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EXID’s ‘Eclipse’ album review


Under the tutelage of Shinsadong Tiger, EXID have been consistently good with their albums. Each one is littered with gems that equal or better the title track. This time, however, they are without lead vocalist Solji, one of the great powerhouse vocals of K-pop. It’s normal for a member to take a short hiatus due to illness, but it’s pretty rare for a group to begin another round of promotions without them. Solji’s absence poses a unique challenge for EXID and Shinsadong Tiger. Do they produce tracks with her voice in mind so that when she’s back she can fill in easily or do they forget about her?

The short answer is a bit of both. On stark opener “Boy,” they certainly do not need her. “Boy” does a great job of lining out each of the members; they are given time and space to themselves. Not that we need an introduction to them at this stage, but in contrast with lead single “Night Rather than Day,” it works exceptionally. Hani, Junghwa, and Hyerin are appropriately breathy. They struggle to get the words out, not wanting to admit how they are really feeling. It’s a perfect track for Hani and Junghwa in particular, but Hyerin works well too. Her shrill voice combines that of a lead and sub vocalist so she can sound frail, even when belting. It’s something that Solji would have sounded less natural doing.

“Boy” is a stripped back track, synths stab along with percussion as different sounds weave in and out. Best of these is the flute sounding synth that scales up and down. It gives the complex emotions in the lyrics life. The girls are lonely and pining for a boy but they’ve become so despondent they even miss the most cringeworthy attitudes. The chorus with no vocals offers them something to hide behind, a strange modulation of the word boy. They say they desire this boy but can barely even say the word.


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The song ends on an interesting bit of soundscape to make it sound as if they performing live at some futuristic lounge. It tees up “Night Rather than Day” perfectly. As part of Eclipse, it fits right into this feeling, and as a single, it is the most refreshing one from an idol group in a long time. EXID have moved on from being ashamed of how they feel and are now more than happy to be suggestive. Together, “Boy” and this track make an interesting pair. In “Boy,” their shame comes from the fact that they need the comfort of a guy not being able to live alone hurts them. On “Night Rather than Day,” they are not one bit ashamed of being sexually forward. They represent an image of women rarely seen in K-pop.

The song itself is gorgeous loungey R&B with sprinkles of a multitude of styles. It has jazz elements, a disco beat, and the grooviest bass electronics. They also start to blend their vocals a bit more. LE especially adds her crisp raps to accompany Hani in the chorus, adding a decisive punch to the sentiments being expressed. Hyerin’s job is a lot more clearly to replace Solji here and she does a good job. To really take the song to another level though, it needed someone with Solji’s strength to take control.

Third track “How Why” acts as a sort of bridge between the duo of “Boy” and “Night Rather than Day” and the solos, Hani’s “Milk” and LE’s “Velvet.” It is also the type of track I expected (and dreaded) to be their single. Luckily as a b-side, it can afford to be slightly different. The soundscape motif continues but this time moves us outside to the sound of wind blowing through trees. I immediately thought of Taeyeon’s “Why;” it’s summery and teases that popular dembow riddim sound. It builds to a chorus that ultimately relies more heavily on standard synths which I think helps it from being too tired. It is the weakest part of the album by far, though. It’s that sort of inspirational summer track that I could imagine any western artist releasing, and EXID are better than that. I’m glad they had the courage to go with “Night Rather than Day” as the single.


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However, the solos bring us right back up to speed. The girls turn back to their desire, with Hani displacing her thoughts and LE being as blatant as she can be. Hani tells a story of a heartbroken day. To forget about someone she fills herself with chocolate, bread, and, most of all, milk. Not exactly an original metaphor, but there are some great lines in there. “I look in the mirror and my makeup’s smudged, why doesn’t my desire for you smudge?” Hani coos sadly over sensual acoustic guitars. The use of the Korean word for milk “uyu” and the English words “only you’ to rhyme are wonderful. It’s also a great reminder of Hani the vocalist, something that gets buried among her many other talents.

LE’ is also missing someone, but only their body. “Velvet” is beyond sexy. She raps about her lover, the heat and touch of their body. The mid-tempo hip-hop beats let it sway as LE adds some nice touches to her vocals. Here and elsewhere in the album she starts rapping but ends her bar with a higher pitched inflection. It’s a great detail that adds a raunchier aspect to “Velvet” in particular.

As a duo of solos Hani and LE encapsulate the intense emotions EXID like to get across in their music. EXID portray a spectrum of characters that tell stories of all kinds of women. Not only that, but they do it with a unique musical edge, incorporating a litany of genres without stepping outside their range. Eclipse is that rare mini that can stick with a theme throughout the runtime while continually teeing up new things to discover. All this without their star lead singer.

