B1A4 – it B1A4 (album review)

Boys, what have you done ?? We got to an agreement at the end of my last review that you’ll get rid of the cheesy cuteness in order to appeal to a more mature audience as well as to prepubescent teenagers. And you do what ? You do less singing and even more goofing around? Look at  Teen Top how beautifully they’ve evolved from their previous releases. Of course they’re not working their charms on the same public as you do, they’re more into noonas lately, but you could walk into their steps for a while instead of striving to become a teletubbie. (I have a feeling they’re slightly older than the guys from Teen Top which makes things even worse ).

I wouldn’t have been so cynical if it weren’t for this live performance of Beautiful Target. The so-called comeback on Inkigayo :

I like the Hare Krishna guy because he sings with an English lisp, but the others, the mini TOP wannabe, the pregnant one, the half-penguin-quarter-bear-quarter-human one and the I-wear-leopard-printed-pants-and-pink-spines-necklace-but-I-am-an-intellectual-because-I-have-my-glasses one, seriously now, did their stylists took a plunge into some mexican locoweeds ??? And all this pales in front of the most important issue I have to address : am I imagining the fact that for the most part of the song you’re lip-sync-ing ? Especially you, the blonde one with the sleeve-less pink jacket and the neon-green “cooler than you” shades!!

Regarding the actual album, there’s really not much I can say. I just don’t like Beautiful Target, period. I think it’s an ugly song. And similar in style to Tell Them from Block B. And what’s with this whole zum zum obsession ? There’s like 3 or 4 songs that feature this onomatopeia. Even a Romanian one has it.

In Chu Chu Chu they’re stubbornly du du du-ing  Shanice‘s motif from I Love Your Smile over and over again. Other than that it is just a mediocre r&b track with an interesting middle 8.

My Love and Fooool are generic kpop songs, nothing out of the ordinary, just bearable.

The boys had an interesting debut with Let’s Fly, the songs were catchy, they had a fresh attitude and the overall concept of the little

They looked as if they were having fun on the basketball court, like normal teenagers do.

prince was a working very well. With it B1A4, because they’re obviously exaggerating in more than one way, from cutesy gestures to clothes, all that freshness is nowhere to be found. Instead I see a bunch of late teenagers being so ridiculous on stage that even a toddler would cringe at the sight of then.

Where did the fun go ??

Final rating  : 3/10

 

Crispi Crunch – Thumbs UP ( feat. Sori )

Rap duos can be found a dozen a buck in Korea, just to give you some names : Untouchables, Mighty Mouth, Supreme Team, Dinamic Duo, Leessang, of course, and many others. The newest on on the market is Crispi Crunch. Not Crispy Crunch as I was tempted to spell it because the phrase must have been TM-ed by a chocolate company.

So what is it with Crispi Crunch and its sudden rise in popularity ? I honestly thought there’s not much going on in there after I gave Thumbs Up a quick listen. A nice party anthem, with lots of growling and shouting, yet as original as the 34594th stalking cat on YouTube is today. This is what I was thinking of them until I got a tip from here that  funny stuff is going on in the video.

Hands up anyone who’s been to a club and witnessed  a guy having at least one of the behaviors depicted by the two specimens in the MV. Hands up if you’ve said meh… to at least one MV in which the singer/singers were being too conscious of themselves and the camera. And lastly, hands up all my girls who had problems in the past with taming a guy’s sexual outbursts in public. I see a sea of hands ( I’m not delusional, I hope).

Look at Hands Up video first, then watch Thumbs Up.

Do you get where I’m heading ? These guys and their producers are geniuses. Better yet, watch both the cut and uncut versions of Thumbs Up. I have no idea which one is more nutty, the cut version with all the mocking pointed at the likes of 2PM or the uncut with the hilarious shots in the closet. I don’t understand a word those two girls are saying, but I could swear it is something I’ve said on more than one occasion. And the ending with that she-male’s POV, oh, EEEPIIICC!!! Even the way they make fun of the occasional male-on-male making out fan-service, and of the idiotic and superfluous adlib-ing, and of the whole We Rock the Show – all are freaks and nerds except us attitude, and of the girl sandwich-ing… Oh, this shit is dope !!!!

