Nine Muses – “Drama” Review

Nine Muses – Drama (Dance Practice)

Nine Muses – Drama

Reviewed on January 29, 2015

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Personal Message: I am quite excited for this review. Personally, with Nine Muses being one of my favorite groups, I have been anticipating their comeback for a long time. Now, before I begin “Drama” (hopefully no pun intended), I will say this should not have been the main song; “Jururuk” (this is its Korean title; I am unsure on the English translation, and from checking a few days ago, the English title is not yet out) is a significantly stronger song than “Drama,” and considering that it still follows a usual K-Pop style, it would have been preferable to the current title song. To address the link, it is their standard dance practice video. Thankfully, it provides the clearest form of “Drama” in both categories of the song and dance. On the subject of their dance practice videos, watching their video for “Drama” reminds me of how horrendous my fashion, or lack thereof, is all their previous ones, and hopefully even with a changing roster, these videos will continue to be made.

Sliding over to the topic of Nine Muses’ roster, two new members have been added: Sojin, seen earlier from the sub-unit group of Nasty Nasty, and Keumjo, a newly introduced member. Despite being a new member, Keumjo has already begun proving her vocal capabilities. Perhaps her skill comes from proper training and practice, and while Star Empire may be questionable with how they treat their idols, for what holds true, their training seems to be effective as many idols under the company are exceptionally solid singers (or perhaps Star Empire simply finds already talented people). For Sojin, the sub-unit showcased her vocals, and while they are not necessarily the strongest, they still remain solid. I hoped for her to possess a decent portion of lines in “Drama,” but that is not quite the case. Nevertheless, for lines she did have, they are splendid. Ignoring the musical side to the ladies, fans will hopefully uncover their personalities soon enough. Sojin has already had some exposure during Nasty Nasty’s “Knock” promotions, but Keumjo still resides in the shadows. Thankfully, though, Nine Muses’ reality show of “Nine Muses Cast” (refer to my review on it for more information) is now including the new members (from glancing at some recent episodes; I will need to catch up from episode 4), and additionally, should the reality show continue, fans should feel utterly familiar with them soon enough.

Shifting over to their recent comeback itself, “Drama” does mark a new era for Nine Muses. Biasedly, I am disappointed that Nine Muses did not keep their “Dolls” to “Glue” trend, but acknowledging that the group has vastly changed, swapping to a new style is understandable. Nevertheless, what I heavily adored in Nine Muses’ previous releases (ignoring the songs earlier than “Dolls”) were their style of remaining vocally oriented and utilizing “classier” instruments while retaining the standard pop style. For example, “Gun” remained catchy and upbeat as a typical K-Pop/pop song, but the addition of soothing, melodic, and powerful vocals and an instrumental that was based upon acoustic guitars and such amplified how delightful it was. Those factors are my personal preferences, and unfortunately, “Drama” loses that style. Of course, however, songs are reviewed (unlike in the past) without biased influences (in fact, “Piano Man” by MAMAMOO, an older review, would have suffered if I were biased). In light of “Drama,” it follows a mellower style; the vocals focus moreover on melody than energy and power, and, although the instrumental adds a catchy aspect, overall, it follows suit with remaining equally calm.

With enough background context, let us begin the review. “Drama” sadly holds on the weaker side if it were to be systematically broken down (as the review will do), but on the positive side, Nine Muses has the potential to reignite their previous growing popularity. Sojin and Keumjo are definitely holding their weight, and with the rest of the members being experienced, Nine Muses’ future comebacks should be highly anticipated even if their recent one is weaker.   

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Song Total Score: 6/10 (6.2/10 raw score) – Average score of the sub-categories

– Vocals: 6/10 – Unlike older songs, the vocals in “Drama” are vastly weaker. The strength mainly resides in that the members are putting forth exceptionally melodic lines; every line comes off as light and delightful, and the post-choruses are prime examples of such: “Only you, dudurudu” becomes lingering and varying with notes. In terms of what cripples their vocals, it is exceptionally stagnant. While pitches vary, the overall style and delivery remain completely unchanged. The verses, pre-choruses, and other sections sound exceptionally identical to one another, and thus, the vocals lose their charm as the song progresses. At most, when the choruses arrive there is a slight increase in energy, but for every other section, the same style of singing occurs. If there was more diversity with the sections in terms of the vocals, be it more energy, a change of pacing, a different flow or melody, the vocals would easily hit an 8 or potentially higher. Sadly, with the lack of that crucial variety, the score will suffer.

Slightly above average vocals. The singing is highly melodic, but without any change of style in terms of the vocals, the singing depreciates, and overall, the song is impaired as well.

– Song Structure: 6/10 (5.57/10 raw score)

The song goes in this structure and order:

Introduction, Rap, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Post-Chorus, Verse+Rap, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Conclusion (Post-Chorus)

1. Introduction: 4/10 – Before beginning, there is an absurd section promptly after the first post-chorus. It is essentially a slower version of the verses along with having a rap line towards the end. For the sake of consistency and not inducing confusion, I will not grade that section since the regular verses and rap will already be analyzed. On track with the introduction section, it is the pure horn sounding instrumental, and congratulations to “Drama” for holding the shortest introduction I have yet to hear.

If my previous sentence carried a slight passive aggressive tone, that is correct. Firstly, to explain the negative aspects, the most prominent issue is the introduction is simply too short. There is no time for development. Without having the chance to construct itself, it lacks cohesion or, in this case, it comes off as simply unnecessary. Furthermore, for what is heard during the brief one-second span, it is an exceptionally obnoxious horn/trumpet sound (apologies for my ignorance on instruments). Mechanically the introduction falters; the horn sound provides no musical pleasure and its pure purpose is to provide both a filler and transition. For what does remain beneficial, as mentioned, it serves as a filler and transition. Firstly, with a more energetic and powerful rap occurring after, the introduction needed to bring the song’s intensity and atmosphere to that point. While the method to do so is questionable, it is unequivocal that the result desired was acquired; the following rapping section became rendered as natural due to the sudden horn sound. Also, although diving into the rap would have potentially worked and could have been more desirable, the introduction, regardless of its duration, still exists, and thus, an introduction is at the very least still filled in and existing.

Overall, however, the introduction holds as slightly below average. Its role of transitioning the song to the rap was solid, but individually it holds on the weaker side.   

2. Rap: 7/10 – Euaerin and Sungah handle the rap. Interestingly, Sungah seemingly now possesses a rapping role versus her previous one of being a support vocalist. Even in “Jururuk/Trickle,” the discovered English title (although the literal/direct translation would be similar to “Drip Drip”), she was rapping, and while she may be new to the role, she has been faring well.

In terms of the rapping section, as expected from having Euaerin, an exceptionally promising rapper, the section holds well. With the instrumental instantly arriving in whole, to properly mesh with the more energetic soundtrack, the rapping needed to emulate such. Both Euaerin and Sungah succeeded with that; their rapping came off with a perfect amount of power that replicated the instrumental. Furthermore, the flow holds equally well. Never did the rap hit a stagnant point. Line to line, all was fluent. In terms of the weaker components, while their rapping strength and energy suited the instrumental, the downfall appears in the melody: lines were moreover focused on remaining impactful versus tuneful. During certain moments, specifically with words such as “aninde” or even the line of “Yo this is drama,” extra presence became heavily invested. Although the additional power certainly aids with syncing to the instrumental, an overly amount of emphasis on power leaves the side effect of losing potential melody, and unfortunately, that result is seen in “Drama” ‘s rap.

Nevertheless, this section holds as above average. Synergy between both the rapping and instrumental was solid. Despite losing the potential to add a melodic aspect, in the large scheme, this rap section does suit as the rest of the song is primarily focused on being tuneful.

3. Verse: 6/10 – Kyungri and Hyuna handle the first verse. Keumjo and Hyemi are in charge of the second.

The lyrics, structurally, and the vocals allow the verses to hold well. Ignoring those factors, however, the verses do reside on the duller side. Firstly, addressing the vocals, each member sings in an exceptionally tuneful style. Now, overlapping the line structure with those vocals creates a desirable outcome; the softer, harmonious vocals follow simplistic lines, and towards the end of the lines, a pause with “hm” or “oh” further accentuate the section’s overall melody. Sadly, while the melody is catchy and soothing, there is little variation. The instrumental remains lackluster, and the notes, although individually varying between one another, in terms of being a set and system, are recycled twice. Coming off as dull is what prevents the verses from scoring higher. The melody in itself is delightful, but when accompanied by a dull instrumental and with reusing the same melody and line structure, the verses become stagnant.

Slightly above average will hold as the score.  

4. Pre-Chorus: 5/10 – Keumjo, Minha, and Hyemi are responsible for the first pre-chorus. Kyungri, Sojin, and Hyuna tackle the second one.

The pre-chorus takes an interesting form: in verse but inversed. In essence, the pre-choruses are the opposite of the verses; there is a diversity of melody, pacing, and even energy, but the melody itself comes off as dull. In terms of the diversity, every member grants a differing aspect. For example, the first singer, be it Keumjo or Kyungri, delivers energetic, rhythmic lines while the following member approaches with softer, slower paced singing. Even the following is different; Hyemi and Hyuna, separately and respectively based on the first and second pre-chorus, arrive with impactful and vastly more melodic vocals than the previous members’ singing. Although the variety is excellent and definitely desired, the melody drags down the pre-choruses. Specifically with the first two members of a pre-chorus, their style of singing was orientated towards flowing with the beat or remaining frail and soft, and while they are not utterly bereft of tune, in comparison to other sections, the melody degrades. Thankfully, however, the final member to conclude the pre-chorus does offer excellent melody and power. But unfortunately, due to the vast majority of the pre-choruses remaining dull in the perspective of melody, this section ultimately suffers.

Average will be the score. Losing melody to gain variety when the more efficient and yearned outcome would be the combination of the two impairs the score.      

5. Chorus: 5/10 – The duo for the first chorus consists of Kyungri and Keumjo, and likewise for the second chorus, the same duo returns, though the order is flipped.

As the current trending issue appears, the choruses in “Drama” follow with the issue of remaining stagnant. Especially with the label of “chorus,” some variation, in juxtaposition to the previous sections, should have been added. On where the dullness derives from, the line structure may be to blame. Attempts to create variety during the lines ultimately failed; “oh” was used as pauses, and similar to a previous review on Apink’s “Luv” (though in “Luv” it was a phrase if I recall), due to how insignificant and minor the pause was, it becomes negligible. Furthermore, with Kyungri and Keumjo replicating each other’s line exactly (ignoring the lyrics), the already monotonous lines become additional uninteresting. In terms of what does remain solid, though the lines are hindered with lacking variety, the mechanical aspect of the vocals themselves were respectable. The vocals were quite tuneful, and in fact the choruses are solid should solely the vocals be peered at. Sadly, when combining the repetitive line structure and how unvaried the lines are, and in addition the instrumental with remaining practically unchanged minus a miniscule increase the beats’ speed, the choruses do fall on the weaker scale.

Average for a chorus. The singing was solid, but every other aspect falls exceptionally short.  

6. Post-Chorus: 6/10 – Though it is unclear on who hums the post-choruses, it does sound similar to Keumjo’s voice. There is a chance, however, that the group as a whole contributes, but with lacking a vocal layering aspect, I cannot confirm such. Nevertheless, for this review, we will run on the assumption that Keumjo delivers the post-choruses. Also, Euaerin does appear at the end to conclude it.

