[Mini-Album] OH MY GIRL – Summer Special

Summer Special is a special mini-album released by OH MY GIRL. A-ing was used as the promotional song. All the songs were covers of past Korean songs. This was also the last release to feature member JinE before her hiatus and eventual departure.

summerspecial

Released: August 4, 2016
1. A-ing (내 얘길 들어봐)
2. Christmas in Summer (한 여름의 크리스마스)
3. Je T’aime
4. Can See Your Lies (거짓말도 보여요)

A-ing is a cover of PAPAYA’s past hit from the early 00’s. It’s a pretty bright pop tune with its bouncy beat and sparkling synths. This song is a bit cartoon-ish at times, but it has a really catchy melody. The chorus is especially intoxicating with the airy vocals and touches of brass to give it some pop. The rap that comes in by Skull, HaHa and Mimi is really fun, even if it is an odd breakdown.

The next song goes for a more bossa nova and jazzier appeal. Considering the title, Christmas in Summer really comes off sounding like a Christmas song, so it doesn’t quite have that brightness that I would associate with mid summer. It’s still a pretty nice tune though and the girls all sound particularly good. Not quite my tastes, although I do wonder how the original holds up.

ohmygirlsummerspecial

Je T’aime is the kind of song I wasn’t expecting the group to cover as it has a bit more of a pop/rock vibe to it and it’s great. I really like the energy the song has and it has a great nostalgic quality that sets it apart from the other songs. My only problem is that the chorus is a bit too powerful for the girls and their airy vocals don’t quite match and they get lost in it.

Things end on a slower note with the relaxing Can See Your Lies, which is a laid back R&B tune. The girls are much better adapted to this kind of tune and the tones of their voices work great here. The song itself is relaxing, which makes me think of the end of the summer. It’s not the most interesting song, but it is quite charming.


Overall: This is a pretty average mini. I think the only song I truly connected with was A-ing. While Can See Your Lies worked well with the group, it just isn’t the kind of song that makes me going back often. I wish there were a few more brighter pop songs.

B

[Single] Jennie – Solo

Solo is the debut single released by BLACKPINK member, Jennie.

solo

Released: November 12, 2018
1. Solo

I was expecting something a bit different than what was actually delivered with Solo. The first verse is just not to my liking as the melody is just a bit odd. Luckily, this is replaced with a rap for the second verse. The pre-chorus really brings the energy up and Jennie really amps up the power with her voice. Unfortunately, the chorus is just so dry. The hook is weak and the riff that comes with it is just asking for something more to really power it instead of its bare backdrop. The ending gets a bit better as the beat really helps to elevate that riff, but it’s a little too late.


Overall: This isn’t a horrible song, just bland. Jennie is a strong performer and her voice has enough character to really propel a song, as seen by the prechorus parts here. Unfortunately, the chorus just falls flat and really doesn’t elevate things.

C+

[Album] Kuraki Mai – If I Believe

If I Believe is the fourth album released by Kuraki Mai. Another success, the album peaked at #1 and sold over 440,000 copies. Four singles were released prior to the album, with all of them scoring within the top three on the Oricon charts.

ifibelieve

Released: July 9, 2003
1. If I Believe
2. Time after Time ~Hana Mau Machi de~ (album version) (~花舞う街で~; In the Town of Dancing Flowers)
3. Kaze no Lalala (風のららら; Lalala of the Wind)
4. Kiss
5. mi corazón
6. I don’t wanna lose you
7. Make my day ~album version~
8. Same
9. Just A Little Bit
10. You are not the only one
11. Tonight, I feel close to you

Similarly to her previous albums, the title track opens the album. If I Believe is a pretty midtempo pop song that has similar vibes to her past albums. This is a bit disheartening, but the song does have some more contemporary sounds to it so it is better than the majority of the material on her last two albums. The verses are pretty nice, but the chorus just sort of springs out suddenly. It’s not particularly catchy, but it isn’t too bad. I do dislike the odd male background vocals that come in though as they just don’t fit. This isn’t the most exciting song, but it is still pretty decent.

