Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 3: The Comeback

Well, we hope you've all rested up. True, our hiatus was a bit longer than any of us expected, but we're back now, and rip-roaring and ready to go. We suppose that if we were a KPop group ourselves, we would label this as our grand 'comeback', right? You've been waiting and waiting, and knew we couldn't just come back with the same ol' she-bang for Week 3. So instead, we've got a double dose of crazy (and then some) with eleven (yes, count 'em) songs to talk about. From industry veterans (JYJ, Youhna) to fresh blood (Miss A, Co-Ed School), from the sophomore idols ready for seconds or thirds (Beast, U-Kiss, SHINee, 2PM, 2NE1) to those getting ready to strike out on their own for the first time (Ga-In of Brown Eyed Girls). We even got a whole bunch of idols singing all together-like (Group of 20). Basically, we pulled out all the stops. So make sure you're currently at some place comfortable. This is a long post. Who wins? And who gets your vote? Let us know with the poll on your left, then scroll down (and down and down) to see what we thought (with considerable snark inbetween, but that goes without saying).

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

And special guests:
Jio @ The Reflective Inklings
rcLoy @ unrcloyable

As always, thanks to our buddies for helping out and making this super special and always fun! Now, read on, comrades!

Group of 20 - Let's Go!
This is a collaborative effort from 20 idols for the G20 Seoul Summit and yes, there's an English version, but we'll be reviewing the Korean one. Some of the idols include Jonghyun (SHINee), Gayoon (4Minute), G.NA, Hyunseng (BEAST), Gyuri (KARA), Seohyun (Girls' Generation), Luna (f(x)), Son Dambi, IU and a gazillion more, for a total of 20 idols. (or so they say, I haven't really counted)

Jio (4/5): Weirdly, this reminds me of the star-studded We Are The World all because of the artists included in this single. The vocals mesh wonderfully like a marriage made in heaven. The rapping parts are very tolerable as well – no shabby nonsense included whatsoever. Nothing is overdone in this single which is fortunate, if I may add. This is a great song all because everything is just done right. This is going to be great for those who just love the positivity flowing.

McRoth (3/5): First off, I'm glad to see the panel together again! We only did this a couple of times, but it's good to be back. Anyway. Personally, the more idols I hear singing together (or non-idols), the lower my tolerance level drops, and this is a herd of 20 (21, if you're actually counting), which stretches way beyond my limits. "Let's Go" sounds too much like a High School Musical song, or worse - a GLEE number, and I'm not into those at all. The melodies are too campaign-y and it's so happy go lucky, that my gag reflexes are kicking in as I type this. Noticeably, not a single YG artist is present in this song, and if you ask me, that's a good thing. The song is overwhelmingly chipper already, that if 2NE1 strutted in to drop a dose of hood, things would clash so hard, that we wouldn't even have to reach 140 dB before experiencing the threshold of pain.

Mel (2.7/5): I’m so far out of the loop – is this for charity? The ‘We Are the World’ mindset is terrifyingly bang-on, in a strange, pandering to young people kind of way seeing as I don't see what this is promoting. It’s way too cheery, melodic and…bright for my taste – I prefer my KPop a little darker, a little more mysterious, a little more…edgy? This screams Wheaties soaked in milk with a side of cherry pie, and all of the shiny happy faces kind of freak me out after awhile. Is there something I’m missing? With that said, it’s a perfectly fine little ditty…I’m just not getting the point. It’s not the kind of thing I’d want to hit repeat ad naseum on the ol’ iPod, but it’s cute they all banded together…

Nikki (3.6/5): If I wasn’t reviewing this song, this is one of those tracks I’d never willingly admit I like. But I do. To a certain extent. It’s not brilliant or anything, but you can’t deny how it’s so. damn. catchy. And who wouldn’t wanna see 20 idols all crammed into one song, especially if it’s the one who can generally sing in their respective bands? But then again, those are the only positive points of the song - there are instances where it can get cheesy beyond belief. But I think it’s supposed to be like that. Decent song - not the best, not the worst, not leaning towards either.

rcLoy (3/5): It's bubbly, warm and pretty decent track with an easy sing-along chorus. Not that I want them to go all emotional about it. I just doubt anyone is going to remember this song after few months time. Oh, I can only identify both the guys from SHINee and SuJu and that girl from SNSD. I guess I fail my test in the current Kpop scene :(

U-Kiss - Shut Up!
This is one of the many singles whose videos have been banned and re-shot in the span of a few days. Fans (Kiss Me's as they're called) have been going crazy, but they're not exactly taking over charts, not that they ever have. And, the boys didn't work with their beloved Bravesound (production team behind hits from Son Dambi, After School, etc.) on this single, so it might sound just a tad bit different from their older stuff.

