[Mini-Album] HELLO VENUS – Venus

HELLO VENUS debuted in 2012 and had a promising future. Largely focused on the “cute” image, the group scored a few hits. Unfortunately, they lost a few key members and when they returned in 2014, they lost a lot of momentum. Recently, they have changed to a sexier image and sound. Venus is the group’s debut mini-album, with the title track being the promo single.

venus
Released: May 9, 2012
1. Hello
2. Venus
3. Excited (설레임)
4. Love Appeal

Hello opens the album and it’s a really cool start to the mini. I’m really surprised by this song because it has an edgier sound to it with its rock/dance influences. I really love the pre-chorus as Lime speaks in the background and it really adds another element to the song. The chorus is catchy, although I do think it would be better if the music was a bit more powerful. It clocks in at over 2 minutes, but it is effective. Venus is the promotional song and it is a whirlwind. The verses are generally short, which is good as the chorus is the highlight. The hooks are really great here and they sample the famous “Venus” song. It’s cleverly placed and really helps the song get stuck in your head. The music is a fun mixture of percussion and synths, which simplifies things and emphasizes the catchy melody. Excited is actually a ballad, despite what you might think due to the name. It’s a pretty standard K-Pop ballad and there really isn’t much it does except for showcase the vocals of the members. Back in the day, I really enjoyed this song. Nowadays, it’s just pretty generic. It does have its charms though as the melody is quite nice and the girls do sound great. The bridge is also a highlight. Luckily, Love Appeal gives us something a bit more funky and sexy. I really like the verses because the girls play around with their vocals. The chorus is a bit of a letdown because it sounds poppier. It is catchy, but it sort of loses its power because of the messy arrangement. I do think it helps to bring energy to the mini though.

Overall: I do think that Hello Venus started on a good track and this is a solid release. They hit all the bases with a catchy promo single, a ballad and some playful upbeat tunes. However, I do wish the last two songs were stronger. The ballad was run-of-the-mill and Love Appeal came off messy. The other two songs were quite strong though.

B+

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[Mini-Album] MVP – MANIFEST

MVP is a 7-member boy band that debuted in 2017. MANIFEST is their debut mini-album. Take It was used as the promotional track.

manifest
Released: March 13, 2017
1. MANIFEST
2. Take It (선택해)
3. Don’t Cry (눈물뚝)
4. Hear Me Out (끝까지 들어)
5. Late Night Call (자기전에 전화해)
6. Take It (inst.)
7. Hear Me Out (inst.)

MANIFEST opens with a pretty interesting intro in the form of the title track, MANIFEST. The beat is really cool and it has a strong hip-hop vibe going for it. It does a good job setting things up for the next song. The promo track, Take It, is an interesting twist. The jackhammer riff calls back to an older K-Pop song from 2013, LC9’s Mama Beat. I think this is a really cool sound that isn’t heard often in K-Pop, but the song does it in pretty much the same way LC9’s song does, so it doesn’t come off as particularly original. Not to mention the structure of the song is pretty similar as well. With that said, I would say this one elevates things. The verses have some attitude to them and it really builds things up to the chorus. I do wish the hooks were a bit stronger here and played around with the melody more, but it’s still a rather catchy and fun tune. It’s unfortunate that the next song is more on the boring side. Don’t Cry is a midtempo pop tune that focuses more on the vocals. The verses are decent, but largely forgettable. The chorus just isn’t that strong. The melody is dull and the “do, do, do” hook is really weak. There just isn’t that much impact to it, which is unfortunate as the rapping is good. Hear Me Out is definitely more exciting than the last tune as it has a really exciting dance beat. That beat makes me think of something along the lines of BIG BANG meets Infinite, but the vocal delivery is definitely different. It isn’t the most memorable song, but it’s definitely a fun tune. I just wish the melody was catchier. I do like the vocals in the song though. Late Night Call has the makings of a great song. The music has a chill sound to it, but it still has excitement to it. The melody has some cool ideas, but it just doesn’t execute as strongly as I would hope. The chorus just sort of comes by and really doesn’t stand out. I just wish the transition into it was a little more impactful as I felt like I couldn’t really find the chorus the first time through. The song is definitely the strongest since the promo song though.

