U-KISS – ‘Neverland’ Album Review: I’m going to stop laughing at these guys

I never thought I would be writing about this group. I mean, U-KISS/유키스!  The boy band whose first two hits were catchy, but extremely repetitive hook songs like “Man Man Ha Ni” and “Bingeul Bingeul“. They followed it up with “Shut Up,” which featured one of the lamest dance choreography I’ve seen in K-pop. U-KISS, a band that’s has been poked fun at so many times for being “gay“. That U-KISS!

But you know what, I’m reviewing their music, not the members. And the music in their new album “Neverland” (their second full album)… well, call me impressed!

U-Kiss Neverland album review members kpop boyband

Don't know who is who... but I really don't care

U-KISS has seen line-up changes around three times since inception, with the most recent one being in February this year when members Alexander and Kibum were kicked outreplaced by AJ and Hoon. NH Media, U-KISS’s corporate overlords, didn’t waste anytime in pushing the new line-up in front of fans with the release of “0330” a month later. The ‘updated’ U-KISS seemed to showcase a different direction the boys would be heading. No more formulaic, repetitive monotone songs with lazy choreography, or so it seems.

U-Kiss Neverland new album covers K-pop boyband

So does the new album 'NEVERLAND' keep the new direction on the right path?

In January, when NH Media announced that U-KISS were going to prepare for an American debut, I scoffed at the thought. No way was a Korean boy band, least of all U-KISS, going to succeed with their style and their kind of music!

But listening to the songs on ‘Neverland,’ you know NH Media were serious about their US ambitions (though I hope they have come to their senses now). Many of the songs don’t sound like your average K-pop record. Here’s a track-by-track review:

01. “Intro” – 0:58 of nothing special

02. “Neverland” – The title track and main single:

If there’s a finer example of how one incorporates pure dance music and boy band pop, “Neverland” is it! It’s a fantastic single with great choreography, even though it is a bit heavy on the auto tune. (I’m not going to comment on the fashion or the wiping-fingers-down-face act, because it’s getting stale). Surely they must be some DJ out there already working on a remix of this song for the clubs!

The true test of how good this song is for U-KISS is when they perform it live. The video may not be anything special but I couldn’t help but hit replay as soon as the MV ended. It’s definitely one of my top K-pop songs of the year!  – 5/5

03. “Baby Don’t Cry” – Upbeat, synthesized chorus driven pop bliss! Makes me wonder if this was produced by a foreign producer. Edit: Produced by Ryan Jhun, who produced most of the album.  – 4/5

04. “Someday” – Listening to this, I couldn’t help but assume this is a kind of song one would find on a Westlife album! :) Produced by Denzil Remedios, I wonder if this was one of the songs considered for U-KISS’s English debut. – 4/5

05. “Take Me Away” – The first ballad on the album and again, not the usual K-pop fare. Just when you think the instruments would keep piling on from the second verse  onwards, they don’t. Instead, it’s just the boys and their vocals that carry this song all through the end. A very good track, and I hope they get a chance to sing it live on the music shows. – 4/5

06. “On The Floor” – With a track title like that, it’s fairly obvious what to expect. This one is from the K-pop electronic dance pop music factory. Not bad, but nothing noteworthy. If you listen to K-pop regularly, you have heard this kind of music before. – 3/5

07. “A Friend’s Love” (친구의 사랑) – Officially in familiar K-pop territory now. The first ‘standard’ ballad on the album, but still a very a listenable track. KissMe*s are surely going to sing along to this chorus! – 3.5/5

08. “April Story” (4월 이야기) – When the song first starts, I wondered if they dropped another artist’s song in here by mistake! But no, the woman voice belongs to Brave Girls’ Eun Young and this ballad is a duet with Shin Soohyun. Standard OST fare, but a well sung track none the less. – 3.5/5

09. “Obsession” – Half the song’s lyrics are “You are my obsession…” and “Love equals obsession, obsession equals love:D Erm, no thanks. I don’t think I’ll be listening to this song often. – 2/5

10. “Top That” – This song has traces of Timbaland’s “Carry Out” (featuring Justin Timberlake), so, one of those “inspired” tracks. – 2.5/5

11. “Tell Me Y” – While MBLAQ sang “Give it to my Yyyyy….” (which made little sense), U-KISS presents a brighter, piano-tinged, rap-filled track. Simple and one of the better album fillers. – 3/5

12. “We’ll Meet Again/다시 만나요” (U-KISS with Paran) – The first two & half minutes of the track are the boys of U-KISS and their labelmates (another boy band, but one that unfortunately never saw much success) Paran chattering and having fun. But as the laughter gives way, the final song on the album is an epic ballad, and a good one at that. A fitting end to the album. – 3.5/5

13. “Someday” (Instrumental)

—-

Until last year, U-KISS and B2ST to me were in the same lower tier of K-pop boybands. Silly, lyrically bland songs with lame choreography, and always inferior compared to the likes of SHINee, BIG BANG and DBSK. Yes, I know the latter are from two of the most famous entertainment companies, but SM and YG didn’t get to where they are today if they hadn’t gotten their formula right. They knew where to invest their money to produce the best, in every regard — from appearance to the music, they know quality!

