Single Review: XIAH Junsu – “XIAH”

Tracklist:
1. Intoxication
2. 悲しみのゆくえ (Kanashimi no Yukue; The Whereabouts of Sadness)
3. 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~ (Kimi ga Ireba; If You’re Here)
4. 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~ (Short Vers.)
5. Intoxication (Instrumental)
6. 悲しみのゆくえ (Instrumental)
7. 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~ (Instrumental)

This is XIAH Junsu’s (of TVXQ fame) first solo single, which was released on May 26, 2010. The song 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~ was used in the drama Beautiful Love ~君がいれば~, which fellow TVXQ member Micky Yoochun starred in. The song 悲しみのゆくえ was used in the drama Gonengo no Love Letter.

Why do his lips look so gigantic? I feel like they take up the entire cover. Lol.

~

TVXQ fans are already well aware that Xiah Junsu is a terrific singer with a great voice. However, in Intoxication, we get to learn something new about Junsu: he’s HORNY. Seriously, Intoxication is pure sex music. From the gritty beat, to the languid keyboards and Junsu’s deliberately breathy vocals, there is nothing about this song that doesn’t scream seduction. I personally like this song because, well, who doesn’t like some sexy stuff every once in a while? I can see the lyrics, being a turnoff to some listeners, though; some of them get really dirty. However, if that kind of thing doesn’t offend you, I think you’ll like this song as much as I did.

When I saw that 悲しみのゆくえ was five and a half minutes long, I groaned. TVXQ’s last ballad was, in my opinion, really uninteresting, and if there’s anything I hate, it’s a boring, drawn-out ballad. Fortunately, though, my suspicions were incorrect. Junsu’s strong, emotional vocals made this song captivating and very pleasant to listen to. As a matter of fact, I didn’t mind the song’s length at all, because I got so swept up in Junsu’s performance. Excellent ballad!

I like 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~ and its laid-back R&B sound. It’s a rainy day where I am right now, so it’s very fitting to my mood at the moment. However, unlike the song that comes before it, the length of Beautiful Love is an issue. At just about five minutes, I feel like this song could be cut down by 30 seconds. Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

Summary: Above all, this single is proof that the members of the now-defunct TVXQ can go on to some very promising solo careers, if they so wish. XIAH Junsu proves in this collection of songs that he can do sexy, sentimental and simple, trendy R&B. There’s not much in this single that I could really call bad, so if you’re a TVXQ fan or even just have a passing interest in their Japanese music, give this single a try.

Single Grade: A
Recommended Tracks:
Intoxication | 悲しみのゆくえ | 君がいれば ~Beautiful Love~

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Single Review: Tohoshinki – “時ヲ止メテ”

Tracklist:
1. 時ヲ止メテ (Toki wo Tomete; Stop Time)
2. CHECKMATE (YUNHO from 東方神起)
3. 時ヲ止メテ -never end remix-
4. 時ヲ止メテ (Less Vocal)
5. CHECKMATE (Less Vocal)

This is Tohoshinki’s thirtieth single, which was released on March 24, 2010.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really like these covers.

~

To many Tohoshinki fans, 時ヲ止メテ is yet another testament to the legal struggles the group has been going through as of late. Unfortunately, this sentimentality doesn’t translate very well into the song itself. 時を止メテ is dull and a bit too long for its own good. Tohoshinki generally tend to excel at ballads, but I’ve definitely heard better from them than this. At five and a half minutes long, I think the producers of this song could have afforded to trim it down a little bit.

CHECKMATE is much better. As Yunho’s solo, this song is a fast-paced, futuristic dance track that definitely fits Yunho’s reputation as an excellent dancer. His vocals on this song are really notable as it seems like Yunho has a lot of control over his vibrato. I could picture him really getting into dancing to this song, which is especially appropriate considering his participation in a series of Michael Jackson tribute concerts in Seoul. The only less-than-great part of this song is the extra long instrumental break in the middle. Other than that, I’d say this is the best song on the single so far.

Finally, we have 時ヲ止メテ -never end remix-, a completely unnecessary and somewhat lame excuse for a remix. The song was long enough to begin with – I certainly didn’t want it to “never end.” The only thing this remix does is give the original a slightly dated, 80’s synth ballad feeling, but very little happens in the way of improvement.

Summary: After the excellence of BREAK OUT!, I was expecting Tohoshinki’s next single to be spectacular, but no such luck. Both 時ヲ止メテ and its corresponding remix were slow and rather boring, and the only truly exciting song on the single was Yunho’s solo song. Rather than dwelling on the difficulty of their current situation, I think Tohoshinki need to step it up and reaffirm their true appeal as pop stars.

Single Grade: B-
Recommended Songs:
CHECKMATE

Single Review: Tohoshinki – “BREAK OUT!”

Tracklist:
1. BREAK OUT!
2. XIAHTIC [JUNSU from 東方神起]
3. BREAK OUT! -New Jack Swing Mix-
4. BREAK OUT! -Less Vocal-
5. XIAHTIC -Less Vocal-

This is Tohoshinki’s twenty-ninth single. It was released on January 27, 2010 and sold 169,842 copies in its first day (!).

I think they look kind of…tired. Lol.