Once again, the same vexing, ubiquitous issue occurs: lack of variety. In compensation, however, the vocal component redeems a large portion of the post-choruses; the most promising aspect to the post-choruses is how melodic Keumjo’s singing is. Her lines of “Only you dudurududu” become catchy and lingering. Adding on, her lighter pitch augments the section; utilizing a higher note allows for natural note stretching, and in addition, the instrumental becomes properly mixed with the singing. Disregarding the strong vocal delivery, however, the section as a whole falls into the current grave “Drama” has created. ““Only you dudurududu” may sound appealing, but after repeating for a cycle of 5 lines, and that is discounting the plain “Only you” lines, and, of course, not summing the total for the song as a whole, it hastily drains of its charm. Unlike other songs that are able to exploit repeated lines, such as AOA’s “Like a Cat,” or to use Nine Muses’ superior release, “Trickle,” “Drama” lacks variety in its post-choruses. What “Like a Cat” manipulates well is an exceptionally catchy, paced-varying, and melodic post-chorus, and thus, it properly works. Even in “Trickle” a significant amount of depth is given; the pacing differs, the energy and power of vocals fluctuate, and it still retains a melodic flow. “Drama” fails in that solely the melody is solid. The same line can definitely be repeated, as seen in the two mentioned songs, but without any notable diversive features, a hook-styled post-chorus transforms from being catchy and hypnotizing to utterly tiresome, and unfortunately, “Drama” falls in the latter.

Nevertheless, on the sole basis of Keumjo’s pleasing melody and singing, the post-choruses will hold as slightly above average.

7. Conclusion (Post-Chorus): 6/10 – The conclusion recycles the post-chorus, and thus, Keumjo and Euaerin are responsible.

The conclusion suffers from the form it possesses, which is the post-chorus, but furthermore, with the post-choruses losing their charm as the song progresses, a weaker, plain final impression becomes the result due to the section playing once more at the very end. In terms of what is beneficial of this conclusion, it leaves the key melodic, looping tune, though whether that lingering melody is pleasing or agitating at the end point is debatable. Another positive perspective to the conclusion is Euaerin’s line; her line of “I wil never ever give up, only you” offers a calming, restful moment for the song, and with the conclusion, that role precisely aids in fully closing the song.   

Slightly above average will be the rating. The somewhat dreaded post-chorus returns, but factoring in how Euaerin’s final line concludes “Drama” properly with no abrupt cuts, and that remnants of the song, in the form of the post-chorus melody, linger around, this conclusion is not too awful.

– Line Distribution: 6/10 – Although Nine Muses’ name inaccurately depicts the current number of members, the group still hits a higher group size of 8. With that, distribution of lines will be difficult, but considering the group’s previous songs, it is definitely plausible to have an equal share.

Hyuna’s lines involved the first verse, the verse+rap hybrid section, and the second pre-chorus. A decent spread is seen by her, though biasedly due to loving her singing it might appear to be on the lacking side. Keeping in mind there are 8 members, however, this should be a perfect amount of lines.

Euaerin, being the main rapper and certainly a solid one, has her rap section near the start and appears with one line towards the end of the post-choruses. No issues exist. A rap section was given, and additional lines were also granted.

“Good words” Sungah (referencing episode 7 of “Nine Muses Cast”; Hyemi told her to write “good words” for her poster, and behold, she did exactly her member’s request) had the rap section with Euaerin and some time at the verse+rap section. Considering the rap section was lengthier, sufficient time, for the most part, was given. Perhaps some additional lines beyond the verse+rap section would have been desirable, but overall there are no issues.

Kyungri’s moments involved the first verse, both choruses, and the second pre-chorus. Though having both choruses may seem excessive, it is nothing burdening to the other members. As of now, no issues are present. The rest of Nine Muses should still have enough lines.

In Hyemi’s case, she had time at the first pre-chorus, the verse+rap section, and the second verse. So far, three sections appear to be this song’s distribution as Hyemi further supports that trend. A perfect amount of lines were given to Hyemi.

Minha’s spotlight includes the first pre-chorus and the mixed verse+rap section. Unfortunately, she does lean towards the lacking side. The pre-chorus line she possessed along with the one at the verse+rap were rather short, and thus, little time was granted. Overall, Minha does lack sufficient time. One additional line would potentially amend this issue.

One of Nine Muses’ newest member, Sojin, possesses lines at the verse+rap and the second pre-chorus. Similar to Minha, with solely two lines, in comparison to the rest of the members, she is slightly bereft of lines. Although my memory of “Knock” during her sub-unit era is vague, I do recall her vocals being decent. More time would have been desired for her.

Finally, the second newest member, Keumjo, is truthfully leaving a solid presence. Despite being a new member, she is already in charge of a copious amount of sections: the first pre-chorus, both choruses, the second verse, and, whether accurate or not based on my labeling, all of the post-choruses. If my assumption holds true, then Keumjo is slightly dominating “Drama.”

Overall, the line distribution is equal for every member except Minha, Sojin, and Keumjo; Minha and Sojin are lacking lines while Keumjo possesses excessive lines. If Keumjo’s parts were split up, the balance of lines would, overall, be rather solid.

Unluckily, with some noteworthy disparity occurring, the score will hold at only slightly above average.   

– Instrumental: 5/10 – If the pattern of this review has not yet been established, it will be reiterated once more: lack of variety. Claiming “Drama” is dull is getting dull. On topic with the instrumental, as stated, it remains on the plainer side. The flow of the instrumental remains unchanged throughout the song. While that may be its style, with every section’s soundtrack sounding rather identical minus the exceptions of a quickening pace at the chorus or slowing down at the verse+rap section, it amplifies its boring aspect. Furthermore, since the song’s sections were already dormant in that little variety existed, the instrumental emulating such only further worsens the situation. Diving into the instrumental itself, nothing holds as appealing. The beats prove to be catchy, but there were no prominent instrument/sound that proved to be a highlight.

Overall, an average instrumental. Mechanically it falters in that no unique aspects are present, and even with its flow from different sections, the soundtrack proves to be rather stale.

– Meaning: 8/10 – To redeem the rest of the song, the lyrics will hopefully disclose an interesting story. With a song title of “Drama,” one may expect a love story; perhaps a couple split ways after “drama” occurred, for example. Through these Korean-to-English translated lyrics, though they are not 100% accurate, we will find out the dramatic story:

I pretend to be innocent, pretend not to know
But did I touch Eve’s apple without even knowing?
Did my lips touch it? This isn’t right, this can’t be
But I’m still falling for you, yo this is drama
We’ve become awkward, a triangle of evil
We’ve become dangerous, a lawless jungle
The risky tightroping is about to begin
Stop over, I need to prepare my heart

You and me, on top of the stage, just us two
Sad music plays behind us, hm
The stars in the dark night sky shines like lights
Under those lights, we crossed paths, oh

I liked you from the start
But my best friend said she’s in love with you
Says it’s going well
between you two
It’s like a story from a drama
What do I do now?

This cruel drama (oh), this drama that has already started
My love story with an unpredictible ending
This risky feeling (oh), my heart wants you
I can’t stop it every day

Only you dudurudu only you dudurududu
Only you dudurudu hoo hoo hoo~
Only you dudurudu only you dudurududu only you
I will never ever give up, only you

No way (no), we’re tangled up (no)
Wandering inside my dream
The boy standing at the end of the maze
The boy, past the field of thorns
Stay there, don’t run away
I’ll be right there, never mind

She says you two fought, that your personalities clash
My friend told me she’s gonna end things, hm
My bad heart said it can’t be, but wants it to happen
I said, it can’t be, but at the same time, oh

I check on you
several times a day
I can’t do anything
so I just look at you
My thoughts are so complicated, I have no one to talk to
What do I do now?

This cruel drama (oh), this drama that has already started
My love story with an unpredictible ending
This risky feeling (oh), my heart wants you
I can’t stop it every day

Only you dudurudu only you dudurududu
Only you dudurudu hoo hoo hoo~
Only you dudurudu only you dudurududu only you
I will never ever give up, only you

Thankfully, while the sonic component of “Drama” may be lifeless, at least the lyrics prove to be enticing. “Drama” tells a story that is, like its title, similar to a drama (many K-Dramas I have heard about often time utilize this scenario); there is a “a triangle of evil” between three people: the main character, the main character’s best friend, and the boy that she likes. The story unfolds with the lover liking the boy “from the start,” but with her best friend claiming she is “in love with [the boy],” her life starts emulating a drama show. Time passes, and while the lover is in anguish over her lost love-interest (she yearns for them to be happy, but simultaneously, hopes for them to split so she may be with her love-interest), she “never ever gives up” on the boy, and finally, that mindset comes into play; her best friend decides to “end things” with the boy, and thus, allows the lover to have a chance.

Due to completely unique and unexpected lyrics, the score will be on the higher side. Furthermore, with various details that draw a clearer scenario, the lyrics become even more solid. That said, solid will be the score. The plot is original and interesting, and the supporting details are equally pleasant.

Transitioning over to the “Critical Corner” (at this point, I may include it as a sub-category to the Meaning section), on the initial layer, nothing holds as questionable or worthy of heavy critique. Besides the obvious idea of how, despite the depicted main character being a lady, the main character position is neutral in gender, I am unable to find any aspects worthy of deconstructing. Perhaps a small discussion on this “Drama” scenario could be started. Should this scenario take place, though I hope readers will not be subjected to “Drama” ‘s lyrics, it would seem to be an emotional mess; a love-interest cannot be a love-interest as a best friend, someone that deserves support and love, is already in the relationship, but homogeneously, there is a “bad heart” that appears at times that yearns for them to split. My stance on this situation, overall, is, if the best friend and love-interest found their affection for one another, unlike the main character in “Drama,” instead of “never ever [giving] up,” facing facts and moving on is exponentially important. Prioritizing everyone’s happiness, both friend and love-interest and self, should be the main focus. In this scenario, moving on will yield the most joy as it allows the couple to remain satisfied and, after accepting their outcome together, self-happiness will be found once again. But, of course, this realistic and genuine love for every party involved is no fun; after all, it strips away the “Drama” involved, and thus, many K-Dramas would evaporate. Jokes aside, however, moving on and overcoming issues are prime skills in life, be it forgetting a love-interest or a more significant problem.

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Choreography Score: 6/10 – To already address whether or not the choreography is dry and dull, it is not, thankfully. Or at least, in terms of the positions and formations. On that subject, the positions and such prove to be outstanding. A variety of different formations were seen, and the only occuring repeats were the pre-choruses, choruses, and post-choruses, but in this case, that remains completely viable and acceptable. Now, for what impairs the choreography, the key points were not too strong. The dance sets could have been more charming, as seen during the post-choruses. Drawing an example, the post-choruses’ key point involved moving hips to the beat, and while the syncing was excellent, the maneuver lacked complexity and remained too simple. In terms of syncing, overall, it holds well. Movements involving beats were properly conducted and accurate, but for the dancing that attempted to sync to the song’s flow, there were multiple cases of losing the connection between song and choreography.

In summary, the formations prove to be “Drama” ‘s strongest asset. Aspects that could be improved include more captivating key points and, for what harms the score, more accurate, pinpointing maneuvers that properly sync to the song, in both categories of beat and flow. Slightly above average will be the score.

