[Mini-Album] Joo – Heartmade

Heartmade is the first mini-album released by Joo. Bad Guy was used as the promotional song and features Chansung of 2PM in the music video.

Released: January 4, 2011
1. Bad Guy (나쁜 남자) [MV]
2. Can’t Even Take a Glass of Water (물 한잔도 마실 수 없어)
3. Not Even in the Movies (영화도 안보니)
4. After Looking At You (마주치고 나서)
5. Unbelievable (꿈만 같아)
6. Bad Guy (inst.)

The mini opens with the powerful Bad Guy; an emotional ballad focusing on the piano and strings. The song is a great ballad, albeit something that has been similarly heard countless times in K-Pop. The verses are pretty subtle and focus primarily on the piano. The chorus’ are more explosive and here is where the strings are brought in to work with the haunting melody. The song does its work in showing the vocals and the music helps to convey the sadness and frustration of the lyrics. Joo does a great job here and like in her previous title track, her softer tone works well with the theme although she also shows a bit of power when she needs to.

Can’t Even Take a Glass of Water is a great followup. It’s a pop/R&B ballad that has a strong oldschool feel to it. Actually it sounds very similar to Byul’s December 32nd, which is another great song. A classy song that works best with Joo’s vocals although it is a bit linear.

Not Even in the Movies features 2PM member Chansung. This midtempo R&B/pop is a great addition because at this point it is the fastest song she has done in her solo discography. I love the verses because they flow so well with Joo’s voice although the chorus’ a bit more aggressive in the vocal delivery. I’m not a big fan of the melody, but Joo sounds great. I don’t think Chansung’s rap really added to anything though.

After Looking At You is a piano ballad with heavy dance beats. I love these kind of songs, but I don’t think this song is one of the stronger ones I’ve heard. While the verses are great, I find the chorus’ to be a bit weak in impact. I don’t think Joo’s voice fits these types of songs as well as the other ones already showcased, but it’s good she’s trying other styles.

Unbelievable is probably the most classic pop ballad on here and is probably my favourite song after the promotional song. It features a heavy R&B beat blended with snap beats and a gorgeous strings arrangement. I think its a great ending and helps show Joo’s vocal strengths.

Overall: As a followup to her first single, Heartmade is perfect. It’s a ballad mini, but everything is pretty distinct enough so it doesn’t all blend together. What I enjoyed most was that it brought modern touches on certain songs but then dug up some oldschool K-Pop sounding tunes that blended together nicely. I did wish she stepped a bit more out of her safety zone as it would’ve been nice to hear her try more than just the usual R&B ballad or it would’ve been nice to hear some more emotional ballads like the promotional song.


[Album] U-KISS – Neverland

Neverland is the second album full-length album released by U-KISS. The title track was used as the promotional song and SOMEDAY was also promoted live.

Released: September 1, 2011
1. Intro
2. Neverland [MV]
3. Baby Don’t Cry
5. Take Me Away
6. On The Floor
7. Friend’s Love (친구의 사랑)
8. April Story (4월 이야기)
9. Obsession
11. Tell Me Y
12. Hope to See You Again (다시 만나요)
13. SOMEDAY (inst.)

The Intro on this album is quite intriguing. It starts with a heavy drum beat before bringing in some futuristic sounding synths and some of Kevin’s singing parts on the title track. It’s a great way to start the album and really surprised me.

The title track, Neverland, is a bit different than the intro as while it features a heavy beat and futuristic sound, it lacks the freaky synths and is reminiscent of their past dance songs like Am I That Easy?, Round and Round and Shut Up. While it’s a bit disappointing that despite saying they were changing their sound and decided to revert to something similar to the past especially after the more pop / R&B oriented 0330, it is safe to say this song is on another level which makes up for that. Unlike their last few dance title tracks, it’s so much cleaner in production and is probably their most refined promotional song since Am I That Easy?. While I did find parts of the rap to be a bit out of place and the second half  of the chorus was pretty much a collage of Eh’s, everything was pieced together quite well and came out hard hitting in both the melody and the musical arrangement.

Baby Don’t Cry starts with explosive opener and continues the general sound of the previous song but with a slight R&B influence to it. I don’t really enjoy the chorus as much as I thought I would mostly because of the excessive autotune layered over the vocals, but there is something modern and slick about its execution. Not to mention, the verses are gorgeous. Actually, there is just something about the whole song that is really gorgeous.

