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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)

U-Kiss Stop Girl members promo

U-KISS – ‘Stop Girl’ album review: Smooth and sexy comeback

After the disappointing “Dora Dora,” I was hoping U-KISS would make a comeback with a better track. Hopefully one produced by Ryan Jhun – the producer behind last year’s “Neverland” and “Tick Tack” – both of which made me really like the group. Thankfully, this comeback sees U-KISS return to form!

U-Kiss Stop Girl members promo
The now six-member U-KISS with their seventh mini-album

Here’s a track-by-track review:

01. “Imma New Thang (Intro)” – A thumping 30-second instrumental opening to the album

02. “Stop Girl” – Production duo Ryan Jhun & JD Relic team up again for this smooth mid-tempo jam:

For the first time in their nearly 5-year career, U-KISS has a contemporary, mature, slick lead single – instead of their tried and tested hook-driven dance songs. The teasers hinted “Stop Girl” would be paced a little slow and sexy, and it is. The vocals and rap fit beautifully, and although the first released MV is a ‘black & white’ edit, the choreography is good enough to be judged (the inclusion of female dancers is a welcome change).

The overall production is top-notch and the instrumentals feel really crisp. Definitely leaps and bounds over “Dora Dora,” but then again, I guess that’s difference you get with Marcan Entertainment‘s production. A really good song. – 5/5

03. “Time to Go” – An intro first heard in 2011, now extended into a full-fledged track on this album. The beats are thumping, the melody is consistent with the ‘dark and sexy’ vibe, but other than that, this feels so much like an album track. One that would have never had a chance as a single. – 2.5/5

04. “Remember (Acoustic version)” – A ballad originally featured on the OST of K-drama ‘Syndrome,’ the acoustic version gives an even better showcase of the power vocals within the group. Soohyun and Kevin prove they have the vocal chops to be taken seriously among idols (especially Kevin) and this ballad is otherwise a really good listen. – 3.5/5

05. “Sexy Baby” – Keeping with the sexy vibe, the last Korean track on the mini-album is a mediocre album filler. “You’re my sex-y babe-ay“. Erm, there’s little else I can say about that. – 2/5

06. “Stop Girl” (English version) – It was fairly obvious from the sound “Stop Girl” (most likely) was written in English first. And having two members fluent in English (Eli and Kevin), it would have been an opportunity lost if they had not recorded an English version. Sure, the native Korean members have accents that are easy to make out, but some members like Dong Ho ace their lines. Imagine if they could all sing in English, U-KISS could have truly been an international idol group. – 3/5

07. “Stop Girl” (Instrumental) – Not rating this.

Bonus mention: “Cinderella” – Released a few weeks ago as a digital single, this mid-tempo track has been on my mp3 playlist ever since! I don’t know why it wasn’t included in this mini-album as an album track. Although “Stop Girl” is a better single, “Cinderella” is a great track on its own. – 4/5


With their seventh mini-album, and a member gone (AJ is studying in the US), U-KISS are still without a win on a music program in South Korea. Down to six members, the group still have the core essentials needed for an idol group and are doing well with each successive release – be it in Korea or Japan. And as much as their international fanbase remains loyal, I can’t help but pray “Stop Girl” nets these boys their first award. Heck, they deserve at least one after all these years!

‘Stop Girl’ the mini-album isn’t much of a compilation to speak off. One great single with a bunch of left-over remixed and thrown in. Still, reviewing it a whole, U-KISS’ latest effort – and probably the last one for 2012 (man, time flies!) – still gets a 3 out of 5 from me. That means ‘Good’.

Photos from K-Pop Nation 2012 concert in Macau: U-KISS, B.A.P, SHINee, and Girls Generation

I wanted to put up this post that very night the concert ended. But considering I only got back to Hong Kong around 2am, I was too damn tired to do anything but sleep. To say it was a hectic day would be an understatement — but I’ll write about my Macau experience when I begin my Hong Kong travel series.

This post is going to be all K-pop!

I chose to go to Macau on 2nd July, 2012 (Monday) because the K-pop Nation concert was happening that evening. I got up early and took the ferry from Hong Kong in the hopes of reaching Macau airport before the flight from Incheon (Seoul) landed at 10:40. That didn’t go according to plan for reasons I’ll rather talk about in the Macau post, but long story short, there was no need for me to go to Macau airport. You see, my biggest (K-pop) dream is to see the members of SNSD up close and in person. But as soon as I got past immigration, I saw a bunch of Shawols (SHINee fans) waiting outside. I was wearing my custom-printed SNSD t-shirt when a considerate girl approached me and told me in her limited English that SNSD arrived yesterday night at this very terminal! She told me it would be of no use to stand around if I was hoping to see the girls.

