[Album] Orange Caramel – Lipstick

Lipstick is the first album released by After School sub-unit Orange Caramel. The title track was used as the promotional track and the album includes several of their previously released songs and five new ones.


Released: September 12, 2012
1. Bubble Bath
2. Milkshake (밀크쉐이크)
3. Lipstick (립스틱) [MV]
4. A~ing♡ (아잉♡) [MV]
5. Magic Girl (마법소녀) [MV]
6. Not Yet… (아직…)
7. Superwoman
8. One Love
9. Shanghai Romance (샹하이 로맨스(上海之戀)) [MV]
10. Clara’s Dream (클라라의 꿈)
11. Close Your Eyes (눈을 감아)
12. Can’t Delay Love (사랑을 미룰 순 없나요)
13. Bangkok City (2012 New Recording) [MV]

Let me just get all the older songs out of the way. On this album, 8 of the 13 songs were previously released on their singles and mini albums, although one of them is a new recording. The promotional songs, Magic Girl, A~ing♡, Shanghai Romance and even the new recording of Bangkok City (which isn’t much different from the original) are still as catchy as ever, all quality tracks and really sum up what the image of Orange Caramel is all about. The other 4 older tracks feature a variety of sounds ranging from dance / pop to ballads. Three of these tracks (Not Yet…, Close Your Eyes, Can’t Delay Love) are actually ballads and solo tracks, with the first and last being Raina’s and the middle being Nana’s. Definitely Raina owns with hers most in part due to her voice, which I think is what makes Nana’s a bit weak. The last of the older tracks is One Love, which is a catchy dance / pop song. It has certainly grown on me since I heard it on their second mini, but it’s still missing something in the music. From here, we hit the five new songs. Bubble Bath opens the album and we are given a funky electronic pop song with a heavy beat. Think J-Pop group Perfume as there is also a heavy amount of autotune. What I like most about this song is that the chorus isn’t so in your face, but rather tones it down compared to the verses which seems to really work here. It’s just insanely catchy despite not having any obvious hooks. Milkshake is crazy. It continues the upbeat pop sound of the last song but with a stronger dance influence (probably because it’s by Daishi Dance). I have to say though that this is weaker than Bubble Bath. I really love the talk-rapping parts as well as the verses, but I find the chorus just annoying. The high-pitched vocals are bothersome and the melody itself is just too fast-paced and childish that it just sounds odd with the more flowing musical arrangement. I love the middle 8 though. Lipstick is the promotional song for the album and it’s my favourite song on the album, even beating out Bangkok City. With it’s strong Romanian pop influence, funky synths and it’s cute but slightly sexy vocal arrangement, it easily stands out in both this album and just OC’s overall discography. I love Raina’s usual adlibs at the ends of their promo tracks and here is no exception. Superwoman is one of the slower upbeat tracks on the album although it still has a consistently strong dance beat. It also features Pledis Trainee Seungchul. This is one of the stronger tracks on the album as it fuses a ballad like melody with a touch of rap and a strong dance influence. My only gripe is that the girl rap is a little annoying vocally. The vocals on the song are really good though and it really shows off Raina’s voice. Clara’s Dream is the last of the new songs and it is Lizzy’s solo. Like the other solo songs, it is a ballad, but it stands a part from all the other songs on the album with it’s strong Mediterranean twist that almost reminds me of some of Lee Soo Young’s songs (which I love). This resemblance I really see around the end of the song as it climaxes a bit. It’s rather dark and seems to have a sadness to it although I do feel like Lizzy’s voice is a bit too sweet and not mature enough (yet) for this song.

Overall: Firstly, the newer songs on the album were quite strong and each is different enough to have their own personality. When added with the older songs which were, for the most part, already quite strong, this makes for a pretty solid album. I’m especially impressed by the title track and Lizzy’s solo because both brought something completely different. Sure there were a few blips here and there, but for the most part it’s a strong offering.

