[Mini-Album] IU – IU…IM

IU…IM is the second mini-album released by IU. Marshmallow was used as the promotional song.

iu...im
Released: November 12, 2009
1. Love attack
2. Train Ride (기차를 타고)
3. Marshmallow (마쉬멜로우)
4. Morning Tears (아침 눈물)
5. Nervous Date (두근 두근 데이트)
6. Train Ride (Instrumental)
7. Morning Tears (Instrumental)

Love attack is bubblegum pop to the max and like a synthed up version of her song, Boo. It’s positive and rather cute in its delivery. I do think it gets a bit too much at times and the melody doesn’t totally stick. The chorus just keeps pushing these fast hooks and it doesn’t quite work out here. It’s not horrible and has some nice elements to it, but it isn’t that memorable. Train Ride is a ballad and infinitely better than the last song. This is where IU’s voice really shines and she sounds great in the verses. I do quite like how the song starts up and builds into something more powerful. The melody is quite beautiful and IU really does a great job in these kinds of songs. Marshmallow brings back that “cute” pop sound like Love attack and Boo. It is really over-the-top like those two, but it has its own charms. The calmer parts of the verses are actually quite clever and I like the playfulness of the song. The chorus is pretty simple. It’s catchy, but I feel like it could have been played up a little more to bring something dramatic. It’s a decent tune and not surprising why it’s the promo song. Morning Tears is another slower song and has some R&B elements to it. It’s nice, but compared to the more dramatic Train Ride, this one is a little forgettable. It’s still a nice tune and it has a relaxing chorus, but it is the type of song that has been done a hundred times over in K-Pop. Nervous Date is a nice go-between as it is more midtempo. I do like its laid back vibe and subtle R&B/reggae sound. I do wish the chorus was more interesting as the music just stays consistent and there feels like there isn’t much transition between the two parts. It’s decent though.

Overall: This is a pretty average mini. Actually, all the songs on here are solid tunes, but there isn’t anything that stands out in particular. I do wish the album was rearranged a little better as it goes up and down constantly whereas Nervous Date could have been used as a good transition from faster to slower tunes.

B

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[Digital Single] OH MY GIRL – One Step Two Steps

One Step Two Steps is the first digital single released by OH MY GIRL. It was released right before the group’s third mini-album.

onesteptwosteps
Released: March 28, 2016
1. One Step Two Steps (한 발짝 두 발짝)

Up to this point, One Step Two Steps is my favourite of OH MY GIRL’s songs. It is written by B1A4’s Jinyoung and has that ethereal synthpop quality that his music has become known for (like his song In the Same Place for Produce 101). I love the music here because it just has an explosion of synths with such a great synthline. The verses aren’t bad, but the song definitely shines in the chorus where the energy is brought up another level and the girls’ sweet vocals fit the song perfectly. It’s gorgeous.

Overall: Great follow-up to Closer and a solid tune in general. It reminds me a bit of J-Pop, which makes me love it more. Certainly a great introduction into the group’s third mini and it should have been a bigger hit for them.

A+

[Album] Otsuka Ai – LOVE JAM

LOVE JAM is Otsuka Ai’s second album. It features four singles, with three released prior to the album and another released later as a remixed re-cut. The album proved to be another success for the young artist and solidified her as one of the most popular artists of her time. It sold over 650,000 copies and peaked at number one.

lovejam
Released: November 17, 2004
1. Superman (スーパーマン)
2. Happy Days
3. Strawberry Jam
4. Daisuki da yo. (大好きだよ。; I Like You.)
5. Sensu (扇子; Fan)
6. Mousou Chop (妄想チョップ; Crazy Chop)
7. Ponpon (ポンポン)
8. Futatsuboshi Kinenbi (ふたつ星記念日; Two Stars Anniversary)
9. Kingyo Hanabi (金魚花火; Goldfish Fireworks)
10. Kuroge Wagyuu Joshio Tanyaki 735 Yen (黒毛和牛上塩タン焼735円; Black Grilled Cow’s Tongue, 735 Yen)
11. Friends (フレンズ)

