[Album Review] Muse (2nd Mini Album) – Leo (VIXX)

Since we are back on schedule, there will be two album reviews coming out this weekend. Both album reviews will be focusing on solo releases that have occurred recently. And it might extend to the album reviews in the next week (so I guess you can start guessing who these albums might belong to).  Today’s album review will be for Leo’s recent comeback. The main vocalist of VIXX returned with Romanticism a few weeks back, which is featured on Muse, Leo’s second mini-album to date. 

leo-muse-2
Muse Album Cover

1..Romanticism (로맨티시즘) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Romanticism. (7/10)

2. Things About To Happen (다가오는 것들) (ft. Choiza of Dynamic Duo) – One of the elements I really liked about this very emotionally charged track is the minimalistic instrumentation. It is like the blank canvas analogy that I sometimes use to describe a track. However, there are accents within the instrumental that makes the song so much more impactful and bone-chilling. Despite the extra addition to helping boost the impact potential of the track, the main strokes that make art on the blank canvas are Leo’s voice. There is no doubt about it. His singing in this track is filled with emotion, which makes the track feel so captivating. I am not too familiar with Choiza (from Dynamic Duo) but his rapping really fitted in well and added to that serious atmosphere the song has oozing from the track. (10/10)

3. Nostalgia (향수병) – As Leo is the main vocalist, it was inevitable that a ballad or two would be included on the album, even if he went with another R&B track as his title track. Nostalgia talks about the uneasiness that arises from a good memory that comes from a former relationship. He doesn’t want to remember it. But at the same time, he is afraid he will forget this memory. I am sure many people can relate to this dilemma. Per usual, it is a heartbreaking song. But that is one of Leo’s fortes. His voice suits these emotion-heavy tracks, so he is in his element. His raspy vocals does wonders in the track. I like how the classical instrumental adds to the heartbreaking feelings he portrays and I often find them coming in at the right moment. Even though it is a slow ballad (which isn’t often my ballad style of choice), Leo enchants once again. (9.5/10)

4. Tight (타이트해) – Leo changes things up with Tight. It isn’t another ballad. Instead, Tight is a smooth and sensual dance track. And while it is nice for a change, Tight wouldn’t be the first thing that comes into mind (given the nature of the lyrics). But it is still a good song. His voice lends well for this R&B style as well, which I think is what he enjoys more. There are a number of moments that grab my attention. The first is the pre-chorus. I really liked that sudden brief pause before going onto a small tone change that still manages to fit into the rest of the song. As the chorus was more sensual and doesn’t have a drop, this pre-chorus really built up momentum. The chorus contains whispers that I think fit the nature of the track, pushing whoever Leo (or the writer) had in mind onwards (you can decipher the meaning of that sentence). The most awkward moment comes from the chorus as well, in the form of ‘La La La be dab’. I want to know what the meaning of this is. (8/10)

5. Muse – Unlike the other tracks, Muse is not emotionally centred. This provides us with a chance to breathe from the heartbreaking or sensual emotions that have been the main focus of the album thus far. However, I find Muse charged in a vocal sense, as Leo’s voice does manage to shine brightly in this track. He pairs well with the slow rock ballad nature of the song, which ends up showing us another side of the artist that I would love to hear more from. Apart from Leo’s voice, I liked the ballad start and end of the track. By completing the song with how it started, it felt like the track completed a full circle and hence providing us with a very satisfying feeling (as if you are full) once the song ended. (8/10)

6. The Flower (Pre-Release Single) (ft. Maximilian Hecker) – The album ends with a ballad collaboration with Leo and Maximilian Hecker, who is known for his dream pop music (according to Wikipedia). I find that Leo’s voice isn’t showcased as well as his previous track. But instead of the vocals, it is the stunning instrumental that is showcased. I find that Leo’s voice is on the softer side, complimenting the soothing and calming nature of the predominately piano instrumental. But I think the winning moment must be when Leo passed the vocal baton over to Maximillian Hecker. Both their voices sound alike, and I honestly thought Leo was still singing (just in English). Overall, I thought the track was a nice end to the album. It was as if it was leading us to prolonged sleep so that when we wake up once again, Leo would have returned with another album. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

leo-muse-3
Muse Teaser Image

recommended red round grunge vintage ribbon stamp

Advertisements

[Review] Romanticism – Leo (VIXX)