~

And now, something totally different. BREAK OUT! is a rather great departure from the sweet R&B we’re used to hearing from Tohoshinki. Instead, it’s a straightforward electronic number, kind of like their previous single Survivor, only darker. I was really impressed by this song’s strong instrumental and the flawless-as-always vocal performance from the boys. It seems kind of like this song is meant to be a statement regarding the still-ongoing lawsuit between Tohoshinki and SM Entertainment, which is even more interesting. I would say this is a very strong A-side – even more so than Stand by U!

Hearing this Japanese version of XIAHTIC was my first time hearing any version of this song, ever, which I guess makes me a bad fan. Lol. Well, in any case, I ended up really liking it a lot. Junsu’s got a truly awesome voice and he doesn’t get drowned out by the elaborate arrangement of the song. His performance isn’t without its faults, though – for example, he could afford to work on his English a little more, but seeing as this is J-Pop, it’s excusable.

BREAK OUT -New Jack Swing Mix- puts a totally different twist on the original song. It’s more R&B in nature, and to be honest, it sounds kind of dated. I prefer the original version by about 100%.

Summary: The fact of the matter is that Tohoshinki is unstoppable, which makes their current legal troubles with their Korean music agency all the more troubling. However, this single shows us that even amidst all the crap that’s been going on, Tohoshinki can still put out some great pop music, which is, after all, what they do best. All of the songs on this single, remix excepted, are really great vocally and musically, and they have a way of making you feel not the least bit embarrassed in listening and enjoying them. So you go, Tohoshinki. Keep the faith eternally!

Single Grade: A+

Single Review: Jejung & Yuchun – “Colors ~Melody and Harmony~/Shelter”

Tracklist:
1. COLORS ~Melody and Harmony~
2. Shelter
3. COLORS ~Melody and Harmony~ (Less Vocal)
4. Shelter (Less Vocal)

The first single by Jejung & Yuchun, a side project of the K-Pop and J-Pop group TVXQ was released on September 30, 2009. The first song was used as the image song for the 35th anniversary of Hello Kitty.

~

What nice, relaxing covers. I like the gentle splashes of color and the fact that the two versions are essentially direct contrasts of each other.

It took me a while to arrange my thoughts on COLORS ~Melody and Harmony~ because it’s just so danged different from the stuff that Jaejoong (Jejung) and Yoochun (Yuchun) normally make with TVXQ. Even though this is true, I just can’t help but love this song so much. It’s a simple, relaxed R&B love song that has your typical ballad characteristics but never gets boring. Jaejoong and Yoochun’s voices sound great together and boy, can these guys harmonize. There’s even a small section of Yoochun rapping in what sounds like English – it’s hard to tell, since he’s speaking so softly and he has a bit of an accent. However, these are only small flaws in a song that works in all the right places.

colors

Shelter is a mournful R&B song, with prominent English rapping sections once again by Yoochun and strong electronic elements. It’s interesting how this song takes almost the direct opposite route as its predecessor – there’s a distinct sadness to the melody and music, and the combination of soft piano and the sounds of the rain can’t help but make the listener think of a dark, rainy day. The part of the boys’ vocal performance that stands out most on this track is the belting sections, which are terrific. Overall it’s a very touching and emotional song.

Don’t let the titles mislead you – COLORS ~Melody and Harmony~ (Less Vocal) and Shelter (Less Vocal) are instrumentals.

Summary: Ah, TVXQ. To be honest, what with the whole SM contract debacle between three of the members of the group, I wasn’t expecting any kind of activity from any of them. But I’m so glad I was wrong. COLORS ~Melody and Harmony~ and Shelter ended up being emotional, lovely, and all-around great songs courtesy of Jaejoong and Yoochun’s beautiful voices and careful composition. I hope we hear more from this duo in the future, because I like what I hear now.

Single Grade: A

Single Review: Tohoshinki – “Stand by U”

 Tracklist:
1. Stand by U
2. Tea for Two
3. Sky
4. Stand by U (Love Behind the Mld Mix)
5. Stand by U (Less Vocal)
6. Tea for Two (Less Vocal)

Tohoshinki’s twenty-eighth Japanese language single, Stand by U, will be released on July 1, 2009. It is to be sold in two versions, a CD-only and a CD + DVD, the latter of which will have an extra B-side, titled Sky, which will be included in this review.

Stand by U presents yet more proof of Tohoshinki’s strength on ballads.  The song has a distinctly sentimental feel, with piano accents and subdued vocals during the verse. All of the boys sound very good in their respective sections, and their performance definitely succeeds in creating a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.

While still a ballad like the Stand by U, Tea for Two stands out because its overall sound is much funkier and more straightforward R&B. When comparing the choruses of both songs, they do start to sound more similar, however this particular song is great because it maintains the laid-back vibe while still being a unique song in and of itself.

With Sky, we get more of the signature Tohoshinki upbeat pop sound. It’s a fun and mildly uplifting summer-type track, exactly the kind you would expect from the likes of Hero, U-Know, Micky, Xiah and Max. That said, it’s not the catchiest or most groundbreaking song we’ve ever heard from them. You would not be missing much of anything by skipping it.

Summary: All things considered, this is a fairly strong release from Tohoshinki. They tend to really deliver on ballads and mid-tempo songs, and while neither Stand by U nor Tea for Two are instant classics like, say, “Love in the Ice”, the two combined are a pleasant listen and more than enough to compensate for the lackluster, formulaic pop of Sky.

Single Grade: A