The After School Discography Rate • FINISHED

she/her
We know some of y'all have have been less than pleased with the results so far, but this is a pretty strong top five, yeah?
Absolutely. Now that Dilly Dally is out I have four 10s and a 9 remaining so I'm not complaining much. One of the top 5 songs was the closest contender for my 11 after Rambling girls and I would be very happy to see it win, it would be well-deserved. I won't say which though because I ain't getting myself quoted jinxing it.
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we really thought this song was going to win the whole thing . . .





























in fact, at one point in the voting period, it was our winner!





























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#5
Heaven

Grade: 9.734
Honor roll: 11×3 (@Crisp X, @ysev, @chrisjche), 10×18 (@singabob, @junglefish, @RUNAWAY, @evilsin, @Attis, @Ana Raquel, @SloMover, @Slice of Life, @KimLippington, @Hurricane Drunk, @Macsun, @Mikl C, @Cotton Park, @eatyourself, @GeiPanda, @BEST FICTION, @Love Deluxe, @vague), 9.5×3 (@Wills, @M24, @Oleander)
Drop-outs: 6.5×1 (@Conan), 8.75×1 (@Remorque)
@Love Deluxe's score: 10
@vague's score: 10

5 ballots: #2, 10.000 avg.
10 ballots: #2, 10.000 avg.
15 ballots: #1, 10.100 avg.
20 ballots: #5, 9.750 avg.
25 ballots: #4, 9.800 avg.
31 ballots: #5, 9.734 avg.

"Heaven" is After School's fifth Japanese single, released on October 2, 2013. Its lyrics were written by Mutsumi and it was composed and arranged by Shinichi Osawa, who is also known by the stage name MONDO GROSSO. "Heaven" was also included on their second Japanese album, Dress to kill, as track eight as well as on their final release, BEST, as track nine.​

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Following the release of "FLASHBACK" in June 2012, After School dedicated nearly a year to re-establishing themselves in Korea following Kahi's graduation. After School's official Japanese website announced on July 12, 2013 that the group would be returning to Japan to host their second fan meeting, aptly titled WELCOME BACK! AFTERSCHOOL, on August 24. On August 19, avex also announced that After School's fifth Japanese single, "Heaven", would be released on October 2 - a full sixteen months after their last Japanese single, Lady Luck / Dilly Dally. "Heaven" would be the first Japanese release to feature Kaeun, who officially debuted with "FLASHBACK".​

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After School premiered both "Heaven" and its b-side, "Crazy Diver", live at WELCOME BACK! AFTERSCHOOL, and a shortened edit of the MV was uploaded to avex's official YouTube channel that same day. In an interview promoting the single, U-ie described the MV as one "with a story. For the first time, I had the challenge to act as a woman seducing a man. During the shooting, the director even danced behind our camera, and it definitely turned out to be more interesting."​

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After School worked with Aijiro Tanaka on the choreography for the song, including a new pole routine for the MV's intro featuring all eight members. Tanaka revealed on his Instagram that he worked with After School for three months, traveling between Korea and Japan, to perfect the choreography. He posted a practice video of the pole routine as well as an early version of the choreography that differs from the finished version After School ultimately performed on his YouTube account on February 4, 2014. For the single's cover and photobook, After School worked with Harajuku-based photographer Yasumasa Yonehara - don't google him if you're at work - who took over 3,000 photos of the members. All photos for the single were taken with an instant cheki camera giving them an analog feel, fitting for the throwback sound of the song.​

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The song's producer, Shinichi Osawa, is a big name in Japanese dance music, having been ranked 95th on HMV Japan's list of Top 100 Japanese Pop Artists. He has been highly selective when working with idol groups, but ultimately produced two songs for After School. On "Heaven", he said, "I felt After School shows the ideal way K-pop should sound in this new era, so I produced this song for them. I aimed for a sound that is cool and as good and sexy as their artist image. I think it's a new type of pop/dance music. I hope people will enjoy it."​

