ITZY (있지) | GUESS WHO

Guess who is back? It’s not Koda Kumi back to do an anime opening for Black Clover, no! IT’z ITZY!

Making their return after their fandom-related release, “MIDZY”, the five-member girl crush group is back to slay the game with the new release “GUESS WHO“. It’s a release that’s been long coming, with their last girl-crush concept being that of “Not Shy”, which I reviewed last year to rave reviews (I’m not shy to say I’m an ITZY stan). This time the girls tackle an even fiercer concept, joining the Korean mafia with this aesthetically-pleasing release. Knowing they have the ability to put a hit on the general public, I’m sure they have the potential to be respected mafias as time goes on.

That said, the girls also brought a bevy of new tracks to keep us on our toes, having their fans guess who, out of the six tracks including the title release, is the true hit-maker. Is it the mafia in the morning? Or is it something more along the lines of… tennis? You’ll have to read on!

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倖田來未 | 4 hot wave

Let’s travel back to 2006… I was literally graduating junior high school. Can you believe it’s been 15 years since then?! I’m old. Old enough to know when Koda Kumi hit the peak of her career, a time of fashion choices that were deemed cool and sexy (that I can safely say are now questionable, lol), and a time when J-pop music felt so fresh, so fun, so free (no, it really did!).

Having just finished promoting the hell out of her 12 singles of Christmas between the tail end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 and managing to set some records for that project’s best album, all eyes were on Princess Kumi from the Kingdom of the Clouds (heeeeello Candy feat. Mr.Blistah). It wouldn’t be very long for Kuu to whip up a new release following all the hype, and this time, she decided to go big… 4 A-sides. You heard correctly! Not like it hadn’t been done before, but Kuu was gifting us, feeding the hungry and the gays. The release was in the form of a quadruple A-side single, all fitting the theme of summer, which would eventually become a staple way for her to release anything summer (and thank the goddesses for that, because a Kumi summer is HAWT).

That said, this was the first of many, but was “4 hot wave” worth the hype? Was it indeed as hot as “hot waves” can get? Or was this just a lukewarm wave? I mean, you gotta love Engrish, but I don’t know for sure until we get to the review, so read on!

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STAYC (스테이씨) | Star To A Young Culture

While 2020 wasn’t necessarily a great year for all of us, no matter how many times I say it (and remind ourselves), there were still some shining glimmers of hope in the K-pop community. Some bands disbanded, some companies had to fold under, but others persevered, and 2020 became a year where debuts kept pumping out one by one.

STAYC is one of those debuts, coming from High Up Entertainment, a company founded by the producer duo Black Eyed Pilsung (and I know you’re thinking about some way that formed from Black Eyed Peas… that’s irrelevant, lol). The duo is a huge force in K-pop, having produced hits for the likes of TWICE via “TT” and CHUNG HA for “Roller Coaster”. Following the likes of Shinsadong Tiger and Brave Brothers, the pair formed their own executively-produced group. And the hype is real for STAYC, with two actresses already on the team, and their previews showcasing a group filled with visuals… it isn’t hard to believe they can go big.

Their first effort, appropriately acronym’d like the Korean-English way it is, “Star To A Young Culture“, looks to make these girls stars to, well, the younger culture. But is this teen-pop girl-group actually accessible to everyone including an oldie second-gen K-pop stan like myself, or is it merely just kiddy fodder? Read on!

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ENHYPEN | BORDER : CARNIVAL

I’ll be making more of an effort to review some newer releases, as well, and to kick things off, I’ll be taking a look at HYBE’s new boy group ENHYPEN, formed through the reality competition I-LAND. They had a debut that wowed me (and frankly, that review will be coming, lol), and I’ve had my attention on them going forward. There’s some anticipation here for this review, especially because the boys continue with the horror concept that was introduced in their first effort; you know I love me some horror concepts!

Their first comeback mini-album is titled “BORDER : CARNIVAL“, which, based on previews, takes the boys into a more party-like territory than the dark lonely feel of their previous effort, but it still has some spooky blood drenched all over it (the aesthetics are also the chef’s kiss).

With this mini-album, the boys attempt to elevate their border series to carnival status, but is this going to be bloody brilliant or is this just all dried up with nothing for us to get our fangs on?

