2Yoon – Harvest Moon (2013, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Why Not, Black Swan
I must admit that I was a little hesitant to listen to this duo from 4minute, but let’s see what happens with this little experiment. “24/7” was a little off putting, even when watching the music video. It’s definitely a new approach in kpop by incorporating country elements into a pop sound. After a few listens, it slowly grew on me, but it’s still a little too upbeat and cutesy for me. “악몽” sounds like your typical mid-tempo ballad in kpop. It consists of piano, acoustic guitar, and a typical dramatic pop sound to convey hurt or pleading emotion that female artists use, but it’s still enjoyable. “Why Not” is nothing special, but it’s a little more upbeat with a lot of emphasis on a dramatic electro-pop sounds. It booms out in the introduction and chorus, then quiets down during the verses, but somehow this has become my favorite track on this mini-album. “쎄쎄쎄” slows down to a pseudo-R&B sound with the help of Kikaflo who sounds a bit too relax on this track to me. The lyrics from what I can pick out seem silly. Definitely 4minute level. “Black Swan” tries to be hard with the droning electronics and dubstep parts and a hint of hip-hop pieces that are tied with NassuN, but it’s not. Somehow I tolerate it and enjoy it more than I should. Collectively this mini-album is a mesh-mash of genres, but it’s passable for a first attempt.
Kreayshawn – Somethin ‘Bout Kreay (2012, USA) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Gucci Gucci, Left Ey3, Twerkin!!!
I know this isn’t anything new, but it took me some time to convince myself to listen to Kreayshawn’s debut album that apparently flopped. “Blasé Blasé” starts us off on a throwback, crazy track of random effects and vocal distortions. It’s very playful and you can really see it in the lyrics. “Ch00k Ch00k Tare” has a minimal sound to it and Kreayshawn gives a stomping delivery with her lyrics which reminds me of a weaker M.I.A. “Gucci Gucci” is the song that started it all. It has a warped sound to it, but the lyrics definitely contend and maybe even conquer the mainstream rappers. “Summertime” features her partner in crime (at the time) V-Nasty. It has a nice throwback, smooth beat to it that makes a good cruising song. The lyrics match the mood of the music with a playful tone. “Left Ey3” is a song I've been waiting to hear in a long time. It’s always nice to have a good revenge song from a female. It has some clever pop culture references and some cold one liners. It goes hard and I wouldn't mess with her after this track. “Like It Or Love It” has a marching band drum feel to it. The delivery is a little off with the lack of music. Not one of her strongest songs. “K234YS0NIXZ” returns to that fun sound that the first track brought. Nothing serious, so take it for what it is. “BFF (Bestfriend)” is probably the weakest track on the album, so don’t feel guilty about skipping out on this upbeat pseudo-pop, auto-tuned song. “Twerkin!!!” is definitely a guilty pleasure track on this album as it is so ridiculous, but you can’t help just getting you “swag” on to this Diplo collaboration in the club, the car, or just in your bedroom. “Breakfast (Syrup)” is not that great of a song, but it’s not that bad compared to some other songs. It has a minimalistic sound to it and kinda copies the same formula of “Gucci Gucci”, although I could’ve lived without 2Chainz’s contribution...or lack there of. “Go Hard (La.La.La)” has this weird auto-tune effect on Kreayshawn’s not so perfect singing vocals. The song’s kinda fun with this reminiscent 8-bit sound, but lyrically is quite weak. “The Ruler” has an awkward sound to it. From the music to the lyrics, it just doesn’t work in this cocky piece. “Luv Haus” ends this album with an 80’s electronic sound and some echo effect on Kreayshawn’s flawed vocals. It sounds a bit lazy, but the chorus is slightly less lazy. This doesn’t fit her style though. This album isn’t perfect, but I still believe she has potential.
