Apr 20, 2017

Girl's Day Finally Return To K-Pop With "I'll Be Yours"

Girls Days foto.

It has been nearly two years since Girl's Day last released new music and that was with "Ring My Bell" in July of 2015. I actually don't remember much of the song but that might also be due to the fact that I never liked it and thought it was a big step down from their previous singles. Since then the girls have been focusing mostly on individual activities and tried their luck in various ventures, but now they've finally come back as one group with the sizzling and powerful "I'll Be Yours".

You realize how the current state of the market is like when you raise an eyebrow at a girl group doing a sexy, strong concept with a bold and confident tune, because most of the newer girl groups that currently dominate aren't doing that type of concept. I remember only a couple of years ago before the new wave of K-pop groups became the norm that this was the kind of concept everyone was doing in one way or another, but now the sexy trend has completely shifted. The most popular girl groups right now, like Twice, GFriend, Red Velvet and previously I.O.I haven't really gone down that route and the only girl group that does stand out is BlackPink but even they are doing more of a fierce and powerful concept rather than a sexy one. I  suppose because most of the new groups still have quite young members it makes sense but it's still fascinating how much the K-pop scene has changed compared to when Girl's Day latest came back.

Girls Days foto.I do however like that they're going for a sexy, confidant and womanly image as they are grown up women with a long career behind them. No one would doubt that they are confident in themselves after being active for so many years and of course no one would deny that they are incredibly sexy. The same goes with song "I'll Be Yours" which is loud, bombastic and powerful with the right amount of sexiness. Clearly inspired by jazz and swing music this sassy tune tells the story of a woman getting annoyed that the man she wants isn't confessing or speaking up about his feelings when he clearly wants her to. That's why they sing "I'll Be Yours" about a thousand times; they're all set to go if this guy would just quit the games and be upfront.

Obviously the lyrics are pretty straightforward and while they aren't spectacular in any way I'm always down with girl groups singing confidently and proudly and being the more active one in a relationship. Instead of falling into a passive role and being all "I don't know what to do" or "Does he like me?" they are the ones taking charge and asking the questions. It also helps that the members of Girl's Day definitely have the charisma and presence to pull it off and being a bit older in the industry means that they don't have to act naive or innocent but can instead push forward with this concept.

Girls Days foto.
The portrayal of the girls in the MV for "I'll Be Yours" is also shamelessly confident as they not only own their sexiness but are also in complete control in whatever situation they're in. It's definitely sexy and feminine, but contrasted well against the sets which are rougher and darker and generally more masculine. This also gives off an impression of the members being in a position of power as they are in control despite wearing dresses and heels. Sojin for example seems to be visiting a barber shop full of young men whom are clearly wrapped around her finger as only a rearrangement of her stocking causes them all to turn towards her. Same goes with Yura who's passionately playing the piano for her gasping audience of admirers and when the piano catches fire, and later also the audience, she doesn't bat an eyelash.

Minah has a similar experiences as she lives out her own Cinderella story but are instead giving her admirers different shoes instead of waiting for the right one to come along. This is to make them believe they have a chance with her but in the end she's just having a bit of fun and is most certainly the one calling the shots. Hyeri's scenes are probably my favorites though as she's watching a boxing match between two potential suitors dressed to the nines in a real princess dress and sharp heels. Although they're intensely fighting she doesn't seem to be even a little interested as if this occurrence is nothing she hasn't seen before. The best part however is at the end where she steps into the ring herself, stabs one of the guys' foot with her heel and then knocks him out. She's the real boss and she knows it.

Girls Days foto.The boxing scenes in general work really well with the music as the punches and kicks suit the intense, rocky vibe of the chorus, as well as the other girls' scenes match the jazzier vibe of the verses. A hefty part of the MV is however dancing sequences which is to be expected, but I am impressed by how the choreography has been shot and edited to add to the theme of the song. While watching the live performances the choreography is not that amazing (and I do think them dancing in super high heels hinders a more complex routine) but all the scenes in MV that features choreo makes it look really strong and powerful. All the girls are drop dead gorgeous and have amazing bodies and the choreography makes sure to show off their assets, as do the sexy outfits whom I'm still not sure if I like or not. Either way they are all killing it.

I also want to give a quick shout out to their accompanying mini album "Girl's Day Everyday #5" which has exceeded all my expectations. I definitely think this is their most mature release to date and features 6 brand new tracks that are all fantastic. I might even think the title track is one of my least favorites on it, which says a lot considering how banging "I'll Be Yours" is. Electronica pop track "Thirsty" is beautifully melancholic and "Love Again" is emotional and stripped down, but then you have trap-heavy power track "Don't Be Shy" as well as two stunning solos from Minah and Sojin. The album has everything I wanted and more and I'm really happy they're maturing in their music and are releasing songs that both match their image as well as the current music trends.

