Discussion in 'Charts, rates etc' started by 2014, Nov 7, 2021.
Nn is it too late to sign up or..?
Nope! You just aren’t guaranteed your first choice because we might’ve already assigned it someone else.
I hope y'all are ready for my novel about "Sine From Above (Chester Lockheart, Mood Killer, & Lil Texas Remix)"
Actual footage of me writing my contribution
I have a tuxedo cat and she is on my lap right now as I contemplate getting off the couch to get my laptop and thinking nahh let her relax dd
Me trying to finalise what I'm actually going to write about
Hope everyone's getting on ok! It is the 1st of December next week, so hopefully we may be able to start seeing some more reviews popping into mine and @ohnostalgia's inboxes xxx
It's progressing. Kind of. I picked a toughie to write about, I guess. Don't worry, it'll get done within the next few days!
I can’t overstate how excited I am for your review I am
OMG a forgot the deadline was coming over in a couple of days - allons commencer!!
I've sent friendly reminder PMs to everyone to remind you in a friendly way about getting these done, hope you're all getting on alright (let me know if you haven't received a PM, I probably just missed you by accident xx)
Aaaaaaand there it is!
Gotta say I'm interested to see what everyone else picks - not least because I've slacked a bit on new music this year, to be honest...
ONF - City of ONF
Reviewed by @nikkysan
Anyone who knows me well would know I've been a massive fan of k-pop since late 2018. Going into the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the first quarter of the year or so was a pretty rough one for me, the constant lockdowns and delays of the vaccines (although I can happily say that I am now double jabbed as of writing this review) took a toll on my mental health, and k-pop, what had been an intense of obsession of mine for close to 3 years, had become stagnant for me. Groups I stanned were going on hiatus, the newer groups were releasing music I did not connect with, I simply didn’t enjoy the music genre I used as an escape from reality like I had before. That is, until the 30th of April…
Some people in the K-pop subforum were discussing a new album by a boy group I was not that familiar with (seeing their name pop up did jog my memory of them having released a song back in 2019 that I remember liking a lot, but I didn’t return to it for reasons unknown to me), and I was curious enough to give it a listen. I was blown away. This album had the sounds, hooks and creativity that I felt k-pop had sorely been lacking for a while. I was hooked.
ONF (short for On & Off) are a South Korean boy group who debuted back in 2017 consisting of 6 members (and 1 former member who left the group in 2019), Hyojin, E-tion, J-Us, Wyatt, MK and U. Within the group consists of two sub-units, Team ON (Hyojin, E-tion and MK) who are the “vocal” unit, and Team OFF (J-Us, Wyatt and U) who are the “performance/dance” unit. This group has only one producer, that being production team Monotree, headed by founding member Hwang Hyun. You could say Hwang Hyun and Monotree are to ONF like Brian Higgins and Xenomania are to Girls Aloud, a team of producers, writers and composers that working almost exclusively (Monotree have produced songs for other k-pop acts, they are also known for producing a lot of LOONA’s earlier work which is widely beloved by fans) for a pop group and gave them a distinct sound that’s unlike their peers. And even if the group themselves aren’t that involved with the production of the songs (except for Wyatt, who writes all the rap verses), they possess the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to bring the songs to life, like any good pop act should.
“City of ONF'' is actually the repackage (or rerelease) of ONF’s first full length album, “ONF: My Name”. It added 3 new tracks to original release’s 10. This is how I first listened to the album and how I think everyone should listen to it, as the 3 new tracks are all top notch and improve upon the experience.
The first track is the repackage’s lead single, “Ugly Dance”. The track opens with a fanfare of horns and synths, which mirrors the melody of the album’s other single “Beautiful Beautiful”. The song feels like a call to arms, to get up and dance because everyone’s being so boring, with the loud and anthemic chorus and the little “1 and 2 and 3 and” chant. The chorus is only made more maximalist by the quieter, slinkier verses, with only a funk guitar and synth bass to lead the listener through. This song is connected to “Beautiful Beautiful” as it calls back to several of the latter song’s hooks sprinkled throughout the track. I especially love the 2nd chorus leading into the bridge, where these strings just come in and soar, and the members are now the ones doing the “1 2 3” chant instead of the small robotic voice from before, it’s so satisfying to my ears.
