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K-pop Round-up-review: SHINee, T-ara, Block B

The summer lull in K-pop is over. It’s now time for the big guns to make some noise again! I haven’t written a K-pop review in a few months, and since quite a few popular artists have made their return, I figured I too could make a comeback!

SHINee – “Everybody”

SM Ent. still seems to love dubstep. Starts off that way, but the fact that you hear the chorus even before the first verse kind of ruined the impact of the song for me. The sound is very electronic, and the interludes make the song sound like a bit of a mess at times. It’s nice to see Minho get more lines to actually sing and not squeeze in a rap line or two just to make his presence felt. “Everybody” is very much an electronic dance music (EDM) influenced pop song, and one that owes a lot to it’s pulsating chorus for much of it’s praise.

Shinee Everybody album coverOf course being a SHINee song, I look forward to the choreography as much as I look forward to hearing the song. While the choreography has its moments of sheer awesomeness, just like the messy bits of the song, some of the moves look… silly.

SHINee will of course walk off stage with a few music show wins, and that’s largely due to to power of Shawols and their rabid fanbase. I kind of wish SHINee didn’t win every single one of them for the next two months, because below is the song I feel was the better song released the same day “Everybody” came out. – 3/5

T-ara – “Number 9”

I was never really a big fan of T-ara. After all, their past hits included the downright corny “Bo Beep” and “Roly Poly“. In fact, ‘corny’ and bad Engrish are exactly what many K-pop fans expect from T-ara, and cheesiness aside, you can’t deny their songs have an infectious hook. It also helps that the girls are some of the cutest in K-pop.

That said, “Number 9” is in my opinion, T-ara’s best song so far! As the song began with a hook, I immediately thought this might end up being yet another signature, hook-driven song by Shinsadong Tiger, the producer behind most of T-ara’s biggest hits. But when Ji Yeon began her verse, I changed my tune as well. The song finally won me over with the chorus. It’s been a while since I have fallen in love with a K-pop song upon first listen. And I haven’t felt this way about a K-pop song in a long while. SM Entertainment’s productions are now largely Westernized songs with Korean lyrics. YG has their hip-hop swagger, but songs like “Number 9” is why (and how) I fell in love with K-pop in the first place!

T-ara Number 9 members screencapI’m not a teenager, so I always appreciate a more mature sound in K-pop. “Number 9′” definitely has that and the MV is just as sexy. The girls look absolutely gorgeous (no comments on Soyeon’s face) and the choreography is simple but effective. Favourite bit? The look on Hyomin’s face as she’s dancing to that hook. Sex-y!

Although watching the dance version of T-ara’s “Sexy Love” is a guilty pleasure of mine, I would never listen to a T-ara song on its own and I never had a T-ara song on my iPod. Well, not anymore. I bought the song from iTunes right away because I couldn’t stop listening to it. “Number 9” may very well be my favourite K-pop song of 2013. – 5/5

Block B – “Be the Light”
I’m highlighting this song more than “Very Good” because I really want to showcase a side of Block B that isn’t promoted much. Right from the time they debuted, Block B have been a breath of fresh air in K-pop’s cliched library of group “images” and concepts. Their attitude was that of ‘zany’ and ‘fun’. Sadly, their attitude got them into trouble among netizens and troubles with their old management firm meant Block B haven’t been able to make a comeback for quite some time.

I’ve said it the last time I reviewed Block B’s music — the group, and Zico in particular, are hella talented! “Be the Light” is a much needed comeback song. It’s a mid-tempo, emotional ode to all the crap they have been through. Sure, they returned to their usual zany form in “Very Good,” but having listened to the mini-album, I still think “Be the Light” is the best song on that compilation, and glad it got the MV treatment.

I’m just happy Block B are back. K-pop needs their energy and haters needed to get the message exaggerated controversies aren’t going to hold back talented artists. Here’s hoping for more Block B in 2014. – 4/5

Special mention:

I know this song came out a couple of weeks ago, but damn, this song needs to get some love! SPICA are a girl group known for their power vocals and this song doesn’t disappoint in more ways than one. It’s uptempo, rocking, and the melody does great justice to the girl’s voices. I even love the unconventional video (watch the girls play Holi ;)) — it’s so very indie. Definitely one of the finest K-pop highlights of 2013:

K-pop Round-up-Review: Nine Muses, DMTN and Crayon Pop

SNSD kicked off 2013 in K-pop with quite a comeback. But many other acts too have decided to make this January an action-packed release calendar. With comebacks by rookies and some familiar names, here I highlight the three that really caught my attention this month.

Nine Muses – “Dolls”

Nine Muses members Dolls

A girl group who debuted in 2010 and was marketed as a “model” group by their label. They put together a nine-member group (*gee, I wonder why 9*), all of whom were really tall and looked really good! Sadly, like many other rookie groups from the smaller companies, their debut single sucked, and was soon forgotten.

Member shake-ups later, the group saw a resurgence thanks to songs produced by Sweetune (my favourite K-pop producers). Beginning in 2011 with “Figaro,” “News” and “One Way Ticket” — all of which were funky good! So when news broke the now back-to-nine member girl group was making a comeback in 2013 with another Sweetune track, it piqued my interest!

“Dolls” is a song that has all the hallmarks of a Sweetune production. Thumping disco-inspired beats, guitar hooks and the song structure where the chorus after the bridge goes up a notch vocally. But as much as it is a decent song, I can’t help but wonder if Sweetune are now running out of ideas when it comes to new music. They are the producers behind all the big hits by KARA and Infinite. Which means, a lot more music companies are approaching Sweetune hoping to replicate their success.