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Overall Score: 6/10 (6/10 raw score) – In the end, Nine Muses’ latest comeback of “Drama” concludes with a 6/10, which, in rating terms, represents “slightly above average.” In honesty, I would personally rank the comeback as “average.” Nevertheless, considering this is Nine Muses, a group consisting of incredible, hard working, talented, and exceptionally intelligent and humorous ladies, scoring a lower-ended number is absurd. I remain adamant that “Glue” is by far their strongest song, and while I believe they will eventually reach that standard or potentially even topple it, this comeback hardly scratches their previous song releases. However, as mentioned earlier, “Trickle” is a song that does manage to hold up to Nine Muses’ usual rating. “Trickle” is an incredible song that features the “Nine” in Nine Muses; if I were to review it (I will not), I foresee places where a 9 would be the score, such as the Vocals section and a song section (specifically, the post-chorus). Anyhow, “Drama” is a weaker comeback, but for the sake of the group, I still support their return to the K-Pop industry. Sojin and Keumjo are looking to be excellent members in both departments of dance and singing and personality. In fact, I recommend people watching their reality show of “Nine Muses Cast” to get insight on the new members and the group’s affection for one another (and their obnoxious, mischievous yet jocular side).

As I always say, thank you very much for reading. I planned to release this review sooner, but due to becoming rather ill and studying for finals (which are done on the positive side), I have not prioritized reviews. I am currently running a bad cold it seems. My throat has been exceptionally painful (to the point where I cannot talk, or at least, the maximum volume of speaking is heavily limited) and there are the standard symptoms of a stuffy nose, coughing, and such. Missing important academic days irritate me (as well as the inability to talk), but not much can be done besides hopefully resting and recovering quickly. Anyhow, thank you very much for reading and for waiting on this review. I will do my best to bring in one more review before this month ends in order to reach my personal goal. Also, if the analysis and writing are lackluster in this review, forgive me. I will blame being ill and that, of course, I am still improving and learning.

Upcoming reviews will include Dal Shabet’s “B.B.B,” but considering I am on a rush to publish one additional review, I may review a recent ballad I stumbled upon. Whichever one offers the easiest or quickest review will be done first. After that, for the month of February, a new milestone may be created, and to bring some more diversity of artists, I have many male groups in mind and other groups that have yet to be reviewed. A January blog reflection will dive into more depth on such.   

Once again, thank you very much for reading. Stay tuned for a review that should hopefully be finished before January ends. Although that seems intimidating with what little time remains, “I will never ever give up” since “only you” deserve it. Keep checking back.

AOA’s Mini-Album – “Like a Cat” Review

Reviewed on January 24, 2015

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As stated in my previous review of Apink’s “Luv,” a special review was in mind. Behold, the special review is an album review, and specifically, AOA’s mini-album of “Like a Cat.” Firstly, before this review begins, I would like to say thank you to readers for a huge support on my review of “Luv.” If I am correct, it is currently my most popular review. Although that may be moreover due to Apink’s growing popularity than the review itself, I still remain very grateful, so thank you. On topic with this current review, this is both a bonus and experiment; compensating for a slower rate is one objective with this review, and secondly, attempting to review an album as a whole has always been on my mind. That said, if the quality of this review is poorer, I will blame the lack of experience with reviewing this type of medium. Nevertheless, for an exciting, upcoming song review, Nine Muses’ comeback of “Drama” will be analyzed and critiqued (as of the time of writing this sentence, it has not yet come out), but I predict the review coming out 3 or 4 days after. It may be longer, however, considering my custom of stalling multiple days after a song is heard in order to prevent “initial bias” and in order to thoroughly unpack it.

Now to truly be on topic, about a week ago I decided to listen to AOA’s recent mini-album. Typically, from personal experience, I seldom find albums worth entirely listening to. Generally, energy and time are heavily allocated towards the title/main song, and thus, the remaining songs hold as weaker, but this album erases that trend. Every song in this album holds as decent, and with one song, it remains arguably better than the title song. For how this review will be structured, I will quickly go through every song and give a quick opinion regarding each one, and at the end, give my overall consensus on the album as a whole. Anyhow, while AOA’s “Like a Cat” has proven to be an exceptionally successful comeback that has garnered them music show wins and rising popularity, the downfall of such is the rest of their album songs becoming overshadowed by “Like a Cat.” However, before “Time” runs out and “Tears Falling” ruin both a boy’s and “Girl’s Heart,” with “Just the Two of Us,” let us peer at AOA’s mini-album of “Like a Cat.” And if you claim my “AOA Intro” could not have been worse, I will, and have, proven that wrong, for I will also include it.

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Assuming readers have made it this far without losing faith in my puns cringing, let us begin. I will review this album in a random order versus the chronological order that is present in the album list. I will also include an audio link (although for future readers, the link may or may not work depending on copyright issues that may occur later). Furthermore, I will not be leaving numerical values as those are reserved for full song reviews.

1. “AOA Intro” – AOA Intro (Audio)

In perspective of the song itself and not the pun at the start, the album’s introduction cannot be gauged as a full song; it is solely for introducing the album. Therefore, comments will be minimal, but at the very least, it is a soothing song that showcases the “Acoustic Cover” team’s vocals. For people familiar with AOA, Yuna, Choa, and Jimin appear for the group’s acoustic versions of songs, and while “AOA (Intro)” is not a full song nor an acoustic version of a song, it displays the equivalent vocals from the trio.

2. “Like a Cat” – Like a Cat (Review)

Instead of posting the audio link, I will link my review of “Like a Cat.” There, the song itself should be found as well as the general song review format. Due to already writing about their title song, I will not elaborate here. Nevertheless, for a quick remark, “Like a Cat” may not be the strongest song statistically, but even to this day, I still find myself listening to it. It holds the throne of my personal list of “catchiest songs,” and overall, it is a fun, energetic and upbeat song.

3. “Girl’s Heart” – Girl’s Heart (Audio)

Before I offer my opinion, while the song title itself is “Girl’s Heart,” and even with the lyrics depicting the main character as a lady, nothing hinders this song from being labeled as “Boy’s Heart.” Anyhow, in focus of solely the lyrics, biasedly, I adore them. Summarizing the lyrics, the song simply describes how to treat a lady or man’s heart via compliments, being there for support, and such. However, in contrast to the sonic component of the song, there is a sadder tone accompanying the lyrics; the main character’s “heart” is not being treated as she/he desires. Progressing past the pure lyrics, for the mechanical aspect of the song itself, the style deviates from many K-Pop songs: a “pop-rock” style is attached. The choruses follow an upbeat and energetic flow due to the electric guitar instrumental, and additionally, the vocals follow suit with remaining catchy. Considering “Girl’s Heart” ‘s differing style proves to be welcoming, it holds as a decent song. For strong points, the vocals and choruses hold well, and furthermore, even the build-up towards the chorus is respectable. In terms of weaker points, the post-choruses become lacking due to the mundane repetition of single syllables; “bameul bameul bameul bameul” and “eh eh eh eh eh eh AOA,” for a few examples, become vexing over time.

4. “Just the Two of Us” – Just the Two of Us (Audio)

“Just the Two of Us” showcases a melodic yet slower paced song. Lyrically, the song depicts a more intimate moment with a couple. With “just the two of [them],” they dive into their own world of “touch,” “scent,” and “eyes.” Ignoring the romantic lyrics, musically, the instrumental provides a prominent and suiting foundation for the song; the heavier bass and beats perfectly mesh with the lighter pitch of AOA’s vocals. On the subject of vocals, the singing in “Just the Two of Us” emulates a faster and more upbeat ballad style. With that, the singing retains the expected melodic, soothing flow and diverse notes from ballads, but in opposite, the pacing remains on the quicker side, and in this case, that proves to be effective with complementing the beats’ rate. Overall, this is definitely a stronger song of the album. Both categories of instrumental and vocals are solid, and with both aiding one another, the song as a whole becomes augmented.

5. “Tears Falling” – Tears Falling (Audio)

As anticipated from the title, this song does contain a melancholy story. Strangely, however, the style of “Tears Falling” is not a standard slower paced, softer ballad; interestingly, an angrier tone emanates from it versus one of despair. To briefly describe the lyrics, the song depicts either a gentleman or lady who attempts to forget a separated relationship. Unfortunately, “because [the lover] still [has] feelings” for their former partner, tears are still falling. In terms of the lyrics’ details, I admire the fact that every line varies from another; the first verse’s lyrics are not homogenous to the second verse’s lyrics, for example. Due to that, a fuller, deeper scenario can be extracted.

Transitioning to the audio component, while “Tears Falling” may be the album’s weaker song, it still holds relatively well. Addressing what remains weak, while the vocals deliver exceptionally powerful lines, the melody suffers from such. A predominant portion of this song is purely power; little build-up towards the stronger vocals existed. Furthermore, many lines did not follow an enticing melodic flow, and as a result, transitioning to the stronger vocals becomes clouded, and more specifically, abrupt. Due to such, the impacting vocals come off as too sudden. To add one more degrading factor to “Tears Falling,” the instrumental is likewise plain. Thankfully, however, for the most part, the soundtrack did sync to the song’s intensity; the stronger vocals were accompanied by a complexer instrumental, and for calmer sections, such as the raps, it followed suit with remaining serene. On the subject of the rapping sections, on the sole basis of Jimin, “Tears Falling” holds as decent due to her rapping. Her rap section after the first chorus, and even the rap towards the end with Chanmi, were utterly captivating. Extraordinary. Jimin showcases her lower notes, and, of course, while the notes in general may not be low, in retrospect to AOA’s songs, this style of rapping from her is rarely heard. Her flow was exceptionally smooth, her melody proved to be delightful, and with utilizing her lower vocal range, an incredible rap became the outcome.

To digress, Jimin has been infatuating me snatching my attention due to her humor, leadership, friendliness, optimism, silliness rapping skills. Although my initial stance of her rapping was slightly negative due to her unique higher pitched, nasally voice, I cannot deny her talent. How people perceive her voice may definitely vary, but what remains unequivocal is her rapping skill. She possesses excellent pacing, flow, melody, and to overlook her rapping talent on the basis of how she sounds is ridiculous. Recently, from what I observed, she has been receiving some backlash due to attending an upcoming rapping contest show. I expected the repulsion originated due to her mechanical rapping; perhaps people disliked her flow or, for what I personally notice, her inability to leave a potent presence of power. Surprisingly, neither of those are reasons. The main reason is surprising: her voice. The resistance of her entering the show is due to her voice, not her skill. While a vocalist’s voice plays a major factor, with rapping, that is less influential than other factors as mentioned earlier. If Jimin entered a singing contest, then certainly her voice can be criticized as tuneful notes are affected. However, with rapping, how she sounds should not heavily interfere with the rapping itself. Now, to address what is more upsetting is how people have shifted the dislike of her voice from rapping to generality. This shift is unacceptable. With music in context, the criticism of a singer’s voice is certainly acceptable as it is related. Erroneously, however, is mocking a person’s voice on the sole basis of how that person sounds when speaking in general. Jimin’s voice may be questionable in a song, but to criticize and insult her with how her voice sounds when she speaks is outrageous. Every voice is unique and charming, and similar to other unmalleable characteristics to a person, should not be put down as no one is in control of how they sound. Perhaps the following claim may be slightly exaggerated, but shaming a person’s voice is equivalent to shaming their gender, race, language, and such. Unless if music is the context, never should a remark that offends a person’s voice be made. Whether Jimin’s voice influences the result of her rapping is arguable, but certainly, her voice, in the context of regular communications, is charming and does not warrant unnecessary comments.

