Friday, July 30, 2010

Week 1

We're kicking things off in a big way, analyzing some current fresh-out-of-the-oven cuts by SISTAR, 4minute, G.NA (feat. B2ST), SHINee and Se7en. But who came out on top? You're just gonna have to read on to find out. Word to the wise, these posts will be epically large. But that's a good thing, right KPop fanshippers?

This week's panel features permanent panelists:
Nikki @ Pop Reviews Now
Mel @ Melismatic
McRoth @ McRoth's Residence
Poster Girl @ Poster Girl

And a very special guest:
Paul @ FizzyPop!

Thanks so much to our dear friends in contributing! Hope you enjoy!

SISTAR - Chronos Soul
SISTAR were put together and produced by Brave Sound, the production team responsible for hits from After School, U-Kiss and other idol groups. They're called by some as the RedOne of Korea, mainly because all their songs sound very similar. They're currently promoting another single, "Push Push", but this song's newer. "Chronos Soul" is off the soundtrack for the Korean game "Chronos Sword".

McRoth (3.5/5): I knew this group had talent, so it’s good to hear a song that appropriately showcases their vocal ability. Unlike the mess and a half that is ‘Push Push’ (I call it the ‘giving birth song’), Chronos Soul is so much prettier and easier to listen to. Hyorin (lead singer) has pipes, we’ve established that, but whoever picks up the hook sounds like she may have just a good of a singing voice as her! Next to Push Push, this gets a 10,000, but I’ll go ahead and rank this a solid 3.5 because it’s much catchier, graceful and powerful than the things I’m hearing from female groups in Kpop right now. They should have debuted with this.

Mel (3/5): I’m pretty sure I’m going to be alone in the camp that I prefer “Push Push” to this (if only for its pure novelty and catchiness), and I think I’m okay with it. While they sound pretty, I’m not exactly struck by their vocals. The harmonies are nice, although subtle (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but certain bits really grate. Overall, the song sounds a bit too generic to my ears. Not enough to be truly gorgeous, and not too little to be not worth anyone’s time. SISTAR are still at the very beginning of their career, and are coming out in a time where there isn’t too much of a competition against the veterans in the genre, so I appreciate them attempting to show some diversity. But give me that Kat DeLuna rocker “Push Push” over this anyday. I don’t care who knows it. They're gonna have to come a little bit harder than this to gain my respect.

Nikki (3/5): Hey look there's more than one useful girl in this group! Looks like I've been proved wrong, somewhat "officially" (I've seen a few radio performances here and there that've reinforced it), and I take that as a good sign. And besides, after Miss A debuted and literally swept charts, I really think they have to step up if they ever think they're gonna be noticed, and this is definitely getting them somewhere. Even if I think the song's rather generic, I do like the pretty piano line, the somewhat sweeping melody, and the fact that they at least show a few hints of finesse in their performance here and there, I've been looking for that. They have a long way to go before they earn my respect, but I do think that this is a step in the right direction.

Paul (4/5):Pretty if unremarkable ballad, with nice vocals. The chorus is definitely the strongest part of the song, but the girls weave their vocals together nicely. It doesn't immediately stand out as a massive smash, but I suspect (much like Irreplaceable) it will be more and more memorable with each listen. I like the oh-oh-oh-oh-oooos in the chorus too :) Less said about the spoken middle 8 the better! (Note: originally this was a 3/5 but as i said, subsequent listens have made me fall in love with it a bit more so now it's a 4/5)

Poster Girl (3.5/5): "Chronos Soul" is a cute, pretty teen-pop ballad, like a Saturdays album track, which matches the electronic production you'd expect from a contemporary girl group with a piano line in hopes of added poignancy. The end result is a pleasant listening experience but a song I'd have trouble humming a few minutes later. Still, it wins you over more than it probably should--any time I tried to knock the song down a point it felt like I was kicking a puppy. You just want to pat it on the head and tell it "well done."

4Minute - Superstar
4Minute are under Cube Entertainment, a subsidiary of JYP Entertainment (2PM, 2AM, The Wonder Girls, formerly Rain), and their debut was rather controversial 'coz of HyunA, who was a former Wonder Girl. They came back this year with "Huh" and are promoting "I My Me Mine" now, but this song is the theme for the second season of like the Korean version of Idol - Superstar K.

