Big Bang
43 Chained Up VIXX
44 Fire Mad Clown ft. Jamsil (Mad Child Soul)
45 Bell Bottoms PSY
46 Ice Cream Cake Red Velvet
47 Break Ya LU:KUS
48 Kontrol Kim Sung Gyu (Infinite)
49 I Feel You Wonder Girls
50 Wow Wow Wow Junjin (Shinhwa) ft. Eric (Shinhwa)

And here are some interesting facts about this year and the chart itself!

  • A total of 180 songs were ranked on this chart, but a total of 195 songs were reviewed this year (which I believe is a personal best).
  • The first song reviewed and included in the chart is BTOB’s The Winter Tale (released at the end of last year). The last song reviewed and included in the chart was EXO’s Sing For You
  • A total of 16 girl groups, 17 boy groups and 9 soloists are featured on the chart.
  • There is a better mix of boys and girl groups this year, compared to last year, where the first boy group did not feature on the charts until after 16th place.
  • BTS had the most songs on the chart (I Need U, Dope & Run). followed by: EXID (Ah Yeah & Hot Pink), GOT7 (If You Do, Just Right), EXO (Love Me Right, Sing For You), Kim Sung Gyu (The Answer, Kontrol) & Red Velvet (Dumb Dumb & Ice Cream Cake).
  • Rookies were actually a strong force this year with Oh My Girl, Seventeen and Twice ranking quite high up in the charts.
  • The following ranked after 50th place: IU, B.I.G, Crayon Pop, VIXX, Seventeen, Changmin, Big Bang, Brown Eyed Girls and CLC.
  • And finally, this year chart was actually reflected on the BOBs this year. I crowned EXID’s Ah Yeah as best song for both segments.

AND THAT IS IT!! 2015 will be ending shortly. 6 Hours To Go (for me at least)!!! Hope 2015 has been a great year for you all. I thank you all once again for another year of KPOPreviewed. Your support has been amazing. Every comment and like (heck even every view) makes me happy!! Nearly 5 years and still going strong!! Thank you 2015 and I wish you all a Happy New Year wherever and whenever it is time. Let’s make 2016 our year!!! (First review: 2nd of Jan).

2015 BOBs (Best Of the Best) – Part 1

2015 is at its end, and with days away from the new year, we must reflect on 2015. And per usual: excellent songs, videos and dances have gracefully entered our lives and probably have not yet left us. From comebacks from big name acts to debuts of new rookie bands, 2015 has been a splendid year in my opinion. This year I decided to do the BOBs differently. Usually, I post a list of nominees and categories, but I don’t get you guys to vote for them (nor do I have the capabilities and time to allow you guys to vote for them, but maybe in the future), so I thought I should change it up this year, but posting both nominees and winners in the same post. This is part 1 of the BOBs and part 2 will be released tomorrow with the rest of the categories. Also, the traditional End of Year Charts will be released on the 31st of December, at 11:55 pm, so please wait around for that. Let’s get the post on the road!!!

These awards do not reflect any review score that I gave out this year. My personal preferences will always change (i.e. an 8 review score can currently be a 10 OR a 10 review score can currently by an 8).

RED FONT – Winners, BLUE FONT – Honourable Mention

RISING STAR

Each year, artists see a rise in popularity. May that be due to great songs or great publicity (after all: any publicity is good publicity), this year was no difference.  Each of these artists, I have personally seen, some sort of boost in popularity this year. And I get to choose two winners (one male and one female) for this certain category. For this year, I have nominated:

risingstar

My pick is: EXID and BTOB. Both teams saw a rise in popularity due to one particular member, and slowly each member in each group is become well known in the industry. Keep up the good work, EXID and BTOB!!!

BEST INSTRUMENTAL

A song is not a song without an instrumental. And in KPOP, the instrumental plays a massive part in hooking us in and getting us addicted to the music. Especially for foreign and international fans who don’t understand the Korean language 100%. So many great instrumentals this year, here are the nominees:

bestinstrumental

Out of all the nominees, there can be only one winner: Wonder Girls – I Feel You. The girls returned to the stage with a brand new band concept, which totally wowed me. This instrumental has its own retro vibe and I personally enjoyed it a lot. From the drums to the keyboard and guitars, the girls totally deserve this. By far one of the most underrated songs, that definitely deserve an award! Honourable Mentions: F(x) – 4Walls

BEST JAPANESE SONG

I also do some Japanese songs on this site. Hahaha… Yeah, I review some Japanese songs from time to time. The variety of singers that I listen to for Japanese songs is usually limited to only the Japanese songs released by Korean artists. This year, the category has been dominated by Korean artists and I hope next year, I can start to review more Japanese artists! Here are the nominees:

bestjapsong

I think, I was most addicted to Beast – Can’t Wait To Love You. And that was my pick for Best Japanese Song. It was song that I felt did not fall into the typical Korean Pop or Japanese Pop genres and was pretty unique on its own. As for honourable mentions: BTS – For You.

BEST COMEBACK

Big name comebacks this occurred and they all managed to rock our socks off. Hahaha… I take into account: song, concept, promotions, looks, impact and a few more categories and suprisngly, the biggest artists that emerge from the Golden Age of KPOP were nominated:

bestcomebackOut of all the comebacks nominated, the one that fitted the criteria the most would have been Big Bang. 2015 was one big year for the band, and they had such an unique concept in terms of promotion. SNSD takes away honourable mention for this category.

