Critical Discussion: “PRISTIN’s Fan-Signing Confrontation: Addressing Delusional/Sasaeng Fans Seriously”

“PRISTIN’s
Fan-Signing Confrontation: Addressing Delusional/Sasaeng Fans Seriously”

Posted on April 19, 2017

So
for where I do want to direct our discussion, I instead wish to focus our
attention on how we, as sincere and supportive fans, are to address fans who
genuinely are delusional and obsessive. For aspects this post will discuss: the
need to take delusional fans seriously; a misunderstanding of how idols are to
be perceived; discussion of mental health; and lastly, the idea of compassion even towards those who seemingly do not
deserve such.

Personal
Message:
To
clarify, I am in the middle of reviewing PRISTIN’s “Wee Woo” and hope to finish
the review quite soon. That said, and especially as I believe that K-Pop and generally
pop culture of any kind is more than just the entertainment, musical aspects,
this Critical Discussion is one that I hope readers will seriously consider. For
what will be discussed, in light of PRISTIN’s recent confrontation with a man I
personally deem dangerous, I think it is time I personally bring up a topic
that even I have oftentimes belittled: the topic of delusional fans—or in
Korean terms that K-Pop audiences might be more familiar with whether one knows
Korean or not, “sasaeng” fans.

Now to clarify, quite obviously this
Critical Discussion will not focus on persuading readers to not be delusional
fans; I expect that many genuinely delusional fans would not even be reading
these types of posts in the first place, and furthermore, I say with full
confidence that those who are reading this post are intelligent, critical, and ethical
human beings who already know why it is problematic to be an overly obsessed,
delusional fan. So for where I do want to direct our discussion, I instead wish
to focus our attention on how we, as sincere and supportive fans, are to
address fans who genuinely are delusional and obsessive. For topics this post
will discuss: the need to take delusional fans seriously; a misunderstanding of
how idols are to be perceived; discussion of mental health; and lastly, the
idea of compassion even towards those
who seemingly do not deserve such. And of course, I will cover in brief terms
what exactly occurred between PRISTIN and a delusional fan, but admittedly this
discussion will focus more on delusional and obsessive fans in general rather
than just PRISTIN’s case. After all, sadly, this concept of delusional fans—or
“sasaeng” fans—requires a discussion that addresses them all rather than just a
particular case. (Another prevalent case in mind is, if I am correct, with EXO
and how Suho was sexually threatened—or “sexually harassed” if my language here
is too biased—with rape from a woman. Point is, there are many of these extreme
cases involving both male and female artists and thus, I wish our discussion to
be general and that PRISTIN’s case will merely provide a contextual example.)

_______________________________________________________

Context:
I will link a news article that
addressed what occurred: Soompi’s article. I have praised Soompi before, but
I will do it once again—and no, I am not sponsored by them at all nor write for
them: I simply appreciate their professionalism and website layout of not
pouring in obnoxious pop-up ads as do many other translated K-Pop news sites do
as of the late. But on topic, the news article should cover what exactly
occurred with PRISTIN and the “fan.”

For more specific details on why
this person’s behavior is highly inappropriate, he intended to propose to
Kyulkyung at this fan-signing, and regarding a sketchbook he planned to give,
he wrote in the sketchbook sexual threats (or, again, “harassment” if my
language is overly harsh and biased) such as desiring to get Kyulkyung pregnant
along with including an image of a decomposing corpse. For where credit is
deserved, the staff and group members all acted very professionally and
appropriately despite such pathetic actions from the “fan.” The only criticism
I have on this practical, procedural end however is questioning why Pledis
Entertainment does not use a blacklisting system akin to, if correct, JYP
Entertainment (and of whom are also very strict with how fans can interact with
idols when not at meetings). The fact that an infamous delusional fan is able
to physically meet PRISTIN is perhaps the more disturbing aspect of this entire
incident—and bear in mind, the company was
aware of his coming given that fans have taken preemptive measures of alerting
the company and hence why the staff was prepared to deal with him. With that, though,
let us now focus on the actual and more general discussion at hand.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Already, one of the major takeaways
I hope readers have from this post is the fact that delusional/sasaeng fans need to be taken seriously. I connote
this on both practical and social levels. In PRISTIN’s case, once again, I
highly wish to emphasize the fact that such a fan was still able to attend
despite multiple, proactive warnings about his behavior. While there could be
many reasons for why this occurred, and to clarify I do believe in the best
intentions and that Pledis Entertainment agreed it was—for whatever reasons—the
best to still allow the delusional fan to attend, I do wonder if part of the
reason involves the company not necessarily taking these types of fans
seriously in the first place.

In defense of Pledis Entertainment
however, especially with most of the delusional fan’s comments being online, it
could all be an entire hoax to make everyone anxious for the person’s own
amusement—and admittedly, I would consider most of these delusional fans to
indeed be mere frauds and jokes. And of course, this is complicated by the
unreliability to detect when someone is genuine or not online; after all, if
someone despised me enough, she/he could take my sarcastic humor of me jokingly
claiming TWICE’s Jihyo will propose marriage to me as real evidence to me being
a delusional/sasaeng fan. Now for a more complicated case, while my own “delusional”
points are easily found as sarcastic, there are cases where drawing such clear
distinctions is difficult. A prominent example is, if correct, how a boy
sexually harassed IU in a live stream. While IU’s label company brilliantly did
decide to press charges—after all, sincere or not such behavior deserves to be
addressed—the boy did claim he was merely joking and was not genuinely going to
act on his words. Nevertheless, we find our tension here: how serious are companies
to take delusional fans?

While I personally propose we need
to take all actions and words from these types of fans as serious, I still wish
for readers to consider the opposing view: many could disagree with me as
perhaps there may be fans who are indeed misunderstood and therefore wrongly
punished. And of course, I am thinking of genuinely innocent examples; in IU’s
case, whether the boy was joking or not, the degree of his words are
unacceptable. Instead, “innocent examples” might involve how a fan “jokes” on
SNS that she would kidnap a certain idol if she could. Quite obviously, there
is the tension of whether this fan would need to be investigated and
blacklisted or if it is quite clear—whatever constitutes as “clear evidence,” another
issue in of itself—she was joking. All in all, readers can see there is in fact
a serious discussion on this front. I urge that we need to take all
repetitively “proven” delusional fans seriously, but already that statement can
be strongly and rightfully disagreed with and I do encourage readers to always
be critical thinkers with considering various perspectives.

Switching onto our next topic, this
one will be relatively brief as I hope to many readers this will already be
common knowledge: that idols are not to be perceived in an objectifying manner.
I bring up this point as there is a peculiar yet reasonable argument for why
delusional fans “can” exist: some argue an idol’s job and role does, at times,
involve putting themselves out there for fans to figuratively consume via
entertainment or in some cases even sexual appeal. After all, it seems far too
extreme if a genuinely well-behaved fan can never say, for example, “Kyulkyung
is so sexy!” without suddenly being labeled as a dangerous, delusional fan. Indeed,
to some extent, I agree: it is not unethical to idolize idols—and hence,
perhaps, the very label of “idol.” In fact, this idolizing can range beyond
just how one might look up to an idol as a role model; I think it is not
utterly inappropriate if a fan is suddenly expressing how she is very much
sexually attracted to some idol. If such occurs, then so be it. However, this
is where I argue there needs to be an appropriate
balance: idolizing to extreme ends to
the point it affects idols and fans, whether sexual or not, is never
acceptable.

For example, despite my conservative
beliefs (as admittedly while I am socially ethical and therefore categorized as “liberal,” I
culturally am “conservative”–and of course, “conservative” or “liberal,” we all should be socially ethical) of how a “real man” and a “real woman” never
makes sexual comments to others, I have—as indeed, I am a regular nerdy
human—made sexual-based remarks before. With PRISTIN in mind, I believe I have
even posted a YouTube comment along the lines of explicitly calling Nayoung
“sexy.” Is this entirely unethical? I argue far from it; my comment was that of
being a fan at the moment and I obviously meant it as a lighthearted praise. Most
importantly, I did not take it to the degree that the comment would be
objectifying and I very much praise
and acknowledge Nayoung more for Nayoung herself rather than for her physical
appearance. Now that said, and particularly to male readers, this is not an
excuse to suddenly go on a “she/he is sexy” complimenting marathon. I say this
to male readers as we have to acknowledge that an innocuous sexual-based comment,
even if meant to be lighthearted and a genuine praise, can indeed still be
considered sexually objectifying and demeaning because we speak from a position
of social privilege. In other words,
we speak from a male privileged stance and could be unintentionally
contributing to the issue of freely sexually objectifying women (and men) because
speaking from a male privileged
stance automatically justifies a male’s sexual comments as acceptable (due to
gender expectations) when such actions should not be excused at all.

Thus, my overall point is this: in a
reasonable, mature and respectful manner, there is not a problem should a fan
idolize their idols—whether with admiration or with sexual attraction. The key
idea is that such comments and idolizing need to be respectful and reasonable.
Praising that Nayoung is sexy is not an issue; there is an issue, however, should one keep repeating and pushing forth
such a comment to the point where Nayoung—a wonderful human being—is reduced
down to purely her body. And of course, adding on male privilege should the fan
be a male, and indeed we have an even more serious situation as it now leeches
beyond just one individual case but is now reaching a social level of
perpetuating the idea that men can freely sexually objectify women. Likewise,
claiming that Nayoung is one’s role model is not a problem; there is a problem, however, should the fan
suddenly find the need to stalk Nayoung and genuinely believes she loves
him/her back in a romantic sense.

As for PRISTIN’s delusional fan, he
is indeed in the wrong: he has made a sexual threat to Kyulkyung—a comment that
claims he would make her pregnant versus merely complimenting her—and his
excessive admiration has led him to believing she genuinely loves him back in a
romantic sense. Yes, idols’ jobs and roles do involve them being idolized, but
an ethical dimension still exists: idols, too, are human beings and deserve
respect and dignity. Indeed, many Korean idols (I have no authority to comment
for other pop cultures) are absolutely fantastic role models for male and
female fans and thus, I do find it acceptable should fans admire them as role
models or even find idols sexually attractive should a fan opt to go this
route. (Biasedly with my cultural views, though, I do urge fans to praise idols
beyond their physical appearance if physical appearances are to even matter at
all. Idols’ work ethics, respectful conduct, care for members, skills, and so
forth are what I find most “sexy” and I do encourage fans to view idols in this
aspect rather than merely physical attractions.) What is problematic is when
such infatuation—sexual or not—goes to the extent of disrespecting the idol and
said idol is no longer a human but instead an object. After all, as much as I
joke about being delusional and loving TWICE’s Jihyo and how she will one day
get on her knee to propose to me, I obviously know at the end of everything—besides
how we will never meet at all—Jihyo is simply an amazing woman who brings a lot
for the world as a role model and musician—not an object that I can somehow “possess.”

Finally, this brings up perhaps the
most sensitive topic yet in this post: a discussion on mental illness. Already
I wish to clarify that I do not want to further perpetuate the stigma that
socially deviant behavior (if that is a proper term; I merely mean behavior
that is not of the norm and do not intend to connote something else) must
automatically be the result of mental illness. Whether it is PRISTIN’s
delusional fan or the woman who claimed she would rape EXO’s Suho, as ethical
and critical human beings, we should never automatically assume these
individuals are mentally ill. For all we know, they might be very sane and
reasonable people; the only difference, though, is perhaps they lack ethics and have no regard for acting
upright in the world. (This is why readers constantly see me discussing social
topics in an ethical lens; in the end, I consider my ultimate goal as a human
being—let alone a K-Pop reviewer and future teacher—is to spread as much
goodness and to encourage others to do as much good as possible.) Nevertheless,
however, I think the discussion of mental illness is still relevant: it needs
to be reminded that us mentally healthy individuals have an ethical role with
challenging the stigma of mental illness, but should the case be that certain
delusional fans are mentally ill, such needs to be addressed appropriately.

Without intending to, I have already
discussed why readers should not hurry to the conclusion that delusional fans
are automatically mentally ill. Again, the example of how these types of fans might
be sane but merely lack ethics is a possible and reasonable explanation. Furthermore,
the automatic association that any social deviant behavior means one is
mentally ill is a highly misunderstood idea. Mental illness cannot be easily
generalized in that sense, and I argue such negative associations of mental
illness—such as how individuals who are mentally ill are dangerous—make it even
more difficult for those who need mental support to get that very support.
Think of, for example, those with depression: if mental illness is considered
wicked and dangerous, the likelihood of a depressed individually getting the
help she/he needs is highly reduced due to social stigma. Thus, I do challenge
readers to be more critical in their view of mental illnesses and to very much
confront biases they have towards mental illnesses. Although I am the one
suggesting this, I do indeed admit I have biases that I very much am working to
challenge—after all, my first instinct to reading about PRISTIN’s incident was
a quick assumption that the delusional fan is “crazy” and “mentally ill” (in
other words, I used the label as an insult rather than its appropriate use as a
general, clinical label). These are disturbing, highly biased thoughts I have,
but indeed I share this as readers need to realize we all have biases worth
correcting and I indeed am joining along in the process of being a more
compassionate, knowledgeable human.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion:
With addressing so many different
points, I might now have made readers feel overwhelmed, more confused, or
simply unsatisfied with how one is to reconcile what PRISTIN and Pledis
Entertainment staff members experienced with the delusional fan. I will attempt
to conclude this Critical Discussion: a discussion on compassion.

Indeed, I find that the ethical
layer is why a lot of social-related topics matter as all of these related
discussions is ultimately an attempt to answer how we are to make the world a
better place for each other. On one hand, compassion here means that we need to
understand what idols feel and why, despite idolizing them, they are worthy of
respect and dignity as is every other human entitled to. Now for where the idea
of compassion gets tricky, admittedly feeling compassion—in other words for
those unfamiliar, having a sense of understanding and even “acceptance”—for delusional
fans is difficult. In fact, I wholeheartedly admit despite my current teachings
and discussion, I do struggle with having compassion for these types of
individuals. After all, how is any ethical, critical person supposed to “accept”
and “understand” a woman who dares to make a rape threat to a man or a man who
dares makes a sexual threat to a woman? But, this is where I challenge readers
and myself: we still need to, at the very least, make attempts to understand
these individuals.