Similar to her debut album, LOVE JAM opens with a fun pop/rock tune, Superman. I love the cool guitar riffs with the touch of siren in the back and the odd clapping. Otsuka’s voice is really rough here, but it works really nicely. The chorus is faster paced and has a catchy melody. It’s not as strong as pretty voice, but it’s definitely a solid and exciting opener. Happy Days is Otsuka’s fourth overall single and the first from this album. It continues that bubblegum pop/rock sound but does so at an even more intense level. I love how they placed distorted her voice a lot to sound like it she is singing out of a megaphone. It shares a lot of similarities to the last song, but does it even better. The chorus is much catchier and the chanted “Happy Days!” really brings a pumping up element to the song. It’s fun! Strawberry Jam is a big change as we are given something a bit jazzier. I actually really like the music in this song though as it has a smooth and cool vibe to it without making things too slow. The melody is definitely more pop though and while it does feel a bit out of place at times, it still works nicely with the bright arrangement. I quite like the carefree nature of the chorus. A solid title track. The second single of the album, Daisuki da yo., is one of my favourite songs from Otsuka. Bringing a heartbreaking piano ballad, the song starts off rather gentle, which works great with her sweet voice. However, it’s that sparkly chorus that brings in the beautiful string-focused instrumental and earworm melody that really bring the song to the next level. I also love the last minute of the song that mainly features a gorgeous guitar solo. Definitely one of her best songs. Sensu is a midtempo pop/rock tune and a nice surprise. I usually love these hidden tunes from Otsuka and the music to this one is definitely great. The song reminds me of a follow-up to her first single, Momo no Hanabira, with its bouncy instrumental. It’s a bit bizarre in that it has some heavier percussion and bass tied with some strings, but it is still quite charming in its own way. Every Otsuka album needs one weird song and this album has Mousou Chop. I sometimes don’t like these kind of songs as while it does fit with Otsuka’s image, it sort of breaks the flow of the album. Mousou Chop is a funky electropop/rock tune that has a weird arrangement with its more electronic verses and explosive rock chorus. It’s not particularly catchy and I feel like the song relies heavily on the weirdness and fun of the music. Not bad, just not a favourite. Ponpon is explosive pop/rock but takes the level of Happy Days to an even higher level. It’s just a really fast-paced and crazy song that just tries to show how ridiculous it can be. The whole chorus is literally “pon pon pon”, which is funny and odd at the strange time. It has some fun ideas, but it’s just too much for me at times and tries to add too many things in. Futatsuboshi Kinenbi brings a bossa nova vibe and is a fun addition. I quite like the music to this song as its quite bright and the type of sound to groove to. I do enjoy the chorus melody as it’s quite sweet and works really nice with Otsuka’s voice. I don’t think it totally fits the bounciness of the music, but it is still a really cute tune. The third single from the album, Kingyo Hanabi, is my second favourite Otsuka Ai song. It is a dark ballad that focuses on the piano and synth droplets to give an ethereal and rather melancholic feel to the song. What I especially love is how amazing Otsuka sounds here and her voice totally fits this song to perfection. She does a great job of emoting and she really does well with the gradual added power the music brings each chorus. The ending of the song is especially wonderful where the music just flies with intensity. Stunning. Kuroge Wagyuu Joshio Tanyaki 735 Yen was lated remixed and released as the album’s fourth single. The album version is slower in its tempo and not as strong in the pop/rock sound. It does have some energy with the steady arrangement, but its the catchy melody that is the highlight of the song. I do find this version to be the weaker of the two because it just works so much better with the powerful arrangement. It’s still a decent song. Friends finishes the album on a gentle note. I really love when Otsuka does ballads as she has a knack for it and this is another stellar piece. It’s not that memorable at first as it sounds a lot like some of her other songs, but the chorus does change things up with a grander sound. I love how strong the percussion is and it works so well with the soaring strings. The melody is also gorgeous too. A great ending!

Overall: This is surprisingly an even stronger album than her debut. While this album seemed to adopt many similar elements that were featured on her first album, it felt like she was still able to execute something with its own charms. There were a few weaker tunes, but they did have some fun experimental aspects to them. However, the ballads on this album are absolutely phenomenal and they are certainly the strongest songs. I just wish there was a bit more variety in the upbeat tunes.