6. “Time” – Time (Audio)

Truthfully, I planned to review this album with absolutely zero digressions, but alas, I have failed. Nevertheless, I hope people do take to heart my earlier rant. Continuing back to the incredible ladies of AOA, lastly, “Time” is left for a quick review. Personally, this song holds as the best in the album, and while I doubt I will do a formal review of this song, I foresee “Time” holding as a 9/10 numerically rated song. Considering how many songs I have reviewed these days lean towards 7/10, and that I attempt to grade fairly and logically unlike in the past, a 9 in current times is absolutely outstanding. “Time” follows the traditional ballad genre with retaining soft yet impacting vocals, a complementing and soothing instrumental, and solid lyrics.

Firstly, for elaborating on the lyrics, “Time” unveils a story that, once again, involves a broken relationship. A man or lady continues with her/his life after losing their beloved partner (due to a break up, but potentially, also death) and with daily objects in life, such as a TV, food, or even music, the lover is reminded of their lost partner. In honesty, with the initial time (no pun intended) of listening to “Time,” due to the instrumental and vocals crafting an exceptionally saddening atmosphere and with death in context to the lyrics, I admit, I did become rather emotional (but, thankfully, I did not “pull the Girl’s Day’s Minah” and cried due to the song; Girl’s Day fans may recall Minah’s incident with crying in a car due to listening to a ballad). Focusing on the vocals, AOA’s most prime “Time” with singing is with it; the vocals in “Time” are utterly stunning and showcases every member at her peak. Yuna and Choa carry the more vocally demanding load, such as lines involving note holds or stronger, pressing vocals. Supporting vocals are present due to Mina, Hyejeong, and Seolhyun. Even with a support role, for the lines they sung, all were excellent and to a high caliber. In terms of AOA’s rappers, Jimin and Chami’s sections were, as anticipated, captivating. Jimin returns with very low rapping notes, but other aspects such as being melodic and having a fluent flow were still present. Chanmi’s rap is also equally impressive and follows a similar style to Jimin. All members of AOA were delivering top-tier vocals, and as an extra factor, background vocals were present for many sections of “Time.” Quickly addressing the instrumental, it perfectly follows suit with the vocals’ intensity. Other roles, such as meshing well with the vocals, are also met. Even individually the soundtrack holds well.

Overall, “Time” is currently my favorite ballad, and while I cannot confidently claim it is the best song I have heard, it is by far holding a very high rank. Ailee’s “Singing Got Better” is most likely still the best song I have heard, and ironically despite how I overly gave high scores in the past, it probably holds as accurate with the numerical rating. On topic with AOA, “Time” is definitely their strongest song as of now; every member disclosed their best singing, rapping sections were phenomenal, the instrumental is solid, the lyrics prove to be exceptionally detailed, and as a whole song, the cohesion is incredible. Every aspect to “Time” links with another piece.

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Personal Ranking:

With six songs in AOA’s mini-album, “Like a Cat,” I will now rank them based on my personal preference (not based on numerical values that would exist should I have created individual formal reviews that I usually do).

1. “Time”

2. “Like a Cat”

3. “Just the Two of Us”

4. “Girl’s Heart”

5. “Tears Falling”

6. “AOA Intro”

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In the end, although certainly some songs in this album may be superior to another, for an album, every song is definitely decent. If anyone has ever desired to purchase a physical CD copy for an album, I highly recommend AOA’s mini-album of “Like a Cat” (and no, I am not being paid to say this). Jokes aside, every song in this album is worth listening to, and many hold as solid. This is the first album where I have enjoyed every track, and hopefully, it will not be the last. AOA is an incredible group, and as of now, I am arguably officially a fan of them after listening to a plethora of their releases, watching multiple interviews of them, variety shows they attend, and other various shows.

Reflecting over this review, considering how disorganized the review appears, I doubt I will do whole album reviews. Unless for solely a rare occasion or bonus, these will not be included for standard reviews and will be in the same category of show reviews. As always, thank you very much for reading this. Nine Muses’ comeback has finally arrived, and I am extremely excited to review it. I will most likely review it in one day, though no promises. I have an ever growing list of songs to review and I hope to speed up my process to fulfill that. Also, I am aiming to reach 6 reviews for January at minimum, so hopefully that is met. Once again, thank you for reading. Stay tuned for an upcoming review of Nine Muses’ “Drama.” Without recycling my horrible “AOA Intro,” I will halt “Time” here in order to prevent hurting a boy’s or “Girl’s Heart” due to “Tears Falling” at a potentially horrible conclusion. On the positive side, however, if I am sneaky “Like a Cat,” I may be able to close this review properly with “Just the Two of Us.” But on a serious note, do stay tuned for an upcoming review. Thank you for reading.

Do you think AOA gave a new light to the “sexy concept”? Thoughts on 9muses DRAMA?gfriend?

Hello. I will answer point by point:

Do you think AOA gave a new light to the “sexy concept”?

A very interesting question. Firstly, the “sexy concept” expands to a diverse range, but in terms of AOA, in my opinion, their method of handling it is preferable to other “sexy concept” ideas. From what I have noticed, there are two main concepts to them: explicit and implicit. Personally, I find the latter more promising and less disturbing than the explicit version.

To utilize examples, an explicit sexy concept relies upon, blatantly, an explicit delivery of sexual themes. Hello Venus’ “Sticky Sticky” is an example in mind (and note, I am not bashing the group, but rather, the concept itself); the choreography attached to the song was rather sexual, but due to being explicit, it rendered the song as moreover exaggerating body parts than syncing with the music. In contrast to that, to use AOA’s “Miniskirt” as an example, despite how sexualized the dance can be, with it remaining implicit and subtle, the choreography is not inhibited and still retains proper syncing to the song (for the most part; the bridge became overly sexual if I recall, and thus, ruined that section of the dance).

Anyhow, to give a clear answer, yes, AOA is creating, and due to their current popularity, trending a new take to the “sexy concept.” Instead of overly exaggerating body parts or providing licentious lyrics, AOA is one example of how sexual concepts can be used without becoming derogatory. Now, I could also tread into a discussion of whether sexualization in general should exist in the first place, but I will not dive in depth. To offer a quick take, depending on how sexual themes are marketed, and even who it is being marketed to, it may or may not be necessarily negative.

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While we are on the subject of AOA, I will continue with the ladies as examples. Many have seen the music video for “Miniskirt,” and that video provides huge debate on whether it was properly conducted in terms of being appropriate. A whole discussion could take place on whether the song and visual components (choreography and music video) are sexist or not, but that is for a whole different time. For those curious, I do not hold “Miniskirt” nor even the music video as sexist/sexualizing females, but due to being on topic, I will not digress further (people who want my opinion on why should feel free to send in a question regarding such). 

On topic, “Miniskirt” ’s music video may be heavily sexual, but in terms of becoming derogatory or objectifying females, from my time of watching it, it does not offer any negativity in that regard (and while it is not anything offensive, it still remains sexual, and due to that, I refuse to watch it once more and to make myself heavily blush again at it). As a result, I believe AOA, and more accurately directed, FNC Entertainment (their label company) does an excellent job of balancing the “sexy concept” to be appropriate yet still appealing to that concept.

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I personally lost myself in my own answer, so to clarify once more, I personally believe FNC Entertainment and AOA are giving a new spin to the “sexy concept,” and with their recent comeback of “Like a Cat,” that is even more true. Their take on the “sexy concept” is to remain subtle and to not solely focus on a body part (that is when sexualization is extremely negative), and thus, it is good in that it retains the sexual concept appeal without objectifying the ladies. There is a lot to say on this subject (and specifically with deconstructing both “Miniskirt” and its music video) and I could indefinitely discuss this, but I will end it here for now. For those curious on my personal analysis of “Miniskirt,” both the visual and sonic components, I would be glad to elaborate on why I do not find either pieces sexist in the form of objectifying the ladies of AOA. Nevertheless, even if I do not reside with the general public’s opinion on that, I will agree that the music video is highly sexual, and in fact, overly sexual (“Like a Cat” is a more refined music video in terms of retaining the “sexy concept” without being overly sexual nor objectifying). But, keep in mind, there is a difference between sexualization/objectification and being simply overly sexual. 

Hopefully my answer is clear enough. In short, yes. To explain why, FNC Entertainment prefers to have AOA’s sexual concepts to be subtle and not objectifying (although for the music video of “Miniskirt,” the subtle aspect is tossed out).

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Thoughts on Nine Muses’ DRAMA? G-Friend?

I will not share my opinion on Nine Muses’ “Drama” since that is an upcoming review, so to be mean, stay tuned for my full opinion regarding that song. On the positive side, though, I will leak another upcoming review: one of the songs you recommended from Dal Shabet. “B.B.B (Big Baby Baby)” will be reviewed promptly after “Drama,” and to tie back the first question, Dal Shabet’s concept with “B.B.B” is another prime example of a new take to the “sexy concept”; “B.B.B” can still be considered in that realm, yet amazingly, body parts are not even focused at all. Even the music video for the song is promising in terms of being utterly subtle (though the transitions and edits are questionable and induce some slight headache).

Ignoring the slight digression, in terms of G-Friend, I heard they recently debuted, and in fact, recent may seem to be an overstatement as it might be only a week or two. Other than that, however, I have yet to hear their debut song. 

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Thank you for sending in some questions, and apologies if my answers are vague or disorganized. On the plus side, I would make an excellent company representative or politician for naturally looping around answers. Hopefully they are somewhat insightful, and it was a pleasure to answer these questions. For other readers, stay tuned for upcoming reviews. And actually, after this is posted, in a few seconds, I will be posting the “bonus review” I advertised a week ago, so be sure to check it out. 

Apink – “Luv” Review

Apink – Luv (Live Performance)

Apink – Luv (Dance Practice)

Apink – Luv

Reviewed on January 17, 2014

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Personal Message: It has been, if I am being precise, about two weeks since I last reviewed a song. Therefore, if this review falters slightly, apologies, but I will do my best to prevent it from becoming horrendous (although it may be mediocre at best). Additionally, as of the time I am writing this, I am ill, but hopefully I recover quickly. On topic and ignoring excuses, I am somewhat excited for this review. Apink’s “Luv” has been on my list for a while, and I have never reviewed a song by them nor gave my opinion regarding their talent and such. However, as stated, I am only somewhat excited; arguably, my physical being may become jeopardized based on my words describing and rating Apink. Whether it is in the form of sending songs or preaching her love for Chorong, a friend has been advertising this group for quite a while. If my admiration and love towards T-ARA’s Soyeon (one of my role models) was ever considered obsessive, I am deprived of words to describe my friend’s love for Chorong. Of course, though, I cannot complain nor should any form of mockery take place; Chorong is the person she admires and looks up to, and, assuming certain comical incidents are excluded, that is perfectly acceptable as Chorong is an incredible, phenomenal lady.

