would it be possible for you to review “Love Line” by HIGH4 please?

Hello. Absolutely I can review HIGH4′s “Love Line.” In fact, there appears to be quite a lot of news involving the group from what I can gauge–specifically that their leader has parted ways from the group. But regardless of what is occurring (and certainly these details will not affect a musical critique of the song), I can definitely review this song. 

That said, for some notes, there is another request ahead of this one: BTS’ “Spring Day.” Furthermore, I do wish to review TWICE’s “Knock Knock” even after “Spring Day” as the ladies’ latest comeback provides a lot of discussion on the powerful effects of excellent composition that transcends weaker vocals or an overly generic pop style. In other words, I wish to challenge a lot of fans’ and listeners’ opinion on “Knock Knock” being a weak song; I find it to be a very solid song due to its composition–and on a less critical note, I actually enjoy the song’s style and it is currently my favorite song of all-time despite it being what I would normally dread. (Edit: That said I think it should be clarified that I still find MAMAMOO’s “Decalcomanie” still ultimately my favorite song of all-time along with being one of the best “pop” songs I have heard. And for what is the best song I have heard at all in my entire life, Ailee’s “Evening Sky” would be it and perhaps in the far future I will review it to see how ridiculously high the ratings would be.)

But besides all that, I will certainly still review your request. It will perhaps take a bit longer to get to, but I guaranteed it will be reviewed. Expect it to take roughly one week and at worst two weeks. Thank you so much for sending this in and I look forward to hearing the song and to writing up a review that hopefully proves insightful and thought-provoking.

BTS – “Dead Leaves” Review

(Audio—unofficial
upload)

BTS – Dead Leaves

Reviewed
on February 27, 2016

Nevertheless,
although many fans might desire to praise and cherish the song on the basis of
it being unique—which, again, I do not disagree with nor do I find these
“unworthy” qualities as it is
important to have distinguishable songs from the hundreds of thousands (Korean)
pop songs—I disagree with praising the song in this way. In fact, I struggle to
praise the quality of the song in general; certainly the song is by no  means utterly weak, but I will argue that if
we look beyond uniqueness we will find that “Dead Leaves” is a rather plain,
negligible song.

Personal Message:
First of all, thank you so much to
the requester of this review for sending this in. It has been multiple weeks
since I actually received the request, so my sincere apologies for this delay.
Although the following is no way to excuse myself, I hope to clarify the delay
is because I have been quite busy and not neglecting the request. For other
news, if I am on track I hope to equally post another review request that also
involves BTS. Afterwards, I plan to wrap up the shorter month of February with
TWICE’s “Knock Knock”—a song that I am finding as my current favorite song of
all-time and one that is excellently efficient and accommodating in its
composition for TWICE’s weaker vocals. But we will save that discussion for
when it is appropriate.

To address this current review’s
link, I am using an unofficial YouTube upload. For basically what this means,
for future readers reading this three years from now—which, now thinking of
such, is definitely a bizarre yet intriguing thought—the link might no longer
work because of copyright issues or because the uploader removed her/his video.
As such, should this be the case—whether three years from now or somehow in a
few months—then manually searching for the song will have to be done.

Addressing one last technical point,
as mentioned earlier, due to also wanting to finish another request, this
review will perhaps be shorter than usual and I might opt to skip over some
details. (A prime example would be not discussing why I rated the lyrics as is—though
this will not be the case for this particular review.) Moreover, I also plan to
focus on key concepts rather than all of the minute details. I hope this all
works out so that the review is brisk yet thought-provoking to read, and so
that I can also review “Spring Day” in time.

Finally discussing the song itself,
“Dead Leaves” is—in terms of its breakdown—incredibly different from a majority
of other songs reviewed before. The song itself is not necessarily the
strongest I have heard nor is its structural composition any better. However,
in terms of its lyrics and its flow, both of these aspects are definitely
unique compared to many other pop songs—and with the lyrics specifically, it
scores incredibly well. Nevertheless, although many fans might desire to praise
and cherish the song on the basis of it being unique—which, again, I do not
disagree with nor do I find these “unworthy” qualities as it is important to have distinguishable
songs from the hundreds of thousands (Korean) pop songs—I disagree with
praising the song in this way. In fact, I struggle to praise the quality of the
song in general; certainly the song is by no
means utterly weak, but I will argue that if we look beyond uniqueness
we will find that “Dead Leaves” is a rather plain, negligible song.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 6/10
(5.75/10 raw score) – “Slightly above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 5/10
(4.83/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Rap, Chorus, Verse, Rap, Chorus, Bridge, Rap, Chorus, Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
5/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Rap: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Bridge: 4/10

6.     Conclusion: 6/10


Instrumental: 4/10


Lyrics: 8/10

[Instrumental introduction]

Like those dead leaves there
that have fallen and are flying
My love is collapsing without strength
Your heart is only going further away
I can’t grab you
I can’t grab you any more, more, more
I can’t hold on longer, yeah

Over there,
the autumn leaves that look like they’re at stake
It seems like they’re looking at us
If our hands touch, even if it’s all at once
it only seems like it’s going to be crumbs
I just only looked with the winds of autumn
The speech and facial expressions that have gotten
colder all of a sudden
I can only see our relationship withering
Like the autumn sky, it’s empty between us
An ambiguous difference that is different from before
A night that’s much more quiet today
A single autumn leaf that’s attached to the branch
It’s breaking, I can see the thing called “the end”
The dead leaves that are becoming shriveled
The silence inside your aloof heart
Please don’t fall
Please don’t fall, the dead leaf that’s becoming crumbs

I want you who makes eye contact with me
I want you who wants me again
Please don’t fall
Please don’t collapse
Never never fall
Don’t go far far away
Baby you girl I can’t hold onto you
Baby you girl I can’t give up on you
Like the dead leaves that fell
This love, like the dead leaves
Never never fall
It’s withering

As if every autumn leaf has fallen
As if everything that seemed eternal
is going further away
You’re my fifth season
Because even if I try to see you, I can’t
Look, to me, you’re still green

