Group Review: CRAVITY, TREASURE, Seulgi (Red Velvet), Kingdom, Stray Kids

It seems that no matter how much work I get done, school simply does not give me a break. Hence, I will be sticking to this ‘group’ style reviews in the future, despite the fact that in-depth breakdowns are what I enjoy the most. However, if I feel that the song really deserves more than a couple of sentences to express my thoughts towards it, it will be elaborated on, just like how I did with NMIXX’s Dice. Speaking of which, that song has grown on me even more, and I see it even making it to my end of year round-up in spite of all its flaws. It feels stronger than O.O at this point in time, and my former opinion is henceforth retracted.

Anyways, I have been really enjoying some of the latest releases. Just today, Stray Kids (who are among my favorite 4th gen boy groups) released their comeback with CASE 143. I will admit, I have mixed feelings towards the song for now, which I will explain later below. TREASURE has perhaps delivered their strongest title track yet in the form of HELLO, in spite of missing 2 members, Yedam and Mashiho (who I hope will return to the group soon, because there are hints that their ‘hiatus’ may be permanent already .-. ). Red Velvet’s Seulgi made an incredible solo debut, with both the title track (28 Reasons) and album being knock-outs in my book. The boy group KINGDOM, who made their way into my radar with their unique medieval concept that was executed with noteworthy dedication, also made their comeback with Long Live the King, which like TREASURE’s HELLO, may be their best work yet. Last but definitely not least, CRAVITY, a 4th gen group whom I admittedly did not pay much attention to certainly got my attention now with their latest title track PARTY ROCK, joining the ranks of Tempest’s Can’t Stop Shining as contenders for the best bright boy group track of the year. Without further ado, let’s proceed with the review!

PARTY ROCK – CRAVITY

PARTY ROCK is an effusive piece of pop, anchored by an incredible chorus that sports grounded melodies that does not wear itself despite repeating several times in the song. Admittedly, I first thought that the verses were a bit weak in comparison to the chorus, but taken as a whole, the song is simply incredible. The production acts as solid backbone for the excitement and fun cultivated within the song, making some very interesting choices that paid off as I listened to it the last week or so. For example, in the phrase just before the chorus enters, the song writers chose to make the singer hold the note for 2-3 seconds before sliding up in the chorus, which creates a very satisfying and uplifting transition into the high energy chorus, building a sense of anticipation that was satisfied with the fully fleshed chorus. The final chorus brings it all together and makes for a very satisfying climax. It may too early to say this, but PARTY ROCK is already one of my top 10 candidates of best title tracks of 2022!

Hooks – 10
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 10
Rap Delivery – 10
Overall – 10

HELLO – Treasure

For all of Treasure’s past title tracks, I’ve always had some fundamental problems with them in one way or another. In Boy, I felt that the member’s vocals were under-utilized given the capabilities showcased in YG Treasure Box. In I LOVE YOU, I wasn’t a big fan of the filter that was placed on the sound in the first half of the chorus that gave a sort of underwater effect. In MMM, there lacked a strong hook that would make it memorable. In JIKJIN, the chorus did not age well for me.

However I don’t think any of those problems manifested in HELLO, or will manifest in the future. HELLO’s production has a timeless quality that is anchored by a catchy melodic riff that repeats throughout the song. It was well chosen and smartly written, because it will give the listener something to listen to and enjoy, even where there is a lack of singing. This has been a problem for some of their previous title tracks.

Additionally, the vocal processing was used well and emphasizes the song’s best qualities, namely the feelings of gladness, relief and happiness that is evoked in the melody. It is just very enjoyable to listen to, to say the least. The instrumental towards the end was the perfect way to end the song.

