Playing Catch Up Part 2: SM Entertainment has been pretty busy lately!

Looks like things are picking up for me, and with The Fourth K-Pop Writers' Workshop almost done I'm also really excited to show you all what I've been working on since April! (Yes, a piece that took me that long to write and prepare for publication D:) But for now, the catching up continues with some of the more recent SME releases. They've been quite busy lately with high-profile comebacks and debuts, and they're also apparently debuting another girl group this August!

f(x) - "Red Light"

I got multiple questions from different people asking what I thought of various aspects of f(x)'s "Red Light," and after answering all of them I think I wrote a makeshift review already! And generally, my views on the song (and the album) are the same -- I don't personally like the song and I don't agree with certain musical decisions, but I understand its place in f(x)'s repertoire. As a lead single it's also effective because it's probably the best f(x) have done at creating parallels in musical and visual elements of a single concept -- all aspects of "Red Light," the song itself, the performance, and the music video, put forward a cohesive experience. This is something f(x) hasn't quite been able to achieve in the past, especially with the huge conceptual and artistic divide between that art film they released just before "Pink Tape," and "Rum Pum Pum." As a song alone, however, "Red Light" is not as stable in standing its ground as other outstanding experience-dependent songs (such as DBSK's "Rising Sun") -- it's all over the place sonically, and some of the juxtapositions are not strong enough to create jarring contrasts. Over all though, "Red Light" is one of those songs that had to happen and a song that f(x) needs on their repertoire -- it may not be as well-done as I would like it to be, but for what it is it's competent.

SNSD - "Indestructible"

"Indestructible" is a new track from SNSD's Japanese greatest hits collection and in true SNSD Japan fashion, it's a familiar girl group sound with impeccable production. Everything about this song is pretty -- the subdued R&B-influenced verses, the forcefully graceful chorus, the sweeping instrumentals, the snappy and slightly somber piano line. It's a pleasant song, something I wouldn't mind setting as my alarm -- and of course the deal-breaker is that it's well-executed. It's not ground-breaking, nothing on this song is new or revolutionary, but it's such a pleasure to listen to. And we all need songs like this in our libraries -- songs we genuinely enjoy listening to. In a sense these qualities give "Indestructible" a timeless quality. This is a song that will still sound timely years from now.

Henry - "Fantastic"

On the rare occasion that I do blog, I hardly ever talk about Henry -- in fact, I don't think I've ever even tweeted anything about his releases. I guess it's because while I understand his appeal, I never really liked him as a musical act. As a member of Super Junior-M he clearly has something to bring to the table, but it's more of a personal preference of mine. I find his voice very nasal and whiny -- like he perpetually has a cold -- and the voice is really a deal-breaker for me. But I have to hand it to him, and SM, for how he's packaged and promoted as an artist. The violin is definitely something to take advantage of and while in "Fantastic" it seems more of a cosmetic addition than an actual, relevant, musical component, it sets Henry apart from other male solo acts. "Fantastic" itself is an okay song -- very SM with its strong production, catchy hook and the epic yet stylish over-all sound. I don't mind listening to this, Henry's vocals aside.

J-Min - "Shine"
FINALLY J-Min is out of the SM dungeons! (Now if we can have Jino and four-piece CSJH come out too that would be great.) I don't understand why she was kept without am EP or LP for so long, considering that there has been a demand for that acoustic solo female act (like Younha) for quite some time now. "Shine" is so J-Min, and the perfect formal debut single -- this release is not so much about the song as it is about J-Min's clean, powerful and slightly mature voice. And boy does it take center stage on this song -- J-Min's command of her lower range is shown off by the verses, and obviously the higher ranges are taken care of by the belting. The song itself is the right mix of pop and rock sensibilities -- the melodic hooks make her reachable to SM's general target audience, and the instrumentation, the synths and the guitar riffs among others, gives her a rock edge. SM's A&R department has been on a roll lately!

BoA - "Masayume Chasing"

Not a Korean release, but nonetheless it's BoA and this is apparently a theme song for an anime? (Or a Japanese TV series?) It's catchy, it's super summer-y, and while the choreography on the music video is slightly cringe-worthy, the song itself is very well put-together. As is to be expected from an SME+Avex/Japanese release. The melody is catchy but not in-your-face, that first verse is gorgeous with the running string section, graceful piano line and subdued melody, and everything just falls into place nicely. Definitely something that'll be on my playlist for a while! The b-side, "Fun" is also really good -- more subdued than "Masayume Chasing," more ala-f(x)'s "All Night," so definitely less cheesy.

Stay tuned for part three, where I let loose the fangirl in me on a few more recent boyband releases from god, GOT7, DBSK and more!


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