Red Velvet – “Red Flavor” Review

(Music Video) / (Live Performance)

Red Velvet – Red
Flavor

Reviewed
on July 27, 2017

But,
unfortunately, when it comes to focusing on “Red Flavor” in a more critical
lens, I argue there are many problematic points in the song. While many fans
might desire to praise the creative aspects of the song and even claim that
such aspects are the song’s captivating points, I entirely disagree as I argue
the composers’ creative attempts are ironically and unintentionally the song’s
weak points.  

Personal Message:
I did plan to get this review out
much sooner, and indeed it is not the request on Day6’s “I Smile.” That said,
the requested review will be finished a few hours and will be posted
accordingly so or held until a day depending on how I want to space out the
month’s remaining reviews. Unfortunately, due to an unfortunate series of
headaches a few days ago, this review and Day6’s “I Smile” are technically
behind two days, but all should be fine regarding the blog’s schedule. Regarding
why I am reviewing “Red Flavor” in the first place and not handling requested
reviews first as I normally do and should
do, as mentioned in a few prior posts, I have unintentionally analyzed “Red
Flavor” and thus, it would be a waste to not review the song at this point. And
of course, I am also motivated by a sense of guilt as after watching some
shorter videos of Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon and Red Velvet together, I
realized I have not paid much attention to the Red Velvet ladies at all. Plus,
with how amazing Wendy’s voice is and her singing abilities—and that she is an
amazing person in general—I felt a need to indeed review “Red Flavor.” (Though,
quite obviously, I am actually reviewing the song for musical reasons and that
will always be the core reason for why a song is personally chosen to be
reviewed.)

Now before focusing directly on the
review, I will take a few seconds to lightheartedly express slight
frustrations—not at this song or Red Velvet or the review, to clarify. Rather,
the issue of “lost-in-translation”—a phenomenon where meaning is lost during
the translation of different languages—has never been as prevalent as in this
song’s case. For this review’s translated lyrics, I admit it might not be the
most accurate at all and that is because I personally have done a relatively
large amount of editing. The current, popular translated version of the song’s
lyrics are slightly too inaccurate from what I have noticed—and this should be
quite concerning considering I am far from fluent in Korean and yet still
notice such discrepancies. As such, the current lyrics are not perfect at all,
but I believe it will make the most sense grammatically for readers of this
review. Language and linguistics are definitely fascinating topics.

Venting aside, let us finally
discuss “Red Flavor.” Personally, I do find myself enjoying the song regardless
of how the review will go. In fact, I find that it might even be Red Velvet’s
best song or at least tied with “Russian Roulette.” But, unfortunately, when it
comes to focusing on “Red Flavor” in a more critical lens, I argue there are
many problematic points in the song. While many fans might desire to praise the
creative aspects of the song and even claim that such aspects are the song’s
captivating points, I entirely disagree as I argue the composers’ creative
attempts are, ironically and unintentionally, the song’s weak points.  

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 5/10
(4.75/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 5/10

4.     Chorus: 5/10

5.     Post-Chorus: 2/10

6.     Rap: 4/10

7.     Bridge: 6/10

8.     Conclusion: 5/10


Instrumental: 4/10


Lyrics: 5/10

Red flavor
I’m curious about it, honey
The strawberry flavor that melts more as you bite
Corner candy shop
Look for it, baby
The summer flavor is what I like the most

I want to fall asleep under the shade of a tree
The hot summer air blows
So easy to fall in love at the age of 19
We look good together, we’re cool

I like it, it was love at first sight
I keep thinking about you
I want to do it my way

Red flavor
I’m curious about it, honey
The strawberry flavor that melts more as you bite
Corner candy shop
Look for it, baby
The summer flavor is what I like the most

(Red-red-red flavor, red-r-red-red flavor)
(Red-red-red flavor, red-r-red-red flavor)

Open the seven colored, rainbow door
Your world is electric, it’s cool
Your love’s color is redder than the sun
I want it, I want to do it my way

Look at me, what are you thinking about?
What can I do today?
I’m dreaming however I want

Red flavor
I’m curious about it, honey
The strawberry flavor that melts more as you bite
Corner candy shop
Look for it, baby
The summer flavor is what I like the most

Peach juice, sweet and sour mix, mood
The cocktail I want to make you is, “Brew Red”
Electricity in your ears, numbness in your nose
Feeling better than you can imagine, up and bang, red
Bet you wanna, bet you wanna dance like this
Let’s shout out
I like you, honestly
Nervous? You’re sweating, so cute
Falling for each other, we’re red-red, ah

You haven’t figured it out because I haven’t told you
My feelings are growing for you
Like spilled ice cream
I might just melt
So tell me
(Tell me)
So tell me
(Tell me)
With your colors,
paint me, thickly and strongly

Red flavor
I’m curious about it, honey
The strawberry flavor that melts more as you bite
Corner candy shop
Look for it, baby
The summer flavor is what I like the most

In the summer, what I like the most is, you

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Before
getting further, with mentioning “creative points,” I now need to explain what
I mean. After all, such a phrase is incredibly vague and if readers do not
understand the context I am speaking from, then the core idea behind my
argument would become worthless. Regarding “creative points,” I am specifically
referring to how the instrumental functions in the song and the effects it
brings. And while I will later explain why the creativity comes at many
expenses of the song, we still have to acknowledge that there still are
strengths and thus will explain the positive effects.

For
the most prominent example, at the choruses the instrumental differs from many
other instrumentals heard in pop songs. What occurs is that the instrumental merely
provides beats and a bass line. In other words, for why this is peculiar, the
instrumental is a relatively “empty” one and more so as choruses tend to be
climactic points in a song and thus we would expect the instrumental to be far
more active. However, this is not the case at all and in this sense we should
appreciate a far more different approach the composers have taken for “Red
Flavor” ‘s choruses. Furthermore, though, we also need to acknowledge that
there are some positives that are gleaned from this decision: Red Velvet’s
vocals become emphasized as the core sound during the choruses. This results
from how, given the bland nature of the instrumental during the choruses, Red
Velvet’s more energetic and hasty singing sharply contrasts the instrumental.
As such, the instrumental not only gives “Red Flavor” a unique sound during
this instance, but it also enhances the vocals that occur.

