[Album Review] Reload (4th Mini Album) – NCT Dream

It has been a few weeks since I have posted any reviews (let alone album reviews) on a Friday. I have just been so busy during the week that by Friday, I would fall asleep very early. But hopefully I can manage my sleep pattern a little better to publish reviews as per the usual schedule. As you can tell, I have missed many handfuls of songs over the last few weeks. But I will get onto them eventually. In the meantime, I will be reviewing NCT Dream’s fourth mini-album, Reload. It features the title track, Ridin’. The album has proven to be very successful, selling over 250,000 copies within a two day period.

Reload Album Cover

1. Ridin’ (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Ridin’. (8/10)

2. Quiet DownQuiet Down just doesn’t live up to its name in a literal sense. It is still relatively loud than compared to something that one would described as ‘Quiet’. But it does feel toned back a tad bit, in comparison to the title track. Despite that, I really like how edgy the song managed to maintain, which matches this new image that the group has been going for with their last release (Boom) and Ridin’. Elements of the song remind me of the Western pop in the ‘00s. The relatively rapid and dense bouncy synth in the background of the verses sounds vaguely familiar, while the chorus seemed to bring a R&B melody to the song, which I thought was awesome. I wasn’t as impressed with the vocals and rapping in this song, which felt pretty ordinary overall. (7/10)

3. 7 Days (내게 말해줘) 7 Days takes a softer pop/R&B approach. Unlike in the previous song, I thought 7 Days had a good display of vocals and rapping. The melodies which the song thrive on really highlight the vocals/rapping skills of the manner. They also helped provide the song a memorable rhythm. The rappers of the group, Jeno and Jaemin, were singing in this song in a rap-sing manner that I really want to hear more of in the future. Not only were their singing great, but the rap sequences they had at the end of the song felt perfect and fitting for the song. The vocalists of the group (the rest of the group) sounded very smooth. Sure, the instrumentals were rather typical and could have used some character. But 7 Days was very pleasant to listen to. (8/10)

4. Love Again (사랑은 또다시) Love Again seems to be a soft 90s hip-hop track. That is the best way I would describe the song. The chorus really takes you back to that era and I am extremely into it. The vocal and rapping from all members in Love Again on was point. There were very different textures but all worked very cohesively with one another. Haechan even raps in this song! Some of their delivery was rough, while other times its was very smooth. I also really liked how relatively soft yet upbeat the instrumentals were. They felt just right for this style and worked extremely with the member’s vocals/rapping. (9/10)

5. Puzzle Piece (너의 자리)Puzzle Piece is a ballad with only one instrument in the background, an acoustic guitar. It is such a nice tune to end the album with. And the sweetness that I could feel just made it even better. I just liked how easy it was to slip into this song. Once again, their vocal work was amazing. As it was just the acoustic guitar, what we heard felt from the members very pure and ‘unhidden’. There were no synths to cover up any of the vocals, while there wasn’t anything to really fall back on. Furthermore, the harmonisation with the background vocals and one another was really powerful. I liked how the acoustic guitar built up the song and gained momentum. It made the song even better and feel well rounded. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Reload Teaser Image

[Review] Punch – NCT 127

Since March, the members of NCT has been quite busy with various music releases and promotions (Props to Haechan for participating in all of them!). NCT 127 first returned with Kick It and their second studio album, Neo Zone, in March. NCT Dream only just returned a few weeks ago with Ridin’ and their mini-album Reload (album review coming). And yesterday, NCT returned with their 127 lineup for promotions for their repackaged album and Punch. The music video wasn’t released until today, so this prevented me from getting a review out yesterday.

Punch is a song that seeks to make an impact in one way or another. And I feel like they give that impact at the start of the song when the electronic retro arcade-like instrumental was probably the strongest. They start off with a rap sequence in which they all share, before reverting to a breathy whisper over the same instrumentation. The contrast here is very strong and unique. The song then strips away the electronic arcade-like backdrop, allowing for melodic instrumentation and vocals to exist. And this before the song brings in an anthem-like chorus that I feel was rather aesthetic in its own right. As you can tell, it seems like a messy roller coaster ride in just the first half of the song. As to be honest, I did find this approach to be rather messy when I first listened to the song. But with multiple listens, Punch gets better and feels less messy, especially as the song comes together quite neatly. There are other elements to the song that I thought were quite good. The instrumental, as you listen more of it, contains additional elements that really help bind the song together. From the trap influences (that remind me of Superhuman‘s trap instrumentation), to the faint electric guitars that add some pop to the song, to the cinematic-like dance break that features at the end of the song. I have to admit that I find both the vocals and some of the rapping to be quite safe for the group. I wished they managed to ‘pack a punch’ into this element to give the song some life. I was also surprised to hear that they laid off the intensity and energy, which I think was a missed opportunity. Kick It seems to be the more superior in this sense, with Punch toning it down significantly. Overall, Punch is a good song. But I don’t think its their best effort.

I found the music video to be rather weak and bland. Apart from the wavy distortion applied in the post-production phases to the closeup shots that I will say looks cool, the music video followed the typical closeup and choreography set up, which isn’t as exciting when you think about it. I feel like the members were dressed at the start in a manner that made them look extra tough and I didn’t really get that feel from the song to warrant all that black leather. The sets looked cool and the lighting was rather nice. But apart from that, not much else to discuss.