HyunA - MELTING (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: 흐트러지지 마
I'm sure you're wondering why I'm reviewing another HyunA mini-album if I don't like her. Well, once again, there's one specific track that led me here. "흐트러지지 마" doesn't have the most promising of introductions with it's military sound, but this song is quite decent for a HyunA song. I kinda like the descending vocals and the music isn't that bad. "Ice Cream" is the promotional track for this mini-album and tied up what was left of the "Gangnam Style" wave in South Korea. At least this song is less nauseating than "Bubble Pop", but HyunA's overplayed girlish singing style and weak lyrics still makes me cringe. "풋사과" is a Taylor Swift acoustic pop leftover featuring a talent from BtoB. It seems like they've been utilized in mediocre 4minute projects lately. This is a fairly safe song and I can hear something like this playing on the radio here in America. "내 남자친구에게" shows a softer side of HyunA's voice which surprisingly isn't that bad. It's pretty generic with its keyboard, acoustic guitar, and musical ascensions accompanied with soft, subtle "ahs". "Very Hot" displays a more electro-hip hop sound than "Ice Cream". HyunA attempts to show off her rap skills, which is really a bored sing-talk sound with a lazy chorus that just repeats the title and breaths in your ear awkwardly.
Miyavi - SAMURAI SESSIONS vol. 1 (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: STRONG, DAY 1, SILENT ANGER
It's been a while since Miyavi has released anything full length, so this is a nice sample of some collaborative pieces. "GANRYU (vs HIFANA)" starts off with some DJ scratches and a preview of what's to come with Miyavi. It features Miyavi's skillful slap guitar and paired it off with some impressive drumming in a very high pace. It's very simple, but enjoyable in the short amount of time. "STRONG (vs KREVA)" was the first preview of this project. Fortunately, I came at a time when I was really getting into KREVA and he really improves this song greatly compared to the solo version. Sorry, Meevs. The guitar has a nice balance of acoustic and electric. I also didn't mind Miyavi's vocal input either. "DAY 1 (vs. YUSEK)" kinda loops the same guitar riffs that I complained about in a previous post, but it's not a terrible song. Miyavi doesn't overdo it with the vocals too much and the electronic contribution makes this track shine, especially around the chorus. "SILENT ANGER (vs TAKESHI HOSOMI)" was the third promotional pick and hands over the vocal spotlight to Takeshi Hosomi which was a wise choice as I don't think Miyavi's could pull off this emotional track. It's definitely a change of pace to a more emotion filled and experimental, atmospheric sound. This is something that might have to grow on you. "PLEASURE! (vs H ZETT M)" has a chasing sound between Miyavi's guitar and piano. It's an upbeat sound that also strays away from the electronic wave that Miyavi has been into. It reminds me of the "Gigpig Boogie" era in some ways. "HA NA BI (vs HIROMITSU AGATSUMA vs JIN OKI)" retreats back to the slap guitar sound and tambourine, but it has a jungle-esque mood to it. There's not much to it, but it's an alright song. "祈りを (vs SEIJI KAMEDA vs MIU SAKAMOTO)" slows the mini down with a deep electric guitar and highlights Miyavi's strengths more than any of the other tracks, while allowing the guest vocalists to sing over Miyavi's work.
Epik High - 99 (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Up, DON'T HATE ME, 춥다
I was very weary about this release, since Epik High was moving to YG Entertainment. I love Epik High and YGE is a decent label. I think I like them the most out of the Big 3, but they have their flaws too. "Up" was chosen as the second promotional track for this mini-album. Unfortunately, it features 2NE1's overpowering vocalist Bom which kinda ruins the song. Someone turn the damn volume down on her! The song has a video game feel to the music and it's a simple little fun tune. Nothing extraordinary. "DON'T HATE ME" was the first promotional track. It features acoustic guitar and yet another playful tune. I like the message a lot, but the vocal presentation seemed very toned down for the mainstream acceptance. "사랑한다면 해선 안될 말" has this slight break beat sound straight from the 80's. It's another safe vocal track for the radio. Very casual cruising music. "춥다" is probably technically the first promotional track, but it didn't have a video to it. It features guest vocals from new YGE talent Lee Hi. It's a really sober, mellow song and shows off Tablo and Mithra's strengths more than the previous tracks. This is the Epik High that I know. "아까워" takes it old school sound with beat boxing and freestyle flow between the rappers. It feels more natural and leans toward what they normally would be doing when they're not catering to mainstream air play. "악당" brings in the lounge music with a hint of Bond-esque chase scene sounds. It's another fun tune, but different from the previous fun tunes. I can sway along with this one a little more easily. "KILL THIS LOVE" brings in the dubstep and slightly poor dramatics with a repetitive chorus. The verses delivery is the most interesting part of this track than anything else. "NEW BEAUTIFUL" recycles this pseudo-piano sound and layers on the electro-pop to close off this debut mini. It feels like this should've been used for Big Bang and not Epik High, although they pull this track off decently.
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