McRoth (1.5/5): Whoa, we’ve entered the ‘Trashy-Pop Boot Camp’ lead by HyunA and the Pussycat Dolls. I’ve been so over the blatant auto-tune craze and hearing it in Kpop bums me out. I don’t listen to this group on a regular basis, so I don’t know who’s singing what, but it does sound like there are some decent voices buried 6 feet in processing. The drilling beat was too much for me and although I love when a song explodes, Superstar got a little out of hand by the end. With an uninspiring production and crappy melodies, I have nothing else to say but MAKE IT STOP! HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL!!

Mel (2.7/5): I’m usually always in 4minute’s camp if only for their sheer catchiness (and the ferosh day-glo leggings they used to rock) but the one was a little bit of a letdown. All of the ingredients were there – the banging beat, the kinda monotone chant chorus, a rallying cry English lyric (“Supa-Sta!”), a kind of familiar melody line. But it doesn’t hit home the way “Hot Issue”, “Muzik” or even “Huh” did. In fact, I quite prefer “I My Me Mine” (and the prize for most confusing song title of 2010 is) to this. But considering it’s a soundtrack/theme song cut, I don’t think they have too much to worry about. Had the chorus been a little more…interesting, I’d be all about it.

Nikki (2.3/5): Not enough to pass for me, I'm afraid. I was starting to like 4Minute, especially when "HuH" came out (excuse the rather strange title), but I'm not so sure about this song - it goes nowhere and bores me. They're overdoing the monotony so it ends up being anti-climactic, they themselves sound rather uninterested in singing the song, and except for random parts of "enlightenment", the percussion line has go to be the most boring one I've heard all year. I mean really, it goes "pak pak pak pak pak pak pak pak" like a metronome that just goes on and on.. and on. Well, better boring than annoying.

Paul (2/5): It's HUGELY reminiscent of "Commander" by Kelly Rowland. Now, I don't mind a bit of a pastiche or homage in pop, in fact some of my favourite songs are hugely generic but this is a bit beyond cheeky rip off! It's not a bad song at all, but ultimately it makes me want to listen to either "Commander" or "Evacuate The Dancefloor"...

Poster Girl (2.5/5): 4minute are hit-and-miss for me--I love the strutty brashness of the style they pursue, but their choruses don't always win me over. The first half of the chorus here tries to be the more expansive counterbalance to all the quick, catchy repetition going on in the rest of the song, but it's not quite strong enough. Without that piece in place, the whole song never seems to come together. That's too bad, since there are some great elements scattered throughout "Superstar."

G.NA - I'll Back Off So You Can Live
This girl has a rather interesting past. She was originally under Good Entertainment, home of the legendary Korean boyband Shinhwa after they left SME, as part of a 5-member project girl group named.. wait for it.. Five Girls (Oh Sonyeo). Mel and Nikki applaud their creativity. But anyway, the members of the group were Yoobin Wonder Girls, UEE After School, this girl who left T-Ara last year, and Secret's now-leader. She's debuted, rather late for Korean standards, and everyone has been gushing about her, especially since her "buzz track" was a duet with Rain. She's under Cube Entertainment, which explains the two guys from BEAST in her video.

McRoth (2.5/5): I don’t like this song. It’s the typical female-R&B song with a redundant instrumental I hear everywhere. It ain’t fresh, it ain’t cute, and the unnecessary rap bugged me. I will acknowledge that G.NA has a recognizable voice and a killer range, she just needs to bring much more influential material to me because right now, this is just whatever [inserts cute Asian girl saying ‘what-eva‘].

Mel (3.5/5): Putting aside the fact that upon first looking at this artist, I assumed her name was pronounced like DNA (sue me), it’s a perfectly pretty song. But there isn’t too much else I can say about it. It’s the type of song that really, ardently wants to be a big epic mid-tempo ballad, but G.NA the singer herself doesn’t have the big sweeping voice to truly allow it to blast off into the stratosphere. That being said – perhaps it’s a good thing it isn’t too intense, I quite like her voice when its controlled. When she puts too much emphasis on phrasing, it feels a little bit strained to my ears. It gets better with every listen, but overall, it’s not my particular cup of tea.

