Favorite Albums of 2018 (So Far)

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In which I fulfill my dream of being a music writer, and share my favorite albums of 2018’s first half in no particular order…

Positive

Artist: Pentagon

Genres: Kpop; Khip-hop

Release Date: April 2

Favorite Tracks: Do it for Fun; Shine; Off-Road

In the past, I’ve never been able to fall in love with Pentagon’s B-side tracks, and thus the rest of their albums. Although their title tracks always stand out I’ve been underwhelmed by the rest of the songs. Positive changed that. Each and every song on this album is magical, from the infectious and high-energy Shine, to the gritty hip-hop line’s Do it for Fun, to the acoustic choir infused Let’s Do it Together and every track in between. It’s an all around good-feeling album that explores a plethora of different sounds.

The Kids Are Alright

Artist: Chloe X Halle

Genres: R&B; Indie

Release Date: March 23

Favorite Tracks: Happy Without Me; Baby on a Plane; Fake

I’ve been a fan of this sister duo since they were doing covers on YouTube. Now that they’ve released an EP, mixtape, and now full-length studio album under Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, I can say I’m still a fan. We are graced with Chloe’s melodiously deep alto and Halle’s piercingly bright soprano that compliment each other so well. The Kids Are Alright is an album that’s decidedly Generation Z. Rather than fitting into the mold of traditional R&B, it dips into Indie, Hip-Hop, and even Rock at some points. Lyrically, Chloe x Halle exemplify our upcoming generation with lyrics that moan about a broken society but ultimately believe that “there are still cool people in the world”.

 

Blooming Days

Artist: EXO-CBX

Genres: Kpop; Kr&b

Release Date: April 10

Favorite Tracks: Sweet Dreams; Thursday; Blooming Day

Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin have been a dynamic trio since the beginning of EXO’s first sub-unit. Blooming Days, however, really drives home just how much musical chemistry they have. The album’s days-of-the-week concept is fresh without feeling contrived and the decidedly R&B direction feels just right for this sub-unit. There are slow melancholy tracks like Monday, sweet laid back tracks like Playdate, and of course those classic EXO flirty numbers like Blooming Day and Vroom Vroom. Each member gets to shine in his own unique way and we get a front-row seat to see who EXO-CBX truly is.

 

Lost & Found

Artist: Jorja Smith

Genres: R&B; Soul

Release Date: June 8

Favorite Tracks: Teenage Fantasy; Blue Lights; Don’t Watch Me Cry

When I first heard Jorja Smith’s voice I was instantly hooked on her deep soulful tone. Her music reminded me of Adele’s: longing, mournful, and tinged with heartbreak. But it was charged with wokeness and social commentary. Lost & Found continues in that vein. But not only do we hear her beautiful tones we hear expert lyricism especially in her Lifeboats Freestyle. Each track is unique in it’s lyrics and music but they paint a cohesive picture because of the longing that is evident in each. Longing for lost love, satisfying truth, and a just world.

 

Love Yourself Tear

Artist: BTS

Genres: Kpop; Kr&b; Khip-hop

Release Date: May 18

Favorite Tracks: The Truth Untold; Paradise; Anpanman

In this 3rd studio album from BTS we get the best elements of the first two: that hip-hop aggression of Dark & Wild, and that introspective longing of Wings. This album shows the growth of BTS while still staying within that beautiful “Bangtan style”. This is exemplified subtly in how Suga whispers his name before his verses, how the intro track is completely in Korean, and how we have past and current songs connected like Attack on Bangtan and Anpanman. Although this release isn’t a concept album, it still stays committed to it’s theme of exploring the dark side of love. Thus, the album is decidedly darker in tone than Love Yourself: Her, with more of an R&B leaning. It explores Latin pop sounds in Airplane pt. 2, a tasteful use of autotune in Outro: Tear, and bumping electronic beats in Paradise. Tear also provides a space for every single member to shine, I definitely hear the vocalists’ growth in conveying emotion, and the rappers’ growth in embracing and honing their distinct style. Lyrically, BTS uses inspiration from folklore, fairytales, and personal experiences to craft a world in which we can loose ourselves.

 

Check out the playlist here:

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

 

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Kpop Comebacks Review –September

Kpop comebacks were lit this month, so I thought it would be fun to review some that I watched/listened to and enjoyed. I’m evaluating the music videos in five categories: concept, aesthetics/cinematography, fashion/beauty, choreography, and song. I’ll be discussing my thoughts in each of these categories, giving a one to five rating in each one, and then granting an overall score out of a possible 25.
BAP: Honeymoon

Concept: This video sparked lots of questions for me as it refers to the concept. Why is Yongguk’s hand bleeding? Why is Zelo trapped in the dark while the other members are on the island? And what’s with the TV in the forest? If y’all have any answers to these questions or if you can direct me to a fan theory that does, definitely comment below. Anyway, I enjoyed the classy/elegant concept in this video. (3)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: Scenery wise, this MV was probably the most stunning I’ve ever seen. I believe it was filmed on Jeju Island and I appreciate the move from a warehouse/garage/set that most groups tend to go for to an outdoor area. The aerial shots were killer and the editing was on point. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Mullets reigned in this concept, and I have to say I am not a fan. I didn’t like the way Yongguk’s hair was styled at the table scene in the end but in the forest parts it was cool. Youngjae gets props for looking classy and not succumbing to the mullet pressure. And the all white end looks truly saved the day. (2)

