A.CL – “Reviews” Review

(Music
Video)

A.CL – Reviews

Reviewed
on April 1, 2017

[Oddly,
due to some technical issues, I cannot post a picture for this particular
review.]

Many
argue that “Reviews” is a relatively weak comeback and I unfortunately will
have to agree with this opinion. “Reviews” has much potential with its sections
and A.CL’s vocals are definitely solid, but the instrumental and even lyrics
are extremely detrimental to the song.

Personal Message:
Already the new month of April will
have a review. In fact, I am reviewing an artist who should have been reviewed
quite some time ago: A.CL, a ballad soloist. Most likely very few readers are
familiar with this artist; after all, despite debuting nearly three years ago,
it was not until quite recently that he has begun garnering some popularity—and
even then, he is still definitely quite unpopular in comparison to other
artists. But that said—and to perhaps be quite critical—it is understandable on
why he never achieved any attention during his debut: his songs have been
heavily lacking both in terms of execution but also with composition.
Fortunately, indeed, he is continually working hard to improve his skills and
likewise his songs’ compositions have been gradually improving as well. And of
course, I am certain A.CL is very grateful to his current audience.

Addressing technical aspects to this
review, as noticed I am having technical issues with posting both the pictures
and lyrics. I deeply apologize for such; future reviews will never have these
problems again and certainly will not.
These problems seem to only occur once a year. Thankfully, the music video link
should be working and it does have the song’s lyrics within the video. All this
side, let us begin April 1 with a very serious review on A.CL’s latest
comeback: “Reviews.” This is definitely an interesting title; prior to “Reviews,”
I have never encountered a similar title. I hope this does not lead to confusions
between whether I am referring to this review
or to the song “Reviews.” On topic, however, let us actually focus on the song.
Many argue that “Reviews” is a relatively weak comeback and I unfortunately
will have to agree with this opinion. “Reviews” has much potential with its
sections and A.CL’s vocals are definitely solid, but the instrumental and even
lyrics are extremely detrimental to the song.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 5/10
(5.25/10 raw score) – “Average”


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 8/10
(8/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
8/10

2.     Verse: 8/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 8/10

4.     Chorus: 8/10

5.     Bridge: 8/10

6.     Conclusion: 8/10


Instrumental: 2/10


Lyrics: 4/10

[Refer to the music video for the
lyrics; there are too many technical issues involved for some odd reason and
thus, I cannot post the lyrics as I normally do.]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
This review will definitely be shorter than usual and will actually be
following a structure I used for reviewing in the past—specifically, that I
will go through each category and robotically gauge them. This is not to
belittle A.CL and the composers of “Reviews,” but I find this is the best way
to explain. And of course, I am definitely being incredibly serious with this
review and by no means is this review a “joke” or “prank” or, quite
drastically, even “fake.”

With
the vocals, A.CL definitely has a lot of power with his vocals. In a way, we
can almost consider his vocals his “ideas”; in other words, A.CL knows how to
deliver “ideas” that tend to be quite unique and can definitely begin
conversations. Obviously this concept is quite confusing and probably makes no
sense, but in short let us understand this: for A.CL’s “ideas,” he definitely
does bring interesting points in the song.

That
said, for where this can be problematic, the lyrics fail to bring justice to A.CL’s
vocals. Although his points and ideas with singing are great, he oftentimes struggles
to clearly and cohesively deliver those very ideas. After all, as we can tell
by the lyrics, it appears quite jumbled and even disorganized. I argue if A.CL
wishes to improve his songs, he definitely needs to keep refining his lyrics
composing skills. Essentially, his mechanical writing skills—if this is more
clear—needs to be continually improved.

Regarding
the sections, I argue this is where A.CL greatly excels. Considering past songs
where his songs tended to sound overly mundane because the composers focused on
an output-input structuring of songs—which obviously makes no sense but bear
with me for now—but recently the composers have made a drastic switch to
actually make A.CL’s songs flow more naturally. Plus, A.CL’s songs tend to be
clearly structured in a way so that it is almost as if listeners can quite
literally see how his songs are structured and laid out.

Finally,
for where A.CL needs huge improvements, the instrumental to his songs
oftentimes are poor in particular because the beats are extremely slow. Now there are comeback periods—especially during
the summer—where his songs turn quite upbeat and follow a comfortable flow, but
as we can see in “Reviews,” this ballad happens to not be during summer. “Reviews”
is unfortunately quite slow in its pacing and that is arguably what prevents
A.CL from necessarily garnering more appeal from the public. Not that
popularity matters per se and in many interviews A.CL has explicitly stated
that he cares more about the quality of his songs versus having many fans, but
indeed especially as of the late, A.CL’s songs are far too slow. Certainly A.CL’s
comeback plans for summer are looking quite great especially because he is not
going to be attending summer classes—for music that is; music summer classes—and thus his newly released songs in the upcoming
summer will all be quite upbeat, but indeed, as of now the instrumental to many
of his songs are far too slow.

All
in all, A.CL’s “Reviews” is definitely an interesting song. Whether readers
realize it or not, I have personally been following A.CL from the very second
he debuted and despite the current problems in place, I do wish to acknowledge
how much he and his songs have improved. Now of course much more work is still
needed to be done, but certainly A.CL is improving and will aim to continually
improve. Perhaps the most interesting idea to ponder over is the very fact that
A.CL debuted at all: he was—with all due respect—quite awful in all categories when
he debuted. Therefore, to see him take that risk of deciding to debut and to
then continue improving over time is definitely a decision I bet A.CL is
grateful to have done.

_______________________________________________________

This
review ended much sooner than perhaps all of the other reviews I have written
in the past months. Again, readers should remember I am obviously quite serious
with this review and that A.CL is a real ballad soloist. I would never lie to
readers or personally celebrate a particular holiday in the United States (and
in other countries though with different titles and even on different days
rather than April 1) that occurs once a year that involves tricking others.

Now
on a serious note, I definitely do
acknowledge—and have genuine statistical data to back up such claims—that I
have readers from all over the world (though a huge percentage of readers are
from the United States). Thus, to readers who are not in the United States and
unfamiliar with why April 1 is an interesting day in the United States, I do
apologize if this review is confusing. I do not wish for this review to make
one feel excluded due to lacking that cultural background and I recommend a
quick search on April 1 in the United States for some explanation if one is
curious.

But
of course as said, this review is entirely serious and I hope readers enjoy
this high-quality review that I wrote in roughly twenty minutes. That is quite
a record if one asks me, especially as my reviews normally take hours to write—let
alone the days it takes to analyze
the song beforehand. Look forward to other reviews in April. I would now close
this review by quoting the lyrics from this song, but obviously this is a difficult
task not because this entire review
is fake and a prank, but because I am now facing technical difficulties here as
well since for some reason I “cannot” use quotes right now. That “cannot” is an
exception, and likewise this one as well. There we go; now that is a solid excuse and a perfect way to end this review.

HIGH4 – “Love Line” Review

(Music
Video)

HIGH4 – Love Line

Reviewed
on March 30, 2017

Focusing
now on “Love Line” in of itself, while many listeners and fans can very much
appreciate a calmer pop song and how soothing the song sounds, I argue we need
to be a bit more critical with actively listening to “Love Line.” Certainly the
song is not “bad” at all, but I would hesitate to claim there are a lot of
strong, enticing points as fans and some listeners claim. Thus, I will argue on
why I personally hear “Love Line” as an average song, and more importantly, I
wish to then discuss the actual implications of what “average” means for songs
and, of course, why “Love Line” is deemed as average even if it can be a very
soothing song.

Personal Message:
To already start off on a somewhat
random topic, after posting the bonus post of one of my English essays, I
realized how I oddly do write significantly better if writing casually versus
academically—and this says quite a lot considering my casual writing (such as
here with reviews) is already atrocious. But, my personal perception of this quality
disparity might be due to reasons that are not too concerning, examples
including: I have much more practice writing casually; I have much more
analytical ideas on the basis that I “own” these ideas versus needing sources
(and hence why I urge readers to never take my words “objectively” or “scientifically”
as these are my ideas that are
certainly not peer-reviewed and easily debunked; I write reviews for creating discussions versus necessarily
proving points); and simply put, I am able to be more conversational in casual
writing versus academic writing. After all, while I personally do encourage the
use of “I” in academic reviews, I know I certainly cannot go off on random
tangents that may still be quite relevant or have the ability to even add
horrendous, cheesy jokes.

For what this random writing
digression means to readers, I do encourage readers—especially those still
attending classes whether in high school or college (and younger and older; I
personally target the high school and college age for my reviews, but I am well
aware I have readers from an even wider range of ages and even readers from all
over the world)—to find a balance in their academic writings. As an upcoming
English teacher in the United States, I am very much understanding the
convoluted issues involved with writing and why many students dread it and even
how teaching writing without an open mind can lead to potentially excluding certain
students (such as with those who are English Language Learners/ELL), but I do
wonder if one way to alleviate these problems would be to incorporate students’
genuine voices (“casual” writing) into more professional (“academic”) writing. Furthermore,
I wonder if getting students to see value of writing skills beyond just
academic work would be beneficial—this perhaps being why I admittedly care a
lot more for my reviews than the plethora of English essays I have written for
professors. But, to answer these questions, this is why I am still attending
education and English classes and garnering more first-hand experiences with
teaching.

On topic and away from all these
English-writing-nerdiness discussions, I do want to greatly apologize to the
requester of this review. It has been almost three weeks since the request
itself was sent in to now finally getting the review out. As mentioned, I am
exceptionally busy with university (I mentioned in the prior post how I wrote
8,700 words for an essay for an ED class) and thus, simply had no time to spare
for reviews. Or to be more honest, I had no time to spare for reviews at the cost of my mental well-being: I
certainly do have free time still, of course, but rather than putting it
towards reviews, I am putting it towards catching up on videos of MAMAMOO,
Fiestar, TWICE, and GFriend just for the sake of allowing some mental resting.
After all, writing relentless essays and additionally reviews would be too much
writing and reading for me.

Excuses aside, for how this review
will go, I do predict it being relatively shorter than a majority of reviews.
Even as I write this review, I am still nearly drowning in work and thus, I ask
for readers’ and the requester’s understanding on this time-restraint I have. Nonetheless,
I hope to focus more on the critical points of “Love Line” and more general,
musical discussions and will definitely still put in much effort in this
regard. Focusing now on “Love Line” in of itself, while many listeners and fans
can very much appreciate a calmer pop song and how soothing the song sounds, I
argue we need to be a bit more critical with actively listening to “Love Line.”
Certainly the song is not “bad” at all, but I would hesitate to claim there are
a lot of strong, enticing points as fans and some listeners claim. Thus, I will
argue on why I personally hear “Love Line” as an average song, and more
importantly, I wish to then discuss the actual implications of what “average”
means for songs and, of course, why “Love Line” is deemed as average even if it
can be a very soothing song.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 5/10
(5.25/10 raw score) – “Average”


Vocals: 5/10


Sections: 5/10
(5.33/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Rap, Chorus, Verse, Rap, Chorus, Bridge, Conclusion (Chorus)

1.     Introduction:
5/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Rap: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 5/10

5.     Bridge: 6/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 5/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 6/10

[Instrumental introduction]

Oh my
Were my eyes always this big?
Oh my
Did my heart always beat this fast?
Honestly speaking,
I feel strange
I go crazy whenever I see you
I go crazy, yeah

I keep going crazy
Whenever I see you, it’s really dangerous
My racing heart,
did it run away somewhere?
No, look, have I ever been like this before?
I try to act like nothing’s wrong, but it’s so obvious
Every time I see you, I’m amazed
Beauty on and on
I’ll say it in easy terms:
“I like you so much”
Nothing else to see
This is one-hundred percent love
It’s slightly cringing,
but maybe this is destiny

Love line
Even if I can’t see it, I can feel it
We’re connected with a red line
Baby I really love you
Oh, yeah it’s you
My love is you
(Will you believe in me?
With my pinky finger)
I promise you, I love you
Love love love love line
Love love love like this
Love love love love line
Love love love like this

From now on, day and night
I want to hold you
As if you were always mine

I’ve never felt this way before
I love you like
how a fat kid loves cake
Sweet like cake cake
Can’t believe I’m relating to a typical love song
Oh the irony, huh?
If we’re going to date anyway
If only we met earlier
But thank God
we met now, yeah
My baby you know

Love line
Even if I can’t see it, I can feel it
We’re connected with a red line
Baby I really love you
Oh, yeah it’s you
My love is you
(Will you believe in me?
With my pinky finger)
I promise you, I love you
Love love love love line
Love love love like this
Love love love love line
Love love love like this

I’ve never felt this way before, I’m not lying
More than you ever imagined, I love you
Your man is right here
You probably won’t believe me
But I can’t wait anymore
I want you, I’m going crazy
I won’t be cautious
I’m going to hug you
to the point where I wonder if I’m allowed to do this
I’m going to get hit

Love line
Even if I can’t see it, I can feel it
We’re connected with a red line
Baby I really love you
Oh, yeah it’s you
My love is you
(Will you believe in me?
With my pinky finger)
I promise you, I love you
Love love love love line
Love love love like this
Love love love love line
Love love love like this

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: To
be understand my argument, I think we first need to understand a vital difference:
the difference between rating an artist’s “song” and “skills.” Already, I
expect many to desire to contest my rating for the vocals—and to that, I very
much encourage such as disagreement and agreement (and both) is how we develop
critical thinking skills along with developing pro-social skills of how to
disagree with others without emotionally or even physically harming them. To
explain the rating, first we have to acknowledge a five is not bad per se.
Nonetheless, it would appear HIGH4 deserves a six here as their singing is very
smooth and flows fluently throughout the song. Why, then, did I give a five?
This is where we need to understand, as said, the difference when I critique a song versus skills.

