U-KISS – ‘Collage’ album review: Will Ryan Jhun’s third charm prove lucky?

U-KISS are a group I have written about on more than one occasion. In fact, the first time I wrote about them was back in 2011 for their second album ‘Neverland‘ – an article which is now my second most viewed post (after those SuJu boys)! But despite the many praises I have given U-Kiss’ since, the group have yet to nab a win on any music program despite great singles like “Stop Girl“.

Aside from a few misses like “Dora Dora,” U-Kiss have put out some great songs (in both Korean and Japanese) courtesy of the brilliant songwriter and producer Ryan Jhun. The guy is now only second to Sweetune as far as my favourite K-pop producers go. Has he produced another smash single?

U-kiss collage album cover Standing Still
Will third time be a charm for the boys?

Here’s a track-by-track review:

01. “Step by Step” (Intro) – When I heard this dubstep track I thought to myself: “Oh they’re still doing the dubstep thing huh?”

02. “Standing Still” – The lead single:

Has the Ryan Jhun-magic worked again? Hell yes!

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! “Standing Still” is dance-pop perfection in every sense, and it keeps getting progressively better after the first chorus. It’s also a song in which every U-Kiss member gets a fairly equal opportunity to voice themselves in singing or rapping without having to sound forced. The song structure is solid and the overall production slick.

It’s obvious this song was written in English first and then translated to Korean because it’s not just the chorus, but the whole song would sound great if it was sung in English. The music video and choreography though… a bit disappointing. The MV appears a bit low-budget and the cuts are far too quick. The dance choreography doesn’t feel very original either.

Which is too bad, because “Standing Still” is a brilliant song that deserved a better visual. – 5/5

03. “숨도 못 쉬어” – As soon as Ryan Jhun’s brilliance ends, we’re back in familiar K-pop territory. It’s a good uptempo song and although I didn’t feel the chorus at first listen, it grew on me after a repeat or two. If Soo Hyun’s voice dominated “Standing Still,” this time around Kevin’s vocals stand out. – 3/5

04. “Missing You” – The pace is mellowing. The tempo is still there, but here’s a sweeter track to change things up a bit. It’s not my kind of song but I was starting to get the feeling it’s all going downhill from here on. – 2/5

05. “나쁘다” – The first ballad on the tracklist and just as I was about to skip it, the song started to get better. Proof U-Kiss are now a complete package ever since the member shake-up of 2011. – 3/5

06. “아픔보다 아픈” – A duet by Soohyun and Hoon. A proper ballad in every expected bit and sound. Listenable but nothing special, and definitely a song structure heard in a million other K-pop ballads. – 2/5

07. “My Reason” – Kevin’s solo track, and it’s another ballad. Kevin has every right to be in the forefront. He looks good, can dance and sing very well. Good to see him carry a song all on his own. – 3/5

08. “Party All The Time” – Eli and AJ now get a song for themselves. Both of them are obviously not known for their singing abilities so I didn’t have high hopes for this track. A bit silly at first listen, but it kinda grew on me and realized it suits both their personalities. – 2/5

09. “Sweety Girl” – As soon as the guitar riff hit I thought I was going to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but it fortunately ended up being a sweet pop song instead. Albeit one of album-filler quality. – 2/5

10. “사랑하니까” – The final track on the album is actually better than the few songs above it. It has a bit of ’90s-techno vibe going for it to end the album on a good note. – 3/5

I don’t find ‘Collage’ as good as an album ‘Neverland’ was — as a complete package I mean. I do like the fact few of the members got songs of their own, instead of turning every track into a group song even when you know one or two voices would suffice. That said, “Standing Still” is hands down the best song on the album and its production values trounce the rest of the album tracks.

In my three years of reviewing K-pop albums, I’ve gotten used to albums where apart from one or two songs, the rest of the album is a dud. Many a times companies do this knowing how the Korean music market operates. I just hope – and I’ve said this on every U-Kiss review – that this time the boys win at least one award on the music shows. I personally don’t care about the music show awards, but it would be nice to see a good song being rewarded and the boys rejoicing over a win. Since their debut in 2008, and despite notching up many hit singles, it’s strange U-Kiss have yet to win. It’s always disappointing to see good talent under-appreciated.

So again, I end this U-Kiss review with the same hope: at least one win.

My final rating for U-KISS – ‘Collage’: 2.5 out of 5 (Average)

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7 Comments

  • Apoorv Verma

    08/03/2013

    was waiting for your review..:).This album is decent but not as good as Neverland,though i liked the songs you gave lowest ratings..XD party all the time was huge improvement if we compare it with the Obsession song.I also liked missing you may be because of the chorus.

    NHM should have put a better ballad song like someday in the album.For the first time i wasn’t pleased by Ukiss’ ballads.Also IMO they could have added their digital singles like Cinderella and Gangsta Boy in the album.There was nothing exciting in the MV too, felt little disappointed by it.Overall a decent/good album.Hope they get recognized for their efforts

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Yeah Apoorv, the album is a bit disappointing. No stand out songs other than “Standing Still”. Anyway, I just hope the boys win something this time around.

    [Reply]

  • Georgina Dass

    09/03/2013

    I completely agree with your review. All the songs in this album accept for Standing Still sounds like the typical kpop song and don’t really have the Ukiss sound to it. But the album turned out to be better that i expected it to be since it was so rushed so I am not really disappointed. I would’ve preferred them to put Standing Still in a mini album instead of a full album though.Standing Still deserve to be in a better album and a better music video.

    Btw, Kevin is not Ukiss’s leader Soohyun is.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Oh ok, I thought Kevin was the leader. Will make the correction.

    [Reply]

  • DaNA

    10/03/2013

    I leave with the impression that reviews are useless unless youre writing about a hit song, and standing still is but anyone can notice that. About the other songs, well, it depends on who is listening. I feel like people writing reviews think like they can diss on Ukiss anytime, or at least judge them harshly, cause they dont have star power (and fans should be grateful they even write about them) while at the same time are incapable of giving honest reviews to more popular acts just out of fear. U-Kiss problem is not their lack of good music, horrible songs have won the number 1 many many times. They just need star power.

    [Reply]

  • ;w; So happy to Know A U-Kiss follower from India!!
    Imma BIG fan of them~

    [Reply]

  • Roger Camargo Conde

    03/05/2013

    Did someone thought about League of Legends while hearing the intro?

    Check youtube for some dubsteps that were used on de League Championship Series: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFyUEsvfX7p-BsdK9ncTppexSc3Kx7gax

    My favorites are Silver Scrapes and Fracture

    [Reply]

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