Browse Tag

korean boy band

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 😛

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…“? 🙂 – 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!

B2st Midnight Sun members

BEAST – ‘Midnight Sun’ review: What an AMAZING lead single!

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 @#$%!!!!!!!

B2st Midnight Sun album cover
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

Beast Beautiful Night MV screencap
“You’re welcome!”

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

B2st Midnight Sun members
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)

Related Posts with Thumbnails