I’m aware that I’ve not review many other songs. Therefore, as a way to catch up, I’m introducing a new monthly series where I will be reviewing Korean ballads. Why Ballads you ask? Ballads have been a big trend in Korean pop music for the past few years and there are at least three ballads that comes out every week. Which is why I thought it would makes much more sense if I just compile it in one post (however, there might be some exceptions where any particular ballad is worth reviewing in a standalone post). Do note that I’m not always to going to review every Korean ballad because that would require further determination and I’m not up to that level yet. So here’s your first post of the new series.
Note: This includes ballads from June and the few months prior.
Note #2: These are just my opinion so if you wanna get salty over it, it’s your choice. I’m writing this mainly for myself.
GDragon – Untitled, 2014
Artists who self-compose their own songs are to be commendable but there are times when they also need to be be criticised when it’s due. It always occurred to me that artists who went ‘deep’ come off as awfully pretentious. Here’s the thing, it’s not wrong when an artist wants to go personal with their music but you gotta sound right at the very least. GD’s song here just sounds as cliche and bland as any Korean ballad out there let alone if it’s even that special. Not only that, when he couldn’t be bothered to think of a better title of his supposedly ‘deep’ song, he’s probably not that dedicated to make his song special either. Stick to making another “Crooked” or even any of your dumb ‘swag’ songs, GD.
Nam Taehyun (South Club) – Hug Me
Here’s another YG artist- oops, I mean, former YG artists ahem. Nam Taehyun, the reason why you had to leave YG is because YG had some musical standards even at their low quality. Winner hasn’t been that much impressive but they’re still recognisable as a YG group just for their core sounds. I even thought GD’s latest ballad is still a YG ballad no matter how bland it sounds. And then we have Nam Taehyun who, like GD, is so focused on making his song ‘deep’ with his vocal and lyrics that the song is buried so deep under millions of other Korean ballads out there. I know you Taehyun fans out there are gonna be super pissy about me criticising your oppa but if it’s not for his connection with YG, you all gonna passed him up as just another Kpop nobody. And for the record, I’m not hating on Taehyun or anyone in Kpop, I know he’s a talented artist and credit should be given when it’s due but so is criticism. If he wanna hug then I guessed he deserved to be given one…by a gorilla of course.
2NE1 – Goodbye
Now that we’re seeing big groups disbanding, the latest Kpop trend is to throw out cheesy farewell ballads. There are other similar songs out there but I’m gonna put out 2NE1 just because they were first to do it. I always thought that if you’re about to disband, the best thing you could do for a ‘farewell’ song is to release something blasting. You wanna feel like you’re ending on a high note as opposed to slowly dying (which is true for 2NE1 because they haven’t been that much exciting after their peak early 2010s era). Indeed, seeing 2NE1 ending on such a wimpy ballad makes me feel sorry for them like seeing lonely dying Kittens. I don’t think they’ve ended on their own terms either because it’s their new clone group BlackPink that gave the Coup De Grace on their sister with their decent exciting songs. Damn, talk about replacing your own group YG. All in all, it’s sad to see some groups that had to be disbanded but cashing on the the sentiment with a cheesy ballad is just plain cheap and boring. Goodbye indeed, hopefully with this trend.
Sechkies – Be Well
I promised this will be the last YG artist I’m reviewing in this post and hey it’s not my fault if they keep throwing out ballads. Sechkies had a reasonably decent upbeat song but decided to also release this dull sentimental song just to balances out their comeback flavour. I guess it’s pleasant enough to be listened to while you’re waiting for your latte at your local Starbucks but so is the sound of your latte brewing. Also, the title of this song is referring to me being sick of hearing ballads just to write this post but hey, anything for an entertaining reading.
Onew X Rocoberry – Lullaby
It can be said that SMStation is a rubbish bin for SM rejected songs which is why it’s mainly consist of ballads and R&Bs (yes, there are exceptions) that probably would (or rather wouldn’t) fit on any of their artists’ album but decided to give it a full promotion anyway. “Lullaby’ is well pleasant enough with minimalist instruments and reasonable vocals that doesn’t overcooked the whole song but like any real lullaby, you’re probably best listening to this when you start yawning to sleep.
Jonghyun Ft. Taeyeon – Lonely
When your own artist fully release a ballad that would have been easily goes into SMStation, it kinda makes SMStation redundant in a way (and this isn’t the only one either). It feels like “Oh hey! You have listened to 37 of our SMStation ballads? Here’s another one except this is much more ‘special’ so therefore we don’t need to release it as SMStation track”. Look, the reason why Jonghyun’s songwriting doesn’t hold up to the masses is because nobody wants to listen to this except for hardcore Jonghyun and Taeyeon fans. I’m sure Jonghyun’s a talented artist but let’s look at it this way, if it wasn’t for his contribution then nobody would have try to like this song either. As selfish as I am, try again Jonghyun.
