BoA - Who Are You (MV Review)
BoA's English is beautiful and it meshes fabulously with her Korean voice, many people speak the two languages with very different vocal qualities and it's often a struggle to get them to slide smoothely together. I'm not a huge fan of the washed-out colors but still, it's an artsy spring release by a sweetheart Kpop queen filmed on sunny days out of doors, so I don't have much choice in the matter. The track is light and sweet with BoA's smooth vocals on full display and a kickin' cool energy that effectively highlights the summer-time playfulness. The over all MV is adorable and sweet, and the track is doubly so. There's nothing ground-breaking in it, but I can't help but to feel the butterflies of shy delight portrayed. I honestly have nothing negative or critical to say, though it's certainly not something I have endless words of praise for. Over all, it's cute, catchy, and beautifully care-free.
Big Bang - Loser (MV Review)
Well... It's no Fantastic Baby...
Big Bang is my ultimate Bias Group. They're also the basically undisputed Kings of Kpop. That said... I've had a long-time struggle with the fact that I only really love about half of their music, and maybe a third of their MVs. 'Loser' is a pretty great track. GD's skill with creating a punchy energy that vibes neatly with a low-key slide of understatement is top-notch and it's displayed here fabulously. The track moves well and evolves over the course of the piece, with elements jumping both in and out. The spatialization is spot-on, swirling beautifully around the listener in a perfectly thematic mess that mirrors the distress and chaos inside the characters' heads. I really like the track, though I'm not putting it in any party playlists. It accomplishes it's goal of inspiring true angst that connects with the deepest fears of all its listeners.
The MV on the other hand is... not bad. It's not even half as awesome as Fantastic Baby, but in all honestly that's an impossibly high bar to set. And since I'm whining about how awesome the Fantastic Baby era was, I should admit that I wasn't thrilled about Blue or Bad Boy, either, and I was downright disappointed with Monster... So basically the less-than-impressed reaction I've had after two years of waiting is mostly due to unrealistic expectations. Loser's storylines are fairly well developed and they're actually quite interesting. They've been interpreted by a ton of people already (I'm sooo late with this review, blame the fact that I just had a graduation ceremony for the completion of the entirety of my school years), and one of the best explanations is HERE. The MV's Styling is gorgeous, and Big Bang's typical "suave but like waaaaay out there" sort of quirkiness. And, as a few MVs have been doing as of late, the washed-out look of the de-saturated images actually suits the aesthetic very well and, even though the look is not my favorite, I have to admit that it does very well here.
Over all... I don't really like it. I love the track, but I am less than happy with the release over all, especially since I was SO looking forward to Bae Bae which... well read that review HERE.
Big Bang - Bae Bae (MV Review)
WelL... I can't Believe I'm Saying This About BB, but... Blech.
Considering the fact that Big Bang is literally the most important musical group in the world to me... I don't find myself blindly adoring their musical releases. And Bae Bae... is NOT one for the acclaimed annals of history. I was SO hyped for it. Bae Bae looked like it had the potential to be incredible. And with Papa YG himself stating that the 19+ rating was meant to open up story-telling possibilities.... I was hoping that it would be able to take fans on a ride that makes every other dramatic Kpop release in the past few years look like comic-flip-books in comparison.... And what I got was a drugged-up Sex-fiend fantasy with no real impact and no over-arching political statement or dramatized viewpoint declaration. Not only is this a rather pathetic attempt to tell a story, I feel personally betrayed because the press releases had specifically stated that “It wasn’t a 19+ video just because we wanted to be sensationalist or sexual." Which is a blatant lie, because sensationalist & sexual are the only two words that accurately encapsulate the MV at all. There's a bit of a futuristic cant to it, I'll admit, but only in the fact that there's hookers on the moon (a moon set that looks exceptionally fake and rather awkward to be perfectly honest). The MV is honestly a bit disgustingly sexual with references so obtusely blatant that the subtle references get ignored in the face of your brain shutting itself down. Even Koreaboo made a list of sexual references and it barely covers the half of them! Honestly, it seems like the MV was vulgar for vulgarity's sake and it gives nothing to a broader theme or storyline. Honestly, TOP's face-shot is repulsive, and all the spray references and the literal skirt-chasing just make me feel uncomfortable... It's the single-most disappointing music video that Big Bang has released since I first became a Kpop fan.
