[Single] NU’EST – I’m Bad

I’m Bad is the second single released by NU’EST. It was released to celebrate the group’s third year anniversary since their debut.

imbad
Released: February 27, 2015
1. I’m Bad
2. A Scene Without You (나와 같은 차를 마시고)

I’m Bad is a laid back midtempo pop/R&B tune. It’s the kind of song that is quite popular in Korea and the type that could be played in a cafe or as background music. It has some really nice parts to it though. The chorus is especially catchy with the “I’m bad” hook, which is cleverly used. This is nicely tied in with the arrangement that has some quirks. The touches of guitar and the odd brass-like synth that cover the backdrop really help to give the music a bit of character. It’s a relaxing tune.

A Scene Without You starts off like a ballad, but it gains some steam as it progresses. Once the chorus hits, the music brings in some percussion and synths to help bring a fuller sound. I quite like it, although I wish the melody was a little more memorable. I don’t think it sticks as well as the last song despite the similarities between the two in terms of feeling.


Overall: This was a bit of a change from NU’EST as it doesn’t really have an “upbeat” song. Instead, both tunes are midtempo pop songs that would be heard in a cafe or something of this sort. These two songs are actually solid tunes, but they sort of just blend in with each other and in the grand scheme of things, don’t quite stand out in NU’EST’s discography.

B+

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[Repackaged] LABOUM – [PETIT MACARON] DATA PACK

[PETIT MACARON] DATA PACK is the repackaged edition of the group’s first single, PETIT MACARON. It gets rid of two songs and replaces it with one new song and MV and behind-the-scenes footage from two music videos. What Should We Do? was changed into the promo song for this single.

petitmacarondatapack
Released: November 3, 2014
1. What Should We Do? (어떡할래)
2. Winter Party
3. What Should We Do? (Inst.)
4. Winter Party (Inst.)

What Should We Do? was already released on the original edition of the single and was the strongest song off of it. I’m glad they did the stronger of the two B-sides to use as the promo song since this song has some older Brown Eyed Girls’ electropop vibes to it. It would’ve been nice to hear a new song, but this is still a decent tune to bring forward.

Winter Party is the only other song and is a new one. It is what you would expect from the name, a winter-flavoured pop tune. It’s cute, but is just a really forgettable tune. It’s not horrible, but the hooks are weak and the music isn’t particularly interesting. It just sort of falls flat. Also, the music doesn’t do much to cover the vocal weaknesses that are more evident here.


Overall: I don’t really see the point of having this release since the promo song is already an old tune and the B-side is a generic pop tune. I am glad that they are giving What Should We Do? the push since it should have been the promo song on the original single in the first place, but they could have added some more incentive to the single.

C+

[Album] Hamasaki Ayumi – LOVEppears

LOVEppears is the second album released by Hamasaki Ayumi. It was an even bigger hit than her debut and sold over 2,560,000 copies. It features some of her biggest hits and two of her million selling singles. Actually, there was a total of eight singles that were released from this album.

loveppears
Released: November 10, 1999
1. Introduction
2. Fly high
3. Trauma
4. And Then
5. immature (Album Version)
6. Boys & Girls
7. TO BE
8. End roll
9. P.S II
10. WHATEVER (Dub’s 1999 Remix)
11. too late
12. appears (Album Version)
13. monochrome
14. Interlude
15. LOVE ~refrain~
16. Who…
17. kanariya

The album opens with Introduction, which is just a trance opener. It’s a really intense way to start the album, but it does do well flowing into the next song.

flyhigh

Fly high is easily one of the highlights from the album. Later released as a re-cut single, the song is a sparkly rock/dance hybrid. The best parts are the autotuned sections that add a fun aspect to the song. The rest of the song is bouncy and a lot fun and it’s just a solid tune in general. One of Hamasaki’s best songs that really works well with her nasally tone.

a

Trauma was released as an A-side on her tenth single, A. It continues the dance sound of the last song and also has touches of rock in it. It really reminds me of something that Every Little Thing would have done at this time. The melody has some nice hooks in it, but I wish the music had a bit more energy to give it a push. It’s still a solid tune.

And Then is the first new song and it slows things down a bit. Here we are given something a bit more intense in its vocal delivery. I really like the instrumental break that pops up from time to time because it really pushes the emotion of the song out. The chorus isn’t as strong as the verses and I think Hamasaki’s strained singing doesn’t help this that much. It’s just the melody isn’t as powerful. I do like the song though.