Jio (3/5): The choreography in the video annoyed me a bit to be honest. It annoyed me for the reason that I felt it was a bit over the top. This is an average song to say the least. It is a bit edgier than what I have heard over some Philippine music channel some weeks ago. The problem is I like the song that I have heard on that channel more than this, sadly. It is nothing catchy but it is good to see them expanding their craft.

McRoth (3.6/5): I'm not the biggest fan of U-KISS, mainly because the processing on their voices makes me want to rip my hair out. And unfortunately, that's still happening. But focusing more on the musicality of "Shut Up", I think it's definitely one of their better songs. It's reminiscent of their previous work, but as I said on my own review (I actually reviewed most of these songs already...), it's a refined take on their 2009-sound. It's largely due to their new production team, who are basically building off of what Brave Brothers have laid out already. They were smart to utilize Kevin's vocals as embellishment, because he took this song to a new level during the calmer moments, which is a new detail in and of itself. Overall, I don't love this song at all, but I definitely hear its appeal.

Mel (2.7/5): Well, that was interesting. U-Kiss never has been, nor will they ever be my favorite it boys of the moment, but I have to say, I find this backbeat crazy entrancing. The half-shirts, the glaring and pouting and the random overlapping of shiny, dark blue suits…um, not so much. I was a bit worried by their abandonment of Bravesound, and this kind of solidifies why – without their stamp, they kind of fade into generics. If someone told me (without showing me the video) this was by B2ST or 2PM, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. Nothing about it stands out to me from what the others have done first. With that said, U-Kiss kind of feeds on being the “mean” boy band, no? Those lyrics…um, yeah I wouldn’t want to date you. Now quick – someone buy them some shirts, and a massage to wipe those pointless sneers off their faces.

Nikki (2.3/5): I’m not the biggest U-Kiss fan you will ever meet. Heck, I’m not even a fan to start with! (except for a few pretty songs they’ve had out over the years) Which is probably why I’m not falling head-over-heels with this single. The hook is annoying, yes, but it’s not catchy. Can you imagine an actual human singing that “shi kkeu reo” part? Of course not. That break down at around 1:16 is probably the best part of the song for me, but it reminds me a lot of the break down/middle 8 of After School’s “Bang!”, and then rap about “oppas” (it’s used by girls to address older guys) comes in and ruins everything. The song goes downhill from there, except of course when they repeat the break down, but by that time it’s lost its novelty and I’m uninterested.

rcLoy (2/5): Can I just say I give tons of slack to boybands that have cute members in it or those who bared their 6 packed abs in their music video? Sad to say that U-Kiss (what a name for a boyband!) don't do it for me. Shut Up sounds pretty out of place with all that synths and sound effects especially during the chorus, what's with that? It's pretty annoying.

SHINee - Hello
We fell head-over-heels for 'Lucifer', and 'Hello' is one of the three songs from the repackaged version of 'Lucifer'. It's been out for quite some time now, and Mel and I have said our pieces on it, but what the heck, let's put it in the list this week.

Jio (4.5/5): Okay. That piano-driven introduction got me convinced. Hello is the type of stuff that I really love – upbeat stuff with clean, crisp, and polished vocals. This is absolutely great stuff and I am left at a loss for words for this incredibly amazing song. This is what pop should be – catchy and simply great.

McRoth (3.9/5): Ugh, the dreadful cockblocker. SM thrives off of spiraling their boy bands into these cute phases which are totally unnecessary and detrimental to their pathway to adulthood, YET absolutely genius for their mainstream marketing quality. Personally, I wouldn't consider signing a slave contract if they had me doing this. But I digress: This song is a grower. I threw a little fit when it first came out because SHINee are honestly capable of so much more. Being totally unbiased, some of these guys are incredible talented, so to see them refrain from tapping into their potential bugs me a little bit. But like I said, this song grew on me. After listening to it through my amazing headphones, I had nothing but praise for them. They all sound awesome, through and through. Now, if only I could burn those print suits...

Mel (3.9/5): Did I like this at first? No. Did I enjoy making fun of it mercilessly to no end? Um, guilty. However, with time to marinate, it’s a perfectly enjoyable little ditty (bias toward these little pinch-their-cheeks cuties aside). It’s no “Lucifer”, but that goes without saying, and after promoting the hell out of that dark ditty, its nice to show the other side of SHINee. Apparently, that side has a Sesame Street backdrop complete with cheesy grins, leopard outfits and elementary choreography. Who knew? So, for those of you keeping score: Do I like it now? Yeah. Do I still enjoy making fun of it mercilessly? Well, is the sky blue?