“My Genesis (Übermensch)” is one of the most unique k-pop songs I have ever heard. It has sparse jazz lounge verses fused with an explosive rock chorus, with growls of the song’s bracketed title to scratchy synths in the post-chorus. The song’s structure is a little unusual too, while there is a chorus in here, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a chorus to my ears, and there is a melodically similar outro that replaces where the final chorus would be, along with the constant zig-zags of genres in the track.
“The Dreamer'' is a little more straightforward then the previous two tracks, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless. A midtempo R&B song with dreamy psychedelic guitar textures and trip-hop-y beats. When those guitars come in, a feeling of warmth and comfort washes over me with every listen, the song definitely lives up to its title. “The Dreamer” is another song that is connected to a different track later down in the tracklist, as in the song’s outro interpolates “The Realist'' both lyrically and sonically, ending what is an otherwise relaxing song on a darker, almost sinister note.
And here we come to the aforementioned “Beautiful Beautiful”, the lead single for the original release of this album. You’re immediately hit with the hook of “brram-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum”, which is one of the biggest earworms I've heard in a pop song in years. It grabs hold of you and will not let go. The song is a wonderful blend of futuristic nu-disco and funk, with another anthemic chorus, singing about how you yourself, not a lover or anyone else, are beautiful and you are not going to let the world get you down. One common misconception about boy groups is that a lot of their songs are sappy love songs, and while that can be true, ONF is a boy group who definitely do not tick all of those boxes, the lyrics throughout this album are not the stereotypical stuff you would expect. And even if you don’t understand Korean, the melodies and hooks are enough to get you drawn in. The highlight for me is the acapella-scatting bridge which leads back into one big victory lap of a final chorus. This is without a doubt my favourite k-pop song of the year, and up there as one of my favourite pop songs ever at this point.
“My Name Is” is exactly what the title entails, each of the members introduce themselves and tell the listener a bit about themself paired with jangly folk-pop, leading into a chorus of a trap breakdown and off-tune synths with the group singing the song’s title. The whole concept of having a group sing a whole song about what who they are might seem a little strange for a group that’s been active for a few years already, but ONF had been relatively unknown up until last year when they placed 2nd in “Road to Kingdom” a reality competition where different k-pop groups competed against each other. This is their way of introducing themselves to their newer fans.
We now get to the two subunit songs on this album. The first is “Thermometer” by the ON Team. It’s a lush lil’ R&B song influenced by 80s quiet storm and soul, coupled with some lovely harmonies. My favourite of the two however, is the OFF Team’s “Secret Triangle''. This starts off as an upbeat electropop song, which itself turns into a chorus of more trap beats and off kilter synth stabs, but the outro is where the song gets turned completely on its head, and breaks down into a cacophony of thrashing nu-metal and screams of “WE’RE SCREWED!” and the song sounds like it’s about to collapse in on itself.
“The Realist” is my favourite album track off this record, and could be considered as the album’s centrepiece. It’s a synthwave-influenced dance track, not unlike Dua Lipa’s “Physical” or LOONA’s “Voice”/“Star”, but this one is more dark and brooding. There’s this impending sense of danger that permeates throughout the song, the boys’ delivery is filled with urgency and panic, as if they will drift away if they don’t keep singing. The lyrics get a bit abstract here, like you don’t what’s being described in the song is real or just a dream. The song contains what is probably my favourite bridge in the entire album, which is chock full of killer bridges. The outro samples its “sister” song “The Dreamer”, which only makes the song weirder. It’s a storming banger of a track. I really wish it got a video, but it would’ve required the budget the lead single videos receive to really get the visuals the song deserves.
Now, I’ll be honest… the last four songs don’t quite reach the dizzying heights the previous eight did, but they’re still very nice tracks. They veer more into “typical” boy group territory, singing more about relationships and confessing their love towards the person they like. One thing I do appreciate, is the avoidance of using female pronouns to describe their love interests. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but as a queer person it’s nice to feel like they could be singing to me, and for it not to be so heteronormative like a lot of love songs by boy/girl groups tend to be.
“On-You” serves as an interlude, but it’s long enough that it's basically it’s own song. The song is a bit more rap oriented than the others, but is still light and melodic. I especially love the harmonised outro.
