I’ll admit, I haven’t liked any other 2PM singles as much as I liked “Again & Again”. Not only was that song the boyband’s breakthrough single, but since Jay Park left the group in 2009, no single since has been as good as “Again & Again”. “Heartbeat” and “Without U” were just okay, “I’ll Be Back” and “Hands Up” were pretty lame in my opinion.
It’s been nearly two years since 2PM made a Korean comeback, so needless to say the anticipation was pretty high. Five years old and now for a group of their stature, 2PM – and their mentor *whispers*JYP*whispers* – have a lot of catching up to do!
After a very busy 2011, which truly paid off for the boys, 2012 only saw one album release from INFINITE as a group. Busy as they were with other promotions, the end of last year saw member Sungyyu go solo with an impressive mini-album (“60 Seconds” and “Shine” were both brilliant songs!). Early 2013 saw Infinite H release a rap album (which I was quite disinterested in).
Being my favourite K-pop boyband, INFINITE’s comebacks are very high on my radar. I was pleased to know they continue to work with Sweetune, the producers responsible for every hit song of INFINITE since debut, and eagerly awaited to hear “Man in Love”.
Here’s a track-by-track review:
01. “Welcome to Our Dream (Intro)” – This sounds like the music you hear in some Japanese RPG.
02. “Man in Love”
Sweetune are now in the same league as Brave Brothers in the world of K-pop production. Hit after hit, their popularity grows and the producers are at the call of every entertainment company seeking a potential hit song for their respective groups. And I bring this up because Sweetune’s productions have been sounding fairly uninspired off-late. They sound good, but not fresh. Too many projects means too many similar sounding productions. But like all major producers, they keep their best songs for the top few groups and pass on the leftovers to up-and-coming ones who just can’t cough up the money for the best the producers have to offer.
“Man in Love” sounds fresh, and yet, still maintains every element that makes a Sweetune song unique. Synth beats, 1980s-inspired keyboard hooks and the strums of guitar that are omnipresent in every Sweetune production for INFINITE. The song’s verses are evenly distributed and every member gets their chance to shine. The structure tries to be different but as with many Sweetune songs, the final chorus is sung in a higher pitch until end.
As good as the song is, the MV is just alright. Girls would appreciate it more, I guess. I’m a 31-year-old dude. But the one thing INFINITE has always impressed me with is their dancing, which is as in-sync as ever. That said, other than a few moves, “Man in Love”‘s choreography doesn’t feel as special as their earlier routines.
None the less, I’m in love with their comeback song and it will do the necessary wonders on the Korean charts. – 4/5
03. “As Good As It Gets” – Thumping beats for what sounds like a sped-up Christmas song. It keeps the tempo going soon after “Man in Love” and I found myself instantly clicking replay – which meant I liked the song upon first listen itself. – 3/5
04. “Still I Miss You” – Okay, time to slow things down. A mid-tempo ballad to remind us how great INFINITE’s vocalists are. – 3/5
05. “Beautiful” – Member Woohyun’s first composed song! It’s a nice trend I’m observing off-late. More and more K-pop idols are attempting to write and compose their own songs. Even though this track is album-filler material, it’s still a commendable attempt. – 2/5
06. “60 seconds” – This a group version of Sungyyu’s solo track. I don’t know, as much as the other boys do justice to their lines, I’m just used to Sungyyu carrying this song from start to finish. But considering how much I like this song as it is, it still gets a 3/5.
07. “Inconvenient Truth” – This is so ’80s! Oddly enough, the lyrics are causing quite a stir among INFINITE’s fans. Apparently it’s a song about how a guy doesn’t appreciate his girl wearing super short skirts and the attention she gets from the other boys. Sexist or possessive as it sounds, interpret it as you wish. It’s just an okay song. – 2.5/5
INFINITE are now one of the top idol groups in South Korea — which they deserve to be. But sometimes I wonder when we’ll get to hear their signature song. Like what “Sorry, Sorry” is to Super Junior or “Lucifer” is to SHINee. “Be Mine” was their breakthrough single but I don’t consider it a ‘signature’ classic as INFINITE has produced many songs that were just as good as that.
Not that a signature song really matters, because in INFINITE’s case, “The Chaser” and “Man in Love” seem to be in the same vein as “Be Mine”. Overall, ‘New Challenge’ – their 4th mini-album – is an alright collection of songs with no real stand outs other than the lead single. And that’s nothing new in K-pop.
My final rating for INFINITE – ‘New Challenge’: 3 out of 5 (Good)
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?
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)