[Mini-Album] Cosmic Girls – WJ PLEASE?

WJ PLEASE? is the fifth mini-album released by Cosmic Girls. It is the group’s first release to not include their three Chinese members. “Save Me, Save You” was used as the promotional track.

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Released: September 19, 2018
1. Save Me, Save You (부탁해)
2. You, You, You (너, 너, 너)
3. I-Yah (아이야)
4. Masquerade (가면무도회)
5. Hurry Up
6. You & I (2월의 봄)

The promo track starts things off on an upbeat note and it’s probably my favourite song from the group. Save Me, Save You took a while to sink in, but the group tackles their usual dreamy-pop sound while bringing a more aggressive beat and hook heavy delivery. I love how it keeps up the energy with the synths, but it’s the wonderful melody that really helps to propel the song forward. It feels like the type of song that always has something surprise me with every listen. It’s stunning and I love the direction the group has gone.

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You, You, You brings that dreamy quality, but goes the bubblegum route with this sparkly pop tune. I wasn’t really expecting something like this, but there is still a great energy to it as well. The girls don’t go the cuter route with their solos, but there the mature delivery actually works in favour of the song as it brings a nice contrast to the higher-pitched chorus. It’s a catchy tune and easily one of the group’s strongest B-sides.

I would argue that I-Yah is easily the best B-side that the group has put out. This could have been a title track. It follows a similar route that “Save Me, Save You”, but the melody isn’t as hook driven. Instead, it feels like it focuses on the build up and eventual blast of the chorus. That’s not to say the chorus isn’t memorable because the melody is still quite beautiful. It’s just an urgent, swirling tornado of a song and it’s quite great.

Masquerade starts off with an almost waltz-like sound, but it soon brings a punch of a beat. I feel like this one tries to depart from the dreamy synths for a bit and instead brings something more in-tune to GFriend’s sound. It has a wonderfully layered chorus that has a brighter quality to it. It’s not as catchy as the other tracks, but I do enjoy the music quite a bit, although I would’ve enjoyed it more if they brought more waltz elements into it.

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The next song stands out a lot. Hurry Up is pop, but with a bit of a retro influence to it due to the added brass backup. It’s another bright song, but I feel like it fits into the group’s older mini’s than this one. It’s cute and it is fun, but it’s a bit lackluster compared to the other tracks.

Ending things on a slow note, we get You & I, which is a pretty R&B/pop ballad. It’s not a bad song, but it’s the type of tune that many group’s have done before. When I listen to K-Pop ballads, I look for a strong melody. This song has a pretty nice vibe to it and I like the jazzier vibe of the chorus. I think it could be better, but it’s still a pretty solid ballad, albeit a bit forgettable.


Overall: This is easily the group’s strongest effort to date. The first three songs are great and while the quality teeters a bit in the second half, the songs aren’t that bad. “Save Me, Save You” and “I-Yah” are especially great and among the group’s best songs to date.

A

[Album] BoA – OUTGROW

OUTGROW is the fourth album Japanese album released by BoA. It was her first after her hit best album released the year before. The album was yet another success, peaking at #1 and selling over 430,000 copies. The singles were all over the place. While the first one was BoA’s first number one, the subsequent ones were unable to replicate its success until the fourth, “Everlasting”.

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Released: February 15, 2006
1. Silent Screamerz
2. DO THE MOTION
3. Kimi no Tonari de (キミのとなりで; By Your Side)
4. OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~
5. make a secret
6. Everlasting
7. LONG TIME NO SEE
8. cosmic eyes
9. Dakishimeru (抱きしめる; Holding You)
10. Love is just what you can’t see
11. Stay My Gold
12. soundscape
13. With U
14. First snow (Bonus Track)

Things open on an explosive note with Silent Screamerz. While this is funky dance/pop tune, I like that it tries to play around with its sound. It sounds like BoA’s usual style, but brings in some groovier synths and vocal distortion. The music is pretty fun and the melody is catchy as well. This is a pretty solid starter and BoA sounds great as well. This is her element. I actually was a bit worried going into this song after so many years, but it still holds up.

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One of BoA’s biggest hits, DO THE MOTION is the album’s first single and was its biggest success. It continues the upbeat sound, but totally changes things up by bringing a jazzier sound. The verses are calmer, but help to bring a fun contrast to the seductive chorus. The chorus is especially catchy and I love the introduction of brass and a smooth guitar. It sort of reminds me of something Santana might do. This is easily one of the highlights and shows some variety in BoA’s sound.

