[Single] Happy Pledis – Hazel Eyes

Hazel Eyes is the fourth single released by After School and the first under the name Happy Pledis. This release is the first of a series of charity singles. Love Love Love was used as the promotional track.

Released: December 7, 2010
1. Love Love Love [MV]
2. Someone is You
3. Love Love Love (Inst.)
4. Someone is You (Inst.)

Hazel Eyes opens with Love Love Love, a song fitting of the season it was released. With it’s cheerful beats and lighthearted nature, the song is nothing out of the ordinary in regards to Christmas songs but it is a nice listen altogether. Vocally, it’s a nicely put together song. The melody is simple, nothing particularly catchy but still shows off the vocals quite well.

Someone is You slows things down a little more with a nice midtempo pop tune. When I first listened to it, the first thing I thought of was Girls’ Generation’s first album. It’s a charming song with a nice melody, but relies more on the fact it shows off the girls’ vocals. My only gripe is the random introduction of male background vocals. I think it would’ve sounded better with the girls doing the background vocals.

Overall: Considering what it was for and when it was released, it’s a nice release. My problem is that it’s a little too dull for my tastes. I guess when I think of After School, I think of something exciting, especially for the promotional track.


[Digital Single] After School – Because of You (Remix)

Because of You (Remix) is the third digital single released by girl group After School.

Released: January 22, 2010
1. Because of You (Remix) (너 때문에)

Because of You (Remix) is what you guessed it to be. Gone is the piano and replacing it is an awkward computerized synth. What I do like about the remix is the explosive choruses and the volley of synths being thrown out there, but the replacement of the piano line makes it sound like a cheap karaoke rip-off. The melody is pretty much intact which is a good thing though. I really dislike remixes where it sounds more like a full-fledged instrumental with random lines thrown in.

Overall: Not bad, not amazing. While the remix is a decent listen, there are times where it comes off as a bit cheap sounding and it really lacks the emotion the original had.


[Mini-Album] Kahi – Come Back, You Bad Person

Come Back, You Bad Person is the debut solo mini-album released by After School leader, Kahi. The title song was used as the promotional track.

Released: February 14, 2011
1. Come Back, You Bad Person (돌아와 나쁜 너) [MV]
2. One Love
3. Gift (선물)
4. Roller Coaster (롤러코스터)

Starting with the title track, Come Back, You Bad Person is a striking emotional piece to put it shortly. Following the similar styling of After School’s song “Because of You”, the song makes me think of a second remix. What I really enjoy about it is how the song wraps the singing and rapping together, which makes me think of two different emotions being played. My favourite part of the song though is definitely smack dab in the middle where the song switches from its repetitive self into something more striking. The breakdown here is gorgeous. With that said, there are parts of this song that seem more about the visual aspects than the music. What I mean are the pretty empty choruses, which just robotically repeat the title. It’s good for shows, but for a listen I’m not quite fond of it and would’ve preferred something more filling. Still, even with that bit of emptiness, the song easily shows Kahi’s capabilities as a performer with the strong singing and rapping.

One Love slows things down with a nice R&B ballad. It’s nothing out of the ordinary like the title track was, but it’s a good safe place to return to. What I enjoyed most was the fact it showed off Kahi’s vocals really well and her versatility in genres of music. My only gripe is the random “don’t wasted time”. I usually don’t care for the awkward English found in Asian songs, but this one just sounds so awkward at one of the more crucial points in the song.

Slowing things down even further is Gift, a more traditional sounding ballad. It’s a good song, but it’s a tad dull to be honest. I really like how great Kahi sounds here, but the problem is that it sounds like a mix of other K-Pop ballads I’ve listened to before. The notes Kahi hits really turn my head around though as I never expected her to be such a powerful vocalist.

After two slower songs, we are hit with Roller Coaster, a funky pop/dance mix. It has a weird vibe to it because it doesn’t particularly transition well, but that’s what makes it so great. The chorus is definitely the best part though as its opening is just so smooth and crisp. It does have some awkward areas though, such as the repetitive use of the title, which I get bored of quickly. With that said, it’s a great song.

Overall: As the first solo mini-album from Kahi, this was a striking release. Each song showed off her versatility and strengths and each was a solid track. While I was not particularly interested in the ballad, it’s still a good song altogether and does little to detract the quality of this release.


[Digital Single] Orange Caramel – Bangkok City

Bangkok City is the first digital single released by After School subgroup, Orange Caramel.

Released: March 31, 2011
1. Bangkok City (방콕시티) [MV]
2. Bangkok City (Inst.)

Bangkok City really changes things up. Compared to Orange Caramel’s past music, this one has a stronger club vibe to it and is a vast departure from their more bubblegum pop oriented title tracks. With that said, it’s a nice transformation. The thumping beats, funky synths and insanely catchy chorus really work well together. I also really enjoy the vocals in this song. Nana and Lizzy really sound great in this genre, especially the former with her more prominent nasally tone. Raina really steals the show with the last chorus though and the adlibs she does. With all this said, I do have one minor problem and that is there is just a little emptiness in the song. I think it has to do with the music as it comes off a little cheap sounding.

Overall: Orange Caramel return with a striking party tune that’s both catchy and shows off the vocals. While I did feel it was missing something, it’s a great listen regardless.


