Single Review: Orange Caramel – “흰눈 사이로 하이힐 타고 (with NU’EST)”

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This is the 2012 release from Pledis’s annual holiday project, Happy Pledis. It was released on December 12, 2012.

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Single Review: Orange Caramel – “The First Mini Album [Magic Girl]”

Tracklist:
1. 마법소녀 (魔法少女) (Magic Girl)
2. 사랑을 미룰 순 없나요 (Can’t We Delay Love)
3.
마법소녀 (魔法少女) (Inst.)
4. 사랑을 미룰 순 없나요(Inst.)

This is the first single from After School’s new sub-unit, Orange Caramel, consisting of Nana, Raina and Lizzy. It was released on June 16, 2010.

The cuteness of this cover makes up for how much I really do not like the name “Orange Caramel.”

~

It took me a while to wrap my head around 마법소녀 (魔法少女) because it’s not exactly your average K-Pop tune. The initial reaction of many fans was to scream “J-Pop!” and either use that as a reason to write it off or love it; I can agree with this to an extent, although I do think this song has some very K-Pop things about it, such as the chorus which is quite catchy. The members for this sub-group were also chosen very well, because between Lizzy’s, Nana’s and Raina’s voices, I think they blend really nicely. Overall, I’d say that this song is a grower: it may take a few listens to catch on, but once it does it’s a pleasure to listen to.

사랑을 미룰 순 없나요 takes on a much more traditional pop sound, with a simple R&B beat and some other mainstream fixings. There’s really not much to say about this song; it’s just… very formulaic. It sounds nice as it showcases the three girls’ voices more, but it truly is an ordinary pop song. That’s about it.

Summary: After listening to these two songs, my thought is that this whole endeavor with supgroups is meant to breathe new life into a group whose fanbase is starting to stagnate a little bit. I mean, these are nice, cute, approachable songs, but I really doubt they’re going to be making waves in K-Pop any time soon. It was a good try, though. Also, since there’s supposed to be another sub-unit made up of all the other members minus Uee, I’m wondering if they’re going to be the complete opposite of Orange Caramel, as in, really edgy and sexy? Hmmm. Who knows. It shall be interesting!

Single Grade: B
Recommended Tracks:
마법소녀 (魔法少女)

Single Review: After School – “Bang!”

Tracklist:
1. Let’s Do It!
2. Bang!
3. With U
4. Bang! (Inst.)

This is After School’s third single, which was released on March 25, 2010.

Pretty hot, but I could do without those ugly hats.

~

Of all the single/album concepts I’ve seen since getting into K-Pop, marching band is one I never thought I’d see. Starting off the single is Let’s Do It!, a fairly short (just under a minute and a half) introduction with multiple drum lines and a “brass section,” just like you’d find in an real marching band. It’s kind of hard to give a real critique on this little ditty – it is what it is, pretty much. The real meat of this single is yet to come.

Bang! is exactly what you probably think it is: K-Pop’s take on a marching band, complete with hard-hitting hip hop beats and synths blended in with the typical fixtures of snare drums and brass-sounding instruments. Vocally, there isn’t much to comment on here – a lot of the verses consist of cheerleader-esque shouting (which are pretty catchy) , and the ones that involve actual singing are only fair. I did end up enjoying the song, but I can’t help but wonder – what happened to that new member, Lizzy? As far as I can tell I don’t think she got a solo. Ah well. Maybe next time. Good song!

Okay, so here we have With U, a ballad. It starts out as R&B but then kind of unfolds into a sort of hybrid between R&B and rock. This is a really nice song in any other context, since the music and vocals are both pretty good, but I don’t get it. Why on this single? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense after the previous two songs, which both had a specific idea to them. I guess this song would have fit in better on the Because of You single, but here it’s just kind of…there.

Summary: With K-Pop, everything has to have a concept. Everything. One can never just put out a song and video and be done with it – there has to be a specialized, ridiculously specific image to convey, and one must keep that image up until the promotions for said song are over. Well, I will admit that “marching band” is one of the more unique concepts I’ve seen, all thanks to the group’s leader Park Kahi. The first two songs on the single stick to the theme with reasonable production quality and gusto to spare. The main problem I have with this single is that it flukes out on its own concept on the last song, even though it’s a good song in its own right. I guess I would have liked to see them stick with the theme until the very end.

Single Grade: B-
Recommended Tracks:
Bang!

Single Review: After School – “너 때문에”

Tracklist:
1. 너 때문에 (Neo Ddaemune; Because of You)
2. When I Fall
3. Diva
4. 너 때문에 (Inst.)

This is After School’s second single, which was released on November 23, 2009.

Aw, they’re holding teddy bears. That’s cute.

~

너 때문에 starts off with a twinkling piano line and some hushed vocals, leading the listener to believe it’ll be a ballad, and then springs to life with lively synths and a slightly shout-y rap verse. It’s a very contemporary song with high high high production quality and a decent amount of autotune, but it still retains its power and sentimentality through the vocals. Each girl has a distinct voice, so you can tell you’re listening to a different person each time. A couple of them have excellent voices, too.

Another R&B track, When I Fall is quite pretty and very American. The music consists of a mainstream beat and acoustic guitars, with some vibrant synths every now and then. The vocals are good in an average sort of way, but they don’t reach their apex until the end, near the final chorus. There’s some English thrown in there, but it sounds well-placed and pronounced perfectly. Overall, the song is pretty mediocre, but it’s still pleasant and very listenable.

Okay, so…Diva. Take every energetic, cutesy, and overly-synthed song by a K-Pop girl group you’ve ever heard and you pretty much have this song. I tried to like it, but I couldn’t get past the fact that this song is basically the audial equivalent of a seizure. Final verdict: hot mess.

Summary: After School are a rookie K-Pop girl group – like we don’t have enough of those already – who have a very mainstream sound. This is the description I’d give to two out of three of the songs on this single (Diva and When I Fall): mainstream, and to some extent, forgettable. Appropriately, the standout track on this single is the A-side, whose lovely and emotional sound becomes the sole redeeming quality of an otherwise mundane release.

Single Grade: B