[Mini-Album] PRISTIN – SCHXXL OUT

SCHXXL OUT is the second mini-album released by PRISTIN. WE LIKE was used as the promotional song.

schxxlout
Released: August 23, 2017
1. WE ARE PRISTIN
2. WE LIKE
3. ALOHA
4. TINA (티나)
5. You’re My Boy (너 말야 너)

WE ARE PRISTIN is a powerful opening and brings me back to After School’s Bang with its marching band style. The verses are definitely more melodic and less chant-like, but the powerful beat really helps carry the song through and I love the powerful vocals showcased in the pre-chorus. The chorus is a little one-note, but it surprisingly works. It’s a fun start. WE LIKE is a tornado. It is like Wee Woo in the sense that it is just a fusion of different sounds, but I would say things feel even more disjointed in this song. I don’t think it’s particularly bad, just some of the parts don’t work together. The first half of the chorus is made up of the hook of “We Like Dubudubududu”, which is catchy but doesn’t quite fit the attitude of the strong percussion based music. What I absolutely love though is the light background vocals that flow underneath this part as it adds a really cool edge. The second half of the chorus is much more melodic and would have been great as the main chorus piece. It’s a fun song, just very confusing. ALOHA is another upbeat tune, but switches the blaring percussion for something on the jazzier and sweeter side. I’m terribly impressed by this song, but it is a decent tune. It has some out of place parts like the verses, but the rest of the song flows pretty well and I like the touches of R&B at parts. I wish the vocal performance had more energy to it though. TINA brings in some tropical house, which is a nice change. The verses are pretty forgettable for me, but the chorus is definitely the highlight. It’s simple, but works really nice. It’s a bit standard trop-hop flair, but it executes things nicely and in a memorable way. I wish it pushed things a little farther though. The bridge is the best part of the song with its great vocal arrangement. You’re My Boy is a cuter song, which is not what I was expecting. It reminds me of something that A Pink might do as it doesn’t quite go to the saccharine extreme, but does present a nice balance. It’s still a fun tune that works nicely for the summer with its blaring saxophone. However, like the last time, I wish everything was pushed a little more. The vocals are a bit too airy for this tune.

Overall: This is a decent mini and a good follow-up to the group’s last mini, which I really enjoyed. There still isn’t a song that I have adored as much as WE from the group, but there are solid songs on here. My main problem is that when the group goes full-out on a song, it gets a bit messy, but when they play it safe, it feels too safe. I feel like the girls got to keep taking risks but go through a bit of quality control.

A-

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[Album] BoA – LOVE & HONESTY

LOVE & HONESTY is the third album released by BoA. The album was another hit for the young singer as it peaked at #1. It only sold half of what her last album sold though with 650,000 copies. The four singles were moderately successful this time around with all, except the re-cut single, reaching the top five, although the sales were considerably lower.

love&honesty
Released: January 15, 2004
1. Rock With You
2. Shine We Are!
3. SOME DAY ONE DAY
4. LOVE & HONESTY
5. Midnight Parade
6. Be the one
7. EXPECT
8. OVER ~across the time~
9. Kokoro no Tegami (心の手紙; My Heart’s Letter)
10. DOUBLE
11. Easy to be Hard
12. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ (~名前のない歌~; Song With No Name)
13. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ (Bonus Track) (~君の歌~; Your Song)

