September Monthly Round-up: BLACKPINK, NCT127, The Rose, NMIXX, RoaDB, Lapillus, Tempest, ENHYPEN, JayB (GOT7), Jun (Seventeen), Huh Yunjin (Le Sserafim)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything in the blog, but it was for good reason. I have been incredibly busy with schoolwork, to the point that I was lucky if I got 4 hours of sleep that day. However, with most of the major deadlines around this period passed and submitted, I can afford to relax a bit for a couple of days. I decided to take this chance to review all of the K-pop comebacks that stood out to me. For ease and time efficiency, I shall compile it all in one post. The reviews will also be more in brief, but they shall also test my conciseness in expressing thoughts and feelings.

I have been quite happy with many releases this month. BLACKPINK’s long-awaited album, Born Pink, did not disappoint. SHUT DOWN is easily among my top 3 favorite BLACKPINK Title tracks, and there were several b-sides that I have been regularly coming back to. NCT 127 (or NCT in general) is one of my favorite boy groups, and both their title track ‘Two Baddies‘ and the album have also been excellent. I am not exactly an RnB fan per se, but the album was just very easy to appreciate. The Rose has just released what arguably is the best ballad in this year’s K-pop in the form of Childhood. NMIXX’s comeback gained a lot of mixed feelings from me, but although it has its glaring flaws, I have come round to appreciating not only their strong b-side, Cool, but the title track Dice (which I hated at first listen). RoaDB is an unknown male group that released one of the best songs of the year a few months prior called Nonstop, and their comeback Icarus is also quite strong. I genuinely enjoyed Lapillus’s Hit Ya, and although their comeback Gratata did not bring anything new to the girl crush soundscape, it was decently executed. ENHYPEN’s official soundtrack from their original webtoon Dark Moon: The Blood Altar, One in a Billion, had surprising staying power despite not making much of an impression on me in the beginning. Solo releases from JayB’s (Got7) go UP and Jun’s (Seventeen) LIMBO have also impressed me quite a bit, and Yunjin’s (Le Sserafim) Raise y_our glass has some lyrical depth that one would not expect from a rookie artist. Without further ado, let’s begin the review~

SHUT DOWN – BLACK PINK

The moment that I heard the teaser, which had revealed the La Campanella sample, I already knew that SHUT DOWN was going to be epic. La Campanella is one of the most infamous pieces in classical music, not only for its difficulty but for the tension its melody evokes. Just from the first note, it can give you goosebumps. It would be quite difficult to make a genuinely bad song out of using such a classic melody. The sample was used tastefully, combining it with classic hip-hop beats that rode through the sample’s rhythm without changing it up or losing any momentum. This straightforward yet dedicated approach works strongly in the song’s favor. Shut Down has strong melodies that won’t leave my head anytime soon, and the girls shined both vocal-wise and rap-wise. A perfect comeback song that seems to mark the beginning of a new BLACKPINK.

Update: After listening to the song for about 2 more weeks, I don’t think I enjoy it as much as I used to. I think that in the long run, the fact that the producers used only a certain part of the sample that kept repeating did not pay off as the lack of variation did not do many favours in regards to aging. The song’s melodies are still great though, so I only docked 2 points off the production.

Hooks – 10
Production – 10 -> 8
Vocal Delivery – 10
Rap Delivery – 10
Overall – 10 -> 9.5

Two Baddies – NCT 127

Two Baddies is NCT127’s most neo-sounding song in a while. While it still sports the elements that make up of NCT’s infamous musical identity, it still manages to stand out from the rest of its title tracks. Despite having already produced so many innovative and unorthodox sounding pieces of music, SM still manages to come up with something different every time. I love the gritty and almost warped-sounding bass that is sprinkled throughout the tracks which give the song a sense of spunk. The pre-chorus, while still containing the same elements as many other SM-pre choruses, again, does things slightly differently from their other pre-choruses. The sense of swell that comes from the pre-chorus transitioning into the chorus is very satisfying. There is a strong sense of build-up throughout the song and it climaxes in a very effective final chorus that brings together all the song’s best elements without sounding overwhelming. I do think the song’s hooks could be stronger, but the production, rap delivery (JAEHYUN, HELLO???), and vocal delivery are more than enough to make up for it.