What do you think of EXID’s “Eclipse”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

EXID ‘Ah Yeah’ Music Video & Song Review

Coming back after a term of great success can be a surprisingly tricky thing to pull off. EXID faced this after their sleeper hit Up and Down. The members and Yedam Entertainment alike always said they would stick to the formula that brought this unexpected rise to fame and they have remained true to their word. Up and Down’s trademarks like saxophone solos, pelvic movements, jarring tonal shifts, and Hani front and centre are all once again present on new single Ah Yeah. But EXID has not merely adopted the Up and Down formula without first reflecting on it.

Between the music video and song‘s interesting elements come up which are cause for a closer look. Not only has EXID they taken the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, but the Up and Down elements themselves have been kicked up a notch.


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Song

Ah Yeah is an incredibly frantic song. It sounds like it is structurally all over the place like Girls’ Generation’s I Got A Boy but it actually takes an average pop structure and packs it to the brim with clashing elements. Ah Yeah’s through line is a hip-hop drum beat which changes in intensity depending on the corresponding music. The song houses four separate vocal styles throughout its runtime: Hani’s sweet, alluring verse and its counterpoint, LE’s blistering, angry rap, Junghwa’s nursery rhyme like pre-chorus and Solji and Hyerin’s chorus. Thrown together these all seem incompatible but somehow the song makes it out in tact.

The best of these is definitely the competing verses of Hani and LE. The two make up the bulk of the song and carry it so well. Hani’s simple melody and slightly affected voice plays up to her charming strengths perfectly. Put beside LE’s forceful rap though, which is accompanied by the reintroduction of the sax and an intensifying of the drums, it seems like a parody of what brought EXID to fame in Up and Down. In many ways this what Ah Yeah is really about.

EXID’s new song reuses and makes comment on Up and Down, or rather the strange success of it and turns it into something new. LE’s rap inUp and Down wasn’t contrasting enough? Let’s have her rap on five separate occasions in Ah Yeah.

The same can be said for Junghwa’s odd pre-chorus. In Up and Down she had a small part which had a nursery rhyme vibe to it which was probably a way of getting around her seemingly weak vocals. In Ah Yeah her part is similar enough except this time it’s repeated twice and has its own twinkly melody. Again, an element from before is being reused and brought up a notch. I think this is the most jarring part of the song, nearly bringing it into incoherence. This fits into the idea of the self parody as Up and Down wasn’t exactly straightforward itself but lets down the song as whole.

The chorus is the most straightforward part of Ah Yeah. Not changing much of the original formula, it does not however, come as a surprise since we already know it so well. It shows the dearth of options EXID have at hand when a vocalist as amazing as Solji is restricted to a chorus. Amongst girl groups, I’d put her in the top five working right now and thought she’d be the person that dragged them to success; it would be nice to see her do something more than the chorus.


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Music Video

The self-reflexion of EXID doesn’t end with the song though. The music video, like the song, uses different elements to comment and react on EXID’s rise to fame.

Again, Hani and LE’s parts work wonderfully together. Hani essentially playing herself, is seductive as she makes eyes with the POV camera similar enough to her famous fancam. LE also could be playing herself or maybe just another side of the argument. Her angry counterpoint plays like a musician’s reaction to EXID’s fame, not happy that a sexy video brought them there over interesting music written by LE herself. She also addresses the POV camera but this time in an accusatory manner. The video is giving us both sides of the story, letting us know there’s more to EXID than sexiness.

This duality theme continues with Junghwa, Hyerin and Soljin’s parts of the video. Junghwa seems to be playing a cam girl of some sort with pixelated images dotted around her. She appears to engaging in some explicit activities before being revealed to be a news anchor or something like it. The same goes for Solji and Hyerin who are in generic rooms with pixelated images which are revealed to be cartoon images of animals. It also features some clips of EXID’s pelvis movements pixelated. They know they are likely to be censored so went one step ahead and did it themselves, exposing the ridiculousness of TV censors. The pixelation, in a way, makes the situation even worse since it comes across as more explicit than it really is. It wouldn’t seem any way explicit if it was never censored.

Rating

EXID took a slight risk reusing nearly the identical formula as last time. Unfortunately, Ah Yeah could be mistaken as a mere rehash of Up and Down.

It could also have been a failure on the charts as Up and Down was. While Up and Down is a great song, that was not the main reason for their popularity. EXID really went for it though and came out with something very similar but on a different level. Self awareness in pop music is a rare thing and really helps a group feel more invested in their music.

This is in large part thanks to the songwriting prowess of LE. Not only is she one of the best Korean female rappers working today but she has had a hand in writing every one of EXID’s songs. Her level of artistry lifts EXID from possible flash in the pan success to a group that could become one of the all time greats.

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Flash K-Pop Music Video Reviews: Jonghyun, Jung Yonghwa, Mad Clown, From The Airport, Eddy Kim, GFriend

There’s a lot of really great music coming out of Korea nowadays and listening to every chart-topping song, let alone watching every music video, is near impossible. Here at KultScene, we’re going to try something new: Reviews written in the span of the entire music video, inspired by the idea of flash fiction. Once the video stops, the review comes to an end.  These reviews aren’t in depth, and are essentially just first reactions, but it’s a good introduction to many of the songs that you’ll want to check out this week.