Another
example of the unique instrumental aiding the song is when we consider how
consistent it remains throughout. For example, unlike songs that would have a
dramatic change in their instrumental—typically such as when a song’s chorus
has an extremely upbeat, pure electronic solo instrumental—“Red Flavor” instead
remains stable throughout. This in of itself is not necessarily a strength, nor
is having a sudden chorus instrumental change automatically bad, but in this
case I argue it definitely helps the song by allowing the sections to freely
connect to each other. At the introduction, for example, it is not its own
individual section but rather is merely the chorus executed in a slightly
calmer fashion. What allows this interesting structure to even take place in
the first place—since, after all, a chorus as the introduction would seemingly
be far too abrupt—is that the instrumental does not drastically change
throughout the rest of the song and thus, the starting introduction is not
seemingly extreme and out of place. In clearer terms, let us think of it in
this way: we can notice that, at the end of the introduction, the instrumental’s
bass line kicks in heavily. Superficially it is for a transition, but cleverly,
I argue the composers went for something further: we also have to realize that
the increased bass line always occurs throughout the song at certain sections’
ends. And so for why this matters, it goes back to my original point of the
instrumental remaining consistent and predictable. Given that the introduction
section uses this bass line increase at its end and that the instrumental does
this at other points, it makes the introduction seem far more fitting and not a
sheer outlier despite it technically being a chorus section—a section that
would typically be far too exciting to begin a song with.

All
that said, the instrumental still does bring many issues despite it bringing in
the mentioned positive points for the song. In fact, we can return to those
supposed strengths and see how, in my view, many weak aspects are brought as a
result. If we peer back at the choruses and the instrumental, even if it
highlights the ladies’ vocals at that moment, this is still quite problematic.
Already, on the surface there is the issue that emphasizing the vocals at this
moment is perhaps unnecessary and even detrimental: the delivered vocals are
far from being exceptionally stunning. In fact, I argue the vocals at the
choruses serve more as filler than actual sonic appeal. We can realize this by
how the vocals at the chorus carry an echoing, unison sound—something that is
oftentimes done in K-Pop songs to create a “filler” sound—and that the more
tuneful, pleasing vocals are actually located outside the choruses, be it at
the verses, pre-choruses, and definitely the bridge. As a result, then, I
personally am conflicted on whether the instrumental highlighting the vocals
was an appropriate choice: highlighting filler vocals is what should not be highlighted at all. And even in
the case that the composers intended for the choruses to merely be taken as
filler as a whole, this is still problematic as filler sections are seldom
desired and are ultimately there to progress the song until actual appeal comes
in—hence why I term them “fillers.”

Switching
over to the instrumental being consistent and using similar patterns throughout
the song—such as with the signature bass line increase towards the end of
choruses and verses—this is perhaps the song’s deepest problem. Certainly it
allows the song to pull off interesting approaches such as with using the
chorus as the introduction, and of course creating organization in the song,
but a consistent instrumental in “Red Flavor” also means it has to stay true to
a questionable hook used in the song: the murmured line of “red flavor.” Quite
clearly, this takes place most prominently at the post-chorus, but upon closer
listening, we will also come to realize that this very line is indeed murmured
even through the verses and choruses. Yes, it adds some layering to the song
and this is quite important in the choruses as it feels quite empty and hollow
as discussed earlier, but because the instrumental follows its rigid,
consistent style, this means that the murmuring line will also have to
tediously be heard throughout. What I argue is a very poor decision, however,
is that the composers did not just leave this hook line as mere background and instead
opted to include a post-chorus for the “instrumental” (as the murmured, edited “red
flavor” line functions as such) to take its spotlight. Quite bluntly, the
post-chorus not only leaves minimal aural appeal, but the fact that it brings
this background sound to the forefront is what is most troubling and more so
as, unfortunately, it makes sense for why the post-chorus does and almost has to exist. The reason: to stay true
to the instrumental being consistent. With the murmured lines being repeated
already throughout, it makes sense that a break in the song would indeed bring
the murmured lines to front as it is the only main sound left remaining; there
is simply nothing else in the instrumental especially since the instrumental becomes
quite passive during the choruses, the section promptly before the post-chorus.

Overall,
while “Red Flavor” is a unique song
in terms of its composition and that the very creative design to the song does
bring it some benefits, it seems that the song is left with more problems from
its different, creative form. Now this is not to shut down attempts of a
creative song or to encourage all pop songs to stay true to the traditional
format of the genre, but in “Red Flavor” ‘s case, it unfortunately just does
not manage to perfectly get through with its more creative approach. Nevertheless,
“Red Flavor” is still a decent song and is far from anything appalling; after
all, it still scores at an average. Additionally, with impressive points such
as the bridge and how “Red Flavor” manages to capture Red Velvet’s signature
song style, this song is not to be automatically dismissed. There is more to be
desired, but in the end, the song should be appreciated for its uniqueness and
of course that the ladies of Red Velvet deserve to be supported along with the
composers, producers, and other individuals involved in the song’s process. And
even if I am somewhat harsh in this review, as said, I personally find this
song to be quite enjoyable even if critically it remains lacking.

_______________________________________________________

I
will be promptly working on the requested review of Day6’s “I Smile” right
after this review is posted. I highly doubt it will be finished on the same
day, but it might be. Regardless, it should be finished by tomorrow and
similarly, the other two remaining requested reviews should be finished
back-to-back. While July is still quite lacking in content, August will very
likely contain constant posts as I will very much be preparing for university
again. Until then, look forward to three requested reviews, and as always, “In
the summer, what I like the most is, you.”

Hi. Could you please review Johnny GoGo by G-Reyish. I saw them on Music Bank and their song is very similar to T-Ara. I hear a mix of T-Ara’s Roly Poly, Lovey Dovey, Little Apple and Boney M’s Daddy Cool. I am very curious to see what you have to say about it.