A-

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[Mini-Album] U-KISS – Bring It Back 2 Old School

Bring It Back 2 Old School is the second mini-album released by U-KISS. I Like You was used as the promotional single.


Released: February 3, 2009
1. Intro (On Fire)
2. I Like You (니가 좋아) [MV]
3. Talk To Me
4. I Like You (Instrumental)

And boom, much like their debut mini, we are opened with an intro. Intro (On Fire) is different from their last one, which was quite heavy in its delivery, as this one is a slow R&B tune. I think this is quite the song and it would’ve been nice to hear it in full. It follows up the urban feel of their last mini but gives something different. I just wish they didn’t say fire so many times, but despite that it’s good. I Like You brings something different and here we are blasted with a pop song. I will say that if I don’t watch any performances or the MV that this song isn’t half bad. It’s powerful, has an oldschool K-Pop feel and has an extremely funky arrangement that includes some DJ scratching. I’m not particularly fond of some of the vocal arrangements, but generally it’s pretty catchy and fun. But the hair…the hair… The next song on the mini, Talk To Me brings something different because it follows a more dance / pop formula and is probably the fastest song by U-KISS at this point. It opens with the chorus, which is catchy and albeit a bit repetitive. I really enjoy the verses though as it’s nice to hear Kevin sing with his lower register. My favourite parts though are definitely Soohyun’s belting parts just because his voice is so powerful and it’s really shown off here. The middle 8 is also quite nice, but I feel it’s a bit too short to have enough impact.

Overall: U-KISS brings their consistency with this mini. While I’m a bit sad that the urban flare is gone and replaced with something a little more pop, it’s nice to see that each song is good. The intro was a nice change, the promotional single fun and third track a decent dance tune. I’m still not overtly impressed as I think the intro was the best song on here, but it was altogether a solid release.

B+

[Digital Single] Song Ji Eun – Yesterday

Song Ji Eun is the lead vocalist of girl group Secret. Yesterday is her debut digital single.


Released: December 15, 2009
1. Yesterday (feat. Hwanhee) (어젠)
2. Yesterday (Solo)
3. Yesterday (MR)

Yesterday is a piano ballad that is rather typical of the Korean ballads out there. What I mean is there is the usual build up to the chorus, which then adds a little bit more power in the instrumental as well as the usual sweeping strings and whatnot. This is a good ballad, but it’s nothing particularly outstanding and mainly just does its job of showcasing the vocals, which is does quite well. I will say the lyrics are quite nice though as they mainly talk about how the past’s memories bring sadness today. The first version featuring Hwanhee is a little odd. I really enjoy how their vocals are so contrasting since Ji Eun has a sweet and thin voice, whereas Hwanhee is made of much more power. With that said, I was a little disappointed in the fact that there was very little connection between them until the end. It would’ve been nice to hear some harmonization throughout the beginning of the song or at least a glimpse of the other person as the solo parts made the song sound more like a solo piece than a duet. At least the solo version clears some things up and just gives Ji Eun. Her voice sounds great here.

Overall: Yesterday is a nice, but safe song. While I’m not really excited hearing it, the lyrics are quite nice and Ji Eun sounds great. I definitely prefer the solo version as I think the duet one could have had better chemistry.

B

[Album] f(x) – Pinocchio

Pinocchio is the first album released by f(x). The title track was used as the promotional single while Gangsta Boy was also performed live a few times.


Released: April 20, 2011
1. Pinocchio (Danger) (피노키오) [MV]
2. Round and Round (Sweet Witches) (빙그르)
3. Dangerous
4. Beautiful Goodbye
5. Gangsta Boy
6. Child (Love) (아이)
7. Stand up!
8. My Style
9. So Into U
10. Lollipop (feat. SHINee)