timeaftertime

The album’s second single comes in the form of Time after Time ~Hana Mau Machi de~ (album version) (#3 / 144,000), which is a pretty dramatic midtempo tune. This was one of the first songs I heard from Kuraki, so I have a bit of nostalgia listening to this one. It’s a pretty cool song with its more melancholic vibe. It is similar to her older ballads, but sped up a bit more, which really helps to propel the melody. It’s a pretty good song and it features one of Kuraki’s strongest vocal performances.

kazenolalala

Kaze no Lalala (#3 / 96,000) starts off in the most cheesy way and I’m just not sure what to think of it. The verses are more ballad-like with there slower vibe and gentle build-up. However, the chorus has a bit of a blast of energy and turns into something more upbeat with its light dance-beat. I sort of wish it was a full-fledged ballad though. I do find the change interesting, but the chorus isn’t particularly catchy. Solid song, but the weakest of the four singles.

kiss

The third of the singles comes pounding in. Kiss (#3 / 112,000) is a great departure from Kuraki’s prior material in the sense that it feels much more contemporary and not chasing her previous albums’ sounds. It has a stronger acoustic focus at first, but soon focuses on a lighter dance/R&B sound. The verses have a lot of attitude are fun while the chorus’ brightness comes in with a strong melody. Definitely a highlight.

mi corazón is the first album track in a while and it is of course a Latin-inspired dance tune. I really love this change up and it’s nice to hear Kuraki finally experimenting with different sounds. I love the more sensual side of the song, especially during the verses. Her airy vocals fit perfectly here. The choruses are pretty empty and focus more on the arrangement and a few lines, but it’s still a pretty interesting change. A solid entry.

Originally released as a B-side to the album’s first single, I don’t wanna lose you is a hip-hop/R&B song. I’m not quite sure with this song because Kuraki sort of gets lost in the heavy beat, but her airy vocals do work nicely with R&B tunes. I just wish the song was stronger. The verses are a bit off and the chorus comes flying in with a brighter quality to it, but it just quite hit the spot. Not terrible, but a bit of a questionable entry.

makemyday

Make my day ~album version~ (#2 / 108,000) was released as the album’s first single and it is a bit change for her as it has a little bit of heavy rock in its arrangement tied with dance and R&B. It has a lot of punch and it is probably the most aggressive song on the album, which is a nice change. I do like it’s energy and there are some pretty cool parts in the verses. The chorus’ melody isn’t as hard hitting and catchy as I want it to be, but it has its time.

I like that SAME changes things up again with its more experimental dance sound. It has a heavy beat and brings a bit of electropop and rock into it. It’s something I have never heard from Kuraki and that in itself is great. It sort of reminds me of something from Alanis Morisette, which I was not expecting. I don’t think it’s that catchy as the chorus is a bit repetitive, but the pre-chorus is really fun to hear and the change is welcomed.

Something more on the acoustic side of things is Just A Little Bit. This is a bit of a weird song because it has a more 90’s pop/rock arrangement to it. It’s not really my cup of tea though because it isn’t particularly memorable in its melody and focuses a lot more on the attitude it brings. It isn’t bad, but it sort of falls off in comparison to the last song.

The B-side to the third single comes sliding in with its fast-paced dance/pop sound. You are not the only one is another weird tune just because there are so many different sounds. I do like that the song is a bit on the faster side of things as it really brings some much needed punch. The chorus is this swirling mess with its flowing melody and tunnel-like synthed up arrangement. I do think it could be made stronger with a better arrangement, but it’s a good tune.

Tonight, I feel close to you is a song in English and a duet between Kuraki and Singaporean artist, Stefanie Sun. It’s a really interesting combination. Both of the girls have unique vocals and the arrangement really helps to bring something dreamy. I do feel like the girls get drowned out a bit though, as the music just seems so loud and their vocals are more on the thinner side. It’s a cool duet though and the chorus has some really nice points to it.