I don’t know why immature has an “Album Version” as it was released as a B-side to her 11th single. Like the last song, this one has a dance beat but the melody is on the slower side of things. I love the verses because the powerful beat works so well with the more monotone delivery by Hamasaki. The chorus isn’t bad, but it’s just a bit underwhelming and I don’t quite like how it has a brighter quality to it when compared to the rest of the song.

boys&girls

Boys & Girls is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a powerful upbeat dance tune that is similar to that of Fly high. The chorus is just so addicting and Hamasaki sounds great. The verses are also fast-paced and I love the cuter tone they have. The stomping beat and the flashes of synth and guitar go so far. It’s exciting, catchy and another one of my favourites from her. It was her ninth single and first million seller.

tobe

TO BE is the slowest song up to this point and was released as her eighth single. It continues the synthed up pop sound of the other songs, but really brings something calmer and more emotional. I don’t think the verses are that interesting largely because Hamasaki’s voice sounds so monotone. Fortunately, the chorus has a bit more emotion to it and it really sounds great with the swirling backdrop. It’s a standout tune for me.

End roll was released on her single A and keeps up the slowed down pace that started with the last song. Actually, I really love Hamasaki’s slower songs and I think this one is even better than TO BE. The song seems darker and the chorus isn’t as straining on her voice. It’s quite beautiful and is like a prototype to her later ballads.

P.S II starts off in an odd way with its heavy rock opening. I was really not expecting it, but once the verse comes in, it sounds like a continuation of the ballad sound of the last song. I’m not quite a fan of the heavy beat that continues throughout the song because I’m not sure it totally blends with the ethereal melody. I think it’s an interesting idea though. And that melody is absolutely gorgeous, but could be better utilized. It’s an interesting tune with clever ideas, but not sure if it was executed as well as it could have been.

whatever

WHATEVER (Dub’s 1999 Remix) was originally released as her sixth single. The song is basically an onslaught of trance and is seven minutes full of it. I don’t really like long remixes, nor remixes in general, so this was just not my cup of tea. I think it has some interesting ideas and the vocal parts are actually pretty cool, but the song is just too long for me to sit through.

too late is another song from her “A” single. It brings back that rock/dance combination similar to Boys & Girls and Fly high. I don’t think this one is as strong though. It has a decent melody, but it is just overpowered by the guitar and heavy percussion. It sort leaves less impact. It has some fun ideas like the vocoder parts in the verses, but it sort of falls flat elsewhere for me.

appears

appears is actually my favourite song on the album. Released as her 11th single on the day of the album release, appears is a darker tune that took a while for me to really warm up to. I used to think it was forgettable, but it really brings some cool qualities to it. It starts off rather bare, but soon gains power with the electric guitar and beats. I really like the melody and Hamasaki’s vocals work so well in this song. She delivers on all fronts in terms of emotion.

monochrome is the last of the A-sides from her “A” single and it is one that I sort of forgot about. It has a really strong percussion-based background which is a nice change. I quite like the build up into the chorus because the changes are rather subtle. The chorus is quite nice. I don’t think I like the musical arrangement all too well, but the melody is really refreshing and uplifting. I think if the music was so powerful throughout the whole song and waited for the chorus, things would have more impact. It’s still a pretty nice song.

Interlude helps to bring a bit of a break, but I don’t quite get why it was needed. Sort of useless at this point.

lovedestiny

LOVE ~refrain~ is a remix of her 7th single, which was originally a duet. I quite like the R&B beat, but I don’t think this song is particularly interesting, especially compared to the other ballads on here. I think the melody is rather lackluster and isn’t memorable. I think it would have worked nicer with some a bit more dance-infused than R&B. Also, it sounds so much like a Morning Musume ballad (the song is written by Tsunku, who founded the group).

Who… is the next ballad and much stronger than the last song. It keeps the synths from the other songs, but really slows things down and brings something really ethereal. I like that the chorus has a stronger percussion side to it, which really gives it a bit of punch. The melody isn’t the strongest, but it does sound melancholy and emotional. It’s a nice tune.

kanariya

kanariya is a hidden track and was eventually released as a re-cut single. The song also has a strong R&B edge to it and I think this would have fit better after LOVE ~refrain~. With that said, I think this song is still better than that one because it has some cool elements like how the background vocals were utilized. I don’t think Hamasaki’s voice really lends itself well to this genre though.