For perhaps a controversial point I
will make, having compassion for these delusional fans does not mean one is to
necessarily accept them entirely; I absolutely prohibit these types of fans
from ever attending fan-meetings and also desire to ban them from posting
content on idols’ fancafes. What I mean by “accept,” then, is that I still have
to accept and acknowledge these delusional fans are humans. It would be wrong,
for example, if fans suddenly made plans to kidnap the woman who made rape
threats to EXO’s Suho and physically assaulted her—reason being she still is a
human, and that using such escalated violence would lead to nothing. (Now even
more controversially, I do want to clarify that I do believe at times violence
to counteract violence is sometimes essential and appropriate. For a random
example, a police officer who kills a criminal who would have otherwise harmed
innocent people is, in my argument, worthy of praise as she appropriately used
violence in this case to prevent malicious violence. This is the only violence
that is acceptable—in my argument, that is.) Therefore, in one sense,
compassion in this regards means delusional fans do not deserve equally heinous
treatment—barring, as in the example above, cases where violence must be used
to prevent a delusional fan from inflicting violence.  

Secondly, another reason for
compassion and perhaps the most important reason is that it allows us to be
critical in assessing such types of fans. Why
are they behaving this way? Compassion grants us the moment to genuinely
attempt to understand where a delusional fan is coming from. With PRISTIN’s
case, I am highly curious of the background of the sasaeng fan. His mental
health, his relationship with women in general, his views on ethics and
behaviors, his views on masculinity, his views on sexuality—all of these are
aspects that can very much help hypothesize reasons for why he behaved highly
inappropriately towards Kyulkyung. And through this process, we come to realize
there is a humane side to a person who we otherwise would only desire to bash
and trash.

All in all, while these types of
fans should not be physically accepted at all, I think they ethically deserve to still be—if not
accepted—then at least understood in regards to motives. But, this is indeed
still a tough situation and how one feels about this situation will ultimately
be up to their own moral views. Some fans might feel compassionate and attempt
to understand the delusional fan’s seemingly troubled life and mind, but others
can equally and rightfully believe such a man is disgusting and perhaps even
inhuman for his actions and words. It all depends on one’s own ethical views,
and that is something I do not desire to shape. All I desire is to make people think of their very own ethical views—regardless
of what they are. If hate is to be used, then I hope there are at least solid
reasons for such. No matter what, though, we all can agree on this: on a
practical level, delusional fans are a threat to idols and staffs, and indeed,
I believe safety precautions need to be implemented such as blacklisting such
fans or thoroughly inspecting these types of fans for any suspicious items (be
it weapons or hidden cameras).

_______________________________________________________

This Critical Discussion took far
longer than expected. As a result, the review on “Wee Woo” will be posted much
later, but of course, I do believe that this post is much more valuable than a
musical analysis of their debut song as this post matters on both a practical and social layer. My words here are not
necessarily to convince readers what to think, but I do hope it sparks
discussions and encourages more critical, deeper thinking for PRISTIN fans or
other K-Pop fans—or even simply fans of any pop culture should this post reach
a broader audience.

Look forward to a review on PRISTIN’s
“Wee Woo” in a week or perhaps even two weeks as I will be heading into
university finals soon. Thank you to readers for being patient, and thank you
to those who have read or skimmed this post.

Hyoyeon – “Mystery” Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Live
Performance)

Hyoyeon (Girls’ Generation) – Mystery

Reviewed
on December 30, 2016

I
argue that “Mystery,” while possessing strong composition at times, is
ultimately still a weaker song due to its poor use of “filler” sections—a
concept I will explain within the review (and of course, that label is one I
personally have made up). It is those “fillers” that then limit the song
vocally, instrumentally, lyrically, and as stated, with its section
structuring.

Personal Message:
A late happy holidays (or simply
happy days for those not celebrating anything) but an early happy New Year to
readers. Although I am far behind schedule due to the holidays, there will
indeed be three reviews coming out back-to-back before December ends. Once
January arrives, I plan to start strong and to even “store” reviews that will
be posted systematically through the month once I return back to university.
This way, the blog remains rather active due to frontloading many reviews
beforehand.

Regarding the current review, while
I did say SHINee’s “1 of 1” was next, I have decided to make a change. After this
review or perhaps in January is when I will review “1 of 1.” For now, Girls’
Generation’s Hyoyeon’s solo debut, “Mystery,” will be our focus. The reason
behind this change is—besides how “Mystery” has definitely garnered much
interest due to fans’ curiosity on how Girls’ Generation’s main dancer and
rapper would handle a solo—that the composition in the song itself is quite
intriguing. There are many strong points throughout, but at the same time,
there are equally many weak points. Moreover, in terms of a musical discussion
that I find relevant, this song provides a time for me to discuss certain
“standard pop song” compositions that I hope readers will begin noticing in
other pop songs they listen to.

In short, then, “Mystery” simply
provides many points of discussion—many of which I might even have to skip
over—and this is ultimately the reason for why I feel obligated to review this
song. And of course, as said, this review provides some spotlight to
Hyoyeon—Girls’ Generation’s lovely member and oftentimes musically underrated
member as she is solely praised for her dancing.

That said, however, this review
might actually not help contradict the view that Hyoyeon’s performance is
mainly her dancing. As readers will see, “Mystery” does not fare too well in
its scoring. Unlike many fans’ opinion that “Mystery” is an example of
Hyoyeon’s vocal prowess and is overall a strong song, I unfortunately greatly
disagree—this being the third disagreement in a row based on the previous
reviews. I argue that “Mystery,” while possessing strong composition at times,
is ultimately still a weaker song due to its poor use of “filler” sections—a
concept I will explain within the review (and of course, that label is one I personally
have made up). It is those “fillers” that then limit the song vocally,
instrumentally, lyrically, and as stated, with the sections themselves.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 4/10
(3.75/10 raw score) – “Slightly below average”


Vocals: 3/10


Sections: 4/10
(4.38/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
5/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 2/10

5.     Post-Chorus: 2/10

6.     Rap: 5/10

7.     Bridge: 4/10

8.     Conclusion (Post-Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 4/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Acting uninterested,
this dance got your attention
My breath is fluctuating anxiously,
my gestures in the rhythm
And of course, like hypnosis
Fall into my eyes, look at me

(As if enchanted)
Without anyone knowing
(As if your heart was stolen)
Full of only me
(As if fallen deeply for me)
Yeah like that
Yeah like that
Yeah like that

Mystery mystery mystery mystery-tery
Lalalala lalalala lalalala lalalala
Mystery-tery myste-te-tery

Come and get it baby
Come and get it get it
Come and get it baby
Come and get it get it
Come and get it baby
Come and get it get it

Three, two, one
Before you know it,
you’re dancing with me
You adjusted your movements,
manners and look so well
My voice in the rhythm
And of course, like hypnosis,
these eyes are permeating
Desire me more

(As if enchanted)
Without anyone knowing
(As if your heart was stolen)
Full of only me
(As if fallen deeply for me)
Yeah like that
Yeah like that
Yeah like that

Mystery mystery mystery mystery-tery
Lalalala lalalala lalalala lalalala
Mystery-tery myste-te-tery

Come on baby, holding back is harmful, whistle
Come closer and tell me, shh everyone
Coach like you’re under hypnosis
Take me before I disappear
Come dangerously

Look into my eyes, tell me

Mystery mystery mystery mystery-tery
Lalalala lalalala lalalala lalalala
Mystery-tery myste-te-tery

Come and get it baby
Come and get it get it
Come and get it baby
Come and get it get it
Mystery-tery myste-te-tery

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Before
getting right into my criticism towards the song, there are still solid moments
throughout that need to be acknowledged—as is with every song. For example,
while we will soon discuss in depth on why the vocals scored at a three,
Hyoyeon’s vocals are still impressive at specific points. The verses are a
great example of such. In terms of what is most vocally appealing in the
verses, I argue the precision of the vocals is what we need to focus on. There
are lots of minimal, constantly changing details: beltings and pacing. All of
these details greatly augment the verse. For example, the beltings are minimal
and thus still allow the verses to maintain their more passive flow, and yet
with the vocal beltings indeed existing, they add the sonic appeal of variety.
Likewise with the pacing, the vocals in this sense create a rhythmic flow that
otherwise beats would take the role of—this being something that I argue is
both creative to “Mystery” but also strengthening to Hyoyeon’s vocal appeal as it
adds an additionally layer to what we hear with the vocals.

As
for other praises, to focus on the sections and their structuring, the
pre-choruses are admirable—as noted by their higher rating. Here, the
composition is quite impressive. Given that pre-choruses are the sections that
transition the song to its climactic point—typically a more upbeat chorus—it is
expected that pre-choruses buildup or “hype” a song. In “Mystery,” while the
same ideas are in place, the composers’ method of doing so is brilliant. As
noted earlier, the verses establish a rhythmic, slower flow due to how the
vocals are executed. The pre-choruses then take that flow and merely emphasize
it through not only making Hyoyeon’s vocals truly adopt an explicit
back-and-forth dynamic, but also by increasing the entire pre-chorus’ intensity
and pacing to create that familiar exciting hype.

Unfortunately,
even with those stronger aspects, “Mystery” still suffers from a lot.
Everything else I argue is too reliant on “fillers,” or if not that, then is
simply weaker for other reasons—such as the rap being only average due to
lacking a coherent, clean flow.

Before
diving right into the critiques, however, I think it is now best to clarify
what I mean by “fillers”—and more specifically, “filler sections.” From here
on, I will now remove the quotations as I hope—within this review of course—we will
consider it an “official” term. (But note: there is no such label nor concept
of “filler”; it is one I have made up as I find this best explains my argument
to readers.)

In
summary, a filler section is a section that does not necessarily add additional
components to a song but instead merely carries it forward in time. Before
using “Mystery” ‘s own examples, common filler examples that I bet many readers
are familiar with are in AOA’s “Like a Cat” and Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette”:
in those songs, recall the parts where the ladies sing “la la la la”
repetitively. Before readers assume that it is only “la” at culprit, however, these
filler sections can still exist without using such: BTS’ “Blood Sweat &
Tears” arguably use a filler-like composition at the choruses when the members
repeat “a lot” (or “much/many”; I forget the exact word). Overall, the point is
that filler sections are incredibly repetitive parts—instrumental or vocals—that
do not add a new flow or tune and are mainly understood as just “filling” a
part in the song and oftentimes occur as the post-choruses. In fact, if readers
truly desire the official musical term for such, I believe in at least American
Pop music it has been referred to as the “millennial whoop”—this pop music concept,
regardless of labels, is exactly what I am trying to get at. Those portions of
songs that go “la la” or “whoa oh oh” or “oh oh” and so forth, is what I refer
to as filler sections. With all this hopefully understood, let us now return to
my argument of how the existing filler sections are detrimental to “Mystery.”

In
the context of vocals, the filler sections—predominantly the choruses and
post-choruses—greatly reduce the overall appeal that the vocals bring to the song.
Now that said, yes—as discussed earlier—Hyoyeon’s vocals are quite delightful
during the verses and even pre-choruses. However, once we arrive at the filler
sections, the vocals almost entirely degrade: they become chaotic, monotonous,
and fail to bring any new or useful element to “Mystery.” After all, this is
why I personally term these filler sections as such: they merely fill in
content for the song versus actually being a part of the song’s experience.

Regarding
other categories, ignoring the more explicit point of how the filler sections
themselves—the choruses and post-choruses—are rated at twos due to the poorer
execution of the filler sections, we should now focus on how even seemingly
unaffected categories are in fact indirectly influenced. With the lyrics for
example, while all the details included are varied and that the plot itself is
at least average for its creativity, it would appear that the lyrics score at a
five. However, due to the choruses and post-choruses, the lyrics at these parts
reflect the filler sections: repetitive, unnecessary lyrical details that neither
progress the plot nor provide new insight. “Lalalala,” as one can tell, is
nothing important at all in the scope of a song’s storytelling or message. Similarly
to the lyrics and vocals, the instrumental also goes through the same problems:
the instrumental is forced to follow the messiness and staleness for the
purposes of “filling” in content.

And
so, while “Mystery” could have very much scored at least at average or, if we
are very optimistic, even at slightly above average, I argue it is the filler
sections that limit this song’s potential. Those filler sections—namely the
choruses and post-choruses—negatively affect how every category runs, such as by
forcing repetitive vocals and instrumental or adding unnecessary details to the
lyrics. Even so, this review should not be interpreted or even used to bash Hyoyeon;
at most, this review critiques the composers of “Mystery” and their use of my
personally labeled “filler sections.”

When
it comes to Hyoyeon herself, I will personally argue based on the verses and
pre-choruses that while her vocal abilities are far from being utterly
impressive, they are still decent. But, for how “Mystery” should truly be
understood, I urge fans to not view her solo debut so much from a musical
perspective but rather, that fans should view this song in the lens of
performances. The song’s choreography is stunning, and coupled in with how
Hyoyeon is an extremely skilled dancer—and I truly wish to emphasize this—we need
to realize “Mystery” is here to shine Hyoyeon’s largest strength: her dancing.
Thus, while musically this song partially falters, we need to understand
Hyoyeon’s solo debut is very likely intended for fans to focus on her dance and
that is what needs to be most appreciated—and the fact that she has a solo
debut at all.

Finally,
I wish to return to the filler sections/millennial whoop and add a huge
clarification that I admittedly forgot: that filler sections are not inherently
bad at all. Three or so years later, I still hold AOA’s “Like a Cat” as the
cherished, near flawless example of how filler sections can be used as a powerful composition in songs. In that song (which
I did review; if readers are curious to see whether my current horrendous
writing could have been even more worse, feel free to read it), the
post-choruses’ “lalala” were very well structured and organized, and due to how
the song revolved around those filler
sections, they proved to be the song’s best section. Therefore, before readers
misinterpret the idea that filler sections are all useless and purely “fillers,”
I strongly caution readers to still be critical and to instead ask why and how said filler sections are used before jumping to conclusions. In
many cases admittedly many appear to be nothing more than fillers, but as mentioned
with “Like a Cat,” there are certainly those rare yet brilliant moments where
composers take those fillers and manipulate them in a way that captivates
listeners.

