[Single] Secret – Gift from Secret

Gift from Secret is the third mini-album released by Secret and is a bit more Christmas-themed than their usual stuff. I Do I Do was used as the promotional track.

Released: December 19, 2013
1. Snowmelt
2. I Do I Do [MV]
3. Remember Me

Snowmelt is a nice intro. It has that slow jazzy quality to it that makes you think of sitting by the fireplace during Christmas time. It isn’t too long, but I actually enjoyed it and it would’ve been nice to see it transformed into a full song.

Interestingly, the relaxing tune swings right into I Do I Do, an upbeat pop song (of course Xmas-themed). I’m all for cute songs from Secret as they are usually executed with a lot of quality and in a way that is infectious but not over-the-top. I don’t know what to say about this one though. The quality is there and it is somewhat infectious, but there just seems something weird. Maybe it’s just a bit too (oddly) generic. It’s cute but doesn’t have the pizazz of YooHoo or Shy Boy. The arrangement itself is quite charming though.

Remember Me is a bit different and gives us an R&B-pop ballad. I like this one probably the most. It isn’t too slow and has some wintery flair, but it still has the feeling of sadness with it with its ethereal vibe. The vocals are kept rather simple and nice.

FANTASTIC is probably the least “Christmas” of all the songs on here and is a pretty straightforward uptempo pop song with some dance elements. It’s a lot of fun and it was great to hear some rapping from Hana, who has been primarily taking a singing role in Secret’s recent releases.

Overall: I was a little skeptical of how this mini would turn out to be because I Do I Do is my least favourite promo track from Secret to date. It’s not bad, but a little forgettable. On the other hand, the other two and a half songs were actually decent and gave us a bit more variety. I especially enjoyed Remember Me because it was able to work the Christmas theme in a bit more of a contemporary way.


[Single] After School – First Love

First Love is the sixth single released by After School. The title track was used as the promotional song.

Released: June 13, 2013
1. 8 Hot Girl
2. First Love (첫사랑) [MV]
3. Dressing Room
4. Time’s Up
5. Love Beat
6. Crying While Putting on Make-up (화장을 하다 울었어)

The single opens with 8 Hot Girl, a sensual R&B intro. I don’t know what it is about this one, but the vocals just seem so off. Would’ve been better if it was just the music and the bit of rapping.

However, the intro nicely transitions into the title track, First Love. This is another sensual and slow R&B-pop tune with some clear influence from George Michael’s Careless Whisper. The song is largely dependent on the percussion, electric guitar and saxophone riff. The vocals are not bad, although most of the girls are just whispering throughout the song to give it that sexy feeling. Nana and Raina definitely stand out here. With that said, the whole song is just a bit too slow for me. It’s nice once in a while, but can become a bit dull.

Dressing Room is a bit funkier. It’s still somewhat slow, but has some rock and electronic elements in the music. I wish the chorus was a bit faster and more impactful in terms of melody because it doesn’t totally match with the explosive energy of the arrangement, but it’s still pretty cool. Has some 80s feel to it.

I love Time’s Up. Up to this point, it is the most uptempo song and has a lot more energy than the other tracks. The melody has some ballad qualities that I like and makes me think of the song as an upbeat version of Because of You. I’m really enjoying the pacing of the song. My only gripe is I wish Raina didn’t totally dominate the song, even though her voice fit the song surprisingly well.

Love Beat brings us a heavy dance song made just for the clubs. It has strong beats and an array of synths and is quite catchy. I don’t think it is particularly original, but it is a fun listen.

I expected Crying While Putting on Make-up to be a ballad and well it is. It is a duet between Raina and Jungah and is pretty much your standard K-Pop ballad. Really, they’ve had better ones out there, but this one does get better about halfway through when it gains some power. It was nice to hear Jungah have a large amount of lines.

Overall: I can’t say I’m terribly impressed although it is better than their last single. It’s an average release from the group. There were some decent songs, but only one I really enjoyed. It was nice to hear the group attempt something different with the title track, but I think they work better with songs that have more impact.


[Mini-Album] Kahi – Who Are You?

Who Are You? is the second mini-album released by Kahi and her first release after her departure from After School. It’s ME was used as the promotional single and was written by the late Rottyful Sky.