Opening on a strong note, the album starts with Rock With You. The album’s third single, it does what its name says, which is add some rock flair into a dance/pop tune. There are some times where I do feel the music could be flushed out a bit more, but it does have punch and the melody works really well here. My favourite part of the song is actually the pre-chorus as it goes a bit more pop before swinging right into the heavy percussion and guitars of the chorus. A fun start! Back in the day, I never liked Shine We Are! Despite being the album’s first single, it was such a departure from BoA’s usual harder hitting dance/pop style with its bubbly sound and sweeter vocal delivery. Nowadays, I really love it. It’s a catchy song and BoA still makes it work. I do wish the music wasn’t so programmed sounding at times, but everything else seems to go nicely with the bright melody. It’s a good predecessor to some similar sounding songs later on. SOME DAY ONE DAY is the album’s first album track and its a change with its more midtempo R&B execution. It also features VERBAL from m-flo. I love that she doesn’t really make it that sexy, but there is some sensuality in the vocal delivery of the verses and her nasally voice really does well here. It’s not the most exciting song, but it has a cooler vibe to it that works nicely with the simple hooks. I like the atmosphere the whole song brings. The title track, LOVE & HONESTY, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a midtempo pop song that has a really bright and almost bubblegum arrangement, although the vocal arrangement is definitely more straightforward. It’s not a very flashy song, but I really enjoy how well put-together it seems. The simple beat with the fullness of the synths really work beautifully with the catchy and charming melody of the chorus. It’s great. Midnight Parade sounds like SOME DAY ONE DAY’s upbeat sister. It has a lot more energy and has a funky beat to go along with it. It starts off with a lot of promise and the verses are attitude-filled. The pre-chorus is nice, but it does sort of break the flow of the song and by the chorus, there music just goes a weird route where it doesn’t push hard enough to elevate the song. I think it might have to do with how continuous the arrangement feels. Decent tune, just something missing. I used to LOVE Be the one and though I still do love it, it has sort of lost a bit of its spunk since the old days. It’s probably the most aggressive song on the album since Rock With You, but it does things in a more streamlined dance/pop way. I do enjoy the attitude it brings and I think that’s what really carries the song. The hooks aren’t as strong as some of the other songs and I do feel like the music doesn’t quite fit with the vocal arrangement as it feels a bit messy. With that said, it is still a really solid song and it is no surprise why it was a re-cut single. EXPECT comes rolling in and sort of feels like a continuation of the last song, although it has less attitude and catchier hooks. With that said, I do love this song and it is one of my favourites on the album. The music different and the use of synths really give it a dreamier quality that helps it stand out. It’s a bit more pop, but it still delivers. OVER ~across the time~ heightens with dreamy quality and delivers the strongest song on the album. There is something absolutely stunning about this song with its touches of Spanish guitar and splashes of synths. Each part of the song is so strong, from the gentle verses, to the passionate chorus and memorable hooks. It is like VALENTI’s dreamier sister and it just blows everything else out of the water. Kokoro no Tegami is one of the weaker album tracks on the album track just because it doesn’t push anything and comes off a bit bland. I do like the song and it does have a catchy chorus, but it feels like the kind of song that BoA did before, but weaker. I do wish the arrangement had a bigger punch to it and the melody had some stronger hooks because it sort of comes off a bit forgettable when compared to the last song. The album’s second single, DOUBLE, is an intense dance/pop tune that is sort of in-line with Be the one. I would say this one is even more aggressive and darker. Unfortunately, I think I have the same sort of feeling for this one that I have of that one. It’s catchy and it has some great attitude, but it just lacks the thing that has hooked me on other songs over 14 years later. It feels like the music has a weird disconnect with its consistent beat and flying synths. That’s not to say it is a bad song though but it just needs a little more to push it to the next level for me. Easy To Be Hard is a bright pop song, similar to Shine We Are! This one feels like it takes some inspiration from 90’s pop/R&B and I do like that quality about the music. With that said, there is something off with the melody. I feel like it goes all over the place. It starts off promising, but then adds these weird notes that cut the flow of its catchiness. It’s not terrible, just my least favourite on the album. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ is the album’s only full-fledged ballad tune. I’m actually quite surprised there aren’t more, but I’m glad if it had to be one, it was this one. It’s an absolutely stunning and simple song that relies largely on the guitar and some synths. It’s simplicity and gorgeous melody really make the song and BoA sounds great singing. Her restrained performance really matches the song well. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ surprisingly finds it way on here. Originally showing up on the singer’s third Korean album, this one is a bright and catchy pop song and I love it. It works perfectly on this album. However, for some reason, I feel like the production isn’t as strong as the original version and it loses a bit of the punch the original has. It’s still a solid tune and a great ending tune that leaves the album off on an inspiring note.

Overall: This was the first BoA album I bought and so it is special for me. Maybe because I’ve listened to this album in its entirety for the last 14 year, I’ve found the quirks of many of the songs, but I still believe this is one of BoA’s strongest, if not her strongest Japanese albums. It feels like the whole album has a theme and while it does try different avenues, it has some connection. Every song is solid and there aren’t any terrible songs, just a few weaker ones at the end. It is also one of the few albums where none of the singles rank in my top three songs on the album. The only thing I would change would be to add some more ballads to replace the more forgettable pop songs.

A

[Digital Single] 4minute – Is It Poppin’?

Is it Poppin’? is the ninth digital single released by 4minute.

isitpoppin
Released: June 28, 2013
1. Is it Poppin’? (물좋아?)

Is it Poppin’? can be seen as a follow-up to What’s Your Name? from the group’s last mini-album. Both songs were made by Brave Brothers and feature a brighter sound that has a barrage of hooks. I actually prefer Is it Poppin’? and it is one of my favourite 4minute songs. It isn’t as fast-paced, but has a more dragged out delivery. The sparkly synths, bouncy percussion and odd sounds all make a funky, but summery vibe that works nicely with the insanely catchy chorus. It’s not an in-your-face kind of song, but really worms its way into your ear.

Overall: This is a great follow-up single to the group’s last mini-album and really continues the hook-heavy pop sound that was present in that release. It’s a solid tune that works really nicely with the summer season.