On the subject of Chorong and Apink, I am still attempting to connect her as Apink’s leader. Before my lifespan is shortened misunderstandings occur, I am referring to Apink’s attendance at the variety show “Weekly Idol.” Their “Luv” episode proved to be one of the most jocular visits I have ever watched, and specifically, Chorong’s moments nearly induced tears from sheer laughter. Anyhow, since my mind’s concept of a leader is distorted, I struggle to associate Chorong with that position. With that role, I would expect the person to remain calm, serious, and authoritative regardless of a situation, and even if she were to be subjected to, for example, a shocking lie detector toy (a current trending Korean pop culture game; would be interesting to analyze how it became to be), she would hold her image and not dissipate into a fire alarm. Jokes aside, from peering at other videos, Chorong utterly deserves that position and takes great care of her members. This also reminds me of another comical scene on “Weekly Idol,” although more accurately described, it was a cute one. In summary, due to a game, Chorong had to kiss her members, and while Apink is definitely close with one another, expressing their love via kisses instead of their usual hugs proved to be humorous. With a kiss on the cheek to every member, squeals, slight embarrassment, and sweetness became scattered. Truthfully, however, even I contributed to the squeals.

Now, while the scene itself was adorable, after the game/kissing, one of the hosts left a questionable statement; in summary, he mentioned how he was surprised to find female groups were awkward with the game. According to him, male groups were not burdened at all and were rather playful with the activity, and thus, Apink’s erupted embarrassment comes as surprising (and note, I am not trying to insult the host, but rather, challenge and question his statement; he is by far one the better hosts I have seen). Firstly, this leaves an implication of how Doni, the host, expected female groups to be affectionate on the sole basis of their gender. His comparison unveils that belief: if male groups are capable of not being awkward, then female groups should automatically have no embarrassment with kissing. Obviously, this is utterly false and prompts a multitude of discussion points. To address one component, people have been socialized with categorizing certain traits on the basis of gender. Specifically here, Doni associated Apink with caring, affectionate and loving attributes since they are a female group. However, this association should be challenged. Society has, with the mindset of male or female, taught and crafted expectations on what a person’s behavior, interests, and more, should be. Blatantly, though, reproductive organs do not determine those traits, but instead, the person themselves.    

Overall, what would have been more desirable to hear would be the lack of gender labels during the comparison. If Doni had said it was interesting to witness Apink feeling embarrassed (this is another potential discussion point) since every other group that conducted the game was calm, it would have been less controversial. Anyhow, as stated, I am only challenging this statement and not Doni himself. It is absolutely vital to critique the world around us. And actually, to elaborate slightly on the highlighted discussion point, I am hoping Apink feels embarrassed due to a more intimate gesture versus the idea of kissing a person of the same gender. Socialization returns here; society has created a standard in which people of the same gender cannot be affectionate (and once again, another discussion point; someone may ask, “But why are females able to be more affectionate with each other than males?” I will answer this later) or else they risk feeling awkward, and diving deeper on why that feeling exists, it can be linked to homophobia. It is rather interesting that even with sexual orientation, different ideas have been taught on how certain sexual orientations exhibit different behavior. For example, we are socialized with the idea that homosexual males and females are inverses of the socialized gender norms; homosexual males are seen as “females” and vice-versa for homosexual females. Being critical, however, it is obvious that a person’s sexual orientation, like gender, does not determine characteristics. Truly, sexual orientation is simply who a person finds attractive, nothing more, nothing less. I am also reminded of another point to discuss: the different diction utilized to label sexual orientations. Personally, I am privileged with the ability to simply say, “I am straight” (and I have a whole mile-length of other privileges due to being a heterosexual). However, strangely, the equivalent for homosexuals follows as solely “gay” or “lesbian,” and while those words are not “curved/zig-zagged/parabola,” it is essentially implied as if that since “straight” is the label for heterosexuals. Perhaps I am being overly critical and nitpicky, but if the terms of “gay” and “lesbian” are to be kept, then at least the term “straight” should be reconstructed as something else in order to prevent the contrast of how “straight” implies “gay/lesbian” is “curved.” Since finding a substituting word for “straight” may be too difficult, at least coining “heterosexual” will work and will not provide a subtle layer of superiority.

Hopefully people follow through my explanation, and hopefully people are willing to take a moment to critically analyze society. And, as the last point to cover (if you have managed to stay and not avoid this topic, kudos to you), I will explain why males are not able to be as affectionate with other males as females are with their own gender. Firstly, an incorrect answer would be: “Females are privileged over males, therefore they can hold hands with other females.” Without diving into a whole other discussion, males, at least in androcentric societies, will always remain privileged (and hopefully “will” will be removed in the future), and thus, that answer is wrong. Correctly, the fact that females are underprivileged is why males cannot replicate the same affection towards other males. For a simpler example, let us use cosmetics. If I decide to utilize BB cream, foundation, concealer, or more explicitly noticeable, eyeliner and some eyeshadow, I would face a torrent of insults and comments; my sexual orientation would be questioned, I would be degraded, and interestingly, I would be called a “female” or “girl” as an insult. Now, the latter comment unveils the answer: males cannot do anything socialized with females since, in the androcentric social structure scale, it is a derank of status. This also explains why females can dress up as males and have that be accepted since, for the lady, she is “ranking up” by doing so. On the other hand, should I, for example, “wear a miniskirt” with “risky high heels” (apologies, I just had to reference AOA, an incredible group of ladies), then I am “deranking” in status since females in societies that are male-centered are, obviously, less valued. Although I focused on appearance, gestures and actions follow the same pattern. If I kiss a male, I am “deranking” by performing an act in which, through socialization, only females are “supposed” to do, and thus, that is why it is socially unaccepted for males to do such.

Anyhow, I have said way too much. If this was too lengthy, blame my favorite class for bringing in critical awareness and thinking. Point is, question society and challenge unfair ideas. No one, on the foundation of who they are, should ever be shunned and degraded.

Progressing to the actual review, and I am very sorry for the huge digression (and of course, feel free to agree or disagree with my perspective), I will review this song with my genuine opinion. I feel slightly regretful for potentially leaving a sour start, but to quickly address the links, the first link is a standard live performance. For the second link, however, it is their official dance practice. Unfortunately, the audio playback is based on the visual camera, and as a result, not too clear. But, of course, being a dance practice video, it offers the clearest form of the visual component to “Luv.” Also, interestingly, according to the beginning of the video, the dance practice only became released since their standard music video (I have yet to watch it) acquired a certain number of views. A clever win-win situation as both Apink and fans gain from the deal.  

Focusing on Apink, the group that should have been the main focus from the start (although it is good to remain critical), their most recent comeback is, if not blatant enough, the song “Luv.” The members of Chorong, Bomi, Eunji, Naeun, Namjoo, and Hayoung will be attempting to garner the “Luv” of ladies and men. With previous releases of “NoNoNo” and “Mr. Chu,” solid standards have been set, but hopefully through “Luv” (no pun intended), their trend will manage to sustain.

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Song Total Score: 7/10 (7/10 raw score) – Average score of the sub-categories

– Vocals: 6/10 – Admittedly, I feel somewhat rusty with reviewing, but a dose of excitement does exist considering how long it has been. On topic, the vocals in “Luv” do possess qualities of being melodic, powerful, and varying. However, unfortunately, while the vocals are scattered with meeting different aspects, nothing is compelling; the melody is sustained but not utterly captivating, powerful vocals may be promising and lingering, but it remains moreover secluded, and the different notes utilized fail to be mesmerizing. Apink certainly possesses solid singing skills, but in this song, the execution of the singing is weaker. If the vocals were accompanied by differentiable, unique aspects, a higher score would easily be earned. More vocal variety per song structure would have been desirable; the verses’ vocals should have had their own traits in juxtaposition to, for example, the pre-choruses. Yet, in “Luv,” they remain too identical, and thus, create staleness for the vocal department.

Slightly above average holds as the score. A lack of diversity would be the crippling factor to the vocals in “Luv.” For the most part, solely the chorus is differentiable from the other main sections. Apink definitely have the skills as vocalists, but in the case of “Luv,” their talent was limited.

– Song Structure: 7/10 (6.67/10 raw score)

The song goes in this structure and order:

Introduction, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Conclusion (Chorus)

1. Introduction: 6/10 – The introduction is purely the instrumental.

Mechanically, the introduction is decent. The main instrument in the form of a piano controls the flow; a softer, slower pace is established. This allows a proper setup of the song’s tone and gentler side. Now, while those mechanical pieces were solid, the transition is somewhat undesirable. Quick beats consume the piano and instantly swap the song to the chorus. Unfortunately, a lot of the peaceful, slower setup becomes utterly obsolete; the transition disregards the initial moments. Due to the two conflicting styles, this introduction holds as somewhat incohesive. If the piano tune at the start was slightly more energetic, or if the beats were softer and more in touch with the established trend, a smoother start would have been granted.

Slightly above average will be the score. Individually, the piano and transitional beats were solid, but meshing the two provides harsh contrast.

2. Chorus: 7/10 – Some readers may notice the chorus promptly begins after the introduction. While this style is not utterly unusual, it is less common, but considering Apink’s style, for fans of the group, this is to be predicted. Eunji, Bomi, and Naeun handle all of the choruses (excluding the conclusion version).

A prominent presence exists due to added energy and strength, and additionally, properly scaled power is a highlight to the choruses; the vocals are perfectly measured in that they are not overwhelming to the song’s overall atmosphere, but likewise, not lacking and failing to maintain a choruses’ standard intensity. In terms of the lines, some lyrical structure is promising; “L.O.V.E, love” creates a catchy, repetitive phrase that lingers around. Additionally, the letters and word become landmarks for where stronger vocals occur. With that, a natural flow exists, and thus, it augments the overall fluency. On the subject of flow, the final line took a retracting step in the aspect of intensity; Naeun, the member in charge of the last line, sings in a stable yet gentler voice than the previous members. Transition becomes aided due to this. Overall, an exceptional flow and proper dose of vocal power are the main assets to the choruses.

Above average will be the rating.

3. Verse: 6/10 – Namjoo and Chorong handle the first verse, and the returning member of Chorong is paired with Hayoung for the second verse.

In light of the vocals, Namjoo and Chorong follow a lower pitch, softer and slower flow. Their singing aims towards constructing the song and remain soothing. For what holds the verses back, although biasedly I adore slower verses, the structure itself falters; the vocals are solid, but dullness becomes a rife issue. Firstly, the background vocals of “My love” were not effective at creating breaks and variety. By being very light, they held little weight, and furthermore, due to the rate at which they were heard/sung, their little presence and purpose are further whittled down. At the very least, the middle break of “L.O.V.E, love” provides a natural change of singers and structure to the verse. But, overall, one break in the middle does not compensate for the overarching stagnant flow of the verses. Vocally, the verses are solid as Namjoo and Chorong (and Hayoung if accounting the second verse) showcase excellent lower ranged notes in addition to a graceful, slow pace. The structure, in opposite, holds as exceptionally stale. Furthermore, the attempts to prevent such failed; the breaks of “L.O.V.E, love” were unsuccessful, and as a result, a higher score is lost.

Slightly above average will be the score.

4. Pre-Chorus: 6/10 – Hayoung and Namjoo handle the first pre-chorus. Naeun and, again, Namjoo, tackle the second pre-chorus.