Hello. After reading this request, I became very curious and heard a snippet of the song and indeed you are entirely right: the song very much does like T-ARA’s older songs. This would definitely be an interesting review so thank you so much for sending this in. I do have a slight queue with reviews but as said in another request, I am feeling the motivation to cover all of these songs quickly so look forward to this review in a few days or perhaps in a week if the current three end up taking a little longer.

Whenever you have time, could you possibly review EXO’s Ko Ko Bop?

Coincidentally, I was listening to it yesterday and thinking of whether to review it or not. To answer: I would be glad to review the song. I may be a bit “late” with one other request, but I am definitely feeling the motivation nowadays to write a lot of reviews and thus, I believe I can finish the review in only a few days. 

Thank you for sending this in. After Day6′s “I Smile” and potentially Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor,” I will indeed review EXO’s comeback. 

Monsta X – “Beautiful” Review

(Music
Video—Dance Version)

Monsta X – Beautiful

Reviewed
on July 19, 2017

Particularly
for this review, I will briefly spend some time discussing the introduction and
post-chorus on an individual scale, but afterwards we will then entirely focus
on “Beautiful” ‘s overall composition. Specifically with that, despite how the
song very much inverts the traditional structuring of pop songs, I argue the
sheer uniqueness of such a composition is not enough to compensate for the drawbacks
that occur as a result.

Personal Message:
To the requester of this review,
huge apologies for the delay. That said, thank you for sending this in and for
being extremely patient as I slowly catch up on as many song as possible. And
with that, after this review I will also hastily finish the request for Day6’s
“I Smile.” There are many comebacks this summer and many of which are either
decent songs or songs that are quite creative in a composition sense, and so I
hope to cover as many of them as possible. (Additionally, with my new reviewing
style of focusing on main points and no longer necessarily dissecting each
minute detail, I feel that this goal is possible.)

On topic with the current review, while
requests tend to be of latest songs, it should be noted that Monsta X’s actual
comeback is “Shine Forever” if I am correct. Regardless of that, “Beautiful” is
still a relevant song to review and definitely possesses a lot of creative
compositional ideas. Furthermore, Monsta X in a general sense has been a group
I have always kept my eyes—or more accurately, ears—on. While they are already
relatively popular, I confidently say that in the far future it would not be
surprising if they become a top boy group—at least in a musical context (given
that the very topic of popularity is something that is highly complicated in
the K-Pop scene). For example, they have stunning choreographies along with
having very skilled vocalists—both standard and rappers. And, from my limited
experience, they also seem to appeal to audiences on variety shows be it on Weekly Idol or on a show where one
member showed his sweet, gentle fatherly side as he took care of a young child.
Lastly, besides their shameless “aegyo” moments, they also seem incredibly
close to each other and that it always something that will keep fans around as
it is incredibly heartwarming to see them being affectionate and caring for
each other. The only downside to Monsta X is that their beauty encourages
fanboys to engage in dark magic in hopes of also becoming as pretty as the men—or
perhaps that is just a sign that I need to stay out of the summer heat.

Horrible jokes aside, let us talk
about “Beautiful.” Although I will not focus too much on individual aspects to
the song—as, again, I am experimenting with a new reviewing style—there are
many topics to cover when it comes to the song in whole. Particularly for this
review, I will briefly spend some time discussing the introduction and
post-chorus on an individual scale, but afterwards we will then entirely focus
on “Beautiful” ‘s overall composition. Specifically with that, despite how the
song very much inverts the traditional structuring of pop songs, I argue the
sheer uniqueness of such a composition is not enough to compensate for the drawbacks
that occur as a result.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 6/10
(5.50/10 raw score) – “Slightly above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 5/10
(5.00/10 raw score)

Introduction, Rap,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Post-Chorus, Rap, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Conclusion
(Chorus)

1.     Introduction:
3/10

2.     Rap: 6/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 5/10

4.     Chorus: 5/10

5.     Post-Chorus: 6/10

6.     Bridge: 5/10

7.     Conclusion (Chorus): 5/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 6/10

[Introduction instrumental]

Why is it you?
I’m going crazy
What is this?
I think I’ve fallen for you
All day, in my head
Round and round it goes
A question mark, every day
I know you have thorns
But I want you, red rose
Because of the thorns,
a beautiful rose can bloom
Dark red flowers, it means I love you
Even if I bleed everywhere, I want to know you
‘cause I think about you every day
I’m already addicted to you

When you touch me, my entire body reacts
I can only live if you’re here
Every day, every night
I can feel you

You’re so beautiful
I can’t take my eyes off you
Like a thorn on a flower
I know I’ll get pricked but I want you
So beautiful, so beautiful
You’re so pretty, so beautiful it makes me sad
Too beautiful to handle

[Post-Chorus instrumental]

Two fingers, thumbs up
You make me say words of awe
You take away my right mind
I think I’ll go crazy
When I smell your scent,
it spreads, it grows
I’m addicted
I’m prickled, hurt
It’s between love and pain
You’re so awesome
Don’t give out secret looks
Don’t smile at me
My head says: “no”
But my heart says: “oh yes”
I’m going crazy
I don’t know, I’m going all in

When you touch me, my entire body reacts
I can only live if you’re here
Every day, every night
I can feel you

You’re so beautiful
I can’t take my eyes off you
Like a thorn on a flower
I know I’ll get pricked but I want you
So beautiful, so beautiful
You’re so pretty, so beautiful it makes me sad
Too beautiful to handle

I know I can’t ever have you
I know you’re more beautiful when I only look
I’ll protect you, so you can bloom more beautifully
(My one and only baby)
I don’t care if I get hurt
’cause you’re my
one and only beautiful

You’re so beautiful
I can’t take my eyes off you
Like a thorn on a flower
I know I’ll get pricked but I want you
So beautiful, so beautiful
You’re so pretty, so beautiful it makes me sad
Too beautiful to handle