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There's really not much to talk about this era, mainly because interviews and articles were extremely sparse compared to the promotional cycle for the PLAYGIRLZ singles. The group was being so badly managed - if they were even being managed at all. There was a complete lack of TV promo for this song in comparison to their past Japanese singles, as well. It's such a shame that the wheels were falling off behind the scenes when the group was peaking creatively. But, despite that, the single still performed decently. Upon its release, "Heaven" peaked at #7 on Oricon, selling 18,596 copies in its first week of release. It charted for four weeks and sold 19,884 copies in total, making it the 364th best-selling physical single in Japan for 2013. With just its first week's sales, "Heaven" outsold the entire chart runs of both Rambling girls / Because of you and Lady Luck / Dilly Dally.​

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In the lead-up to the Dress to kill release date, After School's official Japanese Facebook page posted a series of "director's notes" for each track on the album. The director stated, "['Heaven'] determined the direction of the album. It was the beginning of After School's decision to challenge a new genre instead of doing the existing dance tracks. I think that the album summarized our new approach. Vocal ranges are much lower than normal. This track is not overpowering and attracts people with a soft vocal."​

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With After School, moments of restraint are few and far between when it comes to their arsenal of songs and concepts. They dive headfirst into any concept and sound that they're given, master it, and sell it to the high heavens and back. When they're cute, they're sticky sweet; when they're aggressive, they go full steam ahead; and when they're giving a ballad moment, they slather on the melodrama. With "Heaven", there's truly a mastery in balancing all of the elements that they've been honing throughout their career; it was a turning point in what After School could achieve soundwise. Shinichi Osawa took the cheap keyboards from 2009's After School and gave 2014's After School an entire orchestra. "Heaven" is a bit of an outlier if you compare it to their previous singles, but you can clearly feel the various elements of their earlier works sprinkled throughout. Whether that be the intro's punchy synths that are reminiscent of "BROKEN HEART", the hushed talk-singing that's akin to the verses in "Rambling girls", or even the beautiful piano melodies that were also utilized in "Shampoo". This sound was uncharted territory for After School, something completely out of left field, but it still managed to be so distinctly them.​

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(10) — "While I love both equally, I really expected Heaven to rank higher than Shh! I also thought Heaven was going to win the entire rate, like?! There's a nostalgic breeziness and warmth to this, that captures the exact feeling of gallivanting aimlessly during the day. I absolutely will be blasting this when I go on my graduation trip this May!"

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(10) — "A perfect song. I very strongly considered giving my 11 to this song, and I'm still kind of conflicted that I didn't nn. As much as I love Dress to kill overall, I still wish we had gotten a whole album of Shinichi Osawa-produced songs."​



@Crisp X (11) — "One of the songs that ignited my love for all things K-Pop, and without me knowing at first, instantly became an all time favorite. Hearing it and watching the music video for the first time, just as I was starting my first year in college, changed me. Looking back, it still feels bittersweet that they wouldn't go on to be active for much longer after this, but I take solace in knowing how well it has aged over the years, especially with the disco revival pop music has had recently. After School and Mondo Grosso were really a match made in... heaven."

@ysev (11) — "This is one of the best pop songs ever! It's sexy, it's breezy and it's funky. It's the feminine counterpart to Jamiroquai!"

@chrisjche (11) — "A perfect mix of sexy, sultry and cute with a perfect disco-y production!"

@singabob (10) — "Another contender for my 11. Such a song. I love the disco-lite vibe of it. And the strings! That's the highlight of the song for me."

@Attis (10) — "I wanna get undressed cutely with my dream man to this song :("

@SloMover (10) — "Perfection."

@Slice of Life (10) — "this is soooo ahead of its time, im afraid."

@Macsun (10) — "Again the jazzy vibes carries on over from Yes No Yes.. Music production is so intricate and beautiful played. A true Lo-Fi dance bop."

@Cotton Park (10) — "Magic."

@eatyourself (10) — "Oh my god... oh my god. Why had I never heard this before. What's Your Pleasure found inspired by this."

@M24 (9.5) — "It took a while to get used to the minimalistic production, I don’t think the chorus is their best but it doesn't need to be, because the whole song is just relentless and never boring."