SOMEDAY really slows things down and gives us the first ballad. Despite potentially being a total bore fest as many idol ballads are, this song is saved by the beautiful pre-chorus and chorus. The melody mixed with the heavy beats and flash of synths really brings the chorus up a step in comparison to the emptier verses. It was also a nice change to hear everyone sing and no rap to break the song up.

When Take Me Away first opens, I was dreading a dull ballad, but there is something about there is a gentle quality about this one that makes it even better than the last. Compared to the last few songs that featured pretty heavy arrangements, this one only features the piano and it helps to showcase the great melody and vocals. Not to mention it features quite a bit of harmonizing, which is always a great touch.

On The Floor is the return to the fast paced world and up to this point is the weakest song. It’s a little more on the generic side with its heavy club beats and repetition and while this can make for a good formula there is something missing. It’s by no means a bad song, but especially compared to the last few great tracks, this one just falls to the back.

Friend’s Love brings a weird transition because we are brought right back to a ballad. The song is quite nice with its R&B beat and the overall more uplifting atmosphere makes the song come off more like an OST track. Actually it reminds me of something DBSK would do on their first two albums with the chorus’ sung in unison.

April Story is a duet between Soohyun and Brave Girls’ lead vocalist Eun Young. The song itself is quite nice and reminds me of something from the mid-00s although it’s nothing that particularly stands out. The vocals definitely make the song though as both are quite strong vocalists and their vocals complement each other quite well.

Obsession is another break from the slower tempo songs and it features only Kiseop and AJ. Firstly, I think it’s great that there is a song that finally puts Kiseop into the forefront because he usual has minimal parts in most of their other songs. Secondly, the song isn’t bad although it’s a bit too repetitive at times and parts of the chorus came off as a bit messy. It reminds me of those ballad oriented dance songs as there are some breaks with a piano line and it would’ve been nice if this was seen a bit more.

The thing with TOP THAT that I enjoy most is that it while it’s an upbeat song, it features a stronger hip-hop influence to it. With that said, it sticks out like a sore thumb on the album and pretty much ruins any cohesion the album might have. The song isn’t bad but a bit too aggressive for my tastes and sometimes just comes off as messy and doesn’t really fit the groups’ vocals.

Tell Me Y features a heavy beat but brings a more midtempo track. It only includes the rappers Eli and Dongho as well as another singer SWIN (P.O of Paran). It’s a pretty nice song and has a more relaxed quality to it despite being dominated by rapping. I actually find the transitions to this song quite well done and they don’t seem as oddly contrasting as I was first imagining.

The last song on the album, Hope to See You Again, features two Paran members, Ace and P.O. The song has a really long opening that is full of just talking, which is sort of annoying. With that said, when the song itself starts up, it’s is pretty relaxing. The song builds up by the end, but the whole thing is quite beautiful with its fast-paced melody and emphasis on vocals. There are some great notes here and there and the two Paran members really have great voices that add to the song.

Overall: U-KISS’ second album was a major improvement over their first. While I did find the first half of the album stronger than the second half, there were good songs throughout. My only problem was mostly with the dance tracks that were a bit out of place with their placement and were the weaker tracks on the album (except the title track). It also would’ve been nice to hear some more songs that could act as transitions between the heavy dance songs and the more straightforward ballads such as Baby Don’t Cry or Tell Me Y. With that said, it’s an overall strong album and features quite a few songs that shine in U-KISS’ discography and even compared to other K-Pop idol songs as a whole like Take Me Away. I was pleasantly surprised.


[Digital Single] SISTAR – We Never Go Alone

We Never Go Alone is the first digital single released by SISTAR. It was used as cheer song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Released: June 16, 2010
1. We Never Go Alone (박지성 공식 응원가) [MV]
2. We Never Go Alone (inst.)

We Never Go Alone does what it does which is bring energy and fun. It’s a cheery pop song with an awkward “bubbly” sounding arrangement and some synths over top of a drum beat. It’s very SISTAR sounding and is highly repetitive, but it’s just not cup of tea. There are times when it does shine though like the cheering, but the chorus is pretty much just the title being repeated rather annoyingly.

Overall: It’s a fun song and certainly has some charms to it but I have heard better cheer songs before. It fits into their discography in terms of sound but compared to most of their other songs it falls a little flat.


[Mini-Album] miss A – Touch

Touch is the first mini-album released by miss A. The title track was used as the promotional song.