Second up on the reviewing spotlight is Leo, the main vocalist of VIXX. He has returned with his solo comeback mini-album, Muse, which features the title track Romanticism. This is his first comeback since the release of Touch & Sketch in 2017. I was prepared to write and publish this review alongside with SF9’s review yesterday but had to delay it due to the late release of the music video (I did watch the original but it disappeared before I got to review it).

The song starts off well. I liked the slow pace of the instrumental, which really drives that mature and sensual sound. The R&B instrumentation definitely set the mood. It was rather interesting how he delivered his lines. It felt like his lines didn’t fit in with the slowness of the track. But this isn’t a terrible thing as I thought of it as a nice effect. I think the chorus was classy and gave the song momentum. But from the bridge onwards, the song lost its flow and anything that managed to be showcased at the start disappeared. The final chorus, even though it recontinued the momentum, didn’t feel as impactful because of the derailment caused by the bridge. Leo did show good vocal work throughout the song but I felt the song could have used something more, like a rap sequence (I am not sure, but I continually heard Ravi’s voice in the background and low key expected some surprise featuring). So overall, I thought it was an okay track. Good at the start but a letdown at the end.

The music video was okay, as well. I did think it was bland and didn’t have anything captivating going on to be worth discussing. I did like the colour contrast between the warmer and colder colours in the choreography set. And I think the camera work in this video worked well with the instrumental. But other than that, I don’t much else to say about the music video.

I think the most likeable element of the comeback is the performance. The chemistry between him and the backup dancers made this performance stand out, sensual and more suspenseful, especially at the start. I liked that sudden burst of energy in the performance when it came to the chorus and I am sure fans enjoyed that pelvic roll.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Touch & Sketch – Leo (VIXX)

Leo is the main vocalist of VIXX and he has officially made his solo debut with Touch & Sketch. Leo joins a long list of solo acts whom have debuted over the past few years despite still being active as part of their groups. He is also an accomplished musical actor, as well. Touch & Sketch is featured as the title track on his first mini-album, titled appropriately as Canvas.

I personally expected Leo to go down the ballad route for this solo debut (which I really should stop doing because they never go down the ballad route). So it was a plesant surprise that he went with an upbeat song. But keeping with the aura that Leo has, the song features a decent melody during the verses. I am not too big on the verses because they felt slow, compared to the upbeat chorus which I liked a lot more. However, his husky vocals did give off a smooth vibe, which highlights the sensual nature of the song. I really like the lead into the chorus (I believe the lyrics are ‘Now I feel lips‘) and the small sequence of drums that feels like the gateway to a nice chorus. I like how the chorus goes and its catchiness makes the song quite memorable. While it isn’t Leo’s expertise, I would have liked a rap sequence somewhere in the song. As much as it feels cliche, it needed something more to give it some edge. But overall, Leo’s debut song was pretty cool.

I liked the music video because it shows a side of Leo that I have not seen. I know him to be the very quiet member from his debut days so to see him in this sensual lighting was a little odd for me. But it works well with that aura that I mentioned in the prior paragraph. He likens the idea of love to art, as you you have to be able to feel both to connect with it. I did find some of the editing a tad choppy for my liking, often passing over a scene very quickly. It could have been a lot smooth to reflect well with the song’s smoothness. But other than that, it was a good video.

The performance was good and fitted the song quite well. I like how the chorus had a certain level of fierceness, which gave the performance that edge that the song lacked. He looked super focus, which I guessed works well with the serious sensual nature of the song. And that sensual nature mentioned in the other paragraphs was felt strongest through the choreography.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10

 

[Review] Fantasy – VIXX

VIXX has returned to the stage with the second part of their Greek God trilogy. Last time, they were Zelos, the God of Jealousy and Rivalry and made their comeback with Dynamite. This time, they returned to their dark roots as the God of the Underworld, otherwise known as Hades. The title track for this promotional run is Fantasy.