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Already,
to do some individual “dissecting” as I have termed it, I do wish to first
discuss the introduction and post-chorus. With the introduction, its score is quite
concerning: a three for below average. There are two reasons for this—one minor,
one major. The minor reason is that sonically, the introduction seems to fail
to capture listeners’ attention as it consists mostly of flickering, echoing
beeps. But, as introductions are not necessarily expected to sound glorious in
all cases, this criticism can be minimalized. That said, the other and
significant reason that I find the introduction troublesome is that even on a
structural level, the introduction is extremely detrimental to the song. As we
will further discuss, the introduction highly alienates itself from the rest of
the song: aurally, the song does not quite utilize these similar sounds until
the conclusion; structurally, the introduction does little to set up the
upcoming rigorous, powerful rapping. Combining both of these views and we now
have an introduction that not only sounds unappealing, but it is one that also
fails its very own role of establishing the song’s sound and style and
attracting attention. Furthermore and most importantly, with how “Beautiful”
struggles (as we will get to) to remain a cohesive song that is not sharply
divided between certain parts, this introduction does not help with that and
instead merely adds onto that very problem of the song overly “splitting.” On
the other hand, the post-chorus in “Beautiful” was, in many ways, the opposite
of the introduction: The sounds utilized are indeed related back to the song’s
core instrumental. Additionally, the pause provided from this section helped
connect the song’s sections rather than further splitting apart the sections as
does the introduction—this being due to how the slower, passive style is
relating back to the prior chorus and is to ease into the upcoming rap section.

All
that aside, though, let us consider “Beautiful” in a wider lens. Regardless of
how much we could analyze the vocals, instrumental, and the remaining sections,
none of that would reach the true core of the song: the composers crafted “Beautiful”
so that it completely flips around how sections work in traditional pop music.
To build some background so as to not confuse readers, by using the phrase “traditional
pop music” in relation to sections, I am referring to the simple progression
that pop songs tend to follow. In summary, the song starts off slowly and gradually
builds in intensity and that said intensity climaxes at typically a chorus.
This format then repeats. Now, for what is impressive about “Beautiful,” this
structure still exists—but in reverse; indeed, the composers have made it so
that the song starts and almost already
climaxes at a very early point. Only at the choruses does the song finally
begin to relax. And to be more clear, we can find this occurring if we think of
the song in this manner: the rapping sections are the climactic peaks—this we
can hear and feel from how powerful and sharp the sections are—and the
remaining sections, that of the pre-chorus and chorus, are focused on calmer
singing and are backed up by an instrumental that emphasizes a linear flow
versus having fluctuations throughout. (Think, after all, of how Monsta X’s “Hero”
has a chorus where the instrumental is at its prime and is constantly changing
and in action. Compare that to “Beautiful” and we realize the instrumental at
the choruses are not climaxing at all, but rather are resetting and relaxing
the song.)

So,
while this challenge to the traditional norm of pop songs deserves some praise
for the sheer fact that the composers took a significant risk, we still have to
ask the main, critical question: Is this strategy actually effective? I argue both sides: yes and no. On the positive side, as
already stated, one benefit is that doing such is unique—and certainly, having a song that is distinct is crucial
and always helpful. However, ignoring this perspective, there are still
potential musical strengths that are gleaned. The main gain is that this
inverted format allows the rap sections to become the song’s highlights—the song’s
“choruses” if we even dare say such. Especially as the rap sections are already
decent ones that appeal via flow, power, and rhythm, having them as the
spotlight and climactic points are not a bad decision. And, admittedly, this
inverted format might be the only way such a song could accommodate the raps:
if the raps are already quite intense, having an even more intense chorus might
be unrealistic as it would be far too excessive. Likewise, positioning the raps
after the choruses and using them to reset the song would also be difficult as,
once again, that would counteract the very purpose of calming down the song
given that the rap sections are quite rigorous.

Positives
covered, let us now focus on the negatives. Unfortunately, while this inverted
format can work and other songs have very much utilized it to high success
(Girls’ Generation’s “Bump It” is a solid example in mind of this inverted
format), there is a reason for why
the traditional format is used. With “Beautiful,” the pre-choruses and choruses
become lackluster—both due to mere comparison with the rap sections, but also
and mostly due to how the song ends up unintentionally dividing itself. As
hinted earlier with the introduction section, that and the rap sections are
drastically different from the calmer sections of the songs. While the
post-chorus helped provide a connecting link for one chorus to the upcoming
rap, the same cannot be said for the earlier moments and the introduction itself.
This abstractness caused by such significant differences in sections and how
there is a lack of “building up” to any sections—or even “building down” for
that matter—makes “Beautiful” sound somewhat disorganized. It is not to a
significant degree as are other songs I have heard, but it is a fault
noticeable enough that prevents “Beautiful” from utterly excelling.

All
in all, “Beautiful” is still a decent song. The vocals and lyrics are solid
points to appreciate, and of course, the very fact that the song itself is
structured and composed in a way that defies the common pop song progression is
something that should be respected. But, sadly, the traditional “build up” pop
progression is there for a reason: it is naturally intuitive, allows a song to
easily remain organize, and so forth. The composers came short with covering
the potential weaknesses of not following
a traditional pop format, but nevertheless it was an impressive effort and
considering that many of Monsta X’s pop songs are actually of the usual format,
a change is never too bad. I still find many other songs from the men to be
more appealing than “Beautiful,” but regardless of my take to it—as, after all,
readers and fans should feel free to disagree—I wholeheartedly support the men.
I find that they have a lot of potential in the K-Pop scene both musically and
as role models for fans, and I will continue to look out for future content
from them.

_______________________________________________________

To
the requester, I greatly apologize for even further delays. I technically did
finish this review on July 15, but only now did I actually finish the writing
process. (I have shared this a year ago and even recently if correct, but I
write reviews in two phases: brainstorming and actual writing. The
brainstorming is where I have all of my discussion points clearly laid out, and
only after is it when I turn those bullet points into actual words.) Slowly but
surely I am fixing my poorly developed summer habits, but excuses aside, I do
hope this review is enjoyable and thought-provoking. And of course, thank you
to everyone—both readers and requester. I truly appreciate any time given to
the blog.