Girls Days foto.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this 2017 Girl's Day comeback since it has been so long since their last one and their last one failed to deliver, but "I'll Be Yours" has without a question made me want to be their fan once again. This comeback has been important for the group after their long hiatus and I do think this was exactly the comeback they needed to make to establish their image. They're showing that they are a sexy, confident and powerful girl group that are true veterans in the industry and know what they're doing. Let's just hope we won't have to wait as long until their next release.

Title Track: 4/5
MV: 3,9/5
Album: 4,25/5

Apr 16, 2017

Video of the Week #40

BtoB and Got7 performing their songs (with special mikes) on Yang Nam Show 

This is my new favorite thing in the world. Basically the groups that visit Yang Nam Show get to perform their songs but with some of the members mikes having special effects making them sound all sorts of strange. As you can imagine the end results are nothing but hysterical.

Apr 15, 2017

A Promising Debut In Pristin's "Wee Woo"

PRISTINs foto.

Following the break up of I.O.I we've already seen a comeback of two of the group's member's new groups in Gugudan's "A Girl Like Me" and WJSN's "I Wish", but so far there has been no new groups debuting with the rest of the members from the legendary girl group. However now we finally see the debut of a trainee group previously known as Pledis Girls featuring Nayoung and Kyulkyung (also known as Pinky), but now they're called their actual group name Pristin. With a whopping 10 members and thus continuing the trend of large girl groups these days, this group is coming onto the scene in a very impressive manner with "Wee Woo".

Many people have compared this debut, and this group as a whole, to Twice, which isn't surprising at all. Although Twice's concept may be on the cuter side now they did debut with a slightly more edgy image and a MV and song that catered both to their sassiness as well as cuteness. Pristin is definitely trying out a similar thing as "Wee Woo" has elements of both the cutesy stuff and a fiercer approach. Although there are similarities in concept I do think there are some aspects that set them apart.

PRISTINs foto."Wee Woo" is a song for example is interesting in the way that while it lacks lyrical depth and have some disjointed parts it has a hook so infectious it's impossible to forget. It's also unique in the way that it mixes funky guitars with some really cutesy bits, instead of going for a typical bubblegum pop sound to match the cuteness. It creates a nice contrast, which I like, but it also slightly annoys me. I think the song would be much better off without the overly cute parts that almost seems unnecessary, such as "Boo boo" being thrown into the chorus with no other purpose than being cute (and failing to do so in my opinion).

PRISTINs foto.I understand why they'd want to include some degree of aegyo because well, you need to get those male fans hooked, but I think the song would be better without it. The same goes for the lyrics whom are incredibly shallow and frankly quite boring with their heavy dose of childishness. The entire chorus is just pretty much "I like you very much, boo boo" which does nothing to show any kind of intelligence or  maturity. Again I see why they would do this but it's just not for me. If they'd gone wholeheartedly for the sassier side of this concept I would've be much more positive.

The MV definitely caters to this very polarized "sexy-cute" concept and yet again I see why people have compared this group to Twice. Not only is the color palette similar to "Like Ooh-Ahh" with plenty of strong and bold colors but the concept of the MV has some similarities as well. While "Wee Woo" lacks zombies each member is assigned a different individual image and character which is something Twice has done plenty of in their videos.

PRISTINs foto.Creating an individual style and brand for each member is definitely a smart selling tactic as fans have a chance to not only set the members apart but also finding their particular favorite pretty quickly. In this video we definitely get to see each member doing their own thing as they all play a unique character with their own style and image, more so than the MV having any kind of plot or purpose. It seems the idea with this debut MV is to sell in the group and the members and allowing the fans to get to know them, which I would say works fairly well.

Like the song the MV also plays with idea of the both being sexy and cute with different scenes suggesting different themes and also members switching back and forth between the two sides. Even the choreography matches as there are definitely some sexier and sassier moves as well as some cuter actions. Speaking of which I really do like the dancing as it's powerful and precise with some memorable point moves.

PRISTINs foto.
I have to say that although I haven't loved all aspects of this debut I have enjoyed it overall. I was already a huge fan of Nayoung and Kyulkyung and have now grown to like plenty of the other members as well and I do think a contributing factor was the fact that the members were presented as individually as they are in the MV. I do wish that they could lose some of the excessive cuteness but their "sexy-cute" concept does feel quite solid especially when observing the current girl group market and noting that Twice for example are currently doing more cute than sexy. I can't predict the future but I do think this concept and image can work in Pristin's favor and I genuinely hope it will.