That is not to say the smaller entertainment companies haven’t stepped up their game. B2ST matured in 2011 and won me over with “Fiction“. And now, U-KISS has made me take them seriously as well. NH Media seems to have figured out the ‘right formula’ with this album and given the boys the best they have released to date.

‘Neverland’ is easily one of the best K-pop studio albums an idol group has put out in 2011. Far better than the last album I reviewed — and that came from SM Entertainment. U-KISS’s ‘Neverland’ is an album that manages to draw the listener in from the start and you won’t find yourself skipping past many of the songs. A testament to how well paced the album is with good songs.

So in conclusion, hats off to U-KISS (with its current line-up)! You guys (along with B2ST) have move up several notches in the Korean boy band world and can proudly claim to be one of the best the Hallyu wave has to offer today. I won’t call myself a KissMe because being an adult male, that would be, erm, gayawkward — but consider this: I will buy ‘Neverland’ legally and (if I ever get the chance) I would be excited to see you guys perform live in concert!

My final rating: 4 out of 5 (Very Good)

*KissMe is the official fan club of U-KISS

Edit: Just saw this posted on U-KISS’s official website:

U-Kiss Neverland website description

LOL! What, they couldn't just ask Eli or Kevin to come up with a less cringe-worthy description?

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26 comments

  1. I thought that 0330 was the track that changed my perspective of U-Kiss. Neverland was okay for me, it wasnt as good as you said to me (im not a big fan of such dance tracks).
    And I would disagree that they are one of the best Hallyu Wave (oops sorry :/) Beast yes, but U-Kiss not yet..
    The top of Hallyu Wave (we got to admit has to be like Big Bang Super Junior etcetc) is not just about good music, it is about how memorable the song is, and of course the huge fan base. Ukiss does not have That much fans and so to me, they are not there yet..

    Just my personally thoughts, I have no intention of bashing so please do not take it to heart :P

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    I don’t bash anyone when one makes rational comments based on their subjective opinions :) And when I said “one of the best”, I wasn’t equating it to being in the top. Based on the traffic I’m seeing for this review (and for a fact) U-KISS seem to be very popular in certain countries like Philippines and Thailand. So as a Korean idol group, they already are doing their bit. I expect Neverland to do really well and their fanbase will only grow now. Heck, they won me over! :)

    I’m planning on buying the album when I visit Singapore this month. I’m still listening to the album even today.

    [Reply]

    Jolyn Reply:

    haha im from Singapore! :P
    I agree that U-Kiss do have alot of fans overseas, more than the other groups who debuted the same time. I think it could be because of the great number of fluent english and chinese speakers in the group (although some left already).
    Im rather excited to see their music performances cause that is the one that decides if I really like song :P
    Just random, but why do you have to buy your albums from other countries? I usually buy them at the local music store or online :P

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Oh good to know you’re from Singapore! Might ask you a few questions in case I need some help in Singapore.

    As for why I have to buy K-pop albums from other countries, well, simply because K-pop isn’t as popular here in India as it is in Singapore. I do consider YesAsia but I rather buy more than one item as the shipping cost remains the same, and I can’t always buy multiple items. So whenever I visit South East Asian countries like Singapore or Philippines, I rather just buy the physical copy from there. Plus, buying from a good store also helps in knowing the sale counts in the overall album sales for that artist.

    Where do you usually buy your K-pop CDs from? I’ve only been to the usual malls in Bugis and near the CBD… and I don’t know if they charge more than the usual neighbourhood music shop. I hope to explore the other parts of Singapore than the usual areas every tourist sees.

    Jolyn Reply:

    oh.. Because im a Super Junior fan, I always pre order and it comes straight from Korea. Its really much cheaper. For example, their Mr. Simple album cost me S$23 when I preorder and it is bought directly from Korea, but it cost S$29.95 when I buy it at the Popular book store (a big book store like Staples in USA that sells all sort of stuff including albums).
    Have you been to HMV? HMV actually has a whole range of albums (not only Kpop) and I found out that some are actually cheaper than Popular. You can check out their website, but i would recommend the one at Somerset 313, which is in Orchard Area. HMV sells all the official versions from Korea, so not to worry about the fake stuff. Whereas from other dvd shops like Poh Kim or TS videos, most of their CDs are cheaper because they are distributed by China and not by the company in Korea. Also, do take note NOT to buy the Singapore version (cause some companies authorize Singapore to release the Singapore version) since you are looking for the Korea one. Oh and there actually isn’t much at Bugis, which in my opinion is run down :P try going Orchard, Somerset as i think it has more music stores that sells the albums :D

    oh and Singapore takes some time to import the albums, depending on the band’s popularity. I think U kiss is not a problem, but if you are to come to Singapore now, you won’t find it. Maybe 2 weeks later :P

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Wow, thank you so much for all the info! I have been to an HMV store but at some mall between City Hall and Raffles MRT. Yes, their selection is pretty good (though I ended up buying band t-shirts instead) but like you said, you often don’t find the latest releases right away.

    Thanks for letting me know approximate prices of CDs. I asked my Filipino friend to check in Manila for U-KISS’s ‘Neverland’ but it hasn’t reached their shores yet.

