Nov 1, 2014

October Recap - What I've Missed

I haven't (I think) written a single review of anything coming out this October, and since I'm getting back to business now I thought a quick recap might come in handy. There have been some pretty good comebacks and releases this past month, and although I might go into some of them more on a deeper level later I'm going to give some basic first impressions on the title tracks and videos in this post.

First up is Red Velvet, who made their very first comeback on the 13th with "Be Natural", which is actually an old S.E.S track that has been remade to fit this young group of ladies. The song itself is very smooth and sensual but it seems little has been changed from the original track both in terms of music and vocals. The line distribution is also extremely uneven, as Wendy and Seulgi sing about 90% of it while the other two get pretty much nothing. Additionally, SM trainee Taeyong gets to feature as a rapper, and I'm not really feeling any bit of his rap potion. Sure, he's like the most handsome trainee I've seen in a really long time, but he can't rap at all. 

The video is basic, and the one-shot concept that SM has been milking every single drop out of ever since EXO's "Growl" is becoming more and more predictable and frankly, quite boring. I do think all the members look gorgeous and the tight-fitted suits are amazing, but even that can't save this mess of a production that is clearly only a distraction from the storm of craziness that's happening in the SM building. It's a shame that it's so noticeable how quickly this was put together, especially when looking at the potentially great choreography and seeing it failing to deliver.

Vixx made their awaited comeback the following day, and I honestly wasn't too excited considering my lukewarm feelings towards their latest release "Eternity". I did watch the video however because I am, after all, a fan and I should stay loyal to my favorites, and I was not expecting to be blown away by "Error" like I did. This song is amazing. It's a bit slower, yes, but it has one of those melodies that just break your heart entirely and moves you places you didn't know existed. This was exactly what I needed to regain my faith in this group.

The video is not too shabby either. It has an interesting concept and plot, as it tells the story of a broken man (Hongbin) trying to rebuild his deceased girlfriend (Kara's Youngji) as a hybrid since he can't stand to be without her. It does feel like it could be a plot of some futuristic action movie, and I'm always happy how Vixx are trying out new, unexplored territories yet still make music that is not too strange or extreme. Sure, it's still very much a K-pop video as you can tell both by the use of sets, props, dramatic crying scenes and Ravi's hideous head-piece. If not for that, this video could have been perfect.

I didn't get the chance to write about Song Jieun's comeback with "Don't Look At Me Like That", her first single out of the two, but I loved both the song, video and underlying message. The second single released on the 14th is kind of the opposite of the dark, serious first one. "25" is all about living life happily as a 25-year old, and shedding the childlike image for a more mature, grown-up one. The song is definitely a lot more bright and cheerful and features a bit of rapping on Jieun's part, but not so much that it makes her sound bad. I don't think it's a bad song at all, but I certainly prefer her first single above this one.

The video is colorful, cute and feminine, and it matches the tone of the song really well. There are some symbolic themes such as the children's room she's placed in as a metaphor for the childish concepts she's done in the past, but overall I don't think the video conveys the song's free spirit in a good way. If they're trying to make her appear more as woman rather than a little girl, why all the pink glitter, sparkles, flowers and other imagery that's contradicting the message of the song? There is very little in this video that reminds me that she actually is 25 and not 15.

Girl's Day came back on the 15th with single "I Miss You", a sorrowful ballad of broken love perfectly suited for fall and it's gloomy, melancholic days. The song is actually very nice and I can see how many people would like it, especially the Korean public as this is just the kind of song that would reach the top spot on the charts. The group's new golden child Hyeri has plenty of lines, which is highly unusual but I suppose her new found fame has had a thing or two to do with it. Apart from that Minah sings the majority of the song, with Yura doing her rap and Sojin getting the short side of the stick.