_______________________________________________________

December
30 and writing late at night—a sign that I truly need to fix my sleep schedule
before I return to university in roughly two weeks. Two more reviews are due
for tomorrow, and I very much am going to strive to review them. Specifically,
I plan to review Jay Park’s “Me Like Yuh” and SHINee’s “1 of 1” as, besides how
the blog needs more male artists involved as both men and women are equally
capable music artists, both songs will receive much praise. With reviews, I
truly do give my honest, critical thoughts and am never swayed by popular
opinion or faking an opinion in a way that would garner more readers and
favoritism. As such, with the past three reviews leaning towards negative
scores (“negative” in the sense of less than five for average), it is only fair
to introduce songs that very much score well and that I consider are strongly
composed.

Look
forward for them to come, and while I plan to actually review a song on January
1, I will leave a preemptive happy New Years to readers. Thank you to all for
reading this review in full or part, and for those who have been sticking
around frequently. Look forward to the next reviews—and of which, if I am
indeed on task, will be both posted on the same day back-to-back.

Hyorin – “Paradise” Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Live
Performance)

Hyorin – Paradise

Reviewed
on November 25, 2016

Bearing this in mind, with “Paradise”
its use of the “build-up” pre-chorus is not only plain, but the execution
behind it comes short and thus, the trade of creativity for effectiveness is
wasted: there is no gained “effectiveness” at all.

Personal Message:
Oddly enough, I have never reviewed
a solo song by Hyorin. While I did review “Erase” in the past, I consider that
more as a duo than a solo. What I specifically had in mind was that I reviewed
“One Way Love” before, but surprisingly I have never done so. (Or if I did,
this goes to show how awful my searching skills are.) Regardless, because I
have not done so, this review is even more encouraging as I truly do wish
to—roughly said—review artists I have yet to review. (Again, this is a slight
stretch as Sistar and Hyorin already have much spotlight on the blog; it is the
fact that I have never reviewed a solo
by Hyorin that I feel excused to say such.)

Edit:
Timing is off due to posting this later.
For random news and updates, I am on a slight break for
Thanksgiving. With this holiday, for those who celebrate it, in addition to
perhaps time spent with loved ones, I do encourage the “theme” of genuinely
being thankful for what one has. (And even if one does not celebrate
Thanksgiving, I think it never hurts to seriously ponder over that.)
Personally, when it comes to people, I am incredibly thankful for past teachers
I have had, current professors (although certainly a “past” professor as I had
the fortune of having a wonderful professor during high school), friends, family,
and my lovely girl (a terrier-mix dog). For more material-based things, I am
very thankful for this blog and, if I could travel to the past, although I
would be not-so-nice with my old self, I would at least thank him for starting
this blog.

For a more serious challenge,
though, to Thanksgiving (or at least a time to ruminate over gratefulness), I
challenge readers to be thankful for otherwise “invisible” people, things, or
acts. For a bad example, I seldom actually stop to be grateful for the
existence of music—strange, is it not? After all for someone who reviews K-Pop
and is constantly surrounded by music and the privilege to spend time analyzing
it, how would I take music for granted? And yet I do. Now for actual examples
of thanking “invisible” people or things, how often does one truly thank, say,
the janitors in a school?

On topic, I want to keep this review
a bit more concise than usual. I do this for, as the usual, balancing school
workload, but furthermore I simply want to begin getting back into the flow of
writing reviews. Admittedly, given how long it has been since the prior song
review, it feels awkward and difficult. Thus, just getting reviews out—even if
a few have to be mediocre for the time being—is the plan.

With that, for our review of
interest, while “Paradise” is no longer accurately called a “comeback” as it
has been a few weeks since it was released, it is still somewhat recent and
definitely a new solo from Hyorin after quite a long time and thus this review
should still feel relevant. Furthermore, I have planned to review it since its
release as, admittedly, I am greatly disappointed at the song. The composition
and even execution on Hyorin’s part are lackluster, and knowing Hyorin’s prowess
as a vocalist, “Paradise” sincerely fails to bring her justice.

Of course, though, for this review
we will focus neither on “blaming” Hyorin nor anyone for that matter; the
purpose of reviews is to critically engage with a song’s own composition and
decisions made in that regard—all while maintaining maturity and respect. If
the following words come across as overly harsh, it should be noted that all
these critiques are towards the composers’ ideas and not to personally attack
them in any manner. And besides: I think it is about time the review focused on
songs that are actually lower than average. I sincerely do attempt to bring a
critical ear and mind to songs, and truly, many K-Pop songs at their worst
reside at average. This makes sense: many composers know what they are doing
and how a general audience best receives a pop song. Thus, at worst, a song may
sound “generically pop” as I have coined. But, as we will see, there are times
where I will boldly argue composers can come short and instead craft a song
that is somewhat unappealing.

And so, let us head to Hyorin’s
supposed special paradise. We would expect such a place to be beautiful,
amazing, and so on, but I instead found that we have landed on an island where
our ears are struggling to stay alive.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 3/10
(3.25/10 raw score) – “Below average”


Vocals: 4/10


Sections: 3/10
(3.33/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
4/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 3/10

4.     Chorus: 2/10

5.     Bridge: 2/10

6.     Conclusion: 4/10


Instrumental: 2/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Yeah
Welcome to paradise
I know you want it
Let’s have some fun

You always wore your jacket
Never took it off, so perfect
Even if winds of temptation blew at you
You were just like, “I don’t care”
I’m curious, I want to check
If you can reject even me
Do you not like to date
or have you not met a girl like me yet?

Even if I don’t move a finger,
I can open your heart
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won
I know you want to
Listen up

You always wear black sunglasses
Covering your eyes, pretending not to care
Even if all these eyes of temptation pour on you
You don’t even turn your head
I’m curious about your limit
Poke me, make me burn even more
You’ve never seen this before, never even imagined
Your jaw is gonna drop, oh God

Even if I don’t move a finger,
I can open your heart
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won

[Bridge]

Even if I don’t move a finger, I can open your heart
(I’m a paradise)
Your confident eyes are so cute to me
(Cute)
I’m going to approach you so don’t be surprised
(Don’t be surprised, yeah)
I’ll make your heart hot
I’ll show you a dazzling paradise

Yeah, I’m different
Uh, huh
My temperature is different
It’s hot hot hot, when you’re with me
You’ll be hot hot hot, I’m always hot
Take it off, take it off, I already won

I’ll show you, paradise

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Shocking
for some, the song does score at a three for below average. In this review, we
will first focus on what I argue are the song’s weakest aspects—the sections
and instrumental, and afterwards, we will focus on the strengths of the song—the
vocals in certain cases.

With
the sections, they are arguably in one of the worst scenarios a song could face:
generic in format, but on top of that, poorly executed and failing to meet with
each section’s goal. The pre-choruses, choruses, and bridge are excellent
examples to look at.

When
it comes to the pre-choruses, I think many would agree they follow a generic
format. For those unfamiliar or unable to hear it, the general pop pre-chorus
is when the pre-chorus takes a pause in intensity and pacing once the section
occurs, and from there, it gradually begins to build up in intensity and
increases in its pacing. Consider it a “dive-down-then-back-up” type of format.

Now
regarding why it is troubling in “Paradise,” the use of an extremely common
technique is already limiting in of itself. Pop songs—ones that wish to stand
out—need to deviate away from these
very typical forms while still maintaining some familiarity. In “Paradise,”
this is not the case: it follows quite rigidly a generic pre-chorus format. The
result, then, is that “Paradise” in juxtaposition to other pop songs becomes
indistinguishable and that lack of specialty makes the song negligible.

Another
problem is that the pre-choruses fail
in their goal—and this is despite using a generic format. Explaining what I mean
and why that is significant, we should first understand why this “build-up”
pre-chorus format is typical in the first place. Although there are many
answers, I argue one of the prevalent reasons is that, simply put, it is
effective: a casual listener can hear the clear transition and it is very
predictable in form; in other words, it is easy to follow. Bearing this in
mind, with “Paradise” its use of the “build-up” pre-chorus is not only plain,
but the execution behind it comes short and thus, the trade of creativity for
effectiveness is wasted: there is no gained “effectiveness” at all.

In
terms of why I claim this is from two main reasons: one is that the vocals and
instrumental fail to connect, and secondly, the actual shifts in intensity
occur far too late. With the former, it is quite absurd that Hyorin’s vocals
are already escalating in intensity and yet, the instrumental drags behind. Later,
the opposite occurs: the instrumental begins to outpace the vocals’ own shift
in intensity. This lack of coordination, as a result, leads to listeners
becoming confused—and ironically enough, the reason this generic form is used
is to prevent that in the first place. Lastly, for the latter, it should be
noted that the pre-choruses stall towards the beginning half; during this
portion, the song is in a “break,” but it does not do anything else until the
second half. Only then do we receive the actual shift in intensity. Overall,
with a very late shifting point and the vocals and instrumental conflicting
each other, it leads to rather compromised pre-choruses.

Although
I do wish to discuss the bridge and choruses in the context of format, I believe
the prior example should give a general guide as to what I am thinking.
Essentially, this same idea applies to the bridge and choruses: generic in
format, and yet still lacking in execution and therefore, failing to be
successful in the sections’ general goal. As such, let us now proceed to the
instrumental itself—a category I believe that equally weakens “Paradise.”

Harshly
said, the instrumental is definitely a weaker one that I have heard. Only Hyuna’s
“How’s This?” comes into mind as another equally weak instrumental. Within the
instrumental itself, it lacks in both sonic appeal and structure—though ultimately,
I assert the latter is the more detrimental aspect. Either way, in terms of why
I claim the instrumental in a raw sense—a sonic sense—is poor, it renders as
extremely chaotic and lacks complexity. Of course, though, simplicity in an
instrumental can be very beautiful
and effective—Taeyeon’s “11:11” is the best example by far of an amazing
instrumental despite simplicity—but in “Paradise,” given the song’s sections
are all rather generic, having an overly simple, linear instrumental fails to
match the sections. And onto the point of the instrumental being chaotic and
disorganized, this lack of cohesion between the sections’ purpose—think back to
our discussion of the pre-choruses—and the instrumental’s actual flow creates a
confusing, rough listening experience.

Optimistically,
however, as in any song—no matter how weak—there will always be strengths. In “Paradise,”
while the vocals do score lower than usual—and more so if we consider that it
is Hyorin, a singer who normally rates at a seven—the vocals are still actually
the strongest point in the song. Why, then, I give a four is that the vocals
are only the strongest point in certain
situations
; the problem is that, for a vast majority of the song, the
vocals are exceptionally limited in their tune and diversity. Ignoring that,
though, the verses in specific are a good example of what could have carried
the bulk of the song: vocals that are more strenuous and adding a large amount
of tune and flow to an otherwise stale, typical pop song. The minor vocal
beltings here and the variety of note fluctuations definitely grant the verses
some credit—and this being why these sections in particular scored much better
than the rest.  

All
in all, while we truly could look through each section and at each detail to
the song, I believe the given analysis provides a sufficient view on where I
gauge “Paradise.” (And as always, I have to strike a balance between readers who
are very much into analyzing music versus casual fans who want to see where
some people are rating their favorite artist’s songs—I openly welcome both
types of readers and do my best to accommodate both audiences.) In the end, “Paradise”
is, sadly, a below average song; there are far too many weaknesses to the song
and barely any positive points to compensate for those glaring issues. Again, I
wish to emphasize that it is not Hyorin to blame—or, as said, anyone for that
said. “Blaming” is a poor word to use here; the word that is accurate is “critique.”
At most I am critiquing the composers and producers of the song. Knowing Hyorin
is a solid singer and that past releases of her’s—solos or duos—have been quite
decent, this latest release is beyond disappointing. She deserved a far better
produced and composed song, and boldly said, I believe fans equally deserved
better.

Regardless,
however, fans should still very much support Hyorin and Sistar on a personal level,
but as I encourage in reviews, fans should always be musically (and socially if
it arises) critical of the music they consume. And that said, realize I am by
far no specialist in music at all: it is absolutely fine—encouraged, even—for readers
to disagree with me. This is why I write reviews: not to merely share my
opinion, but to begin igniting an intellectual discussion among fans. But, in
short, “Paradise” is a disappointing release and I hope there are much better
composed songs for Hyorin’s future solos.

_______________________________________________________

As
always, thank you to all for joining in this review whether read in full or
skimmed. I do hope this review comes across as genuine critique and not, say,
unnecessary criticism for the sake of “being above pop music.” In other words,
I do attempt to share my take to K-Pop song in a more reasonable way; “Paradise”
scoring poorly is not an attempt to garner attention via controversy. I
personally do find it a weaker song, but again, a weak song does not mean the
composers in of themselves are unskilled nor are the singers involved
unskilled. This song in specific is what is weaker.

In
terms of the next review, UP10TION has surprised me with their latest song, and
given that I am behind reviewing male groups, they will receive priority. That
said, 2NE1 recently disbanded, so it might be time I finally give one of their
songs a review and for me to perhaps give personal opinions on the manner and
why, I argue, it is definitely healthy for fans to be upset and that they are
not “delusional” or “should just get over it.”

Until
then, “Even if I don’t move a finger, / I can open your heart” through reviews—and
by “open your heart” I mean by frustrating readers with mediocre writing
skills. Just look forward to the next review.

Apink – “Only One” Review

(Music
Video)
/ (Dance
Practice)

Apink – Only One

Reviewed
on October 31, 2016

That said, for where many would critique the vocals, it is true that the singing is not necessarily strenuous in this song, and most detrimentally, it appears that there is little to no variation of the vocals. However, I greatly disagree on this end: the vocals are quite diverse if we notice the shifts that occur on a micro-level—from a section to the next—and the shifts that occur on a macro-level—the vocals’ change from the song’s first half to second half.

Personal Message:
Although I do feel disappointed at
myself for only releasing five reviews this month and, on top of that, to still
not review Hyuna’s “How’s This,” I will aim for November to be a better
reviewing month. Regardless, though, I am content with what was covered in
October: two artists that we had yet to see on the blog and that I managed to
review purely comebacks versus older releases. That said, for how we will end
this month, we will be taking a look—or more accurately, hearing—at Apink’s
latest comeback. Of course, though, “comeback” may be a stretch; in truth,
“Only One” might be more accurately called “latest release” than necessarily a
“comeback”—the latter implying it is very
new.

