[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.

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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+

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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

[Mini-Album] Cosmic Girls – Dream your dream

Dream your dream is the fourth mini-album released by Cosmic Girls. Dreams Come True was used as the promotional song.

dreamyourdream

Released: February 27, 2018
1. Dreams Come True (꿈꾸는 마음으로)
2. The Nutcracker (호두까기 인형)
3. Renaissance (르네상스)
4. Starry Moment (설레는 밤)
5. Thawing (겨울잠)
6. Dreams Come True (Chinese ver.)

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Finally! Although the girls released something of a similar caliber on their first album with Miracle, the title track was a departure from the sound that the girls had become known for. Dreams Come True is a true return to that Secret style and I’m totally happy. It starts off beautifully with its soaring synths and powerful beat. The verses are so frantic that they keep the energy up and while the transition into the chorus isn’t quite obvious, the chorus itself has a great wormy catchiness that just takes a bit of time to seep into. Once I was hooked, I was hooked and this is easily one of my favourites from the group. The Chinese ver. that ends the mini retains its excellence even if the pronunciation isn’t quite there.

The Nutcracker is definitely more of the straightforward pop sound. It has a lot of energy to it, but there are some really fun slower moments that help to create balance. Unfortunately, this song doesn’t quite have that stand out moment for me. The melody just keeps up this frantic bouncing that just doesn’t quite let up in the chorus and unlike the last song that brings in different hooks, this one just hands us a pretty empty sounding tune. A bit disappointing.

I do prefer Renaissance though. There is a classy elegance to its delivery that is reminiscent of the group’s strongest songs. It doesn’t quite bring the wistfulness, but it does has a more focused sound than the last song. While I do prefer the verses, the chorus has a great punch to it that is helped by that steady beat. The melody is pretty solid, even if it isn’t the most catchy, it at least works well with the music.

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With a title like Starry Moment, I was expecting something dreamy, but here we are given some throwback to 90’s R&B. I do quite like this change up in style and there are some elements thrown in that do keep that “starry” quality to things, specifically the synths. The chorus is a bit more pop in its sound, but it still works out surprisingly well and the transition isn’t too jarring. It’s a decent album track, although I wish the melody was stronger.

Thawing is a cuter tune, but I find it to be the weakest on the mini. The melody is just really weak and it feels a bit all over the place. The music isn’t too bad and continues the sparkly elements of the other songs, but it just doesn’t quite have a strong melody to take it to the next level. It’s definitely something I will forget later on.


Overall: This mini was pretty solid, but it did get carried heavily by the promo track. I was hoping that since the promo track was so strong, the other songs would retain that wistful power. Unfortunately, I only connected a lot to one other song. The others weren’t horrible, but were just a bit average. Not a bad mini though.

B+

[Digital Single] NU’EST W – If You

If You is the third second digital single released by NU’EST W. It is their first original song after Minhyun’s hiatus from the group due to his participation in the project group, Wanna One.

ifyou

Released: July 25, 2017
1. If You (있다면)

Not sure if If You was what I was expecting from the group. It’s a midtempo pop/R&B piece and these kind of coffeehouse-styled songs usually aren’t my cup of tea. However, I do quite enjoy this one. It has that common laid-back vibe, but the melody is actually interesting and I like how the rap is brought in. I just wish the hook that is used in the beginning and end of the song was used more often throughout the whole song. It’s probably my favourite part of it.


Overall: This was a nice song. It wasn’t ground-breaking, but it was a nice relaxing tune and I’m not usually a big fan of these kinds of songs because they can get a bit forgettable, so this is a plus.

B+

[Mini-Album] A.C.E – A.C.E Adventures in Wonderland

A.C.E Adventures is the first mini-album released by A.C.E. Take Me Higher was used as the promotional song. The newer songs don’t feature member Chan as he was taking part in The Unit’s project group, UNB.

aceadventuresinwonderland

Released: June 7, 2018
1. Cactus (선인장)
2. Callin’
3. Black and Blue
4. Take Me Higher
5. DESSERT
6. 5STAR (Incompletion)
7. Cactus (inst.)
8. Callin’ (inst.)
9. 5STAR (Incompletion) (inst.)

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First off, we begin with two of the group’s first digital singles, Cactus and Callin’. Both these songs go for the hardstyle and they are great tunes. Cactus is especially great and has a punch to it. The chorus is still catchy and I love the pounding music. Callin’ doesn’t go quite as hard initially, but the chorus is fun. I don’t think it is as catchy, but it still a quality tune. The mini also includes the group’s third digital single, 5TAR (Incompletion), which is a slow-building ballad. This is the weakest of the old tracks, but it is still a solid tune.

The first of the new songs is Black and Blue, which brings something more hip-hop. I’ve never been the biggest fan of these kinds of songs, so this isn’t really up my alley. Still, there are some great parts to it. The pre-chorus does a great job building things up to the chorus, which has a lot of energy to it. Not quite sure if it’s that catchy though.

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I much prefer Take Me Higher. Here we are given something on trend with its dance-EDM sound. I find it a great match for the group because the light-hearted style really fits the group’s image well and the girls have some strong vocalists that can take advantage of those soaring choruses. It’s a really catchy tune. I also quite enjoy the rap portion that pops up right before the bridge.