When
it comes to reviewing songs, I do exactly such: I focus on the songs and
therefore every aspect that is gauged—the vocals, the sections, the
instrumental, and the lyrics—are all based within
the context of
the song itself. Let us use an example to understand this.
For example, in the prior review of TWICE’s
“Knock Knock”
(and biasedly one of the “better” reviews I have ever written—though
it still very much lacks, of course), the vocal rating there was a six. Quite
obviously, there is an unfair disparity in place when we contrast these two
songs: HIGH4’s singing in “Love Line” are focused on precise and intense tunes
while TWICE’s singing in “Knock Knock”—barring the vocal beltings—are mostly on
repetitive, basic tunes such as “knock knock knock knock.” Why does TWICE get a
higher rating despite an almost objective view that HIGH4’s singing is much
more intensive and focused? The answer: it depends on the context of the song; therefore, we need to account for the
sections, instrumental, and so forth that take place and the vocals then fit
within that background. This is why TWICE’s vocals scored quite well despite,
in terms of a huge portion of the singing in of itself, it sounds somewhat
weaker. (Specifically, the composition to the vocals’ arrangement is what was
impressive as I argued the composers of “Knock Knock” utilized contrast to
greatly augment the ladies’ vocals.)

And
so, for what this means, I do wish to clarify that HIGH4’s vocals are certainly
solid in of themselves. In terms of raw skills, the men sing quite well (and
equally does TWICE before those misunderstand me; the ladies are also actually
excellent singers now that I am rather knowledgeable with the group both
musically and socially). The issue, then, is that within the context of “Love
Line,” their vocals are less appealing. For example, with how the sections and
instrumental predominantly focus on rhythm and following a slower pacing, the
vocals following suit create even more mundaneness in sound. In this context,
as we can now see, their vocals—of which independently sound decently—now become
quite plain as the singing overly blends in with the rest of the sounds that
occur and thus, appeal is lost in this regard. And because of how song reviews
are song reviews, I account for the
overall sound that is given.

All
that discussed, this will now lead us to the main discussion of this review:
this song has potential to be quite appealing, but—whether the composers intended
this or not—the song plays out too safely and does not attempt any “risks.”
That said, it is not a bad idea at all to “play safe”—in other words, these
songs tend to follow very traditional structuring—with songs; the benefit to
doing such is that, typically if done appropriately, these types of songs will
never be deemed “bad”—the downside, though, is that oftentimes this also means
these songs will seldom be deemed astonishing and amazing. For a very vivid
example of another song that does such, Fiestar’s “Mirror” is the infamous
example. “Mirror” is a song that is incredibly predictable in its form and
sound, and while it is still somewhat pleasing in sound and that very
predictability, we have to admit it is a song that can be overlooked as it
simply does not stand out at all: “Mirror” is a generic, typical pop song even
if its stylistic concept is somewhat unique to Fiestar (the concept of—as it is
humorously labeled—“sad-sexy”). But in terms of paying attention to just the
sonic details of “Mirror,” as said, it is easily overlooked and can be
dismissed as another, typical pop song. All of these points apply to HIGH4’s “Love
Line,” though instead of just a generic pop song, “Love Line” is a generic-calm pop song.

All
that said, however, as is essentially always the case with songs, there are
still strengths. For where “Love Line” excels, the rapping utilized is the one
aspect that does provide a potential distinctive point for the song. The
rapping is used not just used as content in the song—in other words, merely
providing a section and therefore filling in time and space with sounds—but it
also serves structural functions as well. Given that the song lacks pre-choruses,
the rapping serve as a substitute and it is a particularly effective one as
unlike pre-choruses that oftentimes have to adopt a notable shift in intensity—to
“hype” a song—raps do not have to fulfill that role. Furthermore, because of
how the raps are focused on being slower and staying as a complementing piece
to the instrumental’s rhythm, they end up serving as even more suitable “pre-choruses.”
In fact, if correct, there was a somewhat recent review where a song
manipulated this same compositional strategy and idea, so should a reader find
that particular review perhaps more explanation would be there.

All
in all, however, I personally find “Love Line” unsatisfying not because of what
it is but because of what it could have been. Again, the song is
definitely still decent and holds its ground well in terms of being a relaxing
pop song, but being labeled as “average” will not suffice for a song and artist
who desire to get further in the pop scene and that is where I remain
unsatisfied and even somewhat concerned. A vast majority of (Korean—but also generally
speaking any culture such as American, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) pop songs are
indeed “average,” after all; given that many composers are in fact very well
skilled and are intellectual individuals, seldom would we find songs that are
actually below average and genuinely poor. While we have encountered songs on
this blog that have been rendered by me as slightly below average and
disappointing in this regard, we have yet to encounter a song where it encourages
me to boldly say: “Hey, give me, AtrocityCL/Chris, a month of training and let me compose and produce a better song.”
That simply does not happen not just because I am a silly fool that would
actually make an even worse song, but
that never happens because a large majority of composers do know what they are doing and do
produce and compose songs that are at least average. Therefore, it is critical
to songs to be beyond “average”—no matter whose standards calls it “average”—as
being average loses appeal when essentially every song is—at worst—“average.”

HIGH4’s
“Love Line” is a song that can be enjoyed, but in terms of other calmer pop
songs I have heard, it definitely lacks its distinctive features. It is a song
that “works,” but it is not a song that necessarily invites people to truly
hone in on what occurs. Nevertheless, HIGH4 deserves support as do all artists,
and I personally remain optimistic that future releases by the men will be unique and allow them to perhaps
gain more popularity. For now though with “Love Line,” more is desired as it is
a song that “plays too safely.”  

_______________________________________________________

EXO’s
“Call Me Baby” will hopefully also be finished by today. To the requester, once
again huge apologies for the huge delay on getting this review out. Also, I do
apologize if this review focused too much on a general discussion and less on
actually analyzing the song in of itself and perhaps explaining why I consider it
a song that sounds quite typical in its structures. In fact, this might be a
very grave mistake as I should have explained to readers the why component in the first place.
Nonetheless, I hope readers and requester find the ideas and points intriguing especially
on a more general level as one continues to listen to pop music.

Look
forward to the remaining request being the final song to the month. “Honestly
speaking, / I feel strange” for not bringing a proper review to “Love Line,”
but I will use this moment as learning experience. For the month of April, look
forward to an early start and for many reviews and even Critical Discussions to
take place.

TWICE – “Knock Knock” Review

(Dance Practice) / (Music Video) / (Live
Performance)

TWICE – Knock Knock

Reviewed
on March 13, 2017

image

Although
an alarming amount of listeners dislike the song for very justified, critical
reasons—specifically that “Knock Knock” merely exploits catchiness for appeal—I
have to disagree. Certainly the song uses “catchiness” as a concept, but I
argue Collapsedone and Mayu Wakisaka went beyond using such for raw appeal.
Throughout the song, said catchiness is used as an accommodating factor by compensating
for moments of weaker vocal execution. Furthermore, how Collapsedone and Mayu
Wakisaka structured the song leads to many contrasting points that, contrary to
the expected result of such impairing the song, actually end up in favor of the
song by using said contrasts to further build upon the song’s progression.

Personal Message:
Well, this review is incredibly
awkward with its timing in regards to a recent “dating scandal” between GOT7’s
BamBam and TWICE’s Mina—two labelmates under JYP Entertainment. To clarify, I am
absolutely not reviewing this song because of this incident serving as
motivation; I have long been planning to review “Knock Knock” for weeks due to musical and intellectual reasons. But, while we are on this topic, I wish to
take this time to express my own obviously mature, non-delusional points as “good
fans” are currently doing: like these very ethical and upright “fans” who are
bashing Mina and BamBam, I too forbid TWICE from dating. Specifically, Jihyo will
never be allowed to date because I know unequivocally one day we will meet. And
once we meet, Jihyo will get on one knee and hold up a ring and ask me to marry
her, and with this I will tearfully accept it and we will embrace all while
TWICE’s “Melting” plays in the background from who-knows-where. We will then
raise two daughters and two dogs, and I will spend most of my time raising the children
and be a part-time teacher while she is off with TWICE. We will then live
happily-ever-after and spend much time together cuddling and helping each other
through life, and we will then die together eventually. The end. Obviously if
someone wishes to hire me to direct dramas, I would be more than glad to as I
am clearly a professional with that. Also if it is not clear to readers on why
I am still single, this embarrassing story I improvised in seconds probably
answers that question.

But sarcastic, mockery tone aside, I
do wish to clarify I actually have become a huge fan of Jihyo. I highly admire
her leadership, her care for the members, her work ethics, and I personally
have fallen in love with her voice. Most impressively, though, I admire her so
much for overcoming the ridiculous amount of body-shaming she experienced in
the past and even at times in the present. Despite the current unfair beauty
standards in place (perhaps one day I will share my interesting and somewhat
bizarre take to “beauty”—that “beauty” is both natural but also potentially a
social construction as it ties into gender, class, and race), I assert Jihyo is
very much beautiful—both physically and non-physically. And indeed, every woman
and man and simply human being should be able to feel that way about themselves
and not be stricken down by beauty standards in place. All skin complexions are
beautiful; all body types are beautiful; all weights are beautiful; and so on.

And to leave my serious remarks on
this petty incident TWICE’s Mina and GOT7’s BamBam are in, indeed, it is just
that: petty—in terms of fans’ reactions, that is. JYP Entertainment has
confirmed the two are merely friends, but of course, even if they are to be
dating as fans viciously claim, this is irrelevant and I hope the two the best
of their relationship—whether as friends or as a couple. Idols are—believe it
or not—normal human beings who happen to work in a particular branch of
entertainment. Now I do not wish to downplay the fact that idols’ roles are
quite momentous with being role models and that it is a privilege for them to
work with music, but in the end, we have to acknowledge that being an idol is
merely a job. Thus, this objectifying that oftentimes occurs towards idols—whether
treating them as trophies that are “owned” by fans, sexualizing them or
whatever else—is quite unethical. For news that these supposed “fans” of both
GOT7 and TWICE should care about, these
anti-dating “fans” should recall GOT7’s Jackson and TWICE’s Jihyo are
respectively sick and injured. That is where our attention should be, and to
the two idols, I hope the two a healthy and hasty recovery. And for actual fans
who are very supportive of both Mina and BamBam, let us continue being true
fans and helping our beloved idols make it through this sensitive period
especially as both groups are busy with their comebacks. Save the delusional
fantasies that the two potentially dating is “betraying” fans because there
simply is no betraying whatsoever; assuming
my mathematically skills have not entirely vanished, both of them are “man”/“woman”
versus children and thus can think responsibly for themselves. (And for another
topic in the future to discuss, I could one day discuss when or even if “shipping”—as
in, the lighthearted joking between fans that certain members are paired up
with other members as a couple—is appropriate or not. This would be a rather
interesting, controversial topic, and as critical thinking readers might be
aware of, there is no easy answer at all with this.)

On topic with this review since if I
get sidetracked anymore then this review will never begin, I have never looked
forward to reviewing a song this badly in quite some time. In fact, I truly
cannot remember this level of passion
I am feeling to finally review a song that I argue is not only one of the most
impressively composed pop songs I have heard, but I also get to write a review and defend a position nearly
everyone disagrees with—after all, the music video’s dislike ratio is quite telling
that many are still frustrated with TWICE’s inconsistency in terms of their
popularity despite weaker music production and composition. After all, many
think this song is merely catchy and thus, to call it “good” would be inaccurate as it is nothing more than just catchy—this
sentiment being a trend that even I agree with in terms of “TT,” “Cheer Up,”
and “Like Ooh-Ahh.” All of TWICE’s prior releases, with all due respect to the
members and composers, are rather weak songs in terms of both vocal delivery and
also composition and production. Admittedly, as a critical listener of music, I
still cannot fathom why TWICE is exceptionally
popular despite many of their prior songs being of poorer quality—even if, of
course, I wholeheartedly support TWICE and acknowledge they are incredibly
hardworking, excellent role models who do deserve love and support no matter
their song qualities.