Mad Clown Fire

First things first, Hani from EXID is blatant media play since it’s actually Jinsil singing and Hani is just lip-synching. I like the lighting and Hani’s eyes really are mesmerizing so I guess it’s okay, but still kind of sad for Jinsil. The big-band beat and Mad Clown’s rap nicely go together to create a dramatic song that describes the craziness of the lyrics. As usual, Mad Clown doesn’t disappoint with his rap, but instead delivers every line in an aggressive, statement-like way.The lyrics of the song don’t really match the music video, other than showing their craziness, but it’s really beautifully filmed. Jinsil’s voice isn’t too cloying in comparison to Mad Clown’s intense raps, but instead her raspy voice sounds exactly like how a confused, lover should sound. The bleeping and blurring out curses is really amazing for mainstream Korean music, as if Mad Clown is protesting the clean-cut rapping that is prominent in Korea. Overall, I’m impressed.

Eddy Kim My Love

We’re behind scene, and Eddy Kim takes a pause to look at a piano, sits down, and tells the person he’s talking to wait a minute. This piano medley is nice, like something you’d hear in a hotel lobby, and then Eddy Kim’s voice starts up to sing a sweet, powerful melody. The song is really interesting because it uses an orchestra rather than any electronic beats, which are popular nowadays. The singing into the phone while his girlfriend rides a bus is a really cute touch, showing how Eddy feels his love even though they’re apart. It doesn’t really sound like it, but Eddy Kim’s songs always makes me think of Michael Buble. Between the song looking good and Eddy Kim appearing as handsome as ever, My Love is a winner.

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Jonghyun Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)

A steady beat mixed with classic piano introduces a song that’s like a pop ballad trying to grow up into a hip-hop track. Jonghyun’s acting and the music video are impressive, but these up-close facial shots are a jarring thanks to these jerky camera movements. He’s singing about being crazy, emphasized by the gas mask and being chained up, but it looks like it’s just an excuse to show off his ripped body. Iron’s speedy rap is a completely different sound from Jonghyun’s breathy falsettos and high notes, which is really a different sound than what I’m used to hear from SHINee, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. The song completely shows off Jonghyun’s best skills, dominating high notes, while the video shows off his body’s best aspects to entice any fan of SHINee to watch. A little bit over the top in general, though, with all of the special effects that aren’t limited to explosions and mechanical giant spiders. But Jonghyun’s a singer first and foremost, and this new style really matches his personality.

GFriend Glass Bead

So here’s the Into The New World similarities, especially the girl that looks like ex-Girls’ Generation member Jessica. The athletic styled outfits, the retro-style sweet pop song is really like something that I’d expect to hear from late 2000’s K-pop girl groups, so I see why everyone’s comparing GFriend to Girls’ Generation. But while the images are similar, the dancing is really impressive. None of the vocalists stand-out particularly, but it’s likely that as GFriend releases more music several of their vocalists will stand out. An all around good song, even though it’s nothing that we’ve never seen before. The concept is cute, sweet, and totally needed in K-pop, which is becoming so overly sexualized that it’s losing the innocence that made songs like Gee and Tell Me viral hits in 2009.

From The Airport Sight

I don’t know if this is supposed to be the response, but when I pressed “play” and heard Sight I wanted to close my eyes. The music video almost demands this, by hiding the two members of From The Airport amid shadows, star-like lights, and occasional bursts of light that essentially blind the camera. The song has a bit of a heavier bass beat than many of From The Airport’s songs, with an occasionally heavy handed rock sound as the backtrack to their heavily synthesized vocals. The profiles of the two members don’t distract from the sound of their song, but aren’t really supposed to be the point of this video. The song climaxes with From The Airport being completely dissolved by light, and then continues with mere music, highlighting not the singers but the sounds themselves.

Jung Yonghwa One Fine Day

Clubbing, two people see each other across the room, and then we wake up in a depressing, green and gray environment. A slightly misleading title? This video is really visually beautiful, I actually feel like it would do well as a magazine spread. Yonghwa’s side profile is really prevalent, and changes his overall style and feel as an actor.The cinematography is really the thing that makes or breaks this video, but it’s a little disappointing as a song overall. This is CNBLUE’s lead singer, who is a popular actor, Yonghwa simply… singing and acting? So what is new to this? Nothing. This could just as easily be a music video for a song from the soundtrack of a drama that Yonghwa is starring in. The song isn’t particularly memorable, although Yonghwa’s voice perfectly depicts the emotion described in the lyrics. It’s a heartfelt song, but if you’re a lead singer with such a distinct voice, just going the ballad route is a little bit boring.

Do you like this idea of quick music video reviews? If there are any music videos you would like to see reviewed, please leave suggestions in the comments section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.