DESSERT has some tropical house influence in it, which isn’t a totally bad thing. Although the genre has been overkilled in the last few years, this is still a solid entry to the genre in K-Pop. I like its more serious tone. My only problem is that the pre-chorus is a bit too repetitive and would’ve benefited from some variety in lyrics. The drop into the chorus isn’t so hard-hitting, but the synth is pretty catchy, albeit generic.


Overall: This is a pretty solid mini-album and the group sounds great doing all these sounds. I do wish the group tried less to follow trends like they did with Cactus and Callin’, but it is understandable as they come from a smaller company. With that said, the group does have some quality tracks and there are no bad songs on here. The guys are all good vocalists, so they help to elevate songs.

A

[Mini-Album] TWICE – TWICEcoaster: LANE 1

TWICEcoaster: LANE 1 is the third mini-album released by TWICE. TT was used as the promotional song for the group and has become the group’s biggest hit.

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Released: October 24, 2016
1. TT
2. 1 to 10
3. Ponytail
4. Jelly Jelly
5. Pit-a-Pat
6. Next Page
7. One in a Million

TT opens the album up and it is a blast of a song. It has a similar feel to Cheer Up with its cuter verses and explosive, hook-heavy choruses. I would actually say this is stronger than that one as the hooks are more cleverly worked around instead of just thrown in your face. Once the first chorus hits, it feels like the song never really lets up and there are only a few moments here or there where the song lets you catch a breath. It’s fun though.

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I like that 1 to 10 slows things down for something more on the midtempo pop side. The group has tackled songs like this before, but this is probably one of their best of this tempo. I wouldn’t say it is perfect, but there are some nice points to it. The music is rather laidback, but still has a nice punch to it. I do find the melody to be a bit overpowered at times though. I wish the music was a bit brighter because I feel like it would have fit the girls’ voices better.

Then we swing into the pop/rock Ponytail. I think this is a fun sound to get into, but there is something rather lackluster with the melody. The energy of the music is quite powerful and while I was scared of the girls not being able to fit this genre that well, they do a surprisingly good job. However, I just wish the song was catchier. The chorus just zooms by and doesn’t really get stuck in my head.

Jelly Jelly is something a bit cheerleader-like. It has a fun beat and I like it’s somewhat retro vibe. I just wish the song wasn’t so high because the girls sound like they are straining in the verses. The transition into the chorus isn’t that obvious either and it’s a bit of a letdown because I was hoping the verses would translate into something more explosive for the chorus. Not bad, but not quite there.

Pit-a-Pat pretty much continues the sound of the last song with its bright pop vibe. I do find this one to be a bit better because there are some more interesting transitions brought in. The pre-chorus could be a little better though. Unfortunately, like the last few songs, the chorus just doesn’t quite do it for me. It frustrates me a bit because I know the group has it in them to hit it with the melodies, but these just go by with little interest for me.

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Next Page is a bit slower and has a more relaxed vibe to it, but it still has a bounciness to it that keeps it from getting boring. The music has a lot of weird synths coming in and out and I like that it changes things up a bit. The chorus is probably the strongest in a few songs. It’s a bit empty and features a few lines here and there, but it is much more memorable than some other songs. I wish it went a little harder, but it’s not bad.

One in a Million is a slower pop song and focuses more on the acoustic guitar. This reminds me of bubblegum pop songs from the early 00’s in the US and I actually like this throwback. Luckily, this is the second best song on the mini. The chorus is strong and has a catchy melody that works wonderfully with the music. I don’t think it is in a sound that totally matches the girls, but it is a really nice surprise.


Overall: This is the group’s weakest release up to this point of my reviews. I was expecting something a bit stronger considering the quality of TT, but for the most part, the B-sides just fell flat. There was some great music, but the melodies just weren’t what I was looking for and it’s a bit frustrating because the girls have it in them, as they proved on their last minis and in One in a Million.

B-

[Album] Dana – Maybe

Maybe is the second album released by Dana. Unlike her first, this album fared poorly despite all the promotion she had since her first album. Both the title track and What is Love? were used as the promotional songs.

maybe

Released: October 1, 2003
1. Friend VS Lover (길들이기)
2. Maybe (남겨둔 이야기)
3. What is Love?
4. Fight Till the End (바램)
5. N&N (End and And)
6. Love All I Need (너를 꿈꾸며)
7. Dream
8. How 2 Love
9. I Will
10. Kiss Me
11. Unhappy Day
12. My Melody
13. What is Love (Modern Rock Ver.)
14. Swear
15. Wanna Be

The album starts off in a different way than her debut, which had the icy dark Until the End of the World. Here, we open with the sweet Friend VS Lover. This isn’t a bad song by any means, but I feel like it is a bit of a regression from the more mature attitude her debut had and this sounds like something more in tune to BoA’s Atlantis Princess album (which was released the same year). It’s a pretty sweet song, but not particularly catchy as the hooks get a bit blunted by the music.

