After a span of 9 months, and after writing about all my past travels, I had the itch to see the world again. I had to. I had nothing else to write about for this website besides the usual K-pop reviews! The past few months I contemplated where to go next. I really wanted to be in Europe for the Euro Cup and the Olympics, but with the Indian Rupee getting clobbered in value against the British Pound and the Euro, I soon let go of that dream.
I then thought about Vietnam. I would fly to Singapore as my visa is yet to expire, then take Tiger Airways to Ho Chi Minh, ride all the way up to Hanoi and fly back to Singapore. But upon researching, I realized whatever I would see in Vietnam would not have been that much more ‘new’ having already been to Thailand and Philippines. Also, the truth about Halong Bay is that it looks amazing when you get an aerial view — which is not how most tourists see it when they get there.
So then I thought about China, a country I have wanted to explore for years. Just like India, China has an ancient and much revered history. It’s also a large country, with lots to see and amazing geography. But China also has a government hell bent on restricting your freedom within its boundaries. So when I read foreigners wouldn’t be allowed to visit Tibet unless they went with a guide, I changed my mind. Taking the Lhasa express ranked highly in my list of “to-do” things in China. And the way I travel, I don’t want someone telling me I can’t go there or don’t take photographs the government doesn’t want you taking.
I initially thought of using Hong Kong as an entry point to China, but in the end I decided to just visit Hong Kong and Macau for now. After all, I got a pretty sweet deal on the flight ticket from Cleartrip. For around Rs. 27k ($505/€407), I would be flying Thai Airways via Bangkok to Hong Kong. My return journey had a 22-hour layover in Bangkok too, meaning I had a day to spend in Bangkok as well.
I left Bangalore on June 27th and arrived at Suvarnabhumi around 6am.
This is the last post from my travel archives. After all the posts I’ve written about my travels within India and abroad, it’s only befitting I write about my hometown. Although I was raised in Bahrain (16 years) and worked in Bangalore (8 years), I am a native of Kannur (named Cannanore by the Colonial British) in Kerala.
And although it’s one of the largest districts in Kerala by area, Kannur does not offer too much in terms of sights or attractions compared to say, Cochin, with it’s more globally marketable Jew Town and easy access to Kerala’s other famous places. That said, I’m still going to showcase whatever I can from my past visits to Kannur. Or at least the places I’ve visited anyway.
Well the day has come. The last of the big Korean boybands I have yet to dedicate a review for. Good reason for that – I never liked any of Beast/B2ST’s songs until “Fiction” came out last year. That single was a real game changer for me, as it wasn’t just the first song I liked by Cube’s six-member boyband, it was also – in my opinion – one of 2011′s best K-pop songs!
But their 2012 comeback single… holy @#$%!!!!!!!
It took five mini-albums since their debut for me to write about them
Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. “Midnight Sun” – The album opener is a guitar-tinged up-tempo number that I initially thought was the lead single. More like a ‘buzz single,’ this Shinsadong Tiger-produced track is a serviceable start to the album. It doesn’t sound ‘new’ by any means, and could have made it as a single last year. – 3.5/5
2 “Beautiful Night” – Now this on the other hand:
I’ll just say it right away! This is, hands down, is the best single B2ST have released to date! Right the very start I was smiling, because of just how good the song sounded! Uptempo, fresh and managed to infuse today’s house music-influenced dance pop without sounding like some cheap imitation. Produced by duo Good night, Sleep well – whom I can’t seem to find much info on – but if I were to guess, I’m guessing they are foreign. Because the sound just doesn’t feel like it came from a Korean producer.
Sure the song has a T.O.P-like shout sampled from “Beautiful Hangover” but who cares, the rest of the track is unlike anything you have heard in K-pop recently. I really think this song could have been a global single had the members possessed fluent English pronunciation. It’s that good in my opinion.
There was a time when I used to get really excited about a song at first listen, so much so that I used to have it on constant repeat soon after. Like when I first heard ‘N Sync’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart” or Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life“. I hadn’t had such a feeling about a boyband song in a very long time. So thank you B2ST, for rekindling that young feeling once again! – 5/5
As for the music video — thank god, it’s not shot inside a boxed studio! Again, props to Cube for “thinking out of the box” for this song. Filmed in New York with random white people (and two black men), the party vibe totally suits this summer jam. I’m sure there’s a choreography prepared for their live performances, but not seeing it in the MV also made it feel all the more fresh. And dear haters, just because Beast filmed a music video in New York the same year BIGBANG did, doesn’t mean the concept was “copied”. So give it a rest online!
3. “It’s Not Me” – One of the notable aspects of this album is that member Junhyung wrote and contributed a lot in the production of every track besides “Beautiful Night”. This mid-tempo song about a girlfriend who thinks she saw her guy with another woman is actually lyrically fun as the guy pleads for her trust. Well rapped, and with a Spanish guitar outro, I really liked this track. – 4/5
4. “When I Miss You” – While the rappers dominated the previous track, track 4 is a ballad, meaning the vocalists get their time to shine. A contemporary, mid-tempo ballad and a likeable one at that. – 3/5
5. “The Day You Rest” – Maroon 5′s recent hits seem to have inspired and influenced quite a few K-pop tracks off late. If it was “Moves Like Jagger” for “Trouble Maker,” then Junhyung and Kim Tae Joo surely must have loved Maroon 5′s current single. “One More Night,” when producing this song. It’s not a copy, but the similarities are there. – 2.5/5
6. “Dream Girl” – The last song on the mini-album is another mid-tempo ballad, one I seem to like better than “When I Miss You”. Also written and produced by Junhyung and Kim Tae Joo, if this is quality of music we can expect from Junhyung, the day one of B2ST’s own members writing their lead single isn’t far. Well done! – 4/5
Yet another stellar comeback!
Like I have written a few times before, the evolution of yet another K-pop group continues. Beast have been away from the K-pop scene for over a year. But despite the slew of awesome rookies and the return of many of their superstar peers, B2ST too have moved up a notch in their placing amongst K-pop’s top groups.
I never liked any of their early material because songs like “Shock,” “Breath” and “Beautiful” were just too silly and riddled with bad Engrish. From being referred to as “a group of recycled material” (since the members were all part of other failed boy-groups and other agencies), Beast have come a long way since their formation in 2009. If “Fiction” was a sign B2ST turned a new page in their career, “Beautiful Night” is proof they have cemented their status as a super-group in K-pop. That lead single is sure to be a smash hit and will easily win the group numerous awards, if not expand their fanbase globally even more.
I have a feeling B2ST may return with a re-package album later in the year, but even if they don’t, I think their job for 2012 is done.
My final rating for Beast’s ‘Midnight Sun’: 4 out of 5 (Very Good)