Jaw dropping. I am amazed and in awe when I hear this song. I love the orchestra feel of the instrumental. The instrumental itself was sampled from Moonlight Sonata, which in the context of this song, gives it an eerie feeling that really cannot be described in words.I love the slow buildup in this song and that burst of power and sound that we get as soon as we launch right into the chorus. And saying launch makes it underwhelming. More like thrown into the chorus as approx 100 km/hr. Okay, I will stop. The vocal work and the rapping in the song are amazing. None of them felt lacking or  underwhelming. I do have two minor complaints. While I did love the chorus a lot, I felt it was quite overpowering for the vocals. I found it a bit difficult to listen to Ken and Leo the first few times I listened to the song. I am more used to it now, just I do have that thought come into frame every now and then. Ravi had quite a limited part. I am a little disappointed in that. The rap sequence we got is already excellent, though I would appreciate it more if it was a lot longer. But still, it is an excellent song that is right up VIXX’s alley.

Concept wise, I don’t really see much of the “Hades” concept in the video. But when we talk about the Greek God of the Underworld, ‘eerie’, ‘mysterious’, ‘dark’, ‘powerful’ and ‘terrifying’ are all terms we would use to describe him. And once again, VIXX has ticked it all off. The darkness was not there that much in Dynamite, but it is definitely here in this one, which reminds me so well of the old days for VIXX. Though I have no clue on what is really happening in the video, here is my take on the video: the members are like demons from the underworld. They are sent to bring N down to their world, and coerce him into going into the door that leads to the new world. So some of the members (N, Hongbin, Ken and Ravi( had halos at the end but in the form of the prickly metal halos. Once N officially becomes one of theirs, it seems Leo is their next target but somehow manages to avoid it (as he is bandaging up his wounds at the end, where the prickly metal bits are meant to be). Hyuk seems to be someone from above, stopping people before entering the door. That’s my take on the video and if I was even remotely right, I think it is an interesting story to tell.

The choreography fits the song and concept really well. Though I do not see anything memorable, them singing the song and pulling off any dance is bound to blow all our minds. I do think the dance does back up my theory in the music video. At the end of the first chorus, the lyrics “Get back up, off that dream”. They drop down to the stage as if the underworld is calling them, but the eerie vocals make it seem like someone from above is calling them, hence they look up. Just something I noticed that probably isn’t right, but still amazing.

Final Rating – 8.5/10

Dynamite – VIXX

VIXX has returned with a brand new concept. The set of three or “trilogy” concept has been on the rise in South Korea with BTS, G-Friend, Seventeen and Lovelyz wrapping up their “set of three” concepts. VIXX will be the latest band to join the ranks in this trend and have promised three comebacks within a year which focuses on Greek mythology. They have always surprised us (or scared the daylights out of us) with their concepts, so it will be interesting to see what they will do next. Dynamite begins the trilogy for VIXX.

And is Dynamite a good song or what? One of the few songs that I am obsessing over these days. It is not your typical VIXX song. Actually, it is not a song that you would associate with VIXX. It is many times more colourful than their previous hits and has more of a bright tune to it. It focuses more on the pop side of KPOP, but the meaning (in terms of the Greek God that they are focusing on) is really brought to life with the song. But I will talk about the concept later. Vocal wise, everyone got a decent part of the pie and showcased an excellent standard. Hyuk and Hongbin particular, shined more in this song, as they have more lines than in the past.  The rap was okay. It felt very underwhelming and just didn’t hit the right feels to make me go wow. Everything else was just great. The instrumental is amazing and that small part that Hyuk has before the chorus is really unique and makes the song very interesting. Definitely catchy (like any VIXX song) addictive. VIXX has managed to do it once again with Dynamite.