@roblognick (9) — "This is a funny little disco-ish track isn't it? Not far off something you might have heard on Kylie's Disco!"

@berserkboi (9) — "Disco realness is a hit with me!"

@Vixen (9) — "This is lowkey not necessarily THAT great all throughout, but the melody for 'tsumetai kisu mo uwasa mo kioku mo koi toka ai toka tsumi toka batsu toka Dance with you' is just absolutely TOPTIER that I cannot score this anything lower than a 9."​







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he/him
Probably my most-skipped song in the rate, simply because it defies you to get up and move, and I don’t always have that luxury!

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What a seriously great track, I wish I hadn’t overthought it and gave it the extra half point.
 
we're losing the final Japanese song tonight . . .





























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#4
Shh

Grade: 9.790
Honor roll: 11×2 (@singabob, @Cotton Park), 10×22 (@junglefish, @RUNAWAY, @Crisp X, @evilsin, @Attis, @Ana Raquel, @roblognick, @ysev, @SloMover, @Slice of Life, @Wills, @yuuurei, @eyeline, @Conan, @KimLippington, @Macsun, @eatyourself, @GeiPanda, @BEST FICTION, @Oleander, @Remorque, @Love Deluxe), 9.75×1 (@Mikl C)
Drop-outs: 7.5×1 (@chrisjche), 8×1 (@Vixen)
@Love Deluxe's score: 10
@vague's score: 9

5 ballots: #2, 10.000 avg.
10 ballots: #2, 10.000 avg.
15 ballots: #5, 9.833 avg.
20 ballots: #4, 9.825 avg.
25 ballots: #3, 9.850 avg.
31 ballots: #4, 9.790 avg.

"Shh" is After School's sixth Japanese single, released on January 29, 2014. Its lyrics were written by Kyasu Morizuki and it was composed and arranged by Shinichi Osawa. "Shh" was also included on their second Japanese album, Dress to kill, as track six as well as on their final release, BEST, as track ten.

On November 22, 2013, avex announced that After School's next single would again be produced by Shinichi Osawa (aka MONDO GROSSO of "Labyrinth" fame) and that it would be released on January 29, 2014. Shinichi Osawa seems to have enjoyed working with After School, as he said, "Making music for After School's a lot of fun. For 'Shh', I wanted to evoke a post-EDM feeling, so I completed the song in the style of new generation UK house music."​

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Unusual for a Japanese release, avex released a short teaser for the song on December 15. The full MV was aired exclusively on MTV Japan two days later on December 17, and a shortened edit was officially uploaded to YouTube on December 20. (The full-length MV was only uploaded to avex's channel in 2020). The video is one of After School's simplest - and probably cheapest - but the creative use of light and shadow and the sleek, masculine styling gave life to what could have easily been a dull, uninspired video. Additionally, the use of shadows helped conceal the fact that the members were wildly out of sync for much of the video nn.

After School once again worked with Aijiro Tanaka on the song's choreography. The members struggled to perfect the moves even up until the MV shooting, with Nana recalling, "It was hard to get up one by one on precise timing. We couldn't match our timing only at first, but right after the shooting started, we were quickly able to do it." Tanaka revealed on his blog that he completed the choreography in just five days, saying, "Since the vibe of 'Heaven' was disco-like, I made the choreography with a cute and sexy image in mind that included pole dancing. This time, it's monotone and cool, with a simple and stylish image."
He would go on to choreograph their Dress to SHINE tour later that year.​

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It's kind of fitting that "Heaven" and "Shh" would leave back-to-back as they're the two songs most closely connected songs in After School's discography. Lyrically, they tell opposing viewpoints of the same story, with "Heaven" representing the woman's point of view, and "Shh" representing the man's as revealed by Jung-A in an interview with Kan Fun magazine. The lyrics as we got them almost didn't happen, though. In the director's notes for Dress to kill, it was revealed, "Morizuki, who wrote the lyrics, suggested completely different lyrics at first. However, I asked Morizuki to keep 'Shh! Shh! Shh! Shh! Shh! Shh! Secret Love' in the pre-chorus and write around it."