For
upcoming reviews, Day6’s “I Smile” was requested quite a while back and I will
now finally begin and finish it. I am excited for that review as not only is it
within the pop-rock genre, but the song itself truly is unique and almost
entirely deviates away from usual pop song formats. If “Beautiful” is already
seen as unique, “I Smile” ‘s composition truly did its own take to pop-rock
music. And during my time with that review, Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor” will end
up getting a review—even if unintentionally. I was enjoying the song in a
casual style, but that soon led me to actually critically analyzing it and
finding how—once again—creative it is, but also that there are many weak links
in the song. Until then, “I can only live if you’re here”—not because I am
obsessed with readers, but because I am finishing this review rather late at
night that I might suddenly faint. Kidding, of course; though it is extremely
late in my standards (eleven at night), this review was worth it and I very
much enjoyed writing it.

How exactly did you learn to analyze music so effectively? And also, I know that despite how detailed and seemingly unbiased one of your reviews might be, that doesn’t make it a universal truth that everyone can agree on so I was wondering what kind of music/groups you personally enjoy, if only to get a sense of what types of songs I can expect you to give better reviews than others (sorry for the run on sentence). I know it sounds weird, but I’d like to be in the know, you know?

These are excellent questions and ones I have never actually wondered about. I will divide up the questions so as to be able to give more thorough and clear answers. (Also, no need to apologize for your writing; I am very lax with readers’ questions/messages and as long as the core message is able to be understood, I am definitely fine with more casual writing.)

How exactly did you learn to analyze music so effectively?

First, I actually would disagree with the “effectively” part but thank you for the kind words. 

But in terms of the actual question of how I learned to analyze music even if in a casual sense and not professionally, it is a long story. Contrary to perhaps what some readers might think, I am not musically skilled or talented at all. I have no experiences with composing or producing songs, and even on a simplistic level I have no experiences with playing instruments. The only exception is that I have played some guitar, but even then it would be a gross statement to say I knew how to play guitar as I, admittedly, used the guitar rather than played it. More specifically, I used the guitar as a form of visually understanding how songs played out, and equally I used it as a form of also physically understanding songs both in terms of getting to “touch” a song but also in terms of “playing-by-ear” as the common term is. But to the point, my experience with “using” the guitar is that I used one string (the G string to be exact) only, and I would do my best via listening to a song and attempt to replicate it on that single string. (And besides merely using the guitar to better understand songs and music, I also admit another motivation for this odd style was that there are simply little to no K-Pop guitar tabs online–or at least not on English websites. Thus, I decided to indeed make my own tabs.)

This took quite some time and practice and I absolutely cannot easily play by ear on the spot, but I learned many things from this experience. Most importantly is not learning the difficulties in playing by ear (and huge respect to those who are skilled enough to do so), but the visualization of seeing how a song’s melody played out was incredibly vital to later how I analyzed music. It made me realize and question all the details involved: why did the melody go this certain way; why is this seemingly random note added here; why did the notes bounce back and forth and then go all the way to this higher note; and so on. Ultimately, the “visualization” and physical contact of using the guitar in this highly odd manner was what led me to begin the first step to analyzing music: sheer curiosity and actively listening to songs. This was the first time where, instead of just listening to a (K-Pop) song and feeling mere emotional excitement and the like, I started to view songs as actual, constructed pieces–akin to, say, buildings. In other words, I began realizing that songs are not randomly slapped notes; I began realizing that there are very intelligent and hardworking women and men who purposefully included details in a song–akin to architectures and engineers who design and build buildings in purposeful manners. It was then that I started realizing that the decisions the composers made are in fact with purpose and with solid reasons.

But, of course, I did not quite think in these terms when I started; embarrassingly, I was still quite new to analyzing pop music and thus my beginning was not brilliant at all. At the start, I oftentimes mixed up composers and performers: I would “blame” the actual artists for their songs when in reality it should be the composers who I should have referred to. Likewise, I at times overly emphasized members’ vocals as a core component when, nowadays, I–harshly said–hardly even care about line distributions and who sings what as long as what is sung is solid or not. In other words, to use literature as a comparison, at first I struggled to distinguish between author and characters; I would talk about the characters and fail to realize that the characters (idols/artists) are directed by the author (the song’s composers). 

Without getting entirely off topic, however, this leads to the next point you might be wondering: So the odd guitar playing led to me realizing there is much depth to songs, but how did I get from the atrocious newbie reviews that were hardly analytical to current reviews where, even if I still have much to improve on, I am at least not pulling out my hair as I do when I think back to my earlier reviews. The answer is quite typical: practice and experience. With writing more and more reviews and continually reviewing the reviews and finding ways to improve, I simply naturally learned more about analyzing pop music. Most importantly, though, might be the actual experience of now having heard so many pop songs and having had analyzed many kinds. This comes at a cost, unfortunately: while I can still casually enjoy songs and very much do, it is now incredibly hard for me to ever feel that a song has completely captivated me. For example, it is hard for me to ever feel the utter joy I felt when I first heard Nine Muses’ “Glue.” Nowadays, even when certain songs are good on a personal level and critical level such as with TWICE’s “Only You,” I still never get that high level of emotional rush and joy as I still find there are many faults. This explains why earlier reviews were overly conflated with erroneous ratings of nines and eights: I simply did not know better. Nowadays, I struggle to find even songs that score at an overall of seven, let alone eight and nine–though to be fair, there have been many solid comebacks during the summer and I am quite excited to review them. 

