Wheesung and Bumkey - "How Much Is Your Love"
I have love-hate relationships with Bumkey and Wheesung -- Bumkey has hits and misses as a composer/producer, and I'm not that interested in Wheesung's material these days but he definitely deserves credit for "discovering" and training Ailee. So I didn't really think much of this new track, in fact I don't even know why I listened to it. But I'm really, really thankful that I did because "How Much Is Your Love" is a track that has the dimension and intensity that I constantly look for in most of Bumkey's productions, and almost never find. I initially thought it was just because of Wheesung, but the more I played the more I realized that it's really about the entire package. The silky smooth production quality, the pronounced dynamics of very rich instrumental choices, the gentle melodic sections and their treatment that really makes the vocals pop. This is the kind of brevity I've been looking for from Bumkey.
KARA - "MAMMAMIA"
Duble Sidekick is one of my favorite production teams because they worked wonders for SISTAR's "Give It To Me," among others, so I was excited for this KARA comeback. Plus the fact that I watched Kara Project so I was curious to see what Youngji brings to the group. But honestly, "MAMMAMIA" was a disappointment -- it's not so much that it's a bad song and I never want to hear it again, but that this sounds like Duble Sidekick trying too hard to make a Sweetune track without actually understanding what makes Sweetune such a genius at turning cheesy elements into strong pop songs. This is a mess. "MAMMAMIA" a mess when you listen to it because it whizzes back and forth so quickly -- transitions don't even have time to actually happen, like when the melodic parts overlap during the jump from the first chorus to the second verse. This is heightened even more by the fact that there's hardly any grace or subtlety to the individual parts to counter any of the intensity, unlike Sweetune productions -- the choruses are screechy and heavily double tracked, the verses sound rushed instead of urgent, and the chorus is just so, well, loud. Go back to Sweetune, please.
Ailee and Swings - "A Real Man"
As much as I love Ailee, her track record of non-EP collaborations hasn't been the best in my opinion. A collaboration with 2000Won, who were one of my favorites from the extremely talented Kpop Star 2 finalists, could have moved mountains and blown everyone away, but instead it was one of the cheesiest songs I've ever heard and completely underestimated that potentially powerhouse line-up. So when I heard of this collaboration with Swings (who she's collaborated with in the past) I wasn't expecting much -- but I'm so glad my expectations were exceeded, and more. My appreciation of rap has been a very slow process so far, but I think I've said recently that I've come to that point where I'm beginning to identify instances where I like and understand it. "A Real Man" is one of them. Because I'm primarily a melodic person, the main reasons I like the song are still Ailee's melodic parts -- Ailee's voice brings a feminine strength and dimension to the very graceful, pretty melody that's centered on a playful chord progression. (that's also used in the rap section!) But at the same time, the juxtaposition of the melodic lines against the rap makes both elements pop even more and creates a dynamic package -- I adore the melody but I listen to the song for everything, including the rap section. I've had this on loop since it came out!
SISTAR - "I Swear"
"I Swear" was a pretty sudden release -- we all thought "Touch My Body" was the SISTAR summer single, but then this other release was announced. The rest of the EP is pretty lazy though, just one other new song and a few lazy, repetitive "club" "remixes," so I kind of understand the plausibility of putting this release together. "I Swear" is okay as a song, it has its cheesy/cheap-sounding moments and at this point the trumpets are getting a bit overused. But in the realm of SISTAR summer singles it's probably the one I can tolerate the most, and it's yet another passable song made better by good production quality. In a sense that makes it more pretentious than "Touch My Body," whose blatant cheese works, but when I don't feel like going that far "I Swear" is a well-done compromise.
Royal Pirates - "Love Toxic"
I first heard of Royal Pirates through a friend of mine, Danice, when she submitted a review of "Drawing the Line" to The K-Pop Writers' Workshop. There's always room in my music library for good pop-rock bands who aren't ashamed of the pop side of things, and I do like venturing outside of idol groups once in a while (it's just that I don't know where to start!) -- and most of my favorite acts aren't actually considered "idols" in the traditional sense, like Younha. I looped the life out of "Shout Out" and the entire "Drawing The Line" EP, so when "Love Toxic" came out I made it a point to listen to the EP on a school night! I was all over the song for the first few listens, but the more I listened to it I got the impression that it lacks the depth of arrangement and instrumentation that most of the songs on "Drawing The Line" mastered. It's not really the production quality that's flawed, it's very sharp in fact -- but that the band arrangement isn't as dynamic and focused on as I would have liked it to be. "Love Toxic" is a very stylish song, and there are dynamics present, but more depth to the execution could have made it a timeless classic for Royal Pirates.
Super Junior - "MAMACITA"
Condiment jokes aside (if you're Filipino), "MAMACITA" is your standard Super Junior single. It's not repulsive, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to play. It's on the cheesy/novelty side, which is obvious from the title alone -- but the melody does have its moments. Production quality is standard SM with very rich instrumentals and not very pronounced dynamics, but on a song like this the dynamics don't have to be so sharp anyway. While I don't like the vocal treatment because it flattens the chorus and makes it heavier than it should be, I like the general idea of capitalizing and showing off Super Junior's sheer size as a group -- I personally think that's their best selling point, and it's been missing with their releases recently so it's good to see that they're starting to use those numbers again.