Update: After listening to the song with my new pair of headphones, I have gained an immense appreciation for the production. I am in love all over again. Also, the hooks are stronger than I realized, for I am able to basically recite the song from beginning to end. I think it is time to cement its ‘legendary song’ status in my book!

Hooks – 8 -> 10
Production – 9 -> 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Rap Delivery – 10
Overall – 9.25 -> 10

Childhood – The Rose

Somewhat awkward music video aside, the song is far above and beyond what I expected. I don’t usually comment about lyrics because I am not really into K-pop for the lyrics. However, with the song being in about 50% English, and the fact that the lyrics are extremely thought-provoking, it would be a crime to not mention it. The deep message about living life to the fullest is perfectly conveyed by the culmination of the solemn and minimalist production, vocal arrangement, and vocal delivery. The melodies are robust and memorable, and there is nothing I can criticize about it. Also, Woosung is just an incredible singer. His amazing voice aside, it is hard to find a singer who conveys his emotions so openly in his singing as he does.

Hooks – 10
Production – 10
Vocal delivery – 11 (didn’t feel right to just give it a 10)
Overall – 10+

Dice – NMIXX

How to begin with this one? At first, listen, I was even more thrown off by Dice than I was by O.O. I thought that it did not fully commit to each section before the melody could sink in my head, leaving me unsatisfied and the song sounding very flat. Additionally, I also thought that the vocal mixing was not good. I had a similar problem with O.O, but I thought that it was even worse with Dice. There were parts where I thought the producers could have toned down the volume of the vocals a lot more because it seemed to overpower the instrumental. Sometimes, they seemed to be overpowering each other too. Finally, I was not a particularly big fan of the talk-singing lines (except perhaps Kyujin’s surfin one, that one I liked from the get-go).

I will need to elaborate a bit more on this point. I love the girl’s singing voices. However, some of their ‘rap’ or ‘talk singing’ voices are not my favorite, and they can come across as grating and borderline annoying. In particular, I am not drawn to Jinni’s talk-singing voices despite loving her singing voice, and to a lesser extent, Jiwoo and Bae. Paired with the weird vocal mixing that emphasized their voice’s sharp quality, it quite repulsed me at first.

However, I can appreciate its strengths, now that I was given time to digest the whole song and see their live performances. The hooks are not as flat as I thought they were, and there are genuinely some really good aspects in the production. I find myself singing along to some parts now! Despite still not liking how their talk-singing sounds at times, I have grown to appreciate the song a lot more. It took risks, and to some extent, it paid off. They have not found the perfect ‘mix pop’ song that fully realizes their musical identity at their peak, but I can see where they are going now. They just need a more polished and well-thought-off song. NMIXX is arguably the most talented K-pop group that K-pop has seen in a long time, and I know that they will get there. Both O.O and Dice show their potential, but the producers need to learn how to work with the girl’s voices so their songs don’t come off as annoying and grating at first listen. They could keep some talk-singing parts, but it isn’t necessary!

Update: The hooks are much stronger than I thought, and there are parts of the production which I truly love. Hence, I will bump it up.

Hooks – 8 -> 10
Production – 6 -> 7
Vocal Delivery – 10
Rap Delivery – 8
Overall – 8 -> 8.75

Note: My initial score for Dice was 5 or a 4, but it is insane how much I appreciate it now. I think it is stronger than O.O at this point in time.

Icarus – RoaDB

Unknown Boy Group RoadB flew under my radar after their incredibly strong debut single, Nonstop, which impressed me with its production. Icarus remains a strong follow-up but does not have the same sort of memorability that nonstop’s instrumental has. However, I am still impressed, and if you like Sweetune stuff (producer of most of Infinite’s discography), this is for you!

Update: The song is just good. I don’t think an 8.5 does it justice anymore.