In other words, especially to the
expected TWICE fans who are reading this review, I ask for the entire fanbase’s
understanding on this sensitive topic: TWICE is not hated merely because of “haters”
or “jealousy”; indeed, the intellectual and mature, critical criticizers of the
group are not doing so out of spite—though again, there are those anti-fans who
have way too much free time and lack ethics (such as the current fans who are
ironically berating Mina and BamBam when they should reevaluate their own
ethics)—but rather, are critiquing the group’s popularity in relation to their
music quality. While music is ultimately subjective, I argue there is an
overwhelming amount of critical listeners who would agree with me when I claim
that all of TWICE’s prior title tracks are weaker if we focus in on the
composition that actually occurs and ignore “catchiness” or the flashy
choreographies and music videos. As such, people with this critical view of the
ladies are not to be banished away and ignored but rather, are to be heard out
for the sake of a thoughtful discussion that really does hone in on one of
K-Pop’s “large questions”: what does it
take to be popular? Is it song quality, a connection with fans, physical
appearances, personalities, coming from a well-established label company, and
so on? My point is this: though I am critical of TWICE’s prior comebacks and so
are many others, we need to separate the difference between discussing TWICE’s music and the ladies themselves. Never should TWICE be personally bashed
(unless, of course, they commit an act that is rather atrocious—and no, dating
laughably does not count as “atrocious” despite “fans” saying so), but indeed,
their music is definitely open for critique.

All that said, “Knock Knock” is,
despite all odds, different from their prior releases: I argue it is a song that is not of the usual “TWICE-catchiness-to-hide-lack-of-quality”
song that I have heard in their prior comebacks. “Knock Knock” is an incredibly
stunning song especially towards the composition aspect. In fact, I find that
this song is so brilliantly composed I wish to highlight the two composers
involved: Collapsedone and Mayu Wakisaka. I seldom do such (although I should
credit and mention composers’ names more often as they are who I focus on—akin to how one discusses literature on an author’s work rather than just the characters in a story for
example), but these two have truly done a fantastic job with “Knock Knock” that
I very much wish for readers to know who the composers—the “authors” if we will—to
the song are.  

Addressing the links we will be
using for this review, I have used a myriad of them. The music video is of the
usual, however, there is a plot-based extra pause that occurs in the bridge
that is not a part of the actual song—and
for a good reason, too as it is an excessive, awkward break in the song. This
is why the music video alone does not suffice, and of course it does not
showcase the entire choreography which I argue is very much important in K-Pop
even if I no longer focus on dances specifically. (For those unfamiliar, I used
to actually rate the choreographies as well, but as time went on, I realized my
skills only grew with being analytical towards music but not towards dances.
Thus, I no longer rate dances as I simply am too unknowledgeable.) Regarding
the live performance, this is for those who prefer YouTube as their video
outlet. The issue here, of course, is that the song quality is poorer due to it
being live, but it does provide insight into the dance. Finally, we have our
main link: the dance practice that is posted on V App—a website for idols to
live stream and interact with fans’ chat messages. The link works best on a
computer as without the actual app, mobile playback tends to be of poor quality
(and hence why I included the live performance YouTube link). But indeed, this
source is our main focus in terms of aurally listening to the song as it is the
song in of itself and in a studio quality.

Finally discussing “Knock Knock,” I
do admit it is perhaps my favorite song of all-time. That said, it is far from
the best song I have ever heard; in terms of the best pop song, MAMAMOO’s
“Decalcomanie” definitely holds its throne
. But, in terms of stylistic
preferences, I find “Knock Knock” ‘s format and sounds to be what I personally like
hearing: a fun, upbeat, naturally progressing yet hyped song. Nevertheless, if
we focus on the composition of “Knock Knock,” arguably this is the most
impressive musical piece I have analyzed. In other words, even if sonically the
vocals are not necessarily the most appealing for example, how the song is
crafted and handled in terms of its structure and playback for bringing in
specific effects is very impressive. And so, this brings us to how the review
will go. Although an alarming amount of listeners dislike the song for very
justified, critical reasons—specifically that “Knock Knock” merely exploits
catchiness for appeal—I have to disagree. Certainly the song uses “catchiness”
as a concept, but I argue Collapsedone and Mayu Wakisaka went beyond using such
for raw appeal. Throughout the song, said catchiness is used as an accommodating
factor by compensating for moments of weaker vocal execution. Furthermore, how Collapsedone
and Mayu Wakisaka structured the song leads to many contrasting points that,
contrary to the expected result of such impairing the song, actually end up in
favor of the song by using said contrasts to further build upon the song’s
progression.

Since that “thesis statement” if we dare
call it such is rather poorly worded or is simply rather quite complex in terms
of ideas, I will break down the review in a more manageable fashion. I will
first discuss what the ongoing catchiness is and why it is currently of
appropriate criticism. Afterwards, I will then go through the song to point out
how those “catchiness moments” are actually the composers’ method of
compensating for what would otherwise be poorer vocal delivery. Once that is
all done, I will then discuss “Knock Knock” ‘s strongest asset—its uses of
contrasting points—and how that greatly aids in allowing the song to have a very
coherent, solid progression.

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 8/10
(7.67/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 8/10

3.     Chorus: 9/10

4.     Rap: 8/10

5.     Bridge: 7/10

6.     Conclusion: 8/10


Instrumental: 8/10


Lyrics: 4/10

[Instrumental Introduction]

The door closes at twelve
Please hurry up a bit
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
At night inside my mind
The door opens up
I need somebody
(Someone else)

You keep lingering around
Taking a sneak peek
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock
Knock on my door
Probably another playboy
Obviously just a bad boy
I need some assurance
(Knock knock?)

Knock on my heart and open it up
Knock hard
Kung kung*
One more time
Kung kung
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
It won’t be so easy to open it up
(Say that you’re mine)
Come again tomorrow and the day after
I will be ready and waiting
(Knock knock)
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
I want to keep hearing it again
Knock on my door

No need for that gold key or get-lucky
If you truly mean it everything’s gonna be okay
What to do, you’re already here
Could you please wait a moment?
You come in when I am alone
Shake me right out of my mind
Now is the perfect show time
Make it yours

Dang-dang when the clock strikes,
would you come to me?
Turning round and round will
only make you fall asleep
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Come in, come in, come in baby,
take my hands

Knock on my heart and open it up
Knock hard
Kung-kung*
One more time
Kung-kung
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
It won’t be so easy to open it up
(Say that you’re mine)
Come again tomorrow and the day after
I will be ready and waiting
(Knock knock)
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
I want to keep hearing it again
Knock on my door

Hey, hey after all this time
My frozen heart will–my-my heart will,
melt away like ice cream
Come knock on my door

Knock on my heart and open it up
Knock hard
Kung-kung*
One more time
Kung-kung
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
It won’t be so easy to open it up
(Say that you’re mine)
Come again tomorrow and the day after
I will be ready and waiting
(Knock knock)
Baby, knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock knock
I want to keep hearing it again
Knock on my door

Knock knock knock knock on my door
I’m freakin’ freakin’ out,
freakin’ out out
Knock knock
Knock knock Knock
Knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door
Knock knock knock knock
knock on my door

*The Korean linguistic representation of, essentially, “knock knock.”
(In English, “bam” or “thump thump” are similar examples.)

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: For
once in I believe three years of writing reviews, I will not actually address
the numerical ratings at all. This is because I truly wish to hone in on the
more theoretical aspect to “Knock Knock”—and thus, this will be the most difficult
review I have ever written as numerical ratings were always a great way for me
to make theoretical points more “concrete” as not all readers are comfortable
dealing with mere abstract concepts and ideas. Numbers, on the other hand,
always make sense as they are concrete ideas. (Consider, after all, the
difference between explaining an abstract musical concept and not directly
relating it to the ratings versus saying “this section is a seven for above
average because of this.”—the latter being much more concrete in its idea at
the end even if it involves discussing abstract concepts.) I will do my best to
explain, but of course as I always urge, readers should feel free to send in
questions for further discussions. Clearly after spending arguably too much
time writing about songs as my shamelessly nerdy yet beloved passion, I am more
than happy to extend a review’s conversation into questions-and-answers for clarifications
and such.

On
topic, let us discuss what is the current “catchiness” that exists and why
people critiquing said “catchiness” are not wrong to do such. First of all, I
am indeed loosely using the term “catchiness” here; after all, no one can
objectively pinpoint per se what is defined as “catchiness”—certain sounds,
pitches, tempos, and such are too varied for a solid definition. Nevertheless,
in this sense I am referring to points of the song that tend to be easily
emulated—key examples in “Knock Knock” are the constant “knock knock,” “knock
on my door” phrases and the simpler, heavy electronic beats that follow a very
predictable manner. So, why is catchiness problematic? In a majority—but not
all—cases, these types of additions to songs tend to be mere fillers if we look
at the true roots. Oftentimes, these catchiness points bring minimal changes to
a song besides merely progressing the song for the very sake of such getting
the song to move along.

For
example, the first “knock knock” phrase pushes the song forth four seconds by
merely reusing a singular, basic note that in of itself should be used
sparingly lest the song become mundane and uncreative. Compare that to when the
song is not “knocking” (and we will actually now use this term) and we will
find that there tends to be a lot more fluctuations and more complex tunes in
place—tunes that do advance the song ahead beyond a simplistic yet fun “la la
la la” pattern. Now for why this in particular is extremely disturbing to “Knock
Knock,” let us be honest: the song spends a huge amount if not nearly half of
its duration “knocking” (and by “knocking” I mean when the ladies are simply uttering
that key phrase and word). Again, this is catchy and thus is appealing, but is it actually worthy of anything valuable per
se? Sure, the composition and decision involved to use these fillers/catchiness
points at specific points are actually intellectual and not thoughtless, but
even so, merely repeating “knock knock knock knock” repetitively is negligible
and that is where many are criticizing
the song. When a song spends much of its time seemingly exploiting a key word
and phrase—which, musically is only quick successions of essentially one note—and
we come to realize that the song now sounds “cheap.” “Knock Knock,” then,
becomes another generic pop song that people love merely because it possesses a
fun and bouncy aspect; after all, “knock knock knock knock, knock on my door”
tends to linger around—more so if we consider how it is coupled by instrumental’s
beats that further solidify that bouncing trait.

And
so, the majority of people who dislike the song for this reason are not wrong
at all—not that, of course, one can ever be objectively right or wrong about
music. But point is this: people who find that “Knock Knock” is a poor song that
is hiding its weaknesses through sounding catchy are definitely critically
thinking of the song. This is a solid
criticism. However, here comes the beauty of academic, mature, and intellectual
discussions: we can still disagree with this criticism by challenging this very
line of thinking. For where we will now go in this review, I wish to argue the
current claim that the catchiness used is just for the sake of cheaply
garnering appeal; I argue, instead, the catchiness we find Collapsedone and
Mayu Wakisaka using is not to compensate for “a bad song” but it is to help
alleviate TWICE’s known weakness: their vocals.

Whether
acknowledged by fans or not, we have to understand that TWICE’s vocals in their
songs are far from any high standard—in fact, I oftentimes have given them a
slightly below average rating for such. Now of course it should be clarified
that this is not to say the ladies themselves are not skilled singers; one of
the most short-sighted comment I hear about TWICE or any other seemingly
vocally underperforming group is that they “cannot sing.” This is false: a large majority of idols can actually
sing, especially if compared to a regular person who is not professionally trained as are idols. That
said, when it comes to actual song production, we will find that many of the
vocals by TWICE tend to be overly simplistic and seldom do we hear more
strenuous singing from them unless it does not involve TWICE’s own music. (Some
slight irony here as one would expect their own songs to showcase their best vocal
abilities.) “Knock Knock,” it seems however is the first time we hear some more
intense singing, but even then it is only from Jihyo and Jungyeon and partially
from Nayeon (even though I do know Nayeon is a capable singer after researching
her background—not in a stalker-like way, of course, but rather a
musical-stalker-like way).

Jokes
aside, even if “Knock Knock” has the more impressive vocal beltings at the
choruses, for the most part it is a song that still showcases a lot of overly
basic singing. However, returning to the original discussion of how the
composers utilizes the “catchiness” in the song, we will find that these filler
components of the members repeating “knock knock” is not necessarily because
they cannot do better or to “hide” their poorer vocals; instead, we could argue
these catchiness fillers are to augment
and supplement the members’ vocals so
that their usual, weaker singing becomes at least average and sufficient.

Let
us analyze the prime example of the song’s key words and phrases. As already
discussed, the “knocking” phrases are quite rudimentary as all these phrases do
is solely progress the song versus adding in more complex tunes, fluctuations,
and so forth. However, how the catchiness works in terms of supplementing the
members’ vocals—especially those who are the sub/support vocalists—is that the
instrumental backs up and emulates their very singing of those filler moments. As
a result, this creates a layering effect: notice how the “knocks” are nearly in
sync with the instrumental’s “shimmering” sounds and how each strong beat
complements each knock slight moments afterwards. Now before addressing the
genius of this on a structural level, we have to understand how this helps on
an aural level. For one, as said, the key distinctive feature here is that the
vocals are not “hidden” away but are supplemented:
in other words, the vocals—even if they are not sonically strong especially
with repeating “knock knock”—are still blatantly out and with the instrumental
providing extra depth, it helps the vocals leave a greater presence and
influence to the song’s overall sound. If the instrumental was not supportive
of the vocals, then by raw sound the “knocks” would sound, to be blunt, rather
awful and mere excessive “fluff” added.