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라니아 | Time To Rock Da Show

With the resurgence of Brave Girls and other girl groups now receiving some form of attention in the Korean pop music universe, I thought it was about time to dig up some old tracks to go through myself! Better yet, I thought it was even more appropriate to dig up some of the old Brave Brothers-produced tracks for review.

Having been of the second generation fanbase for Korean pop music, it is no surprise I know a lot of the tracks produced by Brave Brothers, even the ones earlier than AOA. Dude’s been around since BIGBANG’s first few dents into K-pop, and now he continues to be a household name due in part to his work with his own girl group Brave Girls. But back in 2011, he was all over the place, and it didn’t take long before Teddy Riley’s own girl group RaNia took a piece of the Brave cake.

Released in 2011, RaNia decides to “rock da show” with a track from Mr. Brothers himself, but is this a grand ‘pop pop pop’ song from the mini “Time To Rock Da Show“, or is it time to say ‘goodbye’ to any chances of you listening to them even in 2021? Jesus, that’s 10 years ago too…

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倖田來未 | real Emotion / 1000の言葉

K, U, M, I in position… it’s showtime, girls!

For a big chunk of indeterminate time, I’ll be reviewing some old Koda Kumi stuff, as if I haven’t already reviewed a huge chunk of her stuff! Joking aside, I have revisited Final Fantasy X-2 recently, mostly because I’ve been on a huge gaming kick, and I recall a time when I would only play that particular game for its opening sequence… because Final Fantasy and J-pop? Who could have ever thought?!

Released by the one and only ero-kakkoii Best Jeans-winner herself, Queen Koda Kumi, “real Emotion / 1000の言葉” is the single that finally put her into the spotlight, and both songs are featured in the game, with the second A-side making its appearance as a cutscene that, yes, helps you get 100% in the game (…it’s a required cutscene, don’t fret). With that said, is the single all it’s chalked up to be, or was wee 10-year-old me just too gay to realize each song’s true quality? Read on!

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宇多田ヒカル | One Last Kiss

It’s been 14 years!

Crazy to believe that the Evangelion rebuilds are finally coming to an end, but alas, here we are. With this end comes an end to the collaboration efforts between Utada Hikaru and the series, as well. You may be familiar with Hikki’s works with Kingdom Hearts but if you don’t know about her efforts with Eva… where have you been?! Jokes aside, Utada Hikaru’s work with Eva is one filled with lyrics of love, beauty, and her sound is that of an etherealness that is reminiscent of her works in the mid-00s.

Her final release with the project comes in the form of a mini-album, with one new track, a rehash of an old Eva song, and remasters of all her tie-ins. “One Last Kiss” is the title of the new song and is meant to signify one last effort – but will it be worth it in the end? Is this one last kiss one for the books? Let’s check it out!

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NiziU | Take a picture / Poppin’ Shakin’

Let’s take a break from Brave Girls to give NiziU the small artist spotlight for April!

If you haven’t already heard about or even listened to a song from NiziU, where you have you been?! Formed from reality competition program Nizi Project (and no, you’re reading it correctly… there’s no A), crafted by South Korea’s very own *whispers* JYP of JYP Entertainment, NiziU made a huge (and by huge, I mean 300,000 sales worth) dent in the Japanese music industry, effectively turning the group into… well, the nation’s girl group, lol (though that’s up to how you wanna see it; that’s just me).

NiziU makes their return with their second major single, a double A-side with two tracks that has JYP makings written all over it. Titled “Take a picture / Poppin’ Shakin’“, each track is bound to get the Japanese public going, but are these selfies going to turn out just right on the first try? Will they be poppin’ and shakin’ or are they just poppin’ chicken (so stupid, I’m sorry)? Let’s take a look!

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브레이브걸스 | 유후 (우린 아직 여름)

Next up on the Brave Girls spotlight is a song that many people don’t actually know is part of their discography, hidden amongst their more recent releases. That song is “Yoo Hoo“, a summer jam that will have you thinking back to the fond days of when SISTAR and AOA ruled the charts as ‘summer queens’. Brave Girls, on the heels of their rolling success with “Rollin'”, has declared that they would like to be the next ‘summer queens’ to rule the charts, having already made waves with the almost-summery-like tracks “Rollin'” and “We Ride”.

“Yoo Hoo” might just be a precursor to the kinds of full-on summer tunes that Brave Girls will be releasing come the next few months, but is “Yoo Hoo” a knock-out track worth yoo-hooing too, or is it too cold for us to take a dip? Read on!

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