[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

[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.

[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

[Album Review] Regulate (1st Repackaged Album) – NCT 127

NCT is nominated for Best Male Group, while NCT Dream and NCT 127 are nominated for Best Subunit. If you haven’t voted for NCT or your favourite artists yet, then click here to vote!

NCT 127 made their comeback with the repackaged version of their first studio album, which has been retitled Regulate. Leading the repackaged promotions is Simon Says. I debated whether to create a separate album review for this as I would only be reviewing one new song. I decided to do it anyway in order to help support NCT in the KPORPEVIEWED Awards (see above). Initially, it was meant for publishing on a later date but due to some scheduling changes, I have decided to publish today. I hope you don’t mind this really short album review.

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Regulate Album Cover

Regulate features all the songs from their Regular-Irregular album, which I have previously reviewed. If you wish to check out the song reviews from the Regular-Irregular album, please click here.

4. Welcome To My Playground – The song, compared to the songs on the Regular-Irregular, has a more bright and playful tone. It is a different side of NCT 127 that we saw briefly in Touch but incorporates that hip-hop genre that NCT has been marketed towards. The verses were half Korean and English, which I think was a smart way of interacting with both their Korean and international fans. The song was quite soft and I actually liked the prolonged build up in the verses. It made the chorus a lot more dynamic. I also liked the jump and fast-paced nature of Mark and Taeyong’s rap sequence, which gave the song a profound kick of energy towards the end, ending the song on a very energetic note. (9/10)

9. Simon Says (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Simon Says. (9/10)

12. Chain (Korean Version) – I previously reviewed the Japanese version of Chain. I did feel like the song was a lot slower when it is in the Korean language. It might just be me, however. Click here to read the full review of Chain. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10 (This incorporates the scores of all 12 songs on the albums)

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[Review] Simon Says – NCT 127

Since wrapping up their promotions for Regular a few weeks back, we have been teased with an impending return with the repackaged version of their first studio album, And now, NCT 127 has returned for the third time this year with Simon Says, which the title track off their 1st Repackaged Album, Regulate. Interestingly, the music video for Simon Says was released well ahead of the actual release of the repackaged album. But we aren’t here to talk about this experimental release method. Instead, Simon Says to start this review!

Simon Says is a return to that hip-hop and electronic sound that NCT 127 hasn’t really done that much this year. Touch was a rather bright release, while Regular was an attempt at the Latin trend. So, it is quite nice to go back to some familiar territory. The instrumental has this experimental side to it, which makes it interesting as the style isn’t that clear-cut as their past songs. The verses are formed to give attention towards the rappers, who do a really good job with the song. There are attitude and charisma flowing throughout. The song focuses on the vocalists through the bridge of the song. While it is a little short, we do great a nice little breather from the intensity of the verses/chorus. As for the chorus, I thought it was quite catchy. The song is quite powerful and definitely aggressive in a more subtle manner. Overall, Simon Says is a pretty cool song.

The music video takes that aggressive and powerful nature touched upon earlier and develops into a very aesthetic music video. There is definitely some sort of message hidden throughout this video through the symbolism that I am no way near smart enough to understand. Here are what I could see. Taeyong is Simon, as he is the leader of the subunit and all the members move around him. He is also the first member to take off his mask and the rest of the members follow suit. And talking about the masks, how amazing do they look? Visuals along, this is one video to watch.

Like all the other components of this comeback, the performance is very intense and dynamic. Each of the members do a really good job at captivating the audience through their charisma alone. Their moves make this comeback so much better. My favourite part has to be the fast-paced chorus.

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

[Album Review] Regular-Irregular (1st Studio Album) – NCT 127

Due to my studies, I had to drop album reviews. But now, I have time and it is time to catch up on some many album reviews. The first album I have chosen to review is NCT 127’s first studio album, Regular-Irregular. This is the first album release to feature Jungwoo as the 10th member of the subunit and it also features the English version of their title track, Regular, which was recently performed on Jimmy Kimmel. This is one long review, so let’s get going!