Even if our hearts aren’t walking, it walks by itself
Our foolishness, like laundry, is being hung piece by piece
Only the bright memories are dirty
It falls on me
Even if I don’t shake my branch, it keeps falling
That’s right, in order to raise my love, it falls
Even if we’re close, my two eyes become further,
spreads further
Like this, being thrown out
Inside my memories, I become young again

Never never fall yeah
Never never fall yeah
I want you who makes eye contact with me
I want you who wants me again
Please don’t fall
Please don’t collapse
Never never fall
Don’t go far far away

Why, can I still not give up on you?
I hold onto the withered memories
Is it greed?
The lost seasons I try to restore,
I try to restore them

Blaze them brightly, flare
It was all pretty, wasn’t it?
Our pathroads
But it all withered
The dead leaves fall down like tears
The wind blows and everything drifts apart all day
The rain pours and shatters
Until the last leaf
You you you

I want you who makes eye contact with me
I want you who wants me again
Please don’t fall
Please don’t collapse
Never never fall
Don’t go far far away
Baby you girl I can’t hold onto you
Baby you girl I can’t give up on you
Like the dead leaves that fell
This love, like the dead leaves
Never never fall
It’s withering

Never never fall
Never never fall

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: To
begin this review, we first need to understand the song’s current strengths.
After all, it scores at a six which is quite decent despite my harsher,
critical remarks that “Dead Leaves” is supposedly a plain and forgetful song.

As
discussed earlier, the song’s uniqueness does help its ratings—and more
specifically, that uniqueness exists in the lyrics of which I consider an
appropriate category for a song to be judged in. For why the lyrics score
incredibly well—and readers should realize an eight for lyrics is incredibly
rare and only two other songs on this blog have earned such—the details are
phenomenal. Even if the plot itself is nothing too spectacular as it is a
romantic-related (or more accurately, a not-so-romantic one as it involves a
breakup) topic and thus, is far from unique, the details truly make the song
become a miniature story.

For
example, with the first rap, we come into details that are not repeated or are
cliché as oftentimes is the case with pop music. Unlike lyrics that follow
extreme simplicity such as “Our love is going away / My heart hurts every day”
(I made up these lines; if I end up quoting an actual song, it is by pure
coincidence), the first rap instead brings out an entirely fleshed scenario and
description of the protagonist’s feelings. This occurs at other moments in the
song, and even the choruses are still building off the main story versus spewing
lines that are not specifically rooted in an individual, creative plot. This
incredible level of details in the lyrics is why I have given it an eight. It
is like a story; and for me to be able to claim such—even if, yes, the story
itself is not necessarily amazing in of itself—the very fact that it comes off
as one versus “regular, generic pop lyrics” is praiseworthy.

Another
aspect that is the song’s strength—though it is one that is not quite scored
and thus unable to directly aid the song’s rating—is that the style involved is
different from many other pop songs. Although many might disagree, I believe it
is still important for songs—especially in pop as there are a plethora of songs
existing—to have a distinguishing, creative style that is heard in either
aurally or structurally (or even both). In “Dead Leaves,” what makes its style
unique is how it flows: the song focuses on slower build up that, once it
reaches its climax (the choruses—as is oftentimes the case), the release from
there is orientated towards slower, wave-like progression versus the expected
and typical style of merely streaming out the climax.

Let
us use some examples since what I am discussing is incredibly abstract. In BTS’
“I Need U,” we find that the chorus flows out rather fluently and directly: the
chorus occurs and it simply continues off the song. In fact, it is hardly
thought that a song’s climactic piece would run anything but as a fluent stream. However, in “Dead Leaves,” this is not the
case as the choruses is frequently chunked up and therefore carries subtle
pauses, and furthermore the choruses are quite lengthy and dragged on versus
occurring in a somewhat hastier fashion so that the song can easily “reset”
back to its build up form. (And for another random note, pop songs run in what
is called a “binary” form because of this very reason; there is oftentimes a
“cycle” of going from “A” to “B” and back to “A” and the cycle begins again—and
hence “binary” as there are two main portions. But this is getting far too
technical and further abstract and is definitely not a part of the discussion
for “Dead Leaves.”)

Returning
to the main reason for all this lengthy explanation, I mention this all to
explain that the song very much sounds unique. Seldom do pop songs follow this
type of flow and, with the “binary” form of pop music (which I attempted to
explain), it is definitely interesting to hear “Dead Leaves” have its own style
to the binary format.

All
that said, while creativity is welcomed and is arguably necessary for a
group/soloist to survive—and by “survive” I merely mean “stay relevant” because
I love being dramatic—in the K-Pop scene, this does not mean a song is
automatically good. In other words, just
because a song sounds different does not mean it is therefore a strong song; this
will ultimately be the driving idea behind this current review. If a listener
hears a very different song and then uses that as her claim for why the song is
good, it is an incredibly weak argument. Equally said, it is also a weak
argument to critique a song for “sounding generic” on the sole basis of that.
For example, in the past I have claimed some songs sounded awfully generic and
typical, but I then (or at least I hope) went on to explain why it sounds generic and why sounding
generic in that song’s particular case
is bad. If nothing else is gleaned from this review, I do hope readers
understand these crucial points: never discuss and critique music quality
purely on sounding “different” or “similar” to other songs. Instead—as I will
do with TWICE’s “Knock Knock,” a very
generic pop song—it is about looking at the composition and production involved
and then deciding whether a song is good or not (and of which there is no right
answer as music is all subjective).

With
all that in mind, let us now discuss what I do find weak in “Dead Leaves.” To
save time and to not bore readers with robotically breaking down each aspect to
the song, I wish to instead hone in on one section: the choruses. As much as I
admire the creativity involved in general but more specifically the choruses, I
find that the composition sacrificed efficiency and even quality just for “Dead
Leaves” to be deemed “creative” or “unique” within the context of its chorus
and overall flow. What remains most troubling is how excessively dragged the
choruses sound. For example, as already partially discussed above, the choruses
do not just run through and carry on the song; rather, the choruses contain
frequent pauses and, to describe its flow, it is akin to waves: pushing out
hard, receding a little, and then pushing out hard once again and repeating
this.