Nikki (4/5): I forgot what rating I gave this on my first review, but let's just go with a 4/5, for being a pretty decent song. It's not really a song you'd think I like because I go on and on about how being generic is a "crime" (LOL!) but I do, and no one can do anything about it. I think. I did like the rap part a bit, mainly because there's some sense of melody to it and the piano loop throughout the entire song, not just the rap loop (although that is commendable), kills me every time. I'm not convinced with her live singing yet because she's not as good as she's being pushed to be and she doesn't have stage presence when she performs this song, but I do hope she turns into a performer.

Paul(4/5): First of all, I love that there is a boyband called Beast! That is all sorts of amazing. This song - it's one of those songs that would work incredibly well as an acoustic ballad, but also works as a slightly raved up pop track. There are some nice piano tinklings going on and a shuffling beat that gets more and more insistent and addictive as the song goes on. Nice middle 8 breakdown

Poster Girl (4/5): "I'll Back Off So You Can Live" feels like it's a big diva ballad (or at least is meant to be). I've avoided watching the music video, but it better be some heartrending, "they were meant to be together but fate pulls them apart" or "the walls are falling down because of the strength of her grief while she struggles to carry on" affair. If JoJo wasn't in label limbo, she might be releasing something like this surprisingly moving pretty mid-tempo ballad.

Se7en - Better Together
I think some of you are familiar with Se7en - he had a brief stint in the US when he released "Girls" with Lil' Kim. But then YG Entertainment, his talent agency, completely stopped his US promo and "shipped" him back to Korea. He's making his comeback after 4 years with this single, and it's now on top of several major charts.

McRoth (4/5): Mmm, where are my shiny shoes and killer attitude cuz I’m about to hit the clubz. This is Kpop at its finest. I may hate the processing used on, say 4Minute, but here it just works. I hope YG Entertainment keeps on experimenting with these techno and electronic elements because Se7en is working it. Too bad he didn’t release this in the US 3 years ago. He might have actually made it. *does the airplane dance move*

Mel (4.5/5): Move out the way – banger coming through! I was hardly Se7en’s biggest champion other than the ill-fated “Girls” (fail English and all) so I'm hardly overly familiar with him, but I’m finding myself wishing this was his debut to the American scene rather than that swagga-jockin’ single cut. Nevertheless, this song is a great showcase of what Se7en does best – sing, and sing well. I like that he alternates between his various vocal strengths, and I especially love the falcetto bits. The only part that annoys me is the siren in the background. After living in New York City for more than a year, the last thing I wanna hear over and over (and over) again is an ambulance cry ad naseum. So…points docked for that, I’m afraid. It does sound a touch Big Bang-ish, and it's not quite the epic return single I was expecting, but it's still very, very catchy. Just turn down the sirens a bit, por favor, Mr. Producer.

Nikki (3.7/5): In the "Rain vs. Se7en" battle, I've always been on the Rain side, which kind of explains why I'm not the biggest fan of Se7en's new single. When I listened to the first album with no idea which song was the lead single, this was the song I kinda picked out to be better than the rest, but I'm sorry - I keep on thinking that this got the "GD treatment" when I hear the verses. And I don't like GD. ALTHOUGH, the chorus is nice and melodic, but catchy - the way it should be. The chorus pretty much does the job - good enough that the hook sticks. And the middle 8 is pleasant. Not annoying, not jaw-dropping, but pleasant.

Paul(3/5): Ew. Numbers in words. Not a fan. This is basically another Lord Gaga attempt - Sergey Lazarev did this a bit better with his most recent single Alarm. Or so you would think. There are then this quite nice moments where he flits into being a bit Timberlake meets Prince and those are the bits that shine. Pity the whole song doesn't exploit those strong points!!