Furthermore,
we also need to focus beyond just the explicit catchiness-filler content such
as in the song’s second half’s verse. During this moment for example, we find
that Tzuyu and Mina are not delivery usual repetitive words but are actually
showcasing some minimal vocal belting. In of themselves, these beltings—while soothing,
soft, and still tuneful to our ears—are nothing that surprising. However, once
we couple in the instrumental during this moment—of which is functioning as
before with providing an extra layering—and we suddenly find that both Tzuyu’s
and Mina’s vocals are seemingly more dense than just forgettable, minor
beltings. After all, with beats that match up to, for example, the “dang-dang” and
how even the bass line shifts up in pitch when Mina’s singing arrives to
further emphasize that there is a synced layering, indeed the result is there
is much more presence for the vocals from members we otherwise would not expect
at all.  

With
this hopefully understood in some degree, let us now talk about the composition
in a more general sense. As said, I really wish to focus in on how “Knock Knock”
‘s strongest asset is its uses of contrasting points and indeed how the
composers’ use of catchiness-fillers help with this, but before that there is
one aspect I wish to focus in on that is not quite related to manipulating
contrast. To still continue with the prior point about the instrumental layering
with the vocals, we have to understand beyond just supplementing TWICE’s vocals
on the huge importance of this very act. First, we need to realize this song
lacks a section that is traditionally seen in almost every pop song—in fact,
this one section is one I argue is the most
important one as it controls the shifts of a song: the pre-choruses. Without
actually analyzing the song, most might not even realize the song lacks an
official pre-chorus or will either claim the pre-chorus does exist in place of
a verse or that the first half of the chorus is the pre-chorus. Again, music is
subjective in this realm akin to asking if we can objectively pinpoint what “catchiness”
means in a technical manner, but in our case we realize there is no clear and explicit section that is dedicated as the pre-chorus—this is what
matters most, the very absence of a clear section that has this role.

For
why the vocal and instrumental layering matters beyond supplementing the vocals
with seemingly “catchiness,” we have to understand these catchiness-fillers
that we desire to belittle actually carry the important role of being a substitute
pre-chorus. Because the layering tends to shift around—whether vocally or
instrumentally, as discussed with Mina’s part in the second half of the song’s
verse—we will find that the layering is, in a subtle manner, generating hype
for the song which is then climaxed at the choruses (as per usual of pop songs
as they follow the binary format of music). Even in MAMAMOO’s “Decalcomanie,”
another song that lacks an explicit pre-chorus, we find that this song still
has a clearly noticeable shift: the verses end in a dramatic pause and have
lingering sounds both vocally and instrumentally. However, in “Knock Knock,”
much is to be praised for how natural the layering is able to progress and
shift the song into the chorus without any distinctive signs—all the while still
sounding fluent. And most brilliantly, what is to be credited in specific for
allowing this natural transition are the very uses of “knock knock” phrases and
the seemingly more basic instrumental—in other words, it is “catchiness” that
serves beyond raw appeal but indeed
provides structural value to the song, this being incredibly rare to hear in a
pop song.

With that covered, let us now
transition to the final aspect of the review: why “Knock Knock” ‘s use of
contrast allows it to be a rather impressive song especially with its composition.
Specifically, I wish for us to discuss how the song uses many contrasting
points—of which I will explain—as a method to gain aural appeal. Of course,
there are a lot of other strategies in place—as discussed above with the
layering serving as substitute pre-choruses—and if I was more dedicated I would
even “walk” us through each particular aspect, but instead let us be realistic and
focus on the more critical topics.

In terms of what I mean by “contrasting
points,” we have to understand that the song “bounces”  back and forth constantly between more
strenuous, complex moments and more plain, generic, “pop” sounds and
structures. A clear example is the choruses themselves: notice the inserted catchiness-fillers
of “knock knock” that contrast to, for example, Nayeon’s vocal beltings and
Jihyo’s beltings. The contrast here, to clarify, is that the “knock” phrases
are based on simple, singular notes while the beltings are based on being
strenuous and in-depth. Even more confusing and complex yet impressive, notice
that even their beltings contrast one another: Jihyo’s (and later, Jungyeon’s)
beltings are a more rigorous version of Nayeon’s beltings. This is what I refer
to by “contrasting points.”

Now, for why this all matters, while
I do wish to focus on the aural aspect, as always, we need to incorporate an
understanding of how this works on a structural level as well. In summary,
proper execution of contrast will lead to a song sounding extremely diverse and varied with its sounds—this being a huge
trait, and more so if based on a song that seemingly runs the risk of sounding
mundane because of fillers (such as in “Knock Knock” with the “knocks”)—and furthermore
allows a sound to retain a strong sense of cohesion. As said, this ends up in
favor of the song but is a relatively huge risk for composers to consider
especially as oftentimes contrasting can easily go the other way: ruining
cohesion and further emphasizing mundaneness. To understand this risk, let us
dive into some depth on usages of contrast.

MAMAMOO’s “Decalcomanie” serves as
an example (once again) for the use of “complementing” versus contrasting.
Instead of using contrast, the choruses in “Decalcomanie” stack upon each
other; we find that the first half of the chorus establishes a stronger start
that the second half of the choruses then continues to carry forth and
conclude. On the other hand, in “Knock Knock,” that stacking is not there
necessarily. If this was true, the inserted “knocks” at the choruses would not
exist, and moreover, Jihyo’s lines would follow an entirely different set than Nayeon’s
lines as Jihyo would build from
Nayeon versus contrasting via a higher intensity.

Regarding the risk contrast can
sometimes bring, as mentioned, it can bring the opposite outcome with ruining
cohesion or making a song sound even more mundane by showcasing large
disparities between the two aspects that are supposedly to be contrasted. A
case that comes into mind would be none other than TWICE’s very own song: “Cheer
Up.” The choruses in that song are overly powerful and upbeat while the rest of
the song does not follow suit or necessarily is even projected to have such a
large gap from song to chorus. This is an example of contrast working
ineffectively: it made the song sound less coherent as there were two large
differences—chorus versus entirety of song—and the contrast now highlighted how
dependent the song is on its very choruses when a song should typically have
all of its factors be important and working together.

Why does contrast work in “Knock
Knock”? Let us investigate the possibilities. I argue it works in this song’s
case due to, once again, the underestimated factor: the catchiness-fillers. For
one, as discussed, the layering that occurs throughout the song leads to a
strong sense of cohesion and thus, using contrast has a reduced chance of
alienating and isolating specific sections. Secondly and most importantly, the composers were very thoughtful on their usage
of contrast: the contrasts are micro-scale versus macro-scale. In other words,
the contrast is only in bits versus wholesome shifts between sections as was
the case in “Cheer Up.” Exceptions exist, of course, but certainly in “Knock
Knock” ‘s case, having minor contrasts was a far safer route. After all,
consider that the contrasts are between lines
versus entire sections; the contrast
in the choruses are from the beltings to other beltings, or it was from the
belting to the catchiness-filler lines of “knock knock” or “kung kung.” This
allows the contrasts to be easily heard by listeners as it follows a smaller
and more organized fashion, and with a shorter duration the main benefits are
still reaped while reducing the downsides of contrast. Overall, then, the
outcome is that the contrasts give the song its aural benefits of making the
beltings sound even more impressive, and it still adds a structural component
of the song being varied and “bouncy” with its flow.

All in all, “Knock Knock” ‘s main
downside are the lyrics, which sadly is an inevitable result because one
non-musical downside to the use of catchiness-fillers is we get an excessive
amount of lyrics that contain repeating, meaningless phrases and words. One glance
at the lyrics reveal such: a huge portion of the song consists merely of “knock
knock” and the like. Nonetheless, “Knock Knock” is a very impressive song and
by far TWICE’s best release. Collapsedone and Mayu Wakisaka deserve much credit
for their work. Ultimately for what is to be gleaned from this review, TWICE’s “Knock
Knock” is more than what it appears when listening to it superficially and casually:
doing so does not allow a listener to understand all the intricate details that
occur when he listens to the song without actually analyzing some of its
feature. On the other hand, when a listener is being careful and actively
listening—even if she is aware that “Knock Knock” sounds like any generic pop
song—she will then realize the beauty that the song comes in and the
creativeness and intelligence Collapsedone and Mayu Wakisaka have put in.

For me, this song remains my
favorite song of all time—even if sonically “Decalcomanie” by MAMAMOO sounds
better. Nevertheless, the composition involved truly shocks me and I can still
hardly understand the intricacies involved. For a song to sound like generic
pop but to not actually be generic
and meaningless with its composition astounds me. I hope TWICE is able to
maintain this level vocal delivery and to improve on such, and that JYP
Entertainment continues to give the ladies these higher quality composed songs
instead of actual “catchiness”-meaningless songs that all other comebacks have
been so far. While I am predominantly only interested in TWICE for their
leader, Jihyo, I think I will soon become a fan of all the ladies—but,
unfortunately, it will take more than just one song for me to become an avid
fan. That said, I hope that is the case: I hope for TWICE to continue
improving, and that the composition of their at worst stay at this current
solid level or, realistically, to receive even stronger composed songs. That
would be amazing considering how stunning “Knock Knock” is on a composition
level. The ladies have dancing down and are one of the more intimate group in
terms of interacting with fans based on their V App, so I very much look forward
to when they also solidify their singing and rapping and equally have reliable,
excellently composed songs. For now, I will start becoming more familiar with
them on a personality-level even if “Knock Knock” is their only comeback I find
impressive. Why, one asks? Because I am optimistic that future releases will be
as good as “Knock Knock” or even better and so, I might as well prepare to be a
regular fan, right?

_______________________________________________________

This
was one of the most time-consuming yet exhilarating reviews I have written in
all of my years doing such. Much improvement is still necessary, of course, but
the focus of this review was definitely a change from just mechanically
reviewing songs. I think I will consider adopting this type of reviewing style
but, of course, in much more concise terms. Again, reviews are shorter and are continually becoming even shorter over time;
the reason this review runs 6000 words (and thus I wished this counted for
three essays I have to do) is that I know I am writing from the perspective
that a large majority of critical listeners will disagree with. Those who are
keen on listening to music will very much disagree that this song is solidly
composed and thus, I did add extra time to really explore and expand on my
arguments so that understanding can occur.

In
terms of upcoming reviews, look forward to two requests: HIGH4’s “Love Line”
and EXO’s “Call Me Baby.” Afterwards, to end the month of March, I plan on
ending with two or one Critical Discussions posts—topics are: potentially
addressing lip-syncing and “MR Removed” (fans of TWICE should be interested as
these are oftentimes used to attack the ladies); what it takes to actually be
popular in the K-Pop scene; and perhaps an interesting discussion on “shipping”
as I noticed that trend has become rather popular for all groups of all genders
and among both Korean and international fans. There are lots to look forward
to.

Thank
you to all for reading and I hope you all “Come again tomorrow and the day
after / I will be ready and waiting.” While I am certain most will merely skim
the review (and I do not blame readers for doing such; in fact, I encourage
focusing more on the ratings and then referring to the review to find answers
if confused or in disagreement), I appreciate any time given towards the
review. And for those who are very dedicated and interested in music, I hope
this review is thought-provoking with its ideas. The point of this review is
not to spark a debate—something that implies a winner and loser; rather, the
point of this review is to spark discussions—something
that involves critical thinking, being open to multiple viewpoints, and being
mature and respectful. I hope fans of TWICE, those who musically critique
TWICE, or even those who simply dislike TWICE for no reason to focus on the
idea of discussion being the core idea of this review. (And to those who
dislike TWICE for no reason: let us all do our part of being better human
beings and not personally attack the
ladies; instead, take the dislike and shift it towards being critical of their
music where, indeed, TWICE as an artist
has room to be critiqued.)

BTS – “Spring Day” Review

(Music Video) / (Audio) / (Dance
Practice)

BTS – Spring Day

Reviewed
on March 11, 2017

That
said, while a few fans have claimed that “Spring Day” is supposedly a weaker
song or at least a song that is unfitting for BTS, I highly disagree: I argue “Spring
Day” is a solidly composed song and it is executed well by the members
themselves. Moreover, this song showcases the versatility of the men and their
composers and producers: beyond just deviating away from the more upbeat and
powerful style BTS is known for, we have to understand that on a compositional
level, “Spring Day” itself deviates away from usual structures and said deviations are actually
effective.