Fulfilling the standard role of prepping and hyping the chorus, both the vocals and instrumental notch up the energy by becoming more prominent and energetic, and also, slightly increasing the pacing. While the singing is solid, as seen by the ladies’ partially stretched lines, once again, the structure holds as weaker. Vocal-wise, the melody proved to be diverse, and even power was added. However, the first three lines were practically identical, and furthermore, all three were stretched at the end. Initially, this may seem to be a solid idea; line endings being stretched creates the beloved diverse melodic tunes. In this case, if it were one or even two lines following that format, it would be perfect, but with a larger duration and quantity, that style becomes hindering. A sluggish, lagging flow is the outcome of three lines following the line stretching format. The melody may be augmented, but the flow becomes heavily clogged. On the positive side, the final line by Namjoo provides an exceptionally welcomed contrast as well as a smooth transition. Should there have been a different format for the earlier lines, the pre-choruses would potentially glean a higher score.

Overall, slightly above average will be the score.  

5. Bridge: 7/10 – Both Chorong and Hayoung simultaneously sing, but eventually, Eunji concludes the bridge.

Recalling the verses where background vocals failed, the bridge redeems that aspect. With background vocals of “Neon mal (means ‘Do you…’),” the contrast funnels attention towards  Chorong and Hayoung’s words in addition to adding diversity. In terms of the couple’s words/lines, the style followed an exceptionally soft and fragile stance. The purpose of such, in perspective to the bridge, is for buildup to occur. When Eunji arrives, her lines offer incredible strength and a delightful tune. As anticipated, a note hold is executed by her in order to mark a climactic point in “Luv.” Thankfully, despite the impactful note hold, it suited the song overall; it was neither too lengthy nor overly done, and thus, followed “Luv” ‘s general softer atmosphere.

Overall, with multiple layers to the bridge such as the background vocals, paired singing, or a satisfying note hold, above average will be the score.

6. Conclusion (Chorus): 8/10 – “Luv” concludes by recycling its chorus. Chorong, Bomi, and Naeun are responsible for it.

Considering the previous section was the bridge, remnants of Eunji’s note hold are left. With that, the chorus as a final section excels as it provides a middle ground; the bridge’s intensity is not utterly lost, but homogeneously, the song is not excessively energetic near the end. Additionally, with the choruses’ ending line, a proper, concluding closure becomes ensured since Naeun’s line provides a proper transition through gently ending.

A very natural and cohesive conclusion is met in credit to the final chorus. Since everything fell in place accordingly, a solid score will be granted.

– Line Distribution: 9/10 – With 6 members, a high Line Distribution score should be earned. Furthermore, since every member has proven her ability with singing, there should be a relatively equal share.

Apink’s leader, Chorong, was responsible for the first and second verses, the bridge, and lastly, the final chorus. While this seems sufficient, recalling previous reviews such as AOA’s “Like a Cat,” this may be slightly excessive. Depending on the rest of the group’s share, Chorong’s lines are either too abundant or adequate.

Bomi’s share involved all of the choruses. Due to this, her spotlight is spread all over, and with a significant song section and lengthier duration, there are no issues whatsoever. While the risk of slightly dominating is possible, it depends on the rest of Apink. Sufficient although potentially excessive is her stance.

For Eunji, her spotlight consists of the first three choruses and the bridge. So far, every member has four lines, and if this trend continues, then certainly her lines are perfectly measured and not excessive. Like the initial two, Eunji receives an ample amount of lines, but hopefully, it does not lean towards being dominating.

In terms of Naeun, all of the choruses and even one verse are her parts. Surprisingly, the trend still holds true, and if that is the case, her share is perfect assuming no one else lacks lines. Although she has one extra line (5 instead of 4 like the rest), due to them being shorter, her overall time span remains identical with the previously gauged members.

Namjoo was in charge of the first verse and two pre-choruses. Amazingly, the line share is still equal to the other members. Her moments were lengthy, and even if she holds only three song sections, the time overall remains identical to the rest.

With Hayoung remaining as the last member to gauge, there is a significant amount of pressure. Her singing time appears at the first pre-chorus, second verse, and the duo bridge moment. Even with having solely three sections, her time, as anticipated, remains equal to the rest of Apink. No issues exist.

To be true to the score, the Line Distribution will be rated at a 9. If every member had exactly 4 sections/lines or at least nearly that, then a 10 would be earned. Some members had 5 or 3, and thus, it cannot be rated at a 10 since it is not utterly flawless. Nevertheless, this is exceptionally impressive for a distribution. In truth, I anticipated the first three members to have excessive time, but that prediction has been proven wrong. Overall, while not completely perfect, their share in “Luv” remains astounding.

– Instrumental: 6/10 – To address the strong components of the instrumental, the gentle mood of the song can be credited to it; slower moments of the song utilized a serene piano melody to deliver that state. Also, despite aiding the softer atmosphere, it still manages to add energetic components in the form of its catchier beats, or when the intensity elevates, a quicker pace accompanied by a flute sound. For what is weaker, the instrumental may have provided Apink’s vocals a stable support, but for the soundtrack individually, it falters; stripping away the singing leaves a plain and lacking instrumental. Nothing holds as prominent and unique without Apink’s voice. At most, the verses instrumentally remain solid due to a main piano, but for other sections, additional instruments and sounds do not hold properly without the vocals.

Slightly above average will hold as the score. The instrumental provides for Apink, but without the ladies complementing it, the soundtrack downgrades.  

– Meaning: 7/10 – With a song title of “Luv,” listeners would expect a loving, flirtatious story. Accounting for the vocals’ style as well, that prediction becomes additionally supported. Through these translated Korean-to-English lyrics, that prediction can be checked as for whether it holds as accurate. As always, these lyrics are not 100% accurate with translation, but the general idea should hold:

Do you remember the time we spent together? L.O.V.E, love
Are you excited? Once it was everything L.O.V.E, love
The time we had comes to my mind sometimes L.O.V.E, love
Can we turn back the time?
I can’t believe our long past story

(My love) On a day I’m particularly tired
(MY love) There is no one by my side (L.O.V.E, love)
I want to cry
on someone’s shoulder, yeah

The time when we were not afraid of anything
Holding hands, yeah
The days when I needed nothing
if you were standing next to me

Do you remember the time we spent together? L.O.V.E, love
Are you excited? Once it was everything L.O.V.E, love
The time we had comes to my mind sometimes L.O.V.E, love
Can we turn back the time?
I can’t believe our long past story

(MY love) With many people I run into
(MY love) I will gradually forget about you (L.O.V.E, love)
But sometimes I smile
at the thought of that time, yeah

The time when anything made us happy
Looking at each other, yeah
You were my strength
when you trusted me

Do you remember the time we spent together? L.O.V.E, love
Are you excited? Once it was everything L.O.V.E, love
The time we had comes to my mind sometimes L.O.V.E, love
Can we turn back the time?
I can’t believe our long past story

(Do you) miss me?
(Do you) miss me?
(I) miss you
You are somewhere in my memory like that

Do you remember the time we spent together? L.O.V.E, love
Are you excited? Once it was everything L.O.V.E, love
The time we had comes to my mind sometimes L.O.V.E, love
Can we turn back the time?
I can’t believe our long past story

Contrary to the title, the lyrics do not depict a cheerful story that involves love, but rather, the absence of it. “Luv” showcases a character, either a man or lady, who, due to some unknown circumstance, unfortunately lost their love-interest/partner. The lover reminisces over past days and loving moments with her/his former love-interest, such as when they were not “afraid of anything” and were “holding hands.” Additional details also describe the couple’s previous affection and care for each other. In addition to reflecting over their history, the main character also attempts to forget it, but alas, the lover still misses their partner. Multiple questions exist: Why did the couple separate? Was the split due to their own decision or outside influences?

Overall, the lyrics hold as above average. While the details were not too compelling, the general crafted story remains intriguing. Many questions exist, and further, the irony of the title symbolizes the main character’s conflicting feelings; love is seemingly present (like the title), but the reality showcases that is not necessarily the case (the lyrics themselves).      

From the surface and minimal analysis, nothing sparks a critical discussion; however, for a substitution of the “Critical Corner,” I will offer my take on why the song title is “Luv” and not, for example, “Love.” I have two current positions: for one, it is due to pure stylizing, and for the second take, pronunciation. Elaborating on the latter, although I am not confident with this explanation at all, “Luv,” in Korean, would definitely provide the English equivalent sound of “Love.” Now, if the opposite occurred with “Love” being the title, in Korean, the sound in English equivalent would potentially sound moreover as “L-ooo-ve” (instead of an “uh” sound). Again, I cannot claim this is positively certain, but that might be the case.

For a digression on the subject of love, I find it interesting to observe how love is pressured. In many cultures, be it American or South Korean society(and of course many other ones), people are ushered and rushed into dating and marriage. This is concerning, however, as love cannot be necessarily rushed. While effort definitely needs to exist to begin love, the feeling and relationship needs time to develop. Occasionally, the idea of love is moreover promoted and fantasized versus the concept itself; people feel the need to date/marry in order to feel “whole” or joyful, but in reality, it is not the binding label that creates the feeling, but instead, the person themselves. To clarify that point, it is not the title of, say, “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” that creates joy, it is the fact that the partner is someone who brings in happiness and support. Often time, many people forget that aspect and focus moreover on the sheer labels as the origin of feelings.

One additional point to discuss could also be the pressure to obtain love due to gender. Females, for example, are typically taught they need a male in order to be wholesome. However, that should never the case as not only does it rush love, and thus, creates artificial feelings that backfire, but the idea in itself of females needing a male on the sole basis of gender is ridiculous. Love is not a requirement. Love is an emotion. Anyone, regardless of who they are, should be free to find their own love. In the end, that sole emotion along with dedication and support is what matters, not gender nor even the gender of who a person loves.

To share a personal story regarding pressure to date, although specifically it is moreover marriage, despite being a male, I have received my dose of it. I am reminded at times, and expected, to eventually marry. The reason, however, is that without a wife, I would be unable to take care of myself (similar to what females are told). Of course, it is exceptionally silly, and nevertheless, I still adamantly believe that love will come with time. In fact, I have never dated, and do not intend to until around 25 (unless if I somehow end up with an amazing lady sooner than that). Anyhow, while I hope to be in an incredibly happy, close, and supportive relationship one day, like T-ARA’s Soyeon current relationship, dating and marriage should never be pressured onto people on the foundation of anything else besides love and dedication. And for how this all relates to Apink’s “Luv,” it matches the title at least.

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Choreography Score: 7/10 – Glancing past my digressions (I will blame excessive sugar), let us return to the phenomenal ladies of Apink. From every song I have ever reviewed, “Luv” proves to be the most difficult to grade in terms of the choreography. Deciding between “above average” and “good/solid” is nearly impossible. A 7 will most likely be the score, however. Diving into why that is the case, firstly, the syncing in “Luv” is exceptional; every movement related to a beat, the melody, or even a combination of the two. Focusing on the aspect of transitions, although I seldom include it as a main point, for this song, they held as phenomenal. Switching the spotlight between members was very smooth and fluent, and thus, more time is spent being on sync versus getting into positions. On the subject of positions and formations, the key points of the dance is what deters the Choreography Score from hitting an 8. While every maneuver is on point and transitions are flawless, the key points themselves could be more interesting. For example, the choruses’ key point utilizes the same dance set of moving hips left and right to match the beats, and although the syncing is stunning, visually, it becomes stale. Furthermore, with the chorus occurring multiple times, the key point becomes even more lacking.