Poster Girl (4.5/5): This is like dangling catnip in front of a cat and expecting the cat to NOT jump at it. Uptempo male-sung electro-pop with just enough urban influence to give it bite, topped off by deliberate stuttering and sirens? Totally my thing, so I may be biased. "Better Together" is a little schizophrenic: the verses are all glitchy and edged out, but the familiar-sounding chorus is sweetly melodic before Se7en abruptly switches back to his hip-hop swagger voice. I might have preferred the whole thing taking its cues from the verses, but this is still about 50 million times better than "Girls"--Se7en sounds more convincing and it's a better song.

SHINee - Lucifer
Ah yes, this is the very reason why we wanted to start the panel this week in particular - BECAUSE THE NEW SHINEE TRACK WOULD BE OUT. Mel, McRoth, PPG and I have all said our pieces on the song, but we just HAVE to say it again. hahah! When they debuted in 2008 with "Replay", SHINee were known as the "young" SME boyband, catering to older women (LOL), and to a certain extent they still are. They went through a rather "radical" change in their sound last year, with the release of "Ring Ding Dong", going from covering Martin and Corbin Bleu to getting singles from top-flight SME songwriter, Yoo Young Jin. "Lucifer" is their first release since "Ring Ding Dong".

McRoth (4/5): For the energy alone, it would have been a solid 5/5 HOWEVER, I’ve reached that point where I can only listen to this song a couple times before giving myself a good cool down of 5 or so hours. Why? Because the one-note-ness is starting to annoy me. I swear I’ll burst out in tears of laughter the day I see the sheet music to this song.

Mel (7/5....just kidding. 5/5): If you’ve talked to me on Twitter or read my blog recently, you’ll know how much I already adore this song. 2008 had “Mirotic”, 2009 had “Sorry Sorry”, and 2010’s rallying cry will be “Lucifer”. Undoubtedly. SME, you’ve done it again, you conniving, ingenious earworm-smiths you. Any boyband with a song title of “Lucifer” will get my immediate attention, but add a banging backbeat, an epic chant in “Loverholic Robotronic” and even a rap that I’ve learned myself (despite not being able to speak Korean…at all), and you’ve got the makings of a serious monster (no pun intended, I promise). I could go on all day at how impressed I am with SHINee and this track, and I’m ready to admit my fanship to them now. I may have been willing to relegate them to guilty pleasure status prior to July 2010, but the game has been completely changed thanks to this one.

Nikki (5/5): YES. Probably the best way to describe what I think of "Lucifer". It just works. Although I did get a bit sick of it after listening to it for three days straight, after I stopped for a day I ended up literally "craving" to hear it - I couldn't get it out of my head until I played it, and played it, aaaand played it. The melody has a good balance between the monotonous-ness, that everyone's doing these days, and melodic-ness, that a song should never, EVER, go without. The hook really sticks, the instrumental actually goes somewhere, and their vocals were surprisingly shown off. What more are they humanely capable of? Oh, and those plagiarism claims were just ridiculous. I mean, really, if that's plagiarism then everything is plagiarism. Sorry, had to say it.

Paul (5/5): The song that made me break down and decide that I do need to investigate Kpop a little bit more. There is something both very amazing and very intense about this song. It's basically a more danceable boy band version of Biology (Girls Aloud) - not that it's like that song at all, but it seems to be 3-4 songs in one. You think you've just got into the Low by FloRida bits and then it completely switches gear. And then switches gear again. Brilliant. if someone did an English version of this it would be MASSIVE in the UK.

Poster Girl (5/5): Dirty electro meets rocketship rave in a song that somehow manages to forgo a traditional fluid melody in favor of machine gun-fire vocals and yet still be absolutely amazing. "Lucifer" comes from that futuristic, piecey strain of Kpop, with irregular pieces still sharp enough to give the song edge. It's relentlessly catchy, exactly what I want a boy band--or music in general--to sound like in 2010, and more exciting and more fun than almost anything else this year.

So...there you have it -- this week's Panel Winner is....

SHINee - "Lucifer"

(As if this was a surprise, Mel says with a grin.) What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Vote in the poll to the left and let us know who you think deserves to win this week. Vote SOON, because the poll will be changed in honor of Week 2 on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Poster Girl said...

Wow--I can't believe how close to being on the same page we all were with these songs.

Deserving winner, but then again, I would say that ;)

It's great to read all the commentary from everyone. I'm looking forward to what everyone has to say next week already!