The styling is mostly awkward, though the members are all so fantastically attractive that it hardly matters and their charisma shines through even the most ridiculous of outfits. The track is okay. It's awkwardly imbalanced and dramatically un-catchy, which is something I never thought I would ever say about a Big Bang track. It's spatialized well, and there is a uniquely entrancing vibe that permeates the mix of smooth acoustic and jarringly above-the-mix rap aspects... but over all it's only okay. The two main genres are mixed together quite impressively, but they don't mesh well and they feel quite incompatible as a whole. It's quirky and unique and certainly a song to reference in terms of ambitious musical experiments, but not one to be included in the 'Successful Experiments' category. Over all, I dislike the song, but I will admit that it has aspects that are impressive. The MV on the other hand is deplorable. The ONLY thing it had going for it is that it's not actively assaulting the idea of female sexuality or being too obscenely antagonistic to women as human beings. To say that the only thing going for you is that you DON'T proliferate Rape Culture is not really the kind of complement you want when your previous releases have been game-changingly incredible and deeply profound declarations of political and social platforms. Fantastic Baby might not have been everyone's favorite track, and it might have begun to grate on the ears in the two years of waiting we've had since it's release, but hell. I'd have waited longer for something even half as awesome.
Loser was okay. But with Bae Bae being what it is... I can only hope that the other singles that Big Bang is planning on releasing this summer for MADE have some dribbles of the majesty and creativity that should have gone into the first pair on the release schedule... I just can't accept that THIS is what we get after 2 long years.
Bangtan Boys always makes great music and they always look absolutely killer in their MVs, but from Boy In Luv to Danger I've had a few... qualms about the light in which aggression is shown in relation to sexuality. This time though, I have no such issues and I'm delighted to say that this one is a slam dunk of awesome. Aesthetically speaking, the washed out, unsaturated look suits the mood of the MV and therefore I like it (even though you know it's the first thing I harp on in most cases). The story line is a bit chaotically depicted, but it does give a generalized narration of guys getting over their doomed love affairs and rekindling this platonic relationships as they struggle to come to terms with the end of their romantic ones. The burning flowers look like lilies to me, symbolic of a rather torturous purification of the soul, you know cleansing via fire in a very phoenix-like manner. Throughout the video there are shots with imagery specific to symbols of growing up and moving on that go beyond the burning flowers of lost innocence: throwing away the lollipop (I'm assuming Rap Monster's not littering), burning pictures, getting rid of pills, etc. Hell, even the shots where they stop to get gas is a maturity-image, since their only modes of transit before were bikes and school buses. Over all the video's good but not amazing; it's visually attractive, but not ground breaking. And Honestly... I'd have liked to see at least SOME of the choreo...
Lim Kim (Togeworl) - Love Game
Pretty and Punchy.
The under-rhythms are energetic and fantastically light, the minimalist backing track keeps the focus neatly on the strength of Lim Kim's fluid and powerful voice. Her half-singing rap-like vocals in the verses is gorgeous and it keys in on the vocal qualities that help her stand out from the crowd. The melody is thin, making it hard to call catchy, but there's certainly enough in it to keep you humming. With the lack of a notable vamp, the chorus falls a bit flat after the intensity of the verses. However while the vocals keep a pretty even line, the backing track changes enough to keep the interest going, and the track evolves over all through the different verses. It's quite well done.
In terms of the MV, my favorite part is the fact that the guys are from all sorts of different backgrounds; it's not just Korean dude that can be skanky assholes. And I love how innocently effortless it is for her to spurn their attentions and to punish them for being f***boys in the same move. She could be the most brilliant akido master ever, or she could be a defenseless little girl that gets real lucky real often... it plays beautifully into the concept of the love game. Lim Kim is the undefeated champion and no one will ever take away her title.