A+

[Repackaged] KNK – GRAVITY, Completed

GRAVITY, Completed is the repackaged mini-album of the group’s second single, GRAVITY. It includes three new songs, with Rain being used as the promotional song.

gravitycompleted
Released: July 20, 2017
1. Rain (비)
2. Good Night (이 밤이 지나면)
3. Feel So Good
4. Think About You
5. Very Pretty (너무 예뻐)
6. Sun, Moon, Star (해, 달, 별)

Rain continues sort of blends the laid-back midtempo style of Sun, Moon, Star with the drama of their more upbeat tunes. It has an interesting arrangement with the touches of saxophone and gentle piano foundation. I quite like this song and I do find it more appealing than their last promo song just because it is more dramatic while still providing a catchy melody. It’s not their strongest tune, but it is a solid song. Good Night is a change as we are given something a bit more lighthearted. I do like how it starts and I quite like the midtempo sound of the music and the more touching take on the guys’ delivery. With that said, I do wish the chorus pushed things a little more because it definitely needs a catchier chorus to take it to the next level and it just ends up a bit forgettable. Feel So Good is the upbeat song of the repackaged mini and it’s a weird combination of styles. I don’t quite like the music because everything just sounds too cluttered and all over the place. It’s a bit unfortunate because I think if it went something more streamlined tropical house, then I think the melody could have actually let out its potential. The messy arrangement covers the hooks of the melody.

Overall: The newer songs on this repackaged mini weren’t that bad, but it felt similar to the original single in the sense that two songs were decent and one was weaker. It didn’t really wow me and there was nothing like Back Again or U, but the promo was still a nice listen.

B

[Album] A-mei Zhang – Bad Boy

Bad Boy is the second album released by A-mei Zhang. The album proved to be an even bigger success than her debut and many of the songs on the album are still regarded as classics. It was so popular that it eventually became the best selling album in Taiwan, with over 1.3 million copies sold.

badboy
Released: October 7, 1997
1. Can’t Cry (哭不出來)
2. Whenever I Think About You (一想到你呀)
3. Lonely Tequila (孤單 Tequila)
4. Dancing Alone (一個人跳舞)
5. Listen to the Sea (聽海)
6. Bad Boy
7. Sweet Words (甜言蜜語)
8. Lover? Enemy? (情人?敵人?)
9. Love, Not Too Early or Too Late is Better (愛,不太早不太晚,剛好)
10. Loved You (愛過你)

It’s a bit of a surprise that the album starts with Can’t Cry, which is a ballad. Although she did it with her debut, this one is a bit different because it is more of a slow builder. The song starts off pretty gentle with just A-mei, a piano and light synths. The chorus is definitely the highlight as the melody does a great job showing off A-mei’s soaring vocals. The song only really starts picking up after the second bridge where A-mei hits a huge note before slamming into the final chorus. It’s exhilarating and a strong start. Whenever I Think About You is my favourite song on the album. It’s the first upbeat song but it has this carefree nature about it that I absolutely love. Not to mention that it is really catchy. The music itself is a bit oldschool, but I think it still holds up rather well because the stomping beat and funky guitar really give it some great energy. With that said, I love how fun the song sounds and it is the kind that is easy to sing along to. Lonely Tequila is a bit off an odd song as it has a jazzier aspect to it. The synths and saxophone here make the song sound totally 90’s, but it still does a great job of bringing a more mature style. The beginning is nice, but it isn’t as interesting as the second half the song where the song becomes more dramatic and intense and fits the lyrics that delve into needing someone. This song fits perfectly with the raspy quality of A-mei’s vocals and it is another stellar tune. Dancing Alone continues the jazzier sound, but brings something a little more upbeat. I love the funky bass and it sounds great in this sexier number. I think one thing I love about the songs on this album is that A-mei’s voice is just so versatile and her vocal abilities allow her to really take over a song even if she doesn’t belt it out. This song isn’t as strong as the other songs, but I still love it because it has a great 80’s vibe going on and it is still really catchy. Listen to the Sea is probably the album’s biggest song and one of A-mei’s signature hits. This one is a bit like the first song on the album because it starts off pretty gentle. The chorus is once again the highlight with its soaring notes and does a great job of matching with the heartbreaking lyrics. A-mei’s voice sounds especially great here as well. The title track, Bad Boy, is a fun latin-inspired upbeat pop tune. I wasn’t a big fan of this song when I first heard it, but it has grown on me tremendously. The guitar tied with the pounding beat and A-mei’s raspy vocals is a really great fusion. The hooks are a bit repetitive, but it still works out nicely and it is easy to get stuck in your head. With that said, I actually love the verses more. Solid tune. At first, I found Sweet Words to be boring because it focuses a lot on just A-mei and an acoustic guitar. However, the song is really beautiful and A-mei’s voice when that opening chorus line comes in is absolutely stunning. I also love the music as the percussion gives subtle, but much needed boosts of power while piano and guitar seem to play off of each other. It’s not one of her usual power ballads, but it still works wonderfully. Speaking of power ballads, Lover? Enemy? comes storming in. This is a dark and dramatic ballad, but it shows A-mei’s versatility and how she can handle all different kinds of songs. With that said, whereas the last song is more timeless in its sound, I find the music to this one totally stuck in the 90’s with its synths. With that said, I love it and it is a favourite of mine. A-mei’s voice is at her most powerful and the music does a great job of really helping her voice soar. Love, Not Too Early or Too Late is Better is my least favourite song on the album. It is an upbeat song with a pop melody, while the music is a weird mix of pop and rock. It’s not a bad song per se, just weaker than everything else on here. It is relatively catchy, but it just doesn’t have the same attitude or hooks the other upbeat songs have nor does it have the emotional power. With that said, there are some really great parts to it like the bridge. A good song, but just outdone. Finishing the album on a powerful note, I Loved You is probably the most “Mandopop” sounding ballad on here as the melody reminds me of other songs that were released around this time. It has a really powerful accompaniment and I do like the energy that it brings, but I wish the melody stood out a bit more. With so many strong ballads on this album, it sort of sits in the shadow. It has its charms though.