A

[Mini-Album] Red Velvet – Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake is the first mini-album released by Red Velvet. The title track was used as the promotional song and was their first big hit.

icecreamcake
Released: March 17, 2015
1. Ice Cream Cake
2. Automatic
3. Somethin’ Kinda Crazy
4. Stupid Cupid
5. Take It Slow
6. Candy (사탕)

Ice Cream Cake opens the mini with an explosive start. Actually, it’s rather creepy with the odd “lalalas”, but the song does gain energy as it progresses. The verses are pretty lighthearted with some xylophone and beats. It’s the chorus where the transition really blasts things off. The beat is more numerous in pace and there are some weird elements added like the scratchy sounds that layer on top of everything. It’s definitely a defining moment for the group and brought something a bit different, but still totally catchy. Automatic is similar to the group’s cover of S.E.S’ Be Natural, with its midtempo R&B sound. I absolutely love R&B and the melody is really addicting and works nicely with the funky bass and light synths. It isn’t as exciting as Be Natural, but it does have a way of getting stuck in your head with its airy delivery. I do wish there was a bit of a push at the end, but the girls sound great and everything is smooth and effortless. Somethin’ Kinda Crazy goes with the R&B route, but with something a bit lighter. I do like the harmonizing and the playing off of each other in terms of vocal arrangement. The verses are definitely more fun though. The chorus is a bit lackluster and doesn’t really make as strong of an impression as I was hoping for. It’s still catchy and I do like the beat, just I wish the melody was a darker. Stupid Cupid starts off in a cool way with the 60’s rock kind of sound, but it does change things up once the beat comes in. The beat takes some getting used to, but it does grow on me as the song goes on. The melody is unfortunately a bit forgettable and the vocoder on top of the vocals sort of detracts from the songs energy. The transition into the brighter sound of the chorus is a bit grating as well considering the rest of the song is more attitude-based. Good production though. Take It Slow is a bit lackluster. Considering the rest of the mini features some interesting sounds, Take It Slow brings a safe coffeehouse pop song. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it just ends up really forgettable. The only thing that saves it is the odd key change halfway through the song which then brings in a nice bridge. It’s a decent song and has a sweet melody, it’s just not the most memorable. Candy slows things down a little more and brings some R&B elements into it. It’s like the last song in that it is a bit too generic (for Red Velvet I think), but it does has some nice energy once the chorus pops in. The melody isn’t totally predictable and there are some great harmonies that pop up throughout the song. It’s not bad.

Overall: The production to this mini was great, as expected from SM. Unfortunately, there were some weaker parts to the mini. Either I didn’t think the songs pushed it enough or they were a bit forgettable, the mini started to falter around the halfway part. It’s not a bad album by any means and is a great first mini for Red Velvet.

B

[Mini-Album] Cosmic Girls – From. Cosmic Girls

From. Cosmic Girls is the third mini-album released by Cosmic Girls. I Wish was used as the promotional single and has been their biggest hit to date.

fromcosmicgirls
Released: January 3, 2017
1. I Wish (너에게 닿기를)
2. Baby Come to Me
3. Say Yes (주세요)
4. Perfect! (최애)
5. Hug U (이리와)
6. I Wish (Chinese Version)

The promo track starts the mini and what a bright tune it is. I Wish has similar vibes to their last promo song, Secret, but in bubblegum pop form. I love the bouncy beat and the splashes of synths. I don’t think the melody is as intoxicating as Secret, but it is simple and catchy. I know some people didn’t quite like the inclusion of the rap because it ruined the flow of the song, but I actually quite like the break that it brings. It’s a fun tune and has grown on me. I really enjoy Baby Come to Me and it’s definitely one of the group’s strongest B-side tracks. It’s bright and follows a similar vibe of the last song, but the chorus is a bit more melodic and reminds me a bit of 00’s J-Pop. It’s definitely not as hard hitting as the title track, but it’s a solid tune and one that I could see myself coming back to later on. Say Yes slows things down with a relaxing acoustic pop/R&B tune. It’s not a bad song and it has a nice hook in the chorus. This is definitely the type of song that is popular in the cafes in Korea and so it’s not a real stand out piece, but it’s definitely relaxing and has a charm to it. Perfect isn’t bad and brings back the bubblegum pop sound, but at an even higher sugary level. I don’t really like the verses because they aren’t memorable and just seem very unpredictable and confusing. The chorus is definitely a lot better and sound more fluid in its delivery. Once again, the song sounds very J-Pop to me, which is a nice change. Hug U is another slower coffeehouse styled tune, but even slower than Say Yes. It has potential, but it is rather boring and is the type of the song that would get lost. The beat is just too slow and the melody has very little impact. Even the vocal performance is just so light and airy that it just doesn’t do too much for me. The mini ends with the Chinese version of I Wish. It’s still the exact same song just with Chinese lyrics. It’s not bad and is still as catchy as the Korean version, although it’s a bit odd with the pronunciation. Still a fun idea to do!

Overall: This mini started off quite strong and I was thinking that it would’ve been stronger. Unfortunately, it started to falter around the end and I think the exclusion of Hug U would’ve been beneficial, or at least a full-fledged ballad that showed off the vocals. It’s a decent mini though.