Now,
this composition decision is not just for the sake of creativity and I do wish
to clarify that. A musical benefit that comes from this approach is that the
vocals are granted additional chances to showcase minimal beltings—this being a
pleasing aspect to BTS’ vocals in this song. Nonetheless, this main benefit is still
questionable: doing such comes at the expense at making the vocals and
instrumental sound “stretched.” To explain what I mean, the choruses’ ending
time should be much shorter than they currently are. Especially with
considering the second half of the choruses, this portion of the choruses are
not necessary per se and I argue this additionally, length-dragging aspect only
creates a more rigid, awkward “recycling”—going back to the following verse’s
calmer state—when in many ways the song have done that transition without
needing the excessive dragging manner. And with this, besides structurally
lowering the choruses’ ratings, this section’s instrumental is also in of
itself poorly executed because it very much amplifies the problem and indeed, a
lowering instrumental rating can be quite detrimental.

Ultimately,
“Dead Leaves” does score decently but we have to be critical: is the decent
rating because in an aesthetical sense the song is solid—in other words,
gauging its lyrics and uniqueness—or is, despite the given rating, the song in
a musical sense is actually slightly weaker? Readers can tell, I personally
argue for the latter: “Dead Leaves” struggles with its composition and thus it
renders as a bit too stretched during its choruses. Again, I do wish to
highlight and praise the creativeness involved and for the risk taken with the song’s
composition, but with being a critical, active listener I cannot help but bring
up the song’s significant flaws.

But
of course, readers have to be remember this is all my opinions; I do not state these points to bash BTS or their song,
but I instead wish to begin a discussion that I hope fans and listeners can
build upon whether through disagreeing with me, agreeing with me, or a
combination of both. That is why music is reviewed: for the intellectual,
mature, and respectful discussions. No one reads music reviews because they
want a reviewer to form an opinion for them; after all, it only takes perhaps
seven playbacks of a song for one to get a firm grasp on what their take is. Indeed,
people read music reviews because they want to have various insights—perhaps even
insights that would completely conflict with what they think of a song. That is
the goal of my review, and I very much mention this as I understand there will
be fans who are upset at my words even if statistically the song manages to
score decently.

_______________________________________________________

I
feel incredibly guilty for this request being delayed for so long. Since it is
later at night that I am finishing this one, the request for BTS’ “Spring Day”
will instead come out tomorrow or in a few more days. I am getting slightly less
busy, but I do still have school tasks to handle and thus might be unexpectedly
busy. (Examples include group projects, essays, and preparing my third lesson
for seventh graders—the latter being something I am excited for.) But
admittedly I have been spending much time watching TWICE videos instead of
finishing up priorities, such as a theology essay, but that is beside the point—I
mean, “So what?” as Momo says. And “so what” if the ladies are all incredibly
gorgeous—physically and non-physically—and can still look flawless with minimal
makeup on while if I do the same I still look like I have not slept in weeks.

Jokes
and TWICE references aside, thank you to all for reading this review whether in
full or skimmed. Thank you so much to the requester once again for sending this
in and for being patient. “Spring Day” by BTS will be next for review, and
afterwards, I will finish up the month with TWICE’s “Knock Knock” and begin
March with another new review request. Make sure you “Don’t go far far away.”

Critical Discussion: “Addressing a Concern: Fiestar’s Potential Disbandment”

“Addressing
a Concern: Fiestar’s Potential Disbandment”

Posted on February 19, 2017

Nonetheless,
this anxiety towards Fiestar’s potential disbandment is true—and in fact,
whether or not these incidents occurred does not matter. Fiestar has always had
the fear of disbandment: the group struggles financially as Cao Lu has said
multiple times, and indeed, the ladies are not popular as a group even if
individually two of them—Cao Lu and Yezi—are somewhat more popular. Likewise,
their songs have not been strong enough to catch high popularity; at most, “You’re
Pitiful” remains their best song and somewhat “Apple Pie,” but both of which
are not easily “mainstream” pop songs especially the former as “You’re Pitiful”
is a pop-ballad.

Personal
Message:
Admittedly
this is more of a “casual” discussion than a “critical” one—“critical” in the
sense of how these types of posts tend to be reserved for when social-related
topics come into play, such as gender, sexuality, or even ethics—but I have decided
to give my own take to the concern of Fiestar disbanding. There are a lot of
clarifications that I believe should be addressed, and furthermore the current situation
is not a binary of “Fiestar will either entirely disband or they will entirely
continue as is.” Furthermore, this post will also allow me to address a
question on what becomes of my subtitled videos of Fiestar (and indeed, Fiestar
is the perhaps the group I am most emotionally attached to as a fan) should
they disband entirely.

_______________________________________________________

Context:
To clarify to those who are unaware
of why this concern exists—though in truth, as I will address in a post about
SPICA’s “hiatus,” this concern should have already been lurking in fans’ minds—there
have been two main incidents leading fans to suspect that Fiestar is soon
disbanding. The biggest reason is that, according to a few news articles, Fiestar’s
leader—Jei—is no longer listed as a member of Fiestar on LOEN Entertainment’s
website (their label company). In fact, Jei is supposedly not even in LOEN Entertainment anymore; a few
sources claimed to has moved to another label company entirely under an actress
category. As such, as readers can tell, this is creating much concern as
Fiestar losing their leader and one of their most popular members can
definitely hurt the group’s popularity if not a disbandment.

As for the other reason fans are
concerned—and this, personally speaking, being a weaker reason—is due to Cao Lu’s
words regarding Jei on a show: when Jei was
in Fiestar. I hesitate to claim this is solid evidence for Jei leaving Fiestar
(and that, even after Jei’s departure, Fiestar will continue with the remaining
members) because this quote is not from Cao Lu directly; it came from English
subtitles. And indeed, especially as Fiestar fans can tell with my own
subtitles and translations, captions are never perfect due to
lost-in-translations or simply translation mistakes (and of which I admittedly
am tremendously guilty of).

