[Digital Single] JOO – Cry and Blow

Cry and Blow is the fifth digital single released by JOO. It was her first release since her switch from JYP to Woolim Entertainment.

Released: November 2, 2015
1. Cry and Blow (울고 분다) [MV]

It has been a while since JOO was releasing music. Cry and Blow returns us to her JYP days with a sad pop ballad. It’s quite similar to her past title tracks in terms of musical arrangement, although this one has some nice subtle touches that keep it interesting. The song is largely focused on the piano and strings and is meant to create a rather haunting and depressing listen. While it isn’t as explosive as Bad Guy and as naive as Because of a Man, Cry and Blow seems to fit well in between. Her vocals are much stronger and she is able to convey emotion much more effectively. The melody is also quite entrancing. I especially love the repeated title sung during the chorus as it becomes more intense as the song progresses.The whole song is quite beautiful.

Overall: JOO came back strong. Hopefully she will be here longer as she is able to deliver a killer ballad. I think this is her stronger yet as the music and vocals are on a higher level.


[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #375

Title: again
Artist: Kiyokiba Shunsuke (清木場俊介)
Released: 2012
Genre: Pop / Rock

Kiyokiba Shunsuke is really awesome. again is along the veins of the last song I reviewed, Sayonara Itoshii Hito yo…, with its upbeat nature and similar musical arrangement. I really love this song though. The opening is really stellar and I adore the electric guitar here (it also continues to play during the instrumental breaks). The verses are quite slick and I like how Kiyokiba changes things up with his voice when it hits the pre-chorus. The chorus is absolutely amazing though. It opens with a lot of force and the melody is just so catchy. The music also helps since it introduces some synths on top of the pounding guitar and percussion. again was released as his sixteenth single and is the second of three Kiyokiba Shunsuke entries on the list.


[Mini-Album] miss A – Colors

COLORS is the third mini-album released by girl group miss A. It was their first release in almost a year and a half. Only You was used as the promotional single and was a big hit for the group.

Released: March 30, 2015
1. Step (한걸음)
2. Only You (다른 남자 말고 너) [MV]
3. Love Song
4. Melt (녹아)
5. I Caught Ya
6. Stuck

The mini opens with Step, a seductive midtempo R&B tune. I think this is something I wouldn’t expect from this group, but it surprisingly fits them well. It’s a bit oldschool and could easily come from K-Pop from the early to mid 2000s. I love how the beat in the song and it matches so well with everything. The girls sound quite good, although I am not a fan of the slight autotune over their vocals. Overall, it is a solid song and a good opener.

After, we are thrown right into the promo track, Only You. I definitely think among their promo singles, this is among their most generic in sound. It’s just pretty straightforward pop. I do really like the squeak that goes on in the back throughout the verses. It definitely gives the song’s instrumental a little more life. The chorus is definitely the highlight though as it is just so catchy. The hook is really sweet sounding and works well with Suzy’s vocals. Nothing new, but definitely a solid pop song.

Love Song is definitely an interesting change. This R&B/dance tune has some really cool parts to it. I’m not a huge fan of the chorus since it is a little lackluster, but the verses are strong and the instrumental break is a fun twist even if the transition is a little jarring. The only thing that has to be taken out though is the middle 8 as it does not fit the rest of the song one bit with its a sweeter sound.  A mess, but a fun one.

Melt is a fun listen, as it adds some hip-hop elements to the R&B backdrop. It’s really catchy, but I don’t think it hits to the point I want it to. It always stays in a safe zone. It’s a pretty solid song, but I wish there was a little more to the chorus as it just goes on repeat with the nanana’s.

I Caught Ya helps to keep up the nice diversity with its slight rock tinge. I really like the buildup to the chorus because it definitely gets the tension up and the guitar riffs help to create a nice backdrop. The musical arrangement is definitely the highlight of the song. It’s a lot of fun and provides a nice contrast to the other songs. With that said, the chorus is again lackluster for me. I think there should’ve been a little bit more strength in the chorus with both the music and vocals.

Stuck is the slowest song on the album and is a coffee-house pop songs. I’m usually not a fan of those songs since they are a bit too boring for my tastes, but this one is nice because of the inclusion of the brass instruments in the background. It definitely gives it some life. Actually, the song reminds me of something from mid-2000s J-Pop. It is a nice ending.

Overall: miss A did well with this release. I think the whole album is quite solid and every song is a decent listen. With that said, I did find some of the album tracks to be a little lacking in their execution of the choruses. They never really hit the level that I wanted them to be at and probably won’t revisit them anytime soon. There are some really fun songs here such as Only You and Step, though.


[Album] Rainbow – Rainbow Syndrome Part 1

Rainbow Syndrome was Rainbow’s first album. It was actually split into two parts that were released three months apart. The first part featured Tell me Tell me as the promoted track.