Nikki (4.2/5): At first I was really let down by “Hello”, I mean who wouldn’t be after “Lucifer” stunned us all? But after some thinking (and angry fangirls running after my review) and a lot of listening, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Hello” is a pretty song, that’s what it’s supposed to be, and it’s doing it pretty damn well. Onew sounds phenomenal (and I really mean phenomenal - ONEWCANIMARRYYOURVOICE), Jonghyun has finally calmed his voice down, and MINHO GETS A LINE. It’s a lot less fan service-y than Super Junior’s “No Other”, so I’m all good.

rcLoy (4/5): I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to "Lucifer", not with "Hello" though :) I'm just glad that lead vocal guy (Jun Hyung?) is not "screaming" in this song, you know what I mean? Seriously, how can you not love a gorgeous song with a cute video? My only problem, what's with Onew's hair? 0.o

BEAST - Breathe
What happens when you mix 2PM rejects with a Big Bang rejects, a former solo artist tipped to be "the new Rain" and his former back up dancers? Well, you get BEAST. Two mini-albums (EPs in Western language) in one year isn't bad at all - hey, at least they're productive!

Jio (4/5): This is a great offering by the boys of Beast, I have to say. The quality is great though I still prefer Hello by Shinee. The single is a little bit too loud for my liking. Still, there is no denying that the guys from Beast know where they are best at. I have to ask a question as well: What’s with one of the steps in the video? It seems that the guys are huffing and puffing too much.

McRoth (3.7/5): What I think would have blown me away was if they had extended the slow beginning about, say, 2-ish minutes more and finished it off with a short and explosive finish of epic proportion. THAT would have been ownage in Kpop land. But sadly for me, that's all in my head and not what I'm actually listening to. What I AM listening to is a decent BEAST song. Probably their strongest single to date. I mean, their previous two weren't my cup of tea, and this isn't either, but it's a closer brew. If anyone is going to do grungy-trashy pop, it's these guys. I don't like how this song ends, it feels unfinished. And they still suck at making good choruses. This one is on the same level of lame as "Shock". But as a whole, aside from its noisiness, most of the parts of "Breath" somehow work. I would get rid of the rap, the creepy grunting and some of the synths. It gets too mushy for me about 2 minutes in.

Mel (3.3/5): BEAST seems to be that one weird boyband, who I don’t quite adore, but I don’t quite ignore either. And let it be said, I don’t quite get this image concept or how it correlates to being “military chic” (if I was in a fight or needed masculine protection, I wouldn’t exactly go running to these dudes, no offense). Nothing about this single screams evolution from B2ST’s previous sounds, but cookies to the choreographer for thinking outside the box a little and whoever produced that synth stutter. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a brashy, loud, borderline-obnoxious floorstomper. Like I said, it’s nothing too new from BEAST, but I think (at least one of the) boy band formulas goes: Catchy Singalong Hook + Dark Clothes + Heavy BackBeat + One Dude in a Tank Top + Body Rolls = Happy Fangirls. Not complaining.

Nikki (4/5): In terms of material and general talent, BEAST are one of the better bands in my books, but for some reason this release bored me. I mean if you listen to the song seriously, like I am now as I write this, it’s actually pretty good - the instrumental actually goes somewhere, their vocals are strong, and the over-all sound is consistent with their previous material. But I have no idea why, when I listen to it casually when I’m surfing the net or something, it bores me to death. This would’ve gotten a higher score, had it not had that effect on me. But then again, maybe it’s because I was to obsessed with another track on the album (“Break Down”) to bother with this.

rcLoy (4/5): Am I the only one who think the electronic beats intro before the vocal is kinda similar to "2PM's Again & Again"? I'm just glad it didn't go that way because this is pretty solid. psst, I used to brand them as the "Pop version" of Big Bang. Well, not any more. The chorus is great with loads of memorable synths that are easy to hum along. Another thing, the "breath in, breath out" dance moves reminds me of Rain signature seductive moves, no? Anyway, the song is good.

2PM - I'll Be Back
Yeah. 2PM are back. Again. I assume fans have put all the drama that happened last year behind them, and 2PM are still putting out material. I was really busy when this came out, so I didn't really feel it's release, but hey, at least I know it exists! They just started promo this week too, if I'm not mistaken.

Jio (4/5): This is a fairly solid track which I can understand a bit due to the presence of some English phrases. That dance sequence at the end of the video seemed unnecessary. For me, it is all about the music and not some silly theatrics. The upbeat nature of the track is great yet it also makes the track a little bit weak due to such nature being generic.

McRoth (3.9/5): This song isn't as annoying as I had anticipated. It's actually one of their more tolerable singles. For me, at least. It's simple, and while it's no show-stopper, it's easy to get in to. Another aspect of this song that I like is how clean it is, as far as the production of it. Listening to it after having heard BEAST's "Breath", this is much more pleasant and easier on the ears. As far as vocals go, it's just okay. They know how to work with what they've got and at least they're trying to add dimension and dynamics with their average vocals. By no means am I saying they suck, because they really don't. They sound good here. They just have zero weight in their singing.

