Friday, August 6, 2010

Week 2

Back again for Week 2 -- and there's lots to discuss. We have newbies Free Star, a bouncy cut from Han Geng (formerly of Super Junior), a solo/duo dalliance by Changmin of 2AM and Lee Hyun of 8Eight, and the return of duo DaVichi and Korea's pop princess BoA. Who was our fave? Read on to find out, and be sure to vote to the poll on your left to tell us who you think rocked the hardest.

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

And special guests:
AA-chan @ AA-chan
Paul @ FizzyPop!

Thanks so much (once again and as always) to our dear friends in contributing! Hope you enjoy!

Free Star - Diss
Apart from their names and that they apparently have "experience" in theatre and acting, which has nothing to do with music, there's very little known about Free Star. And Nikki "works" in kpop news. Oh well.

AA-chan (2/5): Not really liking this song. Enjoyed the opening, but then it just died and became quite generic. I don't feel like any of the girls really stood out to me and sounded that different from anyone else. It's a very basic song and I don't see them debuting particularly strongly with this.

McRoth (1/5): One of a pop song's goals is to be influential, as in possessing the innovation and quality to either veer mainstream music in a different direction or revolutionize it altogether. This song does neither. It's lifeless and completely lacks a selling point. It's a straight up 4Minute knock off, and who'd want to do that in the first place!? I don't even know who their dissing, but I think I'll give them the ultimate diss with a 1/5. Are zeros out of the question, because I sure felt like they were asking for it.

Mel (2/5): The song has all the makings of being a Euro-poppy, slightly trashy, vaguely fantastic track  in a guilty-pleasure-y way– but the problem lies in the over-production and the girls’ weak vocals. It makes something that could be great for the dancefloor (are you listening, 4minute?) sound very very awesomely bad in a not-so-awesome way. I pray for these girls that this is not the best they can do. I know that's not quite technical, but it's hard to when you don't have much to work with. Snap!

Nikki (1.2/5): Well, this is entertaining. Not. It sounds like a bunch of Koreans trying to do RedOne, but they kinda overdid the 4Minute autotune and 2NE1 rapping. It gets boring sometimes. There might be some semblance of talent behind the song, but it's not showing right now, and it's all we have from them.

Paul (1/5): Sometimes when popstars are intent on creating a "cutting edge" electro pop tune, they forget about important things like a catchy chorus and uh, melody. This is indeed the case with Free Star  -- perhaps, as happened with Miley Cyrus' initially rubbish but now quite good "Can't Be Tamed," it will end up being quite good after a while but honestly I can't be bothered to wait around that long! And "Diss" isn't that hard to spell - I don't need a lesson in the chorus!

Poster Girl (1.5/5): I thought I liked this song at first, but ugh--that chorus. It just grates. First time in my life I've wanted to complain about auto-tuning, too. The upside is that "Diss" makes me appreciate 4minute's "Huh" all the more--now that's how to do a swagger-filled girl group song with a repetitive chorus

Han Geng - Fire
This is in Chinese, but who cares? Han Geng was the Chinese guy from SME boyband Super Junior who sued the agency, then left for China. Yes, he now has a Chinese album out, complete with a "music video trilogy". He's a BIG star in China, mainly because he was "the Chinese dude" in SuJu, and you know, they were once the biggest boyband in the world. There have been claims that the beginning of this song was lifted off TVXQ's Yunho's "Checkmate", but to each his own opinion.

AA-chan (4/5): I find this one hard to comment on because I'm not so used to this music, but as a pop song goes, I like it a lot and while it's a pretty standard production for these days, I think it fits together nicely. I know I'm supposed to be mentioning the music and not so much the video, but I do feel like some of it looks quite similar to G-Dragon's 'Heartbreaker' music video. The song isn't anything special in terms of delivery but it's a solid song and one that I could see myself listening to on repeat.

McRoth (1.9/5): It's nice to see Hangeng doing his thing in China. I've actually been trying to keep up with his latest album and personally, this song isn't as good as some of the others I've heard. That video isn't doing it any favors, either. The instrumental is a little bare and I would've liked it to be a little fuller - I dunno, with some dramatic strings or something. The song itself isn't that catchy and it really doesn't go anywhere. Songs need direction, Hangeng, please make a mental note of that next time. Oh, side note: plagiarism accusations can shove it.