Final rating : an honest thumbs up for the boys  10/10 !

We be coolest in the club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crispi Crunch

We be jerking off in the club

 

2PM – Saint O’Clock (album review)

Saint O’Clock aims hard for granduesque. Does it actually achieve its goal ? We’ll see about this. The boys may not be the best looking fellas in the industry, but for what they lack in looks they surely make up for with their singing abilities. They don’t make ballad bands

Diva skills, I has them

without actual singers, do they ? I have my favorites :  Jo Kwon‘s lyrical voice ( he’s not only the drama queen among the Korean Icons, he’s the drama king in 2AM too as you can clearly see in Like Crazy’s PV ), he may look frail, but I’ve seen him working out crazily at the gym, and I have a thing for Changmin and his nasal trills. Also his quirky sense of humor cracks me up. Too bad KBS canceled the broadcast of Star Golden Bell. I have no knowledge of the other member’s sense of humor or diva-skills.

A few thoughts on the album as a whole before I begin dissecting one track at a time : although it contains a variety of musical influences  and the arrangements are top-notch, at one point the songs might start to sound a bit boresome. To sum it up the album consists of a serious amount of tear-jerkers. There are too many songs fighting for the most epic of them all spot. This is what happens when you add previous releases to the next album and you make little changes to the concept. Because of this, songs like No More or For Love Again fail to impress in spite of being decent songs.  Actually, now that I give the 2 a better listen I find them quite hard to digest and redundant to the context. Anxious at least has a nice low-key instrumental and a strong beat and manages to stand out of the crowd for a bit.
And another thing I’ve noticed : the boys do mostly solo parts, so not so many harmonies as I would like to listen, especially in a chorus and it is a pity because  those would round-up better some songs.

Now let’s discuss the ones I did enjoy listening to. For once I enjoyed an intro track. Phone really does makes sense in disclosing whatever secrets this album may have. You Wouldn’t Answer My Calls is sorrowful, as sorrowful as 2AM can be at its best. It is a great song indeed, but wait till you’ve listened to all of them.

Like Crazy. I wasn’t expecting another epic song to come right next after You Wouldn’t Answer. They’re quite similar and this does somehow level down my expectations.

Just Me. The song has a more positive feeling to it and it features ( at last ) some harmony in the chorus sung by Jo Kwon and Glam. Surprisingly how well a sexy female voice sounds alongside the boys.

Mirage is one of my favorites, we get some r&b, a slightly increased pace and the thing that startles me most is Changmin’s middle 8 part. Believe me, the first time I listened to it I had goose-bumps. It’s that good.

This album was in desperate need of a song like Love U, Hate U. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it has swag and the rap parts are surprisingly good. It features a collabo with, I’m guessing 2 rappers from 방탄소년단, but I’m sensing 1 or 2 of the boys are delivering some lines too. After all, Jinwoon and Changmin are mentioned as rappers too in the description of the band.

With of Without You has a 90s feel to it, it’s more of a dance song and if they were to ask me I would have switched it with Like Crazy, just to balance the album a little bit. I love how well the piano and the sinths get along in this song, but I love them even more in the next one.

I Can’t Say That I Love you is my other favorite track. The instrumental part is kept low-key, the sinths and beats are old school, but the thing I like best are the chorus and Changmin in general. He really does a beautiful job towards the end of the song.

Final rating : 9.5/10

Boys, don't cry. I'm gonna start crying too if you do...

4men – Hello!

Just how the 4 most famous apostles were actually only 3, Luke and Mathew, 4men lost a member in 2001 so, since then, they’ve been rockin’ the houses as a trio ( lucky number 3 never changed, although there was a hell lot of traffic being made by members coming in and out of the band ). Today’s formula consists of Young Jae, Shin Yong Jae and Kim Won Joo. Their appeal ? Besides being insanely talented, their voices cover up a wide vocal range. Yong Jae is in charge of the high notes while Joung Jae drops the low, more masculine ones. In the middle of them stands tall Won Joo, whose voice is mid-ranged and is in charge of keeping things balanced.