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Nonetheless, this anxiety towards
Fiestar’s potential disbandment is true—and in fact, whether or not these
incidents occurred does not matter. Fiestar has always had the fear of
disbandment: the group struggles financially as Cao Lu has said multiple times,
and indeed, the ladies are not popular as a group even if individually two of
them—Cao Lu and Yezi—are somewhat more popular. Likewise, their songs have not
been strong enough to catch high popularity; at most, “You’re Pitiful” remains
their best song and somewhat “Apple Pie,” but both of which are not easily “mainstream”
pop songs especially the former as “You’re Pitiful” is a pop-ballad.

And so, we come to the point of this
post: What now? To first address on a personal level before addressing this
situation in a general sense, I want to clarify this one point and I hope this
message is spread to those who watch my subtitled videos: that in the case that
Fiestar entirely disbands, I will
still continue subtitling Fiestar videos as ridiculous as it sounds. I have,
quite literally, gigabytes’ worth of videos that I still need to subtitle
involving Fiestar, and even if the group itself is gone, I still wish to finish
the responsibility I took up for fans. Now even when that is done, as many fans
relate, I personally have grown quite attached to the ladies themselves in
Fiestar—Cao Lu, Jei, Linzy, Hyemi, and Yezi. What this means is, even if the
group disbanded, I will attempt my best to continue uploading and subtitling
videos of each of them individually. Unfortunately this is unrealistic but it
is possible and I will attempt my best to do so. In short: for fans worried
they will forever lose access to Fiestar because I might no longer care for the
members once the group is finished, this is false; I will continue to be a
resource where fans can find videos of the ladies.

Ignoring that, though, let us
address Fiestar’s potential disbandment as of itself. My stance is this: Wait
for Jei and LOEN Entertainment to confirm she is officially leaving the group.
Currently, all we have are speculations and for all we know, LOEN Entertainment
might have made a deal with the company Jei is now currently signed with. If
this is the case, perhaps Jei would still be in Fiestar but with merely a
different company and contract. Additionally—and for the more realistic, feared
route—even if Jei leaves the group, I argue Fiestar can still go proceed
strongly as four. And admittedly by “strongly” I mean they can continue as is—not
popular but perhaps at least maintaining a financial stability and having a
decent, loyal audience. But on topic, recall that many other groups have lost
members and are still doing well if not even better: Dal Shabet lost two
members (one of whom was their core, solid rapper) and yet they persevere on
and have released a very impressive song of “Someone Like U.” Nine Muses is
also in mind as the group’s roster has seemingly shrunk every year. Though
their current releases are not too strong, it should be acknowledged that Nine
Muses has done very well despite so many roster changes.

Of course, though, it is true that
no matter the situation if Jei leaves Fiestar it will hurt in all aspects—popularity,
emotionally, and musically. That said, especially as this blog focuses more on
the musical aspect of K-Pop (and a reader suggested I take some time to purely analyze
vocalists, so perhaps this is a slight experiment at such), I think it is
equally critical to discuss how Fiestar would be affected musically should Jei
leave. In my opinion (and bearing in mind I am quite familiar with Fiestar in a
musical sense and thus am not throwing random thoughts), the departure of Jei
will leave a noticeable void but it is nothing that cannot be overcome. Regarding
Jei’s role, she can be understood as a sub-vocalist; this means that Jei’s
singing in Fiestar is oftentimes for less intensive, strenuous lines but it
still means she provides those minute details that are still very much
important.

As for why I claim her role is essentially
“replaceable” (in a musical sense; I wish to emphasize this), we have to bear
in mind that Cao Lu is Fiestar’s other sub-vocalist albeit weaker than Jei.
Nevertheless, I see this as a chance for Cao Lu to finally receive much more
lines and in songs such as “Thirst” and “Back and Forth,” I find that she is
definitely capable of firmly holding that role even if Jei is a slightly more
adept singer than Cao Lu when it comes to handling more complex tunes. Overall,
unlike losing Linzy or Yezi—both of whom are the group’s main vocalist and
rapper respectively—or even Hyemi with her being the lead vocalist (for those
confused, the lead vocalist is basically in between the main and sub vocalist),
Jei is already musically substituted by Cao Lu. As a result, Fiestar could
theoretically continue without much if any shifts in the group’s musical role.
(And to address how Fiestar would lose their “visual” member, I find this role fans
have created rather silly—though no offense to those who strongly believe in
this. For one, every idol in the K-Pop industry can be claimed a “visual”
member, but I argue it is partially ridiculous that we belittle both male and
female idols who might have excellent dancing and singing skills to nothing more
than a pretty doll to stare at.)

Lastly, regarding the non-musical
aspect I have yet to address, Fiestar’s popularity dropping from Jei leaving is
a reasonable concern. While we have our comedy-genius Cao Lu and our “girl
crush” Yezi (while I assume all readers know what that means, it is in
reference to a woman who gives off a tougher, “do-not-mess-with-me” vibe—for a
lack of a better term) as Fiestar’s other popular members, we have to
acknowledge that many are fans of Fiestar because of Jei. Especially with her
taking on acting in a drama and attending a myriad of variety shows, many fans
are here because of Jei herself. Therefore, it is unavoidable that Fiestar would
potentially lose some popularity from Jei leaving—and, many fans turn away from
groups once members leave and more so when it is the group’s leader. However,
even so, I argue Fiestar’s popularity will still be stable considering Yezi and
Cao Lu are in the group and certainly, these two members have brought a lot of
attention to Fiestar.

All in all, it would be greatly
upsetting in all aspects if Jei leaves Fiestar—or worse: if Fiestar actually
disbands. From a critical standpoint I find that Fiestar can still carry on without
Jei, but I equally would understand the decision LOEN Entertainment and the
remaining members make to disband if Jei leaves. Regardless of what occurs—Jei leaving
or the group disbanding—it is always crucial for fans to be understanding and
supportive to all members. As Cao Lu openly shared, working as an idol is an
incredibly unstable job; there is no certainty that the group will hold well or
that members can individually make a living. As such, Jei’s leaving—should it
happen—should never be interpreted as her being selfish and ignoring the
members and fans, and the same can be said if the members and company agree to
end Fiestar. If through this all it happens to be nothing more than a contractual
and company change on Jei’s part and Fiestar remains the same as currently,
then I hope this post remains relevant in addressing the “lurking thoughts”
fans—and perhaps even the members—have. And, would this not make us realize we
need to truly support and cherish the ladies and group while we are all
together?