Released: February 20, 2012
1. Touch [MV]
2. Lips
3. Rock N Rule
4. No Mercy
5. Over U
6. Touch (Newport Mix)

I know some weren’t a big fan of this song, but the title track, Touch, is quite good imo. I think it has a different flair to it that is dark but interesting and while it’s not as catchy as their last few releases, it doesn’t drag on as bad as Goodbye Baby. I especially enjoy the interesting synths used in the background that are present throughout the entire song as they keep the arrangement from being too bare and uninteresting. My main problem though is that the production doesn’t sound as clean as their past stuff like the vocals sound off at times.

Lips is a nice followup to the title track and has a stronger American edge to it. It has a stronger club feel to it than the previous song and also features quite a bit more autotune. I’m not a fan of the verses though as they are lackluster, but the chorus is really nice especially the opening line. The middle 8 is also quite nice too and slows it down a bit.

I definitely think Rock N Rule is great. Their vocals sound better here and the song itself is quite fun. The song has a clearer pop route than the last two and while it is cheerful, it keeps it sane. The dubstep addition was a little out of place, but this is definitely my favourite song on here.

No Mercy is funky and charming and features a stronger percussion backing. I really like the verses to this song as they are quite edgy sounding and the repetitive hook in the chorus is really great. With that said, I don’t really like the first part of the chorus as the melody sounds quite odd and doesn’t really fit with the music as well as it could have.

Over U is a change as it features a stronger electronic sound. I think in terms of the fast moving K-Pop sound, this one sounds a bit outdated for me in the sense that it reminds me of something from ’08 or ’09 than it does from ’12. I like that it has a more aggressive sound to it, but the chorus is pretty weak to me. The mini ends with a remix of Touch and what a great remix it is.

The Newport Remix slows things down a bit but makes it even more haunting than the original. And the rap is surprisingly really cool sounding here too.

Overall: Touch was an odd release for me. I heard that many people really like it as a whole and weren’t particularly impressed with the title track, but I think the overall release was more on the middle ground. I think every track was decent and some were better than others, but it didn’t really push for anything and there seemed to be things in every song that needed to be worked on.


[Digital Single] Joo – Cinderella’s Sister OST Part. 1

Cinderella’s Sister OST Part.1  is the second digital single released by Joo.

Released: April 5, 2010
1. Turn Around (뒤돌아봐)

Unlike the last OST song that Joo released, Turn Around is a bit more of the standard K-Pop ballad in its arrangement and is something that could have fit right into her first single. There isn’t anything particularly interesting about the actual music as it mainly focuses on the piano with the strings underlying it. However, the melody is quite nice and the overall delivery of the song is sad but powerful. Joo also sounds quite strong here as the song fits perfectly with her voice.

Overall: It’s safer than her last OST single, but it just fits much better with her.


[Mini-Album] U-KISS – Bran New Kiss

Bran New Kiss is the fifth mini-album released by U-KISS. It is the first release to include members AJ and Hoon. 0330 was used as the promotional single.

Released: March 30, 2011
1. It’s Time (Intro)
2. 0330 [MV]
3. The Words That Hurt Me… (내게 아픈 말은…)
4. Every Day
5. I Don’t Understand
6. Miracle

Despite the change in members, the mini opens up with the expected U-KISS intro. It’s Time (Intro) is rather interesting because it has a more futuristic style going on with the odd beats and sweeping synths. I’m not a big fan of it, but it certainly does capture my attention.

After that we are flown right into the title track, 0330, which is a midtempo pop song with a slight R&B tinge to it. This song really reminds me of that graduation song by Vitamin C for some reason, maybe because the arrangement is similar in terms of the usage of strings. Anyways, I think this their best title track since Man Man Ha Ni and certainly one of their strongest songs in their discography. It’s just so well put together. It’s simple and features a nice switching between singing and rapping pieces but does so in a way that doesn’t really interrupt the flow of the song. The vocals are also well done and Hoon pulls in his weight here.

The Words That Hurt Me starts off with some funky piano line, but it swings into a full on pop song with a heavy beat. What I like about this song is that it starts off sounding like the everyday K-Pop boy band song but the melody as a certain edge to it that is both catchy and unpredictable. I just wish the lines weren’t just dominated by Kevin though. Definitely one of their best songs.

