[Digital Single] PRODUCE 101 – PICK ME

PRODUCE 101 was a huge K-Pop survival program that was broadcast in 2016. It featured 101 female trainees from different companies who went through various rounds to make it into a final group of 11 members. PICK ME was released as the theme song for the show.

pickme
Released: December 17, 2015
1. PICK ME [MV]

PICK ME is an intoxicating EDM mess. The song starts off pretty bare with a heavy beat and an attack of synths. The girls come in with some high-pitched singing that almost sounds out of place. As the song progresses, it gains energy before entering the insanely repetitive and catchy melody that pretty much consists of a constant barrage of “pick me up”. The highlight of the song though is when it enters the instrumental breakdown and the heavy beats really come into foreplay. At first, everything about the song was odd, but it has a way to getting into your head and the song has some really clever aspects to it. I especially love the hooks in the bridge and the breakdown is intense and exciting.

Overall: This is the type of song that you either love or hate. It can be really repetitive and somewhat annoying, but I think it has some really cool parts to it and it is also insanely catchy. It’s just an overall well-produced tune.

A

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[Repackaged] T-ara – Breaking Heart

Breaking Heart is the repackaged edition of their first album, Absolute First Album. It included two new songs, both of which were used as promotional songs.

breakingheart
Released: March 5, 2010
1. I Go Crazy Because of You (너 때문에 미쳐) [MV]
2. I’m Really Hurt (내가 너무 아파) [MV]
3. One & One
4. Like the First Time (처음처럼) [MV]
5. Bo Peep Bo Peep [MV]
6. Tic Tic Toc
7. Bye Bye
8. Apple Is A
9. Falling U
10. You You You (너너너)
11. Lies (Dance ver.) (거짓말) [MV]
12. T.T.L (Time to love) [MV]
13. Lies (Slow ver.) [MV]
14. TTL Listen.2 [MV]
15. Good Person (좋은사람) [MV]
16. Wanna Play (놀아볼래?)

I Go Crazy Because of You is different from the rest of T-ara’s songs. While still heavily electronic, the song features a much heavier beat and faster vocal arrangement. It sounds particularly similar to Britney Spears’ Womanizer. It’s laced with heavy autotune, especially the verses, which blend into the music. It makes it a bit difficult to hear them, but it’s an interesting technique and surprisingly fits in this song. The chorus is more focused on a repetitive hook and I find it zooms by rather quickly. It is a catchy song, but it’s a bit of a mess at times. A fun listen though. I much prefer I’m Really Hurt because it’s more laid back and the production is more straightforward in its delivery. The song also features a pounding beat, but the whole song tends to be on a lighter note. The music is pretty much focused on the synths though. The verses are decent, but its the chorus where the magic happens. While also utilizing a repetitive hook, this part has more melody to it than the last song and doesn’t just totally flash by. I don’t think it’s as strong as it once was, but it’s a solid listen and I love the sadness that it emits.

Overall: While I’m not as into both of these songs as I once was, they do continue the quality found on the rest of the album. Also, despite the differences, they do help to create a cohesive sound. I Go Crazy is a fun listen, albeit a bit messy at times. However, it’s one of the girls’ most recognizable tunes and for good reason. I much prefer the second song, but both are solid tunes.

A

[Digital Single] Song Ji Eun – Don’t Look At Me

Don’t Look At Me is the fifth digital single released by Song Ji Eun. It was released right before her first mini-album, 25.

dontlookatme
Released: September 24, 2014
1. Don’t Look At Me (쳐다보지마) [MV]

Don’t Look At Me is pretty much a follow-up to Ji Eun’s 2011 smash, Going Crazy. The music is pretty much in a similar vein with it’s dramatic atmosphere, except this time we don’t have Bang Yong Guk to pair her off. Despite that, she pulls of this song quite well. I love how heavy the beat it and I really love how the song goes in such slow way that it almost feels like the melody is dragging along. It really works well with the music. While I do feel Ji Eun gets a bit overshadowed by how powerful the music is, her sweet tone provides an interesting contrast and she is able to express the emotion of the song well.

