[Album] f(x) – 4 Walls

4 Walls is the fourth album released by f(x) and their first album to be released with only four members after Sulli’s departure. The title track was used as the promotional song.

4walls
Released: October 27, 2015
1. 4 Walls
2. Glitter
3. Deja Vu
4. X
5. Rude Love
6. Diamond
7. Traveler
8. Papi
9. Cash Me Out
10. When I’m Alone

4 Walls is euphoric bliss. It is my favourite song by f(x) just because it takes the classic house genre but brings something quite subtly beautiful. I mean the music is quite generic in that it sounds like other house songs although there are definitely a few nice change ups like the middle eight. I just love the melody and the airiness of the vocal delivery. It’s not meant to be a powerhouse song like Red Light, but is instead something calmer. Glitter initially sounds like an odd followup to 4 Walls, but there are some similarities once the chorus pops in. The verses are really forgettable for me, but the offbeat sound tied with the more explosive delivery of the chorus really brings the needed energy. The song has fun ideas, but I think it should have focused more on the chorus sound. Deja Vu reminds me of something from the group’s older albums because of its heavier electropop sound. I do like the funkiness of the music in the verses and it does a smooth job of switching the rap prechorus. The chorus isn’t as explosive, but it is an interesting blend. It works with the heaviness of the music. X is a bit more “pop” than the other songs. Like the other songs though, it still brings some quirkiness with the music and the odd tuba-sounding synth. Unfortunately, I’m not the biggest fan of the chorus. I wish it had some more energy and the delivery just comes off a bit flat. Rude Love opens in a really cool way with the keyboard. It sort of has an oldschool vibe to it that I quite like. The chorus is especially great with its powerful house beat and solid vocal arrangement. It’s really catchy and more aggressive than 4 Walls, but still brings that great production. I do wish we could’ve heard Luna belting it out a bit at the end though. With the type of title it has, I wasn’t expecting Diamond to have some hip-hop elements to it. I was expecting something to follow-up the house kind of sound. The verses aren’t the most memorable, but I do like it when the song builds up to the drop. The drop is unfortunately a bit flat for me though. This is just not my kind of song. Traveler features a rap by Zico and opens up with it. It does sound pretty cool and goes well with the funky beat and odd synths. I do find the verses to be a bit dull because it takes so long to get somewhere. I was also expecting the chorus to have a bit more impact, but it sort of just floats along. Probably my least favourite song on the album. Luckily Papi brings the energy back up and I love it when the girls bring back the fun dance-pop sound. Papi has a great beat and some great synths to really make the song pop. I really like all the different ideas that came up with this like the simple and chant-like chorus. It’s just a fun song and Luna in the middle eight is everything. Cash Me Out has a huge pulsating beat while the melody reminds me of a summery tune. While I want to like the pre-chorus build up, I feel like the girls are sounding quite thin. The drop is fun, but a bit messy. I think the overall song sort of falls behind the other dance tunes, but it’s still a decent listen. When I’m Alone is the slowest song. The verses make things sounds like the song will be a ballad, but the explosive chorus just comes in and shakes everything up. I love the ethereal take on the song and the girls sound amazing in this style. It’s a really great way to end the album.

Overall: This is another solid album by the girl group. I don’t think it is as strong as their other two albums, but I do find the highs to hit higher. Unfortunately, there are a few songs I could do without and they are some of the group’s weaker songs since their first album. I do feel like with this album, the girls were able to adapt with the times but still bring something that had their characteristics in it.

B+

Advertisements

[Album] Jay Chou – Jay

Jay Chou initially started as a songwriter before making his own debut in 2000. With his strong songwriting skills, he became an overnight success and has since become one of the most popular and influential pop artists in the Chinese-speaking world. Jay is his self-titled debut album.

jaychou
Released: November 7, 2000
1. Adorable Lady (可愛女人)
2. Perfectionism (完美主義)
3. Starry Mood (星晴)
4. Wife (娘子)
5. Bullfight (鬥牛)
6. Black Humour (黑色幽默)
7. Istanbul (伊斯坦堡)
8. Old Indian Turtledove (印地安老斑鳩)
9. Tornado (龍捲風)
10. The Counter-clockwise Clock (反方向的鐘)