The Greek God that they are focusing on this time around is Zelos, the God of Jealousy and Rivalry. And the video shows the concept in a very interesting way. So Ravi said in an interview or somewhere for this concept: “Our lead track, “Dynamite,” is about a guy being blinded by jealousy and willing to turn the world upside down to get his ex back.”. And the video shows just that. The video is quite calm at the start, but as it progressed, it literally looked like the world was turned upside down and all hell broke loose. The flying coloured dust and the camera became even shakier. Talking about the camera, I think this was an excellent example of how a shaky camera could be used to their benefit. It worked really well and was in time with their dance moves. The sets were pretty good as well. They were all quite simple but the guys acting gave each set a lot more definition and meaning. I think the video was amazing overall, as you can tell from my comments.

Dance wise, I thought it was underwhelming. But saying that doesn’t mean I hate it or the dance wasn’t good enough for the song and concept. It was good, it just didn’t live to my expectations. I guess I did expect more of a kick to the dance. Their facial expressions in this dance is pretty much teasing all of us. N’s smile occurring indirectly to the camera and Hongbin’s smirks were my favourite. They do match the concept and made everyone go wild.

Song and video were amazing and top notch. The dance could have definitely been better, but what we got was pretty good still. 8.5/10

Depend On Me – VIXX

VIXX has made their return to Japan with a new song, which coincides with the release of their first Japanese album. The album includes the Japanese versions of some of their past Korean hits, such as Chained Up and Error. The album has includes some Korean songs that VIXX has released as extra tracks. But even better, the album includes some Japanese tracks: Can’t Say, which was their first official original Japanese release and Depend On You, their second official original Japanese release and the whole reason of today’s review.

VIXX’s song is good but I keep on asking myself is it good enough? Depend On Me has this very dramatic orchestra sound, mixed with elements of electronic, which gives it a good sound which I like. The chorus beat drops and it sounds more like a pop song than anything else. It flows with the rest of the song, but to me, it just seems like it misses the cake. It was so dramatic sounding at the start, but then that same dramatic feel just disappears. Sure, I listen to the song if it comes on, but I don’t think it is something that I would get caught on. The bridge is okay, but it feels mis-matched with the rest of the song. The vocal work is pretty well damn good in this song. All the members sound great and Ravi’s rap is always sounding hardcore and bad-ass. I don’t know, I feel like I am let down with the chorus in this song. It is great to see such a powerful song from the band in Japan (thought they would stay with their Can’t Stay sound).

The music video is simple. Put the guys in an overused room to dance in and shoot majority of the dance scenes. Throw in some solo shots up close in the dark room and then more solo shots in a white room with red strings everywhere. And that is your video. There were some shots in the video of N just talking to a girl. N notices she becomes disinterested in what is going on, and then this flash forward (or back) of the red strings come along. And then at the very end, we see him whisper something to the girl, and that room flashes back with N whispering the same thing to the camera. So what is going on? Am I meant to look at the lyrics or something because I am a little confused. The strings make sense, since the lyrics talk about cutting strings that join the two together, but what about that N scenes? A little too simple for my liking, but still pretty nice to watch.

But here is what we do actually watch in that video, and that is the dance. While the video below does not capture the whole video for us (still waiting patient for the official upload though), the dance is pretty cool. The highlight of the dance though, the violin introduction where Ravi imaginary plays the violin. It looks so cool. The rest of the dance fitted in with the electronic components of the instrumental. A lot of powerful and strong moves.

Overall, little iffy on the song, video is good and VIXX never lets us down with the dance. 7/10

Chained Up – VIXX

VIXX new song is not what I expected. Usually they have a song that we can describe as dark and mysterious. However, this particular song is more upbeat and possibly “happy”, even though the lyrics do not go in that direction. I feel like the instrumental can be also be used for a less darker or more fun concept. Do you understand? It is rather odd to think that way, but it seems to be the only way I can describe it. Nonetheless, this song is pretty solid. I absolutely love the rap segments before the chorus. They build up to the chorus pretty well. The vocals are pretty solid in this song and I feel like the autotune works really well with the song. The chorus is catchy, but it did require a few listens for me to get into the groove of the song. At first I thought it wasn’t a VIXX song and that it sounded rush. But after extra listens, they managed to chain me up in their music (no pun intended – is this how puns actually work?). I feel like Hongbin and Leo got their time to shine in this song, vocally.