Overall, above average will hold as the score. While the choreography as a whole follows simplicity and remains utterly captivating due to the highly accurate syncing, the key points could have been slightly catchier and more varied at certain moments.  

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Overall Score: 7/10 (7/10 raw score) – With both categories scoring a 7, the Overall Score will follow suit. Apink’s “Luv” concludes with a 7/10 which represents “above average,” and I can agree to that, although I personally find the song moreover a 6/10. The vocal skills exist, but the delivery of such is on the weaker spectrum. Additionally, the song sections and instrumental were not too infatuating. Nevertheless, “Luv” is a respectable song and remains decent.

It has been a while since I reviewed a song, so forgive me for lackluster writing. Also, apologies if my tangents were too rife (but those are topics people should not shy away from). As I always say, thank you very much for reading this. It truly means a lot to me that you would take time away from other activities just to read my blog and reviews. Thank you very much. Reviews have been coming by slowly, but I am working hard to change that (I am currently busy with a lot of work). To compensate, I have a special bonus review in mind that I am hoping many readers will love. Depending on my speed and dedication, it should be out in one or two days.

Future reviews will consist of, as stated, a secret upcoming bonus one, but ignoring the special review, I have a ballad in mind along with an underrated/unpopular group. And once those 3 reviews are cleared, many male artists have released songs that I plan to review. This current review took 3 days of writing to finish, so I will attempt to be hastier.

Anyhow, thank you once again for reading. Stay tuned for a bonus treat that should be out extremely soon. Hopefully my rate will improve, and peering at everything, “I can’t believe our long past story” together with reviews. Let us continue this “story”; stay tuned and keep checking back for more content.  

Among the rookie girl groups that debuted in 2014. who do you think is the most promising? I have a theory. The rise of Kpop outside Korea can be attributed to SNSD rise to international fame. If SNSD falls, would Kpop international suffer a major setback?

Hello, and apologies for a very delayed response. I have been busy and haven’t got around to answering. Nevertheless, here is my answer. I will answer point by point:

Among the rookie girl groups that debuted in 2014, who do you think is the most promising? 

Good question, and I unfortunately cannot give an accurate answer. To be honest, I have not been tracking rookie groups at all, let alone the female ones. Perhaps this in itself is the answer; no rookie female group has caught my attention in 2014, and thus, none were exceptionally surprising. Realistically, however, it is probably moreover me not keeping track of them than the groups themselves not garnering attention. In short, I cannot answer this question since I have not been keeping track

I actually possess an answer. A rookie female group that debuted in 2014 worthy of attention is MAMAMOO. I feel extremely embarrassed to have forgotten the group, but those ladies are definitely rising stars. They slipped off my mind since, truthfully, they perform and sing as veterans. If I am correct, however, they are new. For a group starting, their vocals are superb. Additionally, even their dancing/choreography is decent. I foresee them as being extremely popular in the future. It is exceptionally rare to have a group where every member possesses vocals of a high caliber (even if it is a smaller group of 4), but MAMAMOO qualifies for that.

I have a theory. The rise of Kpop outside Korea can be attributed to SNSD/Girls’ Generation’s rise to international fame. If SNSD/Girls’ Generation falls, would Kpop international suffer a major setback?

A very interesting question, and assuming I am accurate with my labeling, this falls into an “economic” related one. Firstly, I agree that Girls’ Generation’s popularity outside their home country does expand K-Pop as a whole. Japan became widely invested in K-Pop due to the ladies, and eventually, obtained an influenced J-Pop in the sense of K-Pop groups taking the route of modifying their songs to be in Japanese, or, such as in Girls’ Generation’s case, making songs in solely Japanese (“Divine,” “Animal,” and “Paparazzi” are examples of solid songs by the group that were sung solely in Japanese). Besides Japan, China is also garnering some attention from K-Pop groups. T-ARA, although they are not Girls’ Generation, has recently been invested in China (as seen from “Little Apple”), and therefore, can be seen as helping increase international fame. 

Anyhow, now to focus back on the actual question of would K-Pop’s international fame suffer should Girls’ Generation fall, yes and no. To explain the yes component, from what I know, they are the only group that heavily focuses on Japan. Their exceptionally high popularity in Japan means (besides making decent income) overshadowing potential groups that attempt to break into Japan’s music industry/market. After all, may groups have attempted to root themselves in Japan, but from what I have noticed, it is only temporarily or leaving solely one impression. Girls’ Generation, on the other hand, is constantly performing there and constantly making Japanese releases. Fast forward, since this indicates that Girls’ Generation is the predominant K-Pop group in that country, should they disband, their presence, and thus, their K-Pop background, would fade away. In this aspect, technically, yes, K-Pop would receive less international exposure. 

Now, to answer the no piece, as mentioned, Girls’ Generation overshadows a lot of K-Pop groups attempting to reach and maintain a stance in Japan’s market. Should they disappear, however, I expect another group to eventually reclaim their spot. Eventually, another group will be in Girls’ Generation case with actively releasing both Korean and Japanese pop songs. 

Overall, if Girls’ Generation disbands, international attention for K-Pop may temporarily dwindle, but considering the remnants of Girls’ Generation will still exist in addition to other groups that will take over, K-Pop would still maintain a decent amount of popularity. Also, with Girls’ Generation’s case, I heavily focused on Japan, but of course, K-Pop is spread all over the world (even besides Asia). It is interesting to observe the spread of K-Pop, and another discussion can be held in regards to that. Music in general is extremely interesting and I would love to go on forever about it, but I will end it here. As comical as this may sound, I believe both food and music are the keys to bringing understanding to cultures. Music is universal in that every culture has some aspect of it, and likewise with food. This also reminds me of my professor’s lecture of how music might be the fundamental building block to everything in life (as in the smallest units in the universe are musically structured), and that is an extremely interesting thing to ponder about. 

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Anyhow, thank you for sending in this question. Apologies for some delay, but I have enjoyed every question you sent so far, so thank you. For readers curious on my future review, I have two songs in mind and the question is in which order should I review them. They will hopefully be out by this week. Recently I’ve been bundled with a lot of work, and in fact, even today I finished a paper (although I most likely utterly butchered it and feel frustrated at that; the topic is something I definitely care about, yet expressing my ideas was rather rough for this paper). Stay tuned, though, for upcoming song reviews. Keep checking back.  

Two questions; Have you heard of Dal Shabet? Have you listened to Divine by Girls’ Generation? (Jessica has some more explosive singing/notes in that song)

Hello, and to answer the questions: yes and yes.

Now being more in-depth, for the first question, I have heard of Dal Shabet, but only in the context of their group name; I have never heard a song by them, nor can I even name a single member. From what I know, they can be considered unpopular/underdogs, but that should be irrelevant. Often time, underrated groups do have decent songs, the issue resides in the fact that they remain overshadowed by more prominent groups. Perhaps in the future I will peer at the group and potentially review a song by them (and feel free to send me some recommendations).

Elaborating on the second question, I am a fan of that song, truthfully. Every member showcased extremely professional, solid vocals in that song, and I can definitely agree that Jessica delivered some explosive and stunning singing. “Divine” is probably Girls’ Generation’s strongest ballad as of now, and although I doubt I will review it (it was in mind, though), I still highly recommend it to ballad fans. 

Anyhow, hopefully these answers add extra context besides a plain “yes and yes,” and thank you for sending in the questions. I am curious on Dal Shabet, and will definitely look into them. Feel free to give your opinion on that group along with some recommended songs. 

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In other news, since this is a simple chance to update readers, I am currently working on a show review of “Nine Muses Cast.” While I am extremely satisfied with the picture quality, I am not too sure on how to formulate the review. I lean towards summarizing key points and giving my opinion at the end, but with the quantity of pictures being slightly excessive, I remain concerned with length. Perhaps slicing unnecessary scenes will be the plan. Anyhow, it should hopefully be out within a few more days, and once that is finished, I will continue with my usual song reviews. Stay tuned and keep checking back. 

Mnet Japan’s Reality Show – “Star Camp” Review

Reviewed on January 1, 2015

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Before this review starts, I would like to give a few excuses disclaimers. For one, as some readers may know, I do not possess an actual show review outline; my show reviews are a mixture of highlights and my general opinion of the show. That said, there is no numerical rating as seen in my song reviews. Secondly, since this show is not too popular, finding pictures to utilize is nearly impossible. As a result, to keep my tradition of how my show reviews contain pictures, I am putting extra effort by taking my own images from the show. Unfortunately, the downfall of that appears in the lower quality of the pictures. Apologies for such, and keep in mind, these show reviews can be considered moreover “bonus reviews” than dedicated, thorough ones. Music reviews will always remain my top priority.

Anyhow, to digress slightly more, I would like to give some comments in regards to T-ARA’s first home concert. T-ARA holds a special throne in that they are one of my personal favorite groups in general, and that I highly admire and look up to the ladies. Hopefully one day I am as intelligent and skilled as Soyeon (a huge role model to me), and that other traits such as being exceptionally friendly, responsible, caring, tough, and more, are also achieved. And, I also hope one day I will be as pretty as her, but that is impossible less important than the other significant characteristics. Back to the concert, after 5 years (I might be wrong with the years), T-ARA has finally had their first solo concert in their home country (they have done a few in Japan and China, but not Korea). It is incredible to see their growth over the years, and I hold high expectations on their future activities.

Going on another tangent, in regards to their song “ORGR,” there has been a lot of debate and confusion to the lyrics, and I will offer my own perspective on it (and at this point, feel free to skip below). Whether it is due to pure coincidence or clever composing (or simply pronunciation), the key phrase of the song can be considered a pun involving both languages of Korean and English. Firstly, “ORGR” is abbreviated for “Oh Ready Go Ready,” which is heard in the lyrics in the form of “oh ready, go ready, go.” This is where confusion occurs; people hear three phrases: “Oh ready, go ready, go,” or “Oh let it go, let it go,” or if taking account a Korean phrase of mockery (not too sure on this), a rough meaning of “Na na na.” So, to offer my own opinion, I believe T-ARA is saying the English phrase of “Oh ready, go ready” since the song title is the abbreviated form of those words. However, I find that the key phrase could also reflect the latter phrases. To explain why people hear “Oh let it go, let it go,” it has to do with the pronunciation of the English phrase of “ORGR.” The letter/sound “R” in English is replaceable with the letter/sound of “L” in Korean assuming the following letter is a vowel sound (for example, Sistar’s Hyorin can also be pronounced as “Hyolyn,” both are valid and correct; Rick can also be heard as “Lick,” and similarly, be correct) . This leads to “Oh ‘leady’ go,” but now you are wondering why the “D” sounds like a “T,” and that is simply that; in Korean, the English “D” sound/letter is a “T” sound. A simple example is the Korean slang/saying of “daebak” (means “awesome/amazing/cool”). In this case, the “D” sound is softer and moreover sounding like “taebak” for English. Factoring this into the equation, the phrase of “ORGR” now becomes “Oh ‘leaty’ go” which sounds like “Oh let it go.” As for the Korean mockery phrase, that is also correct to be heard (assuming I am accurate about the phrase). While “Oh ready, go ready, go” is heard as that in English, in Korean, the same sounding phrase could mean a teasing, mocking saying of “Na na na.” Anyhow, point is, regardless of what you hear, they all match the overall song’s lyrics, and in the end, all are technically accurate. Apologies if my formatting here induces eye strain.