The album opens with the title track, Pinnochio (Danger), which is a fun dance / pop song. The song pretty much continues the sound that was brought with their previous promotional tracks, but it’s different enough to not sound like a rehash. It has a really heavy beat, but like NU ABO features a more staccato vocal arrangement which is even seen in the chorus. It also sounds less like a mess probably because it doesn’t have the sound of a crowd grumbling in the background. With that said, there is something about it that just makes me feel like it is one of their weaker title tracks. LA chA TA brought a sophistication and a clean production with it while NU ABO despite its messy arrangement was powerful and catchy. It’s like they tried to tie both of them together, but ultimately brought a weaker piece. I’m not saying it’s bad because the song is very catchy and good listen, but it just doesn’t stand out to me in terms of title tracks. Not to mention they messed with Luna’s voice here. Round and Round (Sweet Witches) continues the electropop sound but with a lighter atmosphere. This song makes me think they combined Ice Cream and ME+U from their last mini into one. It’s definitely not one of my favourite songs because how they utilized repetition here was sort of annoying. That and the background vocal placement was just odd. It really sounds like a song for an advertisement. Dangerous switches us out of that cute mess and into something edgier. This song is probably one of the better upbeat songs that the album offers because it brings the attitude of title track but to a more fitting sound. It’s not rock, but it has undertones of it that brings the power and the melody is catchy without relying on too much repetition (which I like). I’m just not too big a fan of the higher pitched vocals here as well. I wish they just brought the power without singing like this. Beautiful Goodbye is a ballad with R&B undertones and what a ballad it is. I think this is the best song on the album up to this point because it has such a majestic feel to it with a touch of 90s pop. My favourite part is when the chorus just comes sweeping in with the strings and it’s nice to see the contrast between that and the clear and simple verses. Vocally, it is probably the best showcase of their vocals on the album. I sort of wished it was just a duet between Krystal and Luna since they dominate the song anyways, especially by the end. After such a great song, we are given Gangsta Boy, a pop song that attempts to have some urban swing to it. In reality, I can’t stand this song mostly because of the ridiculous lyrics. The song itself isn’t so bad. It’s quite catchy and I enjoy the lighthearted feel of the track. But yeah…the lyrics are odd and it just doesn’t have much correlation with the song itself. I don’t know what SM thought gangsta was, but it clearly isn’t this. It would’ve been nice to see a more straightforward R&B or hip-hop track from them, but oh well. Child (Love) pop song and what I like most about this song is that it seems to have a slight trot twist to it. The chorus is quite nice and flows well, but there seems to be something missing on the whole package of the song. Thankfully, the vocals are decent here and aren’t too over the top like in some of the other songs. Stand up! pretty much continues the same general sound as the last song, but with a choppier beat that is almost annoying. I think if this song didn’t have such a powerful beat that was at such an odd pace it could have been a nice and relaxing pop tune. It’s like they tried to make it into a dance song but didn’t complete the process. With that said, Amber sounds surprisingly nice on her part here. My Style is probably the strongest upbeat offering. It’s a striking dance / pop song with a strong brass back up. My favourite part is the chorus where it opens in a chant with an interesting background vocal undertone. So Into U is the second of the ballads on the album and is even slower than the other. With that said, i find this one a little bland. The verses are promising but as it enters the chorus it just comes off as a generic SM ballad. Sure the vocals are quite and Luna really makes this song, but the song is just forgettable. Lollipop was released in Mandarin with M.I.C, but this time it’s with SHINee. It’s pretty much the same to me just in a different language, but I just find the energy in this one to be lacking compared to the Mandarin version. Everything just seems so dull by the end.

Overall: I don’t know what happened here, but this album really disappointed me. There were very few songs if any that really stood out and most of the songs either came out as one dimensional or just ridiculous. I understand that f(x) is meant to bring a little fun, but many of the songs just came out messy in either their vocal arrangement or instrumental arrangement. I would say there were glimpses of both a strong melody and music like in My Style, which is easily the best song on the album as well as Beautiful Goodbye but the majority of the songs just didn’t have that and by the second half the album it just felt like a chore to get through.

C+

[Single] Orange Caramel – Shanghai Romance

Shanghai Romance is the second single released by Orange Caramel. It continues their Asian city theme by representing Shanghai, China. The title track was used as the promotional single.