If there was anything I feel annoyed at, it is the overly nasal vocal delivery of some of the members. The vocal delivery in the song was a mixed bag, with some members that I extremely enjoyed, while others, not so much, if at all. This is is something I’ve never had a problem with in TREASURE’s previous title tracks, but perhaps the ‘Hello, Hello’ line as well as a bunch of other vocal lines may have been pitched a bit too high for some of the members to handle with a less nasal placement. However, that wasn’t a major issue, and I enjoy it the most among all of their songs in their discography so far. That is a major win, for I’ve been waiting for the day when TREASURE would win me over. In HELLO, they did. 😀

Hooks – 9
Production – 10
Vocal Delivery – 8
Rap Delivery – 10 (Talk-singing/rapping sections are probably among the most enjoyable I’ve heard in any K-pop song!!! Hence, the points went here.)
Overall – 9.25

28 Reasons – Seulgi

I love Seulgi. Whether it be as performer, singer, or dancer, she simply excels. She was born to be an idol. When I heard that she was debuting solo, I had extremely high expectations. My biggest fear was that the songs she would receive would not be able to catch up to her own capabilities. Unfortunately, this is the case with many other solo artists in K-pop at the moment (in my opinion). On the other hand, 28 reasons, met my expectations.

28 reasons’ biggest strength is undoubtedly Seulgi’s Vocal Delivery. She has always been a great singer, but she has never sounded this good, even in studio, during Red Velvet songs. I can feel the amount of effort she put into improving herself for her solo debut and it has clearly paid off. She sounds more sure of herself than ever, and every line, every phrase was delivered with a quiet confidence that simply draws you in. When the song needed power, she gave power. When the song stripped back, she matched its pace with a more vulnerable and airy, yet carefully controlled delivery. I’m astounded.

I also love the production in many areas of the song. It takes a more minimalistic approach that mostly works in its favor. It allows Seulgi herself to take the spotlight, which sounds quite appropriate especially for a solo debut. However, it does not mean it does not add anything either, for it is successful in cultivating the mysterious, alluring sort of atmosphere of 28 reasons. It does a good job, to put it simply. However, I still think it could be a bit more, for while I feel satisfied by the end, I don’t feel completely satisfied, even taking into consideration the stylistic choices of this song and its concept.

The chorus has a strong enough hook in the form of a 2-part chorus. I am happy that it was made into a 2 part chorus because otherwise, it would not have a strong enough hook to keep the song together. The pre-chorus is also very memorable as well.

All in all, I love the song, even if it is not perfect. It does a great job of showing who Seulgi really is and what she can do, and hinting at what she will do in the future. At the end of the day, that is what a solo debut should aim to do, and in my opinion, it succeeded.

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

Long Live the King – KINGDOM

I’m not going to lie, I feel slightly frustrated with this song, not because it is bad, because it had the potential to be a SOTY candidate, yet missteps here and there hold it back.

The song is at its best when its ambitions are fully realized. It is clear that the producers intended for the song to be dramatic, intense, and theatrical, almost similar to early ATEEZ (think of Answer), and it definitely delivered in many moments. The opening is incredibly strong, and I was completely immersed by the violin and the percussion’s interesting beat which accented places that gave it a sense of propulsion and the impression that the song was going to be something really great.

The chorus fulfilled good on its promise, having one of the best boy-group choruses from a song which is a non-bright concept the whole year. It is sung, and talk-singing/shouting was ditched. Quite unusual given this generation’s trends, and while I do appreciate a good chanted chorus like ENHYPEN’s Future-Perfect, melodic choruses are always welcome. It is well executed with a strong production to back it up.

It falters in the second verse however, for it losing the propulsive feeling that the first verse, opting for a minimalist, stripped down second verse instead. It really reminds me so strongly of ATEEZ’s Answer in this sense as well. Unfortunately, I feel more disappointed with this 2nd verse in comparison to Answer because this song did not effectively establish the sort of vulnerable vibes as well as Answer did, which made the stripped down second verse feel unearned and unnecessary. It is a real bummer, and although it does not stay for long, it still annoys me given how nice the song has been up to that point.

Additionally, in some areas, the percussion became quite generic in deep contrast to the interesting percussion in the beginning, which is a shame because it did not need to ditch this aspect of the production.