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Regular-Irregular Album Cover

1. City 127 (지금 우리) – Opening the album is a very classy sounding and melodic track that does not disappoint. There are a few things that draw my attention to the song including the already mentioned melody, the soft nature of the piano instrumental (which also allows the song to easily become a dance track), the very addictive whistling tune and the vocals/raps of the song. It is a rather peaceful song, which is usually not my preference for the opening track (You want my attention, you need to go big). But they do just that with City 127, which is rather unique. (9/10)

2. Regular (Korean Version)Click here to read the full review for Regular. (6/10)

3. Replay (PM 01:27) – While Replay does play towards the trend of electronic music in the industry, it does a good job with its aesthetics (compared to their title track which tackled the Latin trend). The entire track was rather soft with its sound, which is reflected nicely in the drop of this song. It fulfils the need for a beat drop, yet it stays within the theme of the first half of the album. I liked how the vocals and raps also played to vibes of the song, which in turn, creates a winning track. The track does not include Mark and Taeyong, which is a pity, but it is interesting to see some other members shine. (9/10)

4. Knock OnKnock On is a ballad that sounds very soothing. It is the type of song that I would enjoy listening to on a rainy day and the instrumental makes it great for a bedtime playlist or café as well. Once again, the vocals are amazing in this song and I don’t think there was any rapping, which would have ruined the style and momentum of the song. I really liked the chorus, with Doyoung, Jaehyun, Haechan and Taeil shining the brightest in this song. (8/10)

5. No Longer (나의 모든 순간) – Another ballad appears, and the consensus is that this is a lot more emotionally driven. Performed by Taeil, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Yuta, Jungwoo and Haechan, the song focuses squarely on the vocals of the group. And they do an amazing job. I thought the chorus was nice, with its well-balanced start and sudden vocal push. I liked how they managed to pick up the song towards the end yet ended so nicely. The layering was short but sweet. The more I listen to the song the more I am drawn to it. It is my pick for one of the best ballads of the year. (10/10)

6. Interlude: Regular to Irregular – This is the turning point of the album. Up until this track, everything has been rather classy and ‘regular’. In this intermission, we hear Jungwoo narrate in Korean, Yuta narrate in Japanese, WinWin in Mandarin and Johnny in English, to music heard previously in the NCT 2018 Yearbook #1 video. Towards the end, the song takes a turn and becomes a little erratic (to the reverse version of Fire Truck), which starts off the ‘irregular’ side of the album. Very unique to split the album like this.

7. My Van (내 Van)My Van is performed by Mark, Taeyong, Yuta and Jaehyun. Going back to the ‘irregular’ theme, the song takes a sketchier approach with its sound. The song takes on hip-hop and the combination of these two elements remind me of Fire Truck. I liked the instrumental for this song, mainly because of its uniqueness and it offers something that we don’t listen to often. (8/10)

8. Come Back (악몽) Come Back was featured on the group’s Japanese debut album, Chain, which was released earlier in the year. It is their most upbeat sound on the album (excluding the bonus track), but it does work well with the classy feel from the first half of the album. Good vocals once again and the much-desired rap sequence in this song was amazing and ‘lit’. I think the only complaint is that I wanted to hear more of the rap earlier and for a much longer period. (8/10)

9. Fly Away With Me (신기루) – Out of all the ‘irregular’ tracks on this album, I think Fly Away With Me hits the mark extremely well. It is a soft pop track that really does the job well. The aesthetics of this track are also on par with the other songs which I mentioned aesthetics for. Amazing harmonises in this song and the bridge was a winning section that I really got me coming back to this song after it ended. And the fading ending was beautiful. (9/10)

11. Run Back 2 U – The bonus track was surprisingly the most upbeat song on the album. It is one of those tracks with multiple music styles joined together, such as trap and other electronic genres. They go well with each other. The song is well-situated in the hip-hop genre as well. It also features the fast-paced tempo that no song on the album managed to deliver and also a really well delivered (and fast) rap sequence, which I quite liked. It is good but not necessarily my cup of tea. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.2/10

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Regular-Irregular Teaser Image

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[Review] Regular – NCT 127

2018 has been one busy year for NCT. They started the year off as NCT 2018 and returned with a studio album, which featured songs from each of the three subunits. NCT recently made their comeback with We Go Up. SM Entertainment has also confirmed that a Chinese subunit will debut later in the year. NCT 127 also made their official debut in Japan with Chain. And now, NCT 127 is back with Regular, which the title track off their latest full-length album, Regular-Irregular. Woah!