Overall: An excellent follow-up to her other material. It keeps up the whole dramatic and dark feel of her previous releases, but keeps it fresh. The song does get a bit slow at times, but it’s all well put together and a solid example of what she is capable of.

A

[Digital Single] BULLDOK – How’s This?

BULLDOK is a new girl group under Kconic Entertainment. Four of their members were part of the huge trainee show, Produce 101, with one ranking in the top 32. How’s This? is the group’s debut digital single.

howsthis
Released: October 20, 2016
1. How’s This? (어때요?) [MV]
2. Feel Your Luv

I don’t particularly know how I feel about How’s This? I don’t think it’s the most stand out song, but it has really interesting ideas. The song is a bit of a monster in the sense that there are different sounds all placed into one song and the song doesn’t really flow in a straightforward way. It has a high energy rap piece for the verses then settles down for the bridge before hitting high again. I do enjoy the chorus though. It’s not energizing, but rather mesmerizing with its more hypnotic delivery. The hooks are fun as well. I just wish the music had a bit more energy. Feel Your Luv is much different. Unlike the more serious and heavier hitting previous tune, we have some hip-hop elements added into a lighter midtempo pop song. It’s actually a nice mix as there is a fun contrast between the raps and the singing sections. I wish the chorus was catchier and had stronger hooks because the song could’ve been a whole lot better with something a little more attention grabbing, but I do like the laidback feel of the melody on the bouncy beat. It’s fun!

Overall: Both songs feature some hip-hop elements, but I do like that they are a contrast to one another. The title track is a bit of a mess, but it has some really fun elements to it, whereas the B-side is a little more laidback and chill. I do wish there were some changes in both songs, but it’s a decent debut.

B+

[Mini-Album] 4minute – Hit Your Heart

Hit Your Heart is the second mini-album by girl group 4minute. HUH was used as the first promotional track while I My Me Mine was the followup.

hityourheart
Released: May 27, 2010
1. Who’s Next?
2. HUH [MV]
3. Invitation
4. I My Me Mine [MV]
5. BABABA
6. HIGHLIGHT
7. Cool And Natural (태연하게 당연하게)

Who’s Next? starts us off with a bang. Featuring labelmates, BEAST, this intro is pretty short, but it’s effective in raising the energy level. I really enjoy HyunA’s rapping here, but I’m not particularly fond of the vocal parts as they are a bit messy. It’s fun and starts off strong, but sort of drags on a bit too long. Thankfully we swing right in HUH. Probably my favourite song of theirs, HUH is built on a thumping beat and a funky synth riff. First of all, I love the energy the song has and it’s a lot harder hitting than their previous material as it features a bit more hip-hop than dance elements. The melody is quite catchy, although there are times when I don’t think it’s as effective as it once was. With that said, what really helps the song are the touches of HyunA’s parts. The attitude she brings fits the song perfectly and helps to create some spikes to the odd vocal and heavy beat mix. It’s just an exciting song in general though. Invitation tries to keep up the energy level as the last song with its slight hip-hop elements. However, it just doesn’t really hit that level. I don’t know what it is, but the beat just doesn’t seem strong enough for the verses and causes them to sound flat whereas the chorus ends up annoying an repetitive. It’s probably one of their weakest album tracks, although there are hints of potential here and there with the melody. Thankfully I My Me Mine comes and saves the day. Still with a sexier sound, the girls change it up with something more electronic. It’s a fantastic song and well produced. The beat and vocal arrangement are much better structured and while the song can get a bit repetitive at times, the hooks are more thought out and effective. It’s catchy and one of their strongest songs. BABABA changes things up a lot with a more lighthearted tune. I’m not a fan of these kind of songs from 4minute as they tend to end up a bit generic and boring. BABABA is just that. It does have its perks here and there, but it there are a few parts I’m just not fond of at all. For one, the chorus melody is actually quite nicely done, but it is completely ruined by the added bababa’s in the background. It just sounds really annoying and unnecessary. The verses are also quite boring and forgettable. HIGHLIGHT is a little more thought out than the last song. It has a similar electronic sound to I My Me Mine, but a weaker version of it. The melody is largely based on its repetitiveness. While it isn’t the most effective, there are some catchy parts to it. The part of the song I really enjoy is where they really change up the girls’ voices with a vocoder for the verses. It’s fun and those part have some nice hooks. Also, HyunA’s rap helps to bring the energy even if it isn’t as smooth as it is in other songs. Not the strongest song, but better than some of the others. A K-Pop mini-album wouldn’t be complete without a ballad. Cool And Natural is a lighthearted pop ballad with a light R&B beat. I actually enjoy the verses even if they are a bit forgettable. The part I’m not fond of though is the chorus. The added English phrases at the highlights of the chorus are what ruin it a bit for me. It just isn’t as executed as nicely as it would be in Korean. It is nice to hear the girls’ voices more, but the song is a bit forgettable in the long run.