Every Day is the type of song I would expect from U-KISS with it’s more prominent dance elements. With that said, it’s a bit lighter than some of their past stuff. It features a heavy beat and the typical flashes of synths in the background with the more aggressive and repetitive vocal arrangement but just doesn’t come off as clean as the first two songs. With that said, the middle 8 is really really nicely done and gives the song a nice break.

I Don’t Understand feels like a mix of the last two songs in the sense that it features dance elements but in a lighter setting. It’s a bit forgettable for me as while it is pretty catchy I think sounds rushed at times and the heavy beats are a bit too much. I do enjoy the use of synths in the chorus though as it gave it a slight J-Pop sound to it.

Miracle continues the light dance / pop sound but with a more ethereal atmosphere. The odd sounding piano line throughout the song mixed with the heavy beats, autotune and fast paced melody is an interesting combination but it surprisingly works out here. I like that the song has a nice distribution in terms of parts so all the members get something.

Overall: Bran New Kiss was really new and has a much lighter feel to it that wasn’t really heard since their first two minis. In this mini they were able to capture that feeling while continuing the dance / pop they had been consistently releasing for the last while to make a quite the mini. While I did enjoy some songs more than others (especially the first two), I think every thing was well put together and was much cleaner than their last mini but wasn’t as empty in delivery as their album.


[Album] SISTAR – So Cool

So Cool is the first album released by SISTAR. The title track was used as the promotional song and was yet another Brave Brothers production. The album includes five new songs.

Released: August 9, 2011
1. Let’s Get The Party Started
2. So Cool [MV]
3. Girls Do It
4. Follow Me
5. New World
6. I Don’t Want a Weak Man (약한 남자 싫어)
7. How Dare You (니까짓게) [MV]
8. Over
9. Oh Baby
10. Shady Girl (가식걸) [MV]
11. Push Push [MV]
12. Ma Boy (Special Version)

Let’s Get The Party Started is one of the five new songs although it really is only just a one minute intro. I really like how it opens, but I’m not a fan of the rest of it. The melody is pure pop, but is kind of annoying.

Luckily it leads right into the title track, which is SISTAR at their best. The production of the song very much the usual Brave Brothers sound that is given to SISTAR as it bears similarities to their past songs, How Dare You and Push Push. I think this is both good and bad as it’s yet another catchy song, but then again that is all it is. I do feel though that So Cool at least takes it up a level and the arrangement sounds much stronger.

Girls Do It pretty much follows the sound of the last song except with a heavier beat. To be honest, the arrangement of the chorus is so similar to that of So Cool that it sounds like its sister track (no pun intended). I do like it though because it has a stronger disco edge to it that hasn’t been seen in their discography and I liked how they incorporated Bora into the verses instead of just giving her a rap section although I’m not a big fan of the autotune found in the verses.

Follow Me changes things up a bit by giving a pop song with less dance elements and little bit more of reggae. I like the beats of the song and like the last song, how they incorporate Bora into the verses. With that said, the rest of the verses are generic and forgettable. The chorus on the other hand is quite nice and it’s another catchy song from the group although there are times where I think the musical arrangement could be more fitting of the melody.

New World is the last of the brand new songs and is another pop tune. It’s slower than the other songs and probably the most forgettable of the newer ones. I do really like the arrangement of the song though as they add some synths that replicate strings, which add an interesting edge, but besides that the song just isn’t strong enough for me.

Although that was the last of the brand new songs, there is Ma Boy (Special Version) included on the album, which switches things up a bit. In this version, all four of the girls are included and not just Hyorin and Bora. I think it was a great addition to the album and the song is still as good as it ever was.

The rest of the album is filled with songs from their previous releases except for the intros. I’m not particularly happy with the inclusion of the B-sides, even if they were decent because those can be found on the single. The A-sides Push Push, Shady Girl and How Dare You, are still as catchy as ever and are some of the standouts on the album despite their more generic flair. The B-sides Oh Baby, I Don’t Want a Weak Man and Over, are weaker in the sense that the songs themselves aren’t as well produced but they add a bit more variety to the album by providing a larger range of genres.

Overall: SISTAR’s album, like miss A’s, was a disappointment in the sense that we only got five new songs and one of them was an intro. I don’t know what is up with companies doing this but why must they add B-sides to these? With that said, the newer songs were generally pretty well done and although I didn’t like the intro and New World was somewhat dull, the other three provided three solid listens in what SISTAR does best.