The video is appropriate, I would say, but nothing special or out of the ordinary. It shows the members in various locations looking pretty whilst feeling utterly heartbroken. They're trying to distract themselves but end up in tears anyway, as they think of the happy memories that once were. I do like that they use actual clips from a while back ("Female President" era, as far as I can tell) as flashbacks, as it adds more realness to the story. Hyeri's parts are my favorites by far, as I can relate to wrapping myself in my covers and throwing my pillows around in anger. She also looks very beautiful lying in all the feathers, but that could just be my bias speaking.

It's about time, I think, that Beast had a ballad-styled title track. Their latest pre-releases have all been mid-tempo ballads and have done really well with the public, so to finally release one as their main single is definitely a smart move. "12.30" sounds like most of their other songs that have this kind of style, and it is certainly a well-made song. I can't say it's my favorite of theirs, but I can't say it hasn't been stuck on my mind either. As always, the members' vocals are stunning and if you've seen their lives you'd know they sound just as great outside of the recording studio.

The video doesn't really do much for me, but I think the scenery and coloring is gorgeously dark and cloudy. The placement of random people playing instruments in the various members' shoots seem kind of strange to me, but it's not exactly something that completely ruins the video. The use of the big clock whose pointers only tick further and further away from each other is a great symbolization of the growing distance between two people in a relationship. I also have to applaud the choreography, which is one of the most complicated and detailed ones I've ever seen them do. The fact that it is for a ballad too and it still works so well is very impressive.

So, BTS released follow-up track "Hormone War" on the 22nd, and I'm kind of obsessed with it. This was one of my favorite songs on the album, and I think it is one that represents them as a group and their image perfectly. It's fun, energetic and cheeky like none other, and this video goes hand in hand with it. Being all about raging hormones and fighting the desires that come with it, it could easily have come off as objectifying and sexist, but there is very little action in the actual video as all of them are too shy to actually make a move. Overall, I'm happy they went and made a video for this track but I'm sad that this wasn't their main title track.

The video is so much better than the one for "Danger", although I think much less money went into this one. The subdued coloring with only red highlighted fits the song's slightly aggressive tone, making Jimin's pants and Jungkook's sweater stand out among other props. This video is almost entirely shot in one take, but unlike Red Velvet's video it's much more clever in the way it's edited. The boys themselves also aren't afraid to let loose and act out, which makes the video really enjoyable opposed to the trying to look "cool" and "tough". Still, Jin looks terribly awkward, but that's just his entire being so I suppose not much can be done about that. The choreography might be one of their easier ones, but it's still manages to include some memorable moves, especially the one where they all step to the side in the chorus.

Last but not least we have Epik High, whose new album dropped on the 21st and has been hugely praised by fans and critics everywhere. I actually don't know too much about Epik High except the fact that they're well-recognized as one of the leading forces in the Korean hip-hop scene and that they're currently signed to YG, and as someone that's not a huge fan of hip-hop in general it hasn't appealed to me to check them out more. That might change now though,

I saw the video for "Born Hater" not too long ago but I've been replaying it ever since. Not only is the song brilliant and the beat is sick, but the lyrics are some of the best I've seen in a long time. It is a collaboration between Epik High and some other hip-hop artists such as Beenzino (seriously, how hot is he?) and Verbal Jint, but also idols like Winner's Minho and BI and Bobby from the upcoming iKon. All of them are so good at what they're doing they make most idol rappers look like garbage. The way the video is shot as well is instantly appealing, featuring each rapper in their own room representing one of the seven deadly sins, except from BI whose job is to clean up the mess left behind.

Honestly, this might be one my favorite videos ever, and I can guarantee you it will be on my "Top 5 Videos of 2014" list. I don't think I've been this impressed with a video since I don't know when, and it's easy to see why Epik High are so respected and admired by so many. They're clearly on a completely separate level, and I hope that YG himself knows what a catch he made when he recruited them.

So, that concludes this quick recap of some of the music that came out in October. In other news, I hope you all had a great Halloween, because I know I sure did. My costume this year was one of a mermaid, and I think I can say it's been my most worked-on costume yet. Now November awaits us, and I can feel the darkness slowly starting to devour the daylight. But hey, Christmas is not too far away, right?

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