Mel (2.5/5): That synth beat is kind of epic. If this was given to the likes of say Se7en or even someone more international who sings in English like Darin, the production quality would be much better, as would the vocal technicality. The song requires someone with real power pops to make it work (especially those falcetto blips). In the right hands, it would be something I would be rocking out to 11. Unfortunately for Geng, I don’t think I quite believe it from him. It’s good, but not good enough.

Nikki (2.3/5): I'll just go out and say that I wish he was back in SuJu, because of a number of factors, and the quality of this song is one of them. There's way too much going on here - he's trying to do too many things with it and in turn, it has become like a bunch of chopped up songs all thrown into one vat that is "Fire". His talking at the beginning kinda ruins the whole trance-y thing going on, and it does kinda remind me of Yunho's "Checkmate", but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was plagiarized. I do wish they left the autotune out though, it was not classy, at all.

Paul (2/5): The video boasts some of the most (presumably) unintentionally hilarious sexy moves I've seen this side of Zoolander. Or Phoebe dancing to seduce Chandler in Friends. iI is of that "ilk". But this is about the song. There are a few moments at the end of each verse where the instrumentation builds and Han sounds quite good. But the rest of the song is over this sparse percussive groove and he just doesn't have the voice to carry it off :/ Oh well. Perhaps SME will take him back :P Some people are destined to be part of a group vocally!

Poster Girl (3/5): Fine enough electronic pop, but there's something half-hearted about it. There's little oomph in Han Geng's vocal delivery. Even the instrumental seems like it can barely be bothered to commit to being the up-tempo song it seems like it's meant to be. There's potential here, but it's as if no one involved bothered to put in the passion and power necessary to give the song the punch it needed to fulfill it.

Changmin (2AM) and Lee Hyun (8Eight) - I Was Able to Eat Well
Changmin's from 2AM, the other half of 2PM (collectively they're called One Day. AM, PM, get it? OK.) and they're signed to one of JYP's subsidiary agencies. Lee Hyun is from 8Eight, a kinda-sorta-indie trio with a rather large following. They don't win music shows or anything, but they do have fans. Once again, Nikki honestly has no idea what this song is for, except that the music video has Mike's beloved Chae Young.

AA-chan (3/5): I like the song. It's not what I was expecting from them as it has just enough pop in it to be catchy and just enough ballad in there to showcase their vocals. The video is a bit weak in my opinion and I don't just mean that in the sense that I'm a guy and outrageously jealous of their chiseled physiques. It's nothing particularly special and definitely more something that 8eight would release as a single [not to say that 8eight aren't a quality outfit].

McRoth (2.7/5): Changmin isn't my favorite singer in 2AM, which is a huge reason why I am 'whatever' about them since he takes the lead most of the time. He has the tendency of making every single song sound pretty much identical. When this song started I swear it sounded like another 2AM song (hell if I know which one). I'm not denying his talent, though, because the man can sing really well. As can Lee Hyun of 8Eight. Unfortunately, this song didn't make me want to buy the song (or join them in their homoerotic undertaking) because it quickly turned into a snore-fest and will definitely end up forgotten by the end of this week's panel results.

Mel (3/5): I’ll be honest – I’m a bit of a stan for 2AM and their penchant for big epic ballads. Those four boys can sing quite well. No, they can’t dance quite well (I suppose that’s why they weren’t in 2PM, right?) but I respect their vocals, and Changmin is one of their most interesting vocalists. He also isn’t too hard on the eyes bod-ayyyy wise (and neither is his BFF in this video -- am I right?), as they continually beat over the poor fangirls  (and let's be real, fanboys) heads – first with the Men’s Health magazine scans and now this video which verges on exploitative (and vaugely uncomfortable) at times. My heart will never give up the yearning for a true uptempo from 2AM (or a respective member), but I suppose this can do for now. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t stick with you like “I Did Wrong” did. Ahh, now there’s an epic tune.

Nikki (3/5): I honestly don't know what to think of this package, especially the video. But song-wise it's decent. Not the best thing in the world and I'm not worshipping it, but at least we got strong vocals and a semblance of a melody - kpop is really in dire need of more songs with those. And I like the "epic"-sounding percussion line throughout, very much my taste. But for some strange reason, it does sound very much like a 2AM album track, not that I don't like them, it's just that this is not 2AM.