Overall: I think this is a solid mini, but I was a bit disappointed. Take It such an exciting song that I was hoping that the rest of the mini would have the same kind of power to it. Instead, the rest of the songs are more on the poppier side of things. It’s fine, but the songs just didn’t stand out that much to me. It felt like every song had the potential to be better and didn’t quite hit it.

B-

[Album] MISIA – Mother Father Brother Sister

MISIA debuted in early 1998 and hit it out of the ballpark with her catchy R&B tunes and powerful voice. She was able to score two top 20 hits before the release of her first album, which helped catapult her to stardom. Mother Father Brother Sister is her debut album and was released just five months after her debut. It hit #1 on the charts and sold 2.5 million copies.

motherfatherbrothersister
Released: June 24, 1998
1. Never gonna cry! -Strings Overture-
2. K.I.T
3. Koisuru Kisetsu (恋する季節; Season of Love)
4. I’m over here ~Kizuite~ (I’m over here ~気づいて~; Realize)
5. Interlude #1
6. Tell Me
7. Kiss Shite Dakishimete (キスして抱きしめて; Kiss and Hold Me)
8. Cry
9. Interlude #2
10. Chiisana Koi (小さな恋; Little Love)
11. Hi no Ataru Basho (陽のあたる場所; A Place in the Sun)
12. Hoshi no Furu Oka (星の降る丘; Starry Hill)
13. Tsutsumi Komu You ni… (Dave “EQ3” Dub Mix) (つつみ込むように…; Like Being Wrapped Up)
14. Never gonna cry!
15. Never gonna cry! (Junior Vasquez Remix)

Never gonna cry! – Strings Overture- is a really cool way to open the album. It is basically a blast of strings and really hypes up the energy. Then it switches right into K.I.T, which opens with a pretty high note by MISIA. The piano is especially prominent at the start, but soon a really powerful beat comes booming in. She usually gets her albums pumping with an exciting upbeat tune and K.I.T does not disappoint. I don’t think the melody is particularly catchy, but the music really brings the energy and MISIA’s vocals are insane. I really like how the background vocals are laid out because it gives a really fun vibe. Koisuru Kisetsu brings us something a little more midtempo. I really like the more laid back feel of this song. I do find that the overall song is a bit more forgettable and there aren’t many strong hooks. However, MISIA’s definitely helps to carry the song and there are some charming parts to the chorus. I do wish the music matched the power of her vocals. It was released as the B-side to the second single. I’m over here ~Kizuite~ keeps up the midtempo speed, but has a stronger R&B influence. I really like this one because the verses have a bit of attitude to them. The underlying piano really brings a nice touch. The chorus melody isn’t the most catchy, but it does a great job of showcasing MISIA’s vocals. A strong album track. Interlude #1 is exactly what it is. It has a jazzier vibe to it, but it’s pretty cool. Tell Me keeps up the R&B sound and I love it. This one definitely has some 90’s hip-hop soul going on and it works so well with MISIA’s vocals. I really love the beat to this song, which ties nicely with the brass instrument-like backing of the arrangement. The touch of guitar also brings a bit of spark to things. The melody is probably the catchiest up to this point and I love the chorus hooks. Probably the strongest album track. Kiss Shite Dakishimete is the first ballad on the album and it’s an interesting twist. It leaves behind the more programmed sound with something a bit more acoustic. It’s definitely on the gentle side of things, but MISIA is able to work with it. Unfortunately, I do think it’s the weakest song up to this point. It is just too long for its own good and drags on. Also, there are few changes to the song by the end. It’s a relaxing tune, but nothing stands out. Cry is a nice return to a more dramatic sound. The song definitely sounds more melancholy than a lot of the other stuff on here and MISIA sounds great in her element. I don’t think the verses are particularly great because it feels like the vocals don’t totally mesh with the music, but the chorus is definitely much better. It’s more unpredictable and there are some good hooks. Interlude #2 is a bit different from the others with its cool use of background vocals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go into something with that sadder sound. Chiisana Koi is a cute little pop/R&B tune. I do like how strong the beat is and I do like how positive and bouncy it sounds. However, the overall song is a bit on the boring side. It doesn’t have a captivating melody that really keeps things popping. It might’ve been better if MISIA belted it out a bit more at the end, but it is nice to hear her restrain herself. Hi no Ataru Basho was released as the second single A-side and it’s one of my favourite MISIA songs. It’s a bit more upbeat and has a great R&B sound with some cool synths and brass instruments. While the chorus is definitely amazingly catchy, it’s actually the verse that I dig the most. The hooks here are insane and really work with the laid back vibe of the music. MISIA’s voice is also top notch here. Great. Hoshi no Furu Oka is the second ballad, but it’s definitely the most full-fledged pop one. It really is like one of the power ballads of the 80’s. It has a classic melody and the music is a nice combination of the piano and strings. This is the kind of the song that showcases voices and it does exactly that. MISIA really shows off her control here and even though she does strain a bit on some notes, very few J-Pop singers could contend with her performance. The arrangement isn’t particularly interesting, but it does get more interesting as things go on. Not bad. Tsutsumi Komu You ni… (Dave “EQ3” Dub Mix) is a remix of her debut single. The music is definitely different here and the opening isn’t as explosive as the original. I’m not sure if I like this one as much as the original because it loses a bit of its energy and the ending decides to play around with the music instead of the melody. The song itself is stellar. It has a great R&B beat and features some brass instruments. It’s one of her catchiest songs, although the original is definitely stronger. Never gonna cry! is the B-side to her debut single and this is another stellar track. Here with have something with a strong disco sound and it’s a great way to end the album on a high note. The strings and brass work great together and have a very lighthearted feel to them. The song is actually in English and MISIA is still able to bring all her power into it. It’s a cool tune. After a short break, the song will turn into the Junior Vasquez Remix. Unlike the disco-like original, here we are given something with 90’s dance. It’s actually pretty good. I’m not a big fan of remixes, but the song keeps the original structure, which just works really with the music. It’s not as strong as lighthearted as the original, but it’s not bad.