Regardless of technical labels, I
return to “Only One” for two reasons. The first is I just simply love the music
video; I cannot resist the chance to share how aesthetically pleasing the music
video is. Moreover, I find the video completely soothing and creating a sense
of inner peace. Perhaps I am just an odd boy. But besides these points, I am
reviewing “Only One” as it proves peculiar in a musical sense. After all, if my
friend’s words are correct, Apink did not win at all with this release.
Regarding why not, my friend has come up with solid reasons that I can agree
with. In particular, there were a lot of other popular groups promoting at the
same time. Yet, I personally remain unsatisfied with that answer—and equally
she does, too. Considering Apink is equally as popular as those who promoted
with them, a single win should have at least occurred. And so, this is where my
personal stance comes in: I think there is something about “Only One”—the song
in of itself—that deterred listeners. Truthfully, I would argue the song is not
“public-friendly” at all; unless if one is actively
listening to it—and admittedly, the majority of pop music fans do not—“Only
One” comes off as a rather boring release.

With this, I will have a rarer
digression: one that is about music and not the usual social topics. Basically,
I will discuss what “active listening is,” how to begin doing so, and how
“active listening” can still be achieved with minimal—or even no—musical theory
knowledge. Afterwards, I will then transition back to the review itself, and in
the review, provide an example of how “active listening” can transform “Only
One”—a supposed lackluster song by Apink—to suddenly a rather complex,
sophisticated and intelligently produced song.

What is “active listening”? (From
here on, I will remove the quotations as, I hope, it will become familiar as
any other musical terminology.) In short, I personally like to term it as the
“critical thinking” of music as, ultimately, that is exactly it: being able to
look beyond the surface, asking “why,” and understanding various perspectives. Critical
thinking is similar if not identical to that general definition—though it is
oftentimes associated with academic-related topics versus that of fine arts.
(But, then again, I personally consider music/fine arts in general “academic.”)
On topic, for a more applicable definition of active listening, this refers to—keyword—actively hearing a song: it means constantly paying attention to the
composition, asking why certain
composition decisions are made, and being able to attempt to answer those very questions. It should
be noted that each of the mentioned three points (and many more that even I am
still not capable of) require practice in of themselves; to be able to pay attention
and pick out certain techniques, for example, is difficult and takes skills and
practice.

With a general background covered,
let us now actually use an example. Since “TT” has been the latest review, we shall use it. With paying close
attention to the audio, this ranges from general listening—hearing the basic
melodies and transitions—to more complex listening—noticing how, during the
pre-choruses, that the vocals become monotonous and that the final transition
point added vocal layering as a minor climax. From here (though bear in mind
there is no chronological order for my discussed active listening), we could
then apply the “why.” Why did the composers of “TT” decide to structure the
pre-choruses as is? More questions can be asked, and better yet more complex
ones. For the purposes of continuing, though, we will settle for this and
proceed to the next step: attempting to answer why. This, as with every step,
can range from a simple one such as this is to merely transition the song, to
slightly more complex answers such as that the composers did this as a way to
begin merging the instrumental and vocals and to provide contrast to the
pre-choruses’ initial, slower beginning. Best of all with active listening is
it matters less on the answers one produces and more instead on the actual
process itself: the process of asking questions, of actually analyzing the song
versus passively listening to it. That is the main goal of active listening:
listeners becoming an active participant of pop music (or any genre).

Now for a few points readers may
have, perhaps a common rebuttal is: “So is it bad to passively listen to songs?
I’m not here to be a future producer or musician; I just want to listen for
enjoyment.” To this: Yes, this is perfectly acceptable. In fact, with pop
music, it is meant to be enjoyed
casually; pop music is music that is meant to be “public-friendly”—anyone can
listen to pop, regardless of music knowledge, and find it quite enjoyable. (In
fact, I personally do passively listen to music still—even if I actively listen
at other times or when I have to review a song.) My prior points of active
listening are not to strip this away at all. I personally believe pop music
should be cherished as it is a very versatile genre. Everyone can appreciate
it, whether a casual listener or a critical, active one. My point about active
listening, then, is to provide an entry for those who wish to become critical
of pop songs—this, I would argue, is important considering a few “elite”
musicians and critical listeners wrongfully belittle pop music when, in reality
and as I hope my reviews show, pop music can indeed be quite complex and worthy
of musical appreciation.

Another aspect to clarify is that active
listening does not mean one has to “review” music; in other words, active
listening does not mean one judges the quality
of a song—deciding good or bad. That is where music reviews come in: having
to apply active listening, but to then make a claim—that the vocals are good,
that the choruses are bad, and so on—and to then defend that very claim through
evidence and deeper analysis of the song. Active listening simply means being
able to pick out features of a song, subtle and blatant, and to attempt to
understand why such composition decisions were made. One does not have to
decide if those said decisions are worth calling “good” or “bad.”  

Onto the next point, now that
readers understand the general premises of active listening, we will now focus
on how to actually begin actively listening. Being told the background and
layout is not helpful, after all, if a listener feels overwhelmed with hearing
a song. Where does one simply begin?

Personally to share and before
answering, readers should realize that active listening is a skill that
develops over time through practice. At first, it is difficult to actively
listen to a pop song. During my first reviews, I struggled to switch from a
casual hearing to a more critical hearing—this being the reason for why my
first reviews liberally gave out nines and tens. It takes practice. That said,
for the biggest guide on how to begin that shift of passive to active: look—or
more accurately, listen—to the production
and not the execution per se.

Explaining what I mean, I will use
literature as a comparison. At first, one learns to analyze literature through,
for example, characters. We would discuss characters as if they were genuine
people and analyze their actions and
words. However, as one becomes more experienced and skilled and progresses to
higher levels of analyzing literature, no longer are characters in of
themselves discussed. Instead, it is the author
that is discussed: how did the author
depict a certain character, why would they make
a character say a specific line? This line of thought translates perfectly
to active listening. Look at how a song is composed versus how the song is
necessarily executed. In other words, never say: “Group A provide weak vocals
to Song A because they suck, and Group A did a horrible job at transitioning
from the verse to pre-choruses.” Instead, it is much more analytical and a
proper use of active listening to say: “Song A showcases weaker vocals, and the
transition point at the verse to pre-chorus was horribly composed.” Again, the
main point is to focus on the song in whole and not the singers involved
necessarily. (For a fun fact, readers can directly track my growth with active
listening by paying attention to this very switch: going from critiquing
idols—singers who have minimal roles besides execution, unless if they are part
of the composition—to critiquing the producers and composers of a song.)

This covered, readers may still
wonder on the actual process of active listening. It is understood that it
takes practice and that one should focus on the composition versus idols, but
exactly how? Is it through beginning to catch very subtle sounds?

To answer the former first, the most
important step is to be in a mental state and even physical state that allows
one to concentrate purely on the audio. No visuals should be included—this
being a music video, lyrics, or around a particularly distracting environment. Secondly,
isolating sounds is important. It is difficult if not impossible to actively
listen to a song from, say, a cellphone’s speaker in the middle of a busy
family gathering. On this note, and perhaps a more upsetting point to bring up,
one’s social class might affect one’s active listening if we are to gauge the
materials involved. It is far more effective to actively listen to song through
high-quality headphones, earbuds, or speakers than from a worn-out, low-quality
listening device. Even so, though, the highest-quality listening devices are
never necessary but the devices used should at least be decent. (And if a
reader is curious on how one can determine a listening device’s quality, that
is another topic that I cannot answer thoroughly.) Lastly, and arguably the
most important factor, one should simply focus on the audio itself. This means,
at times, simply sitting down in a quiet environment and paying pure attention
to sounds. Lyrics are to be
understood as sounds versus meaning and language; a song’s emotional
tone—happy, sad, playful, and so on—is to be ignored; the executing artists
involved—the idols singing, the group, the biases involved—are all to be
ignored. Listen to the sounds in of themselves—this is, in summary, how to
actively listen to a song.

Regarding the latter question
earlier of perhaps some physical sonic aspects to pay attention to, one huge
clarification is that active listening is not about hearing all of the subtle
cues in a song. For example, many music reviewers are praised for being able to
hear a pin drop from many meters away. This is, while understandably
flattering, in truth is an insult: it implies that reviewers—or more
accurately, active listeners whether they review songs or not—are only
proficient in selectively hearing. That is not at all what active listening is
about as discussed above. Once again, the main core of active listening is to
be intellectually engaged with a song’s sounds such as through asking
questions, speculating answers as to why certain composition decisions were
made, or understanding the effects a composition decision creates. So for
readers wondering to begin, do not worry of being able to hear everything that
occurs. It is extremely difficult to do so, and harshly said, is not worth
doing so unless if one truly wishes to analyze a song to its finest details. Active
listening is about the intellectual engagement, not being selective listeners—the
latter, after all, requires no critical thinking.

And so this transitions us to my
concluding point: that active listening can occur even if one has no musical
theory whatsoever. If not clear by now, I am of the few serious music reviewers
who have managed to continue doing this work despite lacking musical theory
knowledge. Now I do have some knowledge, but it is far minimal. For example, I
could use—and at times do—terms of crescendo and decrescendo, or that the
ending of a song is the “coda” and not just “conclusion,” or that many if not
all pop songs follow a binary form of “A, B, A, B” (“A” referring to the
initial buildup while the “B” refers to the climactic portions). Other than
these, though, I cannot read musical notes—let alone even determine rough
musical notes (though I have, through listening by ear, crafted out a melody to
a certain song after a whole pitiful month). More shockingly, I lack mechanical
musical skills: I cannot play any instruments proficiently besides using the
guitar for purposes of crafting out a melody on a single string—again, another
pitiful moment.

And yet, here I am writing music
reviews that, if I can be arrogant for a bit, go beyond superficial ones of
merely addressing the obvious points of a song. Why is this possible? Because,
though I still very much am improving, have practiced the skill of actively
listening for two or three years—and only then, it is the recent months where
reviews have finally reached a more critical stage of analysis. I still have
much to improve on, but as seen, it is in fact possible to improve despite
lacking musical theory knowledge. Likewise, for readers, even if one cannot
name the notes that occur or even if one lacks the very basic labels—examples
being vocal belting, harmonization, and so on—it is still definitely possible
to be an active listener. The key point is to continually practice it and to
focus not so much on nitpicking traits of a song, but instead to focus on
analyzing the song: asking why a certain decision was made, what were its
effects, what would have occurred if another decision was made, and so on.

Returning to Apink and the review
itself, let us have a thorough example of how active listening is important. As
said, in a casual context, “Only One” comes across as overly repetitive,
simple, and bluntly said, boring. However, as I will argue, if we are actively
listening, there are many impressive composition decisions and techniques
applied—ones that very much augment the song. The problem, however, is the
failure to hear those special aspects prevents “Only One” from excelling—this
being what I will challenge in the review.

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 7/10
(6.50/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
7/10

2.     Verse: 7/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 7/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 6/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 5/10

[Instrumental]

It seems like a dreaming at
the end of exhausted day
Covering me with warmth,
my empty mind is full of your scent now
Able to dream forever

Too soft a scent and little bit shy,
trembling
To be honest I’m afraid
Please cheer me up
and hug me tightly

I hope you have the same thinking as me
I hope it’ll be bright everyday
You are my only one, baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
Love, love, love, my baby

You comfort me at the cold, cloud-filled night
The light called “You” seems like a kid
I like your eyes which are full of me
Please cover my sorrowful memories
The kid called “You” makes me happy
I’m falling in love

Too soft scent and little bit shy,
trembling
I’m afraid you’ll leave me
Please cheer me up
and hold my hands tightly

I hope you have the same thinking as me
I hope it’ll be bright everyday
You are my only one, baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
Love, love, love, my baby

You’re trembling and it feels new every day
I hope we won’t forget this moment
Not able to hurt my mind which is grown up with you
Always this feeling feels like a dream
I hope we won’t forget this moment forever
Oh baby

You are my only one baby
Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well
(Able to tremble with you tomorrow as well)
Love, love, love, my baby

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
While I do consider “Only One” Apink’s best release as of yet, it is
statistically unsettling: it is above average, yes, but it is a decimal away
from being only slightly above average. Nonetheless, if ignoring the lyrics, I
argue all the other categories hold incredibly well even if, on the surface,
many appear lacking.

Take
the vocals for example. On the surface, very few would contest the idea that
the vocals’ sounds are poor. Indeed, Apink’s vocals are arguably at their best
in this song if we focus on how tuneful they are. That said, for where many
would critique the vocals, it is true that the singing is not necessarily
strenuous in this song, and most detrimentally, it appears that there is little
to no variation of the vocals. However, I greatly disagree on this end: the
vocals are quite diverse if we notice the shifts that occur on a
micro-level—from a section to the next—and the shifts that occur on a
macro-level—the vocals’ change from the song’s first half to second half.
Noticing these minor yet substantial changes is what allows one realize the
vocals in “Only One” are quite impressive.

Regarding
the individual, micro shifts, the most obvious example is when the choruses
occur. Here, as most readers can detect, the vocal intensity unequivocally
shifts to a higher intensity. Moreover, though, the verse to pre-chorus vocal
shift is also important and it is one I would predict many fail to notice. In
this instance, one should realize there is a drastic change in vocal belting:
the duration increases, and likewise does the stress of doing so. Although both
are minor, it is something that very much provides variety to the vocals if we
hone in on it. Additionally, it is also worth noting that the shift is actually
a gradual one; the moment a new member takes over for singing, the vocals at
that very moment begin to crescendo—buildup—towards more intensive vocals. Now
on the surface because of how minor these changes are, it does appear that the
vocals follow an overly linear, boring path. However, as I encourage, listening
closely reveals these changes that greatly add variety.

In
terms of the macro-level vocal changes, another key distinction listeners
should notice is that the first half of “Only One” is extraordinarily different
from the second half. While all halves are pleasing in the actual, physical
sounds of the vocals, the style and form of the singing are quite different.
For example, in the second verse, the pacing is slightly increased but more
noticeably is the firmness of the vocals. The first verse, after all, took on a
more fragile, lighter sound. Contrast that to the second verse’s harsher,
stronger presence and that indeed serves as an appealing, diverse point in the
song’s vocals. Likewise, and for a rather obvious shift, vocal layering becomes
incredibly prevalent in the second half—particularly near the beginning of the
second pre-chorus. From echoed, hollowed out background vocals to added belting
layers, as seen—or more accurately, heard—there are many impressive composition at play. The most impressive part,
though, is that all of these choices were blended into the song as a whole so
well that many fail to notice them—though it does backfire in the sense of
people not being able to appreciate these choices due to not noticing them at
all.