Paul (4/5): before i even listen to this I have awarded it a bonus point for being called I Was Able To Eat Well. It starts off as a slightly odd boy-duet before it gets a little bit dancey. And homoerotic. And I'm all for that. It's really like a bit of a wimpy Enough Is Enough. But it has a certain charm to it that wins over and I can't help but like it. And watch the video again to read the hilarious literal English translations. V nice.

Poster Girl (1.5/5): Strange title. Strange song. Maybe not obviously strange--it's fairly straightforward light pop-rock (which is maybe kind of odd in its own right)--but something just seems...off, meaning that I feel like it should appeal to me (forgive me a self-indulgent reference that will mean nothing to anyone but Paul, but it reminds me of Pacific Avenue) but doesn't. It's forgettable.

DaVichi - 난 너에게
DaVichi are a duo under Core Contents who rose to fame last year with their single "8282", and were back this year with "Please Stop Time". Even Nikki's a little confused with what exactly this song/single is for. It was written by Cho Young Soo, a guy who claims to have written "11 hit singles" this year, and the song claims to have a "30-piece orchestra" playing. But that was according to a press release, so judge for yourself.

AA-chan (4/5): This is nothing that I wouldn't expect from these talented girls. The song has a good tempo and is upbeat enough that I like it, while not being overly 'pop'. I find both their voices quite soothing and while I do believe that one is slightly more appealing than the other, I think their voices work best when used together. This is the kind of song that would sound even better live.

McRoth (3/5): These kind of songs are a little girly for my taste, but I do hear appeal in it. Davichi does a nice job of bridging the gap between indie and pop in their music and this is a good example. It starts sounding extra pop at the middle 8 and near the end. I have to say that I'm not feeling these girl's higher octaves. There's range in their voices, but it got a little piercing at times, more than I am comfortable listening to. Not as good as their previous single, but still a pretty song.

Mel (3.5/5): I quite like how sonic and sparkly the back beat is. You can really hear all the different layers, and it doesn’t drown out the pretty vocals. The vocalist(s) are very capable and have really nice timbres to their voices. I like the control and temper of this one – it doesn’t bore you, but it it’s a little on the pretty side for me, and you should know I prefer my KPop all guns blazing. DaVichi is officially on my radar however – they certainly have talent.

Nikki (4.1/5): I kinda like this song, it's nice and light and pretty with good production and DaVichi pull it off nicely. What I don't hear through is the "30-piece orchestra" this song claims to have. Yeah, I hear violins here and there, but that's all - it's all computerized beats, guitars and some piano lines sprinkled for good measure. An orchestra is not just a few violins and a computer. It is a pleasant song though, definitely one of the better ones this week.

Paul (3.5/5): perhaps I'm getting old because this is quite pleasant. Nice strong vocal, pretty melody, nice tinkling piano bits, catchy chorus - all classic elements that, yes - eschew current trends, but also make for an entirely pleasing pop ditty. Plus I do appreciate some nice orchestral strings and a kick ass key change in a pop song. Joe McElderry record this now!

Poster Girl (1.5/5): Sounds like the theme song to some soppy life-lesson-imparting family-friendly melodrama-meets-soap opera. It's the bad kind of "preciously" pretty.

BoA - HURRICANE VENUS
This is BoA's BIG comeback single. It's been 5 years since her last Korean album, and as far as I know everyone's been freaking out over this song. No solid info on the songwriter and producer yet, but Nikki's best guess is that this was penned and/or produced by Yoo Young Jin.
AA-chan (4/5): I actually like the way this song starts, but as it gets further in, it feels more and more like what she produced for her Japanese promotions. I don't feel like the song has much of a chorus and as a result, it doesn't flow that well for me. Like a lot of songs these days I can't get into the song before it drops the tempo and starts up again. This is not the kind of song that I can see myself listening to on my MP3 player on my way to work.

McRoth (3.9/5): I've let this song sink in a little since it's official release, and although I wasn't really feeling it at first, I did realize it had a good catchy feel to it. I mean, I sorta like it now. I enjoyed the second half of this song more than the first. She's definitely taking on a different style than her previous material and even if the chorus to this song lacks any real meaning, I like listening to her say Hurricane Venus (Penis?). I just do, haha. Her lingering voice during the final chorus lines was engaging enough for me to get off my seat and actually figure out what BoA is all about. I hope the rest of her album delivers, though, because this is still not off the rails-awesome enough for me.