“Trip Advisor” is an upbeat song complimented with funky guitars, keyboards and horns, and a very catchy double chorus. The song sings about using technology and the internet to visit all the different places you wish you could, but can’t because of the ongoing pandemic. Despite not being a single, this song received its own music video of sorts, where ONF fans from all over the world sent in videos of where they lived for the members to be green-screened into.
“Feedback” is probably my least favourite track on the entire album, it’s fine if a bit slight, and definitely the song that comes closest to feeling a bit generic.
The album’s closing track is “I.T.I.L.U”, which serves its purpose as being the token closing ballad on a k-pop album, backed by piano and strings. It comes off as a bit schmaltzy, but I love the production. Those strings just soar and reach a beautiful crescendo as Hyojin hits that massive high note in the bridge. The outro of each of the members saying “forever” is very heartwarming and a little poignant.
The album also includes an English version of “Beautiful Beautiful”, which unlike a lot of English versions of k-pop songs, actually translates the song very closely to the Korean version’s meaning. Often an English version has completely different lyrics just to fit the song’s melody. The trade off here is that I feel the delivery is quite clunky and doesn’t flow nearly as well as the Korean version. It’s nice to have, but I don’t have much use for it.
“City of ONF” more or less soundtracked my 2021, and my personal favourite album of the year, k-pop or not. And it reignited my love for K-pop. I know Popjustice has their… prejudices towards male artists, but I hope this could maybe change people’s perspectives even just a little on boy groups, as the most famous k-pop group BTS’ recent offerings don’t give the best impression on boy group songs or k-pop, in my opinion. It’s an essential listen for any k-pop fan, and anyone who loves maximalist pop production with left field flourishes would appreciate this as well. And the best part is, this album is only the tip of the iceberg that is ONF's immaculate discography.
Beautiful Beautiful is definitely one of the songs that opened my mind to more boy groups.
This has started off iconic! Beautiful Beautiful is game changing, probably the first boygroup release ever I didn't need some time to warm up to.
The Realist is definitely my favorite song here too, @nikkysan. It’s so stylish.
Beautiful, beautiful write-up @nikkysan.
Clairo - Blouse
Reviewed by @constantino
Clairo is a very archetypal ‘2021’ artist in the sense that she has no actual ‘hits’ per se, and yet has hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify and is somewhat of a deity among the cottage core gxrls. There’s of course the added component of her having an obscenely wealthy and successful marketing executive father, whose connections and influence has been frequently cited as the ‘secret’ behind her success. It’s the realities of both industry nepotism and misogyny that make “Blouse” a fascinating song.
Sonically, the song is like a warm blanket, a perfect salve to feel your quaker oats to as you sit by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate on a cold December evening. BUT, dig into the lyrics and you get a very grounded insight into Claire’s experiences of sexual harassment in her career. It’s particularly distressing that this is a young woman who rose to prominence as a teenager, who now refuses to attend studio sessions alone due to the unwanted harassment she had experienced. Say what you want about her being a pretty, rich, white cis girl with connections; those factors didn’t immunise her from being made to feel unsafe in her place of work.
Nuance is important when discussing misogyny, especially not speaking from a place of lived experience. I choose to view the song through the lens of safety, and how our privileges don’t always immunise us from structures that see us all as dispensable. How is someone supposed to be able to feel comfortable to spill their guts into their art in these conditions? How many incredible artists from minoritised backgrounds will the world never hear from because they cannot access safe spaces to create? These are the questions that “Blouse” conjures.
It’s this interplay between the lightness of the whimsical composition and the dark underbelly of the lyrics that keeps me circling back to “Blouse”. I adore that it tells the story of a gen z girl in a soundscape that harks back to greats like Carole King and Joni Mitchell, who both fought hard to prove their indispensability in their fields. Having Miss Lorde lending some gorgeous backing vocals to the track adds a subversive ‘hand on the shoulder’ to Claire’s whispy coo; reminding us that in 2021, there is always room for a voice in the room to stand in your corner.
I can't believe @constantino has me back in Clairo's corner! "Blouse" really is a gorgeous song and the write up says it all!
Great write-up, @constantino (and I say that as someone who's never even listened to Clairo. Yes, I know, I'll address it).
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