Overall: I was expecting an R&B album and I got one. I am pleasantly surprised at how strong the album actually is though. Obviously there are a few weaker songs, but the overall delivery of the album was one of quality. MISIA’s voice is insane and she is able to make even weaker songs work well, but there are many solid songs on here that really complement her voice as well. Would recommend tracks 4, 6, 11, 12, and 13.

A-

[Digital Single] JOO – Late in the Morning

Late in the Morning is the sixth digital single released by JOO.

lateinthemorning
Released: May 26, 2017
1. Late in the Morning (어느 늦은 아침)

The thing with JOO is that despite not being a powerhouse ballad singer, her voice has a fragility to it that really lends itself well to sad ballads. Late in the Morning isn’t the most exciting or powerful ballad she has done, but it is probably the best suited for her voice. The song doesn’t have JOO hitting high notes that caused her strain in past songs, but instead it keeps things at a pretty constant level and focuses on the emotional delivery. The music isn’t the most exciting, but the piano and gentle strings really carry the song a long way. Everything is just so beautiful pieced together.

Overall: Easily one of my favourite ballads of the year. This is by far JOO’s strongest song in her whole career largely because it plays on her strengths as a vocalist. It might come off a bit boring at times, but how everything ties together creates a gorgeous song.

A+

[Digital Single] Song Ji Eun – Tell Me

Tell Me is the seventh digital single released by Song Ji Eun.

tellme
Released: March 28, 2017
1. Tell Me
2. Tell Me (Eng. Ver.)
3. Tell Me (Inst.)

When I first heard that Ji Eun had a new single, I was really excited. I was expecting something a bit more on the daring side, as her last promotional song was much darker and sexier than her previous ones. Unfortunately, despite Tell Me being a decent song, it just comes off forgettable. It’s a nice midtempo pop tune that works well in a Korean coffee shop. That’s not necessarily bad as there are some charming points to it such as the cool guitar and touches of synth, however, the overall song just doesn’t have much impact. The melody isn’t particularly strong on the hooks. Ji Eun’s voice sounds great, but she could better utilize it for something more daring.