Hooks – 7 -> 8
Production – 9 -> 10
Vocal Delivery – 9
Rap Delivery – 9 -> 10
Overall – 8.5 -> 9.25

Gratata – Lapillus

I’ve been impressed by the sheer charisma of Lapillus to be able to take any song they have and elevate its quality. Gratata is not any sort of mind-blowing never seen before girl-crush song. But it was well done, and I can appreciate it for what it does. Its hook is decently catchy, and while the use of the Arabian scale has been seen before several times (*ahem*, Black Pink), it is still pretty effective. I’m liking the vocal tones of the group as well, and this gives them some plus points, despite them not being technically proficient. I will remain firm with my opinion, however, that Hit Ya! was one of the best debuts of the year. It is too iconic haha.

Update: I think that I was a bit unfairly harsh with this one. Chanty’s verses deserves a 10 by themselves, so I needed to increase the score a bit.

Hooks – 7
Production – 7 -> 8
Vocal delivery – 8 -> 9
Rap Delivery – 9
Overall – 7.75 -> 8.25

Can’t Stop Shining – Tempest

Tempest has a special place in my heart because Hanbin, who had been one of my favorite contestants in I-Land, ended up debuting in Tempest. Can’t Stop Shining is easily one of the best summer songs that K-pop has given us this year. Everything hits the spot. The vocals and rap were all delivered in a sort of effortless and carefree manner that reflected very well into the overall atmosphere created by the production. It is very easy to appreciate and come back to. Sometimes, it really is as simple as that. I still feel like the production could have been stronger at parts, but it is quite a minor critique.

Update: I do enjoy this song more than Shut Down, so I think it is only fair to bump it up! It is easily a top contender for best boy group song this year.

Hooks – 9 -> 10
Production – 9 -> 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Rap Delivery – 10
Overall – 9.5 -> 10

One in a Billion – Enhypen

Enhypen really never misses. I was tricked by its more straightforward instrumental which did not make a big impression on me at first, but it ended up being the song’s biggest strength. It never broke the momentum, and the members have really been working on their artistic flair, especially in their vocal delivery. I can see them making an obvious effort to make their songs sound distinctly ‘Enhypen’, and it is paying off in threefold. This song has some real grit and spunk that gives it an addictive quality. I like how the song is also pitched within their comfortable range, and they all sound better in their lower registers anyway. Their vocal colors can pop. I’m very happy with this, and it not only ended up being one of my favorites this month but within their whole discography. Heeseung in particular deserves a special shout-out, with his crystal-clear vocals cutting through the instrumental and providing a good amount of the grit and spunk that the song has.

Hooks – 9
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 9.7

go UP – JayB (Got7)

This song gives me a lot of Bruno Mars vibes, which honestly should be a really big plus point, but there is a bit too much chanting for my liking for this kind of song. There needs to be more actual melody so I can properly remember the song afterward. The biggest hook was the falsetto part, which only happened like once or twice. I also feel like the production is a bit too empty for my liking for me to feel the groove and bop to it. Although it isn’t bad, it could be much better. On the plus note, JayB sells the hell out of the song and has always been one of my favorite vocalists in Got7. His influence made me like it a lot more than the song itself haha.

Hooks – 6
Production – 7
Vocal Delivery – 9
Rap Delivery – 8
Overall – 8

LIMBO – Jun (Seventeen)

Alluring. That is the best way to describe it. The warped production works in favor of the song’s concept and atmosphere, and the same can be said about the intentional overly nasal vocal delivery sprinkled in the track. The hooks are present, which is surprising given that most atmospheric songs in K-pop often rely too much on the sheer ‘vibe’ of the song without injecting any memorable melodic bits that would give it longevity. LIMBO manages to escape from this common pitfall, which automatically gives it a couple of plus points. The sense of artistic touch is at an all-time high for this song, which I don’t get from most K-pop songs. It is clearly a passion project, one that clicks with me. It may not be for everyone, but an average listener should be able to appreciate the personal touch that Jun has put into this solo piece. I’m very much here for this, thank you very much, give me more! ๐Ÿ˜€

Hooks – 8
Production – 9
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 9

Raise y_our glass – Huh Yunjin (Le Sserafim)