Kimi no Tonari de was originally released on the first single as a B-side. It’s the first midtempo tune, but can get a bit on the slower side with its lighter strings-like arrangement. BoA has some quality B-sides and this is a great example. The verses are a bit empty, but the chorus is where things shine. The synths, floating piano and airy vocals all work together in harmony. It isn’t as impressive as the A-side, but I feel like it’s much needed and is quite beautiful.

If there is one really experimental song on here, it would have to be the title track, OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~. It brings us back to the upbeat dance sound, but has an eeriness to it that is heightened by the dramatic synths and heavy beat. I’m not really sure what to think of this song. I like it tries to do more things, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot for me. The melody is a little lacking and gets overpowered by the music. It doesn’t feel complete. With that said, there are some really cool ideas here.

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make a secret is one of BoA’s singles that was not recieved as well as others. As the second single, it was seen as a bit of a flop considering it failed to replicate the success of “DO THE MOTION”. I’ve always been on the fence with this one. Sometimes, I like it and sometimes I feel like it is a bit lackluster. It has a really funky beat and I love the sassiness of the vocals. The chorus is catchy, but it doesn’t quite push anything and it gets a bit drowned out by the heaviness of the music. It’s solid, but more B-side material.

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It’s a bit weird to swing right into Everlasting. The album’s final single is its first full-fledged ballad. What I find interesting with this song is that it has a really full and complete arrangement but it can be a bit harder to take in. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but I feel like it works wonderfully with the orchestral arrangement that helps it soar. It’s really beautiful and one of BoA’s most powerful ballads.

LONG TIME NO SEE was featured as the B-side to the album’s second single. It goes the midtempo route with a light pop song. I like that it has a bit of an acoustic vibe going on, but this song is just boring. The melody isn’t really catchy and the music doesn’t stand out that much either. Cute, but boring.

Finally getting to another album track, we get the spunky cosmic eyes. This one brings a brighter pop sound and I like the punch of the beat. Unfortunately, while the music is fun, the melody isn’t really my cup of tea. I feel like it isn’t as focused and the transition into the chorus is a bit jarring. I’m not really fond of how the vocals are edited either and I feel like things would’ve been much better without the distortion. It’s not bad, but could’ve been better.

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Dakishimeru was the album’s third single and one of the album’s most exhilarating upbeat tunes. It feels like a continuation of “Silent Screamerz” with its funky beat and powerful punch of a chorus. The chorus is catchy, but the hooks quite aren’t as intoxicating. Instead, the song just seems to live on pure force and it’s so fun to hear that explosive opening. That and the verses are just so fun as well.

I like the bright energy of Love is just what you can’t see. It tries to bring a funkier groove to things and brings a few subtle R&B elements into the music and melody. The beat is fun and I like that it tries to bring calmer vibes to the album. I wish the chorus was just a bit more interesting though as I don’t think it quite takes advantage of the grooviness.

Bringing on the second ballad, Stay My Gold goes the R&B route. It has a bit more energy to it thanks to the beat, but I just find it somewhat unremarkable. There are some really nice parts to it like the pre-chorus where the melody swirls around a bit and really showcases BoA’s voice. However, the chorus is flat and I feel like it goes the cheesy route with the title.

I’m so thankful we have soundscape right after. The fourth single’s B-side is a quality light-R&B tune. It’s a bit more restrained and follows a similar sound to the last song, however, the chorus is much catchier. The verses are quite nice and show off BoA’s voice a bit more, but it’s that smooth melody that slides right in and hits the spot. It’s a style that BoA has done before, but it works.

With U was the second B-side off of “DO THE MOTION” and it goes the brighter pop route. I wasn’t particularly interested in this one as much as the other two songs from that single, but it’s still a solid track. The song has some a really nice arrangement and I love the sweeping strings tied with the fluffy beat and synths. It has a jazzier touch to it, but still has a lighter and more surgary focus.

first snow was added as a bonus track and was originally released on a special digital Christmas album. It’s a pretty generic R&B ballad, but it is surprisingly nice. I wasn’t expecting to really like this, but I like the melody and the song works nicely with BoA’s voice. It actually sounds more like a Korean ballad than a Japanese one to me. Anyways, it is a nice way to end things.


Overall: This album is sort of all over the place as it will go from amazing to flat right after. It doesn’t quite have the same consistent quality that LOVE & HONESTY has, but there are still some pretty stellar songs on here. At the same time, I feel like there are some album tracks that are just lacking and it has some of BoA’s most forgettable songs since her first album. Luckily, there are some gems that help to even things out.

