Thoughts on some recent (and not so recent) music

Long time no blogging! I’ve been really busy with school, and I still am, but now I’ve decided to procrastinate by writing. Haha.

Anyway, a lot of stuff has been released and I have a lot of feelings about them, but I never really got a chance to voice them until now. So here it is, a mini-review of some of the singles out of K-pop this year. Starring: Super Junior, T-ARA, BEAST, After School, f(x), 2NE1, JJ Project, and the Wonder Girls!

Sexy, Free & Single – Super Junior

So I’ve warmed up exponentially to this single over time, to the point where I like it quite a bit now. It’s really low-key and mellow as a song, and because of that I’m surprised at how much I love the choreography for it. Although I don’t think it’s the perfect choice for a title song, what I love is how smooth and clean this entire song is (bar the hook). That silky and polished auditory sensation is something I haven’t heard from Super Junior since ever, especially since YYJ decided to take them on the SJ Funky Triology.

Of course, there is a reason why I was cold towards this song at first, and that reason was the hook. For lack of a better term, it trolls the entire song into that cheap and uninspired territory that Super Junior has dabbled in for the last three years or so. It’s like someone over at SM decided that this song desperately needed a hook (or that Siwon needed some lines), and just stuck the most generic and grating one in there. Which is a complete shame, the song is melodic enough to be able to stand on it’s own without having a shameless hook hammered over our heads. But, le sigh, what can you do? I guess it’s staple Super Junior by now.

The rest of the album is pretty meh. Maybe I’ll review it when I’m bored, but frankly it’s probably the weakest album Super Junior has put out in a while. It’s like, none of the songs (sans Gulliver and Bittersweet) are really crash-and-burn, but they have so little thought put into them. It’s like, there could have been a good album there, but SM didn’t bother. But hey, it’s Super Junior. Who cares about the music? Nonetheless, if I had to recommend songs from it, I enjoyed ‘From U‘ (which sounds like YYJ ft KRY) and ‘Daydream‘, and that’s probably it.

Single: 4/5
Album: 2/5

Day By Day – T-ARA

Everyone’s saying it, and so will I, it sounds like Britney Spear’s ‘Criminal. A song which I didn’t like either, so heh. I mean, Day By Day isn’t the most offensive thing to come out of T-ARA’s womb or anything, but it’s pretty boring and it makes for some really boring performances. Nikki always talks about ‘kick’ whenever she reviews songs, and what this song lacks is exactly that. Kick. Everything sounds so diluted, and that’s probably why Hwayoung’s rap sticks out so much, it’s the sole part of the song with even a bit of bite.*

Can I talk about how much I despise the processing on T-ARA’s songs? Especially this one. It’s like they compress all of their voices and they’re singing with their chins to their necks. I could understand it when they were doing their fantastic electropop thing, but now it’s just annoying. If you listen to other of T-ARA songs, all of the members (‘cept Hyomin) have rather open voices, and so why are CCM so hell bent on turning them into whispering chipmunks?? Soyeon’s voice is beautiful, but they make it sound so generic and flat here. As for Hyomin, I really like her voice when she sings songs that require straight up singing and none of that other nonsense. It’s smooth and has a unique texture. But she sounds like crap when she’s processed. For a voice that already has nasal qualities, processing does no favours for her. She’s talented, but both her and Eunjung are given no favours vocally by being in T-ARA. Everytime they get a song that requires singing, Soyeon is always given the bulk. Apparently Ahreum has a voice, but it’s hard to tell with this release.

Don’t Leave‘ is the only other song on the album that’s worth a listen. It’s a total mess live though, Soyeon sounds tragically strained.

*I find it funny that prior to the T-ARA scandal it was pretty much universal consensus that as a rapper Hwayoung was pretty mediocre. But now that she’s being bullied suddenly she has loads of potential and musical talent. Hmm…

Single: 2.5/5
Album: 2.5/5

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[Single Review] Blue, Big Bang: Beautifully Blue

Ah, if anything could break me out of my dead-blogger streak, then it’s Big Bang. My favourite quintet dropped the first single ‘Blue’ from their new mini-album ‘Alive’ four days ago. And despite the many reservations felt when their concept photos were released, I’m finding myself really enjoying this wistful tune.