Again,
as I hope this review is showing, it is through active listening that we are
able to hear the more delicate intricacies and beauty of “Only One.” Let us now
focus on the sections themselves and see what impressive composition exist in
this category.

Before
starting, it should be noted that although we really could hammer through the
entire sections—and that we did with much earlier reviews—current reviews focus
instead on more provoking or even controversial aspects. This is to prevent a
robotic voice from taking over, and admittedly, sometimes the best description
of something is “average.”

On
topic, one section in specific that I have to highlight is the verse, but more
narrowly I wish to focus on the second verse. The beginning of this section is,
in my assertion, the best part of “Only One.” The “rebound” that occurs—when the
song takes a very brief yet sudden drop to pause and returns—is phenomenally
executed and implemented. It serves a multitude of strengths for this song:
transitioning in after the prior chorus, adding a unique entry point and take
in the song as a whole, and so much more. For example, this rebound allows the
instrumental and vocals to begin, quite literally, at the same position—this being
otherwise difficult if not impossible. Explaining what I mean, if the rebound
never occurred, the instrumental would have had to continue relentlessly from
the prior chorus and the vocals would have to merge into that pre-running
instrumental. While that is never in of itself problematic for a song, “Only
One” took a very interesting route: using a rebound—a pause—so that both vocals and instrumental would reset
and begin anew. As a result of this, it creates a perfect, seamless transition
and the flow is perfectly established once more as the vocals and instrumental
are now able to be better meshed with one another. On top of all of this, the
rebound also provides the foundation for the second half of the song to become
more intense—an example is in the added vocal layering, as discussed earlier. For
how that occurred, it is because the rebound halted and then quickly resumed
the song—a pull and push form. That very form, then, created a minor
buildup/crescendo, and from there, having a more intensive run is possible as
the rebound created a path towards a more climactic, intense point. All in all,
this might be overly focusing on a very specific portion of the song, but it is
these moments that deeply bring out the charm in “Only One”—moments that
otherwise are missed without actively listening to it.

Now
all that said, there are still weaker points to the song. The most direct fault
is the lyrics; the lyrics render averagely as neither details nor plot prove
creative. Musically, though, there are still weaknesses: the choruses and
bridge. Although the two sonically are solid—the instrumental and vocals, after
all, are not problematic—it is the structure of these sections themselves that
prove a bit concerning. With the bridge, besides its somewhat abrupt
transition, the form of it runs counterproductive to “Only One” ‘s general
form: a slower, but definitely forward-progressing song. The bridge forces a
heavier slowing of the song in whole, and thus, that sudden shift was an aspect
I found slightly troubling.

Another
critique, and perhaps the biggest one, is how the choruses transitioned within
itself. Interestingly, even in Apink’s “Remember” (their prior comeback), they
ran into this issue—though I admit I do not remember if I discussed it in the
review. (And no: no puns intended.) Horrible jokes aside, the critique I have
is that when switching to the latter half of the choruses—in other words, for
readers to follow, when Eunji sings—the jump from the prior half—Bomi’s part—is
a bit of a stretch. The vocals become significantly more powerful and intense,
and while that in a vacuum can be pleasant, if we consider the general flow and
how the first half of a chorus is still relatively softer and just merely
quickened, the second half can come off as slightly overpowering. Again, it is
nothing completely impairing to the song, but it tends to provide a “skipping”
moment when listening to the choruses.

If
we gloss over this song in particular, once again I agree wholeheartedly with
the many who claim it is Apink’s worst release or their most boring one. After
all, in a more casual listening, “Only One” does come off as just that: plain;
stale; disinteresting. However as I argued, it is by honing into peculiar
points in this song that truly highlights how beautifully composed “Only One”
is. In my opinion, this is Apink’s best song yet even if it happens to be the
more mentally taxing one in the sense of having to actively notice the
techniques involved. In the end, I rate it as above average and find that reasonably
if we listen critically. And this is where I would challenge readers: Do you
find the song weak even after actively listening? Did actively listening to it
make the song more accessible and appealing? As always, I am just providing a
single view to the many there are and am definitely by no means the “right”
view.

_______________________________________________________

Perhaps
I am truly being arrogant now, but I have to say this is the first review in a
while where I am relatively satisfied with the given analysis. It might be,
though, due to bringing in a more positive view to “Only One” when many
disagree. Regardless, I hope readers and Apink fans enjoy the review and, more
importantly, find personal reasons for disagreeing or agreeing—or even both.

In
terms of the next review, November is starting and I unfortunately have too
many essays to attend to. As a result, for perhaps the first half of Novembers,
reviews will focus more on quantity less in complexity as much as I dislike
saying this. Look forward to SHINee’s “1 of 1” as the next review.

Crayon Pop  – “Doo Doom Chit” Review

(Dance
Practice)

Crayon Pop – Doo
Doom Chit

Reviewed
on October 9, 2016

The post-choruses, for example, are more accurately labeled as chanting versus actual singing. Likewise, the choruses’ singing may be playful as noticed by the echoing “whoa,” but there is no complex, strenuous forms of singing in the choruses.

Personal Message:
I currently have ten songs, this
current review included, that are due for reviews. For a scale, bear in mind
that I tend to cover usually six songs per month.
This is quite a daunting task, is it not? But of course, rather than viewing
reviews as a game of quantity, I always attempt to strive for quality.

In terms of other news, I have
finally begun writing for Hyuna’s review of “How’s This?” and hope to post the
review soon. It has surprisingly been quite a while since I have brought in a
social topic (the last one was with Fiestar’s “Apple Pie” on the unseen
complexity of feminism
),
but Hyuna will finally be a return of those discussions for readers who are
equally engaged in a sociological (and literary lenses) take to K-Pop. And of
course, the musical discussion involved will be equally thought-provoking or
plainly emotionally provoking. Overall, though, the main purpose of bringing in
these social topics is, in addition to the idea that these topics should be
addressed directly, I hope to complicate situations in order to reveal that
many social discussions are far from simple. Specifically with Hyuna’s review,
the topic of “double standards” is one that is actually not clear-cut, and yet
people remain too adamant on their stances and forget to look more critically.
To leak where that review will lead the discussion, readers should bear in mind
that “double standards” is not, for example, “feminazi” at work but likewise
that “double standards” still does carry inequality at times. Again, there is
far too much to discuss and thus, I encourage interested readers to look out
for that review. Plus, fans of that song should equally stay tuned; I will be
respectfully critiquing the song rather harshly.

Digressions aside, let us turn our
attention to the ladies who should have been with us from the start: Crayon Pop.
Although I have definitely been familiar with the group’s name—and more
specifically, their group image of wearing adorable bicycle helmets—I have yet
to listen to a song by them. As such, with their comeback song, “Doo Doom
Chit,” it provided me a chance to finally hear them and to likewise review
their song. For what I will say about “Doo Doom Chit” on a personal level, it
is the first song that has actually made me laugh while listening to it—in a
good way, of course. It truly is a lighthearted, comical song and furthermore is
very catchy. Even Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette” loses its throne of being the
catchiest song I have heard when compared to “Doo Doom Chit” ‘s catchiness.

That said, and perfectly timed with
mentioning Red Velvet, unfortunately the same issues that I critiqued in
“Russian Roulette” applies here: catchiness is, in my opinion, inadequate as a
reason to use for qualifying a song as good. (For readers desiring to know why I make that claim in the first place—that
“catchiness” is stylistic and not a qualifying point—please feel free to refer
to the linked review.) With that in mind, let us take a closer hearing to “Doo
Doom Chit.”

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 4/10


Sections: 5/10
(4.63/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
4/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 5/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Post-Chorus: 4/10

6.     Rap: 5/10

7.     Bridge: 5/10

8.     Conclusion (Post-Chorus): 5/10


Instrumental: 6/10


Lyrics: 3/10

C.R.A.Y.O.N
Pop

Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit
Shake it shake it shake it, ha
Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit

Why are you so quiet today?
I’m here, you should be getting loud

(Put your hands up)
Hands up to the left
To the right
Scream like you’re crazy
Shake it, doo doom chit
(Boom boom boom boom)
From your head to your toes
Run, run, let’s run
Like this

Oh baby whoa
Follow me
Whoa, oh doo doom chit
My dear, whoa
Look at me
Baby, baby, baby
I’m so fantastic, girl

Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit
Shake it shake it shake it, ha
Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit

Yeah, it’s wide open
Confidently go on stage
Even if they make fun of us,
just dance and enjoy tonight, shall we?
Move to the sound of my pounding heart: one-two step
Even my silky hair looks good
Dancing queen

Hands up to the left
To the right
Scream like you’re crazy
Shake it, doo doom chit
(Boom boom boom boom)
From your head to your toes
Run, run, let’s run
Like this

Oh baby whoa
Follow me
Whoa, oh doo doom chit
My dear, whoa
Look at me
Baby, baby, baby
I’m so fantastic, girl

What do I do?
My heart is getting fuzzy and ticklish
Are you ready, are you ready?
Turn up the volume

Oh baby whoa
Follow me
Whoa, oh doo doom chit
My dear, whoa
Look at me
Baby, baby, baby
I’m so fantastic, girl

Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit
Shake it shake it shake it, ha
Doo doom chit
Doo doom chit, doom chit, doom chit

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Slightly
reiterating the focus of this review, rather than the usual route of covering a
song in of itself, for this review I wish to focus more on how its catchiness—while
superficially appealing—provides more negatives than positives if we look
critically at the song’s composition. Once we look past the catchiness, as the
ratings reveal, “Doo Doom Chit” is only average—and at that, it is nearly “slightly below average” (a
four). Reminders aside, let us take a look at some of the negatives brought on
by orientating the song towards “catchiness.”

One
category that is greatly impaired would be the lyrics. Understandably, as this
song is focused on being upbeat, cheerful and the like, the song’s lyrics have
to reflect such. Unfortunately, though, in reflecting the song’s tone, that
means the song has to recycle almost meaningless phrases: “Hands up to the left
/ To the right”; “Shake it shake it shake it”’; and, for the song’s iconic
phrase, “Doo doom chit”—of which contains no meaning minus, if correct,
referencing a “dancing cat meme.” In other words, while the lyrics are indeed
fun and rather comical—after all, as said, the whole basis of the song is on a
dancing cat meme—in terms of actual substance and a plethora of details, “Doo
Doom Chit” ‘s lyrics fall quite short. Certainly the lyrics are catchy and
every listener, regardless of knowing Korean or not, can easily chant to “doo
doom chit,” but once again, if we dive more critically the lyrics truly are
meaningless and that is where my critique lies.

As
for the more sonic-related criticism, the vocals, instrumental, and sections
are all equally weakened by the “catchiness”—though the instrumental might
actually benefit in some ways. With the vocals, while Crayon Pop showcases
impressive moments such as the first and only verse and the pre-choruses,
unfortunately the other sections completely contradict those moments. That said,
this is not to say the ladies lack vocal skills; if the prior sentence is not
clear, it is the song’s structure predominantly at fault, not skill per se. Clarifying
what I mean, the sections besides the verse and pre-choruses are the ones that
lower the vocals’ quality. The post-choruses, for example, are more accurately labeled
as chanting versus actual singing. Likewise, the choruses’ singing may be
playful as noticed by the echoing “whoa,” but there is no complex, strenuous
forms of singing in the choruses. It is, as in the post-choruses, chanting and
that is insufficient for a higher vocal rating. And on top of this all, many of
the sections—most notably and as partially revealed, the choruses and
post-choruses—are lacking. Certainly all are catchy, but again, catchiness does
not equate to “good” necessarily. For example, the post-choruses’ repeating of “doo
doom chit” while being backed up by a hastier, bass-heavy instrumental and
seducing saxophone creates a sense that the sections are in fact excellent, but
in reality, there is little complexity involved. Instead, I argue the sound of
all of these factors merely work well together, but that is just that; there is
no further workings that make the post-choruses’ incredibly impressive besides
putting certain sounds together and getting a good result.

All
in all, while a five is not a distinctive score, it certainly is not a “negative”
one in terms of falling under average. Even then, “Doo Doom Chit” hardly makes
it into the “average” range. Nonetheless, even with harsher critiques given
here, we must remember in the end that, for this song’s particular goal—the goal
of in fact being catchy and having fun—it does an amazing job at just that. “Doo
Doom Chit” was never meant for heavy scrutiny: it was meant to be a generic,
fun and exciting pop song. My critique is to challenge the views that claim “Doo
Doom Chit” is a rather solid, strong song. Once again, I disagree that it is a
higher holding song, but even so, it is one of the most fun songs I have heard.

Overall,
this review should not be interpreted as a message of claiming Crayon Pop is a
musically weak group or that the producers and composers involved with “Doo
Doom Chit” are unknowledgeable—after all, it takes much knowledge to make a song catchy at all. This review instead is
to highlight that the catchiness involved, while taking much effort and
knowledge, is nothing extraordinary if comparing some other songs where, for example,
there are composition decisions—both subtle and obvious—that significantly impact
a song for the better and goes beyond the point of just getting a phrase
trapped in a listener’s head. And so, though on a serious level I find “Doo
Doom Chit” another generic pop song, I still very much encourage supporting
Crayon Pop. (In fact, with Soyul having to pause activities due to her anxiety
disorder, I would argue Crayon Pop deserves even more support.) Nothing is
wrong with focusing more on fun, catchy songs—after all, some can very much
score well despite an upbeat tone. And of course, all artists deserve much respect
and support for their hard work.

_______________________________________________________

As
usual, thank you to all for reading or skimming the review. For an update, I
will be having a one-week break and, besides getting ahead on school work, I
will use the break to equally catch up on reviews. In terms of the next review,
look forward to Hyuna’s “How’s This?” and afterwards Shinee’s “1 of 1”—this song
being one I am super excited to review.

Until
then, to end with my signature closure of quoting songs since I still have no
actual closure, let us “just dance and enjoy tonight, shall we?” This makes no
sense whatsoever, but given the lyrics to the song, please just accept it. Look
forward to Hyuna’s review.

EXO x Yoo Jaesuk – “Dancing King” Review

EXO
x Yoo Jaesuk – Dancing King (Music Video)

EXO x Yoo Jaesuk – Dancing
King

Reviewed
on September 26, 2016

The result, then, is that the pre-choruses seemingly sound extraordinarily more amped and vocally intensive. In reality is it the contrast—going from an indistinctive verse to an exciting pre-chorus—that is at play, but nonetheless, this composition decision is admirable.