Mel (2/5): Oh, 2PM. I can’t help but feel bad for you dudes, but considering you so steeply overshadowed 2AM in your earlier days, despite the fact that all four of them can sing circles around you makes me feel like I’d be rooting for the wrong team as a music critic. I appreciate you attempting to show your more vulnerable and sanger sides, but this uplifting dancy kind of cut with your black outfits feels all kinds of wrong. In fact, I think I’m falling asleep as I write this. This song would be better off for 2AM, who would turn it into “I Did Wrong” (Part 2, Dance Remix). Weren’t you all supposed to be the dancers in One Day? Or perhaps the budget for the choreographer was used up by buying grey eyeshadow in bulk? I just don’t get it. Sorry.

Nikki (3/5): I don’t know, it’s like this song has no kick. I appreciate them for not putting out some trying-to-be-epic cut like everyone else, and I forgot where I said this, but sometimes being boring and lifeless is worse than being bad. At least when you’re bad, you have conviction one way or another, and you’re trying to convince the audience, it’s just that you aren’t good enough. If you’re boring you don’t even try, and I get the impression from this song that they are, indeed, not even trying. It could be the production, it could be the arrangement, but most likely they’re the ones “at fault”.

rcLoy (4.5/5): Woots. If 2PM is looking for the come back track, I think they hit the bull eyes with this one here. Don't you think the title would be a total ace if Jay is back in the group? I am diggin' this more than I think I would, that's a good sign. A great effort by the boys since I'm not a big fan of "Heartbeat". Oh, I believe 2PM want us to know that these days, "jogging" is their favorite sports, not "swimming" anymore.

Ga-In - Irreversible
Best known as 2AM's Jokwon's wife in the fictional/reality show 'We Got Married' and a member of the Brown Eyed Girls ('Abracadabra'), she's got a solo single out, now that Narsha's promo is over - this is what she's come up with. It also has an insanely long music video.

Jio (3.5/5): The video may be insanely song but it actually fits the message that the song tries to convey. This is a good track with an instrumentation that seems to be reminiscent of music coming from the Arabs (not being racist here) that is actually good in its own right it makes me want to dance a bit.

McRoth (4.5/5): This song is fierce, flawless, gorgeous, perfect...with the music video. On its own, not as powerful. Regardless, Ga-In absolutely SLAYED it with her complete solo debut. Listening to the song as its own entity, it's not as incredible as it could potentially be, though. Partially because Ga-In's vocals haven't the appropriate timbre associated with these kinds of songs. Trust me, I know Spanish music, and while this has Spanish influence, her voice isn't fit to take on such a daring musical style. You have to hear the balls it takes to sing these emotional songs through headphones or speakers. But for what it is, I applaud Ga-In's efforts. This song definitely stands out from everything else in Korean pop music. And in a good way, because it doesn't feel forced. She, along with the rest of the Brown Eyed Girls, are unique because they risk losing their grip on the mainstream audience by venturing into new and different cultural styles. Eastern listeners won't relate with this specific style, but as for me, I get it. If I'm considering the video, this entire single pwns everyone else on this week's list.

Mel (4.2/5): I don’t know much when it comes to the Brown Eyed Girls or their alumni besides “Abracadabra”, but I do know I adored Narsha’s solo set. So much that I was actually excited upon hearing about Gain’s solo release. I like that these girls don’t take the easy way out and attempt to explore some creativity in terms of sound, image and concept. Gain’s debut its positively epic in execution, and that coupled with the effective use of a sound totally ignored in (“teenage”) KPop, she automatically beats the rest to a bloody pulp for bravery alone. She doesn’t have the strongest voice, but the voice she has is unique in timbre, expressive and fits with this style surprisingly like a glove. I’m not too keen on music videos unless they are truly captivating, and there is no question – Gain knows how to make a statement. Good for her. I think I'ma go do a tango now.

Nikki (3/5): Am I the only one who doesn't like this? Part of the reason why is because songs like these aren’t really my type. However, the other part is a little more complicated. Gain’s trying to be one of those idols who “don’t wanna sound like your stereotypical idol”, but in doing that, she ends up sounding like the “stereotypical idol who doesn’t wanna sound like an idol”, and she’s back where she started. But you know who she reminds me of? Cheryl Cole. I kid you not! Both are from girl groups, both are probably the most famous members of their respective groups, and both have solo stuff out. But even the music - but I get the same aura when I watch them.

rcLoy (5/5): Well, well, well, isn't this lovely? The pasodoble(?) influence is gorgeous, I love the hook, the verse, to the chorus. This come as a total surprise since I expect it'd be more of a typical electronic dance track like BEG. I didn't even bother with the original video clip, 10 mins is tad too long for me so I watched the Dance version instead, it's pretty sensual with all her dance moves, oh la la. Her breathy vocal works well with the song, I have no idea what is she singing about but I feel her, I think. Verdict = Amazing.