  2. I would have to agree that U-Kiss has definitely come far with this album. I was HUGELY, no – COLOSSALLY impressed with this comeback. I wasn’t expecting much from them considering their past tries, but when ‘0330’ came out I was mildly impressed with the new direction they were taking (AND THANK GOD THEY STOPPED USING BRAVE BROTHERS – I was never a fan of that man).

    With this new one, I see some definite potential. I mean, even before the title track came out, when they released ‘Someday’ I thought it was going to some crappy korean classic ballad (the title mislead me), BUT I LOVED IT. I immediately got the song and had it on replay for a week.

    I’d never done that before for U-Kiss.

    So yes, this album has impressed me WAY beyond my initial expectations. THANK GOD.

    I was getting bored of Super Junior’s catchy stuff (if you ask me, they’re heading down the gay direction and they’re sort of loosing their shine on me).

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Hmm, I wouldn’t call SuJu ‘gay’ just yet. Mr. Simple’s album photoshoot, yes, definitely gay :)

    [Reply]

  3. Oh and on another note, I did not -not ONCE mind you – hear a single word Korenglish in the whole song. Their pronunciation was so good and it made listening to Neverland all the better.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Yeah, I hate it when just one bad Engrish word or phrase can distract me from the rest of the song! I must say, even U-Kiss’s Korean members pronounced their English lines decently. I’m sure Eli and Kevin helped them out :)

    [Reply]

  4. Obsession is a good song though!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Well, your opinion :) I feel differently about the song. I read AJ and Lee Kiseop co-wrote the song, so it’s their effort. I don’t expect the boys to write classics just yet, but at least they tried.

    [Reply]

  5. =) anyway, do you happen to know if Neverland is already available in Singapore? anyone who knows? =) or when will it be available?

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Well, since I’m still in India and only landing in Singapore on the 19th, I’m in no position to confirm :) Hopefully a diligent Singapore resident will update this thread with an answer .

    [Reply]

  6. hey ..nyc review..and nyc to meet an Indian K-pop fan..:D plz if u r on fb join this group.India -Korea Friends group..it already has more den 600 members..:) here is the link..i hope you will reply soon..

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/130325913719032/

    [Reply]

  7. ok.. so my name tells.. im a huge fan of them… i knew the 3 international members namely eli kevin and alexander first.. i dont even know that they’re from ukiss.. they host this show pops in seoul and just laugh at every time they cracked up… then i saw bingeul bingeul until there latest songs… i was never a fan of them because of their looks.. but their attitude to reach success… then i started to look for facts and variety shows… knowing their individual personalities even made my fandom more stonger.
    people knew them as the international group… they are underrated in korea.. but there fan base abroad are over flowing…
    u-kiss never yet reached #1 on charts… but this time we cant deny that.. but because of lacking of korean fans… its hard for them to make it…

    but we KISSME’S knows… that they are better than those other guys… with black and white videos and stuff.. XD

    u-kiss is #1 in our hearts…

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Yeah, felt bad for them after they ended their promotions recently. I mean, they tried hard with “Neverland” and then with “Someday” and still failed to even win once on the music programs! :(

    [Reply]

  8. OK. BUt why these guys sing so POORLY live? I want to LISTEN – not just look at them all. :/

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    I don’t think their vocals are bad at all, especially with the two new members. I think that’s why Kibum and Xander were replaced, so they could few more good singers in.

    [Reply]

    apple_snow Reply:

    Are you kidding me? They’re amazing live. Of course they’re not perfect each and everytime but their live is just awesome especially with all the hard dancing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajUFULzirqI&feature=relmfu

    [Reply]

  9. Wake up call

    I can’t believe you ever laughed at them, they have always tried so hard and they never gave up even though dumbasses like you decide to bash them. Grow up and take a better look at Ukiss because if you don’t you are seriously missing out.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Did you even *read* what I wrote above?

    [Reply]

  10. The problem that faced by u-kiss is a weak debut song. Debut song is the most important song because it will determine the fan base. U-kiss”s debut song is weak, this explains why even till now, with ‘Neverland’ , they didn’t win on music bank. Neverland is a good track, I find it’s pretty good when they danced especially the chorus part. But sadly, because their weak fan base, they are not able to top music bank. The timing is important too. Why the company release U-Kiss comeback together with KARA who has a stronger fan base? This put U-Kiss in a critical moment. By the way, I like your review on this album.^^

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Well, U-KISS had major issues when they debuted too. Everything from their member line-up, to their songs, dance, etc. it was all quite lame. The two guys they Xander and that other guy are powerful vocalists, which they never had when they debuted. I remember the members admitting even they are too embarrassed by their early releases. Can’t blame the boys, it’s their company’s fault. I can’t wait for their comeback honestly. Hope they work with Ryan Jhun again.

    Their fanbase is decently big. It’s just they have bigger fans in South East Asia more than back in S. Korea.

    [Reply]

  11. Wow!I dint expect another KissMe from India…I’m one!!I’m a K-pop lover from India!!!lol!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    He he, nice to meet you! :)

    [Reply]

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