Personal Message:
It has been—if correct—about three
weeks since this review request was sent in. With other posts (specifically an
important post regarding MAMAMOO’s recent controversy and a
discussion on racism in general
—which, on a random note, I am beyond shocked at how
well-received the post is in terms of sparking critical thinking and
discussions) and so much university work occurring, this request was inevitably
delayed. To the requester, I greatly and sincerely apologize for this delay. On
the positive side, however, I am indeed on spring break for a week and plan to
finish this review along with TWICE’s “Knock Knock” and another recent request
on HIGH4’s “Love Line.” Afterwards, March will take a more leisurely pacing but
I hope to have six posts by the end of the month.

Onto the review itself, if correct
it has actually been quite some time since we have last encountered a song that
has been rated relatively high (at least at “above average,” a seven). But
indeed, “Spring Day” does score quite well. That said, while a few fans have
claimed that “Spring Day” is supposedly a weaker song or at least a song that
is unfitting for BTS, I highly disagree: I argue “Spring Day” is a solidly
composed song and it is executed well by the members themselves. Moreover, this
song showcases the versatility of the men and their composers and producers: beyond
just deviating away from the more upbeat and powerful style BTS is known for,
we have to understand that on a compositional level, “Spring Day” itself
deviates away from usual structures and
said deviations are actually effective.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.75/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 7/10
(6.67/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
7/10

2.     Rap: 7/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 8/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 6/10

[Introduction Instrumental]

I miss you
When I say that, I miss you more
I’m looking at your photo
but I still miss you
Time is so cruel
I hate us
Now it’s hard
to even see each other’s faces
It’s only winter here
Even in August, winter is here
My heart makes time run
Like a snowpiercer left alone
I want to hold your hand
and go to the other side of the earth
to end this winter
How much longing has to fall like snow
for the spring days to come?
Friend

Like a small piece
of dust
that floats in the air
If the flying snow is me
I could
reach you faster

Snowflakes are falling
Getting farther away
I miss you (I miss you)
I miss you (I miss you)
How much more do I have to wait?
How many more nights do I have to stay up?
Until I can see you? (Until I can see you?)
Until I can meet you? (Until I can meet you?)
Past the end of this cold winter
Until the spring comes again
Until the flowers bloom again
Stay there a little longer
Stay there
Did you change?
(Did you change?)
Or did I change?
(Did I change?)
I hate even this moment that is passing
I guess we changed
I guess that’s how everything is

Yeah I hate you
Although you left
There hasn’t been a day that I have forgotten you
Honestly, I miss you
But now I’ll erase you
because that will hurt less than resenting you

I’m blowing out the cold
Like smoke, like white smoke
I say that I’m going to erase you
But actually, I still can’t let you go

Snowflakes are falling
Getting farther away
I miss you (I miss you)
I miss you (I miss you)
How much more do I have to wait?
How many more nights do I have to stay up?
Until I can see you? (Until I can see you?)
Until I can meet you? (Until I can meet you?)

You know it all
You’re my best friend
The morning is going to come again
Because no darkness, no season,
can last forever

Cherry blossoms are blooming
The winter is ending
I miss you (I miss you)
I miss you (I miss you)
If I wait a little longer (if I wait)
If I stay up a few more nights
I’ll go see you (I’ll go see you)
I’ll go pick you up (I’ll go pick you up)
Past the end of this cold winter
Until the spring comes again
Until the flowers bloom again
Stay there a little longer
Stay there

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: To
continue the discussion of this song differing from the norms of (Korean) pop
music, readers should first take some time to actively listen to the song—or,
one can easily take a visual look at the structures themselves. One detail
should stick out: there are no verses per se. (And for those unfamiliar, in my reviews
I connote sections not by denotation but rather connotation; in other words,
yes there technically are verses but focusing on the context, we will consider these sections “rapping sections” versus
verses.) Instead, interestingly, the rapping sections serve in place of the typical
verses. This serves two strong benefits to the song. For one, it definitely
brings “Spring Day” variety and creativity beyond just stylistic appeal. On a sonic level, for example, we find that
these rap sections are quite diverse: there are instances of faster, rigorous
pacing and also moments where the raps follow a more tranquil, rhythmic focus. Additionally,
the members’ execution—factors of flow, fluency, tone, tune, and so forth—remain
excellent. Furthermore on a structural level, because of how flexible rapping
can be with intensity compared to being confined to a typically more passive
state as are verses, “Spring Day” reaps the benefit of such by very much using
the raps for a majority of the song’s main transition points.

For
another aspect I wish to focus on, the bridge is very impressive—as noted by
its much higher rating. There are two main points that I will concisely cover
for why this is the case. The first point is that the bridge is quite suitable
both transitioning to but also out from. Admittedly the song in of
itself helps with this: consider how “Spring Day” progresses in a relatively
linear fashion, and that all shifts are with minimal fluctuations. After all,
it is not as if a transition from the pre-chorus to chorus leads us to a chorus
that is utterly transformed and upbeat. Thus, with the song already naturally
being a tight form, this aids with the bridge’s placement. But even so, it
should still be appreciated that the bridge is not inserted as an awkward point
but that its entry was soothed in by V’s stunning vocal belting and that the
follow-up afterwards was a direct return to the song’s concluding chorus. Finally,
the second point has already been touched upon: V’s singing there worked out
exceptionally well. Aurally, the vocal belting along with the lower vocal range
ends up complementing the bridge’s intended style, and as already discussed,
said vocal belting allows the bridge to be eased into smoothly.

Lastly,
for perhaps the remaining major praise worth pointing out, the instrumental is
fascinating. In a majority of other songs, I would most likely have found this
type of instrumental to be quite detrimental, and yet in “Spring Day” this type
of instrumental becomes one of its strongest assets. Specifically, I am
referring to how this instrumental “de-syncs” from rest of the song; a simple
example is to listen to the choruses and notice that the instrumental does not
perfectly mesh with the intensity of the vocals. Even more noticeably is that the
beats are not based on the vocals at all but instead are based on its own
rhythm and timings. In other words, this “de-sync”  or “off-sync” that in many cases would
oftentimes be hindering to a song as it overly shifts focus to an
indeterminable point is surprisingly helpful to the song. But why? I argue “Spring
Day” is an exception if we focus on how the vocals work in the song: focused on
being slower and “heavier” in presence—this we find by how “breathy” the vocals
can be. Thus, the instrumental ends up fitting and even benefiting the song as it
is able to replicate that pulsing, heavier style—even if, overall, the
instrumental is following its own pacing and emphasized points.

All
that said, the song still has a few weaknesses that should not be entirely
overlooked—though for the most part, admittedly they “can” be given that the
other aspects compensate. For example, the choruses, I argue, are the song’s
weakest sections and overall even aspect. The choruses have the issue of simply
dragging on far too excessively and thus, this creates a stagnant, duller flow.
We can hone in on this problem in two ways. One is we can first understand the
issues at play with the instrumental and vocals: both run in a linear fashion
and both are emulating similar styles with emphasizing heavier, pulsing moments.
The other way we can find that the choruses are too dragged is considering how
the choruses’ inner shifts—in other words, the latter half of them—are for the
most part merely time extensions to the choruses themselves. In clearer terms:
there truly are minimal changes in the choruses. That said, to return to the
instrumental being a benefit, this is where it comes into effect: given that
the instrumental and vocals—despite sharing stylistic similarities—are actually
not following the exact same path and flow, there is at least some variety
occurring. Nevertheless, the choruses are susceptible to a monotonous sound.

Regarding
another weaker aspect, the pre-choruses would be the next problem. These
sections are in a peculiar case: certainly they do their roles of transitioning
the song—this being signified with the typical hastening of beats—but the main
problem is that these sections are negligible in terms of actually providing
the song something beyond just a transitional tool. Overall, the pre-choruses sound
nothing more than an “earlier” extension of the choruses, and this is
incredibly problematic considering that the choruses are already struggling
with sounding too mundane and lengthy.

All
in all, however, “Spring Day” is still a rather solid song. The composition
involved—particularly with the unique usages of the raps—is excellent, and of
course, the members’ vocal contributions are excellent as well. Indeed: BTS can
handle “softer” songs as much as they can handle their usual powerful, stronger
and upbeat songs. While this song is still far from flawless as the choruses
really do begin sounding far appealing over various playbacks, I personally do
assert this is BTS’ best song as of yet.

_______________________________________________________

To
the requester, once again huge apologies for not finishing this up many weeks
ago. Thank you for both sending this in and for being very patient. I hope this
review will be worth the wait and that most importantly, it sparks an ongoing discussion
about the song and that it promotes thinking of songs in a more critical
fashion.

For
upcoming reviews, readers can look forward to the long awaited review on TWICE’s
“Knock Knock”—a song that I argue has been brilliantly composed and is one of
the most “efficient” and “accommodating” songs I have heard—and afterwards two
requests: HIGH4’s “Love Line” and a return to the past with EXO’s “Call Me
Baby.” Unfortunately “Time is so cruel” so it will take a while to get all
these reviews out, but I hope readers look forward to them.

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.”

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.

V – “Stigma” Review

(Audio)

V (from BTS) – Stigma

Reviewed
on January 24, 2017

image

And
so, although “Stigma” faces the stigma of being a slower, dramatic song and
thus is disliked by many fans because of such, I argue the song is actually an
excellent one. If we are critical and listen beyond the song’s style and begin
attempting to understand why certain
compositions are in place, we will find that “Stigma”—despite being “boring” or
“too slow”—has many creative, efficient, and stunning points.  

Personal Message:
As perhaps readers can guess, I am
back at university and somehow already quite busy. Although this semester
appears to be quite challenging, I am expecting it to be “easier” than the last
as I have multiple two hour breaks in between classes and thus, my tendency to
procrastinate is greatly minimized. Personally a huge issue with last
semester—and this relating to the lack of reviews during that period—was squeezing
all of my classes back-to-back and as a result, despite many hours of free time
afterwards, I ended up wasting them away with distracting tasks. Perhaps this
could be a scheduling tip to readers who, like me, are not as disciplined.

On topic with this review, I would
like to thank a reader for sending in this request. I greatly apologize for not
getting to it sooner, but I hope this review is still enjoyable and
thought-provoking. I personally have been anticipating writing a review for this
song as there is so much to discuss in terms of music. As the requester
addressed, many fans struggle to listen to “Stigma”—a song that is not a
title/comeback song and instead is a song included in one of BTS’ albums.
Furthermore, the artist singing is just BTS’ V and thus, this creates more
difficulties as it is not the usual of every member participating. But of
course, the true problem is not the technicalities with members and “Stigma” not
being a title song; the issue is that musically
the song is hard to “enjoy.” It is not upbeat and within the pop genre as is,
say, the group’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” nor does it involve powerful
dancing and a flashy music video. “Stigma” is the opposite: it is a soulful,
R&B song (if correct on the genre) that—while possessing a short music
video—is predominantly meant to be consumed sonically. However, given the
incredibly slower pacing of the song, a lack of visual aid, seemingly overly
dramatic vocals and instrumental, and a composition that appears to be quite
stagnant, it truly is understandable on why fans find “Stigma” a difficult
song.

Because of this interesting
background, this review will be more than just reviewing the song: I hope this
review becomes an example of how a
listener can learn to reap enjoyment from analyzing what she is listening
to—especially with a song that she may not personally prefer. Even if a
listener dislikes “Stigma” ‘s style (as in my case), I hope he will still
realize that at least appreciation is
possible if not genuine enjoyment. And so, although “Stigma” faces the stigma
of being a slower, dramatic song and thus is disliked by many fans because of
such, I argue the song is actually an excellent one. If we are critical and
listen beyond the song’s style and begin attempting to understand why certain compositions are in place,
we will find that “Stigma”—despite being “boring” or “too slow”—has many
creative, efficient, and stunning points.  

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.75/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 7/10


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

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 6/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 7/10

I’ve been hiding it
I tell you something
just to leave it buried
Now I can’t endure it anymore
Why couldn’t I say it then?
I have been hurting anyway
Really I won’t be able to endure it

Now cry
It’s only that I’m very sorry towards you
Again, cry
Because I couldn’t protect you

Deeper, deeper, the wound just gets deeper,
like pieces of broken glass that I can’t reverse
Deeper, it’s just the heart that hurts every day
You who was punished in my stead
You who were only delicate and fragile

Stop crying, tell me something
Try talking to me who had no courage
Why did you do that to me then?
Sorry
Forget it
What right do I have,
to tell you to do this or that?

Deeper, deeper, the wound just gets deeper,
like pieces of broken glass that I can’t reverse
Deeper, it’s just the heart that hurts every day
You who was punished in my stead
You who were only delicate and fragile

I’m sorry, I’m sorry
I’m sorry, my brother
Even if I try to hide i or conceal it,
it can’t be erased
Are you calling me a sinner?
What more do I have to say?
I’m sorry, I’m sorry
I’m sorry, my sister
Even if I try to hide it or conceal it,
it can’t be erased
So cry
Please dry my eyes

That light, that light, please illuminate my sins
Where I can’t turn back, the red blood is flowing down
Deeper, I feel like dying every day
Please let me be punished
Please forgive me for my sins
I beg

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: For
a side note, while the given ratings appear to be straightforward, I do wish
for readers to know that the process to reach these ratings was far from such.
I devoted much time to understanding this song (and admittedly to push aside
much of my own personal biases). Also to note, this review will most likely be
shorter than intended due to how busy I currently am (and on top of that, I am
down with a cold).