Overall: I was really surprised at this album and it has gone up on my list of favourite Ayu albums. I do think that it could have been cut shorter and it started to fall flat halfway through, but there are some really great songs on here. I really love that it (for the most part) decided to keep that synthy dance style throughout as it is exciting and works really well with Ayu’s vocals. There are a few duds or weaker songs every once in a while, but there are some gems, even some that I never noticed before which was a nice find. I especially recommend tracks 2, 6, 8 and 12.

B+

[Album] Hanul (Rottyful Sky) – Voice of Purity

Hanul debuted in 2001 as part of the wave of young female soloists (alongside BoA, Dana, Joanne, etc.). She gained some popularity with her cover of Shocking Blue’s hit song, Venus, although her follow-up releases didn’t quite do as well. She made a return in 2010 as Rottyful Sky and unfortunately passed away at the age of 25 in 2013. Voice of Purity is her first and only album.

voiceofpurity
Released: August 16, 2001
1. Saturday My Love
2. Laughter (웃기네)
3. Come On
4. I Love You (Remix) (사랑해요)
5. Teacher
6. First Love (첫사랑)
7. Shaken Up
8. Oppa, I Love You (오빠, 사랑해)
9. Laughter (Funky Version) (웃기네)
10. I Love You (사랑해요)
11. Almost 100 (등교길)
12. Free Bird

Saturday My Love is a bright summery pop song with its explosive brass-synths and bouncy piano. The verses are pretty forgettable, but the chorus is definitely more interesting. The execution is simple and it does a decent job although it’s not the type of song that would be revisited often. The parts that Hanul actually does is a bit short as there are quite a few rap breaks.

Laughter continues that high energy but with a bit of rock influence. This is a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” and I feel like the vibe is totally different from the original. I find the original a bit corny, but the music and Hanul’s mature vocals change the song around. It still has that catchy hook of the original which works so well with the heavier rock backdrop. There is an odd rap feature in the middle though.

Come On was the first song I heard from Hanul and it’s a thumping dance tune that is reminiscent of many K-Pop tunes from the late 90’s/early 00’s. It’s really good though. I love the verses and the thumping works great with the more attitude infused delivery. The prechorus and chorus isn’t as strong, but it’s still quite catchy. I wish the melody was a bit stronger as the powerful beat and electric guitar undertone gives the music a lot of energy.

I Love You (Remix Version) is cute and reminds me more of the first song although with a heavier dance feel. I don’t think the music totally works well with melody and there is a bit of disconnect between the two. The chorus is a bit better at it, but the melody just doesn’t have enough punch to keep up with the music. It’s not bad.

Teacher keeps up the energy with another dance tune, although this time we have something more disco influenced. I love the verses and the switching between the vocals to background vocals to rap is a really cool aspect. The chorus is also quite catchy. I like the darker tone to the melody, although Hanul does sound more youthful in the song.

First Love is the slowest song on the album and even then it’s still more of a midtempo pop tune. Especially after all the high energy pop songs, it is a nice change of pace. The music has a lot of energy, while the melody does work nicely on top. I don’t think it’s the catchiest, but it has some charming parts to it. It’s simple and sweet.

Shaken Up is really great. It has some great disco elements to it with the flying synths and a thumping beat. I think this is the catchiest song since Laughter and it has a fun melody that works great with the funky arrangement. The only thing I don’t really like is the odd rap break that pops up. It just doesn’t fit.  I’m surprised this wasn’t released as a follow-up single as it reminds me of a Geri Halliwell song.

Oppa, I Love You is a latin inspired dance tune similar to something Baek Ji Young was doing at the time. It’s a really cool tune and I quite like the different sound it brings to the album. The verses are fantastic and I love the attitude it has. The chorus isn’t as memorable, but it does work well with the music. My major problem is that odd dance break that comes halfway through the song. It’s horrible and ruins the flow of the song.

The Funky Version of Laughter starts off differently, but the music is more dance-oriented than rock. It’s still a catchy tune, although I prefer the music of the original. The original version of I Love You shows up a little later in the album, which is a bit odd. It’s slower and exchanges the dance beats for a light pop sound. I actually like the remix version more as it has more energy. This version definitely fits the melody better, but it’s a bit dull.