B+

[Mini-Album] ONF – We Must Love

We Must Love is the third mini-album released by ONF. The title track was used as the promotional track.

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Released: February 7, 2019
1. We Must Love (사랑하게 될 거야)
2. Ice & Fire
3. Yayaya (별일 아냐)
4. Happily never after (첫 사랑의 법칙)
5. I Do

Instead of the usual bright pop tune that was somewhat expected from ONF, their return brings a change in atmosphere. We Must Love brings a darker tone, but it isn’t a terrible thing. The song isn’t something unheard of from boy bands before and actually feels like something by the likes of current SEVENTEEN or NU’EST, and it still brings some really wonderful moments. The chorus is especially strong with its attention grabbing melody that soon switches into a funky synth line. I wasn’t too keen on this song at first, but this part really won me over. Definitely the weakest of their three title tracks, but it’s still a solid tune.

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I was a bit worried about what the rest of the mini would bring considering the quality of their first two. Ice & Fire brings us some groove with this funk-inspired pop song and I love the thumping bassline. The chorus took a bit time to get used to. I was hoping for something to grab my attention right away, but it slowly builds and it’s only in the second half where some fusion goes on that I really start to get into it. It’s a quality tune, but it takes some time to get into it. Probably my favourite of the songs.

I love how Yayaya opens with the strings and its light latin influence. I’m not quite sure what to think of this song in general. It feels like the sister of “We Must Love” and has a very similar structure. The pre-chorus with the blaring arrangement is just weird and things only get back on track once that clean chorus comes blasting in. It’s definitely an experiment and I feel like it will get more appealing as time goes on. For now, I’m not sure if I love it or not.

Happily never after comes cruising in with its light R&B vibe. I love R&B, but I’m on the fence with these kinds of songs. This one does do some really nice things by bringing some more interesting musical elements so things don’t get too boring. Also, the melody is relatively catchy. It feels like an updated version of iKON’s “Love Scenario” in some ways.

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I Do initially sounds as though it will be the ballad of the mini, but the chorus totally changes things up with its drop. Instead, it feels like an interesting blend of something more sentimental that explodes into a darker tropical house influenced chorus. I do wish there were some vocal parts in this part because it sounds a bit empty. It isn’t bad, but pretty generic and I feel like ONF did it better before.


Overall: This was another solid mini-album from the group. I feel like this one didn’t stand out to me as much as their last two, but all the tracks were still pretty high quality. I think some of these tracks need some time to sink in as well and aren’t as attention grabbing on the first listen as I found myself enjoying them more with subsequent listens. At this moment, I still find it to be the weakest of their three mini’s though.

A

[Digital Single] PRODUCE 48 – Nekkoya (PICK ME)

“Nekkoya (PICK ME)” is the first digital single released for the third single of the PRODUCE series. It features both Korean trainees and girls from the 48 girl groups in Japan.

nekkoya

Released: May 10, 2018
1. Nekkoya (PICK ME) (내꺼야)
2. Nekkoya (PICK ME) (Japanese ver.)

Both versions are exactly the same except for the language. I didn’t think Nekkoya (PICK ME) was particularly interesting when I first heard it. Although I loved the previous two theme songs, this one went a different route and was a bit on the sweeter side compared to the EDM heavy original or the more melodic boys version. Fortunately, it eventually got into my head and I started to really like its cute and earworming melody. The song still has a heavy EDM influence, but it feels much lighter due to the swirling synths and girlish vocals. It’s great.


Overall: Third time and still another solid pop tune. I like the change that feels like a combination between the last two versions, while still retaining its own character. Makes me excited for the fourth one.

A+

[Album] Coco Lee – Woman in Love

Woman in Love is the third album released by Coco Lee. It was her last album under the Fancy Pie label and was released just a few months after her first English cover album, Brave Enough to Love. It fared better than her previous ones and helped heighten her popularity as a relative newcomer.

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Released: September 16, 1995
1. My Love is Yours (我愛的是你)
2. Woman in Love (Strings Version) (被愛的女人 (弦樂版))
3. You are in My Heart (你在我心上)
4. Immortal (不朽)
5. Can’t Learn to Love You More (學不會更愛你)
6. Forget It (忘了吧)
7. Turn a Blind Eye (視若無睹)
8. Woman in Love (被愛的女人)
9. Pearl in My Hand (掌上明珠)
10. Thankful (感謝)

Opening things with My Love is Yours, we get a pretty dramatic ballad. Coco’s voice sounds really beautiful here and although she focuses on her head voice a lot, she is still able to bring the right punch to fit the percussion. The song itself starts off quite slow and gently, but it soon gains energy and power during the chorus. I actually like the melody here because there is an intensity to it. The song is a bit too outdated sounding, but it is nice.