Onto
the review, as the ratings unveil, “Stigma” is an incredibly well-rounded song
statistically. There are no immediate, impairing points and at worst the
sections—this category having the lowest ratings—is still decent. But, of
course, ratings are meaningless without explanations and more so with
considering how many find the song difficult to listen to, so let us proceed
with actual analysis.

With
the lyrics, this category should be the most straightforward to understand. However
that said, it is worth clarifying why the lyrics have scored well. As the
requester of this review mentions, the background to this song is complex: it
may be a part of BTS’ ongoing, fictional story or it might very much be
something personal from V or perhaps even both. While all these points are
interesting, these are not criterion I use for grading lyrics; instead, the lyrics
have earned their higher score by being distinctive in its details—word choice,
variety, imagery—and by differing with its plot. Overall, I will not spend too
much time in this song’s aspect as the more intriguing discussion is towards
the musical aspect.

With
that covered, let us focus on the vocals and instrumental. I bring up these two
aspects and not individually because both ultimately utilize similar strategies
and forms, but furthermore, both are quite misunderstood by many fans. After
all, the difficult aspect in the song may not be so much on how it is
structured with the sections but rather how it sounds within the sections—these sounds being the vocals and instrumental.

One
of the most impressive aspects to the two is how well they complement each
other so that their perceived downsides are covered. Before explaining that,
though, let us return once more to current perceptions on the vocals and
instrumental. On a more superficial hearing, the vocals are not impressive: the
vocals carry a sluggish, dragged pacing; many of the beltings are overly
emphasized and dramatized and thus, the extreme pitch shifts render
unappealingly—even if the singing itself is skillful; and lastly, the singing
simply comes off as monotonous considering there are few changes throughout. Similarly,
the instrumental can also be critiqued with those reasons: the instrumental is
too plain, dull, and provides nothing more than just background.

While
these are all viable points, I challenge fans to realize that these supposed
weaknesses are actually, realized or not, addressed in the vocals and
instrumental themselves. For example, the vocals’ slower pacing is paired with
a bass line that strengthens at moments where V provides beltings. The result,
then, is not vocals that are sluggish or an instrumental that remains dull; the
result is that both combined lead to a rhythmic, balanced flow that sounds
excellent. Another example is when considering the instrumental’s beats in
relation to V’s vocals at the first verse. Both in of themselves appear to be
incredibly vexing: the vocals are minimal in tune and the instrumental itself
provides nothing more than just the mere foundation of the song. However, when
considering how both sound when taken into account as a single unit, we realize
the vocals act as a pseudo-beat and equally the beats are akin to background
vocals. Lastly to note on a more technical side, another interesting composing
decision about the instrumental and vocals is that both physically complement
each other’s sounds. In clearer terms, I am referring to the actual pitch range
covered. During moments where the vocals are adopting a middle pitch, we
realize the instrumental “balances” out such by providing sounds slightly above
that pitch or slightly below it. Expectedly for moments when V is singing in a
higher pitch, the instrumental still “balances” out the overall sound by then
providing much lower pitches—this being the most explicit example as we can
hear the much deeper bass line coming in during these moments. Again, this is a
minor aspect but one I find quite creative and ultimately appealing especially
as “Stigma” ‘s style beckons careful, methodical listening.

Finally
discussing the sections, since we have already indirectly discussed some of
this through the discussion above regarding the vocals and instrumental working
together, let us instead turn to addressing why—despite the solid chemistry of
the vocals and instrumental—that the sections still all earn a six. Ultimately,
though the sections sound fantastic and that even the progression to the
entirety of “Stigma” is fluent and coherent, the main flaw remaining is that
the sections lack incredibly distinctive points. And of course, I do not
necessarily mean distinctive as in each section has to sound different from one another—as numerously said,
“Stigma” does follow a linear format—but in terms of what each section provides
for the song, there is nothing distinctive in this sense. For example, both the
introduction and conclusion suffice in their roles, but in doing so neither is
that stunning. Even in, for example, the choruses where the vocals
are—especially in the song’s context—diverse and the instrumental is impressive
with complementing such along with meshing the bass with the beats, the
choruses are not composed to the point that their very composition consists of
striking ideas and techniques. Now this is not to say the sections are bad at
all; all the sections hold a decent score, but overall, the structure to the
song individually and in whole merely provide the foundation to the song versus
being the aspects that carry forth the song.

All
in all, “Stigma” is definitely an above average song if we are able to pay
attention to how the vocals and instrumental work. Stylistically, I do agree
with many that the song is difficult to listen to and to even enjoy, but given
the nature of it, I do urge fans to find enjoyment from it through analyzing it versus just listening to
it. Unlike the typical pop song that is fun and easy to listen to due to being
able to predict its flow or simply how upbeat and tuneful it is, “Stigma” is a
song that requires one to actually pay attention to what is occurring with its
sections, vocals, instrumental, and so forth. Once a listener pays close attention,
most likely she will find it to be quite impressive in terms of the song’s
inner workings—and if not that, at least in his attempt I hope that the song
becomes worthwhile.

_______________________________________________________

To
the requester, huge apologies for the delay and for poorly writing the review.
I feel that I have failed to truly bring insight as to why “Stigma” is a
fascinating and solid song, but I hope in the end that the review is
interesting and gives some ideas as to what one could look for when listening
to a difficult yet charming song. In terms of the next review, look forward to
another requested review. And though this sounds silly, I will have to end this
review here as I do have class quite soon—perhaps “writing-on-the-go” is not
the most optimal idea, after all. Look forward to Uhm Junghwa’s “Dreamer” and
until then, “I’m very sorry towards you” for not being as diligent, but I will
do my best to catch up on reviews. 

SHINee – “1 of 1″ Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Live
Performance)

SHINee – 1 of 1

Reviewed
on January 13, 2017

For
where I wish to take this review, I plan to extend “1 of 1” ‘s prior
conversations: I agree with many that “1 of 1” is an excellent song, but I
disagree with those who claim such because the song is merely reminiscent of
“old K-Pop.” Instead, I hold that “1 of 1” is a solidly composed and executed
song that gains a lot of appeal due to how well the vocals and instrumental
synergize.

Personal Message:
Given that this review has been
continually delayed, I have decided it is time to officially finish it. As I
have yet to review SHINee, though, this review will still work out as I am
trying my best to introduce artists that have yet to appear on the blog. Also,
I do have some technical updates regarding the blog that I will address here
and will do so now.

The first update is that this blog
is now “encrypted.” What does this mean for readers? Nothing necessarily, but
in short it simply means the blog is “safer” with readers’ information (not that
I actually collect readers’ information minus view counts) as it is now a
“https” versus just “http.” In truth I am not too knowledgeable with this realm
of technology and cannot explain beyond just this, but readers should
definitely feel at ease browsing this blog in regards to information safety.

Secondly, while there might have
been a few advertisements on the blog, I wish to clarify that they are not from
me; the ads placed—which are now removed—are due to Tumblr and I was curious as
to how their ads worked and thus enabled them for a bit. In the far future and
if readers are not bothered, if Tumblr allows this blog to receive
monetization, I do plan on having non-intrusive ads stay. That said, monetization
is not to serve as motivation nor to turn this blog into a source of money;
monetization—if, again, it occurs at all—is merely a bonus and would
essentially only be enough for me to get, say, a cup of coffee every month. Because
I value readers’ genuine interest in my reviews and that I sincerely write
reviews due to my passion for pop music (and chances to discuss ethics and
social topics), if monetization ads in the far future do end up ruining
readers’ reading experience, I will absolutely remove them from the blog. But,
nothing will likely come anytime soon so readers should not be too concerned,
and personally, I am very much reluctant to add monetization due to potential conflicts
with readers’ reading experiences and perhaps even myself as my biggest fear is
that I would end up writing for money and not for love of music.

Onto the review itself now, although
“1 of 1” is a song that was released many months ago—specifically, nearly four
months ago—I return to the song as it has many intriguing points to discuss. Many
fans praised the song for being able to capture an “old K-Pop” vibe, and while
I cannot confirm that, I understand where those fans are coming from and I
would equally agree. Of course, however, style does not dictate a song’s
individual quality and thus for our purposes, whether “1 of 1” accurately
captures that “old K-Pop” style is irrelevant. I will discuss this further in
the review. For where I wish to take this review, I plan to extend “1 of 1” ‘s
prior conversations: I agree with many that “1 of 1” is an excellent song, but
I disagree with those who claim such because the song is merely reminiscent of
“old K-Pop.” Instead, I hold that “1 of 1” is a solidly composed and executed
song that gains a lot of appeal due to how well the vocals and instrumental
synergize.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 6/10
(6.00/10 raw score) – “Slightly above average”


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 6/10
(6.29/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 7/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 7/10

4.     Chorus: 7/10

5.     Rap: 6/10

6.     Bridge: 4/10

7.     Conclusion (Chorus): 7/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Woo

Just like how each minute and
each second are different
Day by day, you become new
You’re the first of the first
That means you’re the only one

Your voice that calls out to me
lightly comes and slips into my ear
Your touch that I can feel in my hands
brings me to the dazzling world that
I’ve never been in before

You’re 1 of 1, girl
Only one
You are my answer without a doubt
You’re 1 of 1, girl
It’s perfect
You’re already incomparable
You’re the only meaning of my world

A person like you has a name of “Only One”
As if you’ve put on the perfect color, yeah
Like a sweet song that passes my ear
You perfectly match, I keep singing about you

Like the feeling I felt for the first time,
always replay
(Replay)
Your love newly shines
Once again, I’m falling, falling for you
(Come here)
I could never get sick of saying, “I love you”
A sweet kiss
Footsteps that only match each other
Without any warning, our eyes met
Why are you so beautiful?
(Let’s go)
You’re my baby

You’re 1 of 1, girl
Only one
You are my answer without a doubt
You’re 1 of 1, girl
It’s perfect
You’re already incomparable
You’re the only meaning of my world

1 of 1, girl
Only one
You fill me up without any empty spots
You’re 1 of 1, girl
It’s perfect
You’re irreplaceable
You’re the only meaning of my world

I’m so deeply into you,
I’m changing
When my heart that is lit up
with your light rises up
I will shine on you

You’re 1 of 1, girl
Only one
You are my answer without a doubt
You’re 1 of 1, girl
It’s perfect
You’re already incomparable
You’re the only meaning of my world

1 of 1, girl
Only one
You fill me up without any empty spots
You’re 1 of 1, girl
It’s perfect
You’re irreplaceable
You’re the only meaning of my world

You’re 1 of 1, girl
You’re 1 of 1, girl
You are my answer without a doubt
You’re 1 of 1, girl
(1 of 1, girl, 1 of 1)
You can’t be compared with anyone else
One and only
I only want you

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Before
analyzing and moreover challenging the current perception of the song, first I
wish to take some time to thoroughly explain what the current perception to “1
of 1” is at all. In short, the perception
I refer to is that “1 of 1” is a good song mainly on the basis that it resembles older K-Pop songs. Even more
precisely if we critically deconstruct even that summary, we would come to a
“debate” I addressed before on the blog: whether a song’s style can serve as a factor to a song’s quality (whether the song is “good” or “bad,” etc.). Although I
already offered my answer in this review—that style cannot be a factor to
critique—and have even explained such in reviews of Red
Velvet’s “Russian Roulette”
and even Crayon
Pop’s “Doo Doom Chit,”
I still find this provoking
question relevant. Here, though, rather than explaining the “debate” once again
(I only quote it as I find it more of a thoughtful discussion as it is less about
convincing people than and more about having that complex, deeper engagement),
let us instead understand why many rightfully and reasonably find that style is
a factor worth critiquing.  

In
“1 of 1,” the song does very much emulate older pop music—and indeed, there are
strengths from doing so. With the vocals and instrumental, the pacing of both
are rather intriguing: both are nearly identical, and moreover, both focus more
on flow than necessarily hitting high notes and intense moments—all these
traits being that of older pop music. The benefit out of this, though, is that
it creates what I later wish to focus on: solid cohesion and synergy throughout
the song. Everything fits together, and that is definitely a desirable trait in
any song. Moreover, with how the sections function with choruses being numerous
due to following an older pop style—as noticed by six choruses in the song—and, more importantly, that the choruses
are based not on necessarily being climactic but instead creating a smooth,
consistent progression in the song and indeed, we come to understand why many
desire to praise the style of a song. In “1 of 1,” it truly would be erroneous
to claim that the song’s style does not influence the song’s quality.