So Jung (Ladies Code) – Better Than Me
Yep at least you got the title right. Right off the bat, you kinda already know it’s gonna be a sentimental song because that’s all Ladies Code gonna be ever since their accident. I’m not disrespecting their horrible tragedy but if you keep on releasing sentimental songs, it kinda feels suspicious that you just wanna cash in the sentimental of the tragedy. It just feels uncomfortable and forceful to feel pity for them. Moreover, just because someone release a song in relation to a particular tragedy doesn’t make it extra good if it’s not good in the first place. To be fair, as I’m more concerned of the quality of the song itself rather than the background of it, you could release a sentimental song all you want but make it sound good to my ears at the very least.
Richard Parkers – Today
It wouldn’t be unfair if I keep on crapping on the mainstream artists so here’s a nobody with a ballad that sucks just as much as everyone else. Half of this song is R&B but it’s still a ballad regardless. You know, this guy is kinda giving this pretentious hipster vibe just because he has this lame neck tattoo but looks like any other cuckboy while trying to sound so smooth and whatever. I say the fictional tiger with the same name sounds much better when he’s taking a rough dump. Not today but maybe tomorrow, or the day after, maybe not at all.
WeAreYoung – Truth
I’m so glad JIN or any of my bias hasn’t done anything sucky for a while (except for some of Kei’s recent stuff) which saves me some embarrassment. Of course I would have to crap on them too if they were to released some awful songs because despite my bias-ness, I’m fairly critical when it comes to music from any group (as of this writing, I have yet to review any of Lovelyz recent songs but it will come eventually). While I do have more sympathy for the Kpop ‘nobodies’, they still would share the same guilt as any of the mainstream group if their song sucks. Although as horrible it sounds when I’m criticising a nugu group, the attention that is given to them by me would benefit them more for extra exposure. And you can’t call me a hipster either because I still criticised the nugus whereas real hipster would pretend to like them anyway no matter how sucky their song is (and I do love some mainstream Kpop songs).
Green Face Ft. Liah – Morning Sun
Hey you wanna how to make your ballad extra cheesier? Just drop in a couple of your wedding photos. I’m sure you’ll become extra deep as a result and everyone will care about your personal happy time. Wait, how about singing in duet because it will greatly shows how great your love is for each other. Just don’t complain to me once you get divorce and you feel embarrassed about this song later on.
ISU – Sequence
I know I’ve been way to negative on this review so it’s time to up my positive game. Here’s why “Sequence” works better than the songs above. The instrument is kept at minimal for the first part of the song which is important for ballad progression. You only get to hear more instruments as the song progresses and it’s a perfect buildup to the climax of the song. There is also breath of space in between some parts of the song and the vocal melody is perfectly acceptable. My favourite part of this song though is the piano just because I thought it laid the foundation of the song and it’s really catchy to listened to. I feel like this should be taught in Ballad 101 but I’m sure most Koreans would probably slept through the class.
KNK – Sun, Moon, Star
I’m sure most people would hate this song just because it ripped off Beast’s “12:30” (the group now had become Hightlight and they released a ballad this year but I refused to review it here) but you might as well attempt to improve on an already decent song. I say KNK got half of it right so Beast’s song is still better. KNK’s song has too much crowded noises put together and the melody is a bit bland. I still take this over most other ballads though.
Ashmute – Scenery
Here’s an example of a melancholy ballad done right. Like ISU’s song, the production is minimal at first and only adds up once the song progresses but that’s not the best part. What makes this song works for me is how impressive the haunting vocal melody is. It feel minimalistic yet has so much raw melancholy in it. The only downside is it lacks some ‘dynamics’ and even the climax isn’t that exciting when compared to other parts of the song but as far dark melancholy ballad goes, this is Korean at its best.
The Black Skirts – Who Do You love
What do you get when you combined a lullaby and a wedding song? You get a surprisingly great ballad and yes I just saved the best for the last. Even though I like this song so much, I feel like wanting to save a proper review of this song for another time. In the meantime, know that it got some real melody in it and the instrumentals are great despite being almost sound like any other ordinary wimpy ballads out there. This is the song that inspired me to write the K-Ballad review on the first place and if my opinion hasn’t changed later on, I might be able to explain my own personal feeling of this song. It’s a job well done.
So that’s it for this month’s ballad reviews. I deliberately skipped over some other songs because reviewing those songs will only add up to the negativity of this song. It is not my objective to show how edgy I am hating on particular songs nor do I want to convince you how much your favourites suck.
Hopefully you won’t get so upset over someone else’s opinion but if you do…