Song: 3,5/5
MV: 3,6/5

Apr 12, 2017

Brilliance, Disappointment And Reinvention : B.A.P, Got7 & Highlight Release New Music

I just got back from a short vacation in Prague, Czech Republic, so for that reason I haven't posted much the last week but that's all about to change! These coming 10 days I'm off school which means I'll have much more time to write and post and this I am very excited about as there have been a crazy amount of comebacks in K-pop recently. This review below is about comebacks that occured last month and I am aware that I'm late but I'll try to catch up now when I have some more free time.

Anyhow; Girl groups have definitely been the focus of my attention these past months and continues to be as they are amazing, but I don't want to completely neglect the boy groups who've also made comebacks. Over the course of the month of March three very different groups came back with new music, or should I say two have come back and one have made a re-debut. I'm talking about B.A.P, Got7 and Highlight of course, who've delivered three completely different title tracks and MV's.

B.A.P first made their comeback on March 6th with "Wake Me Up" and I would be lying if I said that my expectations weren't high for this release. Since their comeback from their long-time hiatus about one and a half year ago their releases have been either a hit or a miss for me, as they've been varying quite drastically in sound and concept, but I was crazy about "Skydive" last year. It was definitely the B.A.P comeback I've been waiting for since about 2014 or so and thus I was hoping for this release to be something very similar. Instead we get "Wake Me Up", which a song that I never knew I needed to hear but now can't imagine B.A.P's discography without.

B.A.Ps foto.While "Skydive" was rockier, more intense and generally louder "Wake Me Up" is more mellow, more electronica-infused and powerful in a subtler way. Both songs are on the darker side of the spectrum which I love but while "Skydive" had more of an aggressive tone this song is more emotional. The lyrics are definitely calling to the listeners emotions as well as it deals with the issue of recognizing yourself and the world around you, thus "waking up"; but all this in better words of course. Read the lyrics yourself and you will understand what I'm trying to say.

The video also seems to deal with this topic as it features people of various ethnic groups and nationalities all dealing with different struggles, that may or may not be as a cause of the society they live in. It is however also about finding a way to fight back and stand up against the oppression as the people all come together to rebel in the end of the MV. The feeling of the video is throughout still very dark and heavy as the there is very little color in any of the scenes and the sets are gritty and lifeless. The focus is definitely on the actors who portray these people and while I do think they do a good job some of the set-ups are somewhat cliche or a bit too expected, but overall it's a nice change as to having the members act instead. There is also no choreography in this MV which again puts the focus on the message of the song which I appreciate, but of course I would be happy to see the members more and see them dance.

Overall I've certainly enjoyed this comeback and I'm really happy about the route the group is currently taking, both musically and stylistically. This type of concept and music truly is what I find they do best and I sincerely hope there won't be a next comeback with pastels, smiley faces and a song about love or something other typical. B.A.P are so much better than that, which is what they've proven with "Wake Me Up".

Song: 4,25/5
MV: 3,7/5

6 days later Got7 came back with the last installment of their "Flight Log" trilogy and title track "Never Ever". It must be said before I start that my expectations for this comeback weren't high and I quite honestly haven't watched almost any of their live performances since this song came out, but there is still something about this group that makes me want to root for them. For about a year now they've been trying to release songs and music videos in a trilogy format which definitely seems to be a thing now in K-pop, but it hasn't been going too great. Coming from the greatness of "If You Do" it was most people's opinion that "Fly" was a downgrade which I agree on, but it still wasn't a bad effort. Of course the trailers that made you think that there was going to be an interesting story were a false promise as the actual MV didn't do much in that aspect, but there was still hope that a story would develop.

GOT7s foto.Then came "Hard Carry" which was what completely made me want to give up on this group. I still can't stand the song and the MV was not much better as it still didn't make sense of whatever story they were trying to create. There seemed to be something about a car crash and members possibly dying but the attempt of trying to create an actual storyline seemed almost nonexistent. Finally now we've arrived at the end of this project with a song called "Never Ever", which again makes zero sense. The video is not even trying to come to a conclusion in terms of plot as it's again, mostly focused on choreography, but even those scenes look somewhat tacky.