I know this has been discussed ad nauseum, but last comeback it felt like Big Bang just went through with it for the sake of having a comeback. The whole platter of material we were met with just seemed so anti-climatic, and something tells me that the whole promotional cycle would have completely gone through a neutral K-pop fan. I mean, it felt like miss A dropped more bombs during their promotional cycle than Big Bang did — miss A. But whatever, that was the past, this is the present. And the present is sounding good.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want Big Bang to completely revert back to their old sound per say. Music evolves, and what sounded in time 10 years ago wouldn’t sound in time now (not to mention YG’s sound as a whole has completely changed, and Big Bang would stick out like a sore thumb). As much as we’d love artists to never change, for a mainstream idol group like Big Bang, adjusting is necessary. A good example of adjusting would be Brown Eyed Girls — they fit in with the time, but never really lost the spark that made their material theirs.

Last comeback it felt like G-Dragon wanted to record a minimalist electronic track and just grabbed four soloists together and made them sing. Big Bang? What Big Bang? They got some of the flare back for ‘Love Song’, but as a whole everything seemed almost insincere. But, if the year of scandals did anything for Big Bang, then it gave them a good smack around the head because the magic is back for the most part.

‘Blue’ is a very self-effacing song. It doesn’t attempt to blow your mind, nor does it attempt to imitate another song. The melody is stead-fast, and the structure and style is consistent throughout; the verses, the bridge, and the chorus all have the same smooth delivery. It’s a restrained and doleful tune, but Big Bang deliver it with such conviction it doesn’t need to hit you over the head with a hammer to demand your attention, G-Dragon’s croons of ‘I’m singing my blues’ does a good enough job.

Something which I love about ‘Blue’ is the fact it’s innovative, a quality that set Big Bang apart back in the days, and a quality which they somewhat lost during their last comeback. ‘Blue’ is different from a lot of the sounds we’re hearing from K-pop today. For one, when was the last time a mainstream idol group released a mellow song as a title track? Secondly, ‘Blue’ is probably the closest Big Bang has come to returning back to their older style, but at the same time it sounds so 2011/2012 — which is a good thing. It’s them kind of adjusting their style to fit the ‘now’, and the ‘now’ really isn’t all that bad. It sounds fresh, it’s different, but it isn’t a style that’s so beyond the Big Bang we’ve come to know. Which is something I greatly appreciate from any band I love.

As for the music video; what the frack? YG videos are always impeccably shot and styled, but a quite a few of them lack direction. This is one of those music videos that basically go nowhere. And seeing how tainted my usual eye-candy has become (Spockri, do not want), there’s even less redeeming this mess. Whatever YG, whatever. This might as well have been shot for a New York tourism ad.

4.5/5

[End Of Year/Album Post] Play the Song Again – Jams of ’11

I always knew I was special. Australia is a whole day ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to New Years, and I’m still two days delayed. That’s talent, it really is.

Most bloggers I realised, do a really epic year-end post outlining the best of the best. They also usually do this a a day or so before, or on the day, of New Years — not two days later like me. I wanted to outline some of my favourite things this year, but in the midst of writing things I realised I’m way too type-happy and to finish the post would take several days. So instead because I’m a special, I’ve decided to try something different. So as a New Years gift for everyone, I’ve made an end of year album, so without further ado:

Play the Song Again – Jams of ’11

Play the Song Again – Jams of ’11

Tracklist:

  1. Superman – Super Junior
  2. Me, In – Wonder Girls
  3. Before U Go – DBSK
  4. Fiction – BEAST
  5. Na Young – ALi
  6. Please – Kim Hyun Joong
  7. In Heaven – JYJ
  8. Cry – MBLAQ
  9. Tonight – Big Bang
  10. Virgin – After School
  11. Neverland – U-KISS
  12. Trick – Girls’ Generation
  13. Roly Poly – T-ARA
  14. STEP – KARA
  15. Hate You – 2NE1
  16. VVIP – Seung Ri
  17. Sixth Sense – Brown Eyed Girls

Download Link: http://www.mediafire.com/?pavnevry5n29tdu

I hope you guys enjoy it! The title ‘Play the Song Again’, came from the song ‘Virgin’ by After School, and I decided on it as the album’s title because well, it pretty much sums up the effect all these songs have had on me.  Also, I’m horrendously uncreative.