Miss A - Breathe
Ahhh yes, Miss A. When they first came out, they were apparently going to be pushed in China, but by the looks of it, that isn't happening. They do have Chinese members though, and the Wonder Girls' new member was supposed to debut in this group. So anyway. This is not a cover of the BEAST single, nor is that a cover of this - they're two completely different songs, it's just that this one came out first, if I remember clearly. (iTunes says I added this a day before the BEAST EP) There have been also claims that this is "the best song of 2010". I'll leave it at that, and let you guys do the talking.

Jio (3.5/5): The song is catchy but am not a fan. Good vocals are present but I just do not like the song. I do not know why, sadly. It is not annoying at all (which tends to happen with songs like this one). Yet everything works in the song. This can be a potential grower for some listeners (and that might just include me).

McRoth (3.2/5): We've entered batshit crazy land. The Say A population dwindled to a mere few after Miss A decided to ditch their sassy ways and adopted this weird Asian-wannabe-reggae sound. Personally, this song isn't as annoying as it is to a lot of you because their debut mini and single was so damn lifeless and uninspiring, that I'd take freaky girls acting a mess, any day. Don't think I'm listening to this on a regular basis, though, because I'm certainly not. It might have playful melodies and a little more personality, but I'm still not loving this group. After watching them perform this song, too, I'm in no rush to sign up as an official fan. With this song, they have no presence on audio, on screen and -100 on stage.

Mel (2.1/5): I don’t really get the hype around Miss A, but if I had to choose this over “Good Girl”, I wouldn't, because at least that had some attitude (albeit bratty attitude). With that said, I don’t find this (or "Good Girl") particularly catchy, sticky or interesting. Without a flashy backbeat, a catchy chorus or impressive vocals to fall back on, I just don’t see it’s appeal. I will say, I dig their fashion sense. It’s kind of like they walked into a large dress-up closet and dared each other to wear the most garish things ever, then use it as a concept. I wish I was that bold – I would rock that any day of the week if I was. Like I stated before, it’s too sunny and major chordy. Not for me.

Nikki (3.5/5): Had we featured this earlier I would’ve been rather positive about it, but now I feel like I wanna throw up because it’s gotten rather annoying over the past few weeks. The verses are still nice and perky and catchy and all, but we do all have our limits for annoyingly decent songs like this, no matter how good they may be. It has never been the best song since anything, but it is quite refreshing to hear actual melodies on hooks.

rcLoy (4.5/5): This track is pretty remarkable with it's reggaeton-influenced beats while being awfully cute and girly at the same time. This is definitely a grower. I'm not too sure whether I'm lovin' the crazy colorful outfits and backgroud in the video but the song definitely scream fresh for me. Well done, Miss A.

Younha - One Shot
Younha is one of those artists who don't really sell gazillions of albums in one go, but she's stuck around for quite some time now, with some Japanese albums out here and there as well. She's back as well, and blonde (last time I saw her she had brown hair) but without a music video, which is out of the ordinary for idols. So all we have is a song and a few TV performances. That's good enough.

Jio (4/5): This is a guitar-driven track with touches of the piano that has sweet vocals from Younha. The song subtly reminds me of Love Song done by Sara Bareilles – only with an edgier guitar and some rapping this time. I definitely love this – from the instrumentation embedded in the track up to the vocals of Younha.

McRoth (3.5/5): Oh, look, it's the Sarah Bareilles copy-cat. I don't know how to listen to this WITHOUT hearing "Love Song". That song alone is so damn annoying, that I feel like it has tainted my hearing, and hindered me from properly reviewing Younha. But I'll give it a shot (no pun intended). Okay. While this song is a little on the boring side, Younha sounds gorrrrrrgeous. Her pleasant singing shines right through the lame instrumental. She's definitely capable of much more impeccable work.

Mel (2/5): Um…did everyone hear the Sara Bareilles song when they heard this? For that fact alone, I was totally distracted – not because I dislike Sara really, just that that song was so totally, ridiculously overplayed (not just on the radio but in my college dorm room by my then roommate) – that it’s put me off it. For life. Therefore, I fail to see the originality of this cut, whether it was “pirated” or not (Why is no one sounding the alarm on this? They seem to appear every other time when I don’t hear any similarities to anything at all…strange.) Her voice is a little too thin and loud on this mix. Again, not my cup of tea.