Released: October 10, 2013
1. Boys And Girls (feat. Swing)
2. It’s ME (feat. Dumbfoundead) [MV]
3. Hey Boy (feat. Dok2)
4. Sinister (feat. Bekah)
5. Colorful World (feat. Yoon Do Hyun) (색색의 세계)
6. Slow

The first of the songs is Boys And Girls a funky 70s inspired pop tune. It some disco qualities to it, which gives it a bit of spark. Although I like it, I wished it was a bit faster. The pacing just seems too slow and I felt that if it was faster it would have more impact. Kahi’s vocals are also really autotuned, which was an interesting touch. Not sure why they did that since it has a weird contrast to Swing’s rapping which isn’t autotuned. Not bad though.

Can I say I love It’s ME. At first, I was a little disappointed because it didn’t sound as hard hitting as I was hoping for Kahi, but the song has really grown on me a lot. It is sophisticated and really matches her well. It’s not too aggressive, but has spunk to it and I love how clean the production feels. It doesn’t sound like it is as programmed as other songs out there right now. Her voice also sounds amazing in it.

Hey Boy gives us something a little more aggressive with it’s hip-hop sound. The chorus is really interesting as it mixes Dok2’s rapping with Kahi singing Hey Boy over and over. We also get a taste of Kahi’s rapping here. It’s a pretty good song although I was hoping for something a little stronger. The middle 8 also seems completely out of place.

Sinister is a nice change because it features a more prominent rock sound, while still having a funky beat to fit in with the rest of the songs. I wish the chorus was more explosive though and featured a stronger arrangement. I do love Kahi’s vocals on the song with her belting towards the end and Bekah is featured, which was a cool touch.

Colorful World is another funky tune, with its more lighthearted rock elements. The guitar is definitely the highlight in this song as well and although it’s not my favourite, I really like how fun the song is. It has some oldschool qualities to it. Yoon Do Hyun doesn’t make a huge appearance, but I’m guessing he is doing some of the background vocals and the guitar. It is a different kind of collaboration.

With a title like Slow, I expected this to be a slow song….and I was right haha. This sticks out like a sore thumb on this mini, but I don’t totally dislike it. It’s a nice ballad with a gorgeous arrangement and an almost 00s American music quality. I don’t think Kahi fits with this kind of sound, but she sounds good regardless.

Overall: I don’t think this mini was as amazing as I was hoping it would’ve been. I really wanted to love most of the songs, but I only ended liking them (except of course It’s ME, which was one of my favourites of 2013). I think the majority of the songs just seemed to be missing some sort of spark that would really set them off. With that said, I did like the fact that Kahi played around with some different styles and it’s still a solid release overall.


[Digital Single] U-KISS – Forever (For KISS Me)

Forever (For KISS Me) is the fifth digital single released by U-KISS.

Released: December 22, 2012
1. Forever (For KISS Me) (평생)
2. Forever (For KISS Me) (Inst)

Forever (For KISS Me) was specially made for their fanbase, so I was expecting something a bit…sappy. I liked that the song was an uptempo Christmas-themed song though and I really like the arrangement. With that said, the song really sounds like those Christmas songs that the K-Pop companies tend to release every year. It especially reminds me of something that would have been released by SMTown around 2006-2007.

Overall: The song is better than I expected as it is a fun uptempo pop tune, but it just sounds like a ton of other songs I know. I really can’t tell the difference.


[Digital Single] SISTAR – Hot Place

Hot Place is the third digital single released by girl group SISTAR.

Released: October 30, 2011
1. Hot Place (feat. Brave Sound) [MV]

Hot Place is an uptempo dance tune. Imagine So Cool but edgier. I was really surprised with it because although it is basically your generic dance song in terms of musical arrangement, it has some really catchy parts to it. Unfortunately, the verses are really bland and forgettable, but it’s a good thing the chorus is just so infectious. Vocally, it’s sort of average. Everything is autotuned and we don’t get many big notes or amazing acrobatics from anyone and Hyorin covers the majority of it (although that isn’t a bad thing since her voice really works with this style). I actually really enjoyed Bora’s rap though and she works it here.

Overall: A catchy dance tune. Nothing outstanding, but it’s a fun listen and easily could have fit on their first album.


[Mini-Album] Secret – Letter from Secret

Letter from Secret is the fourth mini-album released by Secret. Unlike the darker concept of Talk That or sexier one like Poison, Secret return to a cuter image. The song YooHoo was used as the promotional single.

Released: April 30, 2013
1. YooHoo [MV]
2. Daddy Long Legs (키다리 아저씨)
3. Only U
4. B.O.Y (Because of You)

As mentioned, YooHoo brings back cute Secret. I know international fans really enjoy sexy Secret, but I really think this is one of their best songs. It’s cute but not overbearingly so that it detracts from the music itself. I think added with the funny music video really helps things. Anyways, the song has qualities similar to their hit, Shy Boy, but with a more summery flair to it. It’s not out of this world, but the girls are able to execute the concept really well and it’s just an overall charming pop tune.