I thanked her for that bit of information, but as disappointed as I was, I thought “what the heck” and waited to at least see SHINee up close.

Macau Shawols ferry terminal
SHINee fans had been waiting long
Macau Shawols waiting for Shinee
But SHINee was to land in Hong Kong only at 2pm
Shinee fans Macau terminal
The boys wouldn’t land in Macau for another hour
Macau Shawol Diablo sign for Shinee
I can see how this is appropriate, ‘cos you know, SHINee are South Korean… and practically everybody is playing Diablo III right now!
Shinee arriving Macau terminal
As it neared 4pm, the screams began
Taemin Key Onew Shinee Macau arrival
But as they quickly made their way out of the ferry terminal, there was one tall guy missing: Minho
Onew Jonghyun Shinee Macau arrival
Sorry for the blurry shots, but it all got a bit crazy as you can imagine. I couldn’t use flash either.
Macau Shinee ferry terminal arrival
It got chaotic pretty soon

Despite the hour long wait, my experience of seeing SHINee (or whatever I could see of their faces – I couldn’t even see Taemin’s face), lasted less than a minute. Just like that it was all over. There were sunglasses and other things belonging to fans scattered on the floor in the frenzy as girls ran all over the place to get a glimpse of their idols. But fortunately nobody got hurt, and SHINee’s asshole manager didn’t punch anybody either.

I left the ferry terminal and took the bus to The Venetian Macau to get my tickets to the concert as my return ticket back to Hong Kong was only at 11:45pm. I got the HK$780 (Rs. 5,500/$100/€82) ticket and decided to spend some time sightseeing until sunset.

Cotai Arena counters Macao
I headed back to Cotai Arena around 7pm. Although I had to handover my Canon 7D camera and tripod to security, I still managed to keep my Canon 450D in my bagpack
Inside Cotai Arena Macau panorama
This is Cotai Arena – and my HK$780 seat was in front of the girl in white top

As the clock struck 8pm, a DJ came on stage and started playing some dance music to pump up the crowd.

Kpop Nation Cotai Arena glowsticks
All the glowsticks up in the air gave a good indication as to many seats were unoccupied
Cotai Arena unsold seats kpop concert
The concert was far from ‘sold out’. A good 40% of the seats were vacant. The HK$780 I paid was the fourth highest in a six-tier pricing — meaning there were three more ticket prices that cost more.

And then, seven guys walked on stage. Then walked off. Then walked back on again.

U-Kiss Kpop Nation Macau concert
U-Kiss Kpop Nation stage performance Macau
They kicked off their performance with their best song to date, “Neverland”
U-Kiss concert Macau China
The boys performed “Believe” “0330” “Bingeul Bingeul” and “Man Man Hi”
U-Kiss performing Kpop Nation macau
But it was fairly apparent that the boys were lip-syncing
U-Kiss performing Macau kpop concert
Which was kinda disappointing considering how good they are as live performers

The organziers were pretty strict about anyone recording video, but some people (as always) managed to record fancams.

B.A.P entrance kpop nation Macau concert
Next up were a hot rookie group
B.A.P performance K-pop Nation Macau concert
B.A.P began their set with an R&B ballad behind curtains before unveiling themselves
B.A.P K-Pop Nation Macau concert
They sang all their singles to date: “Warrior,” “Burn It Up,” “Unbreakable,” and “Power”

After two songs or three, every group would take a break to introduce themselves to the audience. The audience had a laugh when one of the B.A.P members said something along the lines of: “… I’m excessive to be here”. He meant “excited” but that’s not how we all heard it 🙂

B.A.P performing Macau China
Despite the fact I’m not a huge fan of them…
B.A.P Kpop Nation concert Macau dancers
… B.A.P put on one heck of a performance! I was really impressed!

After B.A.P’s energetic performance, it was now time for the big guns of K-pop. The hugely popular SM Ent. artists were up next. I was a little disappointed to not see Minho since SHINee are not Super Junior — even if one member is missing, their choreography just doesn’t feel right.

Shinee kpop nation concert
But come out as a four-piece SHINee did
Shinee Kpop Nation Macau concert
They began with with “Lucifer”. I had a blast singing along to the whole song, as it remains my favourite K-pop song!
Shinee performing in Macau
But despite the expected awesomeness that comes with being SHINee… they were lip-synching too
Shinee on-stage Macau China
After performing “Stranger,” they paused to speak to the audience. Jonghyun also explained why Minho wasn’t here tonight.