SPICA and Boyfriend have both worked with Sweetune on their recent comebacks, and because of that, the songs are starting to feel way too familiar. “Dolls” could have easily been sung by SPICA, leaving Nine Muses with no real identity or unique “concept” of their own.

That said, “Dolls” is still a very-listenable track and I can’t help but visualize the dance the girls do during the chorus even when I’m not watching the music video. It’s a very simple move that totally works for the song whereas the rest of the choreography is just plain.

Nine Muses have another hit on their hands to help expand their growing fanbase, but given they are still at an early stage of their career, it would be nice if the girls carved a niche out for themselves — image-wise or music-wise. – 3 out of 5

DMTN – “Safety Zone”

The boyband formerly known as Dalmatian was just another rookie group I couldn’t take seriously at debut. Why? Because they were called Dalmatian! And corny-enough, they wore spotted-white jackets and sang silly songs. But their first album, had a few album tracks I liked and by then I realized this was yet another burgeoning group trapped under a concept ill-conceived by their management.

Last year, they broke free. Member changes followed and from a six-member group they were down to five. Fortunately proper English-speakers made it into the group and Dalmatian made a very strong comeback with “E.R.”. With a much more mature image – both musically and physically – Dalmatian really won me over. And now, the transformation is complete. Dalmatian is no more; DMTN is in!

DMTN Safety Zone MV screencap

“Desire, Motivation, Timing, Now,” according to Korean-American member Daniel, is what the group’s name stands for. Whatever. All I care about is how good their new music is.

“Safety Zone” is another song produced by Duble Sidekick, the same production team behind “E.R.”. The song is a mid-tempo piano-tinged track that, fortunately in DMTN’s favour, doesn’t sound like any other song from a boyband currently promoting. It’s a heartfelt song about a man who wishes the girl he loves would stay near him so he can protect her from all harm — thus the man being the “safety zone”. The MV sees Daniel getting beat up when she doesn’t oblige. Or at least that’s what I understood πŸ˜›

The instrumentation and the guitar-wailing in this song could have very well made this song a power ballad had it not been for the thumping beats. It’s still a very good song that I had on replay over and over. And because the music video didn’t feature any choreographed dancing, I enjoyed the song even without feeling the need watch the MV. Something I couldn’t do really do with songs like SNSD’s “I Got a Boy”.

So in other words, another great comeback from DMTN who seem to be on the right track in carving out a niche for themselves. That said, did that guy really have to sing “I’m in a SAF-tey zone, I’m in a SAF-tey zone…“? πŸ™‚ – 3.5 out of 5

Crayon Pop

This might not sound like much like of a review, but ever since I stumbled upon rookie group Crayon Pop last month, I can’t help but not write about these girls!

The video that made me fall in love with Crayon Pop was this:

Dancing Queen” isn’t their first single. “Saturday Night” and “Bing Bing” preceded it, but Crayon Pop are back promoting “Bing Bing” and have managed to secure appearances on some of the music programs.

It’s been a struggle for them really. Coming from a small agency – Chrome Entertainment – they don’t have the resources (read: money) to produce expensive music videos or even get TV show appearances.

Which is a damn shame! Because if you want something different and fun in this formulaic world of Korean pop, Crayon Pop is your answer! It was love at first sight when I watched the many versions of “Dancing Queen” the girls performed on the busy streets of Seoul; in the hopes passerby would record them, upload the videos online and achieve viral success. It’s a clever marketing strategy when the mainstream options are harder to crack in today’s cut-throat K-pop market.

Crayon Pop anime members
Support Crayon Pop!

I love the unique style the girls have going for them. Cute, funky songs with a retro-vibe, equally matched by fun choreography. I mean, check out the Korean LMFAO and aerobics-like dance moves in the “Saturday Night” MV!

I love the sense of humour Crayon Pop’s image has. From their wacky concepts, trainer outfits, to their dances — they just make you smile while watching them perform! It’s so refreshing to see these girls do their adorable dances. Sure there’s a lot of English that needs improving but I see a bright future for Crayon Pop — if not in Korea, surely in Japan! It’s a market prime for their brand of zany humour. Makes sense to focus on Japan, which is also where “Bing Bing” was filmed:

Their choreography being what it is, it’s no surprise more and more dance covers are being uploaded on to YouTube. I’d say, go for it! Whatever helps Crayon Pop get more attention. For now, “Dancing Queen” remains my favourite Crayon Pop single to date and it will be interesting to see how the girl’s concept evolves as the years go by.

“Dancing Queen” – 4 out of 5

“Saturday Night” – 2.5 out of 5

“Bing Bing” – 3 out of 5

Support Crayon Pop and check out their videos on their official YouTube channel. There have uploaded so many!

BoA The Shadow mv screencap

K-pop Round-up-Review: BoA, KARA and G-Dragon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Although it’s the title of a classic Western, that’s exactly how I felt reviewing these new releases in the third edition of Round-up-Review.

BoA – “The Shadow”
BoA The Shadow mv screencap

Korea’s ‘Queen of Pop’ – BoA -has been around the music scene for over a decade. And she’s only 25. Given BoA was only 13 when she debuted, and despite the fact there are K-pop idols older than her,Β Kwon Boa is still considered a ‘senior’ artist by her peers. Continue reading “K-pop Round-up-Review: BoA, KARA and G-Dragon” »

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