Released: October 12, 2011
1. Shanghai Romance (샹하이 로맨스(上海之戀)) [MV]
2. Close Your Eyes (눈을 감아)
3. The Day You Went Away

Shanghai Romance is a pop tune with a strong dance beat and slight Asian twist. The song opens up with quite a strong intro that pretty much sums up what the song gives. I think the best quality about the song is that they added this Asian twist with the synths, but made sure to not overdo it. They leave it in the background of the chorus and it is generally covered by the vocal arrangement. I don’t think it’s as strong as Bangkok City since this one seems to have a stronger push for repetition, but it’s very catchy altogether. The vocals are generally like most of their songs, which fits it well. Close Your Eyes is actually a solo by member Nana and with a surprising twist it’s a ballad. I didn’t actually expect this out of her since while I find her tone quite appealing her voice is on the weaker scale when it comes to power. The song itself is quite nice. The melody isn’t anything to rave about, but I really enjoy the powerful instrumental and the sweet electric guitar that sweeps in at the end. Nana herself sounds good, but I don’t think this is her forte. They should give her something softer. The Day You Went Away is a Mandarin cover of M2M’s song of the same name, which was originally included on the Taiwanese press’ of their first mini-album (and a Korean cover on their second mini). The song is just good as it has a more melancholy sound to it and I love the guitar and bass in the instrumental. They all sound good too, although their Mandarin is a bit sketchy. I like that they put in the effort to record in another language, but Lizzy and Raina really can’t pull it off on their solo parts that well. haha

Overall: This single is quite nice and continues the quality releases that the group has brought. The title track is catchy and just an overall strong release, while the other two songs were nice additions although not particularly strong in certain aspects.

B-

[Mini-Album] U-KISS – New Generation

U-KISS is a boy band that has gotten quite a bit attention overseas, but has only been able to launch moderate hits in Korea. They debuted in 2008 and in 2011 experienced a member change. They personally aren’t one of my favourite groups, but they do have some good songs here and there. And their discography is quite vast for a group as they have 3 albums (1 Japanese), 8 min-albums and four Japanese singles up to this point. New Generation is their debut mini-album and Not Young was used as the promotional song.


Released: September 3, 2008
1. Intro (Pump Pump)
2. Not Young (어리지 않아) [MV]
3. Give It To Me
4. Not Young (Instrumental)

Intro (Pump Pump) is an interesting opener as we are given something with a more urban twist. I’m glad it’s only an intro because while it’s not a bad listen at all especially the verses, but there are some cheesy lines here and there and it’s weird thinking of them trying to be gangsta. Not Young continues the urban edge, but with a more upbeat feel. It’s basically a song telling people they aren’t young, but the song itself seems a bit hypocritical considering it’s basically bubblegum R&B. I really do enjoy the verses though because it shows off the vocals better, but the chorus is a little odd since it has the guys singing in falsetto. It certainly has a catchy a melody but while I like it, the song just has a weird factor to it. Give It To Me continues the urban feel, but this one seems to have a bit more dance to it. Firstly, this song has the weirdest lyrics…”you’re so tight”????? But the song itself isn’t bad. It has a strong clap beat and can be seen a predecessor of those dance songs that U-KISS have in their latter discography. It’s also nice to hear some adlibs in this song by the stronger vocalists. Soohyun has quite good vocals, so hearing him belting it out really brings some extra punch to the song. With that said, the song just seems to messy at times with the different synths, beats, etc. and just sounds like a B-side.

Overall: For their first mini, I was actually surprised at how they tackled it with a more urban sound. I’m probably most impressed that there was variation between all the songs and each had its own flare. Still, I felt more satisfied with this release than amazed. They provided good vocals, decent songs and a theme but there seemed to be something lacking in it. The promotional single was definitely the strongest track out of all of them.

B

[Album] Secret – Moving in Secret

Moving in Secret is the first album released by Secret. Love is MOVE was used as the promotional single.