Overall: This her best album out of her first four. It isn’t an amazing album, but it is definitely a much needed entry. The first half of the album is much stronger, but the majority of the songs are pretty solid. The biggest problem I had with her last two albums was that she kept trying to replicate her first album, but she just couldn’t quite reach the same magic with some songs. Here, there are still traces of her older sound, but much more experimentation in the arrangements, which kept things exciting.

B

[Mini-Album] Red Velvet – Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette is the third mini-album released by Red Velvet. The title track was used as the promotional song. Compared to the last mini, which didn’t perform as well as their past releases, Russian Roulette proved to be a solid hit.

russianroulette

Released: September 7, 2016
1. Russian Roulette (러시안 룰렛)
2. Lucky Girl
3. Bad Dracula
4. Sunny Afternoon
5. Fool
6. Some Love
7. My Dear

Russian Roulette opens the album on a fun and exciting note with its video game-inspired arrangement. This is still one of my favourite title tracks from the group because it has that bright pop sound the group’s “Red” songs usually take on while also bringing a bit of the more melodic and mellow vibe of their “Velvet” side. The chorus is especially great with the hooks intertwined nicely within the melody.

russianroulette1

Another bright pop tune comes blasting in with Lucky Girl, but this time we get a bit of a retro spin with its touch of doo-wop. The verses are a lot of fun and while the chorus is great, the transition into the latter is just so jarring. I like the chorus as the girls are singing in unison and its a nice change from their usual stuff where solo lines are interspersed throughout. It’s a pretty nice song.

Bad Dracula starts off as a pretty heavy-handed pop/R&B tune. But then somewhere in the pre-chorus into the chorus, things change up into a totally in-your-face pop song. It’s not bad, I feel like after that first time, the song just never lets up and is all over the place. I like songs with a lot of energy, but I feel like it just becomes so overpowering at some points.

I do think Sunny Afternoon is better as it has a brighter and more carefree pop sound. I was not expecting this song to be so great because most of Red Velvet’s B-sides always have such odd transitions, but the light R&B elements that are present throughout the whole song are a nice change of pace. That chorus is also great with its catchy and melodic punch.

russianroulette

Fool starts off in an unexpected way with its banjo-like arrangement. This song is more on the mellow side and I like that there isn’t another in-your-face pop song, but this just isn’t my cup of tea. It’s quite cute and a solid song, but I just feel like something is missing. The verses have an odd melody and while the chorus is better, it is also lacking in a really strong hook.

I like that Some Love brings something a bit more on the EDM side of things. It’s one of the examples of tropical house that came out before the genre was overkilled in K-Pop and it is a solid tune. The synths are nice, but it’s the simple hook that really grabs the attention. I do find the verses to be a bit messy as there is a disconnect between the music and vocal arrangement, but the chorus makes up for it.

My Dear finishes things off with something along the lighter pop route. This song isn’t too bad, but I feel like a lot of these sweet pop tunes tend to get overshadowed by other tracks for me. It’s still a pretty solid tune though and has a good chorus with bright sound. I just wish the verses were more interesting there was a bit more power in the arrangement.


Overall: This is easily their strongest physical release yet. While there were a few average songs, I felt like the high quality helped them out a lot and there were a few more pretty solid B-sides. I’m usually on the fence with a lot of Red Velvet’s album tracks, so there were some nice surprises here. Russian Roulette is also a stellar song.