The styling is gorgeous, the choreography is playful and fun, and the colorful set aesthetics are lovely. The track is delightful and over-all I'm quite enamored. Such sass. I love it!
UNIQ - EOEO (MV Review)
Surprising, but Quite Satisfying.
This was quite a departure from the song that made me love these guys, but Falling in Love was a hard track to follow-up under any circumstances. EOEO is not at all what I was expecting, for many reasons... not the least of which is the fact that onomatopoeia siren-sound effects are normally considered cutesy-kid-stuff... which is NOT what UNIQ has given us here. The styling and the set aesthetic are gorgeous. The fashion is pretty standard for the genre, but that doesn't detract much of anything as there is more than enough going on to maintain visual interest. The use of lights and color, and the careful mix of camera shaking and glamour shots balance out very well. It's a bit too jarring for my tastes, but it's very well done and it suits the track very well.
Song-wise, I was certainly surprised, but once I got over myself and gave it a few listens I came to the conclusion that it's firmly over the line of being awesome. It moves well, the rap sections are punchy and impressive and balanced out by the smooth sax. The smooth vocal lines of the vamp and the chorus bring it all together and the siren-sound of EOEO ties in thematically, it makes the track having a unique vibe (the idea of these guys making siren sounds makes me want to giggle, but the tone of the vocal line, especially combined with the aggressive visual keeps me stunned into being quiet). The choreography is sexy as hell, aggressive and punchy and fabulously intense. What I like best about the Choreo is that it evolves: it gets progressively more and more sexual as the song rolls, with the first body rolls being focused on the chests and shoulder, the next ones on the hips and abs, and by the end it's entirely focused on the pelvic region, with some flashes of bare skin. Such sexiness isn't usually my cup of tea, but I'm not at all against it and I think it's done terribly well here. The moves have a lot of potential to be over-done sexually, but they're not here. The sexy imagery is well balanced through all the quick flashes of other images.
Over all, we've got great visuals, a track with a ton of interest, movement, and fabulous spatialization, and some hella hot choreo that deserves a dance practice vid. It already has an epic dance version and a fabulous Chinese version that are both incredible. There's also an adorable making vid. All in all I love it.
Hotshot - Watch Out (MV Review)
Slick & Stylish!
I've always said that Hotshot was a group to watch out for and now they're saying it themselves. With their fantastic pre-release single, Midnight Sun, being such a departure from the style of their debut (and a delightful show of impressive stylistic flexibility), I wasn't sure what sort of song we were going to be graced with for their comeback. Watch Out is a throw back into the rap ring, but it's a style that sits neatly between the folds of their other promotional tracks. It has more smooth vocals than Take a Shot and more nitty-gritty rap segments than Midnight Sun, blending together into a fluid, dynamic track that moves well and evolves over the course of the song. With a minimalist instrumental, thoroughly imbued with energy, the vocals have the attention they deserve and the smooth vocal swoops mesh neatly with the raps and the track flips flawlessly between sections.
The MV is slick, utilizing clever camera tricks and intriguing editing techniques to make the relatively inexpensive shoot feel anything but cheap. The styling is gorgeous, though fairly standard for the genre. The choreography, or at least what's shown of it in the MV, is also fairly mainstream, but it's intense and interesting and it suits the song perfectly. The set aesthetics are gorgeous and suit the song just as brilliantly as the choreo does.
I'm fabulously impressed with this release.
There's a ton of 'Bad Boy' type media flooding the forum, as has been the trend for the past few years, but we rarely get a mention of the more mainstream consequences and circumstances of actually being a bad boy, and not only do we get that comment, it's delivered with a two-fold double-meaning: not only are the boys of Bastarz getting a Zero for Conduct in terms of a typical school or work setting, they're declaring that they're so expert at being bad that THEY have become the ones giving out marks for conduct. Additionally, the comment of Zero for Conduct takes the idea of being bad and spins it to being the colloquial bad, as in awesome on stage, a thing which is easy for observers to admit is something that this trio is particularly awesome at. So you've got being Bad as 3 separate ideas in this: there's the general bad an aesthetic in the real world, being bad as a colloquial slang term for bad-ass and awesome as referenced in the Lyrics, and being bad as in a literal criminal as depicted by the visuals in the MV. And even the unit's name, Bastarz, portmanteau blend of 'bastards' and 'stars'... absolutely perfect.