I don’t think anyone expected NCT to go with a Latin sound, given their past work never fitted any of the ongoing trends of the industry. But it is a new twist in their portfolio that sounds somewhat fresh, as they managed to keep to their roots by infusing it with some trap. It is an interesting combination that works well with each other, in my opinion. It is just – I don’t mind the sound but I am not too keen on the ‘final product’. The song lacks a memorable chorus. Yes, there is intensity but hook-wise, I don’t really find it appealing. It just felt generic. While the rapping and vocals blended well with each other, they don’t really stand out, against each other or when heard with the instrumentation. I think the best part of the song would have to be there start-stop bridge they had. Overall, I feel like the song, to an extent, was good but it just wasn’t enough to really become a hit for me.

I did like the music video for this comeback, which felt really edgy and intense. The video featured great cinematography which really did a good job of capturing not just the members but also their surroundings. The black and white choreography scenes did look a little too plain, reminding me of some of their stuff earlier in the year. I also like Mark and Taeyong’s floating star scene, which looked cool. Same could be said about their individual close-ups. Them bringing many people in at the end of the video looks like the producers are taking a page out of BTS’ music videos. But it is done in a way here that looks boring.

The choreography for their comeback was definitely my pick for the highlight for the entire comeback. It fits in with that Latin sound, while also accommodating to the trap side of the song. I quite liked their footwork in this routine, which looks amazing on stage.

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7/10

 

[Review] Chain – NCT 127

NCT recently wrapped up their album promotions in Korea, which involved all members from the 3 NCT subunits (NCT 127, NCT U & NCT Dream). But the members of NCT 127 are not on a break yet, with their return to the Japanese music scene with their first single, Chain. The album officially dropped during the week (May 23rd) but the music video has been available online since the start of the month, so it is about time I got around to reviewing it.

If I had written a review for this song when it was first uploaded on YouTube (May 8th), it would have had the comments ‘very messy’ and ‘not that great’ written all over it. But with a lot of replays and time to take in this ‘mess’, it is a decent track that fits in well with NCT 127’s past work in Korea. That being said, it still isn’t the greatest song, mainly because you still have to work your way through its metallic clanging to get to the good stuff. The raps were decent and the vocal work was quite good. When the drop kicked in, I thought the high pitch screeching was extremely fitting for their rap-heavy track. The only issue that I have is the metal clanging, which is really in-your-face throughout the song and I wished they toned it down. The moments where they did stop the clanging gave the song some relief and allowed me to have a better grasp of the song. I like how they did keep their roots for their Japanese song, which is something you don’t really see all too often.

The music video for this release showed off a different persona that we don’t really see often in their Korean promotions. From what I can see, the video taps into their masculinity and dominant side. It definitely fits in with the intensity and fierceness of the song. And because fangirls don’t find anything sexier than a bunch of men posing with tools (I guess). Maybe this is my science mindset kicking in but there were moments that I wasn’t sure about the safety of the members. Don’t think holding a saw or a drill up close to your safe is considered safe in the manual. But overall, I thought it was a good video for the song.

The performance was surprisingly good. At first glance, the moves seemed rather slow. But watching it a few times, I thought the choreography did a good job at contrasting with the tempo and intensity of the video. There were some slow movements (more of the sexy slow though), while still balancing out with some fast moves.

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

[Album Review] NCT 2018 Empathy (1st Studio Album) – NCT

The 18 members have come together to release their very first full-length album. While the does feature the 4 pre-releases released this year from each subunit, the majority of the songs are credited as NCT U tracks (due to its rotational nature). On top of the 4 subunit releases, the album features tracks from a few years back (some which you may recognise as you go down the tracklist). The album also contains 4 other tracks (an intro, outro and the Chinese version of the Without You and an extended version of Yestoday) but per usual, they have been omitted. Many songs (and links) to get through, so here is my album review.

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NCT 2018 Empathy Album Cover

2. Boss (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Boss. (9.3/10)

3. Baby Don’t Stop (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Baby Don’t Stop. (9.5/10)

4. Go (NCT Dream)Click here to read the full review of Go. (6.8/10)

5. Touch (NCT 127)Click here to read the full review of Touch. (9/10)

6. Yestoday (NCT U) – This NCT U track features Taeyong, Lucas, Mark and Doyoung. This particular track isn’t that bad, much smoother than what is about to come. The song feels like it could have been enhanced with a visually aesthetic video. The song alone doesn’t carry much weight but it has a nice melodic feel to it that makes it sound nice (especially with all the high energy and EDM we have heard thus far). I also appreciate the jazzy instrumental, for the same reasons above.  Doyoung gets to showcase his nice vocals, while the other 3 do a nice job with the raps. (8/10)