Almost 100 is a funky pop tune with some jazz influence. I love the use of brass as it works really well with the fun beat. I think the song is nicely done, but it would have actually suited someone with more mature vocals as Hanul sounds really youthful here. Also, the rap break once again ruins the flow of the song. It’s still a tune with a great arrangement.

Free Bird is a bit of an outlier just because it has a strong R&B sound. It would have worked a bit better after Come On and not at the end of the album. With that said, it’s still a pretty popular sound of this era of K-Pop. The song has potential but reminds me a lot of a BoA album filler. It’s not bad, but just largely forgettable.


Overall: This was a pretty decent debut album. I was not expecting most of the songs to be upbeat dance tunes, which was a nice surprise. With that said, there were only a few standout songs. My main problem with the songs is that there are some odd rap breaks that feature in most of the song and it really ruins the flow because they don’t fit. Also, I feel like the melodies could have been worked on to be catchier. Still, it’s a solid album.

B

[Mini-Album] Nakashima Mika – RESISTANCE

RESISTANCE is the first mini-album released by Nakashima Mika. The title track was used as the promotional song. All the new songs were later featured on her second album, LØVE. The mini-album peaked at #1 and sold close to 200,000 copies (it was limited to 200,000 copies).

resistance
Released: November 7, 2002
1. RESISTANCE
2. HEAVEN ON EARTH (EP Version)
3. aroma
4. LAST WALTZ
5. STARS (Live Unplugged)
6. RESISTANCE (Instrumental)

RESISTANCE is a dramatic midtempo pop song. It’s a really cool track with its steady beat and splashes of synths. I actually prefer the verses over the chorus because they are calming and go well over the R&B beat and touches of piano. The chorus is still nice though and sounds better as the song progresses as the arrangement brings in some brass that really gives the song some energy. It’s a really good track and is the type of song that fits perfectly with Nakashima’s husky voice.

HEAVEN ON EARTH (EP Version) was originally featured on her debut album and another version has popped up on. I’m not complaining because this was the best album track on her debut and is one of Nakashima’s best songs. It has a cool jazzy vibe to it and is insanely catchy. I think the differences between this and the original are subtle and is largely due to the different beat they use. Sounds even better than when I reviewed it on her debut.

aroma is a calm jazzy number and it comes in at over six minutes long. I love the smooth vibe of the song and Nakashima just sounds gorgeous here. The chorus largely focuses on her falsetto, which actually sounds nicely controlled and fits the gentle nature of the song. I do like the guitar solos that come up later in the song and I don’t feel like it drags the song out too much despite the length.

LAST WALTZ brings something on the slower side of things. Even with that, the song does have some energy. Actually, what I love about Nakashima’s music at this time is that the arrangements are still so interesting and have some really clever inclusions like the strings, guitar and brass that really keep the song from getting too dull. It’s probably the weakest song on the mini-album, but it’s still a gorgeous tune.

The Live Unplugged version of STARS is an interesting addition, but it still keeps the magic of the original. Unlike the jazzier backdrop of the original, here we are only given a piano (and a bit of guitar later on). It’s just hard to hear Nakashima struggle during the end notes. Maybe she is crying, but it doesn’t lend as well on a recording.


Overall: This was a good mini-album. There are some great songs on here and all three of the new songs are of high quality. I do love the inclusion of the different versions of STARS and HEAVEN ON EARTH, but I do wish the differences with the latter were a little more extravagant. It’s an amazing song, just feels like they added it again and it could have been a done differently.

A-

[Mini-Album] T-ara – Black Eyes

Black Eyes was the third mini-album released by T-ara. Cry Cry was released as the promo song and was another big hit for the group.

blackeyes
Released: November 11, 2011
1. Cry Cry
2. Goodbye, Ok
3. O my god
4. I’m so bad
5. Cry Cry (Ballad ver.)
6. Cry Cry (Ballad music video ver.)

Cry Cry is a big change from T-ara’s usual material as it has a oldschool K-Pop vibe to it with its dramatic beat and Latin undertone. It really reminds me of something a K-Pop girl group from the mid-00’s would do. The song is certainly catchy and it has a really cool arrangement. I love the heavy beats and airy vocals that float on top. It isn’t T-ara’s best promo song, but it’s definitely solid tune and is an interesting change.

