Oh boy it’s been a while hasn’t it.
I really don’t want to keep taking these really long breaks but University exam season is in full swing down under and as a result, the time I can afford to spare on reviewing the latest kpop releases has shrunk massively. So, here is a jam packed section of Quickie Catchup reviews where I give my thoughts on most of the major releases we’ve seen over the past 2 weeks!
AB6IX – SALUTE
This had so much potential, but alas it wasn’t to be. I love military concepts and the thought of another Wonderland or Sixth Sense made me incredibly excited. There are glimpses of greatness throughout Salute like the operatic backing vocals and a gorgeous pre-chorus, but there just isn’t enough meat here. I don’t think the drop is as weak as many make it out to be, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I enjoy it either. But those weak ass verses are what really let this down.
Easily the weakest AB6IX single yet.
Berry Good – ACCIO
Apart from 2016’s sensational Angel, I’ve failed to connect with any of Berry Good’s releases. And given their declining popularity and lack of comebacks, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. But ACCIO is actually much stronger than I had expected. The jubilant instrumental is brilliant and while I do wish the melody were stronger, it’s got enough drive to win me over. And while the chorus is great, I think that last minute is what really gets Accio over the line.
E’LAST – Tears of Chaos
With many soundalike groups debuting within the past year, I’m so glad that E’last have managed to debut with such a unique musical palate. Their more operatic take on the moody boy group template led to their standout debut Swear, a song that’s only gotten better over time and now Tears of Chaos. And despite its rather repetitive hook, Tears of Chaos is immaculately produced. The arrangement here is fantastic, making great use of empty space and then slowly building to a number of breathtaking moments. The rap verses especially, are a standout. The implementation of what I believe is erhu during the second verse was an inspired choice and is further proof of the producers knowing what they are doing. Now all they need to do is find a hook as intoxicating as their verses.
GFRIEND – Mago
GFRIEND have had a great year, moving from strength to strength and the brilliant disco-tactic Mago proves that they saved the best for last. Their collaboration with producer FRANTS has resulted in some of the years strongest tracks and Mago follows that pattern. Fully embracing the retro synth-pop trend, Mago is a dance floor anthem that’s up there with some of the groups best work. Its verses bop along at an addictive tempo furthered by the girls gorgeous vocal blend. But Mago is nothing without the killer chorus at its centre, which manages to be both bewitching and melodically satisfying. Without limiting itself to a single refrain, Mago unveils its glorious two part hook over a number of refrains that feel perfectly tuned towards the track and acts as a great reminder to why chorus’ are so god damn important. It showcases a new side to the girls and one that I believe suits them perfectly.
Mamamoo – AYA
Mamamoo’s popularity and my enjoyment of their music has pretty much an inverse relationship at this point. I loved some of their earlier work (especially Décalcomanie) but I havn’t connected with a single Mamamoo song since Wind Flower and Aya is probably one of their lowest points yet. I know many love this but without the concept, Aya just has literally no meat on its bones. It’s a song that goes in one ear and out the other, lacking the kind of melodic prowess that is expected. It’s felt like Mamamoo have prioritised their concepts and their desire to be “quirky” over strong, impactful singles. There aren’t really any real hooks to be found here, and with a group as talent filled as Mamamoo, that’s a real shame.
MONSTA X – Love Killa
Much like Mamamoo, Monsta X returned with one of the more underwhelming songs of their career. It’s not as weak as something as May’s horrid Fantasia but it does feel like a far cry from what the group are really capable of. The gritty instrumental is a nice touch but without a strong centrepiece, Love Killa falls kinda flat. The performance here is strong as usual but I would really love to see them pursue, as a title track, the more melodic soundscape that the majority of their western discography consists of.
Park Jihoon – Gotcha
Park Jihoon’s Wing has slowly gone onto become one of my favourite kpop songs of the year and its propulsive hook dance instrumental firmly put the boy on my radar. That’s probably why the grating Gotcha is such a disappointment. As many have said, Gotcha sounds like fusion of NCT127’s Regular and EXO’s Ko Ko Bop. And while there are some high’s, that abhorrent drop just ruins the whole experience for me. I actually really enjoy both the pre-chorus and central refrain but that twisted, baby wailing sequences drop is down there with songs like How You Like That and Oh My God on the “shitty musical samples” tier list. At least it’s got a nice vibe though.
Taemin – IDEA
I swear that the theme of this quickie catchup review feature is “disappointing”. And that’s exactly what IDEA is. After what is likely the strongest single of his career, Criminal, Taemin returns with what is probably the weakest Korean single of his career. I appreciate the ambition behind Idea but its another song who’s preference towards providing a stellar performance takes precedent over crafting a strong single. I enjoy some of the instrumental choices made here but without much of a hook to really carry the track, IDEA just collapses into an instrumental mush. He’s magnetic as ever, but the song just isn’t there. Also that BoA feature isn’t even really a feature.
TREASURE – MMM
TREASURE singles have really been a mixed bag for me. Each of them have had some really promising moments (especially within the verses) but have all but collapsed during their centrepieces. Inspire of this I Love You has gone onto be a real grower. But I don’t think MMM will share those same benefits. Despite carrying Treasure’s signature vocals and rap line, it feels too much like an NCT single. This isn’t really a bad thing but it rids the track of any real individual charm. The percolating electronic beat is interesting and while that jackhammer instrumental sample was a questionable inclusion, it isn’t enough to displace an otherwise solid comeback.
TXT – We Lost The Summer
TXT’s latest album is easily their strongest work since their debut and more than makes up for May’s incredibly underwhelming ‘Dream Chapter: Eternity”. And as usual, the boys have chosen songs from the project to give the single treatment. And while I would have loved Ghosting or Wishlist to get an mv, We Lost The Summer is a solid choice. Initially I didn’t think much about the track but its quickly grown on me to the point where I consider it a highlight. The hazy, groove indebt instrumental is a perfect match to the groups processed vocals and the two part is a great centrepiece. I especially enjoy the post chorus hook which grows more intense whilst still retaining the more mid-tempo nature of the track. A grower for sure.
XIA – Pit a Pat
I was not expecting a Kim Junsu track this year, and especially not one as relentlessly upbeat and brilliant as Pit a Pat. TVXQ! OT5 were one of my favourite musical configurations of all time and much of that had to do with Junsu’s vocal, something that’s on full display here. Pit a Pat is pure mid 2010’s kpop dance track, an era that I just happen to adore. There isn’t a weak bone in Pit a Pat‘s addictive dance floor pulse and Junsu’s confident performance is the cherry on top. He brings a sense of drama to the entire affair and his powerful, near emotive performance elevates Pit a Pat into something really special. The two part chorus is a show stopping combination of production and performance, and is a refreshing jolt of club influenced dance pop in 2020’s otherwise downbeat sociopolitical climate. This is a stunning return for one of the industries best and most resonant performers.