A-

[Digital Single] PRODUCE 101 – FINAL

FINAL is the third digital single released from the second season of Produce 101. The final 20 participants were split into two teams and placed on one of the first two tracks, while the last song included them all.

final

Released: June 17, 2017
1. Hands on me
2. Super Hot
3. Always (이 자리에)

Hands on me is the first song and more down my alley. It’s a pretty smooth, funk-inspired pop song that does a great job of showcasing all the participants’ vocals. I like the lighter arrangement that focuses more on the synths and guitar, although I wish there was a stronger bass line to really give it a bit more punch. The melody is surprisingly catchy and the simple hooks throughout the chorus are super effective in getting me to groove to this. I just wish there wasn’t that weird breakdown halfway through for the rap as it sticks out with its more hip-hop inspired vibe.

Super Hot is a contrast to the last song in the sense that it replaces the smoother, sensual quality for something more in-your-face and bright. It still ties in nicely though as it also has a strong disco/funk-inspired arrangement. I quite like the energy the song has, especially that explosive chorus. I don’t think the hooks are as intoxicating, but it’s still pretty catchy. I do like that the rap is incorporated much better here. It’s not as strong as the last song, but still a fun listen.

Always is a ballad and features all the participants. I think it’s a nice tune, but I’m not particularly drawn to it. The song tries to go a dreamier route with its light percussion, floating synths and breathy vocals. The boys do a good job with their vocals, but I don’t quite like the editing done to their voices. I feel like the melody just isn’t that captivating either and the song relies a lot on its arrangement to give it more power.


Overall: This is another solid digital single release from Produce 101. I really like the first two songs and they each show an interesting contrast to one another. I wish Always was a stronger song though as it left me desiring for a better melody.

A+

[Album] hiro – Watashi no Okinawa

Watashi no Okinawa is the third album released by hiro. It was her first solo album release in 11 years. It is a cover album that features songs by Okinawan artists and folk songs. It was a moderate success, peaking at #13 on the charts. One single was released prior to the album.

watashinookinawa

Released: August 14, 2013
1. Shima Uta (島唄; Island Song)
2. Nature Sound
3. Watashi no Okinawa (私のオキナワ; My Okinawa)
4. Kaigara (貝殻; Shell)
5. Tinsagunu Hana (album ver.) (てぃんさぐぬ花; A Sweet Flower)
6. Shimanchunu Takara (島人ぬ宝; Treasure of Our Island Home)
7. Mirukumunari (ミルクムナリ)
8. Stay With Me
9. Halo (delofamilia) (ハロ)
10. Kokoro no Uta ~Aisuruno ga Heta Dakara~ (心の詩 ~愛するのが下手だから~; Heart Song ~Love is Poor~)
11. Warabigami (piano ver.) (童神; Child Spirit)
12. Hana (花; Flower)

Shima Uta opens the album on a relaxing note. The song starts off as a gentle acoustic-focused tune, but soon starts to gain a bit of power. I wasn’t expecting much at first, but I do feel like the inclusion of the percussion really helps to liven the song up and it really gives it some strength in the chorus. The melody is quite beautiful as well. Compared to her first two albums, hiro sounds much more mature here and it fits wonderfully with the song. This is a great opener.

Nature Sound brings a bit more of a melancholic sound and is the album’s first cover. I do like that the song has a more pop/rock quality to it and keeps things more mainstream while still adding a few elements here and there of the Okinawan style. I wish the music had a bit more punch to it, but it’s still a pretty good song as the melody is pretty catchy and hiro sounds great. The only part that comes off is weird is the rap that comes up in the second half of the song as hiro can’t quite do this well.

Bringing back a more lighthearted sound, we get Watashi no Okinawa, the title track. I like that it has a summery brightness to it that works with its light pop/rock influence. I really like how the Okinawan elements start to come in during the chorus as it really brings an interesting switch. It’s not the catchiest tune, but it’s still solid and quite charming.

Kaigara brings us another cover, but this time in the form of a ballad. It’s a really sweet sounding song and I quite like how the instruments all work together. The Okinawan influence isn’t at the forefront this time, but tied nicely into the background. The chorus isn’t particularly memorable in melody, but the arrangement really helps give the song a bit of punch. It’s quite sweet.