Overall: Compared to a lot of her material, this is a bit of a forgettable tune. It has some nice points, but I was hoping for something a bit more exciting. I hope she releases something along the lines of Bobby Doll or Pretty At 25 next time.

C+

[Album] Crystal Kay – C.L.L CRYSTAL LOVER LIGHT

Crystal Kay debuted at the young age of 13. Although she didn’t initially find success, it slowly came to her over the years and she was able to score a few huge singles. Her songs are primarily pop tunes with touches of R&B here and there, largely from the influence of her mixed background, which allowed her to gain a strong grasp of both English and Japanese. C.L.L CRYSTAL LOVER LIGHT is her debut album and was released when she was just fourteen. It was preceded by three singles and another was released on the day of the album’s release. The album peaked at #60 on the charts and only sold around 20,000.

cllcrystallovelight
Released: March 23, 2000
1. Interlude P.P.P
2. Eternal Memories
3. Komichi no Hana (こみちの花; Flower of the Lane)
4. More Lovin’
5. TEENAGE UNIVERSE ~Chewing Gum Baby
6. Let’s Suika Dorobo (レッツすいかどろぼう)
7. Taka Taka Taka (タカ・タカ・タカ)
8. Darling P.P.P. (ダーリンP.P.P.)
9. Today Friend the Decoration Cake Kau Kau GO (トゥデー・フレンド・ザ・デコレーションケーキ・かうかう・GO)
10. Tsurenai Guitar (つれないギター; Unfriendly Guitar)
11. Papa Donpi (パパどんピ)
12. Rainy Blue Day
13. C’mon Baby
14. Shadows of Desire

Interlude P.P.P opens things up with a pretty cool intro. At first, it comes off a bit creepy with its heavy beat and airy vocals, but once the melody comes in it gets more interesting. It also does a good job flowing right into Eternal Memories, Crystal’s debut single. This is one of my favourite songs from her. It’s a really ethereal and laid back R&B tune. I love the beat that comes in under the gentle touches of guitar and piano. The ending is really cool as well, as some background vocals come popping in to give the song a dreamier sound. Great! Komichi no Hana was the third single and it has a completely different sound, with things going a bit more on the rock route. The song is really explosive and has a cool guitar riff to get things going. Crystal also sounds pretty good here, but I’m not a fan of the melody. It just doesn’t have the same impact as the music. More Lovin’ brings us back to the R&B sound. It really reminds me of something from the late 90’s in the US (and it’s all in English). The great beat tied with the dreamy background vocals really create a stunning combination. I do find that Crystal’s vocals are a bit weak here and she isn’t as sure of herself. Also, she is singing a lot of risque stuff for being only 14, so it is a bit uncomfortable. Not bad if you can get over it. TEENAGE UNIVERSE ~Chewing Gum Baby was released as the second single and brings us something a bit more upbeat. Besides the parts where Crystal is singing “chewing gum baby”, the rest of the song is pretty cool. The verses are really unpredictable and I like the distortion in her voice. The chorus isn’t as hard hitting as I would want it to be, but it is definitely catchy. There are some pretty stand out parts though. Let’s Suika Dorobo is a super robotic styled song. The music is more ethereal, but the vocals are really distorted. I think it’s a pretty cool affect to have and it really fits thing style of song. It’s not that catchy, but I do like the overall feel that the song gives off. Taka Taka Taka is like a cool mix of blues and hip-hop put together. I really like how different it sounds and the music is pretty wicked. I don’t think the melody is the strongest, but there is a nice relaxing vibe to the whole song and Crystal’s voice sounds great here. Darling P.P.P is a nice relaxing R&B/pop tune. It’s not the most exciting sounding song on the album, but the song does have a charming quality to it. I just don’t quite like how they say P.P.P as it does sound a bit weird, but I don’t know the context. Besides that, the song is really nice and Crystal belts it out a bit. Despite her young age, she really pulls it off. Today Friend the Decoration Cake Kau Kau GO is a short and interesting acoustic tune. It’s quite different from the rest of the album with its summery sound. I think it’s a nice change, but it’s not really that strong of a song. There are some cool parts to it though like Crystal’s voice and the harmonies. It’s interesting. Tsurenai Guitar continues the acoustic sound, but makes things a bit darker. It’s too bad it is only an interlude because it really sounds great and Crystal’s voice sounds really great here. I don’t really know how to describe Papa Donpi. It’s a huge change in styles with its strong upbeat country sound. It has some really interesting ideas all blended together with the music. Soaring string-like synths, strong percussion and the touch of electric guitar. I actually quite like it though. Even though it is a big change, there is something really cool about it. The chorus is especially nice with the unpredictable melody. Rainy Blue Days is a nice bluesy tune that is sung entirely in English. I really like the deep bassline that comes popping in. The melody is surprisingly nice and works well with Crystal’s voice. However, I do find that Crystal doesn’t quite sound mature enough to really pull the song off. It’s a pretty good tune though. C’mon Babe is the first upbeat dance tune in a long time. I really like the slight disco influence it has and despite the music being quite bare at times, everything comes together nicely. I wish Crystal’s voice was a bit stronger as there are times where she does sound unsure of herself. Maybe the current-age Crystal could pull it off better. With that said, it’s a cute tune. Shadows of Desire ends the album on a really interesting note. The song has some really big transitions. It goes from something calmer before exploding with energy for the chorus. I quite like the chorus because the melody is in-your-face and the distortion on the vocals really works great with the crazy arrangement. For the final single, it was a nice surprise.