Or at least that’s what I assumed he was talking about, because he spoke in Korean and the translator only spoke in Cantonese(?). Maybe Minho was filming his drama.

Shinee Sherlock live in Macao China
The crowd went wild when “Sherlock” came on
Shinee Sherlock live in Macau China
Fans were itching to chant/shout “SHINee’s back!”
Shinee Sherlock dance Macau concert
“Oh-I’m-curious yeah…” Love that chorus! 🙂
Shinee Sherlock Kpop Macau concert
Taemin is such an energetic dancer

After “Sherlock,” I assumed “Hello” or “Replay” was next. But no. The boys looked at each other and awkwardly just walked off stage waving goodbye to the audience. I was like: “huh?”. The deal was that each artists would perform five songs each. I assumed SHINee would do an encore of two more songs later. At least that was the hope.

Kpop nation concert dj
Anyway, the DJ came back and I got ready for the final act
Kpop Nation Macau concert stage
For it was now time for the pink glow sticks to come out!
Sunny Sooyoung Seohyun screen
Because it was now time for the biggest act in the concert line-up
Jessica Yoona Yuri screen
The loudest cheers were for this group
Taeyeon Tiffany screen
Heck, they’re the main reason I came to Macau today
Snsd Macau kpop nation concert
I spent $780 mainly to see them
Girls Generation Kpop Nation Macau entrance
Because they’re my absolute favourite group in all of K-pop
SNSD Kpop Nation Macau China
SNSD a.k.a Girls Generation!
SNSD Girls Generation Kpop Nation concert
It was only because I was this far that I could manage to fit all nine of them in one frame 🙂
Girls Generation leg dance Macau
The girls ‘kicked’ off their set with “Genie (Tell Me Your Wish)”
Yuri Hyoyeon Snsd dancing Macau
I wonder what Yuri found funny
Tiffany Genie performance SNSD Macau
“Macau, put it back on!”

Snsd screen graphics kpop nation Macau

Girls Generation Genie end pose
And that was song number one
SNSD Macau Genie line dance
Next up was “Run Devil Run”
Sunny behind Sooyoung Genie dance
Poor Sunny – the shortest member right behind the tallest girl in the group 🙂

SNSD close up Macau concert

Run Devil Run dance SNSD
As impressive as their choreography usually is, it’s funny when you capture such frames. Looks like they’re creepily trying to exit the stage 😀
Girls Generation on-stage Cotai Arena
The girls then took a break to introduce themselves
Ice Princess message for Jessica Macau
This Jessica admirer got his message on the big screen
Sooyoung Girls Generation Macau
Sooyoung raises her hand, Sone raises his hand — just when I click. Ugh.
Taeyeon Girls Generation Macau
Hello dorky leader 🙂
Girls Generation Macau audience interaction
The girls introduce the next song
SNSD Hoot graphics
Time to “Hoot”! And thanks again Sone’s hand. Ugh!
Girls Generation Macau Hoot performance
But just before hitting the first chorus…
Girls Generation technical problem Macau concert
… the music suddenly stops!
Taeyeon surprise Macau concert
Best part? Taeyeon goes: “Surprise!!!!”
Yoona talking Macau concert
The girls make small talk while the team behind the scenes try to sort out the technical glitch
Girls Generation Hoot down dance
When the music began a second time, it was time to go “Down, down, down” again
Girls Generation Hoot Macao
Seohyun was doing her line before the first chorus
Girls Generation technical problem Macau
And the music stops again! And Taeyeon went: “Surprise!” – again! LOL
SNSD on stage Macau
But thoughtful ‘manager’ Tiffany still gave a shout out to the technical team for their efforts. While Yuri checked up on Sooyoung.

It was really funny, but at the same time we all wondered what was going on. Here’s a good fancam of the goof-up(s):