Released: October 18, 2011
1. Love is MOVE (사랑은 MOVE) [MV]
2. Sexy (섹시하게)
3. Don’t Laugh (웃지 좀 마)
4. Movie Star
5. Amazinger
6. Together
7. Hope (바래)
8. Bastard
9. Neverland
10. Love is MOVE (Inst.)

Right off the bat we are given the promotional song, Love is MOVE, and what a song it is. It continues their retro style, but unlike the last few singles, it brings us back to that upbeat dance sound heard with Madonna and Magic. With that said, it seems the song doesn’t retain the same kind of sex appeal that was found in those two songs, especially Madonna. Still it has a far more fun atmosphere to it and it’s the kind of the song that is good for just getting up and dancing too. It features a stronger 1930s swing style than the other songs and possesses and assortment of horns which adds a bit of life. Vocally, it’s just fun as well. Sexy is well…not really that sexy sounding. It is more pop with a slight pop-rock tinge. The melody itself has qualities of 1950s pop, which helps bring some cohesion between this and the last track, but that’s probably where it ends. It’s certainly catchy, but considering the title it would’ve been nice to hear something sexier from the group with the retro style. It’s just too happy for me. Vocally, it really worked though as while some members had to put on a cuter voice there were a few good notes here and there. Don’t Laugh really slows things down and we are given a pop ballad with some R&B influences. I wasn’t particularly impressed with this song. At first it sounds like it has a lot of potential, but it especially falls flat during the chorus. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just too slow and it would’ve been nice to have it pick up a little bit during this part since it just becomes dull. It does show off the vocals though… Movie Star is the best song after the promotional single at this point. It’s a jazzy pop tune with a bit of attitude to it and whole lot of brass. The chorus is quite catchy and I especially enjoy Zinger’s rap since it fits in quite well here unlike in some other songs where it comes off a little oddly placed. My only issue is that I wish there was more power in the vocals in the last chorus. The melody line is good, but Jieun just lacks the soul in her voice to really take it to the next level. She does hit a killer high note though. Amazinger is a rap solo for well Zinger, which is a nice touch. It’s a bit different from the rest of the album because it has a stronger hip-hop sound. I do really enjoy her rapping and she can really pull it off, but my only gripe is that the chorus is basically nothing. Zinger has a good singing voice too, so it would be nice to hear her add a few lines in to help break the song up better. Together comes in and we are once again given a change of genres with a pop / R&B hybrid. I think this is much better than the last ballad because it has a little more life to it and it feels like its going somewhere. Granted it’s a bit generic and sounds like something recent out of Japan, it’s still a nice song. I especially enjoy how the chorus comes up with that extra bit of power. I just wish they had Jieun pull off a few adlibs at the end because I think they would of fit nicely with this style. Hope opens sounding like a ballad, but then switches into a progressive pop song with a heavy guitar undertone. It’s not really my cup of tea because while I do enjoy the slight rock twist to it, the arrangement seems a bit messy for the chorus and the there seems to be something missing in the overall impact of the song. I really enjoy the verses though because the melody is quite easy on the ears. Bastard is the song that stands out most on the album because it’s an aggressive pop song with some rock thrown in. I’m glad they stuck to something with attitude as I was really worried I would be disappointed if it turned out to be some sort of angry ballad. Anyways, Secret has done aggressive pop songs in the past, but they have been very messy and lacked a good hook. Here we have something that flows much better and is quite catchy and I really like the mix of dance and rock for the arrangement. Neverland ends the album with a sweet pop tune. What I like most about the song is that it seems to have late 1990s pop qualities to it with its strong clap beat and sweeping strings with a gentle acoustic undertone. I especially enjoyed the vocals in this song as everyone sounds strong. It’s a nice ending.

Overall: Moving in Secret is a good album and features a variety of genres with some that play up to Secret’s retro image but also others that show they aren’t just one trick ponies. There are a few weak tracks at the beginning, but the album seems to redeem itself by the end. Most of the tracks well done and showcase the groups’ vocals but I only found a few that stood out as single worthy and that I could listen to continuously.

B+