The choreography definitely had that wow factor that I wished the music video had. That entire sequence at the start when the members are standing in a circle looks amazing. I also liked how the members come at you during the breathy rap sequences in the verses. The entire final chorus and dance break sequence at the end was pretty cool as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.6/10

[Review] Ridin’ – NCT Dream

The returning group of the day is NCT Dream, who returns with the highly anticipated, Ridin’. Technically, this is the comeback where the members would ‘graduate’ from the group, as they have reached the adult age in South Korea. However, it was announced two weeks ago that NCT Dream, after promotions for Ridin’, would abolish the graduation system and become a fixed lineup group. In more exciting news, Mark (who graduated from the group at the end of 2018) would return to be part of the lineup, where small units of the members (if not all the members) would promote under the name of NCT Dream. Definitely exciting news to all NCTzens who support the ‘young’ subunit. But we will have to get through the Ridin’ promotions before we get to that stage, so let’s have a dive into the new song.

Ever since the release of Boom last year, it was obvious that the group would never set foot into their more youthful title tracks. And that game changer song really set them up for future releases, as evident by the quality and style of Ridin’. The intensity that you can feel from the song really rivals the intensity that we got from Boom. The instrumental is described to be an urban trap song. I like how the song plays with the heavy bass synths, mimicking the sound when a motorcycle revs. Given their teasers and music video, I thought this was rather ingenious. Apart from this revving-like synth, I was surprised that the instrumental had a subtle smoothness to it. The vocal work was also surprisingly very smooth. Glad the deep revving-like synth and the rapping gave that rough touch to an extent. But all the members sound very on point. The song had a very catchy melody and ‘Ridin’ and Rollin’‘ hook as well. That kick at the end that Jeno and Jaemin brings in bridge definitely gives the song that impact and climax that boldens the song’s already strong appeal. I do wish they would have gone with something a little bolder so it could have a chance to rival Boom, which I think is still the superior song after writing this review.

To think that this is the group that kicked off their careers with Chewing Gum. They have definitely grown up. The music video seems to throwback to their Go days, where the subunit took on a rebellious phase as part of their growth. When you look at their releases throughout the years, it felt like they moved too soon into that concept at the time, especially since they followed up with We Go Up and Candlelight. The release of Boom really consolidated that image of the group maturing. And hence, the progression into this Ridin’ concept felt natural and the right step forward. Needless to say, the group looks really cool. I thought the set was rather nice, looking like a legit alleyway that leads to a hidden underground garage and mechanic (but obviously a lot cooler than that description!), like in those movies with illegal car racing events. A great music video, in my opinion.

The choreography for this comeback equally looks as cool as the music video. There seems to be some movies where the members mimic the action of revving a motorcycle and show off some other edgy movies. My favourite has to be the smooth move they pull off in the second half of the chorus, contrasting with the intensity and supposed roughness of the song.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.5/10

[Album Review] Neo Zone (2nd Studio Album) – NCT 127

The next album to be reviewed is NCT 127’s Neo Zone, which was released a month ago on March. I am slowly catching up and hoping to move to some of the more recent releases over the Easter break while I (and the rest of the world) are stuck indoors. Neo Zone features the title track, Kick It; the song dedicated to fans, Dreams Come True, which was released back on the 27th of January (27/01); and the return of Jungwoo, who took a hiatus during the latter half of 2019. A recurring point I make in this review are about the group’s astounding vocals. Just a head up that things are going to get repetitive on that topic.

Neo Zone Album Cover

1. Elevator (127F)Elevator is a great track to open the album. It features a bright tone and funky beat, which I thought was really cool. It also was not too heavy, making the track very approachable overall. It was very easy to fall into this track’s groove, as well. And I couldn’t help but continually replay this upbeat R&B song. The vocal work was pretty nice, but I think the rapping really gave it some definition, particularly Mark’s bridge. (9/10)

2. Kick It (영웅) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Kick It. (8/10)

3. Boom (꿈)Boom is not the same song as their fellow subunit’s song of the same title. Though I clear that up. Opening the track are some guitars, the track features stylish vocals. Even the rappers opted to sing in this dance track, which is slightly unusual. The instrumental that follows the opening guitar is a mixture of standard dance synths and subtle tropical house (for a change). The instrumental also incorporates some slow moments, which come off smooth and drags out the song in a stylish manner. The ‘Boom’ for the chorus was also rather memorable. (9/10)

4. Pandora’s Box (낮잠) – We get some jazzy R&B in Pandora’s Box. The chorus becomes a little more dance-intensive and featured a decent melody. What I thought was interesting with this song was they kept that jazzy R&B running throughout the background of the song. There were also impressive vocals all members, but Taeil’s section in the second verse, and (for obvious reasons) the ad-libs we get at the end of the song, somehow shines throughout the rest. The rapping was also another highlight of the track, bringing back old school KPOP rapping style. I also enjoyed how the song came to an end. (8/10)

5. Day Dream (白日夢) – The title of this song, Day Dream, already sounded like it was going to be a dreamy R&B. While listening to this song, I couldn’t help but imagine a golden haze shining on me, similar to like the sun shining on you as your stare out a window. I love how light this song feel, which is a different tone that we don’t get from NCT 127 (or any of NCT’s subunits) usually. The vocal work compliments this lightness, often opting for low tones or higher pitches. The chorus was very nice, as well. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the rapping, which disrupted the lightness for me. (7/10)

6. Interlude: Neo Zone – Not going to give this a rating as it contains no lyrics (and hence is just an instrumental track). But it isn’t just an instrumental track. It starts off as a classical piece. During this period, we are teased with a feeling of something dramatic is coming. And then, it turns into EDM. And we get that dramatic flair delivered in the song, which I thought was awesome!