However, it all came together again in the final chorus which felt appropriately climatic. Not to the extent that Answer was, but still, well done.

The vocal delivery here is clearly much better than some of their earlier title tracks. From the beginning it was clear to me that they were not technical vocalists, and they were not adept in hiding this. It was much more well hidden here, and their approach made them sound quite good overall despite some moments here and there. What helped it immensely is the production which made them sound so good in general. This is another bummer because it is a real shame that I have deduct some points of production due to the missteps when it made the boys sound AMAZING.

All in all, a great song, but a missed opportunity. It is among the most interesting songs I’ve heard the whole year and I think I will return to it in spite of its flaws. I also think it may still grow on me, but as of the moment, I feel a bit bummed.

Hooks – 9
Production – 8
Vocal Delivery – 9
Rap Delivery – 9
Overall – 8.75

CASE 143 – Stray Kids

I’m not too sure how to rate this song. I have loved Stray Kids songs in the past, and there is certainly plenty to love about Case 143. Unfortunately, there are specific sections that clearly don’t work as well as others, similar to the problem that I have with Long Live the King, but I think it is more obvious in Case 143.

Firstly, I have a problem with the opening. 3ratcha has decided to smother the opening verse with spurts of autotune as a stylistic choice, but I don’t really know where they were going with this and why was it necessary. I simply don’t understand. I don’t have a problem with the usage of autotune, as long as it seems justified. For example, Enhypen songs mostly use heavy vocal processing and in most cases, feel justified and an integral part of the song. I just don’t get why it was necessary to put it in this situation. If anything, it dampened my enthusiam for the rest of the song.
While the vocal processing worked a bit better in Changbin’s rap verse, it still felt unnecessary. It was really well used in Thunderous, where the processing really complimented the hard hitting rap. For this song, I really don’t know. It does not click with me, at least at the moment.

Thankfully, the vocal parts of the song were quite well done and delivered, which made me appreciate it quite a bit. There was clear care done in the vocal delivery, adding to the catchiness and memorability of the vocal parts.

I’ve seen criticisms about how the song’s descending riff overstays its welcome and the song’s main hook gets tired to listen to. While I can see where they are coming from, I would like to digress. I think that descending riff is among the core components of the song that help it stand out from the rest, and the execution of the main hook (the chorus) was really well done for the most part. I absolutely loved the combination of the gritty bass and Felix’s voice.

There are certain sections of the song which don’t feel quite fleshed out and ready yet, which is a shame because I there are others that feel polished and complete. For example, Felix’s verse prior to the bridge (or was it the bridge?) that suddenly went to a vocal part. At that time, it felt like the song went one way, then suddenly went to another. I don’t think the playing around with the structure payed off in this instance. In most cases, I appreciate songs more when they have a sense of direction and try to stick to it, with exceptions such as Next Level and Nmixx (in general lmao). This felt unfocused at times unfortunately.

I also have to ask myself, how much do I like this song in comparison to other songs I’ve rated so far? The rap parts really dampen my overall feeling for the song despite liking most of it, and while the production did some parts really well, it didn’t for others. I’ve had to compromise with my mixed feelings and go with my gut for this one.

Hooks – 8 (chorus was great main hook, everything rap was not, and some parts of the vocal lines were)
Production – 6 (I’ve attributed most of my problems with the song to the production, so most of the minus points I’ve decided to put them here)
Vocal delivery – 9
Rap Delivery – 8
Overall –
7.75

Like most Stray Kids songs, I expect this to grow on me, but I’m not too sure by how much. Like what some others have said, the hook may also wear itself out, but only time can really tell.

2 responses to “Group Review: CRAVITY, TREASURE, Seulgi (Red Velvet), Kingdom, Stray Kids”

    • It is! Honestly, after more listens, I think I can bump it up to a 9+ actually, but I will mention that in my next post (probably in about 3 weeks or so because of important deadlines). It is really quite a great song to listen to whenever I need a sort of epic/climactic song that isn’t from ATEEZ hahaha. It was so close to being really amazing too.

      Like

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