7. Black On Black – This is the first song that features all 18 members of NCT in the performance. The song actually only features 3 members (Taeyong, Mark and Lucas). Black On Black, to me, is NCT’s version of EXO’s Growl. Mainly due to the growling that features throughout the song. I am not too conflicted with the track, despite it changing its sound so many times. While ‘flow’ isn’t a word that applies to this song in any way, the choppy feel that the song did manage to give out gives the song a charming point. It is also its downfall, however, as it would give me a headache if I listened to it multiple times on repeat. Glad I haven’t (yet).  (7/10)

8. Timeless (NCT U) Click here to read the full review of Timeless. (9.6/10)

9. The 7th Sense (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of The 7th Sense. (5/10 – I have bumped this up from the original score of 4.5/10)

10. Without You (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Without You. (8.5/10 – I have bumped this up from the original score of 7.5/10)

12. Dream In A Dream (Ten Solo)Click here to read the full review of Dream In A Dream. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

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NCT 2018 Empathy Teaser Image

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[Review] Touch – NCT 127

NCT is officially back! In the past few weeks, the 18-member male group have been releasing different singles, each focusing on one of their subunits. NCT U released Baby Don’t Stop and Boss, while NCT Dream yelled ‘Go‘ last week. This week, they mark the release of their first full-length album as an 18-member group with the release of NCT 127’s Touch.

Touch is a departure on many levels from NCT 127’s past tracks. This time around they went with a pleasant sounding and fresh appeal with their new song. Right off the bat, the song reminds me of a Summer track, with its bright atmosphere and vibrancy. Its sound is not heavy or rough, which is something I have associated with NCT 127. It is a nice track to listen to as a whole. The main focus seems to be on the vocals with the raps taking up a very small part of the track, which was another surprise. The song’s hook was amazing and definitely made the song worthwhile to listen to. For some reason, singing together during the chorus was just perfect and made the chorus my favourite part of the song. While the instrumental made the song into what it is, it could have been more striking. Instead, it did seem a little generic when I thought about it on its own. But besides that, it is a great song.

When you look at this video, you just can’t help but ask yourself: did someone swap NCT Dream and NCT 127’s concept? It is a different side to the group that we have yet seen. It takes you back a few years when KPOP wouldn’t be KPOP if a group didn’t drastically change their concept for just one comeback. Like the song, the video is also quite fresh and vibrant. I really like the use of colours and the overall aesthetics of this video make it pleasing to watch.

The song doesn’t strike me as smooth or flowy but those are the words that I would choose to describe the performance. I think that is only one half of the performance which I liked. The other half would be the happy expressions on their faces which was quite captivating for some odd reason. It was very nice. However, it just isn’t enough to top their previous dances.

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

10 Favourite Non-Title Tracks (Part 1)

Welcome to the first ever ‘Special’ segment of my website. Though I have used the category ‘Special’ for other purposes in the past, I thought I could use to expand the content of what I write. So I thought I would make various lists of different aspects of the KPOP sphere, starting off with non-title tracks that should be more appreciated. I have other ideas lined up like “favourite OSTs’ and ‘favourite dances’ etc. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment below and I may just look into your idea. In no particular order, here are 10 (and this particular will be expanded in further editions) favourite non-title track songs by KPOP artists.

Crying – Sistar

Sistar leaves behind many great tracks, so of which barely get enough attention. What makes Crying a great track are the vocals. They were dynamic and gave the song a very unique feel. I thought the chorus was extremely catchy and interesting with how it starts off with a striking delivery of the word “Love”. The instrumental was pretty simple and their vocals/raps matched it perfectly.

One Step, Two Step – Oh My Girl

I personally thought this song has a very nice blend of instruments. It also felt like angels were singing to me.  The track ended up being very addictive, becoming a song that I would search for on YouTube for a while. I loved how the track started off very sweet and nice. But as you approach the chorus, we enter a more upbeat phase, making the build-up sound amazing. The violins in the bridge were also amazing, with it being another highlight of the track.

Albatross – B.A.P

Adding to the fun vibes of their 5th mini album, Carnival, Albatross is one track to jam to. It is a very down to earth feel and listening to the song makes you wonder how fun the recording process would have been if there was a stage or music video accompanying it. It was released in February but there is a very vibrant and Summer feel to the song, making it a track that I constantly listen to during Winter when I want to feel some warmth.