Adorable Lady was the biggest hit from the album and opens in a midtempo ballad kind of way. I quite like the odd beat mixed with the piano foundation. The melody isn’t bad, but it is quite repetitive and the mixing sort of causes it fade into the background. It’s not a bad starter, but the music is definitely stronger than the melody. Perfectionism is a bit more dramatic as it has some hip-hop elements to it. It’s definitely stronger than the last song, but I don’t think Jay’s voice really elevates the song. It’s a catchy tune and there are some really clever aspects to the melody and it can be quite unpredictable at times. Starry Mood is a laidback R&B/pop tune. It has a gentle beat and relies a lot on the guitar and background vocals. The melody is the type that’s easy to sing along to, although I don’t think its the most engaging of songs. The song focuses on that melody because the music is a bit lackluster. It’s still not bad though. Wife sort of follows the laidback guitar vibe of the last song. It isn’t bad, but Jay’s voice just doesn’t quite bring the song to the next level for me. He does struggle hitting some notes at times and it does come off a bit odd to hear. I do like one section of the song where the background vocals come in and become the focus. Also, the instrumental breakdown with the more “Chinese” style is a nice inclusion. Not bad. Bullfight has some stronger R&B elements to it and I do like it more than the last few songs. It has some really interesting musical aspects that really give it an edge. Also, Jay sounds much better here and his voice fits the laid back R&B style more, especially when he brings in a bit of rapping. Up to this point, it’s the strongest tune. Black Humour is surprisingly the first full-fledged ballad. I was actually expecting something a little different considering the name of the song. It does start off a little messy as Jay’s voice sounds shaky, but he does get a bit more confidence during the chorus. There are a few struggle notes though. The melody is quite charming and sounds much better with the fuller instrumental at the end. Istanbul brings back that laid back R&B vibe. It really sounds like an early 2000’s C-Pop song. I think Jay’s singing sounds better in this kind of song and while he does struggle to hit some notes, the chorus is definitely smoother and catchier. I just wish it had some more energy to it as it comes off quite forgettable in the long run. Old Indian Turtledove is the most popping song up to this point. The music has some spice to it and some cooler jazzier elements that it brings in. I don’t think the song is really that catchy though and I feel like it relies a lot on the music. Tornado is quite nice though. It’s more on the ballad feel despite having a steady beat and piano. I especially enjoy the pre-chorus and chorus as these parts have some of the catchier parts of the album. This is the type of song I was hoping to hear from this album because it is that laid back R&B vibe but with the kind of melody with some impact. I love how The Counter-clockwise Clock starts off with the piano and slowly brings in a beat and odd synth-line. It has an eerie, but cool quality to it. The verses feel a bit held back and the pre-chorus is really odd, but the chorus isn’t bad. I don’t think the music totally fits with the melody, but it sort of reminds me of a J-Pop song.

Overall: This isn’t a bad debut album, but I think I was expecting a lot more considering Jay’s capabilities as a songwriter. Maybe it is because this was his first, but I had two major problems with this album. The first was that there was some really great arrangements, but the melodies were just forgettable. The second was that Jay’s voice just didn’t elevate the songs. I understand he has his own style of singing, but in this album he was either giving very low energy or he was struggling to hit high notes. With that said, there were definitely some good tunes. I don’t think they were the best, but the potential was totally there and some of the music was quite beautiful.

B-

[Mini-Album] IU – IU…IM

IU…IM is the second mini-album released by IU. Marshmallow was used as the promotional song.

iu...im
Released: November 12, 2009
1. Love attack
2. Train Ride (기차를 타고)
3. Marshmallow (마쉬멜로우)
4. Morning Tears (아침 눈물)
5. Nervous Date (두근 두근 데이트)
6. Train Ride (Instrumental)
7. Morning Tears (Instrumental)