Musically this year-long project has been impressively inconsistent as well, but I guess that goes with Got7's career as a whole. It's fascinating that they've been a group for over three years but still has no signature sound or concept, and I blame their management, songwriters and producers as much as I blame the members themselves. The rapping is still underwhelming and the vocals just don't sound good on record, no matter how talented I know some of the members are. It frustrates me insanely because I want to love this group because I adore them as people and their group chemistry is amazing, but they're making it harder and harder. All I know for sure is that I'm happy that this trilogy is over and that this means that maybe, possibly we can get some good music à la "If You Do" again. However I sadly doubt that is the case.

Song: 2,5/5
MV: 2/5

Last but not least we have Highlight, the free and reinvented version of Beast after they've escaped Cube Entertainment with a new name and set up their own company. While it sucks that they had to change their name I'm very happy that the members managed to leave the company as they clearly are too good for it and are, in my opinion, much better off on their own. I was personally very excited for what music they'd release now after this dramatic break-up, especially since this group has become somewhat experts in releasing serious and melancholic songs about heartbreak, but "Plz Don't Be Sad" is the complete opposite of that.

I suppose with them standing on their own two feet now and with the gain of a new name, which does include a new identity of some sort, they'd want to show a new side and not go down the expected route. I've always liked their sadder, darker and overall more laid-back stuff over upbeat hype songs like "YeY", but I can definitely get behind this new sound as it's not exactly similar to the other dance tracks this group has released as Beast. My first impression is that "Plz Don't Be Sad" has a similar vibe to some of Block B's music, meaning that it's fun and bright without being excessive, but it's certainly a lot more childish than anything we've seen from them before. Most of Beast's material over the years has been very mature and sensible but for the first time we see them let loose their inner kids in a way that is both relieving and troubling.

I mean look at the title for start; are they actually choosing to spell please as "plz"? Fine if they were teenagers but since their youngest member turns 26 this year it feels slightly weird. Of course I do like that they're testing the waters with their new-found freedom and I honestly like the song and it's uplifting message, but it's surprising that they've chose such a youthful and colorful concept. The video is also very joyful and vibrant with strong saturated colors, contrasts and bright lights. It's pretty cute and entertaining, especially the styling choices which include the members dancing in bath robes for example, and the members do look like they're genuinely enjoying themselves. It's certainly a well-made video although some of the sets are not great, but the enthusiasm and playfulness that is portrayed makes it an enjoyable watch.

If this was Beast I probably would've been more skeptical of this comeback but since this is Highlight I feel like I shouldn't have the same expectations. The members are the same, yes, but the circumstances are different and I totally understand why they'd want to reinvent and switch up their sound and image. It's certainly going to be interesting to follow their continuing journey and see what they chose to do next, seeing as they now have the capability of trying whatever they want.

Song: 3,5/5
MV: 3,4/5

Apr 5, 2017

GFriend Aim Right For My Heart With "Fingertip"

여자친구 G-Friends foto.

It's been roughly 8 months since GFriend last had their comeback with the glorious "Navillera" which is in my opinion way too long of a time period between two releases. If I could have new GFriend releases each month I would be delighted but I understand that it would be difficult to pull off. They have however been active with performances and attending award shows (and winning awards) but I'm over the moon that they've come back with new music and a brand new concept. GFriend has been known for their "innocent power" brand, meaning that their music and image has been youthful and sweet and their choreography and performances strong and powerful, but "Fingertip" marks the end of that concept. This time the girls show a new side of themselves that is sexier and more mature but equally as powerful and I already can't imagine them doing anything else.

"Fingertip" as a song is quite interesting in the way that it sounds, for once, new and fresh but at the same time connects perfectly to their past material. It's the perfect continuation, you may say. Now that Kara has gone to the grave you would need another group to take up their signature sound which is definitely the case here, even if it's not intended. My first thought when listening to this song was that it sounded like something Kara would've released, but that's not a bad thing at all. Especially since it still has that GFriend twist it doesn't feel like a copy of another song and it certainly stands out from their past title tracks. I personally am a huge fan of the song and I think it has most factors that is needed to make a great tune; a strong instrumental, great melody and powerful vocals. Like with many other of their songs it's easy to sing along to and the hook of "Tang, tang, tang, fingertip!" in the chorus will get stuck in your head.

여자친구 G-Friends foto.
The MV for "Fingertip" however is perhaps not as fantastic as their last two videos in terms of visual brilliance and storytelling, but it's a good video nonetheless. In this MV the girls of GFriend turn into space agents of some sort out on a mission, or at least it appears so until we find out it's all been inside Eunha's dream.

They chase each other through space and time with colorful plastic guns and although there doesn't seem to be a clear story to it it's still an entertaining watch. The sets vary between green screen and actual rooms and some of them are better than others although the overall execution is good enough, however I wonder about the connection between some of them. It's not instantly logical nor is the plot but since it's all a dream anyway I guess too much logic would be strange.