Shadow – F(x)

I think out of all the non-title tracks out there and the songs on this list, this is the song that everyone will agree on as the most underrated song ever. It literally catches your attention with its very creepy lyrics. But the lyrics are smothered with the sweetness of the instrumental and their vocals, making the creep factor exceed the highest possible limit. It is extremely addictive and I totally love it.

I Wanna Fall In Love – Song Ji Eun (Secret)

Song Ji Eun’s tracks have always been intriguing for their dark messages. Her more recent releases haven’t followed that path, which is quite disappointing. But there are a few that have caught my attention, such as I Wanna Fall In Love. It is much better than many of her recent title tracks and her strong vocals resonate throughout the entire track. It dominates the entire track, which I think is amazing and the song is quite catchy after a number of listens.

Get The X Out – Sunny Hill

Judging from the title, I would never have thought of the song being what it is. It is extremely unexpected, as the instrumental is reminds you of toys and dolls. Very innocence. But instead, it holds a very scary message telling their partner to just leave. I love how they cut the swearing out (or else it would be banned) but it makes everything feel more intense. And this is another reason to why I love Sunny Hill’s songs. They take uniqueness to a whole new level.

Before The Song Ends – JJ Project ft. Suzy (Miss A)

To hear that JJ Project will be getting a unit comeback stage before the end of the year makes me extremely happy. But before that, I must show you all this extreme party-vibe track. Sure, it may be overpowered by autotune but it one hell of a song to jam to. Suzy’s featuring in this song makes it so much better. But the real winners are JJ Project, who has such a dynamic track under their belt.

Maze – VIXX

I tried to include some old tracks and some more recent tracks on this list. Maze falls under the “more recent” category, with it being one intense track to listen to. That is mainly because every time I listen to the song, I feel a rush of adrenaline as if I am actually running through a maze myself. It is a super catchy track and dynamic at the same time.

Switch – NCT 127

Switch is the only song on this particular list that has its own music video. From memory (and what I read a few months back) that this song and music video was recorded before the debut of NCT. I was totally into (and still am) the instrumental of the song. It sounded different to other songs that I have listened to. It’s another track that gives off a nice Summer feel, which I am totally digging at the moment, as I freeze each morning.

One Minute Back – SHINee

This, by far, is up there as one of the best songs ever released. It is such a unique song on so many levels. Their vocals are on point throughout the track, especially during the entire chorus. The lyrics of the song depict a guy catching his partner cheating on him and wanting to turn back time. Overall, listening to just once will not be enough as it leaves a very long lasting impact that makes you want to go back and listen to more.

 

 

[Review] Cherry Bomb – NCT 127

NCT 127 has returned with their latest mini album and the newest title track, Cherry Bomb. The subunit previously made their return with Limitless at the start of the year. The fandom for NCT recently got their official fandom name and now are known as NCT Zen.

Cherry Bomb is song full of experimentation that was handed to NCT 127. For the most part, it could have been a great song. The hip hop influence with the dance style instrumental makes it into a potentially great song. But the mix up of genres that the song kept throwing at it changed it up a little too much and that took the greatness out of the song. To me, from the start of the song to the 1:20 mark of the song was amazing. It could have rivalled Limitless (which I have grown to like quite a bit). But once the vocal parts kick in, it feels like a completely different song with the same instrumental. And then the rest of the song goes back and forth, with other different styles thrown into the mix as well. Stand alone, I thought they would have been great. But together, the song doesn’t flow that nicely. It honestly felt I was listening to three different songs jumbled about. Their repetitive does try to become catchy but to me, they come off as somewhat annoying as we approach the end. Overall, what could have been a good song ended up on the other side of the spectrum.

I think the rough vibes from the song are presented nicely in the video, through the industrial backgrounds. The industrial backgrounds look quite cool and extremely fitting. Just the cartoon animations that were used throughout the video could have been replaced with some a little better, like the more real-looking (but you know they are fake) cherries at the end. The cartoons made the video look more childish, while the song does go for a tougher vibe. Besides that detail, everything looked quite good.

I think everyone watches the video to see the guys get low. They nearly do the splits, but they don’t. Either way, getting that low already seems painful enough. Overall, the performance looked quite great, as well. It doesn’t amaze (besides the half splits) me that much.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6/10