Goodbye, Ok has dancier vibes but it also reminisces on an older sound. Actually, the song reminds me of something from 00’s J-Pop with its jazzy influence. I love the floating quality of the song with its subtle piano line and touches of brass-like synths. The vocals also fit much better in this song than in the last one as their light vocals work nicely layed on top. Definitely another stellar B-side.

O my god is just not good. It has a light midtempo pop sound to it with its bouncy piano and cute vocals. It really reminds me of a Christmas, but it’s just dull and doesn’t really fit after the other two more intense songs. I think the vocal performance is one of the group’s weakest as the girls are trying to do the sweet and cute vocal stylings.

Luckily, I’m so bad is much better. It’s definitely not to the level of the first two songs, but it has some really interesting points to it. It reminds me of a weaker version of their song, I’m Go Crazy Because of You. I like that the music is going for an oldschool vibe and reminds me of something more western, but it just feels a bit empty. I feel like a fuller arrangement would really bring the energy up.

The two ballad versions of Cry Cry are really interesting and I like that these gave a different perspective to the song. Both only differ slightly with one featuring a heavier piano backdrop. I do think the melody fits this haunting arrangement much nicer, but it does drag on for a bit that it sort of loses its energy around the end.


Overall: Not including the ballad versions of the promo song, the four new songs both showed highs and lows. The first two tracks were intense and had a lot of energy, but the second two B-sides were missing something. O my god just doesn’t fit in this mini-album and I’m so bad would have been much better with a more passionate backdrop. It’s not a bad mini, just could be better.

B-

[Mini-Album] ONF – ON/OFF

ONF is a new boy band that debuted in 2017. They come from the same label as B1A4 and OH MY GIRL. Surprisingly, they have only released one mini-album up to this point. ON/OFF was their debut mini and the title track was used as the promo song.

onoff
Released: August 2, 2017
1. ON/OFF
2. Difficult
3. If We Dream
4. Original
5. Cat’s Waltz

The mini opens with the title track, ON/OFF, and what a great tune it is. It’s a pretty stream-lined dance/pop tune in its sound, but it has some really clever parts that really help the song stand out. I especially love the chorus where the synth line comes in but falls into the melody, which is short but really effective in its delivery. I think the greatest part of the arrangement is that underlying light funk beat that keeps the ball rolling. It’s subtle, but quite effective in bringing a sense of vibrancy to the song. Excellent debut!

Difficult is an interesting change. It keeps up that bright pop sound, but has this rather annoying synth that keeps going on in the first verse. The chorus utilizes it in a better way as it is hidden in the background. The melody is quite catchy and I do enjoy the fullness of the music. The most interesting part is when the song goes into the instrumental break and goes for a more brassy sound that fades out. It’s a cool effect. This song could have definitely been a promo song if it was tweaked on a bit.

If We Dream is the ballad on the mini. It starts pretty slow and gentle and I quite like how dramatic it feels with the subtle bass beat and the touches of piano. The chorus is quite gorgeous and I love the melody and music. Halfway through, the arrangement changes things up so it brings a different kind of effect that feels like the song is rising. It really brings an unpredictable sound that works nicely with the more straight-laced melody.

Original is such a strong song! We are brought back to the fun pop sound of the first two tunes, but with something a bit stronger in the dance department. I love the more tropical house sound of the chorus because even if this style of song with its drop has been really overdone lately, the song brings a different flavour. Instead of the typical synthline, we are given some brass instruments and xylophones instead which really brings a more colourful feel (and the African influence is a really nice thing to hear). It’s definitely an interesting twist on the usual style and I love it.

Cat’s Waltz ends the album with a more midtempo piece. I do like that there is a bit of variety on the album and they aren’t just keeping with that bright pop sound. The good thing is that Cat’s Waltz still has some nice synth elements that help tie it in with the rest of the album. The song is surprisingly catchy and I do like it’s slower coffee-house kind of atmosphere. It’s not the most interesting song, but it’s still a nice addition with its fun musical arrangement.


Overall: This is one of the best mini-albums that I have listened to. Every song has a continuing theme that ties everything together with the bright synths and the production on each song is really high quality. The songs have great arrangements that are memorable and vibrant and the boys sound great in each one. This is an amazing mini-album and one of the best, if not the best of 2017.

A+