7. Mad Dog (뿔) – Performed by just Taeil, Doyoung, Taeyong and Mark, Mad Dog is probably the most outrageous song on this album. Not outrageous in the sense that it is controversial or just downright terrible. But rather for its eclectic and crazy mixture of genres. The song is very much within the sphere of hip-hop. But we are greeted with hip-hop centered verses, a fitting (based on the title) aggressive chorus and a smoothed-out backdrop for the vocalists featuring in this track. (8/10)

8. Sit Down! – Continuing the hip-hop momentum that a subset of the group provided us in the preceding track, Sit Down! definitely delivers on the bold front with all the members. The instrumental may be a little more typical, but the way they prose the chorus makes it equally as aggressive (as the previous song). I just love the ‘Sit Down!’ that they literally shout at you. While the song may be built for more of the rappers to showcase their style, I found it very interesting that the song had really strong vocal moments throughout. (10/10)

9. Love Me Now (메아리) – We take a step back from the intensity front by focusing on an upbeat and bright EDM-track. And this is a good breather. There is also a very freeing feel to the song, which makes me want to get lost in its sound with multiple replays. Love Me Now brings forward more of the vocals that we heard in the previous song. I really like the opening lines to the chorus lines. It is catchy and refreshing, overall. (9/10)

10. Love Song (우산) – KPOP really loves their ‘Love Song(s)’, as we can all probably name an artist that has used Love Song as a title. NCT 127’s spin on the typical title is R&B and a story of a rainy day. The song continues to push forward with the vocals that I have been impressed with so far. I do find the melody in this song to be a tad choppy for my liking, but I can overlook that. What I can’t overlook is the rapping in this song. It doesn’t feel necessary at all and over complicated what should have been a simple song. (7/10)

11. White Night (백야)White Night is a ballad. A typically sounding ballad, given its instrumental. But my usual comments apply to the song, in regard to the amazing vocal work that NCT 127 has brought to the album. The rappers also partook in the vocal work, but also tweaked their rapping to be fitting for the softer sound of the ballad. Also, big ticks on the harmony department, as that was something I noticed to be a strong point. (8/10)

12. Not Alone – I would consider the soft instrumental that sits in the background of Not Alone to be minimalistic. There seems to be changes in the use of soft synths and EDM for this song. But since it just sits in the background, it makes the vocals (yes, I am still praising them on this front) become magnified and so clear. Apart from the usual, I find the song to be blissful and peaceful. Definitely one to check out and hitting the replay button for. (10/10)

13. Dreams Come True – The final song on the album is a soft jazzy number dedicated to the fans. It was also released some time ago. The vocal work was stunning in this song (those harmonies during the chorus are just perfection) and the rapping (in this song) is well-justified. It isn’t the most mind-blowing song on the album, but it definitely nice to end the album on a positive and thankful note. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Neo Zone Teaser Image

[Review] Kick It – NCT 127

I spent the start of the week revisiting tracks that I have yet to write reviews for. And this should continue into the rest of the weekend (with some album reviews). But I take a moment to review a new release from NCT 127. The group has returned with Kick It, 9 months after the release of Superhuman last year. Since their May 2019 comeback, the group went on to promote Superhuman, along with other tracks, in the US and achieved a worldwide reach. And we will probably see the same thing for NCT 127 in the near future. Kick It features on Neo Zone, the group’s second studio album. It also marks the return of Jungwoo, who sat out of NCT 127 promotions since August of last year for health reasons.

In my personal opinion, NCT 127 manages to Kick It up a notch with their new track. Pun was purely intended. There are two sides of the track. The first is the very shouting-heavy and noisy hook of the track. Part of me finds it pretty good and sees potential in it to become an addictive section of the part. And while I do enjoy the Bruce Lee homage and the ‘new thang‘ to be suitable for this hip-hop direction, the other part of me finds it annoying and ‘too loud’. It honestly could go either way depending on my mood when I am listening to the track. Thank god that the song has some relief moments, where the vocals are brought in. Part of them is glad for this, as a full 4 minutes of the shouting and noisy chorus would have been a little too much. At the same time, however, it causes a great mismatch in sound and (obviously) cuts whatever flow the song potentially had. At this stage however, I am looking more positively at the track and think it is pretty decent. It does remind me of some of their earlier works, which I didn’t enjoy at the time of review (but they have grown on me considerably). Going I had expected a little less shouting and something more refined, but this was pretty good as it is.

There is no doubt the music video is paying homage to Bruce Lee. For those who may not know who Bruce Lee is, he is actor who was very well known for the martial arts movies he starred in. The music video featured a fair amount of martial arts and the infamous yellow and black combo. Bruce Lee is well known for his yellow and black jumpsuit, an image of Bruce Lee that everyone probably knows of. The music video also has this Asian concept, which I thought was very cool. They managed to give it a modern twist and the members stand out accordingly.