Overall: I really wanted to like this mini-album because it features two of my favourite 4minute songs. However, I just can’t get behind it. I love 4minute, but CUBE always seems to stick some awful tracks into their releases that just cause the quality to drop. That or they add some forgettable ballads. Ultimately the promo songs are interesting changes, but the rest of the songs are just weaker versions of songs from their last mini.

C+

[Single] Orange Caramel – My Copycat

My Copycat is the fourth single released by Orange Caramel. The title track was used as the promotional song.

mycopycat
Released: August 18, 2014
1. My Copycat (나처럼 해봐요) [MV]
2. Gangnam Avenue (강남거리) [MV]

My Copycat is a catchy tune that replicates something similar to the subunit’s hit song, Lipstick, although it doesn’t hit as hard in terms of the Romanian pop influence. It does use a fun horn synth to give the music some character. It’s the highlight of the song and what pretty much gives it some edge. The melody isn’t particularly stellar, but it is catchy enough and works with the music in a fun way. It’s not their strongest work, but it’s just as catchy. Gangnam Avenue on the other hand returns us to a more straightforward dance sound, something that hasn’t really been heard in a while from them. The musical arrangement loses the unique touch, but the vocal arrangement is totally Orange Caramel. I don’t think I totally love this song though. Everything doesn’t mesh together as well as I hoped it would as the vocals don’t blend as well as they should into the music. It’s decent, but it’s a bit empty sounding.

Overall: My Copycat is a fun tune and it is just an earworm. On the otherhand, while Gangnam Avenue is a decent listen, it’s nothing particularly impressive and a bit generic.

B+

[Single] NU’EST – FACE

NU’EST is a boyband that debuted in 2012 under Pledis Entertainment. Despite starting off quite strong, the group lost a lot of momentum over the years despite the fact they have some decent songs. FACE was their debut single.

face
Released: March 15, 2012
1. NU, Establish, Style, Tempo
2. FACE [MV]
3. I’m Sorry

The single opens with an intro, NU, Establish, Style, Tempo. It’s a pretty interesting opening with some dubstep beats. The only vocals really come from Aron and JR as they rap in English and Korean. It’s an ok listen, but everything just seems a bit sloppy. The dubstep doesn’t go that well with the music, while the rap seems a bit out of place, too. Luckily, FACE does seem to make things better. The song features a slight dubstep influence ontop of clap beats, which is especially heard during the breakdown two-thirds in. The melody itself is quite strong and the chorus is especially charming. I like how forceful it sounds and it really fits well with the music. The song ends with a rap that also sounds a bit awkward. While I do enjoy the song, I don’t think I’ve completely fallen for it. I’m Sorry slows things down with a calmer midtempo R&B tune. The music isn’t particularly exciting and is pretty standard idol R&B flare. I actually enjoy the verses more than the chorus here. The verses have a lighter quality to them that lends itself well with the music. The chorus is decent, but the melody just doesn’t stick that well, although there are some nice touches that come up every once in a while. The rap also blends into the song much better in this one.

Overall: FACE is a charming introduction for the group. It isn’t really much, but it does its job. The intro is explosive and despite being messy, it works well flowing into the title track. The title track is a fun listen. A bit on the standard side, but it also has a few nice surprises. The B-side is alright and at least brings a little variety to the table. Despite that, I’m not overly impressed by this release.

B-