Honestly a lot of thought was put into making this album, and I realised it’s harder to make a cohesive album than I thought (not that it excuses the entertainment companies). I had so many thought processes going on — because by now everyone should know I take K-Pop and music seriously — and everything is where it is for a reason. To break it down for everyone:

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[Album Review] SOUL-RI, ALi: A Polished Gem

Amongst all the controversy surrounding ALi’s album track ‘Nayoungie’, the song which she wrote for the rape victim going under the pseudonym ‘Nayoung’, and following her recent confession of having been raped back in 2008, I actually decided to check out her album. And I am impressed, I am impressed beyond belief. And I hope that the negative reception the song ‘Nayoungie’ recieved doesn’t take away from how people perceive the album as a whole.

ALi isn’t a singer, she is a sanger. She has a rich, beautiful and unique voice, and skills and technique which allow her to pull off vocal runs and belt it like her life depends on it. Basically, the sky is the limit when it comes to what singers like her are capable of (well, to be honest. The sky and her at times grating vocals — but I’ll get into that later). However, in most cases with singers with as much talent as she has, they tend to box themselves into the one genre of ballads — and that’s okay if that is what they love singing. But just know, that if the majority of their solo discography is made up of ballads, well, their music just won’t find a fan in me (why yes, I am looking at your KRY, Jaejoong, IU, and whosays).

ALi in ‘SOUL-RI’ however, breaks out of that box. While her material isn’t exactly the stuff pop is made out of, the way her last single ‘Hey Mister’ was, she takes a different approach. In this album ALi dabbles in a mixture of pop, ballads, RnB and jazz inspired tunes, the instrumentals are laid back and let her vocals carry the melodies. And the melodies — some of the melodies are beautiful. They’re listless and while they don’t strike you over the head with a hammer, they’re pleasant to the ears and command attention in the subtlest of ways.

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[Album Review] Wonder World, Wonder Girls: Is Wonder World WG’s Best Work Yet?

Confession: I was never a big fan of the Wonder Girls. In fact I found them overhyped, outdated, and frankly, yes, I thought SNSD was better than them. Not in the sense that Wonder Girls aren’t talented– because they are. But in terms of actual material and hype. To me Wonder Girls pretty much occupied the bottom of the barrel when it came down to girl groups. To put it in short, in my opinion the Wonder Girls were one of the most boring girl groups to ever hit the big time. Harsh? Yes. Uncalled for? Not really.

All of their songs are ridiculously simplistic and very boring. The melodies are generic, the instrumentals are basal, and none of them particularly prove the Wonder Girls in the vocals department either. In fact, the most interesting and high-energy song they have is probably ‘Nobody’. Which in turn, is also very generic and safe. When I heard it the first time all I could think about was how you could replace the lyrics in English and it’d inevitably get lost in all the other uninspired and done-before songs plaguing the Western air waves. And hey, that’s exactly what happened! Apart from ‘Nobody’, the only other remotely good song is ‘So Hot’– which is good. For a Wonder Girls songs. But in the grand scheme of things, it too falls flat. And it’s not like I take pleasure in seeing them fail to deliver, I really don’t. I may not express it a lot, but Sunye is a competitor for ultimate female bias. I don’t like seeing my ultimate biases fail. I don’t like seeing any group that can do so much better fail.

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[Songs That Should Have Been Title Songs] #1: A Man In Love – SJ

Because I’ve realised my blogging is very inconsistent and in most cases I’ve found that I only really blog when I’m angry about something, I’m going to make a schedule of some sorts so I have a reason to blog at least weekly (someone remind me!).

So presenting, the first post of: “Songs That Should Have Been Title Songs”

You know when you’re listening to an album, and you come across a particularly gorgeous song that makes you froth at the mouth? A song so gorgeous you basically just lie on your bed staring at the ceiling going “why? Why? WHY? Why wasn’t this made a title song!” Well, this is for all those neglected title-worthy songs out there.