[Mini-Album] Orange Caramel – The Second Mini Album

The Second Mini Album is well the second mini-album by After School subgroup, Orange Caramel. A~ing♡ was used as the promotional track.

Released: November 18, 2010
1. A~ing♡ (아잉♡) [MV]
2. One Love
3. Yet… (아직…)
4. Standing Here (이곳에 서서)
5. A~ing♡ (Inst.)

The Second Mini Album opens with A~ing♡, which is pretty much a continuation of the style they led with Magic Girl. Compared to that track, I prefer this one though. I guess because of the more bubblegum qualities are toned down and that can really be heard in the arrangement. While there are still some instances, the majority of the music is leveled and features less of the theatrics as their previous promotional track. The vocals are still very “cute” and the girls sing with sweeter qualities to their voices. As a followup, it’s pretty good.

One Love brings us something different with a more dance focused pop song. While there are qualities that make it stick to the Orange Caramel sound, it’s definitely more mature, at least arrangement-wise. While I do like it, I’m not particularly liking some of the editing done on the chorus because it comes off as a little too over-the-top. Vocally it’s decent although nothing standout. Like the previous mini-album, this one features a solo from Raina and it’s yet again the standout track for me.

Compared to the last one, Yet… features a grander arrangement and a prominent introduction of strings. It’s a little on the ordinary Kpop ballad sound, but what really makes it stand out are the vocals. I find it easy to pinpoint Raina’s vocals since they are rather distinct, but here she sings with a slightly deeper pitch and comes off across a little different. It’s really well done though and her voice just flows through the song.

Standing Here is the last song on the mini-album (not counting the instrumental) and is a Korean cover of M2M’s The Day You Went Away. What I like is that it keeps its nostalgic feel and doesn’t try to update it too much and ruin what was already good. I also really enjoy the Spanish twist with the guitar in the background on top of the more melancholic music. It’s well done vocally and I’m glad they didn’t have Raina go all out with belting or it would’ve broken the song a bit.

Overall: For a second mini-album, this one is a good follow-up. First off, I personally enjoyed the promotional track more this time around and it’s much more tolerable than the first. Raina’s solo piece was also more enjoyable, although I feel Can’t You Delay Love fit her voice better. The other two songs were also pretty good listens.


[Mini-Album] Orange Caramel – The First Mini Album

Orange Caramel is the first subgroup from After School and includes the members Raina, Nana and Lizzy. Their music is supposed to have a bubblegum Jpop twist to it as compared to After School’s more mature sound. Mmm, imagine them as the opposite of Tanpopo. XD The First Mini Album is well the first mini-album (despite the fact it only holds 4 songs, 2 being instrumentals). Magic Girl was used as the promotional track.

Released: June 17, 2010
1. Magic Girl (마법소녀(魔法少女)) [MV]
2. Can’t You Delay Love (사랑을 미룰 순 없나요)
3. Magic Girl (Inst.)
4. Can’t You Delay Love (Inst.)

The first of the two songs is Magic Girl, a bubblegum pop song. This is certainly not my cup of tea, although the song itself isn’t bad and an ok listen from time to time. My problem is just that it’s too cute and in your face. What I did like about the song was how it was arranged. The music is very fairytale-like and matches well with the image. Vocally, the song was fine although the girls added a sweeter touch to their voices. My only issue has to be Raina’s adlibbing at the end. There were times where it was good and there were times where she didn’t sound good.

Of course, all that sorta works itself out with Can’t You Delay Love, Raina’s solo ballad. This was definitely the stronger of the two songs for me just because it gave me an early-2000’s Kpop R&B feel. Nostalgia is definitely at work here and it sounds like something J or Lena Park would pull off. Raina’s voice slides through all the notes and she shows why she’s one of the main vocalists.

Overall: Orange Caramel stays true to its mission with the title track. It’s a sweet tune that is a good listen from time to time, but not exactly my cup of tea. The R&B ballad solo by Raina is what stole the show for me. A decent release altogether, although I wish there was a bit more to choose from.


[Single] After School – Bang!

Bang! is the third single released by After School and their first release with Lizzy. The title track was used as the promotional track, while Let’s Do It! was often performed as an intro on stage.

Released: March 25, 2010
1. Let’s Do It!
2. Bang! (뱅!) [MV]
3. With U
4. Bang! (Inst.)

Unlike their last single, Bang! opens up with an intro. As this release was made to represent the marching band theme, it’s no surprise Let’s Do It! comes out strong and clear with that style. While I don’t particularly listen to it often, it’s great to see it performed live on shows.

The title track Bang! continues the marching band theme and remains one of, if not After School’s most powerful track with its use of brass-like sounds and drum beats. As powerful as it is though, there is a defining point to the song with the bridge, where the song gives off a softer and more ethereal sound. Vocally, the song is well done, although the majority of the lines are focused on a more cheer-like style. Really only in the middle 8 do we actually hear straight singing by Kahi and Raina.

With U really changes things up by giving us a ballad, something more along the lines of When I Fall from their last single. Song-wise, I never found this one to stand out. It’s nice, but the arrangement is rather dull and does little for me. What this song really does though is show off the vocals, especially of Raina and Jungah’s.

Overall: While a change from their last single, when After School does something, they do it well. The intro and Bang! are both powerful tracks that mixes their sex appeal with their more sophisticated vibe. With that said, I was not very impressed by With U. Vocally, it was very strong, but that only does little to save the dull song.