B

[Album] Kato Miliyah – Diamond Princess

Diamond Princess is the second album released by Kato Miliyah. It wasn’t as successful as her debut, but still charted in the top 5 and sold just over 100,000 copies. It was preceded by four singles, with two being top 20 hits.

diamondprincess.jpg
Released: March 7, 2007
1. Diamond
2. Eyes on you
3. Last Summer
4. Kono Mama Zutto Asa Made (このままずっと朝まで; Stay Like This Until the Morning)
5. LuvSong
6. FAMILY
7. Caught up
8. My Soul
9. Cry no more
10. I WILL
11. Sotsugyou (ソツギョウ; Graduation)
12. Wasurenai Kara (忘れないから; I Won’t Forget You)
13. So special
14. Paradise
15. Wonderful

Diamond opens the album and its a funky and powerful R&B/pop intro. It’s only a minute long, but has some vocal pieces and an exposive arrangement. I love the use of brass. Eyes on you was released as Kato’s eighth single (fourth from the album) and has an oldschool kind of vibe to it. It’s a light-disco/pop tune that features a bouncy guitar and splash of synths. The verses are a bit forgettable, but the pre-chorus and chorus are a lot of fun. It’s the type of song that is easy to sing along to. It does lose a bit of energy later on though as it nears five minutes in total length. Probably my favourite song from the album, Last Summer is a summery upbeat pop/R&B tune and was released as the album’s second single (sixth overall). Unlike the last song, this one has a much stronger verse. Even in this part there are some catchy hooks. The chorus is a fun blend of background vocals and Kato and continues the funky arrangement that was heard in the last two songs, although with a stronger beat. It’s a refreshing tune. Kono Mama Zutto Asa Made samples a 90’s Jamaican hit, but it feels like a weak attempt at trying to do reggae. It has a summery vibe like the last song, but the arrangement just lacks any strength. It feels like there should be a fuller arrangement, but it doesn’t push where its supposed to and the music sounds forgotten. The melody is okay, but it isn’t that catchy and relies a lot on the sample. It would be better with something a little different for the arrangement. LuvSong slows things down with a midtempo pop/R&B tune. It has a bit of the reggae vibe with the beat, but the melody reminds me of something from Kato’s first album. Unfortunately, the song is really forgettable. It’s simple, but just doesn’t stand out in its melody or arrangement and it feels like the music doesn’t totally fit with the more dramatic vocals. FAMILY is a bit better. It has some neo-soul elements to it, which is a nice change. I really like the arrangement and the brass-like synths that are added in to give the song a bit of punch. The melody is alright and it’s definitely more memorable than the last song. It works nicely with the music, which is a good change as well. A decent album filler. Caught up is good just because it has a lot of energy to it. Up to this point, it has the most attitude to it, which is a change from the laid back vibe of the other songs. The chorus is really fast-paced and I love the explosion of brass here. I don’t think the melody is as effective just because it sounds too fast and would’ve been a bit better slowed down just a little. It’s still not bad though. My Soul brings the R&B sound back with probably the strongest song since Last Summer. It has a very heavy beat that really demands attention and the melody is really smooth and sexy. It works great with Kato’s voice and the song takes its time to really deliver the hooks. It’s a fun and powerful tune. Cry no more is awesome just because we have that R&B/pop vibe but with some traditional Japanese elements thrown in. The music is really beautiful and fits surprisingly nice with the beat. This is especially nice in the chorus where things really blend together. My only gripe would be that I wish the song was a bit on the darker side of things, but it’s a great song anyways. I WILL is the first full-fledged pop ballad and was the album’s third single (seventh overall). Unfortunately, this is my least favourite of her singles. It’s a nice change of pace because she hasn’t had a ballad single, but it’s just a forgettable song. The melody is nice, but isn’t particularly catchy nor help to showcase Kato’s vocals in a nice way. The arrangement is actually quite nice, but just needs a stronger singer to take it to the next level. Luckily, the first single of the album comes up next. Sotsugyou is one of the album’s stronger songs. It has a great midtempo R&B/neo-soul sound to it and I love it. The melody isn’t the catchiest on the album, but I do like the emotion in the song and Kato sounds great. I actually quite enjoy the music and how the vocals are laid out. The steady beat, touches of synths and piano tied with the lyrics really gives the song a touching tune without bringing something slow. Wasurenai Kara is the second of the ballads, although this one has a stronger R&B vibe to it. With that, it is infinitely better than the last ballad. It really reminds me of some great late 00’s R&B tunes. The chorus is a bit dragged out, but it’s still pretty catchy and the funky guitar in the background really brings a great bounce to the song. Unfortunately, I do find the verses stronger than the choruses as the beat really works well in the former. So special has a strange opening that makes me think it is sampling another R&B tune. I do find the beat of the song to be really odd cause it always seems to be a bit off with the vocals. It’s sort of unfortunate because the melody is actually really great and I think if things matched up a bit better, the song would’ve been way better. It really reminds me of something from her first album. Paradise is another R&B tune, but brings that summery vibe. I really love the music to this song as the beat is really strong and has a gorgeous guitar that floats above it. The song is really catchy and I was quite surprised at how the chorus played out. The vocal arrangement was really nicely done and worked greatly with the music while still being an earworm. It’s definitely a strong album track. Wonderful is a nice midtempo pop/R&B tune with some neo-soul elements. I am quite surprised with the upbeat feel of this song and it reminds me of some stuff from the late 90’s. It’s not particularly catchy, but it’s not a forgettable song as it does have some decent hooks. I just wish it really pushed things further.