_______________________________________________________

I hope this post is able to address
some questions fans have regarding Fiestar’s current situation. Time will tell
what occurs but as I said, being understanding and supportive is vital during
this sensitive period. I personally will continue to subtitle Fiestar’s videos
regardless of their status, and should the worst come I plan to still subtitle
videos of the members in their individual paths.

Another post will come out similar
in this fashion regarding SPICA’s “hiatus,” so look forward to it if the
technical aspect of K-Pop is fascinating. As for standard reviews, BTS’ “Dead
Leaves” and “Spring Day” will come out shortly. Thank you to all for reading,
and whether one is a fan of Fiestar or not, I hope this post still provides a
more critical insight as to how groups actually function in a systematic sense.
(Though we always need to remember the humane side and that groups are not just
a robotic team of robots.)

Hi, I’m glad you’re back and though I understand you’re busy, it would be a pleasure to hear your thoughts on BTS’ Spring Day and Not Today (though personally, I prefer the former because of its musical style and easy to follow melody). I’ve enjoyed seeing insights on music through your reviews. Thank you and keep up the good work!

Hello. Thank you so much for this request and kind words, and thank you for also being aware of my tighter schedule. Nevertheless, requests will always have room and I am sincerely grateful for them, so thank you for sending this in. That said, I think realistically it would be better for me to review one of the songs and personally with listening to “Spring Day” and with your preference to it, I will choose that as the song to review. In the future, though, I may return to “Not Today.” I hope this is understandable. 

To already leak some thoughts on “Spring Day,” I am incredibly excited to review it. It is perhaps BTS’ best song–or at least, from the songs I have heard. In particular, I find the composers’ decision on how the instrumental plays out was a  somewhat large risk that ended up rewarding the song greatly. Furthermore, the vocals from the members are quite impressive. Overall, it truly is a praiseworthy song and I look forward to reviewing it. For now, there is another request in place–BTS’ “Dead Leaves”–so this request will be coming out a bit later. But indeed, I will get to it. (And with “Dead Leaves” being a song by BTS as well, perhaps that review will interest you as well.) Once again, thank you so much for the request. I hope to finish it in roughly a week.

Cosmic Girls – “I Wish” Review

(Dance Practice)

Cosmic Girls/WJSN – I
Wish

Reviewed
on February 17, 2017

Finally,
this takes us to our review. Although Cosmic Girls is flourishing with their
choreography and have solid stage presence for “I Wish,” I argue their weaker vocal
execution in the song is what greatly holds it back. The song in theory does
play out decently as we will discuss, but in application with how the vocals are
delivered, the song loses much of its appeal.

Personal Message:
It has been almost two weeks since
the last review—this being perhaps the longest delay the blog has seen. To
explain the absence of reviews, I have been incredibly busy with university.
Moreover, though, I have been using my “review time” to instead subtitle a few
videos along with preparing a lesson that I taught to seventh graders and
indeed, all of this took up the time that would have been for reviewing songs.
(On the random note of teaching seventh graders, it should be clarified that this
is not due to the fact that I am officially teaching. Rather, I am still
gathering experience and teaching informally. That said, I am able to have teaching
sessions as my current “cooperating teacher” is incredibly welcoming, helpful,
and overall is such a wonderful person.)

Nevertheless, I greatly apologize to
the requester of this current review and additionally another requester who has
been patiently waiting for their request on BTS’ “Dead Leaves.” I hope to spend
this weekend catching up and to finally get to a bonus post that focuses on
technicalities of sound in general. Especially since February is a shorter
month, I do feel quite pressured to simply get out as many reviews as possible while
still, of course, inputting a genuine amount of effort and care per post. And on
a random note, an additional bonus post will be coming out soon: a post that
provides a discussion on how SPICA, a very vocally-skilled group, can somehow
never receive spotlight and are now on “hiatus” (of which is SPICA’s Narae’s
gentler way of saying the group is temporarily disbanding). In short, I plan to
discuss—in a speculative sense—what it actually takes to be popular in the
K-Pop scene since, akin to almost all pop cultural music around the world, there
is a lot more than just music at
play.

But, let us now focus on what we
currently care more about: Cosmic Girls’ “I Wish.” (And to address potential
confusion, the group is also referred to as WJSN due to abbreviations if
correct. However, Cosmic Girls is the official name similar to how Girls’
Generation is the official name for that group versus their abbreviation of SNSD
and thus, I will refer to Cosmic Girls as their official name from here and onwards.)
With “I Wish,” to already discuss it in a somewhat critical fashion, I wish—no
pun intended—to clarify that the song is something that I term
“performance-based”; in other words, the beauty and strengths of the song is
more in its choreography and stage presence than the song’s own sounds and
composition.  

As we will shortly get into, I will
argue the song is relatively weak. In fact, statistically speaking, it is a
tenth away from being labeled as “slightly below average.” This is personally
shocking as if I recall correct, the requester did mention they believed this
group was underrated. Now in a general sense, I do agree: Cosmic Girls
certainly have brilliant dancing skills and their songs are not utterly weak—and,
of course, it would be nice for every group to receive a “healthy” amount of
popularity. (In a somewhat cynical manner, by “healthy” I refer to the amount
that allows a group to be financially stable. I do assert that life is much more than money, but indeed we have
to be realistic and acknowledge that finances are a huge driving force to
artists—or the lack thereof when it comes to groups being quite inactive due to
faring poorly with profits.) But even so, on a more critical level—and more so
if focusing on music—I disagree with
the requester: Cosmic Girls, I argue, have yet to release any stunning songs
that would make them “deserving” (again in a loose sense) of more popularity.