Don’t think there is a live performance for this comeback yet. So we haven’t really seen all of it. From what I can see in the music video, the performance plays on textures to match the more melodic vocal moments and the intense hip-hop moments. I wouldn’t be surprise if it did feature some martial arts in it. The dance break already looks amazing and very powerful.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Special] My Favourite Performances from the 2019 End Of Year Music Festivals

At the end of each year, the three major broadcasting companies in South Korea (SBS, KBS and MBC) organises and broadcast a very fruitful and dynamic music festival, bringing together the top KPOP acts of the year. 2019 is no exception and with a year as busy as 2019, it is often quite hard to get invited to these festivals. And with each show running for a couple of hours, different stages/performances/remixes of the year’s hits and one-of-a-kind collaborations, it is often hard to keep up with these festivals. Today, I have decided to organise a list of performances from each of these three festivals that I thought were excellent, different and worthwhile in checking out. I have done this before but over the years dropped it as I had very little time. Now that I have some time on my hand, I thought I return to this segment for the 2019 festivals.

SBS Gayo Daejun – 25th of December 2019

When we talk about the SBS Music Festival, we need to address the issue of safety. After all, it costed Red Velvet full group promotions for their Psycho comeback, due to injuries sustained by Wendy due to the unsafe nature of SBS stage. We did manage to get one full lineup of the group performing Psycho on stage as it was pre-recorded. because of that, I put Red Velvet’s Psycho performance on my list of favourite performances from that day. Other performers also had falls on the SBS stage, from what I remember reading. Other stages at stood out for me were:

  • Stray Kid’s Miroh – I did not know how Stray Kids could top Miroh’s intensity by rearranging the performance to be even more intense.
  • NCT Dream’s Boom & NCT 127’s Superhuman – Both tracks had a really cool dance addition to it. On top of that, we got to see the same ‘switching of jackets’ that Mark did at the 2018 SBS Music Festival between Dream and 127’s performance. Only this time, it was Haechan!
  • Oh My Girl’s Bungee (X-mas Version) – Always good to have a X-mas themed remix on Christmas Day. It made Bungee, an already vibrant and colourful track, more suitable for the season.
  • Mamamoo’s Gogobebe – The rock remix for this performance was superb.
  • Seventeen’s Home and Snapshoot – We got to see a warmer side of the group and the more joyful side, especially after all the darkness we got from HIT and Fear.
  • TWICE’s Medley of Tracks – I really liked the band element to their performance and how they tweaked the concept for Fancy and their more light hearted tracks. I just wished the band was DAY6 (where is DAY6 in all of these festivals), which would have made the performance even more worthy of a view.
  • BTS’s Dionysus – I have always been a fan of BTS’s darker side. This performance is a return this side, which I greatly appreciate.

KBS Gayo Daechukje – 27th December 2019

I personally did not have much interest in the KBS Music Festival as I thought the stage looked really bad and the camera work wasn’t the best. This wasn’t also the only problem that occurred that same night. APINK’s %% performance was cut short, disappointing fans, APINK and viewers in general. If I were to choose one standout stage, it would have Golden Child’s Wannabe stage. Their dance intro was very good and showed off intensity that was aligned with their new look/concept. And I really liked how smooth the transition between dance intro and actual song was. Only a few toehr performances caught my attention and they include:

  • Song Gain’s Introductory song – Song Gain, for those who don’t know is a trot singer that trended this year. For Song Gain’s performance, she managed to incorporate all artists into her song, which I think would be a challenge.
  • NU’EST Love Me – It wasn’t so much their choreography or song that caught my attention. But I thought the raised stages for the end really highlighted the good parts of their overall choreography, providing what could be said as an epic end to their stage.
  • ASTRO’s All Night + Blue Flame – I was waiting for ASTRO to do All Night in some capacity during these festivals. But with Moonbin out of action, it seems like the group would opt for the 5-member Blue Flame instead. So automatically, ASTRO’s stage for All Night alone would make this list. Blue Flame ended up being very epic as well, which is why their entire segment is on this list.
  • Oh Ha Young, Joy and Yerin Mr. Mr. collaboration – I haven’t heard this song for some time now and I really enjoyed this throwback. Also surprised that they covered the entire song, which usually isn’t the case.

MBC Gayo Daejejeon – 31st December 2019

MBC’s Music Festival is one to always watch. Their stages always have a look that shows that they have been planning for a while. The collaborations for this festival are always something to talk about. And why not watch it live as the year goes out! There is nothing like ending 2019 and start 2020 with KPOP! However, the MBC Music Festival was also plagued with an early termination issue. This time around the victim was Kim Jae Hwan, who only got to perform Nuna (he should have performed The Time I Need as well. For standout performance, I am putting down ASTRO and Oh My Girl’s creepy and jazzy cover of IU’s Red Shoes. It was different and colourful. Other stages to check out:

  • Stray Kid’s Side Effects – Another intense song that they managed to upgrade and make darker. The creative minds that put together these stages for Stray Kids are killing it (and need a pay rise instantly).
  • Seventeen & Mamamoo Collaboration – Two of my favourite groups have come together to form one dream team. And this was such an amazing stage.
  • Seventeen’s HIT – Mingyu shouldn’t be playing with fire. It is dangerous. But one epic opener to the stage. Also, somehow Seventeen managed to insert a dance break in the midst of the stage, which I think earns a mention at the very least.
  • Hyuna’s Flower Shower – Her choreography is essentially the same as the one she performed in the past. But the chorus instrumental is changed slightly, which I thought made the stage a lot cooler for the end of year festival.
  • Taemin’s Move & Famous – MBC’s Music Festival had a theme, The Chemistry. And you can’t have a theme about Chemistry without Taemin. While he didn’t do anything special to Move‘s stage, his dance alone is already 100% fitting for a ‘Chemistry’ themed music festival.
  • (G)i-DLE’s Lion – Another reason to why we need to look out for this girl group is their special stages. Lion is practically a game changer for the group.
  • Lovelyz’s Beautiful Day – I really like their ballad start to their stage and how they built it back up to the original song in an effortless manner.