Personal Message:
I am a hypocrite as my initial plans
of reviewing both 2PM and Infinite has changed: I will review the two groups
after this one. Furthermore, so many comebacks have occurred that I simply am
feeling overwhelmed: MAMAMOO, Apink, Jieun (from Secret), and others. Perhaps
reviews that are limited to one paragraph may be necessary, but that is
impossible if I am to dive into any form of details. Again, focusing on
critical points versus filler-details—a writing skill that is vital everywhere—will
be how I follow through with these reviews. (But of course, I will devote a lot
of time in Hyuna’s review to discuss slut-shaming and misunderstandings of “double-standards.”)

But on topic, how could I resist reviewing
a song involving South Korea’s “National MC” and arguably one of the national
boy groups? Yoo Jaesuk, for readers unfamiliar, is an MC and comedian and many
have praised him—I equally—for being phenomenal at both. For example, Happy Together is a show he hosts and
indeed, he is wonderful at that and is simply a very wonderful man. Likewise,
EXO is one of the most popular male groups and thus, reviews on them always
tend to be desired on the basis of popularity. All that covered, EXO and Jaesuk
have indeed collaborated for a song: “Dancing King.” Personally, I am surprised
at the song in both realms of the collaboration but more importantly, that
despite the song’s style being one I tend to steer away from, “Dancing King”
essentially takes what I most hate in songs and makes those very traits
desirable. In other words, the EDM-club genre where songs follow the
progression of building up a song which then climaxes in an instrumental break
tend to be songs I just personally dislike. There is no exact reason per se; I
just do not like them as a preference. However, “Dancing King,” despite
following that exact form, is one I enjoy. Furthermore, and for what actually
matters, on a more critical level I still find “Dancing King” very impressive.
It truly is well composed and produced, as this review will hopefully explain.
After all, the point of music reviews is to dive into those deeper components
and to then create a room for discussion via disagreeing and agreeing.

Enough said, let us take a look at
the dancing kings’ song.

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 6/10
(6.33/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
7/10

2.     Pre-Chorus: 8/10

3.     Verse: 5/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 5/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 7/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey

My heart is beating from the hot rhythm
My heart is heating up right now
Come on, shake it, wake up your instinct
Before this moment is over
Ayaya, tonight I’m the dancing king
Falling for me
Ayaya, tonight dance with me all night

Oh throwing the boring day far away
Keep the joy that was sleeping inside of me
Hop into here, the magic of rhythm
Señorita, I’ll give you a surprising night
Give yourself to the clumsy gestures
Just get crazy
(Ooh ah, ah, ah, ah, ah)
Feed the fire in your exhausted heart
Let’s dance together, ‘cause tonight

My heart is beating from the hot rhythm
My heart is heating up right now
Come on, shake it, wake up your instinct
Before this moment is over
Ayaya, tonight I’m the dancing king
Falling for me
Ayaya, tonight dance with me all night
(Get ready)

[Instrumental]

When you want to forget all annoying things
Don’t worry, you can just come to me
Yeah Mambo, Tango, Rumba, Samba
Tell me whatever it is, buona sera
I’ll invite you to a wonderful world
Give yourself to the clumsy gestures
Just get crazy
(Ooh ah, ah, ah, ah, ah)
Just for this time, forget everything
Let’s dance together, ’cause tonight

My heart is beating from the hot rhythm
(Don’t hesitate)
My heart is heating up right now
(Heating up)
Come on, shake it
Wake up your instinct
(Shake it together)
Before this moment is over
(Oh yeah)
Ayaya, tonight I’m the dancing king
Falling for me
Ayaya, tonight dance with me all night

Shake it to the left, now shake it to the right
Until the moonset, don’t stop yourself
Shake your body, oh my, dancing all night
Blinded by you, I can’t let you go

We only live once anyway
Shall we run to that end over there?
Come on, shake it, wake up your instinct
We’re happy like this right now
Ayaya, tonight I’m the dancing king
Falling for me
Ayaya, tonight dance with me all night
(Get ready)

[Instrumental]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Perhaps my praise is misguiding; readers might have expected an above average
rating (seven) but instead it is a six.

For
what is ultimately the song’s biggest strength, the setup for the choruses—the instrumental
break/solo—is fantastic. Statistically, this is seen in the pre-choruses’
score, but I encourage readers to be analytical versus merely observational.
The “setup” I refer to is not just the pre-choruses but also, counter-intuitively,
the verses. The verses being merely average is what provides a foundational
start for the pre-choruses: contrast is able to be manipulated. With the verses
carrying minimal significance, the change to the pre-choruses’ playful and
tuneful vocals along with the suiting instrumental makes that very transition—that
contrast—quite contrasting, but all in a controlled and positive manner. The result,
then, is that the pre-choruses seemingly sound
extraordinarily more amped and vocally intensive. In reality is it the contrast—going
from an indistinctive verse to an exciting pre-chorus—that is at play, but
nonetheless, this composition decision is admirable.

Additionally,
for another excellent point and one that allows me to both biasedly and
critically enjoy the “bass-drop” or “instrumental break/solo”—in other words, the
choruses—is how the very choruses sound. Unlike many other songs where these
instrumental solos are roughly inserted into songs and sound awfully chaotic, “Dancing
King” mediates it quite well. For one, during the first verse, the instrumental
solo is actually playing. Although this seems minor, doing so eases the
incoming instrumental solo—this being quite important to keep these solos from
becoming chaotic or unexpected. Now when it comes to the choruses themselves
where the instrumental solo does occur, there is another reason for why it is
appropriately managed: the instrumental itself is scaled to fit the song. The
tempo did not suddenly multiply nor are there random, blasts of electronic
noises. Indeed, “Dancing King” ‘s instrumental solo is at most a funkier moment
if I may say so, but all in all it maintains a suiting, controlled sound.

Even
with these praises, though, there are still downsides to the song that I will
cover. Marginal critiques would be that the vocals are, while decent, nothing
beyond that; the vocals at certain sections—examples being the verses and
bridge—provide a sufficient role but do not go to the extent of surprising me
via vocal belts, very smooth and pacifying tunes, and the like. On that note,
the verses and bridges were partially lackluster and rendered average due to
moreover continuing the song versus leaving noticeable appeals. Finally, what
perhaps holds the rating back by a decent portion would be the lyrics: lyrics
that simply focus on letting loose and dancing. Certainly the message is one
that should be cherished and very much so as an important aspect of living is
to in fact live, but with applying my
criteria equally for all reviews—in other words judging how unique the lyrics’
plot is and how diverse and thorough the lyrics’ details are—the lyrics come
short.

“Dancing
King” is one of the few songs where, as stated earlier, I can openly say I
enjoy it biasedly and seriously despite its style being one that normally
deters me. It is not the strongest song per se, but indeed it is a decent one
and perhaps one that many would enjoy for the purposes of having an upbeat,
EDM-club song. In the end, I greatly applaud the coordinated use of the
pre-choruses and how properly managed the choruses/instrumental solos are. I
would be even more allured to the song if its lyrics contained more depth and
if the vocals and specific sections were slightly more refined, but overall, “Dancing
King” is very much an enjoyable song.

_______________________________________________________

Because
writing three essays was not enough for me in the past few days, I will add
this review to the writing batch. All is well, however, and after watching and
listening to all of the recent comebacks occurring, I could not help but to
finish up this review. 2PM and Infinite are next, and afterwards I will focus
on either Jieun or MAMAMOO—it all depends on whether I wish to please or anger
fans. To leak my message, reviewing Jieun would lead to many praises, and when
it comes to MAMAMOO’s recent song, as much as I love the ladies, I am
incredibly disappointed. All will eventually be reviewed, however. (And of
course Apink and Hyuna will be included.)

Until
the next review comes, “Let’s dance together.” Thank you to all for reading
this any length. Expect 2PM and Infinite to both have their reviews published
around the same time.

DIA – “Mr. Potter” Review

DIA – Mr. Potter (Music Video)

DIA – Mr. Potter

Reviewed
on September 17, 2016

There are no changes that occur be
it in tune or pacing, and as a result of such the instrumental, contrary to the
magical sound it possesses, is an instrumental that becomes easily overlooked
as mere background. In other words, the instrumental merely fulfills the concept of an instrumental; it exists because
in a sense it has to exist. Couple
that idea with also how it horrendously pairs with the vocals to further accentuate
its mundane sound and the result is what is seen: a two for a rating.    

Personal Message:
With my rather erratic schedule of
reviewing songs, although this review was to be after Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette,” I have decided that despite “Russian
Roulette” ‘s review being almost finished, I will instead begin a whole new
review. Why the abrupt change? To use a cliché term, I found myself extremely “rusty”
with reviewing songs and given the new format I will be following (and of which
is discussed in Red Velvet’s review; in short, I plan to discuss only relevant
points I find), I needed a song that would be more easily dissected. With Red
Velvet’s “Russian Roulette,” although I do have a general sense of where I wish
to guide the review, I unfortunately cannot articulate it and thus, am taking a
break on it. On the other hand, the ladies of DIA and their latest comeback
prove to be a solution: “Mr. Potter” is a song that I can more easily
articulate and deconstruct. But, that said, this is a review DIA fans may not
necessarily welcome.

Explaining what I mean by that, in very
blunt terms: “Mr. Potter” scores poorly. Given fans’ loyal support to artists, a
lower rating for songs tend to be received negatively; after all, should fans
not stand by their artists? Of course, though, as discussed in past reviews
such as in Oh
My Girl’s “Windy Day” review
—of which also scored poorly—it is not about
the ratings that matter but instead the discussions that occur. Why do I score a song as is? Why do fans disagree or agree? Those
questions and the answers to them are what matters; what the scores are end up being irrelevant in the end. And
thankfully, with the linked review, I am glad that readers engaged on a more
critical, deeper level and that is what I hope—and expect—will occur in this
review.

With all of that covered, let us now
focus on DIA’s “Mr. Potter.” From my personal knowledge of DIA as I have followed
a few of their comebacks and even attendance on Weekly Idol (and to that, Eunjin, their main dancer, awes me), I
expected “Mr. Potter” to perhaps be a significant improvement over, for
example, “On the Road” (their prior release). Most of their songs, from again
my personal take, have been average and thus, I predicted that “Mr. Potter”
would be the song that would push DIA
to a higher level. Unfortunately, their latest comeback is a magic show gone
wrong: “Mr. Potter” is by far DIA’s weaker if not weakest song.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 3/10
(3.00/10 raw score) – “Below average”


Vocals: 2/10


Sections: 3/10
(2.71/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
2/10

2.     Verse: 2/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 3/10

4.     Chorus: 2/10

5.     Bridge: 3/10

6.     Rap: 3/10

7.     Conclusion: 4/10


Instrumental: 2/10


Lyrics: 5/10

Accio Mr. Potter, in front of my eyes
A sweet forest called you, I’ve fallen into it
I can’t get out because of this instinctual pull
I wanna wanna wanna
Wanna get your mind
Descendo, will you show me your honest heart?
I try to escape but I can’t, so ridiculous
I’m addicted to your sweet magic
Lalala don’t wanna confess

Don’t hide and show me, boy
Light on me, lumos
So my heart can touch yours, go

That’s right, I got a feeling today
I can’t hide it anymore, no
Only look at me, I’m casting a spell on you
That’s right, you felt my heart
I can’t let go of you, I don’t want to let you go
Your charms cast a spell on me so only I will know

Where are you looking? Focus on me
Don’t look anywhere else, impervious
Only I am chosen to go to this sweet forest
To me, to me, to me
To me come closer, boy
I can’t get out because of this instinctual pull
I wanna wanna wanna
Wanna get your mind
I’m addicted to your sweet magic
Lalala don’t wanna confess

Don’t hide and show me, boy
Light on me, lumos
So my heart can touch yours, go

That’s right, I got a feeling today
I can’t hide it anymore, no
Only look at me, I’m casting a spell on you
That’s right, you felt my heart
I can’t let go of you, I don’t want to let you go
Your charms cast a spell on me so only I will know

Give me give me give me
Give me your love
Give me give me give me
Give me your love
I’ve fallen for your charms, I can’t escape
Cast a spell on me so only I will know
You, for you I want to hold you in my heart
Come closer to me, so I can feel you
I can’t let you go now, I like you

Past the deep forest, I discovered a sweet ocean
Like hail, you flew into my heart like sweet magic
This is a rational degree, sucked into this black hole
This is your spell, I’ve fallen into it, ‘holic

That’s right, I got a feeling today
(Oh, Mr. Potter)
I can’t hide it anymore, no
Only look at me, I’m casting a spell on you
(I’m casting a spell on you)
That’s right, you felt my heart
I can’t let go of you, I don’t want to let you go
Your charms cast a spell on me so only I will know

Give me give me give me
Give me your love
Give me give me give me
Give me your love
I’ve fallen for your charms, I can’t escape
Cast a spell on me so only I will know

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: For
what my argument will be in this review, I assert that the main, overarching issue
with “Mr. Potter” is overall its lack of complexity. “Mr. Potter” is unrefined
in its sounds and lacks creative composition in terms of its structuring. It is
a song that appears to have been rushed in production and hardly given effort
in terms of adding unique, creative features outside of stylistic points.

For
example, when it comes to the instrumental, it showcases twinkling, lighter toned
sounds. Certainly this creates the stylistic
tone of the song and is indeed creative; I cannot recall another song that uses
fantasy, magical-like sounds, after all. However, as said, this is only stylistically
creative and provides minimal benefits to the actual song’s sonic appeal and
this separation may be what many fail to observe. Ignoring the atmosphere the
instrumental establishes, if we focus purely on its sound, we come to realize
it lacks in variety. The electronic twinkling provides little more than a
repetitive and at times even vexing noise. There are no changes that occur be
it in tune or pacing, and as a result of such the instrumental, contrary to the
magical sound it possesses, is an instrumental that becomes easily overlooked
as mere background. In other words, the instrumental merely fulfills the concept of an instrumental; it exists because
in a sense it has to exist. If it
were more dynamic in any aspect—pacing, flow, tune, and so forth—then it would
be distinguishable. As is, though, with minimal changes around, it is difficult
to heed attention to. Think of a ticking clock: sure it exists, but soon
enough, the sound becomes irrelevant and blocked out. Sadly, that analogy
applies to “Mr. Potter” ‘s instrumental. Coincidentally, the vocals also follow
a very similar trend and hence why it also earned a two.