Their musical style may not be all that original, but the moment they start singing you forget all about following the tune and you get immersed into the mystic flow of sounds coming out of their souls. This is pop music at its best. I usually get all hyped when I hear a strong vocalist working his magic, but the one thing that really manages to blow me off my feet is that special type of chemistry that’s found inside a homogeneous band. Be it boy or girl band. It makes no difference.  This is the exact case with 4men, they got under my skin and started messing with my vital organs. You have no idea how virulent a solo by Yong Jae can be.

To keep things short because music speaks better than words, here it is, my favourite 4men track, the live version of Hello!  :

It’s a pitty they don’t have as many releases as I would like them to have.

Final rating : 10/10

Touched

Co-Ed School – Too Late

Co-Ed School seems to have dissipated before I was able to figure out exactly just how many members are there and what are their gender. Some of the girls went to form 5dolls but the boys and the real objects of my interest are nowhere to be found. That’s a pity because I am a fan of this band’s concept. I love dance tracks that feature both male and female voices. I have yet to find something similar in style with Co-Ed and the thought that I won’t be able to enjoy any new material from them is excruciating.

I’m going to talk about Too Late which, in my opinion, is a perfect pop song from start to end. It has a powerful vibe, it is perfect material for clubs, the vocal parts are sharp and crisp, the arrangement is done flawlessly and what I like most is how the verses are delivered as if the two sides, the boys and the girls, are having a fast-paced argument. It is superficial without being cheesy, it is commercial but at the same time easy to digest and in the end does it really matter that it hasn’t the most complex melody or more elaborate vocal parts ? It is a fresh and fun song and the singers are young, we should spare them the steep criticism.

I’m also loving the video. Dust coming out of clothes and dancing in the rain will always look cool.

Rain, erhm, well, water in general is cool.

Dust is cool

I didn’t get the whole robotic-eyes-coming-in-and-out-of-the-blonde-guy-thing, but  the fact that the MV actually had an interesting story managed to keep me glued to the screen the whole 5 minutes.

Final rating : 9.3/10

Code V – Honestly (album review)

I am the perennial defendant of the weak and underrated. Code V boys belong to the last category. Not having a potent label behind you has its bitter price exactly when it comes to some of the most interesting faces in kpop. Music gives me a lot of satisfaction when I stumble upon an amazing piece of material. All those heavily promoted releases make me uneasy because I have expectations. The results are always one of the two : disappointment or ecstasy. Each with its own scale ranging from high to low. But I have a curious personality and the habit of always searching for something new. That’s how I met these 4 charming boys. Well, not personally, of course, though it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I managed to know them through Honestly, their last album. And, boy, it was with butterflies and the whole treat.

There isn’t much info to spare about them, they were 5, their leader left, now there’s 4 of them, they sing beautifully and they’re more talented than many of the heavily promoted faces in kpop. Now getting back to the actual reviewing, Honestly has some heavy stuff going on. I should warn you now, before you get to listen to the tracks : these boys kick ass at singing and especially at singing together. I’m talking here about Brown Eyed Soul kind of chemistry. I feel that soul sparkle coming from them. It’s vivid and most noticeable with their ballads.

In We’re Going To See Now I really like how the Haru Haru part sounds. I’m not so moved by I’m Sadder, the adlibs and rap sound extremely out-of-place for this album. Summer Love manages to be cutesy without sounding too cheesy.
And now let’s get to the songs I’m really exited about.

 Miracle is a marvelous old school r&b song, I’m loving the way it takes enough time and effort to build up, I’m living the climax and I even fancy the whole “we can fly” thing even though I’ve always hated that song by R.Kelly. You know which one I’m talking about. The one featuring Bugs Bunny. The best part has to be the one where we have 3 wonderful layers : the guitar solo, the choir and one of the member’s lovely vocals. Oh, it’s epic!