[Review] Coming Home – NCT U

NCT is nominated for Best Male Group, while both NCT Dream and NCT 127 are nominated for Best Subunit. NCT Dream is also nominated for Best Male (Group) Choreography and Best Collaboration (with Yeri from Red Velvet). Click here to support NCT and their subunits before the 31st of December.

While EXO hasn’t released a Christmas single for the past two years, it seems like other SM artists may be taking the mantle. NCT U has reformed into a four member subunit (Jaehyun, Taeil, Haechan and Doyoung) for the release of Coming Home, which is part of the SM Station X project. This is also the first NCT U release since 2018’s Boss (one of my favourite songs of the year!).

Per the Christmas singles that EXO have released in the past, Coming Home comes in the form of a ballad. Made up of classical instruments, the background has this very warm and soothing vibe to it, but this is a rather typical aspect when it comes to Winter singles. But I like how there isn’t a stillness to the instrumental compared to other ballads (i.e. they are made of strictly one or two instruments). There are number of instruments working together in this song at any one second, and this really helps push the song along in a captivating manner. I could also sense an elegant vibe to the song. Compared to the other ballad that I reviewed during the week, this one has a little extra appeal to it. This added layer of appeal can be attributed to the vocal work. Jaehyun, Taeil, Haechan and Doyoung are the part of the vocal line of NCT, so it was expected that we would be getting some sort of vocal push to it. However, we are treated to powerhouse vocals in this song, especially with all the high notes at the end. The song also allows the members to showcase and move about (in terms of their vocals), showcasing and exploring their talents in this department. Overall, Coming Home is a Winter single to enjoy.

At the start of the music video, we are shown the members of this NCT U lineup in a way that gives off the impression that they are alone. But as the the video comes to an end, we are shown the member are actually very close by as they walk in the background of each other’s shot. The song is about coming home to a loved one. But I think at the end it is shown that Jaehyun is the one going home and he is only imagining the other members as they are the people he is going home to. It is a nice concept and I liked how it wasn’t as emotionally charged as other songs. I really like their outfits and the sets created for this video.

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

[Review] Jopping – SuperM

This has to be the biggest release of the week. After all, fans and the media are dubbing this as the Avengers of KPOP. SuperM has made their debut, consisting of many familiar faces. Featuring Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, Taemin from SHINee, Mark and Taeyong from NCT and Ten and Lucas from WayV (the Chinese subunit of NCT), this very special unit group has dropped their first single, Jopping. It seems like this is SM’s approach to the American market, especially with the growing fanbase for many male groups in the American market. So why not kick start the career of a new group in the Western music industry with the fanbases of four different and established groups?!

Jopping almost didn’t make the cut for a review. To this day, I haven’t reviewed any songs released in only English by any KPOP group. I am in the process of reconsidering, especially since I do Japanese music videos by KPOP groups. But that’s not the point here. Despite the song almost being in just English, there are a few Korean phrases scattered throughout. It is almost inverse of what we see in the KPOP industry (where the English phrases are the sprinkles instead). The title is a mash-up of jumping and popping, which I think makes senses with the song’s meaning of going all out on stage. Anyway, Jopping starts off true to the group’s nickname. It felt almost fitting for the Avenger’s soundtrack. It promised a fair amount of epicness and I think the song delivered this superbly as its progressed. The electro-pop track was fast tempo, powerful, impactful and very energetic. I think the track managed to showcase really good rapping and vocals from each member, with the two being massive highlights for me. I also like their rock ending, which I thought gave the song the chance to end with a bang. Overall, it is a memorable track and definitely one I will be listening to in the coming weeks.

The video manages to pull out some of the best special effects I have ever seen in the KPOP music video universe. You would expect the producers to do that when they are combining the forces of several of the popular KPOP groups in the world at the time. I did think some of them were questionable, such as the green screen stadium they performed in. Liked the idea but it felt cheesy. There is definitely a lot of tension and intensity in the video, matching the song in a very logical manner. A part of me wanted the producers to bring elements from NCT, EXO, SHINee and WAYV videos, which I think would have been a special treat for fans and made the video even more epic. But this is already as fantastic as it is.

With such an intense song, there was no doubt that the choreography would match this. There hasn’t been a live stage for this just yet (I am anticipating their Hollywood debut showcase but that won’t be for another two days where I am), so I am basing everything off the music video. The entire dance looked very cool, with the members looking almost like animals (I say that with total respect). Their charisma flows through. But that would be expected, especially since SuperM brings together some of the best dancers in SM Entertainment.

Song –  10/10
Music Video – 9.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10

[Review] Boom – NCT Dream

After Mark left the group as he was ‘of age’ at the end of 2018, NCT Dream disappeared from the radar. SM Entertainment primarily focused on NCT 127 for the first half of 2019, which was disappointing for fans of the younger subunit.  But that was changed last month when NCT Dream (excluding Haechan) collaborated with HRVY for the SM Station release, Don’t Need Your Love (which I have continued to enjoy since reviewing it). And today, the young subunit (including Haechan) made their official comeback with Boom, their first since We Go Up and Candlelight (Both releases still featured Mark as a member).

