(aka the real reason I launched this blog)
So, here we are, rebooting my 2019 Music Log, which I started on Twitter. For my newer readers or those who didn’t follow me from Twitter, this was a Twitter thread in which I decided to review what I was listening to. Last year, it was mostly metal album reviews; this year, it seems I’ve turned to K-Pop singles, discussing an occasional metal album here and there.
While I enjoyed doing this thread very much, I decided that I wanted to change things up for a couple of reasons. First, navigation was a nightmare. The thread was at roughly 200 tweets long, meaning if I wanted to dig up something from March I’d have to sift through a lot of stuff. More than that, I found my chosen two-tweet format limiting. Some songs I didn’t feel like discussing for more than one tweet. Other songs I really wanted to dive into in more detail. With me deciding to be more proactive in pursuing my creative interests, I’ve decided (with some encouragement/prodding from friends) to launch this blog, and to take the Music Log here.
First major change: I’ve decided to somewhat try and deflate the ratings. Followers of my previous thread may notice that I handed out a lot of 4s. I grade like a teacher, partly because I am one, so I like to give high scores. This also goes with my philosophy of generally trying to see the good/enjoy in music, though of course with a critical ear. However, as a result I find that I’ve given a lot of songs 4s even though my enjoyment levels over these vary rather wildly. Thus, I’ve decided to move with a working average-to-good song rating of 3.5, moving everything else appropriately. This decision is effective now, but will not affect older ratings. I’m too lazy to revisit five months’ worth of reviews, and I’ve already revisited most of them anyway.
(Speaking of which: I will, however, continue doing a revisited feature, albeit slightly tweaked. I’ll focus less on amending older reviews and more on recapping what grew on me from the last month. More on this on the 15th of July.)
Anyway, without further ado, here is the rebooted 2019 Music Log!
Note: Before anyone asks, I’m not gonna cover any of the BTS World songs yet; I’ve figured I’ll do a full breakdown/review of the album once it comes out in its entirety. I’m still gonna post my Map of the Soul: Persona review (not-really-spoiler: I like it) at some point. I’m really backlogged with regards to album reviews, and I hope to be able to fix this soon.
Red Velvet, “Zimzalabim” (3.5/5)
I don’t mind messy in my pop music (I will fight to the death for songs like “Wolf” and “I Got A Boy”) but I do prefer, if not a proper chorus, some central melody amidst the chaos. That said, the chanted titular refrain is not quite it. I get the purpose and even the appeal, but within the framework of the song it serves as example #22537689 of the trap-inspired, momentum-killing chorus that has infested modern American pop music, and now K-Pop. (The background chimes sadly do not help it.) Otherwise, though, there’s a lot to like about this song. The melodic parts are reliably infectious, the electro house dance break is a nice infusion of energy, the vocals in the bridge are spectacular, and the spirited final chorus is one I wish they’d utilized more throughout the song.
Stray Kids, “Side Effects” (3.5/5)
Had I dropped a review for this one the same day I listened to it I would probably have given it a 2.5. This song is rather inscrutable, alienating even for the first few spins, but a pulsating bassline and some subtle hooks reward the persistent listener. It is still a little too stop-and-go for my liking, and I still prefer “Miroh” and its galvanizing melody, but this is a daring piece of music that has won me over.
SF9, “RPM” (3.5/5)
It seems like SF9 heard all my complaints about their last comeback and quickly fixed them. The needless Auto-Tune is mostly gone. They’ve replaced the languid reggae-esque verses with some chugging electric guitar. They do come in with a rather jarring drop that had me mouthing the chorus of J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” over it for some reason, but they do actually follow it up with a proper sung chorus, something I wish more artists would do! This isn’t quite as anthemic as “Now Or Never,” but this is on the good side of the SF9 releases I’ve heard.
Lay, “Honey” (1.5/5)
I admire Lay’s work as one of EXO’s vocalists, but his solo material just hasn’t been for me. That said, last year’s “Namanana” was pretty nice. This one throws away all the goodwill that one built up with me, somehow managing to be both forgettable and incredibly obnoxious at the same time. The repetitive and rather corny music box leitmotif is grating enough, and his disaffected delivery isn’t helping keep my interest, but the random “skrrting” is the final nail in the coffin. I’ve forgiven boy groups for doing it like once or twice in an otherwise good song, but Lay took it way too far. I don’t really see myself returning to this.
Twice, “Breakthrough” (4/5)
I’m a fan of Twice’s upbeat concepts, but this is absolutely a style I want them to explore further. Those gorgeous harmonies, that sultry chorus, that brassy instrumental that is edgy enough to be exciting without succumbing to trendiness. It vaguely reminds me of some of my favorite Mamamoo material. While I’m not sure I’d really call it a breakthrough, I really enjoy this.
Twice, “Happy Happy” (3.5/5)
This is lighthearted summer fun that thankfully doesn’t go into “BDZ”-esque cloying territory. It’s not the showstopper that last year’s “What Is Love” was, and it doesn’t have the knockout moment that defines Twice’s best work, but it’s more than adequate.
Somi, “Birthday” (2.5/5)
Congratulations to Somi for finally debuting! Now she gets to put out a disappointing drop chorus like everyone else. The rest of the song is fine, promising even (though I could do without some of the Meghan Trainor-isms) but based on this and his other recent material it seems that Teddy has forgotten how to write an actual chorus. What a shame.
Monsta X feat. French Montana, “Who Do U Love?” (4/5)
I’m really not sure that I want Monsta X to keep doing this style (as big a fan as I am of it), but do they pull it off. French Montana’s rap verse is awkward, clunky, and has the annoying skrrting noises I complained about above, to the point that I can’t help but imagine if one of the group’s very capable rappers had just taken that verse instead, but the pleasant side effect of this otherwise superfluous feature is that we get to hear I.M and Joohoney sing, and they’re not bad at it. Everyone who knows my retro instincts would figure out that this is bait for me, and I am absolutely taking it.
Ateez, “Illusion” (3.5/5)
The easygoing, sing-songy even chorus is just so ridiculously sticky. It’s the kind of slurred, Auto-Tuned singing that can get irritating, but the melody is so hooky that I forgive it that. Other than that it’s a straightforward hip-hop song, but a more than adequate one.
Ateez, “Wave” (3/5)
I feel that “Illusion” is the better track, as this is too tropical pop for my liking, but this song got them their first win, so I can’t really complain. Besides, the square wave synth in the prechorus is awesome, and they have the charisma to pull this off.
Taylor Swift, “You Need To Calm Down” (3/5)
Lorde’s “Royals” is a decent song, but I don’t think it needed to be remade, let alone repackaged into a different track, this soon.
Speaking of remakes. I love Lee Siyeon. That’s it. Seriously, this might be my new favorite special clip of theirs. While her “Faded” cover is close to my heart and has helped me recruit a few new InSomnia, this one is a far better showcase of her vocals, especially her criminally underutilized lower range. I’ve been pretty loud about emphasizing that songwriting is more important to me than vocal talent or technical ability, but Dreamcatcher have long had both in spades anyway, and I think they’d definitely be a bit worse off without the bonafide rock star main vocal/goddess that Siyeon is, so I’ll let her flex on all of you here.
And that’s it for the first episode of the 2019 Music Log! See you all… not sure when I intend to write another one. Maybe Friday, but no promises. I don’t know yet.