The girls were about to walk off stage…

SNSD Hoot third time Macau
Just then the song restarts a third time… the girls embarrassingly walk back to their positions
Hoot SNSD Macau Kpop concert
Third time proved to be a charm as it went without a hitch
Girls Generation Macau concert
The girls followed “Hoot” with “The Boys”
Girls Generation The Boys live in Macau
Which was a moment everybody was waiting for as we finally got to shout “GG!” at the top of our lungs
Girls Generation hair Macau concert
Ahh, hair freeze moments
Snsd hair funny picture
Seems everybody but Tiffany had their hair moment 🙂 LIKE A BOSS!
Girls Generation The Boys Macau concert
You don’t realize just how cramped for space SNSD’s choreography is until you see them live. How do they not bump into each other? 🙂
Snsd The Boys live in Macau
“Girls bring the boys out!”
SNSD lights Macau concert
Confetti began to rain even though we had one more song left
Girls Generation Taeyeon jig
The girls spoke one last time before getting into their final song (that’s Taeyeon doing a jig)
Taeny Macau Kpop Nation concert
TaeNy is so real, it’s no joke!
Snsd Macau stage
Everyone was up on their feet and ready to fan-chant like crazy for the final SNSD song
Snsd Gee performance Macau
For it’s SNSD’s signature song, and the one that introduced me to the group
Girls Generation Gee crab dance
“Gee, gee, gee, gee, gee, baby baby”
Girls Generation Gee dance Macau
Even though I’m tired of hearing “Gee,” seeing it live is another feeling altogether
Sunny Hyoyeon Jessica Girls Generation
Sunny smile!
Kpop Nation SNSD confetti Macau
Confetti marked the end of the girls’ performance
Kpop Nation Macau crowd Cotai Arena
The crowds were pleased, and so was I!
Empty seats Kpop Nation Macau
Ignore the empty seats below, the upper sections were full
Girls Generation SNSD saying goodbye
The girls cheerfully walked off stage with Yuri giving us all a big “muaahh”!

The DJ came back on again and some of us waited to see if there was going to be a encore. I was hoping for more SHINee, but there was none. The announcer said ‘thanks for coming’ and I left the arena.

Kpop Nation The Venetian Macau
I collected my Canon 7D and tripod and made my way out
B2ST 4minute Macau concert
Next up, B2ST and 4Minute!
Kpop Nation tickets
So was it worth it?

Well, kind of. I can now say I saw Girls Generation live in concert. And U-Kiss, B.A.P and SHINee. Add to the fact I’ve seen Jay Park and three-fifths of BIGBANG, I guess I’m lucky to have seen enough K-pop acts compared to most fans back in India. On the other hand, K-pop Nation 2012 wasn’t a well put together concert. For something that promised to be an unique show with the artists interacting with the fans and sharing stories… yeah, there was none of that. Pretty much all the interaction went like this: “We are _______” “Hello Macau, I am _______” “What’s up Macau, how you doing?” “Our next song is _____” “Goodbye Macau, we hope to be back”. That’s it – standard concert talk. In fact, SNSD spoke the most, and it was thanks to technical difficulties.

As much as I loved seeing SNSD, it was B.A.P’s set that I can say was the best without any bias. Their segment was if that’s how they would have done their stand alone concert. From start to finish, their act packed quite a punch. So I appreciate the effort they put in putting on an impressive show for what was a multi-starrer concert.

I’m proud of the fact SNSD were pretty much the only group who didn’t lip-sync! Every other group danced well, but didn’t bother singing live (did B.A.P sing live? some vocals sounded like it did). Girls Generation did both live, and were funny… god, tell me why I love them so much again?

It would have been cool if the venue was sold out as the experience could have been wilder, but that’s what you get when you price a concert out of the reach for most K-pop fans (who are really young). I know K-pop concerts in general are more expensive (heck, I’ve seen world famous David Guetta and Metallica for less!), but I can imagine the cost of bringing down such acts to such a small place like Macau, and that too in an expensive venue. Still, it’s baffling to see how many seats were empty for a concert that had U-Kiss, SHINee and Girls Generation in the line-up! That last group alone could fill up a stadium.

Of course I would have wished I was closer to the stage so I could see the girls better, but in some ways I’m glad I only paid HK$780. SNSD barely came forward to the smaller stage up front, so there was quite a bit of distance even for those who were seated in the most expensive section. It would have been nice if they had like a T-shaped stage, but anyway… I’m saving up and hoping for an SM Town in either Singapore or Bangkok later this year.

Otherwise the concert was alright. Oh yeah, there was one moron who showed up with his girl to the venue and accused me of taking his seat. I didn’t want to argue with him so I just let him sit in my seat. SNSD were just finishing up “Gee” and I wanted to click as much as I could before they left the stage. I don’t know what his problem was.

All-in-all, looking at the above photos, I’m happy I was there. My love for K-pop remains the same and I don’t think my urge to see the SNSD again has died down one bit.

As for the rest of my day, I’ll begin writing about my Hong Kong trip soon.

P.S: I did take a few more photos of U-Kiss and B.A.P, so if any of you fans/clubs want to see those, just ask. I’ll e-mail them to you. I didn’t take any videos as the Canon 450D can’t take videos, plus I didn’t want to get into trouble as the usher was right behind me.

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