Nikki (4.5/5): I like Younha. I like her voice, I like a lot of her previous material, this is no different. She’s not an idol, but she’s not an obscure indie act either - she’s just there, and to a certain extent that’s good. She has the freedom to do pretty much whatever she wants, but she still has a fanbase. This new single’s just a tiny bit edgier than what she usually does, especially since her last single was a ballad as far as I remember. Almost everyone has said that it sounds so Sara Bareilles-y and I think to a certain extent it does because of the similar piano treatment (that’s more than a little prominent throughout the song) and even the structure of the song, but I kinda like it, to be honest. The rap was a bit out-of-place when I heard it, now I don’t mind it. I like the melody and the over-all arrangement is effortless but with just the right amount of kick.

rcLoy (3.5/5): My oh my, the intro verse, did no one tell her that it is a total rip off of Sara Bareilles' Love Song melody? Hm, this can go so wrong but it's good that the song took a different direction after that. I gotta give props to her for havin a rock-inspired track out since the Korean music scenes are full with either Kpop or ballads these days. Better luck next time though.

Co-Ed School - Too Late
S Club in the 2010's, anyone? Yes, they're a mixed group - more guys than girls though. The company responsible? Core Contents Media - T-Ara, SeeYa, DaVichi, that type. And the plot thickens, one of these girls was supposed to be in SNSD/Girls' Generation. They've released a gazillion versions of their video for this, including dance cuts and 3D versions you have to watch with the glasses and all and are in the midst of preparing for a second single release. Yes, that fast. And yes, they're still in the midst of promo for this single.

Jio (2.5/5): Aside from the fact that the group is composed of guys and gals, I see nothing special in the song. It seems there are traces of auto-tuning in the track and to be honest with you, it did not annoy me. While reading the English translation of the lyrics, I cannot help but giggle for unknown reasons. Enough videos about technology puh-lease. Kthxbai.

McRoth (1/5): I hate this song. The MOUNDS of money spent on the music video could have been more efficiently used on a better production, because, frankly, this is gross on every level imaginable. It sounds like this entire group went dumpster diving for auto-tune and, while swimming in garbage, decided to sacrifice their souls for the sake of sounding cool. Which they failed to attain. This song is an absolute joke and all it is, is noise. Unwanted sound. Irritating. Unoriginal. Non-progressive. And above all, repulsive.

Mel (3.2/5): What an incredibly effective and obvious groupname. I feel like I'm back to age 13 when boy/girl groups were a dime a dozen annoyingly (not) subtle names like Steps (::hides from Euro-Pop fans::). Anywho – before I say anything else, can I just say the eyeballs, screaming and faux spy-ism in this video gives me the creeps. With that said, the girl/boy vocal tradeoff gives a new spin on things...kind of, even if the song is relatively generic. It reminds me of something else (probably KPop related – perhaps U-Kiss with robotic autotune?), but I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I’m not jumping on the Co-Ed Hype Train just yet, but I don’t totally hate this. File this one under guilty pleasure, please. I'm fairly certain the fact that I am not totally underwhelmed should be kind of shame-based.

Nikki (2.9/5): For the record, let me just say that this band has waaaaaaay better vocals than this song showcases (see: their follow-up single, the ballad) so I’m not entirely throwing up over them. That’s them though, this song is a completely different story. To me, it sounds like some “k-pop hit mash-up” - the verses are straight out of GD’s “Heartbreaker”, one of the rappers even sounds like TOP, the girls sound like they’re singing some Brown Eyed Girls track from 2009, the treatment of the vocals is way to similar to T-Ara (they’re under the same agency, go figure), and the autotune AND hook sound like something the Brave Brothers would’ve had no problem calling their own, and the Brave Brothers produce a gazillion acts. To add to the already crappy song, the way they deliver the song has absolutely no grace - it’s like they’re thinking, “OK, let’s blurt out a few random notes with words and get it over with.”

rcLoy (3/5): Why do they have to auto-tuned everything to death here? Are they doing it for the sake of making it sound more hip or trying to conceal their bad vocals? Gee, while the song itself ain't that bad, it doesn't register as original or fresh with me and I don't find myself pressing replay. I'm just not feeling it. Sorry.

2NE1 - Clap Your Hands
This came out over a month ago, but we didn't get to talk about it, and this is 2NE1! So now we talk about it. ;D There was criticism about them having three 'title tracks' (I will never understand Korean terminology - these 'title tracks' are more like lead singles in our world) and promoting them simultaneously, but who cares? They topped charts and did their promo, last I checked they're still in the midst of it - they just made Inkigayo (one of the music shows in Korea) history by winning 4 "awards" (you get one for being #1 that week) when the limit is three. Yup. The video for "Clap Your Hands" was the first of the three singles to be released.