The teasers for Boom were very suspenseful, which lead me to have high expectations for this track. And boy, does NCT Dream fulfil these expectations. The last time we got an edgy sound from NCT Dream to this extent was through their Go promotions. But I wasn’t much of a fan of that song. Boom, on the other hand, sounds more refined and stylish. The vocals and rapping give me flashback to their We Go Up hip-hop style, which I thought was very nice. I thought the chorus was very cool with the ‘Boom Boom Boom‘ repetition. I just wanted more too the song in terms of instrumentation. Here, everything was very subtle in nature. With a title Boom, you would expect that things would become explosive. But everything felt like it was toned down. A better way of describing it was that the song was kept in ‘low bass’ gear. But other than that, Boom was a pretty cool track and sone I can absolutely see dominate my phone while I am out and about.

The music video went straight for that edgy vibe, shifting away from that carefree vibe we got from We Go Up or anything youthful the subunit used to release. Visually, I thought the video was quite good. The members looked nice. The sets really felt appropriate, even though they don’t necessarily go with one another. It seems like the majority of the music video was shot with Haechan still busy with his NCT 127 promotions overseas, which was fair. He did join in towards the end of the music video, which is a good thing (rather than omitting him entirely). But why didn’t SM Entertainment wait that extra week or until schedules clear up to allow Haechan to film alongside the rest of the group. I thought his absence was meant to be part of the plotline but rewatching the video, it didn’t really seem so. They just added him randomly to the group/choreography shots at the end.

The choreography here is awesome. The chorus, in particular, looked very cool, matching the sleek and stylish atmosphere present in the song. I did think the choreography was slow at first. But I think after watching the performance a few times, the slowness felt intentional. But I really liked how they kicked the intensity up a notch for the end, bring the performance to an explosive energised end.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] Long Flight – Taeyong (NCT)

This season SM STATION has made some changes which I think makes the program a little more interesting. Firstly, they have been delivering us new tracks on a fortnightly basis as opposed to their previously weekly timetable. Secondly, the focus seems to be more on SM Entertainment artists with many solo releases from EXO members in the past few months. But today, we do not see the release of an EXO-related single. Instead, it is NCT-related, with leader Taeyong releasing Long Flight for this week’s SM Station track.

Taeyong is one of the many versatile members of the NCT. He can sing, dance and rap, becoming a leading triple threat within the group. Long Flight‘s release attempts to demonstrate all of these in their utmost glory. Long Flight is an upbeat R&B track. And as much I want Taeyong to shine (as NCT and its subunits have far too many members to let every individual member be ‘showcased’), I find Long Flight to not 100% encompass all of this talent. I understand this song is self-composed and written by the man himself. But I think the sound was a little too typical for the music industry nowadays. I found the hooks (both lyrically and instrumentally) to be quite weak, not giving the song a chance to be memorable. But Taeyong’s execution of the singing and rapping was very good. I liked how he effortlessly went between singing and rapping, which does demonstrate his potential. That was probably the most impressive aspect of the track. Other than that, Long Flight isn’t the song for me.

What I did like was the music video. It felt like the music video got a decent budget, which isn’t always the same feeling when we look at other SM Station releases. The aeroplane set looked pretty cool. It kind of gives you an insight into show business. The outside did look like a real plane but the inside showed it was a built set. I guess that makes sense, especially since booking an aeroplane for a music video shoot would be costly. The rest of the sets looked cool as well. I also liked the colour palette. Not too pale but not too bold as well.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.8/10

[Review] Don’t Need Your Love – NCT Dream X HRVY

Note that I have put Yesung’s Pink Magic review on hold until later this week, with hopes that there will be a live stage. 

Noticeably absent from the NCT universe thus far this year is the presence of NCT Dream. At the end of last year, Mark graduated from NCT Dream due to his age and since then, we haven’t heard much from the subunit. That was up until the 6th of June 2019 when NCT Dream (with the exception of Haechan as well) released their collaboration single with HRVY (an English artist born in 1999 and has released many singles since his debut back in 2013), titled Don’t Need Your Love. The single was released as part of the SM Station 3 series.

To me, the track is typical of what you would hear on the Western music scene or the radio. Nothing fancy when it comes to the collaboration. But there might be some good coming from this track that I would like to touch on. The vocals from both artists were probably the best part. One thing that I always reiterated, however, is that simplicity can be good. In no way do I find this a perfect song, as the word ‘bland’ might be an excellent description of the song. But its simple beat and typicalness come off very pleasant and soothing, which might sound odd to you (and hypocritical of me, based on what I have said thus far). Another thing I find that satisfies me is its timing. A lot of the music I listen to happens to be KPOP (or indie music if we are talking about my Western tastes). So to hear something like this amongst my current playlist is actually refreshing. But as confusing as it sounds, I can guarantee, one too many listen of this song can result in it being skipped for another.

The music video features the NCT Dream members and HRVY as well. And it too didn’t feel remotely connected to KPOP, which I find to be surprising. I don’t know what really sets a KPOP video apart from Western video. But I assume colours, boxed sets and flashy cinematography during choreography scenes to be key characteristics. The cinematography, in this case, was crisper and more defined than any video I have reviewed over the past few years.