BEST SUBUNIT

Unfortunately, 2015 did not continue the 2014 trend of subunits. However, some new subunits formed from popular bands and some old favourite returned. Here is who I think should be nominated as best subunit:

bestsubunit

This one was a little close for me. But I am going to say Donghae and Eunhyuk, which is a subunit belonging to Super Junior. Their song was by far an amazing and left a more long lasting impact on me than the others. The other subunit that gets honourable mention is VIXX LR, which is a duo made up of Leo and Ravi.

BEST RAPPER

2015 saw a new wave of contestant based TV shows around rapping and hence many artists have seen a boost in popularity after appearing on these shows. Other rappers also remained on stage as part of their groups and amazed the audience continuously during each comeback. Here are the nominees:

bestrapper

Out of all the rappers on the light, I picked Mad Clown as a winner. His song was a hit, it was a great song (now) and while he is not part of some group, he still managed to be placed ahead of everyone this year. Zico (Block B) took out Honourable Mention for his active year. Interestingly enough, both selected artists had someone featuring in their song.

BEST VOCALIST

When there are rappers, there are also singers. 2015 also saw new programs (and our old favourites) made specifically for the vocalists of all groups. Some vocalists we know have always amazed us, but others have just emerged and became trends for 2015. Based purely on what they sound like, here are the nominees:

bestvocalist

I think this category has the most obvious winner, Taeyeon (SNSD). Yeah, she was quite active as an artist, but her debut for I blew everyone away. As for honourable mention, it goes to Solji (EXID). Her performance of Maria still replays in my head. Her powerful vocals in EXID’s performance are also quite amazing.

BEST MALE SOLOIST

While the above category looked like at vocal performance, the Best Male Soloist looks at their vocal performance, song, impact and dance (if applicable) – i.e. their comeback or debut as a collective. To be nominated, the artists must have been active as a solo artist this year (while the above also included group vocalists). The nominees are:

bestmalesoloist

There is only one artist on this list that managed to wow me the very moment I listened to the song and that artist is Kim Sung Gyu (Infinite). His whole album did wonders and is an album that I am continuously going back to. As for honourable mentions, Lee Hong Ki (FT Island) wins that. His solo debut song was well received and I reviewed it as an amazing ballad.

BEST FEMALE SOLOIST

While the above category(Best Vocalist) looked like at vocal performance, the Best Female Soloist looks at their vocal performance, song, impact and dance (if applicable) – i.e. their comeback or debut as a collective. To be nominated, the artists must have been active as a solo artist this year (while the above also included group vocalists). The nominees are:

bestfemalesoloist

Once again, I am going to give it to Taeyeon (SNSD). Vocally, stunning. It was memorable and lovely to listen to. Honourable Mention was a close call, but Amber (F(x)) stole it from Gain (Brown Eyed Girls). So catchy and bright.

And that is it for Part 1 of the BOBs. Check back tomorrow, where I will post the second part of the BOBs, with Best Song, Best Male and Female Rookie; and Best Male and Female groups (plus a few more categories).

*All images and gifs belong to their owners/creators. Only those tables are mine.

 

 

 

Insensible – Lee Hong Ki (FT Island)

Lee Hong Ki, the main vocalist from the band FT Island, has officially made his long overdue solo debut with Insensible. As expected, he went with a ballad that really brings out his voice and vocal talent. To me, this sounds like a normal FT Island song. Mainly because FT Island songs usually have Hong Ki singing majority of it. But I feel like a band version (featuring all the members of FT Island) can happen with the instrumental. Talking about the instrumental, I am totally loving it. It has a grand feel to it and the orchestra adds a really nice touch to the song. Let’s focus back on the vocals. Superb. Hong Ki is one of the few artists in KPOP that I feel can spill all the emotions into the song and focus on singing really well at the same time. Usually, artists are known to sing really well, but sometimes lack the required emotions. But with this song, you can hear his heartbreak and sadness. I love the song and I personally enjoy listening to it. For a ballad, it is pretty catchy and the song remains in my head for a while. (So many songs are repeating in my head lately, it confuses me a lot as well).

The music video has a nice plot, but it is confusing to me. Hong Ki acts along side Park Shin Hye. We see them go through the ups and downs of a relationship, leading to the end, where Park Shin Hye concludes that Hong Ki is having an affair. She ends up taking her life (at the end, there is the present she finds in Hong Ki’s suitcase with blood on it under the curtains), and Hong Ki blames himself for not realizing what his girlfriend was going through. It makes perfect sense, compared to my understanding of the plot (which was not accurate). It turns out she was just imagining everything and Hong Ki had been faithful the whole time. Thank God for YouTube comments. I have to be honest, it was confusing to understand. The acting in this video was amazing. When Hong Ki threw his phone, you could literally feel the anger his character had.  The video was beautifully shot and us the viewers had to pay attention to the smallest detail to understand it. Great plotline and video.

Overall, this solo debut is really great. It essentially collates everything that we had expected from Hong Ki and it proves that this is a solo debut that should have happened ages ago. 10/10