Jio (4/5): Catchy with some rapping. When I first heard the group sing, I never thought that Sandara actually has the ‘talent’ to sing. Seriously speaking though, the electronic vibe (whatever you call it folks) is good. There is some attitude present by the girls – no wonder this has garnered lots of acclaim already. One of the better songs in this list no doubt.

McRoth (4/5): Coming from a place where vocal processing has become an utter disaster, hearing it on 2NE1 is saddening. They don't need it. But what can I do? "Clap Your Hands" is my third favorite single of the three they've been promoting (congrats on their history making 4th win last week!) Personally, I despise the reggaeton break, more so the style of the instrumental than the actual rapping. It may not have been announced as such, but it IS nonetheless. Another sketchy detail is Dara's "rap", which is less rap and more just her talking. Something I like to hear in music is the believability and relation between the words and the singer aaandddd Dara's not quite cutting it. then again, it's DARA we're talking about. All of that aside, this song has swag. A lot of it. 2NE1 are one of the only girl groups who know who they are as entertainers and this song is indicative of that. It has an appealing chorus and they know how to fucking rock it. 2NE1 get a 4 out of 5 just for making me drop the F-bomb.

Mel (4.8/5): Sigh, you know what I’m gonna say, right? 2NE1 is my favorite girl group in KPop, and one of the main reasons that I began listening to KPop as much as I do currently. When asked to rank the three lead singles from this album set, I wouldn’t put “Clap Your Hands” as first (“Can’t Nobody” all the way!), but it has come in a very close second to the point that I find myself listening to it as much, if not more than any other 2NE1 cut currently. One of the reasons why I adore 2NE1 so much is they don’t care about convention, they are brash and loud and are willing to make fun of themselves. It’s not all about looking sexy or cute or trying to fit into a box in terms of sound or style. They are who they are, and I respect that. Kudos to you chicks for breaking down barriers. Upon first listen, it was something I wasn't to sure about, but if anyone can create an uptempo grower, these girls can. Can you say earworm?

Nikki (4.5/5): My standard line when it comes to 2NE1 is that you have to see them to understand them, and it has never been truer for this song. The first time I heard this it was the morning the album was released, and I honestly hated it. However that night, when the video came out, I watched them perform it and everything just made sense - I actually like the song now! Of course Sandara’s autotuned-like-hell parts ruin a big part of the song, but as a whole it’s actually pretty good. The chorus is catchy without being pushy, something I never expected a song of theirs to be, and it actually has a melody! I like how the song actually progresses, and that there’s more than one dimension to the arrangement and the instrumental and the vocals.

rcLoy (4.5/5): After this comeback, I'm not sure whether I can accept anything less stunning than this from 2NE1 anymore. This track totally shows that they are progressing into the right direction. Their "bossy" energy is infectous and something about their delivery of the song make it sound so much fun! I'm still not sick of their signature "girl power" attitude, yet. Highlights? The addictive chorus with the hand clapping that stuck in my head! And CL + Minzy's tight break down solo rap, of course.

JYJ - Ayyy Girl (With Kanye West and Malik Yusef)
AAAAAAAAND one of the reasons why we're re-starting the panel is because of this. I know, I know - Mel and I are fangirls. ;D Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu of our beloved DBSK are out with the Kanye-penned single and an 'international album' with material from Darkchild, among others - this is the "lead single". No music video yet, but the three are on a short showcase tour around Asia (not the Philippines. *sobs*) to promote and release it before heading to the US for showcases in Seattle, LA, NY, and another place I forgot.

Jio (4/5): A song featuring Kanye West... has certainly kept my interest levels on this track at a high. Who would have thought that Kanye West would actually agree to work with JYJ? Certainly not me. Yet I like this track with traces of typical Kanye West production present like the beat warbling all over the track. The “I’m still in love with you/ I can’t get over you” part sounds contrived though.

McRoth (2.9/5): ::Yikes:: That was my initial reaction to hearing this song. Where do I even begin with this one?! Kanye's terrible contribution? The awful production? The scary treatment on JYJ's vocals?! I don't even know...First of all, this song is a TERRIBLE single, especially if these guys want to break into the Western market. I mean, seriously. Just listen to it. It's definitely shameful to know that foreign fans have to endure America's disgusting grip on this minimalistic approach to working with these guys. Obviously, Kanye couldn't have cared less that he was working with some of the best pop singers on planet Earth, because he decided to process their voices like any other singer. And not even that, they're not showcasing their explosive talent. It's an awkward song that has very minimal appeal. There's even one point where it sounds out of tune. Lousy work, I tell you. As for the actual EP, there are a couple songs that aren't as cringe-worthy. Up to you if you want to listen to it, though.