Daddy Long Legs brings a beautiful acoustic R&B ballad (actually sounds very similar to Ji Eun’s False Hope). I think the thing that stands out with this one most is just the gorgeous arrangement with the mix of guitar, beats and background vocals. It’s at times quite haunting, especially during the chorus. One of their best album tracks.

Only U is a midtempo pop song with some R&B influences. I don’t think it’s as strong as the last song and is a bit generic, but it does have a strength and that lies in the rap. It was nice to see Zinger (or Hana now) take the forefront because she pretty much dominates this song and she usually only has a few lines or so in their other songs. Not bad!

The last song on the mini is B.O.Y (Because of You), which is another slower song. I don’t know what is with the song, but it’s a different swing of things with its pop-rock qualities. I really like it and another one added to their best album tracks. The ethereal quality about it added with the arrangement really reminds me of something from the early 00s in the US.

Overall: Before diving into this mini I only knew about YooHoo, which I really enjoyed. I was pleasantly surprised though as everything on this is quite good. Some songs just really stand out and are among Secret’s best. Their most solid release yet, definitely.


[Album] miss A – Hush

Hush is the second full-length album released by girl group miss A. The title track was used as the promotional single and the album includes five songs from their last two mini-albums.

Released: November 6, 2013
1. Come on Over (놀러와)
2. Hush [MV]
3. Love is U
4. Spolight
5. Hide & Sick
6. (Mama) I’m Good
7. Like U
8. Hush (Party Ver.)
9. Touch [MV]
10. Over U
11. Time’s Up
12. If I Were a Boy
13. I Don’t Need a Man (남자 없이 잘 살아) [MV]

miss A’s second album opens with Come on Over, a sensual R&B song. I was expecting something a little more hardhitting, but I gotta be honest and say this is a fantastic song. The melody is surprisingly catchy and the arrangement is really beautiful. I don’t think the rap works that well in this song though and although all the girls sound good it would’ve been nicer to hear a bit of adlibbing towards the end to give it an extra push.

I’m surprised people didn’t take to Hush as well as I thought they would. I think it’s an amazing pop song and one of miss A’s strongest offerings. I really like how it builds up with the eventual inclusion of the acoustic guitar and then the heavy beat. The vocals were also much stronger in this one than the last and the group’s lack of standout singer is not really noticeable. Excellent.

Love is U gives us a lighter change in sound. The midtempo pop song isn’t my favourite sound, but there are parts that I really enjoy such as when the title is repeated. This part also surprised me because Min actually has a bit of soul in her voice here. Not bad.

The verses of Spotlight bring back some early 00s R&B vibes, but the song then switches into full pop mode. While I do like that it is really upbeat and fun, there are areas of the arrangement that I just find annoying like the beat and the weird buzzing noise in the background. It’s still a nice listen, just filler material.

Hide & Sick brings the aggressive pop sound and has similarities to that of Hush. I think there are parts of it that are somewhat messy, like Jia’s rap which just doesn’t have much flow. At the same time, there are parts that I enjoy a lot such as the chorus, which has a little bit of a country flair to it. If it was cleaned up a little it could’ve been a promoted song.

(Mama) I’m Good is really great and probably the best song since the title track. It’s a bit oldschool and has some rock qualities to it that differentiates it from the other songs. All the girls sound great as well. A great uplifting tune.

The last of the brand new tracks, Like U is probably the slowest of them. The modern R&B ballad offers a nice change of pace, however, I find it to be rather dull at times. To melody is decent, but not hardhitting enough and gets lost in the heavy beats and synths during the chorus. It’s an ok listen, just not something I would return to often.

The Party Version of Hush is an interesting twist to the somewhat bare sound the original had as it features a stronger trance sound. I think it would be fun to dance to, but it is a bit tiring and overwhelming and the melody is heavily overshadowed by the music. The album also includes five older songs released off the girls’ last two mini-albums.

Touch is still one of my favourite miss A songs, although Over U still hasn’t grown on me too much (the chorus is eh…). I really enjoyed Time’s Up so I’m happy it was chosen to be on here whereas I Don’t Need a Man is charming and If I Were a Boy is ok.

Overall: I was actually surprised by this album. It was nice to see a lot more new songs and even if they all weren’t the most amazing, each had its charm and were listenable. It was also good to see that the album consisted largely of upbeat songs. Not too sure why the older songs were included though. I could understand Touch and I Don’t Need a Man, but I found the other ones were unnecessary (despite their varying levels of enjoyability).