Mel (3.5/5): Thank you, McRoth for putting the thought of BoA chanting “Hurricane Penis” into my head. Anyway, this definitely follows on the path forged ahead by BoA’s English album which I quite enjoyed. It’s definitely a Britney, Gaga, Xtina (“Bionic”) kind of affair – very much what is now overflowing with the females here in the US. All of that is fine and dandy with my ears, but BoA has serious vocal chops and we don’t really get to hear it in this, and that’s a bit of a letdown. It’s not really that different than your run of the mill girl group pop song – the type of thing SNSD or Kara could do in their sleep. It’s a shame considering what an icon BoA has become to not just Korea but all of Asia. …  But with all that sad, I was still chanting the chorus hours after I first heard the song, and it’s the only song this week I’ve put on repeat. Kinda proof positive that we're waiting for what's next to really hit (that or I'm too busy still blasting SHINee...guilty), because even a weak BoA track is better than the rest.

Nikki (3.7/5): Well, this was underwhelming. I was expecting something superior from BoA's "big Korean comeback" but I forgot that this is SME we're talking about - the only non-epic fail album they brought out this year was "Lucifer". BoA is somewhere in the middle though, it's not such a bad album/single, but it's not this fantastic "best album/single of the decade"-worthy package that it was being pushed to be. It sounds like a cross between f(x)'s "NU ABO" and SHINee's brilliant "Lucifer", but I'm not impressed - the song is all style and no substance. The pseudo-dance break isn't anything to rave about, and although the hook really does stick, it's just like all those other hooks that bear no actual musical "value". I mean, would ordinary people like me and you be able to hum this while, say, walking down the street? They overdid the auto-tune a bit too much, especially for someone who apparently has a "brilliant voice" (which I don't 100% agree with, to be honest), but that's just me. The girl can't even sing it decently live, and it's her song - what more if we tried.

Paul (3/5): I've never been that bothered by BoA but I know some people are spaffing up the chuff over her, so I'm always willing to give her a quick whirl. It's a bit Britney, a bit lady Gaga - and I don't know her well enough to say whether that was her sound anyway or whether it is something she has evolved into. The song is ok - gets lost a bit in today's strong female pop market so i'm go for a midway score.

Poster Girl (3.5/5): This is nowhere near the quality I would have hoped for from the comeback of a Korean superstar, but in a week this weak, "Hurricane Venus" practically comes across as a relief. It's up-tempo, highly processed electro-pop, but feels like a perfunctory representation of that style. I can't help thinking that both the song and the singer would have been better off if separated.

And the winner is.... ::drum roll::

BoA's "Hurricane Venus"! 

That's two weeks in a row for an SME act! Surprised? Annoyed? Agree? Disagree? Leave us comments below, and vote in the poll to the left. Get involved, people! We'll be back for Week 3 before you know it!

3 comments:

mellowyel said...

BoA won? I'm surprised, if only because I don't think Hurricane Venus is SME's best track this year. I do think the album is one of SME's better ones for 2010, though. Love the site so far - keep it up guys!

hazel&celine said...

Hands down, i totally agree that Free Star's Diss needs some dissing. I seriously felt like i was watching Dora the Explorer once it reached the chorus.D-I-S-S,diss.Duh?! its pretty straight forward..no need to rub it in LOL
Davichi, for me they nailed it. Thats legit vocals right there & i second @aa-chan THIS SONG IS GOING TO BE EVEN BETTER when the duo will sing it live B)
BoA [:
first off, i'm gonna laugh with McRoth's comment about Venus sounding like 'penis' ROFLMAO, now that he mentioned it~i soo do agree
(that thought will certainly get stuck on my head whenever i listen to this)
one thing that bothers me the most though is the lyrics:
Electronic Manic Supersonic Bionic
makes me remember Cristina Aguilera.
I'm totally not saying that she copied it, but as much as i wanna finish listening to the track, I can't help but to think about just going ahead and listen to Xtina's 'Bionic' instead. I guess its just the familiarity of those certain words ;)
P.S. i'm sooo loving this site
the reviews are great!!!!!!!!!

Rodney said...

Quite useful information, thanks for your post.
here