In
terms of the sections, many have also scored poorly. The main reason behind
this is the result of meshing the vocals and instrumental: repetitiveness on
top of repetitiveness. Both categories—vocals and instrumental—are already
mundane in of themselves, but now with gauging them as a working unit via the
sections, the outcome is horrendous. Yes, both the vocals and instrumental are
fitting one another due to their lack of variety, but unlike other instances
where synergy is desired, in “Mr. Potter” this specific synergy leads to an
even greater amount of staleness. Vocals are unchanging and likewise the
instrumental is unchanging; this means that the entirety of the song—the entirety­—remains a stagnant clump.
Furthermore, even on a more individualized analysis of the sections, each also
fares poorly. Take the introduction for example. Believe it or not, but the
music video’s introduction is not for the sake of the music video; indeed,
after watching a few live performances (none are linked as none are official
uploads from music broadcasts), the introduction is truly an excessive length
and additionally fails to truly establish the song’s style. With other sections
such as the choruses, verses, and the like, many are structured in a simplistic,
linear form. Alone that is not problematic, but with how the vocals and
instrumental are already too plain, the sections’ structure do not mediate that
problem but rather adds onto it.

It
truly is disappointing that the only redeeming factor is the lyrics—and even so
it is merely average. Although the following is difficult to say and even
unwarranted, “Mr. Potter” is one of the weakest songs I personally have yet to
hear. It lacks in sounding sharp, diverse, and is ultimately one of the most generic,
stale songs I have heard. Now, is this all to mean that DIA is terrible and
bereft of skills and should not be supported? Absolutely not. “Mr. Potter” is
merely one song out of the many DIA has released so far, and as always, songs
are not necessarily representative of a group’s skills. Nevertheless, for how
this song individually stands, it is a lackluster one. In the future, I expect
a stronger comeback from the ladies. And of course, fans should very much
continue to support DIA. After all, it is through fans that groups continue to
release new songs. All in all, though, DIA’s “Mr. Potter” is a magic trick gone
wrong: nothing impresses the audience.

_______________________________________________________

I
am uncertain on whether this review brings justice to both DIA and my idea of
further condensing reviews. More practice, as usual, will be required. Optimistically, though, I am glad that the review is moreover two paragraphs than of the usual–this being a sign that my new format is taking place. Regardless,
I do hope readers find this review engaging and that readers are equally
critical of my critique towards “Mr. Potter.” And as usual, thank you to all
for reading or skimming.

Red
Velvet’s “Russian Roulette” is the next upcoming song review, and depending on
how dedicated I am it might even be released today. If not today, then expect
it to be released in a few more days. Afterwards, I will be reviewing 2PM’s “Promise”
especially as male artists have not received much spotlight as of the late. In
fact, VIXX’s “Fantasy” is another male group I have in mind to review.
Hopefully more concise reviews will allow them to all be reviewed by this
month. Until then, “I can’t let go of you, I don’t want to let you go.” Look
forward to Red Velvet’s comeback review.

Mad Clown x Kim Nayoung – “Once Again” Review

Mad
Clown x Kim Nayoung – Once Again (Music Video)

Mad Clown x Kim Nayoung – Once
Again (Descendants of the Sun OST)

Reviewed
on September 10, 2016

From the verses and choruses and
even in the bridge, the singing remains overly
simplistic. While this may create contrast with the rapping and therefore
enhance Mad Clown’s parts, it still remains problematic, and more so with how
it affects the song structurally.

Personal Message:
It has been quite some time since
the last review—a week, if being specific. Although that is not as drastic as,
say, two weeks, it is still a rather lengthier period given that reviews should
be coming out every four to five days. As such, I do apologize for slightly
lacking. But all that said, I have been incredibly busy. It is already
difficult enough to be consistently atop of school work, let alone reviews and
subtitling videos. I will do my best to balance both university and personal
activities, but as many would expect, university does have a priority. Thus, I
ask for readers’ (and viewers’) patience and understanding, and specifically
with this review and perhaps a few that follow, for being even more concise
than usual.

On topic, though I have said that
GFriend’s reality show, Look After My Dog,
was going to be next, I have decided instead to focus on this request. To the
requester, once again thank you for sending this in and moreover for being very
patient. If the show would have been reviewed first, this current review would then
be pushed back even farther and that is rather unfair to do—hence why this
review is occurring now. Nonetheless, I will review the show at one point if I
find myself busy to the extent that a bonus review is necessary. Focusing on
the song now, personally I was surprised to find that it was a drama OST (for Descendants of the Sun) and not an
actual single. (And on an irrelevant note, I plan to watch Cheese in the Trap at one point and to perhaps review it so as to
mark the first drama review of the blog and first drama I would entirely watch.
And yes, I am unfortunately that
viewer who flails and clenches his hands wildly during romantic scenes along
with chanting “Kiss!” all while probably simultaneously crying. I obviously am
very emotionally stable during dramas.)

Jokes aside, though my knowledge on
dramas is limited, from past experiences and coincidentally past requests, I
have found that drama OSTs tend to be quite solid and as a result have high
expectations for this song. But, once again as in every review, we have to ask:
does this song meet said expectations—both high and standard? And once again,
we will have our answer—but in the review, of course. And, once again, I need
to quit the awful puns if no reader has yet caught them.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 6/10
(6.25/10 raw score) – “Slightly above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 6/10
(5.83/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Chorus: 4/10

3.     Rap: 7/10

4.     Verse: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 5/10

6.     Conclusion: 7/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 8/10

Will I see you again?
I’m standing in front of destiny
that has passed me by again
Was it a dream that we couldn’t wake from?
You’re getting farther away and I couldn’t tell you
Not even once
I love you
Deep inside my heart
Don’t let me cry

You’re a dream that’ll disappear once I touch you
Like snow that melts
When I missed you, I became you
I didn’t hold onto you
because I thought you’d come back
I thought I’d see you again if I kept longing for you
The start and end of my feverish feelings
I’m standing at the start and end
Like an emergency light,
I’m the only one with the light on in the darkness
No matter how much I think about it, the answer is you
But I’m writing the wrong answer in my heart
I try pushing you out but you’re still there
And now you’re inside my dreams

(I don’t wanna lose you,
be without you, anymore)
I thought hard but I don’t know
how to live without you
(I don’t wanna lose you,
be without you, anymore)

Will I see you again?
I’m standing in front of destiny
that has passed me by again
Was it a dream that we couldn’t wake from?
You’re getting farther away and I couldn’t tell you
Not even once
I love you
Deep inside my heart
Don’t let me cry

If only I can go back for one day
If only I can live that day
If only I can turn back the words and actions that hurt you
If only I can make you less lonely and hug you tight
If only that day I crazily regret is given to me once more
I would never let go of your hand again
I only need you to beautifully bloom
I’ll be a thorn for you
Damn it, why didn’t I know back then?
If I held onto you, would things be different?
It’s you anyway for me
Even if I leave you, it’s you anyway

(I don’t wanna lose you,
be without you, anymore)
I thought hard but I don’t know
how to live without you
(I don’t wanna lose you,
be without you, anymore)

I’m standing in front of destiny
that has passed me by again
Was it a dream that we couldn’t wake from?
You’re getting farther away and I couldn’t tell you
My heart

I’m still crying
(Don’t let me cry)
I’m waiting right here
until my heart gets exhausted
Don’t say goodbye
Come back to me
Come to me whenever

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Although
an overall rating of a six is nothing to dismiss, I will admit this song was
rather disappointing in terms of what I personally expected. Given the ballad
style of the song with inclusions of rapping, it would, on a superficial level,
seem to be both very unique all while sonically holding well. But,
unfortunately as we will cover, this is not the case.

First,
though, for the strengths of this song, the vocals and the lyrics are of the
stronger aspects. With the latter, it flourishes in the two main features I
look for: details and plot. As noted the rap sections especially but also the
other sections, the lyrics in these parts are very diverse and seldom repeat
identical ideas. Furthermore, even if the plot is of the usual heartbreak,
tear-inducing story (and perhaps to relate to the drama), due to the level of
depth involved and the peculiar composition style—both monologue and dialogue—the
plot is still very exceptional. Focusing on the vocals now, it is a rather
interesting case. Mad Clown’s vocals in his raps remain solid, but on the other
hand with Nayoung’s singing, it does render as stale. Now that said, I will
acknowledge the opposing viewpoint: Certainly the style of the song—and of
which cannot be critiqued directly as discussed in past reviews—elicits a singing
style that is moreover linear and passive, and thus, I should not be critiquing
Nayoung’s singing as stale. However, for my argument, even within a
stylistically linear song, there can—and should, in most cases—be some variety
in the vocals. Nayoung’s vocals, while sonically soothing and charming, lacks
in just that: variety. From the verses and choruses and even in the bridge, the
singing remains overly simplistic.
While this may create contrast with the rapping and therefore enhance Mad Clown’s
parts, it still remains problematic, and more so with how it affects the song
structurally.

On
that note, the sections and instrumental are “Once Again” ‘s weaker components.
The overall issue with these would be how all of them are conducive to creating
an excessively linear flow. Again, linearity as a style is not bad; likewise, a
fast, upbeat song is not automatically good. What matters is the delivery of
said style, and in “Once Again,” the style is absolutely fine but the delivery
of it is a bit weaker. On topic, the instrumental is similar to Nayoung’s
singing: individually it sounds well, but on a larger scale the instrumental only
provides basic transitions and more importantly does not quite progress the
song. In blunt terms, the instrumental is just there; the instrumental provides
a background for the song, but nothing more with adding extra dynamics. That is
why the score is average. Now with the sections, though statistically it is at
a six, the choruses are perhaps the weakest point in the entire song. Reason
behind this is that the choruses are, unfortunately, the result of all of the
mentioned weaknesses: a dull instrumental, duller singing, and a duller
structure. The choruses merely exist and carry on the song, but little is
delivered in terms of actual content itself.

Overall,
“Once Again” is not a song that is flawed by its style; as discussed, the style—as
is any—is fine and the rapping is very much augmented by its form. What is
lacking, however, is that many parts are left and being too simplistic; even within simplicity, unless if properly managed and
executed, there should be some minor variety and changes occurring. Otherwise,
the result is what “Once Again” showcased: a section (or more) that ends up
holding space without providing much else. After all, shouldn’t each aspect to
a song be somewhat memorable and distinct? All in all, “Once Again” is still a
decent song despite these rather significant drawbacks, and indeed the rapping
and ballad combination is, in an overarching view, enticing—even if a more
critical hearing reveals some weaknesses.

_______________________________________________________

As
always, thank you to the requester for sending in this song and thank you to
others for reading, both in full or short. I truly appreciate it all, and it is
unfortunate that my robotic, tedious repeating of the earlier line does little
to showcase that. Finally to add, I will apologize if this review proved a bit
less in-depth than usual, but as mentioned due to being quite busy I have no
choice. On the positive side, however, I find it may be best to cover more
songs and to discuss the more critical, provocative points than to dive into
all of the details (as I slightly did in this review). More experimenting is to
occur, and with that, the next review will be on Red Velvet’s “Russian
Roulette.” It will be the first time I review the ladies, and it will also be
the first time I have personally and critically enjoyed a song by them.

Until
then, “Come back to me / Come to me whenever” for a review on Red Velvet’s
recent comeback.

MAMAMOO’s x GFriend’s Reality Show – “Showtime” Review

MAMAMOO x GFriend – Showtime (Full Playlist; Eng. Subtitled)

MAMAMOO
x GFriend – Showtime

Reviewed on September 2, 2016

Without
readers even needing to read further, in a short sentence that arguably
fulfills this review’s entire argument: This show manages to flourish because
it remains highly diverse in its content, but all while ensuring that the
delivered contents themselves are all appealing.

Personal
Message:

University is entirely underway and that said, I am now extremely busy.
Interestingly, though, I no longer have the newbie feelings of being a freshman
and thus, see this return as nothing more than “the usual.” But I digress. This
review included, the next two will be focused on show reviews for the purposes
of both variety and convenience; I personally suspect that readers enjoy a
variety of both song and bonus reviews, and that with still adapting back into
a student mindset, I definitely need to have reviews be a lighter load for at
least the first week. Furthermore I plan to post reviews every five days versus
my prior claim of four days. This will allow the blog to remain active for
readers, but at the same time it allows me to not become overwhelmed with the
many readings and writing I have to do for classes. But all this said, I am
indeed doing well and university is nothing utterly daunting as it had been as
a freshman. (And on highly irrelevant news, for one of my classes, I actually
gave a presentation on K-Pop and why I feel passionate about it.)

On topic with this review, as
clarified in many past ones, show reviews are what I deem as “bonus reviews”;
these reviews are not meant to dive in depth nor should the ratings be
necessarily taken as serious. If anything, these show reviews should be
interpreted as a partially—if not entirely—biased take to a show and whether I personally recommend a show or not.
After all, unlike the two years (and growing) experience I currently have with
reviewing songs and continually striving for improvement, I have no experience
whatsoever with film/shows and admittedly do not plan to invest time to improve
in this regard. With all of that out of the way, let us discuss Showtime’s recent season with both
MAMAMOO and GFriend participating.

Sharing some personal experiences
with the show, to answer the “big question”: no, I did not cry—due to a sad
ending, specifically. Unlike many other reality shows where there has been an
emotional ending—examples in mind include The
TaeTiSeo
, Jessica & Krystal (of
which made me cry a downscaled river) or even EXID’s season on Showtime, in MAMAMOO and GFriend’s Showtime, it has remained incredibly
cheerful and fun throughout. Nonetheless, I do admit I cried during one
specific scene: GFriend’s Yuju facing her fears with
heights via bungee jumping.

(And I will apologize for some self-conceited advertisement.) Other than that,
and to focus on the show itself, I personally thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Although I hesitate to say it is the best reality show I have watched as of yet
because Jessica & Krystal
continues to hold its throne, MAMAMOO’s and GFriend’s season was definitely one
of the better ones. Now let us examine why
I assert that.