However, putting aside pessimistic outlooks
on the ladies, I think Cosmic Girls definitely have the room to grow. In fact,
I like how Starship Entertainment is handling the group: the songs they receive
tend to be decent in the realms of composition and production. To be clearer, the
songs themselves—ignoring the vocals, essentially—tend to actually be decent
songs if we analyze the structures, the instrumental, how the song flows, and
so forth. What lacks the most for Cosmic Girls, then, is themselves: their singing
and rapping. If the vocal execution on their part improves—and indeed, this is
basically a guarantee if the ladies practice and train—then over time I foresee
Cosmic Girls faring very well with possessing both solid dancing skills and vocal skills and decently composed songs. And indeed, this is the ultimate goal
of all groups: to be adept at both dancing and singing (and rapping) and have
stronger songs. (Since I mentioned SPICA, they provide an “inverse” example to
Cosmic Girls’ situation and this might make more sense for readers. SPICA is
very vocally impressive but, especially given their last comeback, their songs’
production can be weaker. Barring “Tonight” and especially “Ghost,” many of
their other songs lack in composition despite their vocals always shining and
thus, their songs are still overall average even if they individually excel
with singing and rapping.) Overall, point being is this: Starship Entertainment
has handled the composition and production of Cosmic Girls’ songs well. Now,
though, it is time for Cosmic Girls themselves to elevate their singing to an
even higher stage.

Finally, this takes us to our
review. Although Cosmic Girls is flourishing with their choreography and have
solid stage presence for “I Wish,” I argue their weaker vocal execution in the
song is what greatly holds it back. The song in theory does play out decently
as will discuss, but in application with how the vocals are delivered, the song
loses much of its appeal.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 5/10
(4.50/10 raw score) – “Average”


Vocals: 3/10


Sections: 4/10
(4.43/10 raw score)

Introduction, Chorus,
Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Rap, Bridge, Chorus,
Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
5/10

2.     Verse: 4/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 5/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Rap: 3/10

6.     Bridge: 5/10

7.     Conclusion: 6/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 6/10

[Introduction instrumental]

Just tell me why
You only want to walk on flower paths
Tell me why
This girl only wants to be loved
Tell me why
Boy and girl, walking on a flower path
Then we met destiny (destiny)

When you pass me by,
I tremble so much
You wake my heart up,
like early flower petals
You are building up in me

I’m so fine, look so fine, I look pretty
Because I’m receiving love more and more
Out of all these people,
only you are the most handsome
of all the universe

Just tell me why
You only want to walk on flower paths
Tell me why
This girl only wants to be loved
Tell me why
Boy and girl, walking on a flower path
Then we met destiny
Tell me love, talk to me
Oh oh oh, I’m curious
(Tell me why)
Is this the love I wanted?

We’re resembling each other, more and more
The distance is getting closer
The more we spend time together,
the more my heart trembles

Hurry and walk into my heart
No one has ever told me
Out of all these people,
only you are the most handsome
of all the universe

Just tell me why
You only want to walk on flower paths
Tell me why
This girl only wants to be loved
Tell me why
Boy and girl, walking on a flower path
Then we met destiny
Tell me love, talk to me

Each day is like a dream
On this road that is made with your love
There remains our footsteps
I hope it’s you when I open my eyes

I’m gonna go blind at this rate
You’re dazzling, did you swallow light?
You’re a miracle that came to me
Now I’m holding my hands out so I can reach

Just tell me why
You only want to walk on flower paths
Tell me why
This girl had a lot of secrets
Tell me why
Walking on this path like a picture
We met destiny
A different landscape is before our eyes
Oh oh oh so beautiful
You and I, it’s like a dream
Boy and girl, walking on a flower path
Then we met destiny
Suddenly, you are close, in front of me

[Conclusion instrumental]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
While numbers can never quite speak for themselves, I do find the current
ratings misleading. After all, it appears that the song is not excellently composed if the sections themselves are scoring
poorly—but this is not the case due to a particular reason as will get to. “I
Wish” in of itself definitely possesses compositional strengths.

For
example, the sections are cohesive. Even if the choruses sound poorly, it is difficult to deny how to the sections flow well
into one another. Transitions between each section are subtle yet beneficial
and one moment in particular is worth much praising: the pre-choruses. Relating
back transitions, both the “before” and “after” transitions are smooth to this
section, but more importantly the sections’ conduct is brilliant. Consider how
the pre-choruses open: slower, calm vocals and instrumental which then
gradually build towards a minor note hold. It is incredibly effective for the
song in whole of reaching its climactic peaks (the choruses, as is typically
the case) but also doing such grants the song appeal via variety. Especially in
juxtaposition to the other sections that do not
offer that level of diversity, the pre-choruses become a key core of “I Wish”
as it is structurally quite solid and sonically provides some appeal. Likewise,
other features are decent to the song: the lyrics for its creative plot and
somewhat varied details; and lastly its instrumental for providing the song a
reliable foundation even if it partially lacks sonically. And yet, readers
still might have a critical question in mind: but why are the sections still poorly
rated for the most part? Answering that is our next focus.

In
short: the vocals are indirectly affecting the sections, hence why for example
the pre-chorus is still rated as average even when it is a rather impressive
section given what it provides for the song and how creative it is. Now while
sections oftentimes are not associated with vocals per se, we have to understand
everything is still fundamentally connected. For example with the pre-chorus,
as discussed it is structurally
strong: within the section it remains quite diverse and fluid, and in an
overarching view the section transitions the song and helps in the process of
building it up. Nonetheless, the raw sounds
that occur are weaker but we still have to acknowledge those sounds to a
section are still ultimately a part of it. With this in mind, let us focus on a
few specific aspects.

The
choruses are arguably the song’s weakest part. The main, impairing aspect is
how monotonous this section comes across. Instrumentally and vocally, there is
little variation at play. At most there is a slight change in pace towards the
latter half of the choruses, but for the most part the sections sonically and
structurally are too rigid. Furthermore, the attempts to break out of the
sections’ tedious format—the electronic vocals added (and more specifically, I
am referring to the “auto-tuned” parts) throughout the choruses—prove futile
and, more detrimentally, do quite the opposite. With vocals that carry minimal
strain and intensity and equally an instrumental that is predominantly
recycling basic, electronic noises, piling onto all of this the auto-tuned
vocals that are equally meshed into the instrumental make the choruses sound
more monotonous. Should some variety take place—perhaps some added vocal power
or a slightly more complex tune—the choruses would have performed better.