I am not sure if this classifies as K-pop, but I’m still reviewing it because of the sheer number of times I have replayed this song this month. This song has several strong points. First, the lyrics have some depth and emotional sensitivity that is far above what I would expect from a rookie artist. It gives me the impression that Yunjin is an artist who is not afraid to express her thoughts and opinions about what she thinks is important. Secondly, the vocal delivery in this song is magnificent. It was carefully thought of and delicately executed. Few idols can execute the second part of this song’s chorus, utterly sung in head voice. Yunjin has of the strongest head voices in this generation of K-pop and she fully flaunts this to her advantage, separating this song from all the other songs out there. It is rich and full, carrying a warm undertone too. It is quite beautiful. Finally, the melody is very catchy and memorable. It is almost Taylor-Swift-esque, and that is meant to be a compliment. The production does not do anything impressive, yet it fully matches the song. All in all, this is probably my biggest surprise from this month.

Hooks – 10
Production – 8
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 10

(yes the score doesn’t make sense but it does)

Favorite B-sides of the Month

Happiest Girl – BLACKPINK
This is BLACKPINK’s best vocal delivery to date, they really killed this one.
Hooks – 10
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 10

Hard to Love – BLACKPINK (Rose)
I would have loved it if this was her solo! It gets everything right that Gone and On the Ground didn’t!
Hooks – 8
Production – 9
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 9

Gold Dust – NCT 127
Its minimalistic RnB style complimented nicely with NCT 127’s vocal tones, especially Doyoung, which gives it a uniquely magnetic quality. It makes you feel in some kind of way that is incomprehendable. (just made up a new word right there hahah)

Hooks – 9
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 9.7

Time Lapse – NCT 127
‘Can you fix it’ has a fandom of its own. Beautiful. One of my favorite lines I’ve heard the whole year. Honestly the way they sung this line simply elevates it into a different realm.
Hooks – 10
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 10

Cool – NMIXX
This song uses similar strings from Sour Grapes by Le Sserafim, which is one of my favorite songs of the year. This immediately puts it up my list, but the two songs go in a different direction. Sour Grapes is more laid-back, while COOL is more streamlined and at a faster tempo. There is also a distinctively jazzy feel that pairs very well with Lily’s voice. I quite like it!

Hooks – 9
Production – 9
Vocal Delivery – 10
Overall – 9.3

Closing thoughts

I hope you enjoyed the post and found songs that clicked with you that you may not have listened to this month yet. Have a good rest of your day! ๐Ÿ˜€

4 responses to “September Monthly Round-up: BLACKPINK, NCT127, The Rose, NMIXX, RoaDB, Lapillus, Tempest, ENHYPEN, JayB (GOT7), Jun (Seventeen), Huh Yunjin (Le Sserafim)”

    • Thanks for reading! It is rare for me to really dislike any song in particular, which is why you usually won’t see anything lower than a 7.5. Additionally, the songs I write about are usually those which I really like, so an influx of a lot of high scores would be common. I also don’t have a particular taste in music, and I’m flexible and open to most stuff as long as it clicks with me. I’m happy to know you like my writing and you are always welcome to visit ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  1. Hey! Stumbled upon your blog via Reader + pleasantly surprised to see the Chansey profile pic. I’ve seen you commenting about in The Bias List so that’s why. I’m happy to see another fellow review blogger!

    Speaking of The Bias List, can I just say that I admire your conviction? Because despite facing such adversity (i.e. people not liking the song), you still hold your ground and admit you like it for what it does. I feel like it’s easy to get too… critical? That and get easily swayed to follow what everyone else is saying.

    I like how you dedicate a small section for your favourite bsides, and even gave them a rating! ๐Ÿ™‚
    This was a fun read as well a good catch-up for any releases I’ve missed hehe.

    On an unrelated note: Is your favourite pokemon Chansey?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for visiting! I feel humbled to hear that you admire my conviction OoO. I completely agree that sometimes it is easy to get too critical when reviewing songs, and when I do like I song, I will not hold back to express my liking for it because as I’ve realized over the 2-ish years of being a k-pop fan, it is best when you don’t allow yourself to be swayed by opinions around you too much and stick to your heart. As you’ve noticed, most of my ratings are fairly high, not necessarily because it is inflated, but because I simply do like it that much and it is within my standards.

      And yes, my favorite pokemon of all time is Chansey ๐Ÿ˜€

      Thank you so much for visiting once again, I’d love to see you visit again in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

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