I didn’t feel like reviewing these releases individually, so here’s the second edition of my K-pop Round-up-Reviews. First up, the return of BIGBANG.
BIGBANG – “Monster”
One of South Korea’s best groups makes a return with a re-package album titled ‘Still Alive,’ just three months after the fantastic ‘Alive‘. I’ll make a mention of the other three ‘new’ tracks later, but let’s first get to the lead single:
What can I say about G-Dragon that hasn’t already been said many times before by pretty much anyone who knows how talented this guy is. This song is awesome! Penned by G-Dragon and T.O.P, produced by G-Dragon and Choi Pil Kang, “Monster” is a great single and has already become one of my favourite BIGBANG tracks. I rank it higher than 2011′s “Tonight” and it’s only unfortunate the group aren’t going to be promoting it on the music shows.
Unlike “Blue” and “Bad Boy” which were a change of pace for the group, “Monster” is pure K-pop. Piano melodies, thumping beats and strong vocals by Taeyang and Daesung. It isn’t a song that you can label ‘quintessentially BIGBANG,’ because the song structure is something you hear from a dozen other idol group songs. As for the video, it sure looks expensive. Lot of action, special effects and outrageous Prodigy-inspired styling. As usual, I’m not going to comment on the fashion or choice of clothing because the quality of the music outweighs both. – 5 out of 5 (Excellent)
As for the other tracks on ‘Still Alive,’ the title track is a full version of the intro track found on ‘Alive’. “Feeling” and “Ego” are Korean versions of their previously released Japanese tracks. “Bingeul Bingeul” (not to be confused with U-Kiss’ track of the same name) is rock-infused and a pretty good album track. The rest of the track-list includes “Blue,” “Bad Boy,” “Fantastic Baby” and “Love Dust” – making this a great collection for people who were holding out from picking up ‘Alive’. I’ve got my copy on pre-order at YesAsia!
Wonder Girls – “Like This”
Another super group returns to the Korean music scene a few months after a stellar previous effort. As much as everyone is anticipating the American debut of the Wonder Girls, JYP has released the Girls’ second Mini Album ‘Wonder Party’ in Korea. Comprised of six tracks, the lead single is “Like This”:
I must say the song caught me by surprise. It’s a sound I never expected from the Wonder Girls. Very edgy, unique and more hip-hop than k-pop. It’s another track by their mentor J.Y. Park, but all that time spent in America seems to have influenced his musical style too. It took me a few listens to like the song but I think it works for the direction the girls are heading towards as they venture into the Western market.
If I heard the audio before watching the music video, I would have picturized it very differently. Quite ghetto in fact. It’s weird. The song doesn’t sound like a happy-go-lucky song you like to bop to, but the way the girls dance to the beat (and everybody else in the MV) – the video seems to convince you otherwise. For once you get an idol group video in an open environment and not confined to a set. So everything the Wonder Girls have done this time seems to be a welcome change. “Like This” may not be a favourite, but I won’t skip the channel if the music video ever came on. – 3 out of 5 (Excellent)
As for the rest of the album, it didn’t really fit my fancy as much as ‘Wonder World’ did. I didn’t instantly fall in love with the other tracks like I did when I first ‘Wonder World’. It may take me a few listens, but just like “Like This” the rest of the album is altogether a sound you’re not used to hearing from Wonder Girls.
Teen Top – “To You”
This is the first time I’m writing about Teen Top. The six member boyband debuted around the same time as INFINITE and seemed to be on the same path of progress alongside INFINITE. But INFINITE gained pace far quicker and are already one of the best (and my favourite!). After “Supa Luv,” my favourite song by Teen Top to date is “No More Perfume On You” (produced by Sweetune). I hoped the songs would get better, but instead the Brave Brothers-produced track “Goin’ Crazy” was chosen as their 2012 comeback. I didn’t like it. I’m not a fan of the “Brave sound”. So when I heard Teen Top’s next comeback track was also going to be produced by Brave Brothers, I doubted I would like it.
When I heard the audio first, I thought the song was quite dull. But I must admit it was a poor quality upload. My opinion soon changed when I saw the MV. I loved the hard beats, 90s-inspired vibe and for once, Niel doesn’t get all the lines to sing! I especially loved the dancing. Like INFINITE, Teen Top are fantastic performers and their dancing is very in-sync. “To You” isn’t better than “No More Perfume…” but it is now my second favourite song by the group. It suits the image of the boys well and I look forward to their live performances.
When I heard SISTAR’s “Alone,” I was quite wowed. I never knew the Brave Brothers could produce such a good track! So it’s a sign the “Brave sound” has evolved and Kang Dong Chul is experimenting with newer sounds as supposed to sticking to the uptempo formula that churned out “Bingeul Bingeul” and “Man Man Ha Ni” for the likes of U-Kiss. “To You” may not be a classic, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. – 4 out of 5 (Very Good)
The other song I felt I should give some attention to is “My Way” by rookie girl group She’z.
Pop-rock with really strong vocals. The traits very common with, erm, I dunno… Kelly Clarkson? And Kelly is exactly the artist that came to mind when I heard the first line of the chorus. Sounds like “My Life Would Suck Without You” doesn’t it? The selling point this group has is a fresh sound and all four of them have really good vocals! Hello Venus, another rookie girl group that debuted just recently, caught my attention too. But their debut single “Venus” is the typical cutesy concept, which although good, doesn’t hold the candle to a debut song like “My Way” by She’z. I appreciate it when companies know what the market is saturated with and then take the tough decision to offer something different.
My rating for She’z “My Way” – 3 out of 5 (Good)
P.S: I also liked A-Pink’s “Hush Hush” but only when I see them dancing to it.