Go is the perfect dance song. The guitar riff I hear on the background is a very nice touch, the chorus blows my mind away with its beauty and the middle 8 adds more piano just enough to send me to fantasy-land. One thing does come as a turn off : the autotune in the end. Big no-no!

I like both versions of Addiction. They surely sound more kpop-like but nonetheless are very powerful songs. The cases when the remix versions of the songs sound as good as the originals are a rara avis in kpop. Usually, remixes are used solely for the purpose of filling a blank spot on the album and there’s usually little effort put in the actual new arrangement. Thankfully, this is not the case with Addiction.

Tell You Honestly really reminded me of something 2AM would sing. It has the same vibe as Can’t Let You Go Even If I Die, still

Yes, boy, number one!

these boys have more soul in them and the beat of the melody is more noticeable. The middle 8 and bridge manage to drain all energy out of me. These boys sing their hearts out in such a charming way and they get so little recognition ? They deserve to be DBSK big. Immediately!

Final rating : 9.8/10 ( And did I tell how handsome some of the guys are ? Ha ? HA? )

Secret – Madonna ( EP review)

I wasn’t so well familiarized with the whole kpop concept when I first saw a Secret performance. It was around their debut time and they were doing some Magic tricks to appeal the audiences. With Madonna they did more than just that, they went down the “seduce-them-or-prepare-the-retreat-way”.

I have to admit I was seduced at first. By the choreo. After the song ended I remember there were also sounds coming out of my

That's some girl attitude right there

computer while I was busy staring at their wigglely moves. I felt ashamed of my shallow attitude and gave the song a good listen. Yes, without the video. Just the music. Purposely trying to be serious and to keep my hips from doing the shaky shaky move. Of course I failed. Even badly considering I was doing this while laying on my back in my bed. All I got from the entire experiment was a terrible back and neck ache and a serious addiction to all of Secret’s songs. As a conclusion, Madonna comes with a trojan attached. Once it gets installed inside your head, every song by Secret activates the hip extension and you start the wiggling. Please, tell me I wasn’t the only sucker in this world that doesn’t have a competent antivirus system !!

Of course I am capable of delivering an objective opinion about the song. It’s solely my problem if I do it while remaining static or not. So, here it goes : the introduction is stunning, from the jazzy instrumental, the adlib again Madonna inspired up to the insertion of the chorus, altogether make up for the other flaws the song has. And there’s plenty of them. The stanzas are weakly delivered, the rap parts are sometimes too annoying and not because I don’t like Zinger’s rap skills, it’s the verses that are tedious at times and, lastly,  there’s too much breathing going on. Other highlights are the last part of the pre-chorus and the bridge.  Mami mai mami aaah.. aha, that incredibly catchy thingie that added the neck aches. Madonna is a great dance song. Its single main problem is that it was released after Magic. And here I rest my case.

Lalala songs are great for live performances.  Just point the mic towards the audience and keep doing the slow headbanging while giving them the mandatory approval winkie.

I was ready to enjoy the Do Better!! feat Baek Chan from 8eight whole bad-ass attitude but the hearing of a “it’s a boy” somewhere around the chorus area really spoiled all the fun I had. I know they’re supposed to say It’s you X-Boy, but that’s miles away from what I’m hearing. However, the song gains points for being quite addictive.

Hesitant is both generic and a subliminal indication that cutesy is next on the list. See Shy Boy.

The best these girls can do is to add more soulful ballads to their repertoire like the fifth and last track on this EP, Empty Spice. They could take it one step further and add more orchestration and layering of the vocal parts. Yes, that would be a nice touch.

Sadly the EP manages to draw only a faint sketch of what’s the real secret behind Secret. And, to make matters even worse, Shy Boy comes right after Madonna.

Final rating : 6.3/10

Wiggling alone is awkwaaaaaaaard.