Infinite – “Last Romeo”

Not a bad song. The tune is very catchy and upbeat and likeable, but the arrangement certainly lacks those little sparks that set Infinite’s songs apart from those of the other boy groups out there. The conventional band sound and lack of electronic sound effects is so unlike Infinite ><” The song could be given to CNBlue, and I would have enjoyed it as much with their live band performance, without the dance.

I so fear that this is the result of personnel changes in their music production team, as Woollim Entertainment has been acquired by SM in recent months. Such fear is not unfounded given how Epik High changed their sound after they signed on to YG. I look up the production team behind “Last Romeo” and I am surprised that it is basically the same team behind “내꺼하자“. I believe it is purely an artistic choice of the production team to pick a softer, conventional sound with the drum set and electric guitars in the foreground, decorated with brass ensemble, strings and piano during the transitions, with minimal electronic effects. So unlike their previous songs… Still the production team holds up the very high quality they set out.

Live on Mnet MCountdown on 22 May 2014

인피니트 – “라스트 로미오”
Track 2 / Vol. 2 “Season 2″ / Released 21 May 2014
Composed by Han Jae Ho (한재호) and Kim Seung Su (김승수) / Lyrics by Song Su Yun (송수윤) / Arranged by Han Jae Ho, Kim Seung Su and Hong Seung Hyeon (홍승현)

Fly to the Sky – “You You You”

I am so glad to have them back. Fly to the Sky was my first love when I was first introduced to Kpop back in 2005. Fly to the Sky debuted in 1999 as idols with sharp-colored dyed hair and great dance skills, but they were a rare combination promoted by SM Entertainment as a duo. When I try to explain to the very fervent teenage kpop fans in Hong Kong about Fly to the Sky, I say, “You know EXO, right? Before EXO, there was SHINee. Before SHINee, there was Super Junior, and before Super Junior, there was TVXQ. Before TVXQ, there was Fly to the Sky.” ^^”

What is great about their new album is that the majority of the songs is good. Despite the fact that they are no longer the young idols at the peak of popularity, they still get the good songs. No wonder they thanked the composer of this title track on stage when they won the weekly award on MBC Music Core.

Live on SBS Inkigayo on 1 Jun 2014

I still feel a little sad when I come across comments on Youtube comparing Hwanhee and Brian. Brian does appear to be quite self conscious and a little anxious during live performances even now. I guess being compared all the time contributes to that, but all I want to say is, just relax and enjoy your music =) Not because I am a die hard fan of any sort, nor am I trying to be polite, I just believe that Brian’s singing is lovely in his own way. All he needs is to relax and do some vocal warm up before performances ^^”

Fly to the Sky have been in the kpop music scene for more than ten years, the audience knows the two different voices very well. Hwanhee is known for his deep and versatile voice while Brian is blessed with a beautiful bright and clear voice. The beauty of Fly to the Sky lies in how the two very different voices complement each other. And their signature R&B ballads. And their handsome looks, of course =b

플라이 투 더 스카이 – “너를 너를 너를”
Track 1 / Vol. 9 “Continuum” / Released 20 May 2014
Composed by Lee Sang In (이상인) / Lyrics by Lee Sang In / Arranged by Lee Sang In

Nell – “The Ending”

Nell’s latest 5th studio album is a gem. It is not that I like to indulge in calming but depressing music, it is just that Nell’s 5th album is so much of an upgrade of their usual musical style. The songs have better melodies, the rhythmic structure and the sounds they use are also more interesting. It is a bold statement to write songs in irregular time signature. It is totally unconventional and may not be readily acceptable to the taste of most pop listeners. But this one sounds sooooo good.

The 7/8 time is an essential contribution to the feeling of instability and imbalance of the song. And this helps deliver the impact of heartbreak and disappointment very well. I always have this picture in my head - an injured soldier limping along – whenever I hear this song =)

So if the opening electric guitar, circling within the melodic range of 2nd and 3rd,  is the dead end, the drum set is an injured soldier limping along, the sparse notes of the keyboard are the distant sounds you hear on the battlefield, the harsh electronic mass of sounds is your overwhelming emotion, the splashes of drums and cymbals towards the end are the bombs, is break up a battle? ^^”

I always go back to this album for the sad songs. They are very well written and addictive.