Love attack is bubblegum pop to the max and like a synthed up version of her song, Boo. It’s positive and rather cute in its delivery. I do think it gets a bit too much at times and the melody doesn’t totally stick. The chorus just keeps pushing these fast hooks and it doesn’t quite work out here. It’s not horrible and has some nice elements to it, but it isn’t that memorable. Train Ride is a ballad and infinitely better than the last song. This is where IU’s voice really shines and she sounds great in the verses. I do quite like how the song starts up and builds into something more powerful. The melody is quite beautiful and IU really does a great job in these kinds of songs. Marshmallow brings back that “cute” pop sound like Love attack and Boo. It is really over-the-top like those two, but it has its own charms. The calmer parts of the verses are actually quite clever and I like the playfulness of the song. The chorus is pretty simple. It’s catchy, but I feel like it could have been played up a little more to bring something dramatic. It’s a decent tune and not surprising why it’s the promo song. Morning Tears is another slower song and has some R&B elements to it. It’s nice, but compared to the more dramatic Train Ride, this one is a little forgettable. It’s still a nice tune and it has a relaxing chorus, but it is the type of song that has been done a hundred times over in K-Pop. Nervous Date is a nice go-between as it is more midtempo. I do like its laid back vibe and subtle R&B/reggae sound. I do wish the chorus was more interesting as the music just stays consistent and there feels like there isn’t much transition between the two parts. It’s decent though.

Overall: This is a pretty average mini. Actually, all the songs on here are solid tunes, but there isn’t anything that stands out in particular. I do wish the album was rearranged a little better as it goes up and down constantly whereas Nervous Date could have been used as a good transition from faster to slower tunes.

B

[Digital Single] OH MY GIRL – One Step Two Steps

One Step Two Steps is the first digital single released by OH MY GIRL. It was released right before the group’s third mini-album.

onesteptwosteps
Released: March 28, 2016
1. One Step Two Steps (한 발짝 두 발짝)

Up to this point, One Step Two Steps is my favourite of OH MY GIRL’s songs. It is written by B1A4’s Jinyoung and has that ethereal synthpop quality that his music has become known for (like his song In the Same Place for Produce 101). I love the music here because it just has an explosion of synths with such a great synthline. The verses aren’t bad, but the song definitely shines in the chorus where the energy is brought up another level and the girls’ sweet vocals fit the song perfectly. It’s gorgeous.

Overall: Great follow-up to Closer and a solid tune in general. It reminds me a bit of J-Pop, which makes me love it more. Certainly a great introduction into the group’s third mini and it should have been a bigger hit for them.

A+

[Album] Otsuka Ai – LOVE JAM

LOVE JAM is Otsuka Ai’s second album. It features four singles, with three released prior to the album and another released later as a remixed re-cut. The album proved to be another success for the young artist and solidified her as one of the most popular artists of her time. It sold over 650,000 copies and peaked at number one.

lovejam
Released: November 17, 2004
1. Superman (スーパーマン)
2. Happy Days
3. Strawberry Jam
4. Daisuki da yo. (大好きだよ。; I Like You.)
5. Sensu (扇子; Fan)
6. Mousou Chop (妄想チョップ; Crazy Chop)
7. Ponpon (ポンポン)
8. Futatsuboshi Kinenbi (ふたつ星記念日; Two Stars Anniversary)
9. Kingyo Hanabi (金魚花火; Goldfish Fireworks)
10. Kuroge Wagyuu Joshio Tanyaki 735 Yen (黒毛和牛上塩タン焼735円; Black Grilled Cow’s Tongue, 735 Yen)
11. Friends (フレンズ)