Tinsagunu Hana (album ver.) is another slower song, but this time we get some children’s choir to help give the song some push. It’s not a song that I would normally go for, but there is a really touching quality about it from its gentle arrangement to its short vocal sections. It isn’t a long song, but it still feels quite beautiful. It was originally released as the B-side to the album’s single.

I think Shimanchunu Takara has been done numerous times by other Okinawan artists as well. It has a really bright and prominent Okinawa twist. It is a surprisingly long song but has a great vibe to it. The verses are fun, while the chorus has the kind of sound that is easy to sing along to. I do wish the music fit a bit better with the vocal arrangement because there does seem a bit of a disconnect, but it is a pretty nice tune.

We finally get a more upbeat song in the form of Mirukumunari, which has some strong traditional Okinawan and Japanese sounds. It starts off in a really cool way with its chanting. I don’t really know what to think. I wasn’t expecting it to be catchy, but the chants melody is actually really fun to listen to.

Stay With Me returns us to a more contemporary style with its gentle pop/rock sound. It actually reminds me of something that Hamasaki Ayumi might have done in the 2000’s due to the use of strings and light percussion. The chorus has quite a simple hook, but it actually works well here. hiro also sounds good and she shows a lot of control over her singing. Charming song.

Halo (delofamilia) opens in a weird way and has quite a strange sound. Not sure what to think really of its intro. However, things start to sound better once hiro starts to sing. The chorus is where things start to get a bit weirder as the song has a light R&B beat that comes popping in. Unfortunately, I feel like the melody doesn’t quite take advantage of this and it isn’t that memorable. The best part does come right after the chorus though as there is a more pop sounding section that brings a more melodic change. It is an interesting song, but the weakest at this point.

The next song has quite a long name, but it is quite beautiful. Kokoro no Uta ~Aisuruno ga Heta Dakara~ is a gentle ballad that brings in some sounds from nature and has a dreamier quality to it. It isn’t the most exciting song, but it has a really gorgeous quality to it with its subtle Okinawan elements and emotional melody. hiro does a great job as her voice fits the song really well. My only issue comes in the second half of the song where a light beat comes in and makes parts feel a bit offbeat.

warabigami

Warabigami (piano ver.) (#13) comes rolling in and it is really beautiful. This song has also been covered numerous times by different artists. Even though this song focuses on the piano, I don’t find it to get boring. The melody is quite sweet and there is a tenderness to it that really fits the arrangement and makes everything even more emotional. I can understand why this was the album’s only single as it is a stand out piece.

Finishing the album is Hana, which was used as a promotional track for the album. It is another song that has a stronger Okinawan flair to it. The majority of the song has a light pop sound, but the music definitely brings in some of that much needed influence to give it a punch. The melody is a bit lacking unfortunately and while the arrangement is nice, the song is a bit forgettable. I enjoy hiro’s vocal performance though.


Overall: This is easily hiro’s best album to date. I was actually expecting it to be quite boring and while the album is on the slower side of things, many of the songs were of high quality even if they weren’t my cup of tea. I felt like hiro was really in her element here and while her piercing vocals were exciting in her first two albums, she has really showed her maturity here. I loved the Okinawan flavour that was brought into a lot of the songs as well.

B+

[Album] GFRIEND – LOL

LOL is the first album released by GFRIEND. Navillera was used as the promotional track and was another big hit for the group. This is also their first release after their “school series” trilogy.

lol

Released: July 11, 2016
1. INTRO
2. Fall in Love (물들어요)
3. NAVILLERA (너 그리고 나)
4. LOL
5. Distance (한 뼘)
6. Water Flower (물꽃놀이)
7. Mermaid
8. Sunshine (나의 일기장)
9. Compas (나침반)
10. Click (찰칵)
11. Gone with the Wind (바람에 날려)
12. NAVILLERA (inst.)