The three chosen for the group are perfect, B-Bombs smooth vocals sit beautifully in a rough and rowdy instrumental backdrop particularly when paired up with PO's gravelly raps. U-Kwon's voices sits perfectly in between the two and the uniquely bright and slim quality makes it perfect for the vamps. I was surprised / briefly confused / delighted to hear Zico's voice, but with his role taking point on production, and the energetic warmth curled up under his voice blends so well with the official trio's vocals that I can't say I'm really surprised after thinking about it. Hearing him was starling at first, but it does make a lot of sense for his vocals to be there. The stage version sounds awesome without him, but on the recording, having Zico's rougher high-line sit in the recording's sweet spot where they blend into the instrumental is too good to pass up for how it throws PO's vocals into sharp relief. Zico's production job is spot on, fully displaying the epic talents he has to call on (which is why I was so disappointed in most of the solo-work he's released this year, it just was NOT up to par). The track is fantastically well spatialized, leading to an energetic bounce of elements rather more like the crowd in a club than the over-crowding of a busy subway station; each element has it's own space to breath, both in terms of the frequency isolation in the mix and in terms of where the elements sit in the 3-dimensional space of the headphones. All the transitions are smooth and slick which gives the rough overtones that much more drama.
Visually, the MV is a treat. The styling is gorgeous and the set aesthetics are fantastic, blending a dark, dank underworld with the neon bright intrigue of the club scene. Each member is given a unique character to play in a beautifully stylized depiction of a drug running ring, with lots of visual throws to the Chinese Triads / Yakuza (or at least the iconic tropes of their pop cultural portrayals). B-Bomb is the Client, the bad-boy rockstar that puts the sexy and druggy bits into the classic trope of sex, drugs, rock & roll. PO is the Distributor, the one of the gang's throne calling all the shots with a hand in both the marketplace and the manufacturing process, while staying distanced from and neatly between both parties. He has the most variety in costume because as the ganglord, he has a lot of hats to wear, being able to blend in with normal society, the druggies, and the drug-makers, and such. And then U-Kwon is the Manufacturer. Overtly, he runs an industrial meat-packing plant, the kind with massive freezers that lead to an abundance of antifreeze and the sort of chemical-waste oversight that excuses massive amounts of toxic waste that no one looks too carefully at... both things necessary for the production of crystal meth. The girls in his employ work the meat-packing factory as a front, keeping things above board in one business while they systematically produce drugs and launder drug-money under the ruse of pricey, artisanal-butcher-cut, slabs of meat. The 'snow' scenes could be depictions of cocaine (and the attire of the employees suits the stylized pop-cultural depiction of a meth-lab fairly well), but the main reason to base a drug lab in a freezer-heavy industry is access to anti-freeze, which is not necessary to cocaine production so my money's on meth (the shot of burning crystalline bits around :53, could be crack cocaine, but it still seems more like meth to me). Over all the MV provides as beautifully stylized and sterilized depiction of the drug-world, glamorized just enough to make it alluring without making the illegality of it too obvious or too easy/appealing-to-imitate. It strikes just the right balance, with a flair of obvious fictionalization, to be awesome.