That last answer, though, might be quite off topic so let us return to the main point: it is through practice and experience that I learned to be more effective at analyzing pop songs. My odd guitar usage led to the beginning of it, but it is through actual reviews and time that I gradually improved and have learned more about how pop songs work. By spending time, embarrassingly, every day with actively listening to music–in other words, truly investing in the song and questioning everything that occurs and attempting to answer why such details are the way they are–I simply learned to be more critical. What I find to be the most impressive part, though, is not that I am “good” or “effective” at such now–as I argue I am not and have much to improve on still–but it is that this critical appreciation for pop songs is all within a casual take. Anyone can–and should–be critical of their music, and there is never a need to suddenly attend classes to “learn” how to do such. It all involves being curious and taking guesses in terms of asking and answering why a song sounds and is structured the way it is. 

And also, I know that despite how detailed and seemingly unbiased one of your reviews might be, that doesn’t make it a universal truth that everyone can agree on so I was wondering what kind of music/groups you personally enjoy, if only to get a sense of what types of songs I can expect you to give better reviews than others.

This question is a very excellent one. Your point is perfect: even if I am being very critical in my reviews, music is ultimately all subjective and will have bias at play. This is something I sometimes fear readers might be forget, but indeed song reviews are not to ever give objective takes to songs but rather reviews are merely discussions. 

Regarding this blog and my reviews, it is true that certain types of songs can be more favorable. Starting off on a very general sense, the first layer we have to consider is that my musical preferences (and even musical analyzing skills) are all tied into a cultural lens: that of Korean and Chinese music. I have stated it before in the past but will state it again: this is why I refuse to review any songs outside of these cultural lenses. For example, American Pop music–even if within the pop genre–still has certain, subtle differences at play that can unfairly skew a review. An actual example at play is already how American Pop music tends to have solo artist while Korean Pop music tends to be in groups–and indeed, this very much changes not only a song’s aural aspect, but the structural component is easily affected. Think, after all, of how common rap sections are in K-Pop songs and how said raps function versus in say in an A-Pop song where rap sections might not even be as common or when used serve an entirely different purpose. And so, in short, the cultural background of a song is one preference I have and why I refuse to ever critically comment on other cultural songs as it would be unfair. (That said, all music from all cultures should be respected; it is one of the most infuriating moments when an individual criticizes music due to sheer cultural differences.)

Now in terms of actual song preferences and such, I will first focus on genres as this will provide a simple guideline: I tend to listen predominantly to, quite obviously, pop, but other genres include ballad, R&B, hip-hop, and some EDM. An honorary mention is also trot, and I say this as I am only familiar with Hong Jinyoung’s modern trot songs though I do enjoy some older trot songs as well. Thus, already one key aspect I have to bear in mind is that songs that are reviewed should fall into these genres. For example, if MAMAMOO ever released a dubstep song, even if it is in the cultural background of Korea and not some debut outside South Korea, I would be very hesitant to review the song as I lack background on dubstep and would easily allow biases to take over. 

Finally, to dive even more deeply with now analyzing actual sounds and structures at play, this is fairly harder to capture. However, there are some core principles that I might be able to pinpoint. One significant dislike is when a song is overly focused on electronic sounds and uses such as a chorus or post-chorus; in other words, think of songs such as PRISTIN’s “Wee Woo” or DIA’s “Mr. Potter.” Other dislikes would include when vocals are overly simplified and made to be generic–and in more simple terms, I am indeed referring to typically newer groups. For example, the generic “cutesy” female group vocals or the generic “cool” male group vocals very much deter me. Finally, the last dislike I have in mind is with pacing: I do dislike songs that are exceptionally slow–though this can easily change. Ailee’s “Evening Sky” is a slower song as it is a ballad, but I would claim it is one of the best songs I have ever heard. But on the other hand, songs such as IU’s “Palette” on a personal level are disliked due to this–even if, such as in that review, I am able to be critical and move beyond biased feelings. 

In terms of preferences and likes, this one would be far harder and I find my preferences run more off dislikes rather than likes; in other words, I do not “search” for songs as much as I do going through songs and then applying my dislikes and seeing what holds. But if I had to share some preferences, I do enjoy songs that are either of the “pop-ballad” genre and feeling–in other words, songs that are still exciting as a pop song but follow the buildup of a ballad–or songs that are simply “pop” such as with TWICE’s “Knock Knock.” The benefit of typical pop songs, though, is that they tend to provide the best reviews as they always tend to be rather unique and come with their own distinctive features. Blackpink’s “As If It’s Your Last,” for example, would be full of many topics to discuss even if the song is a very “pop” song. 

All in all, thank you so much for these wonderful questions. Quite clearly, I went overboard and gave long answers, but I have never thought of these questions before so this was truly a time to not just share and answer my thoughts, but it was also a time where I actually gathered my very thoughts in the first place. Unfortunately, that “gathering” part came along with the answer and I do apologize for this overly lengthy answer. However, I hope the answers help clarify some points and give you a sense of my musical preferences and thus the songs that I would be most comfortable and effective at reviewing. 

Take care. 

IU – “Palette” Review

(Music
Video)

IU – Palette (ft. G-Dragon)

Reviewed
on July 9, 2017

Particularly
for this review, I wish to address why the vocal rating is seemingly low
despite the artist being IU, a vocalist who is oftentimes deemed as one of the
best in K-Pop, and more importantly, why a song being incredibly plain is
somehow garnering praise here while in a majority of cases this would warrant
much criticism from me. In other words: why is it that “Palette” is, in my
argument, appealing despite how it could easily be deemed a simple or even
boring song?

Personal Message:
I truly need to get back into the
habit of writing every day. Finally, after perhaps five weeks, I am getting to
the review that a personal friend requested. Quite obviously I am a good,
reliable friend. For other news, though, I will also be attempting to get back
into subtitling videos on a weekly basis along with more consistent reviews. To
explain my absence, once again, there is no actual reason: I admittedly have
been quite lazy. Even if I have an extraordinary amount of songs that I desire
to review (and even some Chinese Pop songs that I plan to review), I found
myself not able to turn that desire into action—until, of course, right now of
which is at a rather late time.