Similar to her debut album, LOVE JAM opens with a fun pop/rock tune, Superman. I love the cool guitar riffs with the touch of siren in the back and the odd clapping. Otsuka’s voice is really rough here, but it works really nicely. The chorus is faster paced and has a catchy melody. It’s not as strong as pretty voice, but it’s definitely a solid and exciting opener. Happy Days is Otsuka’s fourth overall single and the first from this album. It continues that bubblegum pop/rock sound but does so at an even more intense level. I love how they placed distorted her voice a lot to sound like it she is singing out of a megaphone. It shares a lot of similarities to the last song, but does it even better. The chorus is much catchier and the chanted “Happy Days!” really brings a pumping up element to the song. It’s fun! Strawberry Jam is a big change as we are given something a bit jazzier. I actually really like the music in this song though as it has a smooth and cool vibe to it without making things too slow. The melody is definitely more pop though and while it does feel a bit out of place at times, it still works nicely with the bright arrangement. I quite like the carefree nature of the chorus. A solid title track. The second single of the album, Daisuki da yo., is one of my favourite songs from Otsuka. Bringing a heartbreaking piano ballad, the song starts off rather gentle, which works great with her sweet voice. However, it’s that sparkly chorus that brings in the beautiful string-focused instrumental and earworm melody that really bring the song to the next level. I also love the last minute of the song that mainly features a gorgeous guitar solo. Definitely one of her best songs. Sensu is a midtempo pop/rock tune and a nice surprise. I usually love these hidden tunes from Otsuka and the music to this one is definitely great. The song reminds me of a follow-up to her first single, Momo no Hanabira, with its bouncy instrumental. It’s a bit bizarre in that it has some heavier percussion and bass tied with some strings, but it is still quite charming in its own way. Every Otsuka album needs one weird song and this album has Mousou Chop. I sometimes don’t like these kind of songs as while it does fit with Otsuka’s image, it sort of breaks the flow of the album. Mousou Chop is a funky electropop/rock tune that has a weird arrangement with its more electronic verses and explosive rock chorus. It’s not particularly catchy and I feel like the song relies heavily on the weirdness and fun of the music. Not bad, just not a favourite. Ponpon is explosive pop/rock but takes the level of Happy Days to an even higher level. It’s just a really fast-paced and crazy song that just tries to show how ridiculous it can be. The whole chorus is literally “pon pon pon”, which is funny and odd at the strange time. It has some fun ideas, but it’s just too much for me at times and tries to add too many things in. Futatsuboshi Kinenbi brings a bossa nova vibe and is a fun addition. I quite like the music to this song as its quite bright and the type of sound to groove to. I do enjoy the chorus melody as it’s quite sweet and works really nice with Otsuka’s voice. I don’t think it totally fits the bounciness of the music, but it is still a really cute tune. The third single from the album, Kingyo Hanabi, is my second favourite Otsuka Ai song. It is a dark ballad that focuses on the piano and synth droplets to give an ethereal and rather melancholic feel to the song. What I especially love is how amazing Otsuka sounds here and her voice totally fits this song to perfection. She does a great job of emoting and she really does well with the gradual added power the music brings each chorus. The ending of the song is especially wonderful where the music just flies with intensity. Stunning. Kuroge Wagyuu Joshio Tanyaki 735 Yen was lated remixed and released as the album’s fourth single. The album version is slower in its tempo and not as strong in the pop/rock sound. It does have some energy with the steady arrangement, but its the catchy melody that is the highlight of the song. I do find this version to be the weaker of the two because it just works so much better with the powerful arrangement. It’s still a decent song. Friends finishes the album on a gentle note. I really love when Otsuka does ballads as she has a knack for it and this is another stellar piece. It’s not that memorable at first as it sounds a lot like some of her other songs, but the chorus does change things up with a grander sound. I love how strong the percussion is and it works so well with the soaring strings. The melody is also gorgeous too. A great ending!

Overall: This is surprisingly an even stronger album than her debut. While this album seemed to adopt many similar elements that were featured on her first album, it felt like she was still able to execute something with its own charms. There were a few weaker tunes, but they did have some fun experimental aspects to them. However, the ballads on this album are absolutely phenomenal and they are certainly the strongest songs. I just wish there was a bit more variety in the upbeat tunes.

A

[Mini-Album] Red Velvet – Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake is the first mini-album released by Red Velvet. The title track was used as the promotional song and was their first big hit.

icecreamcake
Released: March 17, 2015
1. Ice Cream Cake
2. Automatic
3. Somethin’ Kinda Crazy
4. Stupid Cupid
5. Take It Slow
6. Candy (사탕)