Choreography: There was no dance at all in the MV, not even a head bop, but a couple of days later we received a lit dance practice. Jongup definitely came to slay this choreo with Michael Jackson-esque moves and he came mullet-less yay! The synchronicity is on point and the sweeping line dance move in the first chorus floors me every single time. Unfortunately, this video is an excellent example of a Kpop pet peeve of mine: unnecessary back-up dancers. All the members were trained in and are competent in dance. Why do we need extra people to muddy the waters? (4)

Song: With a breezy, chill feel, this song quickly became a current favorite of mine. The whistling at the beginning and the chord changes in the bridge are wonderful. Jongup’s vocal performance was flawless . I was also intrigued by the position of Yongguk’s rap, putting it at the end rather than in a verse was a nice touch. (5)

Total: 19

Pentagon –Like This

Concept: Parking lots and apples? I don’t really know but there seems to be pain and difficulty here, especially looking at the lyrics with the video. (2)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: I like the use of different locations and lighting techniques. Also E’Dawn’s car scene displayed excellent angles. (4)

Fashion/Beauty: Pentagon is a group where generally all the members look amazing in many concepts. Jinho with blonde hair worked and Yan An lived up to his status as official visual. Wooseok with a hat was a look, but underneath the hat his fluffy, shaggy hair cut irritates me to no end. Bangs don’t suit Yeo One well in my opinion but he rocked them considering. The real star in the visual department for me this comeback (and kind of every comeback) is Yuto da! His black parted hair is my favorite look of his so far, it really frames his face well and looks natural. (4)

Choreography: The amazingly talented Kino choreographed this dance and he killed it. In terms of choreography it’s probably my favorite of the September comebacks, yes, even over BTS’ DNA. Like This showcases a powerful yet graceful style that I admire. It’s nice to see such emotionally charged choreograpy like this (see what I did there). The use of slow motion at the bridge is masterfully done so it doesn’t seem cheesy. My absolute favorite move is the one in the chorus at “weonan dan hanaye becheul” it expertly shows all the emotion in that line through movement, so even before I looked up the English lyrics I could sense the desperation and determination. (5)

Song: This song is essentially about determination “Even if I fall and my knees bleed, I’ll keep on running like this.” It’s a beautiful message backed by a beautiful vocal performance. The line distribution is impeccable, especially for a ten member group and the ratio of rap to vocal doesn’t feel uneven at all. I especially love how the positioning of E’Dawn’s energetic rap breaks up the songs mellow feel. (5)

Total: 20

BTS –DNA

Concept: This concept is fun and bright but with enough of a hardcore feel. It’s perfectly and totally Bangtan. (4)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: The camera angles at the beginning of JK’s whistle, the use of shadow in the choreo scenes, and the vibrant colors make this MV pop. It’s an excellent example of gorgeous cinematography, all you artists need to get a pen and take a seat. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Taehyung with gray hair, Jungkook with a part again, Yoongi somehow slaying powder blue, Jin’s black hair making an appearance, and Namjoon with rust colored hair made this a lit era. J-Hope’s color was nice but the bangs aren’t my favorite. Let me know if you want to sign my petition: Bring Back Hoseok’s Forehead. Jimin’s “noodle” hair looked rather strange to me even though it was poppin’ in Serendipity. In terms of fashion, Tae gets an award for best dressed but I love Kookie’s silk shirt and Yoongi’s tank and button down combo (which I recreated here). Honestly, all the looks were lit in this MV, even Hoseok’s jersey over sweatshirt look grew on me. (4)

Choreography: We saw classic Bangtan with pelvic thrusts and head bopping, but we saw lots of fresh takes on the choreograpy. Taehyung did a sweet solo, Jin was the center in a dance scene (he’s come so far), and J-Hope slayed the ending. I love the part where they link hands in a formation and the ending “la, la” dance especially. (5)

Song: This song is so catchy. Everyone shines with JK slaying pre-chorous, Tae singing in his low register, Jimin’s breathy vocal coming through, and Jin’s sweet soft voice. Our rap line came with it too: J-Hope’s excited tone and Namjoon’s aggressive one contrast perfectly. Yoongi rapped a lot in this song and I couldn’t be happier, and there’s nothing more adorable than his pronunciation of “real love”. The bass line was poppin, especially in the second verse, and the whistling of the melody was an ingenious way to make sure that every single ARMY is hypnotized by this bop. One of my favorite things about older eras of Bangtan was Jungkook rapping and we got our golden maknae showing his gifts once again in this song, and no I didn’t forget about our Chim Chim because he slayed his rap too. I can’t forget that Namjoon and Yoongi co-wrote this song. I’m so proud, BTS fighting! (5)

Total: 23

I watched a lot of comebacks in September so if you want to see a part 2 featuring B1A4, EXO, Lay, and others comment down below. Also be sure to tell me your thoughts on these comebacks if you’ve seen them and if you haven’t tell me your favorite song release of September, Kpop or otherwise.
Stay fly,
~Akilah