Now ignoring the extremely confusing, unorganized language lesson, in terms of how T-ARA’s concert relates to “Star Camp,” I wondered how rigorous and strenuous the preparation leading up to the solo concert was; dancing and singing for hours is an extremely difficult feat, and thus, preparing for such an event would seem equally challenging. Thankfully, this show gives some insight. While it may not be focused on T-ARA, it does focus on idols who are equally charming, talented, and stunning as those ladies. ZE:A is a group I highly respect. If I recall properly, I believe I did a review on one of their songs, but considering it was during the newbie days, that review would hold as incohesive and horrendous. Perhaps a future review will need to be done to correct the past. Anyhow, whether it were songs that I overlooked such as “Step By Step,” singing and dancing skills, their humor, or their general sweet, affectionate interactions, “Star Camp” reminded me of how incredible these men were.

With all of that said, it is time to truly begin the review. The gentlemen of ZE:A held their own home concert a while back, and thanks to “Star Camp,” some behind-the-scene footages are revealed. Furthermore, for those curious on Star Empire Entertainment’s building (ZE:A’s label company; they also home Nine Muses, Jewelry, Soreal, and V.O.S), this show tours the place and reveals the layout. Is this show worth watching, and does it accurately depict ZE:A’s struggles? Through taking a camping trip to the land of the star idols of ZE:A, we will find out.

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For the first section of “Star Camp,” touring Star Empire Entertainment’s building was the main objective. ZE:A’s hyung (used by males to refer to older males), Kevin, “good-looks” Heechul, and Jewelry’s sparkling Yewon were the hosts of the tour. They covered multiple stories (pun intended) of the company, and gave their own personal anecdotes such as trainee day experiences.

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Peering at the first floor, there were two sections to cover: the cafeteria and the recording studio. For the cafeteria, besides some teasing on Yewon’s excitement to eat, “Star Camp” revealed the layout. Additionally, Kevin shared ZE:A’s trainee experience involving the place. Before they had a cafeteria worker, he was in charge of cooking meals for his group whether it was a formal dish or simply preparing ramen.  

Later, although strangely in the show the order was not chronologically (it went from first floor, second, third, then back to first), the recording studio was unveiled. Unlike the cafeteria, some fans of Star Empire Entertainment’s artists may recognize the location due to other videos (an example such as Nine Muses’ Sera’s audition). Unfortunately, not much was covered since a V.O.S member was in the midst of recording an actual song.

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Eventually, “Star Camp” proceeds to the second floor. Here, other ZE:A members are seen; Minwoo and Dongjun introduced viewers to the company’s fitness room. While the physical location is unveiled, the ZE:A members discussed their rigorous workout regime; weightlifting and running were their prominent forms of exercise. Also humorously, the members mentioned their CEO’s office being nearby. This led to Kevin’s jocular impersonation of the CEO should he catch idols improperly exercising.

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Adding another example of “Star Camp” ‘s unusual order, the three hosts dived into the basement to showcase the vocal practice room. Similar to the recording studio, fans will recognize this place from other videos. Social media accounts from Star Empire’s idols have depicted short, miniature clips of them singing in this room. Likewise with the recording studio, idols are seen actively working; during the filming, the group of Soreal was seen practicing their vocals.

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Now if fans have not recognized the other locations, positively, the third floor will be instantly identifiable; this floor holds the dance practice room, the same location of dance practice videos be it for ZE:A, Nine Muses, Jewelry, and even the other groups. On this floor, additional ZE:A members are encountered; Hyungsik, Siwan, and Taeheon were witnessed practicing. In preparation for their concert, they rehearsed a certain song: Apink’s “No No No” (a future review might be on Apink’s latest song, “Luv”). Readers familiar with Apink will know they are a female group, and some may hold the stance that males performing their choreography is either “wrong” or “awkward,” but ZE:A disproves such. Although “Star Camp” showcased solely a fragment of the dance, the gentlemen combated away those stereotypes and displayed a phenomenal, cute and catchy dance. Adding a quick digression, gender limitations is nonexistent; the concept of certain objects or actions being restricted to a specific gender is something socially constructed. In summary, hopefully viewers do not ever hold the idea of how a group’s choreography is limited based on gender. Reality shows there is no “female dance” or “male dance,” and even with different subjects such as cosmetics, hobbies and more, those limitations should be challenged and questioned.   

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Once the touring is completed, “Star Camp” focuses on specific moments of the gentlemen prepping for their solo concert. A specific scene disclosed their extreme dedication. From the beginning of the day to 4 a.m., ZE:A members were observed singing and dancing relentlessly. As Hyungsik mentioned, with 9 members in ZE:A, extra time must be invested in order to create perfect synchronicity among them. Despite how tiring and tedious the training proved to be, they all remained diligent and focused, and surprisingly, very cheerful and continued to encourage one another.

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Further practice was also observed. During the day and prior to the concert, ZE:A rehearsed on the actual stage itself. With time pressuring the members, they scrutinized every detail of the stage; whether it was the choreography itself, time to transition and change costumes, or introductions, everything became thoroughly checked and had both ZE:A and staff members giving feedback. Ensuring an excellent performance would ensue was their main objective.

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After all of the gentlemen’s hard work have been shown, the actual concert itself is filmed. Although in short bits, “Star Camp” disclosed the stage’s numerous fans and ZE:A’s outcome that came from dedicated, tiresome work. “Star Camp” ended on the message of how success derives from hard work. Even with the agonizing days of sheer preparation, in the end, ZE:A’s concert became augmented due to the invested time and energy.

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These are the main overarching ideas to the show. Firstly, although I overviewed the main points, I did not include every conversation and story that occurred, and thus, in that regard, I still recommend watching the show for those moments (fans of ZE:A and Star Empire Entertainment would be interested). However, overall, to address the mechanical aspects of “Star Camp,” this was a straight-forward show; it went from touring the label company to showing ZE:A’s sessions of practice. On the positive side, it allowed more focus to some behind-the-scene footages, but in the entertainment perspective, it was not too exciting (and considering this is moreover a show versus a documentary, I hold some entertainment accountable). I anticipated more personal sides to ZE:A, and although there were a multitude of interactions seen, it all revolved around “Star Camp” and practicing versus their usual affection towards each other. In comparison to, for example, OnStyle’s “The TaeTiSeo,” “Star Camp” adds the behind-the-scenes aspect, but unlike “The TaeTiSeo,” general interactions were not seen. Everything was under the industry working lens (mainly rehearsals), which is not bad in itself, but considering this is labeled a show and, as stated, not a documentary, entertaining components should have been added besides the anecdotes and such.

Scrutinizing the show for other aspects excluding the mechanical piece of being a show, like the general K-Pop related ones, the overall general vibe was one of cheerfulness. While positivity should be rife in people’s lives, “Star Camp” displayed the typical one-sided story to idols. ZE:A may have been seen to be drained physically of their stamina and such, and whether their emotions of feeling positive and joyful were genuine or not, the show placed emphasis on glamorizing the men’s jobs of being idols as perfect and utterly rewarding. Some people may recall a specific incident months ago involving Star Empire’s CEO and ZE:A’s leader Junyoung; their battle over fair, humane treatment in terms of simple respect and fair payment became acknowledged all over, and with that scenario holding as true, their fight would completely contradict “Star Camp” ‘s depiction of how ZE:A members possess an easy and positive, although tiring job that simply involved practicing for performances.

Following up, there is a significant aspect to this show’s tone due to the sole basis of editing (and of course further technicalities such as specific clips used, manipulated context, and more). For example, contrasting this show to pure footage and documentaries (such as Nine Muses’ documentary), the lens in which viewers witness this show become utterly transformed into one that is expecting entertainment and a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. With “Star Camp” having their own crew, the members of ZE:A addressed the show with a persona that would appeal to the public; the men appeared exceptionally positive and cheerful. The issue, however, that arises from the change in behavior is what covers the K-Pop industry’s shadier and crueler side. To use a specific example of how ZE:A (and others) adapted their behavior, when it came to the show’s initial introduction of interviewing idols (Kwanghee’s interview is the picture above), sadly, a high chance of their answers were potentially scripted. Although strangely kept, with Kwanghee’s interview, he confessed he had to include “nest” due to a given script for his answer to “What does Star Empire Entertainment represent to you?” On the surface, the awkward phrasing was jocular, and knowing Kwanghee’s upbeat and comical personality, his confession of having a script becomes insignificant. However, ignoring the lighthearted perspective, the fact that he was given a script to answer interview questions that should have elicited genuine, personal answers from his own thoughts, creates some questioning to both the show and potentially other shows and footages involving other K-Pop idols.

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Mechanically, “Star Camp” revealed a hindered perspective to ZE:A’s behind-the-scenes practice. Although crippled in showcasing solely positive experiences, it gives the most blatant layer to an idol’s work. In terms of other mechanical details such as being entertaining, while the stories tolds were amusing, more interaction among the members excluding work would have been desired. For the critical aspect, “Star Camp,” like the predominant concept of every K-Pop related show, solely displays positivity and happiness. And while the gentlemen could have truthfully and legitimately felt utter joy to be practicing, showcasing only their successes gives a limited perspective to their jobs, and unfortunately, undermines struggles they could be undergoing (and fast forward in the future, the example of ZE:A’s leader Junyoung and Star Empire’s CEO having their hefty argument). In short, this show is worth watching if ZE:A is a group of interest, and if Star Empire Entertainment holds some interest as well. Additionally, and even if it is one-sided, for those curious on practice protocols, a limited sight is given. For what I would recommend, however, is after watching this show, compare it to Nine Muses’ documentary, “Nine Muses of Star Empire,” to see significant changes and the additional layers to practicing and an idol’s experience (without leaking too much, the documentary includes staff members’ interaction with idols, the harshness, and more).

Perhaps in the future I will review the documentary, and even with my opinion of how solid Nine Muses’ documentary is, everything should still be questioned. A review on the documentary will include my thoughts regarding it, but that will be for the future. Ending on a slightly happier note (although people should still retain the idea of being critical), if the positivity and such seen in shows are forged, at the very least, I will argue that the affection between members are usually genuine. Using ZE:A as an example, Junyoung’s confrontation with the CEO was heavily driven in a desire to protect his members. Even different groups such as the somewhat older news of B.A.P attempting, as a whole group, to terminate their contract with their company is another example. After all, if the reality holds true that the K-Pop industry is rigorous and atrocious towards idols, surviving it via having love and compassion towards other members for support is a likely outcome.

Anyhow, my opinion on the show has been given. Thank you very much for reading, and hopefully this show review adds some variety to the standard song reviews I create. To add an extra piece to this show review trend, I will look over Nine Muses’ own reality show, “Nine Muses Cast” and give my stance on it. After that, song reviews will be resumed, and with a milestone of six reviews for January, I will aim to release four song reviews as soon as possible and in high quality. Songs in mind include Apink’s “Luv” and perhaps a desired review of Girl’s Day’s “I Miss You,” but as always, any song is up for grabs. In fact, I might review ZE:A’s “Ghost of the Wind” since that is a very solid song along with having the best choreography I have seen so far. Thank you once more, and stay tuned. (As a side note, I did finish this review on December 31, but I am holding it off until January 1, and I am hoping the pictures are formatted properly)