12
Oct 13

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:


12
May 13

2PM – ‘Grown’ album review: Mature, sexy, and all grown up

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!

2pm Grown album cover

‘Grown’ is 2PM’s third full-length album

Continue reading “2PM – ‘Grown’ album review: Mature, sexy, and all grown up” »


22
Mar 13

INFINITE – ‘New Challenge’ album review: So in love

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”.

Infinite new challenge promo group shotHere’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 Man in Love screens members

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)

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