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The title track is yet another ballad. It doesn’t quite have the same intensity as the last song, but there is an almost sad quality to the melody that really helps Coco’s voice to soar. The strings version is pretty beautiful and Coco demonstrates her vocal control here. The song feels a bit more traditional in its delivery, especially considering the use of the strings help to make it more haunting. The original version of Woman in Love that comes up later on doesn’t have as many differences but the added percussion and guitar actually help it sound fuller. The final chorus is also much stronger and really pushes things.

I’m not sure what to think as You are in My Heart is the third ballad in a row. I mean, this one seems to have an almost 90’s ballad feel to it and feels like something you would hear from a movie around this time. This especially evident in the music with its classic strings, light R&B beat and sparkling synths. It’s a pretty song, although a bit generic.

Immortal continues the ballad spree, but it has a more dramatic sound to it. I like how it uses some really dramatic instruments to create this overwhelmingly intense feeling that is only pushed forward by Coco’s passionate performance. My only gripe is that it feels like it is continually building to something, but the final chorus doesn’t quite hit the mark.

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I’m excited to finally get an upbeat song with Can’t Learn to Love You More. This one has a funky guitar riff and brings a bit of rock into it. I like that it has a brighter sound to it, but it isn’t particularly catchy. I feel like one of the biggest problems is that Coco is singing in her head voice throughout the whole song so it just lacks any punch in its vocal delivery. It would’ve been more interesting had it been in chest or mixed voice.

Forget It brings us a heavier pop tune that depends on a pumping bassline and light rock influence. I feel like the melody to this song is something very similar to what would be heard in the 90’s. It’s a pretty cool song and even though I wish it had a bit more power to it, it is still a catchy tune.

Returning to the ballad route, Turn a Blind Eye is a classic pop ballad. I feel as though this one comes off as your standard Mandopop ballad, but that’s not a bad thing. The melody is pretty catchy and it feels like the type that would be easy to sing along to. I don’t think it is particularly impressive, but I like its lighter and more straightforward appeal.

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Pearl in My Hand is a reggae song, which initially made me worried due to Coco’s last attempt at reggae on her first album…Luckily, this song is better than that one. I don’t think it’s that interesting and Coco tries to sing in a higher pitch, which is odd. It’s easily the weakest song on the album as the chorus is pretty flat and quite forgettable. Not terrible, just lackluster.

Of course things end on a slower note. Thankful is a pretty ballad and while it doesn’t sound particularly interesting at first, the melody has some really nice quirks to it. It takes a bit of time to really get moving, but I really like how calm and laid back it sounds. I feel like this is a good way to end things.


Overall: This is easily Coco’s strongest of her Fancy Pie albums. There were still a few weaker tunes, but the general delivery was much stronger. The ballads were pretty decent overall and it’s easy to see why Coco would excel at them since she has such a good voice. The upbeat songs were hit or miss though. My biggest gripe would probably be the over-reliance on her head voice, which just felt too weak on certain songs that called for some power.

B

[Mini-Album] GFriend – The Awakening

The Awakening is the fourth mini-album released by GFriend. “FINGERTIP” was used as the promotional track.

theawakening

Released: November 8, 2000
1. Hear the Wind Sing (바람의 노래)
2. FINGERTIP
3. Contrail (비행운:飛行雲)
4. Please Save My Earth (나의 지구를 지켜줘)
5. Spring Rain (봄비)
6. Crush (핑)

Hear the Wind Sing opens the album and it’s phenomenal. This is easily one of my favourite GFriend songs. It is a bit breezier than the group’s usual material, but it still works really nicely with their sound due to its pulsing beat and straightforward focus. The beat is a bit odd at times, but it gets covered by the piercing string-like synths and catchy melody. It’s really gorgeous and feels like a breath of fresh air.

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When FINGERTIP was released, it definitely got a lot of mixed reception. Some thought it was a great example of the group maturing their sound, while others found it to lack the same touch as their most popular material. I love this song. The song still has the group’s signature “anime theme song” style, but brings a bit of funk into it with a great bass and groovy synth. It has a punch to it that’s helped by the electric guitar, which really shines when the melody isn’t stealing the show. It’s catchy and exciting.

Bringing us back to the lighter pop sound, we get Contrail. It’s not as impressive as the last two tunes, but it’s laid back and bright vibe really brings a nice contrast to the last song. This song actually reminds me a bit of J-Pop and I like it’s more melodic take on the chorus. It doesn’t quite have the same energy, but there is something fresh about this one as well that keeps it a fun listen.