For what I hope will kick reviews
back into a more frequent schedule, I will be taking a major risk with how
actually write reviews. Rather than spending time on all the details, I will
experiment with highlighting the core, musical discussions at hand. Thus, this
might mean there are reviews—admittedly such as this one—where minimal time
will be spent on the fine details of the song. However, for key topics that
arise, I will definitely spend much focus there. After all, not only does it
become repetitive to dissect songs in such a systematic manner, but sometimes
there truly are more important topics to discuss than overly focusing on each
individual section in a song and the like. And, this all ties back into why I review songs in the first place:
it is not necessarily to reveal secret details and strategies in songs per se,
but it is to foster readers’ appreciation for pop music and to foster “active
listening” in readers. (“Active listening” is, in my use of the term, where
readers truly pay attention to the song and asks questions rather than
situating it as mere background, catchy noise.) Additionally, and for arguably
the most important part, I also hope to begin a discussion on music where
readers and fans have a space to disagree and agree with one another on a
song—after all, my reviews are merely my subjective
take to a song that should not be taken as an objective truth.

With all that, let us get right into
IU’s “Palette.” This song is perhaps one of the more interesting songs I have
reviewed: it structurally and sonically is perhaps one of the simplest songs I
have heard, but despite that it is rather effective and even appealing due to
the sheer simplicity. The issue this poses, sadly, is that this would make the
song difficult for a standard review in the sense of attempting to analyze all
of the sections and such. Thus—and once again to take a risk—I will not focus
so much on the individual aspect of the song but instead, the more important
discussions that arise. Particularly for this review, I wish to address why the
vocal rating is seemingly low despite the artist being IU, a vocalist who is
oftentimes deemed as one of the best in K-Pop, and more importantly, why a song
being incredibly plain is somehow garnering praise here while in a majority of
cases this would warrant much criticism from me. In other words: why is it that
“Palette” is, in my argument, appealing despite how it could easily be deemed a
simple or even boring song?

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.50/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 6/10
(6.00/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Chorus: 6/10

4.     Rap: 6/10

5.     Conclusion: 6/10


Instrumental: 6/10


Lyrics: 8/10

[Introduction instrumental]

Strangely, these days
I like things that are easy
But still, I like Corinne’s music
Rather than hot pink,
I like a deep purple
I also like pyjamas
with buttons and lipstick
and jokes

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you like me
Oh I got this
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now

Rather than long hair,
I definitely like short hair
But still, I was pretty when I sang “Good Day”
Oh why is it this way?
I like things that are a little outdated
Rather than pictures I like filled
palettes, diaries, and the times I am asleep

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you hate me
Oh I got this
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now

Everything’s hard because you’re young
Getting upset when you’re being nagged
A child who used to only get scolded
barely passed twenty
Happiness seems just momentary
It hurts because you’re young
Jieun, oppa* just turned thirty
But I’m not ready,
but I’m an adult
Although I still have a lot more to go,
I’m only five years older than you
Past twenty, not yet thirty
In between, right there
Not a kid or an adult
You’re just you
That’s when you shine the brightest
So don’t get scared when darkness comes
You’re so beautiful that your flower will bloom
You’re always loved
(You)
Palette, diaries, the times I am asleep

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you like me
Oh I got this
(I got this)
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now
(Still have a lot to say)

I like it
(Like it)
I’m twenty-five
I know you hate me
Oh I got this
I’ve truly found–
I think I know a little bit about myself now

[Conclusion instrumental]

*Oppa literally means “brother” and it is how females refer to older males.
In this case, G-Dragon is referring to himself even if in English this
appears odd as it is “third-person,” but this is grammatically correct in this context as we understand “oppa” as a proper noun akin to “Brother.”

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Before
perhaps the more “review”-like aspect of this very review takes place, I first
want to address the vocal ratings as I predict this would be the one aspect
that readers would want to contest. Now clearly, a six is definitely not a poor
score at all, but considering it is IU, this rating might be disappointing. The
first point to clarify is that the vocal rating is not based on an artist
individually and her vocal performance in an overall sense, but rather it is
based on his performance in the context
of the song
. Thus, a six here is not to say IU is merely a slightly above
average singer in general—I would highly disagree with that. However, in the
context of “Palette,” her vocals—while still solid—are not to the degree that I
am awed. First, already one problem is the lack of variety in the singing. Even
if the difficulty is quite high and thus the skill involved is quite impressive,
in terms of the actual results, we can merely summarize the vocals as this: higher
pitched beltings. Certainly there are more standard singing parts during the
verses, but given the choruses’ length, we can roughly agree that this is the
main point to the vocals in “Palette.” Unfortunately, having purely a softer vocal
delivery—especially when considering how the song is already structured to be
very straightforward—will hold the vocal rating back. Again, the singing is
still quite good sonically as we will get into, but the mundaneness that occurs
after multiple playbacks due to IU’s singing is why I decided to place a rating
cap on the vocals even if IU is oftentimes cherished as one of the better
vocalists in K-Pop.

All
that clarified, let us now address the song itself, particularly: why is it
that the song still miraculously scores well—ignoring the lyrics, that is. Obviously,
the lyrics are able to bring the overall score up by a huge margin and this is
due to how the lyrics are in fact incredibly detailed and function as a minor,
actual story. But ignoring that, we still have to acknowledge the song itself
is still slightly above average despite how it truly is one of the most
repetitive songs that this blog might have covered. Before continuing, though,
now would be the appropriate time to clarify another misconception: variety in
of itself is not automatically a positive point to a song. In fact, variety can
easily backfire: there have been songs that are far too chaotic and lack any
sort of cohesion, PRISTIN’s “Wee Woo” being an unfortunate example in mind (and
it has been reviewed for those curious on further details). In “Wee Woo,”
variety is in fact there—the issue, then, is not whether variety exists in a
song, but how said variety or lack thereof is used as a composition strategy.
Specifically with “Palette,” I find that the composers very much intended for
the song to lack variety as this opened up new, creative possibilities.