Another
section worth covering is the rap. This section is perhaps the worst in “I Wish”
as it lacks both in execution and composition. For one, the placement of the
rap is already peculiar: after a chorus. Now on the one hand I understand why
this was chosen: it allows the rap to seamlessly transition in—and indeed, this
is very much true and as discussed earlier, cohesion is a huge strength to “I
Wish.” Nevertheless, on the other hand it should be noted that because of how
the rap itself plays out—being tedious in its sound and flow as the rap had
minimal fluctuations and ultimately only had speed as its charming point—it almost
sounds as a mere extension to the already stale, repetitive choruses. If either
the choruses were more diverse or if the rap’s execution allowed it to differentiate
from the current choruses’ sound, the rap would have worked very well. As is,
unfortunately, the rap is in a difficult situation of fitting structurally but
not sonically.

If
not for the weaker vocal delivery in “I Wish,” many of the current issues I
pointed us to could have been avoided entirely. Again, I wish to emphasize that
the song’s composition is actually decent; if the vocals were somehow more
diverse be it through added power or a more complex tune, then the current
sections as is appear fine. The rap section’s situation is the best example of
what I am attempting to get at—after all, as said it fits perfectly in the song
but given how it vocally sounds along with how the choruses vocally sound, it
no longer sounds suitable as it becomes far too monotonous. Even if the song
miraculously scores at a five, we need to bear in mind that that is not quite the
case: it is nearly a four and therefore a “slightly below average” one.

All
this said, while I have been rather critical of Cosmic Girls, it should be
clarified that my words are not to be interpreted as bashing the members
personally or with their skills. On a general level, their singing is still “good”;
even if I am heavily critiquing them on that level, we all need to acknowledge that
they are still singers and therefore “can
sing.” My critique, then, is not to claim they should not be singers or that
they are bad at singing but rather
that their singing within the context of
“I Wish” is inappropriate for it. Additionally, without doubt their vocals will
improve over time and given that Starship Entertainment is handling the composition
and production of Cosmic Girls’ songs quite well as mentioned, this means that
Cosmic Girls will begin excelling in
the future. Fans should very much continue to support the ladies and I
personally look forward to their future releases. Besides, as a future post
will soon discuss, K-Pop is not just purely about the audio to a song: it
involves the choreography, stage presence, attending shows, and so on. With
Cosmic Girls holding well with their dancing and—from watching a few videos—them
being quite entertaining on shows, the group is still worth supporting and
caring for.

_______________________________________________________

Huge
apologies to the requester of this review, but it finally is released. I am
still running with the plan of keeping reviews condense and focusing more on
critical moments, so I hope this was able to come across in this review.
Likewise, I hope the review is thought-provoking and not just, say, “emotional-provoking”
as I hope the points I bring up are disagreed (or agreed) with in a respectful,
mature manner versus fans being purely reactive without giving deeper thoughts.

For
the next review, look forward to BTS’ “Dead Leaves”—a request that I am quite
late on—and two bonus posts that will discuss SPICA’s hiatus and music
equalizers. Thank you to all for reading this review in full or skim. I
appreciate it all. Look forward to the next post and know that “You wake my
heart up, like early flower petals.”

Uhm Junghwa – “Dreamer” Review

(Music Video) / (Dance Practice)

Uhm Junghwa – Dreamer

Reviewed
on February 4, 2017

Certainly
“Dreamer” is still decent overall, but I will personally argue a surprising
factor heavily weighs down the song: the vocals. This is not to say that
Junghwa’s singing is poor per se; rather, how
her vocals are used in the song is questionable and that is what I wish to
focus predominantly on in this review.

Personal Message:
We are already into a new month even
though I somehow feel as if we are still in January. That aside, I do want to
greatly apologize to both readers and the requester of this review. I have been
incredibly busy with university but I am hoping to spend this week with
catching up on multiple reviews. Furthermore, I hope to be more concise with
reviews but, as some readers may know, that is difficult for me to personally
balance as I still have yet to find the perfect, short amount of writing that
readers and I can enjoy while still conveying a deeper, critical discussion of
a song. As per usual, experiments will have to take place. Also for other news
(and directed more towards Fiestar fans), I do intend to begin subtitling videos
more frequently again especially as I have plenty of videos left to subtitle.
In particular, I will be subtitling a commercial song by them that surprisingly
no one has translated yet. Finally, due to a long absence, I might attempt to “compensate”
by posting a technical music post—something that admittedly I should not have the authority to write but I
find that there are readers who might be more curious on this aspect to music
and thus, I could discuss something simpler and even relevant for readers.

Onto the review, thank you to the
requester for sending this in. It has been two weeks or perhaps even longer
since the request was submitted and to that I deeply apologize. Nonetheless, despite
the delay, I am very grateful for receiving this and especially with this song
being one that is not “mainstream” as it involves Uhm Junghwa, an older
generation artist. In fact, to put the latter into perspective, it should be
noted that the legendary, highly influential singer (especially for current
female artists) Uhm Junghwa is 47 years old. Indeed, in K-Pop age is merely a fictional
number as she continues to showcase excellent singing and dancing skills.

Now focusing on “Dreamer,” the
requester of this review did predict that I would very much enjoy the song.
While—as in all cases—I do appreciate and admire certain aspects to the song,
unfortunately I will say I find myself being neutral if not somewhat negative
towards the song. Certainly “Dreamer” is still decent overall, but I will
personally argue a surprising factor heavily weighs down the song: the vocals.
This is not to say that Junghwa’s singing is poor per se; rather, how her vocals are used in the song is
questionable and that is what I wish to focus predominantly on in this review.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 5/10
(5.00/10 raw score) – “Average”


Vocals: 4/10


Sections: 5/10
(5.14/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Post-Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
5/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 5/10  

4.     Chorus: 4/10

5.     Post-Chorus: 6/10

6.     Bridge: 5/10

7.     Conclusion: 6/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 6/10

Boy, don’t you cry
Never never cry
Boy, don’t you cry
Maybe everything is alright

So pretty, it’s like a lie
Your sleeping face in my arms
Honestly, I’m a bit sad
when I think that this is it

On the first night
there were so many things we were curious about
One of me, one of you, we showed each other
On the second night
I was so sorry
because my heart didn’t pound anymore

Boy, don’t you cry
Don’t you ever ever cry
Back then, I loved you more than anyone else
Dreamer dreamer, in my deep dream
You just came and left, that’s all
I love your face when you cry
But you never never know
You’re like a young child
Like you lost everything
Dreamer dreamer
Dream deeper
That night might come again
Until then, goodbye

Do you wanna love again?
Do you wanna play again?