JYP - Who's Your Mama? (MV Review)
I was going to go with a pithy tagline about how it's catchy but coarse, but I've decided better because this is just plain gross. This is rape culture and to say anything otherwise is just something I'm not up to any more. He asks the woman her measurements for heaven's sake, and she is a hell of a lot younger than he is. It's hella creepy that he does even half of what he does in this video. It's not that the objectification of the female form is wrong, that's fine. A nice ass is a nice ass and that's all fine and dandy. What's wrong here isn't the sexiness or the objectification at face value. What's wrong here is that JYP is being a frickin creep in this. As the head of a theoretically well-respected company he should be handling himself better than this. I get that he wants to be a comedian and shit, but if I saw a dude being like this to anyone I'd call the cops on his ass because he's being disgusting. Sex and physical objectification are totally cool, Kpop is a hella hot genre and I doubt anyone actually has delusions about that anymore. But this is different. This isn't a girl showing off her ass because she likes the attention, this is a creepy ass old dude staring at (and blatently harrassing verbally) young women who're too polite to tell to fuck off. And because he's JYP it's 'funny' instead of gross. This sort of shit shouldn't be excused because he's a known comedian goofball, this kind of joking around about asking a girl's measurements is exactly the kind of thing that leads to joking around about other things. And the idea of casually being allowed to ask a girl's measurements is a joke here, but its one that some idiots take seriously. As a girl whose been harassed like this, and as a girl with friends that have been harassed like this... it's not funny, it's not a joke, and it's not what the head of JYP Ent should be promoting at all, let alone personally. I have lost a significant amount of the little respect I had.
The last time I was this outraged it was for Bangtan Boys' Boy In Luv, and that one had redeeming qualities and had been a promotional decision that was out of their hands. If anyone expects me to give the frickin founder, CEO, and whatnot of JYP Ent to have had any decisions about this made in a way that was beyond his control, they have another thing coming. No one has any delusions that Kpop is clean and wholesome at this point, but it should at least attempt to avoid promoting something this disgusting. I might be disparaging, but it's what this deserves.
All that said, the song is really quite catchy and the song itself isn't really that bad. The lyrics discuss a singular attraction and deliver in an anecdotal style that doesn't really do too much damage in the way of supporting idiocy. It's a hella catchy track and the choreo looks like tons of fun (assuming the creeper old-guy bit goes away). I do enjoy listening to the song and watching choreo covers, but seriously, this video is not only disappointing, it's vulgar and offensive and I'm not going to excuse or forgive JYP for this, ever. No matter how catchy the track.
The Ark - The Light (MV Review)
Oh the FEELS!
*Cries Hysterically* I was NOT prepared for that. Which is presumably why they did it. I was thinking 'oh, spring, another rookie girl group to watch, no biggie' and what I got was one of the most heart wrenching stories I've ever seen depicted in such a beautifully poignant way that the only option I was presented with was to bawl my eyes out for a solid minute and a half after the mv ended. What I liked best about this video is that we never see any parts related to the actual tone-defining instant. All we see is a vague, blurry newsreel, and that from far away, and we see the mom's hand fall and everything changes. Except the isolated tone of the track. The focus on the happy parts, the focus on the live lived rather than the loss is a beautiful depiction of grief that is rarely seen in dramatic contexts. I think it's wonderfully to see here.
The track is lovely, catchy and sweet. The vocals are strong and their presence sits nicely among the instrumental elements. The harmonic utilization of the members is top-notch, rather than the forced harmonies of a lot of spring-releases and the plurality of voices complements the isolated feel on the vocals in the raps. The harmonic vocal lines also fill in the instrumental nicely. The backing lines are pretty sparse in this track, and repetitive, but that allows for the vocal fills to have room to expand and shift without feeling squeezed.
My only concern is that it's not a very good debut video. None of the girls make any appearances at all, there's NO way to even know how many members there are from the video alone. It's also not a terribly catchy song and it's not the kind of video you send to your friends without a feels warning, or the kind people want to watch over and over and over again. It's beautiful, powerful even, but it's not catchy. It's not the kind of career kickstart that makes a real dent. And with the Light being the only track on the release, there aren't any other tracks to handle the catchy, viral aspect while the title track sticks to the gut-wrenching dramatics of grief. Which is tragic because these girls have the potential to be awesome. The group has been pulling a lot of extra promotions with dance covers and #hashtag epicness for 1theK, but it's not enough to make them a household name. The most eyecatching part of their get-up is the fact that they made serious covers of the guys' songs, rather than sexy "female-interpretations" they threw the actual choreo straight. Their debut track shows off nothing of that impressive and carefully crafted image. So while this is a FANTASTIC release, it's not actually a good debut. If it were a follow-up or a later release for an established group, I'd be giving this at least a 9 without any hint of hesitation. As is...
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