However,
I wish to challenge that idea not by disproving it; rather, I wish to challenge
this stance by extending it. Why is it that a song’s style influences
its overall quality? Perhaps it is not due to “style”—something that can be
overly generalizing to songs and vulnerable to pure musical biases—but instead
if we inspect this concept more closely, we find that it might be the
composition in specific that is worth praising. In other words, while style can
sway whether one prefers a song, we
have to understand that each song—even within the same style or genre—utilizes
their own specific composition techniques. In “1 of 1,” while its style
contributes to specific compositions, it ultimately is still how those specific
decisions are made. After all, if style was truly important, I would not have
graded UP10TION’s
“White Night”
as highly as I did. Let us, then, take
a look at some interesting and impressive points in “1 of 1” and see how the
song is good not just due to it “sounding like older K-Pop.”  

As
already mentioned, the cohesion and synergy from the vocals and instrumental
are the key strengths to the song. Besides sonically sounding well and aiding
in the song’s progression, it is this formula—if we can call it such—that each
section builds upon. For example, the choruses use the vocal and instrumental
pairing to create its iconic sound: a consistent instrumental with vocals that
become dynamic by switching between singular and unison singing—all while
retaining the pacing set forth earlier by the two aspects. The result from such
are choruses that are diverse in sound yet suitable in an overall hearing. Even
the rapping that occurs towards the middle of the song follows suit: the rap,
while sonically mundane at times, still holds decently due to the vocals
matching with the instrumental and thus granting an organized flow to the rap.

For
another point worth noting, because the vocals and instrumental are incredibly
synergized, “1 of 1” is the exclusion to many other songs: sounding sonically fantastic
without being strenuous. Oftentimes “solid” vocals are associated with powerful
note holds and frequent, difficult vocal beltings, and likewise a “solid”
instrumental is assumed to be complex. “1 of 1,” though, disproves both: due to
the synergy involved, the sound created from such is already appealing—even if,
overall, neither vocals nor instrumental are individually strong. It is
cohesion that provides the appeal. Tightness and being able to hear the clear
connections between each section, and furthermore, to be able to hear how both
instrumental and vocals play off one another’s sound is what comes as the sonic
appeal.

Finally
for the last praise and on a similar note of the last paragraph, it is that
very cohesion in sound that strengthens the sections. With being connected
seamlessly and having each part build off one another—such as the verse
becoming more intense for the pre-choruses of which then climaxes at the
choruses not through major vocal beltings but through alternating of singing
styles—and “1 of 1” truly stands out as an incredibly organized song. And
indeed, organization plays a large role in songs, and to reference the review
of UP10TION’s “White Night,” it is why I feared “White Night” would be a weaker
song as it appeared to be overly powerful to channel appropriately. But on
topic, this is why the bridge scores at a four: it is the only section to break
away from the smooth, cohesive flow established as it adopts a passive form
that is far too slow. And of course, there is one additional issue: the lyrics
tend to be repetitive—though this might be due to the choruses occurring six
times. But to be fair and consistent across reviews, the lyrics are penalized
for such.

Overall,
“1 of 1” is definitely a strong song if ignoring the somewhat tedious lyrics. Its
strength is in the synergized vocals and instrumental, of which then grant the
song much cohesion. And as I have argued, it is more than just “1 of 1”
sounding like older pop that makes it a stronger song; it is that the
composition involved—in this case, being able to compose the vocals and
instrumental in their specific manners—that brings the song’s delightfulness. Most
impressive to me about “1 of 1” is once again how sonically and structurally
solid it is despite never resorting to strenuous techniques—powerful note
holds, complex instrumental, and so forth. Instead, organization is what is
most valuable.

_______________________________________________________

One
more review should be coming out with this review: AOA’s “Excuse Me.” After I
finish that review, I will then focus on the many requests I received. For this
review, I do feel that I did a poor job of actually analyzing more closely
certain details—for example I never did actually discuss a section in of itself
and how all its intricacies worked to its benefits. But, given that the main
argument I had for “1 of 1” is not tied to its fine details, I hope it is
understandable on why I did not do so. As said, I wish to make reviews focus
more on the main point I wish to argue and not on merely putting songs through
an input-output machine. In cases where I need to focus on fine details—such as
in one upcoming request—I will definitely do so, but unless if it is essential
I find it more convenient to spare readers that. After all, a review could
easily become too lengthy if I did that level of analysis.

Thank
you to readers for being patient and understanding, and “You are my answer
without a doubt”—though this makes no sense at all. Just look forward to AOA’s
“Excuse Me,” though I may actually go ahead and temporarily skip it and instead
begin working on the three requests I have received. 

GFriend – “Europe That GFriend Loves” Show Review

Sky Travel – Episode 1 Part 1 (Eng. Subtitled)

GFriend
Europe That GFriend Loves

Reviewed on January 13, 2017

Finally
focusing on the review itself, although many fans (and even myself) found Sky
Travel’s reality show of GFriend to be delightful on a more superficial level,
I argue that if we approach the show with a more critical mind, we would find a
less pleasing reality: the footages are great, but Sky Travel’s own editing is
rather questionable.

Personal
Message:
Edit: This review was meant to be
posted on January 10, but this is irrelevant to the review itself though it applies to the Personal Message. With some days off to reflect over what I wrote in the Personal Message, while I was harsher than intended during my time of writing–due to being in an emotional state–I have decided to still keep it as I find it important to be open and truthful to readers.

If I am on task, there should be at
least three reviews being posted today—this included and the only “bonus.” 

Admittedly to share (and readers interested in just the review should skip ahead), I am writing this bonus review first and not after the two
song reviews as I currently am not in the best state of mind; while nothing
drastic occurred per se minus a very worthless argument, as I do believe in
being honest and to reveal to readers I am definitely far from “perfect” or
“good,” I have a rather poor relationship with my father. I bring this up as, due
to a conflict we had—this being far from “uncommon” as we are bound to clash to
some degree, I am simply a bit angry and thus am not thinking nor even acting
as maturely as I should. Overall, my main message is that since my writing
needs a “break,” I decided to write a bonus review (as I am too inexperienced
to give a thorough, just review of shows) in the meantime.

I only bring up this very
vulnerable, personal information because I do wish for readers to understand me
as any normal human being. I am not “morally superior” or “perfect” at all
contrary to how I unintentionally might make myself sound with reviews. For
example, despite my own teachings of being mature and respectful to everyone, I
very much myself increased my speaking volume and conducted myself in a more
aggressive manner versus being calm and attempting to “talk it out”—even if he has
never done such in the time I have known him. Instead, I succumbed to his
inferior, barbaric level and to that I am very disappointed in myself and I
know I could have and should have
acted better and hope to do so in the future. (And on a side note, I do wonder
if this very intimate relationship being ruined is why I tend to struggle with
having close male friends, and more so with being close to my mother. Barring
my brother, who I sincerely love and am incredibly close with, I find it
difficult to trust and become emotionally close to males. Overall, as some readers
might better understand, my situation relates to Infinite’s Hoya’s own
relationship struggle with his father: we still do care for one another, but
our relationship is awkward and lacks closeness.)

But, for what truly matters and for
what I wish to share and teach from this digression, what matters in the end is
not endlessly holding grudges against people—a rather emotionally unhealthy
route; what matters most is to accept and understand one’s emotions, but to
then take control of those very emotions in a healthy and empowering manner. I
could let this and the past arguments ruin my day or more dramatically my
entire life with wishing for the experience of a true father who did more than
provide me with money, but I refuse to do that. (And on the topic of money, perhaps
crudely said, I still have respect and love to him due to money being provided
from his hard work—and indeed, in the far future, I will pay back money due to
filial duties even if my emotional needs were never met). I refuse to let one
individual have that type of negative influence in my life—this being what I
wish to remind readers (and perhaps even future students). Yes, I understand
where he comes from and why he behaves poorly—his own neglected childhood life
from both parents—but unlike him and
especially with the capacity to critically think, I know I can ethically do
better: instead of spreading negativity, I know I have a responsibility to
spread joy, optimism, and most importantly, to teach others to critically
think. (And on a side note, this is
why teachers mattered in my life; teachers have been the ones who have made me
realize I am not stupid and worthless, and it is teachers who have truly emotionally
and intellectually matured me.)

Pushing aside the more solemn
digression and admittedly a chance for me to immaturely vent and open up more
about myself, let us return to a more cheerful tone: reviewing Europe That GFriend Loves. After finally
finishing the series, I knew I had to write a review for it—even if I have
excessively reviewed shows with GFriend. To explain once again why this is the
case, I have recently been predominantly watching shows with the ladies and
thus, it is only natural that out of every show I could possibly review,
GFriend is automatically the artist involved. Of course, though, given that
show reviews are mere bonuses and elicit minimal discussion compared to song
reviews, I hope it is not an issue with readers that as of the late all show
reviews involve GFriend.

Addressing the link, unlike the
usual protocol of using a YouTube video—and more specifically, a YouTube
playlist of the series—I am instead using the first part to episode one on V
App. Many readers should be familiar with V App, but for those who are not, it
is a website that many idols use for live broadcasts or for uploading dance
practices. Since I cannot create a playlist on the site, I am only linking the
first episode but that said, all of
the remaining episodes can be found on GFriend’s V App page. If that is not
already delightful enough, indeed all of the episodes are English subtitled.
Therefore, readers should all be able to enjoy the show without language barriers
(though, as in the cases of all translations, there are many
lost-in-translations compared to if, say, a fan-subbing team did the subtitles
themselves and were able to explain the translations).

Finally focusing on the review
itself, although many fans (and even myself) found Sky Travel’s reality show of
GFriend to be delightful on a more superficial level, I argue that if we
approach the show with a more critical mind, we would find a less pleasing
reality: the footages are great, but Sky Travel’s own editing is rather
questionable. _______________________________________________________

Plot
Summary:
Before explaining
my prior point, though, let us first understand what Sky Travel’s Europe That GFriend Loves is even about.

First of all, the entirety of
GFriend was to attend the show, but sadly, due to Umji having an ankle injury
(if correct), she remained at home in South Korea while the rest of the members
went to Europe. There, the remaining five ladies visit three countries for
three days (if accurate): Slovenia, Hungary, and Austria. More specifically,
however, the five members split up into three groups that then visited their
own particular country: Yuju and Eunha visiting Austria; SinB and Yerin
visiting Slovenia; and Sowon visiting Hungary—barring one day where she went
with Yuju and Eunha to Austria. (And as mentioned, she is alone due to the fact
that her would-be partner Umji was injured).

In terms of the events that occur,
while I obviously will not list out everything that happened, the following is
a general outline of GFriend’s activities: eating, sightseeing, visiting
landmarks, attending museums and traditional activities, struggling with
transportation, and so on. Ultimately, Europe
That GFriend Loves
directly follows, if readers have watched other
traveling shows before, the very genre of “travel reality”—there is nothing new
in particular to the show when compared to this genre’s concept.  

_______________________________________________________

Overall
Value: 5/10
(5.0/10
raw score) – “Average”

– Entertainment Value: 7/10

– Structural Value: 3/10

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Onto the review itself, I wish to
return to what I stated earlier and to thoroughly explain what I mean. In terms
of the show’s strength, what occurs
in the show—the footage, essentially—is very much appealing for a variety of
viewers. For example, from the perspective of GFriend’s fans, fans are able to
watch the group’s usual antics. From playfully flirting with each other—or
perhaps that might just be Yerin being “greasy” towards SinB (I mean this in a
joking, friendly manner of course)—to learning more about the ladies’ dorm life
and personalities, fans of GFriend will very much enjoy the show for it simply
sharing more about our beloved members.

That said, for viewers who may not
necessarily be fans or are fans who still equally care about the traveling
aspect (such as in my case), the show is still a hit. While shows at most give
a vicarious experience and will never replace genuine and actual traveling, Europe That GFriend Loves still manages
to capture the experience well. For example, the show’s narration, of which is done
by Umji, added historical context for every important figure or location. Furthermore,
while GFriend members are the main focus, the show still brings attention to
the surrounding and had many wonderful shots of purely locations and landmarks.
Add on the final part of how the seen activities varied—traditional dances,
eating, how GFriend prepared for the trip, and so on—and indeed we come to find
that the raw footage to the traveling show is all appealing.

Ignoring those strengths, however,
for where Sky Travel falters, on a more critical level their editing of the
footages is not impressive. Rather than viewers just purely joining the ladies,
for a large portion of time viewers have to equally endure repetitive, cliché
messages such as—to create an example that encapsulates my point—captions that
read: “And so Sowon becomes independent…learning to enjoy traveling
alone…eating alone…walking alone…but in heart she is with all her members…” Even
the narration—which, of course, is not Umji’s fault—contributes to the overly
cliché messages.