Outside of a fan club-exclusive preorder event, After School did virtually no promotion for the release of "Shh", much like with "Heaven". Jung-A mentioned that one of her "tiny regrets" was the group not being able to promote as they had in the past, saying, "Getting to work with Shinichi Osawa was really fun, but I still have tiny regrets, partly because we have fewer activities lately." Upon its release, "Shh" peaked at #12 on Oricon, selling 16,101 copies in its first week, which was right in line with the group's usual first week sales. However, the single only charted for two weeks and sold 16,483 copies in total, making it their lowest selling single released in Japan.​

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The fact After School were able to nab Shinichi Osawa for two singles when he is extremely selective with who he produces for is a feat in itself. Furthermore, "Heaven" and "Shh" feel like two sides of the same coin. They're both perfect displays of control, while still retaining their own musical identities. "Heaven" was a completely new sound for After School in all its beautiful restraint, and "Shh" is similar in that respect. The restraint in "Shh", though, is utilized more in the slow, creeping way the song feels like it's constantly building to something bigger, before finally reaching its apex with Jung-A's middle 8.

Throughout their entire run as a group, After School was sometimes labeled a group without a signature sound, almost as if that is to their detriment. While that argument does have merit, what set After School apart from the very beginning was that they positioned themselves as a performance group, first and foremost. Even if there isn't a singular sound that one can pinpoint directly as "After School", it makes them the perfect vessels for their collaborators. With their Japanese discography - Dress to kill especially - After School constantly transformed into a different group, but the one through-line that makes these songs "After School" is the ability they always had to just sell it.

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(10) — "I think Heaven has a stronger melody, but Shh has the stronger production. There're many unorthodox melodic choices, that didn't quite make sense to me back then, but have aged amazingly over the years."

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(9) — "The instrumental is soo good, but I wish this had a stronger hook. The build-up to it is amazing, but the 'shh~ secret love' part just does nothing for me, unfortunately. The actual chorus is great, though, and I actually really enjoy the verses a lot, too. It's obviously a good song, but I don't think it's a perfect one."​



@singabob (11) — "While not a classic like Bang or Diva, this has got to be my favourite song from them ever. I love everything about it – the production, the vocals, the music video, the choreography, the chorus. After School was just on top of their game with this release."

@Cotton Park (11) — "Minimalistic masterpiece. After School really hit their stride with their Japanese releases. Then what happened?"

@Attis (10) — "No other K-pop group can come up with this coolness and style of this song, performance (or Dress To Kill era in general tbh)."

@roblognick (10) — "A little bit experimental for After School? I love the weirdness of it."

@SloMover (10) — "An intoxicating blend of cold, clinical and hypnotic and sexy. Top tier pop music."

@Slice of Life (10) — "wouldn't be surprised if this wins it all and it would be a well-deserved win!"

@Wills (10) — "The instrumental's all fire and steel and should threaten to swallow the girls whole. Instead, they stomp directly into the fray and become part of the machine. An absolute masterclass, and a breathtaking swan song."

@eyeline (10) — "The power that that has, the intelligence that that has, etc, etc."

@KimLippington (10) — "SHE SHE SHE SHE SHE SHE SECRET LOVE."

@Macsun (10) — "When this was first released i was floored. The song is great but the MV takes it to another level. The most sophisticated they have ever looked and sounded. Also one of the few instances where vocals are the driving force."

@eatyourself (10) — "NOT THIS KRAFTWERK SERVE! This might be my favorite discovery in the entire rate! They gave Wednesday Campanella a career with this one."

@M24 (9.25) — "So groovy! I really like it, I'll give it just a 9.25 because I think it could've been trimmed down a bit... I get a little tired by the end of the song. Maybe that's on me for getting used to shorter songs. The MV is nothing short of amazing anyway, whew, I loved how they played with the shadows. It deserves to be in HD."

@berserkboi (9) — "I appreciate how 'unique' this is against the rest of their discography!"​







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I know Bang is a solid song. One of their most recognizable ones but in context of their entire catalog, TOP THREE???!!

It’s akin to Koreas obsession with GOT7’s Hard Carry. Good enough but bottom tier compared to their other singles.
 

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