Coming in next is the title track, Maybe. It’s a gentle ballad that focuses more on Dana’s voice. At this point, Dana’s vocals have improved a lot and she has more control over her voice compared to her debut, and it really shows here. My only problem is the weird pitch jump that goes into the transition of the course, which comes off a little odd. The melody is nice, but it doesn’t quite go anywhere either. Even the end doesn’t quite hit the power I want it to.

What is Love? (Original Ver.) was used as the first promotional song and it is a bright and fun pop song like Friend VS Lover. However, this one is much stronger and has much better hooks than make me enjoy coming back to it. The chorus is rather repetitive, but it’s the pre-chorus that really shines and has a great quality to it that makes everything feel quite sweet. I think this is a good precursor to some of SM’s later tunes for groups like Girls’ Generation. I just wish Dana’s voice was a bit more engaging.

I’ve been waiting for a song like this and it has finally come. Fight Till the End is an upbeat dance/pop tune that brings back the sound of her first album. At this point, it feels a bit out of it because of its sound, but it is definitely one of the stronger album tracks. It has a weird early 00’s beat that reminds me of BoA’s Double, but the melody is a bit more melodic. It’s not as impacting as I want, but it is definitely a solid tune.

N&N (End and And) is another interesting change because here we are given a slower R&B ballad. I mean I love songs like this, but I’m always a bit hesitant heading into these kind of songs for fear that they aren’t as good as I want them to be. The beat is nice and the build-up into the chorus is quite nice, but that chorus is a bit a mess. The background vocals help to bring some life, but Dana just adlibs over it and doesn’t quite sing a lot and there is an odd contrast between her and the background vocal voices. Could have been better.

Love All I Need is more upbeat but still has some light R&B/pop vibes going on that make me think more of the late 90’s pop. The verses are pretty cool and I like the touches of attitude here in the vocal arrangement. The chorus is a bit of a let down as it loses that edge and goes for a fuller and brighter pop sound. It’s still pretty catchy, but I feel like it would have been better if it kept that groovier vibe for the melody.

Another ballad to pop up is Dream, but this one has a touch of R&B in it as well. Like its name, it is quite dreamy in its overall delivery. Unfortunately, it just sort of treads between dreamy and too fluffy to really deliver anything that’s memorable. The melody is lackluster and the song is just a snoozefest after a while.

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How 2 Love is a stronger song. While it does bring us back to that upbeat dance/pop sound, I don’t think it has the same punch that the last one did. The music is pretty similar, but the melody just comes off a bit lazier. It doesn’t really match with the energy of the music. It’s just a bit of a disappointment.

I really thought it couldn’t get more boring, but I Will is just another disappointment. At this point, it is getting more difficult to get through this album. This one even lacks the dreamier atmosphere of Dream. It is a sweet song, but the song just doesn’t quite have much energy to it until the bridge where it becomes a power ballad. With that said, it drags on in the beginning and really only Dana’s voice saves it (even if she is screaming a bit).

I was really hoping that Kiss Me would save the album a bit and it is definitely one of the album’s more interesting songs. It isn’t as refined, but it does have some cool ideas. The music brings back the catchy dance/pop sound and there is a lot of energy to that. The melody isn’t bad either, but once again, the melody just seems to be sung in such a tiring way that there is no energy to it. It really relies on the music.

Unhappy Day is a bit of a throwback to early 90’s R&B and I quite like this change. The touch of rap is also a welcomed change because there is some energy. The best thing about this song is that the melody finally has some energy to it and Dana plays around with her voice a little more. Not the greatest tune, but it is solid.

Not sure what to think of My Melody. By this point, I’m a bit tired of listening to this album as it sort of just drags on without many strong points. This song isn’t too bad though. It’s a light midtempo pop tune, but it isn’t particularly strong in any area. The melody is a bit lackluster and the overall delivery of the song is that it just floats by.

What is Love? (Modern Rock Ver.) is a weird change from the original as it basically just has an annoying beat replace the more charming original. I was looking forward to hearing this, but this just makes the song much more worse. I much rather listen to the original.

Swear is a slow R&B ballad. This kind of song is quite common in the early 00’s K-Pop albums and they are always hit or miss depending on the melody. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t quite do it for me. The melody just isn’t that interesting and I don’t quite like it is sung as the song swerves a lot and Dana doesn’t quite transition as easily.

Wanna Be is a fast-paced summery pop tune and I actually like it, especially when compared to the majority of the songs on this album. It’s at least catchier than a lot of the upbeat songs on here and it brings some much needed energy. I also quite enjoy the music as there is a touch of brass and sparkling synths that brings a nice feel-good vibe.


Overall: This…What happened? I quite enjoyed Dana’s debut album as it had some stellar songs and despite Dana’s screechier vocals at the time, there was a lot of energy and intensity that was felt in the songs. Here, everything just felt so lazily done. Certainly I kind see a lot of these styles of songs being popular at this time (which they were), but there was just a lack of good songs. Really, the only song I would revisit is What is Love? and even then it has nothing on the best songs from her debut. The rest of the album just felt like a drag to get through. The songs were sung in a way that had no energy and the melodies felt weak and the music just boring at times.

C