Nell 넬 / Vol. 5 ” Slip Away” / Track 1 / Released April 2012

TVXQ – “Magic Castle”

It has been almost three years since I last wrote. One reason for not posting is that youtube videos are constantly being taken down, so what I say about the music becomes meaningless if readers (if any) do not have access to the songs. But still, I will just say what I want to say, even if no one reads it ^^, since Kpop is so much more interesting than the cantopop crap that Hong Kong people have to put up with =b

Reading my last post about TVXQ in 2010, it is sad to realize that the singing career of JYJ is worse than what I expected – live performance not allowed in TV music shows, no more exciting dance numbers on par with what they had at SM. Everytime I listen to “Maximum” and “Catch me”, I cannot help but think what could have been.

Still, I could understand why JYJ would prefer to stand on their own feet, despite losing the protection of a big company like SM, as I myself quit a job with good, regular pay three years ago in pursuit of doing something more fulfilling but quite unstable. Perhaps it is the wishful thinking of fans that idol groups should stay together forever. Look at SS501. Apart from Kim Hyun Joong, I do not know what the other four members are doing now. The shell life of idol groups is extremely short in Korea. Both TVXQ (5 members) and SS501 lasted for 6 years. Big Bang has been around for 7 years now, but apart from Tae Yang, I am not impressed with the singing skills of the group at all. I guess it is a clever strategy of JYPE and its associated companies to simultaneously raise several boy groups. Not putting all gold eggs in one basket, just so that no one group becomes so successful to think that they can leave the company and survive on their own. But the downside to it is, we have a long wait for one hit to come out from a group. Last hit from 2PM (“Hands Up”) was released one and a half years ago. So was “Fiction” from B2ST.

I have a soft spot for SM artistes, to be accurate, their songwriters, as they tend to produce music with warm harmony and complexity. I will listen to their songs again and again just to figure out the different sounds they use and how they are related to the overall musical texture. Talented singers are great, but if they do not associate themselves with good songwriters, they will not last long in the music scene.

I am happy Yoochun does great in acting, and Jaejoong, to a lesser extent. I hope Junsu is happy doing musicals and singing for OSTs, and hopefully this will open up new opportunities for him.  Rather than being successful by following the formula set out by a big, powerful company, following one’s heart is more important. I sincerely wish them all success :)

Back to TVXQ’s “Magic Castle” (…finally). It is clever for Yoochun’s recent drama “I Miss You” to incorporate the song into the drama plot. It is the alarm ringtone of both Soo Yeon and Jung Woo. Since all hits during Yoochun’s TVXQ’s days belong to SME, “Magic Castle” is perhaps the only song with no copyright problems. TVXQ covered the song in 2004 in their Christmas album. “Magic Castle” was orignally released by The Classic in 1994.

Here is the live performance of the song by TVXQ at their 2006 concert. Sigh* The good old memories…

Merry Christmas and happy new year to everyone. Enjoy the video =)

TVXQ – “Stop the time”

A lovely Japanese ballad, taking after their previous winter single “Forever Love”, which has yet to release. Would really like to see them perform the song live, but we just don’t know if they will stay together in the end.

Personally, I think SM Entertainment has the best songwriters in Korea. If they really leave the company, they will lose all the hits to their juniors in SME. All other big record labels have their own boy groups to promote. If they want to set up their own company, they will need to have their own batch of top notch composers work for them, in order to succeed like Rain. Compare recent hits from DBSK and SS501. “Purple Line” and “Mirotic” sound much more interesting than “Ur Man” and “Love like this” for me. Their album sales also say a lot. Having the best songwriters is very important.

Leaving SME will surely affect their career in Korea. All I hope is both parties manage to strike a deal which is acceptable to everyone. It’s best for the company to revise all contracts with its artistes to avoid more lawsuits coming. But look, SME is already pushing SHINee to the China market soon after news of Han Kyung broke. From the company’s point of view, Super Junior (at least, KRY) will be able to make it as big as TVXQ in the end. Because every group it produced was given the same formula to success – catchy tune, cool dance and the right amount of media exposure. From H.O.T. to SHinhwa, Fly to the Sky to TVXQ, Super Junior to SHINee, has any boy groups SME produced failed?

My speculation would be that the trio left SME, with the group releasing only Japanese songs only. Well, their Japanese releases aren’t bad at all, so at least, it’s better than a disbandment. In attempt to curb further lawsuits against the management, it’s likely that SME will not bow to its artistes’ demand, no matter how fair and reasonable that is. No problems to the trio. They will fare well sticking together or going solo. Hope SME will let the remaining duo lead a new group, like Yamashita Tomohisa to NEWS, as a reward for their loyalty.

Although I am not a fan, I wish for them to stay together. There is a reason why the company put them together in the first place – They complement one another.

時を止めて