Overall: I was worried that this album would be really weak because I didn’t like the singles as much as those from Kato’s first album. However, the album tracks were much stronger on this album and there were some nice tunes. There were a few weaker songs, but they weren’t terrible and had potential and the album started to get some stronger songs coming around the end. I just wish the album was cut down a little more because the album’s length is quite long and there were some unnecessary songs. Would recommend tracks 2, 3, 9, 11 and 14.

B+

[Digital Single] PRODUCE 101 – 35 Girls 5 Concepts

35 Girls 5 Concepts is the second digital single released from the first season of the hit show, Produce 101. The theme of this single was splitting 35 girls into five teams, with each team singing a different “concept”.

35girls5concepts
Released: March 19, 2016
1. Make Some Noise – 24 Hours (24시간)
2. Pinkrush – Fingertips
3. Splendid Rivers & Mountains (화려강산) – Don’t Matter
4. Macaroon Honey Dduk (마카롱 꿀떡) – Yum Yum (얌얌)
5. Girls on Top (소녀온탑) – In the Same Place (같은 곳에서)

24 Hours is a fun ride. The EDM tune was created by the same people who created Pick Me, which guarantees it being an earworm. It’s a really odd song though because it blends EDM with some trot elements in the vocal department. The girls do a great job though and I love the blend of sweet and strong vocals with the powerful beat. With that said, the breakdown is the best part of the song just because it has so much energy. Fingertips slows things down with something more midtempo R&B/pop. It still has a lot of energy with a steady beat, but it just doesn’t have the same kind of punch the last song did. This song relies more on the melody and hooks to really get things rolling, which is great. I love the chorus as the delivery is really simple, but it’s still really effective. It’s the type of song that is easy to sing along to. Don’t Matter is the song with the “hip-hop concept”. It also has some really cool aspects with it when it comes to musical arrangement. I love the bouncy piano tied with the low tuba sounds. It brings a really different vibe. The vocal arrangement is still catchy, but I don’t think it’s as impactful, especially tied with the airy vocal delivery. It’s only once the bridge comes by that the song really gets its proper power. Still a good tune, just the weakest on here. Yum-Yum is supposed to be something a bit more abstract, but surprisingly catchy. The best part of the song is the buildup into the chorus and the rap that comes before that. These two parts really bring up the energy. The chorus is really repetitive, which isn’t bad, but it sort of loses the energy that the other parts of the song bring. I also wish there was more display of the girls’ talents as it lacks a show. The juggernaut of the show, In the Same Place brings the ethereal and innocent vibes of GFriend, but with a more futuristic touch. It’s a really beautiful song that really relies on the chorus and Yeonjung’s performance to bring the song to the next level. The melodic and catchy, but still showcases the vocal strengths of the singers. The verses are a bit dull and I don’t really like the over-airy vocals because it lacks strength (also the overprocessing). It’s still a beautiful tune and I love the music.

Overall: A lot of these songs are like knock-offs from popular groups already. 24 Hours was noted as sounding T-ara-like, Fingertips was more Girls’ Generation, Don’t Matter was 2NE1, Yum-Yum was like Red Velvet’s music and In the Same Place was similar to GFriend. I think that was a great idea because the concepts are quite different and they each bring a different vibe and using older groups as influence was a great way to bring five solid tunes.

A+