I really like how the album opens. The intro is really fun and has a great beat to it that sort of shows how the album will go with a brighter sound. It’s quite cute.

gfriendlol

Fall in Love opens in a beautiful way that focuses on the strings. I was hoping this would continue, but instead we get a bright pop tune. It’s not a bad song, just definitely on the more generic side. I think the thing that really gives it life are the strings that fly under the heavy beat and synths. The chorus isn’t particularly memorable in melody, but the music does help elevate the song a bit. The bridge is quite nice though.

NAVILLERA is an exhilarating pop tune with some with some dance elements. The strings are quite prominent here as well, but I feel like the music doesn’t overpower things and works really well with the energy of that the melody also builds. The pre-chorus is especially great for this as things start to build. The chorus brings a slight drop, but the melody is really catchy and I like that the hook isn’t overly repetitive.

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I’m glad that the title track brings something a little different. Although it is another upbeat tune, there is a bit of an 80’s vibe to it with the synths in the instrumental portions. LOL has rather weak verses, but the chorus is definitely stronger. My only issue is I wish the cool synth refrain was included in the arrangement here as the chorus seems to go full on bubblegum pop and ends up a bit more on the generic side. A solid album track that reminds me a bit of 00’s J-Pop.

Distance is a bit of a relaxing reggae tune. Reggae is a great genre, but I usually don’t really enjoy how a lot of K-Pop groups do it because it feels so watered down. Here, the arrangement just isn’t that strong and actually feels like a bit of a letdown when compared to melody. It’s not bad though as there are some really nice parts to it, but it is one of the album’s weaker tunes.

I like that Water Flower has a bit of a pop/rock punch, but still retains that bright summery style. This song actually has some of the best verses on the album because there is some energy to them that works really well with the music. Unfortunately, I felt the chorus to be weaker. I was hoping for something a little more hardhitting and instead it goes really sweet in its delivery.

Mermaid takes a bit of a different approach, which is much needed. I quite like the more dramatic style the melody takes here and it works beautifully with the music and vocals in the verses. The chorus isn’t as exhilarating, but I do like the more passionate side that the song takes. I feel like part of it is the editing on the vocals, which sort of holds back the emotion during the first half. Besides that, it is a pretty cool song and I bet some tweaking could make it phenomenal.

gfriendlol1

Even though the title is Sunshine, the song is definitely on the more mid-tempo side of things with its light R&B/pop sound. It has a nice relaxing quality to it that helps to break up the flow of the upbeat songs. With that said, it just doesn’t push hard enough when it needs to. The chorus is a bit too sweet and I feel like it could’ve played up the strengths of Yuju a bit more. A bit boring after a while.

I am glad Compas is much better. This song has a stronger house influence with its pounding beat and slow build-up. I quite like that the chorus doesn’t go into a drop, but actually has a fleshed out melody that works great with the powerful music. It’s not one of the stronger dance tunes I’ve heard in recent years, but it is still a pretty nice change on this album and is a fun listen.

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Click brings us back to a brighter pop song that is reminiscent of the 90’s pop/R&B sound. It has a great energy to it and I like the brightness of the chorus. It is certainly one of the stronger album tracks as the melody has a pretty decent hook that matches the music. I just feel like the girls’ vocals don’t particularly fit with this song.

To end the album, we have Gone With The Wind, which is the best album track on here. The song starts off pretty generic, but it has a great beat and fast-paced melody that helps to power things up for that explosive chorus. The song is reminiscent of Rough in the intensity of the melody in the chorus and the prominence of strings in the music. I don’t think it quite hits the same power, but there are some really cool parts to it. I’m not a fan of dubstep, but that breakdown is pretty nicely transitioned into as well.


Overall: This was a pretty average album for me. I was actually expecting a little more from it as I really enjoyed the promo track and Gone With The Wind. The rest of the album was up and down but it never really reached any extremes. It felt like the majority of the songs had some nice parts to them but could be tweaked more in other areas.

B