Overall: This is one of my favourite albums, if not my favourite. I love almost every song and the first eight songs are all strong while still giving a variety of sounds. While some of the songs are a bit outdated in the music, I find the melodies to be timeless and A-mei’s voice really helps keep the songs really engaging. Back in the day, I only liked a few songs from this album and would have ranked her first album higher, but this is definitely an album that is both cohesive, but full of individual hits.

A+

[Digital Single] SISTAR – One More Day

One More Day is the fourth digital single released by SISTAR. It is a special collaboration with famous disco producer, Giorgio Moroder.

onemoreday
Released: November 22, 2016
1. One More Day
2. One More Day (TAK Remix)
3. One More Day (Instrumental)
4. One More Day (TAK Remix) (Instrumental)

I really love a lot of the music that Giorgio Moroder made for Donna Summer, so I had high expectations for this song when it was first teased. Fortunately, the song is stellar and it is easily one of SISTAR’s strongest offerings. One More Day has a pulsating beat that runs throughout the song and while it starts off in a slower way, once the chorus comes, things start to pick up. The song is a bit repetitive, but there is something just so compelling about the melody and it is still able to worm its way through to my mind. I especially love how the “One More Day” hook plays out. The TAK Remix of the song is an interesting update and makes things a bit more contemporary as it brings a stronger EDM influence. I do like it, but I do wish the music after the chorus hit a little bit harder.

Overall: This is a strong digital release by the group and one of their best songs. It is a nice blend of old and new and despite the fact the song is more dramatic and slower in its delivery, everything is still fresh. Hyolyn especially shines throughout this song.

A+

[Mini-Album] ASTRO – Winter Dream

Winter Dream is a special album released by ASTRO that was a gift for their fans. Again was used as the promotional track.

winterdream
Released: February 22, 2017
1. Again (붙잡았어야 해)
2. Cotton Candy
3. You & Me (Thanks AROHA)

I actually love Again, even if it is a departure from the brighter and cuter sound of the group’s previous promo tracks. Again is more serious and sadder, but it is still gorgeous. The gentle piano that touches the surface of the music adds a bit of emotion despite the instrumental being fueled by a heavy beat, synths and guitar. The boys also sound great and it is a nice glimpse of their vocal capabilities. Cotton Candy is what we usually get from ASTRO as it is a bright and sweet pop song. I quite like the music because the touches of bass really give it some edge. With that said, I don’t like the pre-chorus where everything decides to switch to a hip-hop edge and then it blasts into the bubblegum pop again. It’s an odd transition and just cuts the flow of the song. With that said, the melody itself isn’t that memorable and I can see it more as a filler. You & Me (Thanks AROHA) is a song for the group’s fans. It’s more of a midtempo pop tune and I surprisingly really like it. It’s not the most interesting song, but it is better than the last one and it is quite sweet. I like the bounciness of the music and it works nicely with the cute melody and the boys’ bright voices. Not the strongest of the group’s album tunes, but a decent one.

Overall: This is an interesting mini, but I think it largely depends on the strength of the promo track. Again is a change, but it is still a gorgeous track and surprisingly works for the guys despite being more serious. Unfortunately, the other two songs are weaker. The fan song is a decent tune, but it is a bit generic and not that interesting musically, while the other tries too much and doesn’t execute anything in a strong way.

B+