Ice Cream Cake opens the mini with an explosive start. Actually, it’s rather creepy with the odd “lalalas”, but the song does gain energy as it progresses. The verses are pretty lighthearted with some xylophone and beats. It’s the chorus where the transition really blasts things off. The beat is more numerous in pace and there are some weird elements added like the scratchy sounds that layer on top of everything. It’s definitely a defining moment for the group and brought something a bit different, but still totally catchy. Automatic is similar to the group’s cover of S.E.S’ Be Natural, with its midtempo R&B sound. I absolutely love R&B and the melody is really addicting and works nicely with the funky bass and light synths. It isn’t as exciting as Be Natural, but it does have a way of getting stuck in your head with its airy delivery. I do wish there was a bit of a push at the end, but the girls sound great and everything is smooth and effortless. Somethin’ Kinda Crazy goes with the R&B route, but with something a bit lighter. I do like the harmonizing and the playing off of each other in terms of vocal arrangement. The verses are definitely more fun though. The chorus is a bit lackluster and doesn’t really make as strong of an impression as I was hoping for. It’s still catchy and I do like the beat, just I wish the melody was a darker. Stupid Cupid starts off in a cool way with the 60’s rock kind of sound, but it does change things up once the beat comes in. The beat takes some getting used to, but it does grow on me as the song goes on. The melody is unfortunately a bit forgettable and the vocoder on top of the vocals sort of detracts from the songs energy. The transition into the brighter sound of the chorus is a bit grating as well considering the rest of the song is more attitude-based. Good production though. Take It Slow is a bit lackluster. Considering the rest of the mini features some interesting sounds, Take It Slow brings a safe coffeehouse pop song. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it just ends up really forgettable. The only thing that saves it is the odd key change halfway through the song which then brings in a nice bridge. It’s a decent song and has a sweet melody, it’s just not the most memorable. Candy slows things down a little more and brings some R&B elements into it. It’s like the last song in that it is a bit too generic (for Red Velvet I think), but it does has some nice energy once the chorus pops in. The melody isn’t totally predictable and there are some great harmonies that pop up throughout the song. It’s not bad.

Overall: The production to this mini was great, as expected from SM. Unfortunately, there were some weaker parts to the mini. Either I didn’t think the songs pushed it enough or they were a bit forgettable, the mini started to falter around the halfway part. It’s not a bad album by any means and is a great first mini for Red Velvet.

B

[Mini-Album] Cosmic Girls – From. Cosmic Girls

From. Cosmic Girls is the third mini-album released by Cosmic Girls. I Wish was used as the promotional single and has been their biggest hit to date.

fromcosmicgirls
Released: January 3, 2017
1. I Wish (너에게 닿기를)
2. Baby Come to Me
3. Say Yes (주세요)
4. Perfect! (최애)
5. Hug U (이리와)
6. I Wish (Chinese Version)

The promo track starts the mini and what a bright tune it is. I Wish has similar vibes to their last promo song, Secret, but in bubblegum pop form. I love the bouncy beat and the splashes of synths. I don’t think the melody is as intoxicating as Secret, but it is simple and catchy. I know some people didn’t quite like the inclusion of the rap because it ruined the flow of the song, but I actually quite like the break that it brings. It’s a fun tune and has grown on me. I really enjoy Baby Come to Me and it’s definitely one of the group’s strongest B-side tracks. It’s bright and follows a similar vibe of the last song, but the chorus is a bit more melodic and reminds me a bit of 00’s J-Pop. It’s definitely not as hard hitting as the title track, but it’s a solid tune and one that I could see myself coming back to later on. Say Yes slows things down with a relaxing acoustic pop/R&B tune. It’s not a bad song and it has a nice hook in the chorus. This is definitely the type of song that is popular in the cafes in Korea and so it’s not a real stand out piece, but it’s definitely relaxing and has a charm to it. Perfect isn’t bad and brings back the bubblegum pop sound, but at an even higher sugary level. I don’t really like the verses because they aren’t memorable and just seem very unpredictable and confusing. The chorus is definitely a lot better and sound more fluid in its delivery. Once again, the song sounds very J-Pop to me, which is a nice change. Hug U is another slower coffeehouse styled tune, but even slower than Say Yes. It has potential, but it is rather boring and is the type of the song that would get lost. The beat is just too slow and the melody has very little impact. Even the vocal performance is just so light and airy that it just doesn’t do too much for me. The mini ends with the Chinese version of I Wish. It’s still the exact same song just with Chinese lyrics. It’s not bad and is still as catchy as the Korean version, although it’s a bit odd with the pronunciation. Still a fun idea to do!

Overall: This mini started off quite strong and I was thinking that it would’ve been stronger. Unfortunately, it started to falter around the end and I think the exclusion of Hug U would’ve been beneficial, or at least a full-fledged ballad that showed off the vocals. It’s a decent mini though.

B