With all SM Station releases (with the exception of 1), there has not been a live performance for any of the releases. So anything regarding the choreography is solely based on the music video. Based on my simple YouTube search, it seems HRVY has also dabbled in choreography before. So it isn’t surprising to see him do quite well in this performance. But ti seemed to be a simple routine, for a simple song and release.

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

[Album Review] We Are Superhuman (4th Mini Album) – NCT 127

It is time to restart the album review bandwagon for this site. Apologies for completely ditching this segment for the past few weeks. I really missed this segment but it just ate up so much of time, preparing and writing it up. But now with endless time on my hands, let’s get right back into it. One of the albums released at the end of May that I didn’t get around to reviewing is NCT 127’s We Are Superhuman. The album features the group’s latest comeback single, Superhuman, along with 4 other tracks.

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We Are Superhuman Album Cover

1..Highway To Heaven – To me, opening up with a song such as Highway To Heaven, makes me turn my head towards the screen or speakers. It isn’t necessarily a punchy track with extremely addictive hooks in my opinion, which might be expected of NCT and KPOP traditionally. Instead, it relies on the loudness of the chorus, simple synth-pop instrumentation and the fact that it brings all the members together for the chorus. And I think these are all effective tools if used smartly, which is the case here. While many groups have used these techniques before, NCT 127 doesn’t mess around by leaving things to the end or take too long to integrate these said techniques, making it a very prominent and memorable track on the album. (10/10)

2. Superhuman (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Superhuman. (9/10)

3. Fool (아 깜짝이야) – Taking a massive turn from Superhuman is the more light-hearted tone in Fool. And personally, this is somewhat different from the NCT 127 that I usually know of. But I am not hating, because it gives us an opportunity to recover from the intensity of Superhuman. I like the direction of the track. The vocals and rapping were quite nice. Harmonies are something to really keep your ears open for. However, there is one thing that sticks out at me that I don’t really enjoy. The verses had only a layer of instrumentation, but the chorus felt like it had too many layers within the instrumentation. Including the vocals and backing, I feel like it was overloaded. (8/10)

4. Jet Lag (시차)Jet Lag is the ‘ballad’ on the album. There is a rather slow start to the track but it slowly does build up the tempo through the use of percussion. And I think the vocals were very beautiful, especially demonstrated by the smoothness of the vocals during the chorus. I just felt like the rappers did not really have much of an opportunity to feature in the track. While the producers did try to incorporate the rappers in the song by giving them a hip-hop-like and ‘fast’ section, I felt it was a mismatch considering the rest of the song. And I think this inclusion made the song a little confusing. Is it a ballad or not? (6/10)

5. Paper Plane (종이비행기)Paper Plane seems to be the most ideal track on the album for the Summer season. It is vibrant and colourful, which are terms that I have used to describe most of the Summertime songs thus far this year. The pop tune in the instrumental is addictive and fun sounding, as well. It is also an uplifting track, which makes it even more enjoyable to listen to. I really like the chorus of the track, which is a straight instrumental piece. The build-up to it was also quite nice. Vocally, I could tell all the members apart and I liked that aspect of being able to differentiate each member, which can sometimes be difficult. (9/10)

6. We Are 127 (Outro Track) – An outro like this makes me excited for what’s to come. There is a mixture of genres going on, all something that I expect from NCT 127. Apart from the ‘We Are 127’ repetition, there isn’t much else besides robustness and mysterious vibes in the outro. Hence, I have decided to leave it off the calculation for the album rating but wanted to mention my initial comments anyway.

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

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We Are Superhuman Teaser Image

[Review] Superhuman – NCT 127

The biggest news for NCT in 2019 thus far was the debut of their Chinese subunit, WayV. I do plan to go back to review their debut track at a later date, so watch this space. The next move from the mega group is the return of NCT 127 in South Korea. Today, the group returned with Superhuman, which they previously performed on Good Morning America back in April. The comeback track is featured on the group’s fourth mini-album, We Are Superhuman. This is also the group’s first comeback since Simon Says in Korea and Wakey-Wakey in Japan.

Based on the article by Soompi. the song is described as a ‘Complextro dance track with elements of EDM’. While my experience with music genres is quite limited, this is my first time hearing of this genre. So I think it would be safe to assume that this is the first of its kind in KPOP as well. Without the article. I would have described the song as a groovy EDM track with what seems to be a slight retro influence. I say this because the track felt something that SHINee would have released if they were still active as a group (Note – SHINee is currently in the army). It is right up the senior artist’s alley. Its unique style brings a mixture of different textures that allows the song to be very intriguing. I think the song does stand out vocally. I like how they push the vocals for the chorus, adding to the dynamics of the song. Also adding to this aspect are the raps. Like other NCT127 songs, the rapping does give the song some impact, despite the song already bring overloaded with a very memorable and punchy instrumental.

With its electronic style in its music, it is fair to assume that the music video would take a similar approach. Also fitting for the unit’s image is the fact that the video showcases a really edgy vibe. I think we could say it is their edgiest yet. I am not sure if everything comes together to form a story. Or if the video is just a bunch of solo shot and then choreography shots. I am leaning to the latter but there could be a slight possibility of the other. Watching the video, I felt the scenes built up with the music and this resulted in an awesome climatic ending.