Visually, I think the music video is stunning. The outside scene where they are on top of building at the start looks really well shot, and the members individual scenes seems to bring the concept pretty well. They all seem like good places to hang out at, to be honest. Who doesn’t want to run through Leo’s chains and those pieces of plastic hanging about. The members also bring out a whole new level of sexy. Their costumes, even though they seem simple and easy to copy, bring out that side of masculinity in the guys that we have not seen yet. I’m kind of iffy on the topic of the chokers. Yeah, they look cool and fit the concept really well. BUT they look so damn uncomfortable. Or maybe that is just me and in reality they are cuddly as heck. In the song paragraph, I said Leo and Hongbin stood out. Visually, I think Ken looked the most awesome in this comeback. Everyone else looked fine, it is just Ken looked like he was suited for this concept.

As for the dance, I think we can agree on that it is either Leo on his own OR the whole entire group. From flying members to body waves, now hip rolls. Now what on earth is left in terms of key dance moves that the boys can attempt next? Out of all the dances by VIXX to date, I think this is the most literal dance for any of their comebacks so far. And I think I am going to say this, but it is probably one of their strongest dances to date. And finally, damn it was sexy. And this is coming from a guy’s point of view.

VIXX seems to bring out brand new dark concepts that we have never seen before and manage to impress everyone with their continuously creative and imaginative comebacks. And this is no exception. 9/10

Beautiful Liar – VIXX LR (VIXX)

VIXX is back, but in the form of Leo and Ravi. Yes, VIXX has launched their LR subunit, which I totally thought stood for Left and Right. For those who don’t know, Leo is the very capable main vocalist known for his quiet and “calm” persona, while Ravi is the rapper of the group, who is known for his sexual lyrics. Yeah, if you can’t tell, I am a bit of a fan of VIXX. But I am not bias. Trust me. It has been a while since we heard of VIXX. At the start of the year, they made their comeback and has since ventured into Japan and the group has focused mainly on solo work.

This is a song that I would highly recommend. Not because I am bias, but this is a beautiful song that mixes the ballad genre with more a rap and hip hop type of vibe. Yeah, not a big fan of the whole rapping in ballad type of songs, but this song really does it well. Leo, we all know, has this wonderful voice and Ravi is known for his powerful rapping style. Put the two together and you get a really powerful ballad. Each member is given equal opportunities to show off what they have under their sleeves. Leo’s high notes that he belts out during the song is truly amazing. Ravi’s powerful rapping did wonders. And them two when they come together and sing together at certain parts, match each other so well. The instrumental won me over. It is by far definitely one of the brightest highlights for the song. I really enjoyed how they mixed the ballad song with a more electronic type of sound during the second verse when Ravi is rapping. The lyrics for this song is quite ingeniously written as well. We hear “Beautiful Lair” throughout the song, but the final words of the song is actually “cowardly liar”.

Odd place to end the final paragraph, but it leads nicely into the plot of the video. In the video, Ravi and Leo is one person. Kind of like the Jekyll and Hyde concept they were going for in the past. Leo is the lie, while Ravi is the truth. The truth is, Ravi is an accurate representation of the feelings Leo have. But Leo wants to let her go, so she can have a great life (she is going to get married to another guy). They struggle throughout the video, but Leo ends up winning. In the end, he sings “cowardly liar” because that is what he is. Because he did not have the guts to tell the girl his true feelings. Love the play on the black and white in the video. Their acting is pretty impressive in this video as well. Their “struggle” scene is pretty good and was an impressive way to showcase the plot. I also love it how they give you two kind of ending. One shows Ravi dying (strangled by the Leo, probably wanted to do that for some time) and the other is where Ravi “slips” away. I thought this was an amazing video. Well showcased.

Not really going to mention the dance, mainly because there isn’t anything to talk about. The members focus on singing and rapping, which I felt was enough. The need for the backup dancers was nice but I don’t think they were needed.

Wow. I wrote so much. But honestly, check out this song. 10/10