Understandably, readers might be
skeptical about me bringing up this point: Why can’t I just ignore these
moments? They seem meaningless to pay so much attention to. I only bring it up
because I argue it does impact
viewers’ enjoyment of the show. With watching the show, it is reasonable to
expect that the large majority of it consists of GFriend and their traveling.
Post-interviews of course are fine—and those in specific were well implemented
throughout—but when the transitions per “traveling pair” (such as switching
from Yuju and Eunha to Sowon) consists of a minute of replaying the same, prior
footages with the addition of cliché messages and bright, glowing filters, it
does become agitating by the sixth episode. This is not to necessarily bash
those messages; even if cliché, there were some important messages such as how
traveling can expand one’s view of the world and so forth. The issue is how Sky Travel did such: at the expense
of viewers. If the time spent on the messages were shorter, or if the footages
used there were not merely replaying moments already watched, these parts would
have served as great transitions. But, unfortunately, I find that these points
are excessive.

Overall, Europe That GFriend Loves rates as average and to that I find that
I agree. Even if GFriend is entertaining as they always are and that the events
the ladies had in Europe were great, it is Sky Travel’s editing that truly
reduces down a lot of appeal. Perhaps I am overly harsh, but I find that it is
best for travel shows—or for that matter, even reality shows (and I refer to
Korean reality shows as I recently discovered this genre significantly varies per culture)—to let the footage speak for
itself: rather than Sky Travel literally writing how Sowon learned to have fun
alone or that SinB and Yerin gained new insight due to experiencing another
culture, I find it would have been more impactful to have the footages show that the members grew as a result.
And besides, that is why the post-travel interviews were added: to add the
explicit component of how the members grew. Flowery, cliché captions and
narration are simply unnecessary.

Again, it should be noted this
review is far from professional and is definitely a biased take as I do not
understand the artistic and technical work behind producing shows and that I
feel much more comfortable in the realm of music, but I do hope the review
provides some insight as to why I did not enjoy the show as much as I could
have. For the momentous question of whether I recommend watching the show or
not, my answer is simple: for GFriend fans, this show is definitely worth
watching. However, for those who are watching it because they are curious about
certain European countries or wish to have a travel-orientated show, I do not
recommend the show in these cases.

_______________________________________________________

This review will be one out of three
that are posted today. I have many requests to do, but before reaching those
review requests I plan to finish reviews I am almost finished with. As such,
look forward to song reviews and I hope that this review provides some variety
to the blog. Look for SHINee’s “1 of 1” and AOA’s “Excuse Me” as, if I am
diligent, both will be posted along with this current one.

Seventeen – “Highlight” Review

(Music
Video—Dance Version)

Seventeen – Highlight

Reviewed
on January 8, 2016

In
terms of my stance, while I agree that the choreography aspect is stunning—as
to be expected from the performance unit—and I equally agree that the vocals
are decent, I do hesitate to highly praise the composition of the song. As the
review will attempt to highlight in “Highlight” (pun partially intended), the
song uses many unique composition techniques and decisions, but akin to
Meng
Jia’s “Drip,”
those said decisions might not be
the most optimal choices for musical appeal.

Personal Message:
Shout-out to the men and women who
worked as makeup artists for this music video. Random compliment aside (though
truly the men looked stunning in the music video—and yes, this is coming from a
heterosexual male as we need to critically challenge current notions of what
“being a man” is), I wish to thank a reader for recommending this song—and the
other ones—to me. While recommendations are not necessarily requests and thus I
could have opted not to review this, I find that “Highlight” brings interesting
musical discussions and that it perfectly fits with my review schedule of
bringing in more male artists.

Furthermore, as the recommender
mentions, she/he is curious on my take to songs that are, in summary, less
mainstream “idol songs”—songs that are not of the usual, traditional pop genre.
While Seventeen is a boy group that is still definitely a part of mainstream
pop music and are rather popular now, “Highlight” does technically deviate
away: physically, this is the “performance unit” of the normally
thirteen-membered group and thus consists of only Jun, Hoshi, The8, and Dino; and
musically, “Highlight” follows more of an EDM genre versus pop. That said, I
acknowledge EDM is still under the overarching label of “popular music”
especially as of the late (such as with EXO’s “Dancing King”), but indeed it is different from
the more common form of K-Pop.

Onto the review itself, I have
noticed many people have been praising this song in particular. For one, it
comes from the performance unit and considering the other units are the
“hip-hop unit” and “vocal unit,” it is a unit that might be overlooked. Besides
that, however, on a musical level “Highlight” has been deemed by many fans as
the best song on Seventeen’s recent album—this being what we care most about
for our discussion. Fans praise the song for its spectacular vocals, excellent composition,
and of course for its stellar choreography. In terms of my stance, while I
agree that the choreography aspect is stunning—as to be expected from the performance
unit—and I equally agree that the vocals are decent, I do hesitate to highly praise
the composition of the song. As the review will attempt to highlight in
“Highlight” (pun partially intended), the song uses many unique composition
techniques and decisions, but akin to Meng Jia’s “Drip,” those said decisions might not be
the most optimal choices for musical appeal.

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 6/10


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

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

1.     Introduction:
3/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Rap: 7/10

6.     Bridge: 5/10

7.     Conclusion: 7/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 7/10

[Introduction instrumental]

When spread out pieces come together,
I’m finally able to breathe
When two lights meet,
they shine each other’s tomorrow
When the sun sets and darkness comes,
I remember only your warmth
A place where stars are embracing
Go towards there, I’ll be there

I want to match you to my heart
Like the sky and sun at dawn
We’re becoming similar along with time
Look at us that will become one in the end
I’m like a bird, I’ll fly
To wherever it is that I hear your voice from
In the air, whenever
(The moment that we face)

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

My lips only move
in your sight
Emptiness is filled by
each other’s expressions
making it meaningful
A feeling that only we know
You’re pulling me somewhere

My reason of existence is you
You make me want to smile like the spring
Wherever and whatever we’re doing
I know well that it’s not important
I’m just attracted by your stare
In order to make this moment shine,
I turn on the switch

I want to match you to my heart
Like the sky and sun at dawn
We’re becoming similar along with time
Look at us that will become one in the end
I’m like a bird, I’ll fly
To wherever it is that I hear your voice from
In the air, whenever
(The moment that we face)

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

Baby you
I look back at the time,
the times I earnestly dreamt of,
are becoming closer
Days where I held back tears
are left behind in my footsteps
Wherever in this world it may be,
if we believe in each other
This moment that we face

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

[Conclusion instrumental]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Regarding what I mean by my statements above, “Highlight” is a song that
focuses on “imagery”—and readers should refer to the linked review of “Drip”
for another song example of such. In other words, many of the creative
composition points in the song are not geared towards augmenting the song in a
musical sense per se; those points, instead, are done to promote the lyrics’ narrative
or to create a more vivid “imagery” of the said narrative—both of which are not
purely focused on music in of itself, however.

Let
us focus on the choruses for an example. From a non-musical perspective, one
very unique aspect here is that the murmurings are not inaudible nonsense: they
are, if correct, lyrics in Chinese (Mandarin in specific). Now not only does
this steer away from the usual form of including English lyrics (which I plan
to one day write a Critical Discussion on it that discusses the inclusion of
English in K-Pop and even Chinese Pop—both musically and socially), but moreover
the style in which the Chinese lyrics are included enhances the song’s
narrative as we could interpret this as the protagonist’s inner thoughts. Another
non-musical strength that exists is towards the very beginning of the song: the
inclusion of ambient noises. That said to clarify this, it should be noted that
the ambient noise at the very start of the song is in fact a part of the song; it is not just due to the music
video itself as I have checked various audio sources and all include it. As for
why this particular introduction matters, while we will soon discuss it in a
musical sense, I do wish to give credit to the storytelling effects this
brings: it sets an emotional tone of reminiscing over matters—this being one
possible interpretation of the song in whole.

And
so, readers may be confused on why I mention these points if they do not relate
to the review itself. I do this so that readers can understand why the composers made those decisions.
Even if these decisions, as we will find, are arguably hindering to the song’s
musical appeal, they exist for another purpose that I still have to acknowledge
and do not wish to merely dismiss as poor composing. Especially if we return to
Jia’s “Drip,” it would be limiting to just criticize that song’s composition
without at least acknowledging why the composers opted for “Drip” ‘s odd
choruses. In Seventeen’s “Highlight,” I wish to equally do the same: give
respect for the composers’ decisions that help forward the song’s lyrical and emotional
narrative.

With
that aside, though, let us now focus on the song itself and particularly with
how those “story enhancing” components play out. With the choruses, while the
plain instrumental that is backed by the occasional “highlight” phrase is at
most average, I argue it is the murmuring that impairs these sections.
Certainly the murmuring adds contrast and prevents a potentially stale and
repetitive chorus, but because of how the song is overall structured to have a
pure, electronic instrumental as the climactic moments—as we can tell by
gauging how the verses and pre-choruses escalate the song to the choruses—it would
have served the song better if that very structural form was supplemented and not contrasted or if
the murmuring portion was simply removed. As it currently is, the murmuring
ironically still add onto the choruses’ repetitive nature—and potentially even
more so as the low, grumbling creates a more monotonous sound—and more
detrimentally, it steals away the choruses’ main sonic appeal: an upbeat, clean
wave-like instrumental.

As
for the introduction, for something I have yet to discuss on the blog, length
is a factor to bear in mind. Unfortunately, “Highlight” falls into the problem
of being excessive in length: the introduction could have started when the
lighter instrumental sounds kicked in and of which then are instantly followed
by the vocals. Instead as a result, the many seconds at the start come off as
fillers: moments that are simply unnecessary. The ambient noises do not bring
any sonic appeal, and additionally, are never referenced to again throughout
the song. If, for example, the ambient noises were then heard again at the
conclusion, it would have added cohesion to the song and doing so would have
very much been a sharp conclusion. While the conclusion still is a stronger
one, the introduction however struggles now because without actually reusing
the ambient noises, the introduction seems to be overly abstract and out of
place and, harshly said, wasted space and time.

Miraculously,
though, as readers can notice, the song still scores at a six and thus, there
are still indeed many stronger points—these I would say outnumber the
weaknesses to the song. The vocals are a category to focus on. Intriguingly
here, many parts of the vocals throughout were edited with electronic sounds.
However, unlike in most cases where doing such reduces down the tune and
muddles the vocals’ sound, in “Highlight” the vocals when edited were
appropriate in scale and thus the tune was still clear and it allowed the
vocals to sonically match with the instrumental. Furthermore, the vocals were
edited only at specific moments: when the song was greatly increasing in
intensity—such as towards the latter half of the pre-choruses. Otherwise,
vocals were not modified and during these cases, the members delivered excellent
singing and rapping.

On
the topic of rapping, the sections barring the choruses and introduction were
overall decent. The rapping in particular was well positioned and executed. In
more depth, I refer to how the rapping seamlessly occurred after the second
verse as the section continued on the second verse’s instrumental and pacing
but then slightly increased said pacing to create a perfect setup for rapping.
The rapping itself, then, was also well done with the usual of flow and tune.
The only weaker sections—though “weaker” is an inaccurate term as both are at
least average—would be the verses and bridge as, while they accomplish their
usual roles, both bring minimal interest in the overall hearing of the song
versus merely progressing the song. Similar, the instrumental follows suit: the
sound of it is nothing unique though it is still pleasing, and structurally the
instrumental adds the usual of transitions and a foundation for all the other
sections though it is merely average in those roles.

Overall,
“Highlight” is a song that ultimately holds well even with many weaker points.
The instrumental and sections may be average and if focusing on particular
sections even weak, but indeed “Highlight” is a song that orientates toward not
just sounding well but also performing
well—both visually with dance and emotionally with the song’s lyrics. Given
that this is the performance unit of Seventeen, the song makes sense: it sacrifices
some musical appeal for some additional performance appeal, and that is perfectly
acceptable if we consider that this song is meant for the performing aspect and
not so much as for, say, the vocals. Now if this song was for the vocal unit, it
would be questionable but as said, this is not the case. Regardless, though, as
this blog focuses on the pure musical aspect to K-Pop songs, “Highlight” still
has a few glaring issues that exist due to that trading of “music-for-performance,”
but in the end, it still holds as a decent song.

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I
personally am not too satisfied with this review as I could have definitely
spent more time discussing the song itself and not just focusing on the
discussion of “performance versus music,” but given that reviews truly hone in
on individual songs and each song’s particular case (lest, as said before,
readers read robotic input-and-output reviews), I find that the discussion in
this review will be relevant to Seventeen fans.

Also,
I do want to apologize for not being as active with reviews as I should be, but
I definitely have many coming out and with following the reviewing philosophy
of focusing the discussion of each song to its specific context, I can probably
be more concise yet even more thoughtful for the reviewed song at hand. But,
either way, readers deserve an apology for a somewhat slower posting rate than
promised. I will do my best to keep releasing reviews, and when university
returns in a week, I hope to increase the rate of reviews by being more precise
yet concise in discussion.

Look
forward to many comeback reviews—two of which include two older pop artists,
and a request (which I received during the time of writing this). “A miracle
will appear,” hopefully, so that reviews are on schedule. AOA’s “Excuse Me”
will most likely be the next review.