I would say the most classic sounding GFriend sounding song on here comes in the form of Please Same My Earth. Of course, that’s not to say it doesn’t change things up like the addition of the subtler brass throughout the song. The chorus is explosive and has that high energy, almost emotional quality about its delivery. My only gripe is actually with the singing. I feel like if Yuju was doing it, it would have been more impacting. Still, it’s a solid tune.

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I wasn’t expecting Spring Rain to sound this great. It goes the midtempo pop route with some light R&B elements. The verses aren’t that memorable, but they are still a joy to go through and helps to build to that gorgeous chorus. I love the melody here and it ties in beautifully with the light bass and strings. This is definitely a pleasant surprise and I think it is one of the group’s best slower tune.

Considering how strong the first five songs were, I was really worried that Crush would end up as the black sheep. Luckily, this song is another quality pop tune. Here, we get a bouncy pop song that changes up the classic GFriend sound. The song builds up in a way that makes you expect the chorus to have a soaring quality to it, but it instead continues that light melody. It’s not as catchy as some of the other songs, but you can still hear the quality.


Overall: This is probably one of the best mini-albums I’ve listened to in a long time. Literally every track is great and there are great things to hear in each of them. This totally makes up for their first album, which I was disappointed by. I like that each of the songs tries to play around with their usual sound while still getting those powerful melodies.

A+

[Mini-Album] NU’EST W – W, HERE

W, HERE is the first mini-album released by NU’EST W. “Where You At” was used as the mini’s promotional track. The mini proved to be immensely successful and signified a huge jump in the group’s popularity after their stint on Produce 101.

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Released: October 10, 2017
1. My Beautiful (하루만)
2. Where You At
3. Paradise
4. Good Love
5. With
6. Thankful for You (지금까지 행복했어요)

Not sure what I feel about the album starting with My Beautiful. It goes to midtempo route and frankly, it’s just not what I was looking for. I feel like the group did this style better with their digital single, “If You”, but this seems rather generic, especially considering the quality of the tracks that NU’EST did on their last mini. There are some really nice parts in the arrangement, but it just all seems a bit bare.

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While it continues the melancholic tone of the last song, Where You At is an upbeat EDM song and I’m thankful there is some power and energy here. While I really like this song, it sort of falters on the fact that it can come off as a generic Billboard tune. I like the somber quality of the verses and the explosion of the chorus is really great. I do wish the chorus was flushed out a bit more, but the piercing strings bring a lot of excitement. It’s quite a nice track in general.

Getting into the solo songs, we start off with Ren’s solo, Paradise. It pretty much continues the vibe of the last song, but changes things up for the chorus. Instead of an explosive delivery, we get a swirling mess of synths tied with some almost trap elements. It’s a weird blend and I’m not sure if I like it. Ren has a solid enough voice, but it really lacks enough power to push through the craziness of the arrangement. It’s not a super catchy track, but it isn’t bad.

Aron’s solo goes the midtempo R&B route. I wasn’t really going into this song with any expectations, but Good Love actually not bad. I like the bouncy nature of the music and it works to bring some energy to it. The chorus is a bit empty compared to the verses and I don’t really like this weak trap-like delivery. I feel like it would’ve been better to go all in instead of just skirt over it. I also wish it had a brighter quality to it because the music feels a bit heavy. It’s still a cute song.

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With is JR’s solo song and it starts off in a pretty dark way that fits with the rest of the album. This song obviously focuses on JR’s rapping, but I find it a bit weird. The chorus is quite cool and I like the rippling quality of the synths, however, we really only get to the stunning part by the second chorus. I feel like it is really trying to be this emotional track, but it falters in its delivery a bit. It’s still nice.

As expected for a solo from Baekho, we get a ballad with Thankful for You. One thing I like compared to his other solo ballads is that this isn’t a completely generic OST ballad and we get some changes in the arrangement in the first half. Unfortunately, it starts to go your usual ballad route by the second verse with the strings. I also feel like Baekho is always trying to catch his breath and it gets a bit distracting. This isn’t terrible, but I don’t feel particularly interested, especially considering he has such a dynamic voice.


Overall: This is a pretty disappointing mini, especially considering the quality of their last one. I’m really glad for the group’s success, but it’s a bit disheartening that the group went the more melancholic route with their music. The mini is quite cohesive, but I felt like it was more generic in its delivery. Most of the tracks lacked a spark for me except for the promo track, which just had a surge of power to it that helped keep things interesting.

B-