Overall: I was a bit worried at how I would enjoy this album, however, there are some pretty solid album tracks on here. I do find that a bit of the material is too mature for Crystal at the time, so the innocence in her voice comes out quite a few times, which doesn’t lend itself well to certain songs. With that said, there were some really cool songs and a lot of different kinds of sounds. I do wish there were a few more songs that really stood out there as were only a few I would revisit often.

B

[Mini-Album] OH MY GIRL – CLOSER

CLOSER is the second mini-album released by OH MY GIRL. The title track was used as the promotional song.

closer
Released: October 18, 2015
1. CLOSER
2. SAY NO MORE
3. PLAYGROUND
4. SUGAR BABY
5. ROUND ABOUT

Opening with the title track, CLOSER, things take a huge turn when compared to their last promotional song, CUPID. Here we have something more along the lines of a dreamy pop song. Despite have a relatively heavy beat, the song works around a gentle piano line and wisely placed synths. This tied in with the whispery vocals really creates an interesting combo. My favourite part is definitely the middle eight as it calms things down before blasting off into the final chorus and rap. Everything is so nicely put together and this is a gorgeous tune. SAY NO MORE changes things up with something that reminds me of Ariana Grande’s “Right Here”, largely because of the heavy beat and splash of synths. I do wish the song was just a bit faster in the chorus as it doesn’t really change things up from the verses, but I do like that it’s a change from the last song. It does effectively utilize some cool harmonies, which is a nice thing to hear. Pretty catchy tune. PLAYGROUND is more along the lines of a poppier sound. I feel like there are some interesting ideas here, especially the chant-like background vocals and the cool guitar, but everything falls flat during the chorus. The melody just doesn’t go anywhere and the hooks are really weak. It’s unfortunate because the rest of the song is interesting. Luckily, SUGAR BABY is a bit better. I do like the Doo Wop elements the song has and the verses are pretty nice. Unfortunately, like the last song, it’s the chorus that doesn’t quite hit the spot. It’s still pretty decent here, but I feel like it could have been worked on more. It reminds me of something from Girls’ Generation’s first album, but lacking the hooks to really make the saccharine cuteness deliver fully. ROUND ABOUT finishes things with something a bit faster and hard-hitting. I love the funky guitar with the cool background vocals. The chorus is definitely stronger here and the hooks are more plentiful. I do wish the girls’ vocals were a little less edited when they are in unison as it doesn’t come off as impactful as it could be, but this is definitely a step up from the last two songs.

Overall: I was actually hoping for a few more songs as interesting as CLOSER. While the B-sides were decent, there were a few that just weren’t that strong. I feel like the choruses were lacking that one thing that really got the songs to hit that higher level like CLOSER does. The hooks just weren’t there.

B