This particular feature was brought about by my recent disdain for everything SM has had the gull to produce. Starting from Keep Your Head Down, which tries too hard to be epic, and most recently, Super Junior’s A-Cha, which made me want to spill blood. So what a better way than to start off this feature with a song from my favourite-flower-boys/bane-of-my-existence, Super Junior. Heck, this feature could probably be retitiled to “Songs That Should Have Been Super Junior’s’ title song”. But I won’t, because I blog about Super Junior too much already (see: ‘I only really blog when I’m angry about something’).

Okay, let’s kick this off:

You know, apart from the fact Sungmin was half bald, and Kyuhyun was a platinum blonde, this was a pretty hardcore gorgeous concept, y’know? No? Okay.

So, Super Junior is ridiculously vocally weak. Most aren’t good singers. Most aren’t all that talented. And there’s too many of them. And although it makes for good fun to us (what! There’s only 67 members left now, what?), to them it’s probably their biggest hindrance. Argue with me if you want, but I’m one of those few that genuinely believe there are talented members in that band, perhaps even outside of KRY (what? Lies! I know, I know). Not that you’d know from listening to any of SJ’s title songs.

So, they aren’t all the hottest performers around. But that being said, most of them have nice/decent voice tones. Which I know, doesn’t excuse them from being mediocre, but it does mean that SJ are capable of performing songs that require the use of actual vocals. The live performances may be a bit shaky, but I’m willing to deal with that if it means I get a good song in return. That being said…

CLAP THAT

I really love this song, it’s a great song. The use of percussion, as well as the foreign beats, creates what is one of Super Junior’s most exciting, and addictive songs. And the verses, the vocals during the verses are quick in some cases, powerful in others, and they just flow so smoothly. The same thing can be said about the chorus- with all its appropriate interjections and meaty harmonisation (which by the way, all of them do actually sing the chorus. I know, I was shocked too).

If they had tried to recreate something like ‘A Man In Love’ instead of ‘Sorry Sorry’ the world would have been a much better place. Not to mention it would have made for an exciting live performance, look how pumped up the boys are! And most importantly, listening to this song, you would never know that the majority of them are useless. And that alone pretty much makes the perfect Super Junior song, y’know?

I’d like to see them perform this as eight, just so I could see it performed again for old times sake. A little tweaks in the arrangement and they’re good to go! Of course you need to ignore that knot in your stomach when you watch it and realise, holy cow, Super Show 4 is going to kick off with only 8 members.

Sigh. OT83, am I right folks?

[Repackaged Album Review] A-Cha, Super Junior: We Need To Have A Talk

Okay, since this was a pretty big release this month, and it is from one of my favourite boybands, I feel obliged to talk about it. Firstly, let’s discuss the lead single and get it out of the way and then never come back to it.

Actually no, first, let’s discuss the mastermind behind the lead single. Hitchhiker. I don’t like Hitchhiker, simply because he doesn’t impress me. He got it right somehow with Brown Eyed Girl’s Abracadabra, which is probably the one song where all his random elements come together to create an interesting and engaging pop song, but other than that everything hes done has been uninteresting, monotonous, and uninspired. I don’t mind if a composer sticks to one style, but in Hitchhiker’s case, his style is frankly consistently unimpressive and unprofound (see: Ice Cream, Visual Dreams, Show Show Show). Ironically one of his better tracks is found on the B-Side of Super Junior’s Mr. Simple album, White Christmas. Nothing spectacular, but it shows Hitchhiker is at his prime when he gives up the electro wannabe-ness and goes back to his roots.

So keeping all that in mind, let’s talk about A-Cha shall we?

To put it delicately, A-Cha (the lead single) is an atrocity. If it was released a few months prior to now, I may have given it a 3.2+ simply because ‘it’s going to be a hit’ or ‘it’s fun’ or ‘it’s catchy’, but I’m done with fluffing over SM’s mediocre releases by consoling myself with the fact they’d gain mainstream appeal. No more compromising myself in order to give any song a chance, so basically I’m just going to discuss A-Cha for what it truly is.

Noise.

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