Released: February 13, 2013
1. Golden Touch
2. Close Your Eyes (두 눈을 감고)
3. Tell me Tell me [MV]
4. Cosmic Girl
5. A Story You Never Knew But I Know (나만 아는 너는 절대 모를 이야기)
6. In Love

The album opens with Golden Touch, a rather funky tune that has some 70’s qualities to it. While the song is largely made of synths, I really enjoy how some of them are used to mimic other instruments like brass. While the song as a whole is fun, I do find the vocal arrangement to sound like it lags behind the actually music. I don’t think it totally fits together despite both being quite good. It’s a good opener though since it does have a lot of energy.

I do find the transition Close Your Eyes a little odd though since we slow things down with a midtempo pop ballad. I do enjoy the piano lines throughout the song and it helps add life to the rather generic musical arrangement. It’s a pretty positive sounding song and the vocal arrangement is charming, but the whole thing gets a bit boring after a while. There are a few surprising bits, but it’s been done better before.

Tell me Tell me was used as the promotional track and it is easy to see why. While the song itself is a departure from Rainbow’s previous title tracks, Tell me Tell me is a solid song. It’s on the cuter side, but it isn’t totally pushed to that end. I really love the synths used in the song though as they do mimic strings and it sounds great with the rather sporadic beat. The best part of the song is definitely the chorus opening as the hook is excellent and very catchy. The girls also sound great here, although it definitely sounds dominated by Hyunyoung.

Cosmic Girl changes things with an uptempo disco tune. I think it is a nice change to be heard on the album and it’s one of the stronger songs. It fits the girls a little better as it has a more mature sound to it. I really like how they did the musical arrangement in this song as the high-pitched synths mixed with the brass sounding synths help give the song a fun twist and keep it the song contemporary. It’s a well-done track.

A Story You Never Knew But I Know is a little less dance and a little more pop. It has an explosive array of synths during the chorus and features a pretty uplifting sounding vocal arrangement. The odd thing with this song is I actually find the verses better than the chorus. They are more interesting as the melody isn’t as predictable during those parts. When the chorus hits, everything becomes rather generic. I’m a fan of generic, but this song is definitely a filler and ends up forgettable in the long run. The girls sound good though.

In Love is a step up compared to the last song despite the continuation of the happy-go-lucky pop sound. I do like the musical arrangement more just because of the few instances that we can hear the funk influence in the guitar riffs. Besides that though, the song is unfortunately rather forgettable as well. The melody is better and more catchy, but i found the production to be a little odd as the verses sound so clear but the choruses are so quiet and they end up a little flat in delivery.

Overall: I really love Rainbow, but this is one of their weaker releases. There are a few good tunes, a few mediocre and a few that ended up a little flat. I was really looking forward to reviewing this, but it did come out a little disappointing considering the promotional track was so good. Cosmic girl was definitely a nice gem to find though.


[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #376

Title: BINGO!
Artist: AKB48
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop

While there have been a few AKB-related songs that have popped up, BINGO! is the first of seven entries to show up. While I’ve always adored the group, I just haven’t been as up to date lately due to some of my favorites having exited the group and the songs not being as good as they once were. BINGO was the group’s sixth single (fourth major one) and is the first to feature members from all three teams. I love how upbeat this song is. It’s cute, but not overly so and fits the summer season quite well. I like how the vocal arrangement was done and it works nicely on top of the mainly guitar-dominated music. It’s a catchy song and the girls sounds good together, although it is a bit strange not hearing any solos in a song. Anyways, this is a blast to listen to!

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #377

Title: Loveless
Artist: Yamashita Tomohisa (山下智久)
Released: 2009
Genre: Pop / R&B

Yamashita Tomohisa was part of popular Johnny’s boyband, NEWS, until his departure in 2011. Well known for his boyish good looks, he was very popular and would easily be able to carry himself solo. Loveless was his second single and was released while he was still in the group. This R&B piano ballad is surprisingly refreshing and something that I didn’t expect him to release. I don’t think his voice truly unleashes the potential the song has, but he does add enough emotion into it that the song is still able to have an impact. The song itself is quite sad in both lyrics and music. It’s rather generic in terms of R&B ballads, but it’s a catchy tune and a well-produced tune. This is the first of two songs from Yamapi.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #378

Title: Miss Love Tantei (Missラブ探偵)
Artist: W
Released: 2005
Genre: Pop

W consisted of former Morning Musume members, Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi. Known for their similar looks and silly antics, the group was formed after their graduation from Momusu. Unfortunately, the group ended after Kago was caught smoking (she was underage) and the two have since gone on to do their own things. Miss Love Tantei was the last single the group released and is their only entry on my list. A sassy upbeat pop tune, Miss Love Tantei is certainly the group at their best. Unlike their more bubblegum pop releases, this one has a bit more maturity to it. The music isn’t really that unique and mostly features synths over a beat, but it fits well with the vocal arrangement. The girls do a good job singing and they add the well-needed attitude to it. The rap break is also quite different and a fun change. One of H!P’s best.