You can do whatever
Say what you want about our past
Rumors will spread anyway
If only one of us is the bad guy
It’ll probably be me

Boy, don’t you cry
Don’t you ever ever cry
Back then, I loved you more than anyone else
Dreamer dreamer, in my deep dream
You just came and left, that’s all
I love your face when you cry
But you never never know
You’re like a young child
Like you lost everything
Dreamer dreamer
Dream deeper
That night might come again
Until then

From close up
it’s not beautiful to me
I wish everything
was just a dream

Boy, don’t you cry
Don’t you ever ever cry
Back then, I loved you more than anyone else
Dreamer dreamer, in my deep dream
You just came and left, that’s all
I love your face when you cry
But you never never know
You’re like a young child
Like you lost everything
Dreamer dreamer
Dream deeper
That night might come again
Until then, goodbye

[Conclusion]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Now
before truly discussing the vocals, it is still necessary to acknowledge this song’s
strength. In particular for what stands out, the flow to “Dreamer” is
incredibly tight. In other words, the song in whole is very cohesive and as
discussed in multiple reviews, this is a huge asset as it allows many
individual aspects in the song to actually aid one another in producing better
sounds versus conflicting each other. Let us analyze the sections for this
discussion.

First,
it should be understood that the sections’ placement—or even existence if we
are being accurate—in the song are odd at first hearing (or glance if we
literally look at the list): there is only one post-chorus and the second half
of the song is missing a pre-chorus. Unlike the traditional route of having a relatively
symmetrical song from the first half to the second half (such as with the
standard trio of “verse, pre-chorus, chorus” and that said trio repeating in
the second half), we find that “Dreamer” is the opposite as it simply is not
symmetrical in that sense. However, I argue this composition significantly
helps the song in maintaining its tight cohesion. With the post-chorus for
example, rather than entirely dropping the song’s flow to that of a stagnant
pace in order to “reset” the song’s intensity to the level of the first verse,
the post-chorus actually carries on the prior chorus’ faster and more energetic
pacing.

Even
more intriguingly, the second verse that follows up then continues to adopt the
post-chorus’ state—a state that is still upbeat but is still within the
appropriate scale so that the second verse is still identifiable as a standard
pop song verse. Now with all this in mind, the lack of a pre-chorus is
understandable and even beneficial:
because of how the second verse is already somewhat hastened, the final line in
the verse is then easily and naturally transformed as a pseudo pre-chorus. This
is brilliant as this verse-and-pre-chorus combination is efficient—and being
efficient in a song is to be cohesive (for the most part; exceptions exist) as
the sections just go to the next without any abrupt, sudden changes.

However,
although those composition points very much impressed me, I find that the song’s
composition in terms of its actual sounds is less appealing. This is why
despite the stunning maneuvers of the sections they still ultimately average
out at a five. For what I argue is the root cause of it all, I unfortunately do
blame the vocals. (But to clarify, this is not to say I blame Junghwa herself; instead,
it is the vocals in this song’s specific
context
that is weaker.) For example, throughout the entire song the vocals
become mundane as mechanically there are minimal changes in pacing and, in specific,
tone. By tone I am referencing to how the vocals’ core sound—even despite
changes in tunes—still sound the same. Consider this: in the verse, Junghwa’s
singing, while it may be more passive and focused on lower notes and a slower
pacing, sounds very much akin to the singing at the choruses if we ignore
changes in intensity and pacing. Especially when we consider other songs where
the vocals at, say, the choruses sound significantly different due to added
strain or adding a “heavier” or “softer” style, in “Dreamer” this is not the
case as the singing sounds plain and the same throughout. It is because of this
sonic repetitiveness that many of the sections are indirectly negatively
affected. Couple that in with a tough compositional dilemma of either making
the instrumental fit the vocals and therefore creating the song’s solid
cohesion or to make the instrumental vary and thus create diversity and appeal
in the sections at the cost of the song’s cohesion and indeed, we are at “Dreamer”
‘s situation—though, as we can tell, the composers did choose the former.

All
in all, “Dreamer” still rates at average and I do agree with that. The cohesion
to the song is very impressive, and as discussed, how the sections work structurally
personally awed me as I find the single post-chorus and single pre-chorus very
effective yet creative ideas. Unfortunately, the vocals and even instrumental
create a mundane sound to the song and so while the song structurally is solid,
it sonically is weaker. But of course, average is by far not a “negative”
score; the only issue is that it is equally not a “positive” score and thus
blends in with all the other K-Pop songs in existence—this being problematic if
we consider that there are a lot of K-Pop songs. Perhaps “a lot” is an
understatement.

_______________________________________________________

Once
again thank you to the requester of this review. I actually found that this
review went rather smoothly and I managed to touch in decent depth everything
that was critical of the song, and I was able to do so without being too
lengthy or too robotic. I will continue this style of reviews and if it works
out then perhaps I will be able to easily catch up on many songs. Also, thank
you to readers for being patient and thank you to those that read this review whether
in full or skimmed. I appreciate it all.

Look
forward to a bonus post that addresses music on a more technical level—and all
while being something that a majority of readers can find relevant and
applicable to their daily music experiences. Afterwards, other requests will be
covered: Cosmic Girls’ “I Wish” and BTS’ “Dead Leaves.” After those songs, I
plan to then review Hong Jinyoung’s upcoming comeback as I have been anticipating
the day I get to review trot music (I am a huge fan of Hong Jinyoung’s songs
and of trot in general), and if my schedule is correct, the last review of the
month will most likely be either be AOA, 2NE1 (yes, even after their
disbandment), or a collaboration between MAMAMOO’s Solar, f(x)’s Luna, and EXID’s
Hani. There is a lot to cover, but look forward to them all.