For
one, by lacking variety in both aural and structural components, the most
important effect that is created is how the attention goes less towards the
song’s tunes and raw sound and instead, attention goes to the song’s pure rhythm
and flow. Because IU’s vocals are not doing anything that is completely
captivating nor is the instrumental, the listening experience becomes less of
having a main, focal point but instead a generalized one that focuses on all aspects equally. This is definitely
a creative take to the song and I argue this intention works out very well as
listeners no longer focus on any traditional main points—whether that is the
vocals, instrumental, or section layout—but every easily meshes together and
the entire song becomes one solid unit. Overall, this sense of wholeness is why
“Palette” excels despite how, on the surface, it would appear to be a song that
was poorly composed and lackluster. Individually, the parts to the song are rather
dull, but once pieced together, “Palette” becomes an unusual aural experience
and is one that definitely differs from many pop songs and ballads.

Another
benefit to purposeful lack of variety is that we have to understand the song’s
very foundation is based upon that. If not for the song lacking variety especially
in a sonic sense, “Palette” would be unable to create its wholesome, signature listening
experience. A quick notice at the sections easily reveals this: it should be
noticed that quantitatively, the song lacks many sections; also, regarding
types, the song also lacks many types of sections. Most notably, the song
essentially consists of verses and choruses that occur back-to-back—though it
should be noted that the rap section takes on a significant portion and is also
a key component. On topic, however, the supposed dullness and lack of variety
to “Palette” is easily understood when we realize that, for the song to have
its incredibly linear progression—and hence the “wholesome” result—using merely
a verse-to-chorus structure is almost necessary (and also hence why the rap
section is quite lengthy and also extends the mere straightforwardness of the
song). Without a bridge or pre-chorus, a song will naturally lose much of its
diverse sounds as, after all, each section accounts for a new sound and style
in a song.

Overall,
IU’s “Palette” is admittedly limited by its very lack of variety; it is true—in
my argument and thus “true” in a loose sense—that the song being slower paced
and having minimal fluctuations throughout can very much deter some listeners.
However, when we consider that the composers were able to create a song that
challenged the very tradition of a song—that there is a focal focus be it the
vocals or instrumental or sections—by making it so that there is no focal point at all, I argue “Palette”
deserves some credit and is in fact quite appealing if viewed that way. Even if
I personally very much dislike the song’s style, it would be completely
disrespectful and silly to not acknowledge that, in a critical sense, “Palette”
is a decent song. And of course, with the lyrics being one of the better ones I
have heard, the song in an overall take is able to score quite well at a seven.
Besides, even if I do not grade the lyrics in a sentimental and emotional
sense, I still find that this song is a comforting one especially for those who
are becoming older and “adults.” (And I am relating very much now as I, too, am
slowly finding my “adulthood” and transitioning to that stage in life.)

_______________________________________________________

I
have finally finished this review. To my dear friend: thank you for being the
most patient person ever—and thank you for continually harassing me about this
as I very much deserve constant reminders of my hypocrisy and lies. For other
news, if correct, this review actually marks the third anniversary of this
blog. Three years ago I started with having no idea on where this would go, and
over the years I slowly found that reviewing K-Pop songs is one of the most
rewarding hobbies I have done. The only downside, however, is how every month I
continually look back and become flustered at how pathetic my writing and
thinking were. But, perhaps, this is also the beauty of this blog as readers
can literally see me grow in all ways: from slowly becoming better at writing;
becoming more analytical with reviews; becoming more concise; becoming more
critical in my thinking and more emotionally mature especially when it came to
discussing social topics (as much earlier discussions were actually very biased
and favored one perspective when, in reality, all social topics are incredibly
complex and I now favor a balanced, moderate view of social topics).

The
question I wonder now is how many more anniversaries will occur—and if I dare
say it, I hope to continue for as long as possible. Especially as I will not
stop listening to music until I literally am dead (and that K-Pop and C-Pop are
my cultural music lens and thus, this will not change the blog’s core content),
there would be no reason to necessarily stop reviewing songs even in the far
future as a busy individual. Let us see how far this blog goes and for all I
know, perhaps one day I will have an official site rather than relying on
Tumblr as the host. But, as I like to say, let us worry more about the “realistic
future” and not the far future where nothing is known at all.

Two
more requests are lined up and I will be reviewing them tomorrow: Monsta X’s “Beautiful”
and Day6’s “I Smile.” Look forward to those requests and many other songs and
even Critical Discussions that will occur. Until then, “I got this / I’m truly
fine”—even though deep down I am actually quite anxious as I might have overly
delayed these requests and fear I might go back to being unproductive. But,
considering this new reviewing style actually grabs my attention and motivates
me, I think we might see a post every other day which would be quite fantastic and
a way to prepare myself for the most difficult semester to soon come.

Just read your review of Wee Woo and was nodding my head the whole time. I literally can’t agree more with everything you said. I never really liked the song even though everyone else seemed to so I thought maybe it was just me. But the lyrics were just so cringey and the song seemed so disconnected as some parts felt like separate songs. Anyway, I’d like to thank you for your blog because I love reading your reviews as they’re so thorough. If you have time, could you review Day6’s I Smile? thx!

Hello. Whether one agrees or disagrees–or both–with my reviews, I appreciate any form of engagement with them, so thank you for very much for taking the time to read the review. That is, after all, why I write these reviews: I hope to get fans thinking about the actual K-Pop songs they are listening to. 

Regarding the request, I can certainly review Day6′s “I Smile.” I planned to review a song by Day6 a while back but never got around to doing so and thus, this would be perfect. Thank you for letting me know and I will work hard to get the song reviewed as soon as possible. (Two other requests are queued at the moment and thus, I do predict it being a week until I can get to “I Smile.”)

As for general updates for all readers, I have decided to hold off on posting a few reviews (particularly, IU’s “Palette”) until July begins. I find that it will be easier for me to start with a fresh month and to write as many reviews during that time. It will also be a time where I experiment with perhaps a new reviewing style–as, quite clearly by now, I still struggle to find the right balance of content and length. But, more will be known as reviews start coming out and of course, feedback is always welcomed. Until then, look forward to IU’s “Palette” and Monsta X’s “Beautiful,” and afterwards, Day6′s “I Smile.”