The main attraction of this comeback isn't, after all, the video or possibly even the song but the change in concept. GFriend debuted with a school girl concept that stuck with them for a year, meaning that they were portrayed as young, innocent and harmless girls that were lovable and sweet. Of course the release of "Rough" did show more maturity as did "Navillera" as they were released from their school uniforms, but they were still categorized under "cute" no matter how explosive they were on stage. For this comeback they've shed that image completely and are no longer branded as "innocent power" but just "power", which is a change I support 100 %. I always knew they had it in them and now that both of the youngest members are legal adults it was all a matter of time.

여자친구 G-Friends foto.
What I do appreciate is that although this is more grown-up they haven't gone down the "sexy" route but are rather continuing their path as great performers and singers but without having to compromise being cute at the same time, although that is a genre that is great as well. However for GFriend I felt is was about time they moved on to an edgier and stronger image to match their new sound and choreography much better. This also marks the first time any of them dye their hair any other color than black or brown which also suggests a form of maturity as well as individuality as they've mostly had quite similar looks in the past

The styling in general this comeback is amazing and I love the military/spy influenced outfits as well as all their hair and makeup. They all shine on stage and now when I watch their previous performances it almost feels strange, as if they were always meant to do this precise concept. As for the choreography I have nothing but praise as usual as I think this might be one of their most hard hitting routines as of date. While "Navillera" slightly disappointed me this choreography blew me away with the complexity, pace and intensity of it. The moves are strong and powerful and the formations are great as well. I don't think anyone will argue that GFriend is one of the best groups out there in terms of dancing and the fact that their live vocals are stable while doing shows just how good they are.

여자친구 G-Friends foto.
For this comeback they've released another mini album called "The Awakening" which is definitely suitable considering their concept and image change. Last year's "LOL" was one of my favorite albums of said year as it contained a variety of tracks in different pop genres and thus I had high expectations for this release as well. Unfortunately they weren't completely met, as "The Awakening" more or less sounds like one of their older mini albums prior to "LOL" and does not really reflect the growth and development that rest of the comeback has shown. The songs on the mini are still good tracks and had it been one year ago I would've been completely satisfied, but at this stage in their career I am expecting more.

The album opens with "Hear The Wind Sing" which is a great song and a solid B-side sounding like it could have been featured on "LOL" just as well. It's an upbeat pop song with additions of violin which gives it a unique twist and a very pretty sounding instrumental. The melody is also good as are the vocals and I certainly think it's one of the album's stronger tracks. Following is the title which I've already raved about and continuing is "Contrail". This if anything sounds like it could been a B-side on their earlier mini albums and at this point it's not exactly what I want to hear from them. It's uplifting and lighthearted with a poppy instrumental but not particularly spectacular, even though it features a fantastically even line distribution. It's not a bad song at all and I still like it, but it doesn't really do anything to rise the overall quality of the mini album.

여자친구 G-Friends foto."Please Save My Earth" is next and reminds me somewhat of "Mermaid" of off "LOL" as it has a more mellow tone and a much sadder sounding melody. Compared to the latter however it has a higher tempo and is probably more intense. This is probably my favorite song next to "Fingertip" as I really like melody as well as the dynamic instrumental that features horn instruments in a really clever way. Not to mention the lyrics are really pretty too. Afterward comes "Spring Rain" which is a mid-tempo ballad that is quite calming to listen to. It's nothing extraordinary but still a well written and sung track with a lovely melody and lyrics. The girls sing incredibly well and once again I'm positively surprised by the line distribution.

The final song is "Crush" which sounds like a very typical GFriend B-side that could easily had been on "LOL". It's upbeat and a bit funky with great use of string instruments and electric guitars. The problem though is that because it sounds quite similar to some songs on "LOL" I can't help but to compare and also come to the realization that I would rather listen to those songs than this one. Again it's not a bad song but it's not amazing either.

This comeback as a whole has however been a great enjoyment for me these past few weeks as I'm now loving these girls more than I ever did before. I adore the title track and I've been obsessed with their live performances on music shows as well as the fantastic styling and concept execution in general. I sincerely hope now that everyone who once called them a "one trick pony" will reevaluate their opinions and see how well they can pull off a stronger concept like this one. Of course it can't be left unsaid that the mini album is slightly underwhelming but I definitely think the awesomeness of literally everything else makes up for it.

Song: 4,5/5
MV: 3,9/5
Album: 3,75/5