_______________________________________________________

Plot
Summary:
For
convenience, when I refer to Showtime
from here on, it is in reference to GFriend’s and MAMAMOO’s season unless
otherwise explicitly stated. Bearing that in mind, Showtime—in a general sense—is a reality show series that focuses
on idols involved in various activities. Previous participants include
Infinite, Apink, EXID, EXO, Sistar, and others. What is peculiar about this
current season, however, is that it is the first to introduce collaboration:
having two artists involved in a
single season—and of which lasts for typically eight episodes. With Showtime, the reality aspect comes from
how the artists are not necessarily involved in games (think of Weekly Idol), but instead are involved
with activities that stem from traveling or simply hanging out. Addressing these
activities, they are presented to the idols via “Q’s”; through questions that
derive from fans. An example would be: “What do MAMAMOO and GFriend do during
their practice sessions?” From there, an episode would revolve entirely around
a single question. Since readers should have a general idea on how Showtime runs, let us begin focusing on
whether it delivers poor or brilliant content.

_______________________________________________________

Overall
Value: 7/10
(7.00/10
raw score) – “Above average”

– Entertainment Value: 7/10

– Structural Value: 7/10

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Without readers even needing to read
further, in a short sentence that arguably fulfills this review’s entire
argument: This show manages to flourish because it remains highly diverse in
its content, but all while ensuring that the delivered contents themselves are
all appealing. This, in a very concise view, is why Showtime is personally considered above average.

In terms of how the show is
structured and why said structuring is beneficial, first as already mentioned there
is much variety given through the “Q’s.” Whether it is a “Q” leads the groups
traveling to New York and Los Angeles, revealing to viewers their dance practice
routines, or facing their fears be it bungee jumping or scary houses, all of
the activities showcased in the show remain distinctive. Furthermore, to better
highlight this point, consider that both MAMAMOO and GFriend receive the same “Q’s,”
but nevertheless there are significantly different outcomes. For example, at
one moment GFriend is showcasing a more serious approach to their dance
practice routine, but on the other hand MAMAMOO is simply causing laughter with
a more lighthearted take to the “Q.” Another example is toward the beginning of
the show where both groups make “healing meals” (meals that are meant to be
soothing, relaxing, and so forth). Although both are tasked with the same
activity, GFriend’s take to it is significantly different from MAMAMOO’s take,
such as with different foods, locations, and the like. And of course, factoring
in that some “Q’s” are slightly varied in of themselves—consider the different
traveling destinations, for example—also helps.

Another excellent structuring method
Showtime does is for the involved
groups themselves. On an obvious level, Showtime
balances the two group so that both receive equal spotlight, but the manner in
how that is done is more than just for purposes of fairness. Specifically
focusing on what the show does, episodes intertwine the two groups—not literally,
that is, unless if considering the final episode or pre-filming press
conference. What I am referring to in this case is that this season of Showtime is not along the ideas of splitting
the two groups’ sessions; in other words, the idea that GFriend’s section is
the first half of an episode while MAMAMOO is the remaining half is false.
Instead, Showtime mixes the two
groups in a perfect balance so that in a single episode the focus alternates
between MAMAMOO and GFriend but all in an appropriate time frame. This works on
every end: fans of MAMAMOO/GFriend can still enjoy MAMAMOO/GFriend without
feeling that they have to “wait”; both groups can be easily watched with how
they handle the same “Q”; and lastly, this manner generates appeal as there is
always new content—both groups and with how they handle their activities.

Finally switching over to how the
content themselves are entertaining, although much of this is based upon the
participants themselves, credit is still deserved toward Showtime and this is where I wish to focus on. After all, as fans
of GFriend and MAMAMOO will know, these ladies are absolutely hilarious and
always engaging. That said, the main strength in Showtime’s layout that greatly augments the show’s appeal is the
room for freedom: “Q’s” are given, but how
that “Q” is interacted with per group is up to their decisions. This, in my
assertion, is why Showtime (and
OnStyle’s reality shows for The TaeTiSeo and
Jessica & Krystal) oftentimes
overshadows many other reality shows. Let us use some comparisons to other
shows to understand why levels of freedom are crucial to appeal.

In
a prior show review with GFriend
, an activity they had to do was pick
tangerines. That was the activity: pick tangerines, though it will be in a
competitive form. But that was it; no more or less. Other activities followed
suit with a strict protocol. The problem with that format is it restricts
groups’ ability to go beyond. An input-output style is seldom appealing, and
with the genre of “reality show” (and note I wish to differentiate this from “reality
variety shows” such as Unpretty Rapstar where
construed editing occurs), the main focus should be in simply watching how a
group would perform a specific task—traveling, eating, talking, and so on. That
is where “reality” comes in: just watching groups be themselves—give or take
their need to be “camera-friendly” for public viewers. (After all, the only true
form of “reality shows” would essentially be stalking a group and installing
hidden, spying cameras to see what the “true reality” is.) Once restrictions
are placed, much potential appeal is lost. Imagine this scenario in Showtime: a “Q” that did not merely ask
what the groups did in the practice room, but instead a “Q” that asked the
groups to rehearse their latest song. While both groups will somehow make it
all entertaining regardless of which “Q,” it is hard to deny that the first
version would provide a larger range of acts to be seen than the latter.  

Overall, for the answer of whether I
recommend Showtime (this season, that
is): yes, I do. It is one of the better reality shows I have seen as of the
late, but of course it is still not the best one I have seen and one that has utterly
surprised me. One of the weaker moments is during the episode where both
MAMAMOO and GFriend swap music videos and attempt to reenact the other’s, and
though it is absolutely hilarious at moments, this moment is an example of
where excess restriction (and for the “Q” itself, being rather abstract) causes
loss of appeal—even if the groups were directing their own parodying music
videos. Digression aside, for fans of either or both groups, this show is
definitely one to keep on a to-watch list. However, for those who are
unfamiliar with both, Showtime is of
the few where I would still recommend it as it can lead to familiarity and, at
its core, it very much entertains viewers.

_______________________________________________________

As usual, thank you for reading. I
have one other bonus show review in mind, and of which will then be followed by
a request (and of which I am very thankful for and do apologize for not being
able to prioritize it). I am currently extremely busy with university, but with
proper time management I expect reviews to continue on a consistent schedule.
Until then, look forward to not
reading the usual, cheesy quoting conclusion. Expect another show review to be
posted in a few days.

SPICA – “Secret Time” Review

SPICA – Secret Time (Music Video)

SPICA
– Secret Time (Dance Practice)

SPICA – Secret Time

Reviewed
on August 28, 2016

image

But,
as of now, the secret to “Secret Time” is that it is a rather disorganized,
abrupt and clunky song that, on the positive side, at least gives some justice to SPICA’s vocals.

Personal Message:
With already receiving homework for one
of my English classes (currently taking three for this semester and hence why I
will be extremely busy) despite a few days left of summer, reviews will indeed
become much more concise if not already. However, I plan to do my best to
continue the current rate that was seen in August (by far the best rate and if
I may say so, I am rather proud of myself for this) and, as long as I focus
reviews on highlighted points, I see no problems. Likewise, for Fiestar fans, I
will continue subtitling their videos though it may take two weeks at times for
a single video.

On topic with this review, as
mentioned in the prior
one
, SPICA’s comeback was one I had to cover. Besides the biased reason of
being a huge fan of the ladies and having a huge crush on Boa for her personality and
heart-fluttering voice and height
, the more realistic reason for this
is because, even if the ladies individually have been active in variety shows
as of the late, it has been two years since their last comeback. “Ghost”
was their prior song, and indeed this song has been reviewed already and
currently ties with another for the highest rated song yet on this blog. And
with that, this serves as a coincidental yet perfect transition.

As heard in “Ghost,” or for that
matter, with other releases such as “Tonight” or “You Don’t Love Me” and a few
older songs, SPICA members have proven consistently and constantly that they
are very skilled and capable artists. Especially with their vocals, SPICA is arguably
one of the most underrated artists despite their showcased skills. And best of
all, throughout their time of releasing songs, many have proven strong or at
least decent but more importantly, SPICA is showing a trend towards improvement
and releasing even stronger songs as time goes on. So, where is this going and
what is the point? Given the high standards set by their last three releases—“Tonight,”
“You Don’t Love Me,” and definitely “Ghost”—it would be expected that “Secret
Time” continues the trend. However, even if fans are currently overjoyed to see
them have a comeback (and to that, I too am excited), in a more critical view, “Secret
Time” is sadly not worth the two years of waiting at all. (To clarify the past
sentence, this is not to say SPICA should not have made a comeback—as a fan, I
am very much glad to see them return; I am saying this moreover as how, with
two years of waiting, it would be expected that an extremely solid song would
come.)

For where “Secret Time” stands, I
argue this song is perhaps SPICA’s weakest release yet. Certainly from here I
expect—and hope—SPICA continues having comebacks on a rather frequent basis,
and if that is the case then indeed stronger songs can be released. But, as of
now, the secret to “Secret Time” is that it is a rather disorganized, abrupt
and clunky song that, on the positive side, at least gives some justice to SPICA’s vocals. With that, let us begin the review.

_______________________________________________________

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


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 4/10
(4.00/10 raw score)

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

1.     Introduction:
3/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 4/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Bridge: 5/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 3/10


Instrumental: 4/10


Lyrics: 4/10

Secret time
We don’t need you, boy

What do you want?
More secretive than any other time
(I want something secret)
This is real, it’s not a midsummer night’s dream
No, not a dream, no

The white smoke provokes me
I want to go inside deep
(Go inside)
Keep turning up the volume

We had a secret time
Take off your clothes
You don’t need it
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
Just waiting is too boring
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
The modesty you knew will disappear here
Enjoy this moment
We had a secret
We had a secret, time
We had a secret, time

What do you like?
Don’t deceive yourself every time
(Want something different)
Oh, it’s real life
This night, there is no end, no end

Where am I?
It’s a different color stage
I want to get to you know more
(Get to know)
I’ll trap myself in the light

We had a secret time
Take off your clothes
You don’t need it
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
Just waiting is too boring
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
The modesty you knew will disappear here
Enjoy this moment
We had a secret
We had a secret, time
We had a secret, time
There’s no more niceness in here
You can’t control me
We had a secret,
we had a secret, time

Secret time
We don’t need you, boy
Rose-flavored candy, rum-filled jelly
My body is getting hot
(Hot)
Fill me up with your scent
Oh

We had a secret time
Pulled by the rainbow light
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
Music shakes up my head
(Baby hurry)
We had a secret time
Make me fall for the sweet temptation
You can’t control me
We had a secret,
We had a secret, time
We had a secret, time

Let’s have another round, we go
(Secret time)

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: First
to already address the vocals, a six is rather surprising considering the group
naturally wavers around seven or eight. Thus, this drop to a six—while still a
decent score—is definitely unexpected from SPICA. First, it should be clarified
that the vocals in “Secret Time” in of themselves are indeed enticing: the
verses, for example, showcase an excellent balance of both smooth and powerful
singing; throughout the song, there are a variety of vocal beltings; and lastly,
the diverse styles involved from passive to more direct vocals to unison vocals
are all delightful and do bring in appeal. And yet, a six is still earned. There
is one main reason: the choruses.

Yes,
SPICA’s skills are showcased, but when the choruses arrive, the vocals in these
sections impair the vocals in whole. Structurally, there is variety, but
sonically, it is exceptionally repetitive and even hollow in the sense of
lacking depth. For example, the faster paced singing that is followed up by a
unison “secret time” may be appealing as it contrasts the other sections’
vocals and thus brings in variety, but if we focus on the sound itself, there
is minimal content itself. In other words, the vocals in every section but the
choruses are tuneful and complex, but within the choruses the vocals do become “fillers”
and merely continue the song without providing much more. Even the continuing
portions of the choruses where stronger vocals occur cannot compensate for the
lacking faster paced part. Perhaps in summary, the vocals lack cohesion; yes,
the vocals do sound great individually per section, but in a larger scheme it
is difficult to see how they all relate and more so at the choruses. This is
the reason for a lower-than-usual vocal rating, and ultimately why the song in
whole is weaker.

With
the prior idea in mind, let us now focus on the sections. As noticed, most
score rather poorly, and once again the main culprit is “Secret Time” lacking
an organized aspect. Most of the sections individually sound unique and in many
cases that is a benefit, but it is to the extent that transitions are extremely
abrupt or that even with appropriate transitions, the sections themselves vary
too much to be cohesive. Take the pre-chorus and chorus for examples: the
transition between the two sections are sudden, and furthermore, the change in
styles—the pre-chorus being moreover calm and slow paced while the chorus is
utterly fast—is not gradually settled into, but instead is simply rushed and
that leads to a disorganized sound. Additionally, even sections such as the
introduction are already abrupt in nature; the introduction jumps listeners
straight into the song without establishing any sense of the song and it does
so all while lacking heavily in sonic appeal. Adding to all of this, with an
instrumental that likewise replicates the sections’ forms of each being very
distinctive, rather than the instrumental being the factor that connects all of
sections, the instrumental now becomes another dividing factor that further
splits apart the section.

“Secret
Time,” overall, is a song that has potential, but with its poorer execution it
becomes a song that is at most average—and indeed, that is the score. The
vocals and sections on an individual level can be—and for some are—strong and delightful, but in the
entirety of the song, there is a missing feature to bind all of these
categories together. Without that organization, “Secret Time” becomes too
chaotic to enjoy, and sections that otherwise would be solid are now
lackluster. This is all not to say SPICA is losing their skills; that is far
from true as SPICA’s vocals are still impressive and definitely at a high tier.
However, when it comes to “Secret Time,” it does fail to truly showcase SPICA’s
abilities. If fans are looking for a song that does in fact bring justice,
their song of “One Way” which is included with their recent mini-album might be
far more satisfying. Ending this review, SPICA still deserves much support even
if “Secret Time” is one of their weaker songs. Should SPICA become much more
active, I can say with near certainty that future releases will be much more
appealing. But for now with “Secret Time,” it is a rather disappointing song
that does not showcase SPICA’s true musical abilities.

_______________________________________________________

Since
I already have work, I plan to conclude August with a bonus show review.
Nevertheless, August will hold as a record for the most reviews done in a month
in quite a while, and that is indeed something I plan to continue even with
returning to university. Until then, look forward to a bonus show review, and
of course for other songs to be reviewed such as Hyuna’s “How’s This?” (along
with the social discussion that will occur) in September. While “Just waiting
is too boring,” I ask for readers’ understanding. Look forward to a show review
about GFriend and dogs.