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

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