Mel (2.5/5): Literally – if any other song from The Beginning was chosen, I’d probably give this a higher score. The reality is, it’s too repetitive and monotone, even for someone who literally adores JYJ (or at the very least, the group it spawned from – don’t you dare forget it). It sounds as if it was taken from a guidebook on how to make an American debut in the "urban" market, but the guidebook was read upside-down and backwards, whilst asleep. I just don't get it. Considering these three are a part of the five-piece that defines KPop, it's just kind of...awe-inducing. Kanye and Malik do little to add to the drivel, and it is a blatant example of how little of Junsu, Yoochun and Jaejoong’s potential is being used in this English album. I find it hard to believe that anyone in their right minds things this is going to work on American radio, but then again, I said the same about La Roux and I hear random co-workers singing "Bulletproof" every other day. I suppose stranger things have happened, but to say this is the strongest lead single would be a severe understatement. I shall determinedly chalk this up to Kanye having one of his episodes and not wanting to share his "brilliance". ::shakes head and zips mouth:: Can we listen to “Be the One” instead? {Shove that in your biased pipe and smoke it, although if anyone comes at me saying I dislike it because Changminnie is my favorite, I will hit you. You were warned.}

Nikki (3/5): Would you believe me if I said that I have nothing concrete to say about this track? I really don’t, and it’s one of the reasons why I refrain, as much as humanely possible, to review my biggest “biases”, because it’s either I fangirl too much, or I try to pick out all the bad points of the song in an attempt to show that I’m not a fangirl who likes everything they put out. So the song. I don’t like the rap. End of story. Hearing it live changed my initial, negative, reaction, but I’m afraid it’s still not enough. It has pretty verses, courtesy of the boys actually singing melodies, but I still stand by the fact that the chorus is so anticlimactic, no matter how high the volume is. One second I’m listening to the gorgeous verses then I just look away for a while and the chorus is done and I didn’t even notice it? They shouldn’t necessarily explode, but the transitions have to be clear, and on this song, they’re not.

rcLoy (3/5): Hey, 3/5 of TVXQ, I'm expecting this to be awesome but sadly it's nowhere near it. I'm sorry Nikki and Mel. I have few points that I want to share. First, that synth is recycled from Kanye's Flashing Light and it sound so dated and unoriginal. 2nd, while I am lovin' their vocal harmony, they really gotta work on their accent/slang/pronounciation. English, please? 3rd, this song is not entirely groundbreaking and it shows that they really try hard to fit into the American music scene. Can you imagine if some unknown artist released this instead, you think they're going to make it? Nayyy. So, I'm sorry. I'll pass.

*cue drumroll and sappy award show music* And the winner is...

With... wait for it.. 21 points!

Well, 21.8, to be exact but still. Get it? 2NE1? 21? Right.

That was fun, wasn't it? Agree? Disagree? Leave us tons of comments (we happen to like comments, thank you very much), and don't forget to vote on the poll to your left. We'll be back next week with more special guests, and the usual 5-6 songs. While waiting, try and guess what we have in store for you next week.


mellowyel said...

Yaaay K-Pop Panel!

you guys were all really close with your opinions this week - interesting! I'm sad you didn't like "Shut Up" though, because I love that instrumental and the slow bits. It's not my favorite off the EP, but just the fact that that EP is the only U-Kiss release I've deemed worthy of my iPod is enough to make me think good thoughts towards any tracks from it - I like it when I'm surprised in a good way by artists. "Light It Up" is a better track, though - you guys should heck it out.

JYJ's release - honestly, I feel like working with Kanye was a bad idea. Firstly, because it makes us expect greatness, and secondly, because after having this expectation we get let down because Kanye's too busy being the greatest artsy-emo rapper EVAR to produce a good track for these talented dudes. And Rodney Jerkins has had his day, but he isn't THE PRODUCER anymore, sadly. If it were up to me, I would have sent them the contact details of this 15 year old Nigerian kid from London who's killing it with the production right now to make their EP (MNEK - tell him I sent you =D). That being said, I do like I Can Soar and Be My Girl. But they deserve better.

As for my vote this week, half of the tracks there have been on repeat for the past month. I actually cannot decide so I'm letting my iTunes Library decide for me... and 2NE1 wins! Such a stan, I am.

See you guys next week, then?

Derp said...

I agree with most of your opinions, except for 2ne1. It's annoying, irritating and downright generic. I was expecting something mindblowing but I shouldn't have set my standards that high. I still bought the album, but didn't listen to it as much as the first mini.

I'm now anticipating Big Bang's comeback, after 2ne1's disappointing comeback (in my opinion).

Rebekah said...

LOL. "Featuring Kanye West"? Anyone else would have just moved it to a KW album, labeled it, "featuring JYJ."
I laughed when they sang, "What have you done to me?"