To match the tempo and the electronic complexity of the track, the choreography had to be very powerful and complex. And NCT127 delivered in all aspects. I actually liked how they incorporated some sleek movements in their dance (i.e. the start and the start of each chorus). It was captivating and gripping in many ways.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.9/10

[Review] Wakey-Wakey – NCT 127

Before we tick over to Sunday, it must be time to have a closer look at a Japanese release! The last we saw NCT 127 was through Simon Says in Korea and Chain in Japan. But as we are fast approaching mid-2019, we break the short NCT drought with Wakey-Wakey. This is the title track off their very first Japanese album, titled Awaken and is due for release mid-April. But due to the nature of the Japanese market, we are given the treat (and some long hair) a few weeks ahead of time.

Wakey-Wakey seems to take on the Black On Black side of NCT which we saw early last year. I would say both songs are quite similar in effect when you listen to them side-by-side. But by no means are they the same song. Wakey-Wakey focus on more brighter sounding instrumentation (with a lot less growling), featuring a lot of trap synths and a slight touch of R&B when you consider the vocals and the very start of the song. It suits NCT 127’s style remarkably. I think the very first thing that really grabs your attention with the song is the squeakiness of the instrumental. You may think this would be an off-putting element for me but I was actually fond of it because it gave something extra to the song. As mentioned, the vocals are nice and we are also treated to the return of Haechan (who only participates in the audio and music video for this comeback). I think the raps were also quite cool but I wanted more intensity alongside it, similar to the intensity brought upon by the dance break at the very end of the song.  Likewise, I didn’t really fall for the verses as much as compared to the rest of the song.

Matching the brightness of the song, the music video was intentionally colour for the most part.  I thought the sets were elaborate, especially during Haechan’s scenes. He doesn’t get to interact much with the other members but is still centred, which I thought was interesting. There has to be a reason for that right? (My assumption is that the members are trying to wake him up). Regardless, glad to see him back. What I am not too glad to see is Johnny’s long hair. I try my best not to comment on looks but sorry, it had to be touched on. (This is similar to any mullets or dreadlocks we see in KPOP. It just doesn’t work).

The choreography was quite cool  Going back to the start where I said the song sounded like Black On Black, the performance also reminded of Black‘s performance. Similarly, the start reminded me of EXO’s Tree of Life (I think that is what it is called) that featured during the group’s Wolf promotions. But they put their own spin on it.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Candle Light – NCT Dream

Voting closes in 3 DAYS. If you have yet to vote for NCT Dream or any of our other favourite artists for this year’s KPORPEVIEWED Awards, click here to do so NOW before you miss out!

We all thought wrong when we all thought that We Go Up was the final release before Mark’s graduation from NCT Dream. Yesterday, NCT Dream released an SM Station single titled Candle Light. But since Mark’s graduation has been confirmed the for the 31st of December, Mark is still present in the unit group for the new song release. The video does still allude to the impending event but that is something to talk about later on in the review.

Candle Light is best described as a mid-tempo ballad that conveys the message of wishing to be with someone. The song has this bright yet warming atmosphere to it, which can be attributed to the instrumental of the song. And hence, the message felt well suited for the style the song went with. The song is also a departure from their usual releases, which is more vocally centred this time around. This highlights the vocals of all the members, which isn’t something that we have experienced before. There was some rapping, which I thought was extremely fitting for the song.  It is a solid song but it lacks memorability, in my opinion. If they nailed that, it would have been a perfect song. But Candle Light is still pleasant sounding and definitely a nice way to end the year of KPOP.

The music video was very well done. The members are directing a music video in this music video. We see then struggle with a whole bunch of bloopers and technical issues. In the end, we are shown the ‘final product’, which featured all the members excluding Mark, alluding to his upcoming graduation in the coming days. The way he presents his rap, with all the members sitting in front of him (and one seat vacant) really hits home that this is happening. The video also seemed to be incorporate elements from NCT Dream’s previous releases including chewing gum (from Chewing Gum), mini cars (from My First & Last) and the word ‘Go’ (from Go). Definitely, a nice way to signal the end of a chapter for the unit.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.8/10

[Review] Hair In The Air – Yeri (Red Velvet), Renjun, Jeno & Jaemin (NCT)

Both Red Velvet and NCT are nominated in this year’s KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Voting is underway and if you haven’t voted yet, click here to do so now!

For this week’s SM Station release, Yeri (from Red Velvet) and Renjun, Jeno and Jaemin (from NCT) join hands together for the special release of Hair In The Air, which is the main theme song for the new television series – Trolls: The Beat Goes On. The song features on a special OST album for the show and the album also contains a second track, Best Day Ever, featuring Haechan, Chenle and Jisung (from NCT as well). But we are here for Hair In The Air, so let’s get going.

Hair In The Air goes for a fun-filled and vibrant sound, suiting the animated show it will represent in South Korea. It has this positivity atmosphere that makes you want to smile and dance to. The pop instrumental for the song was consistent (in a good way) and gave the song that fun factor which I have already mentioned. It is super addictive so I can see it being used as a children’s show theme song. Yeri and Renjun take cares of the vocals in the song, while Jeno and Jaemin rap in the song. And I personally enjoyed both the vocals and raps in the song as they both add some flavour and textures to the song. It may just be a standard song to some but I thoroughly enjoyed its lightheartedness.

Like the song, the video is pretty much a lighthearted video. Not really meant to be taken seriously. Since it was for Trolls, I had expected some sort of Trolls animation throughout it. But instead, we have a party themed video with Yeri and the 3 featuring members from NCT. But it seems that this party is all in the book that Yeri is reading. There is a small bit of choreography for the video to compliment the fun style of the video. Rather simple but I enjoyed it.

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