Category: Album


Oh…The Wanted. I’ve been following them since before they came out due to the buzz being created by their manager (who also created/managed The Saturdays). Their whole concept of being a “cool boyband” is an interesting one and obviously works. As I’ve gotten more into K-Pop and seen the evolution of choreography and amazing singing abilities of modern boybands in Asia, The Wanted (and One Direction) seem a lot more stale to me. However, their music is catchy and fits the Western music market. Their launch in America has been an interesting one. “Glad You Came” kind of came out of nowhere and they were able to generate a following quite quickly through club gigs and building their name slowly. Their US EP, a mixture of their two UK albums, was released today in America and here are my thoughts!

Glad You Came
Awesome. I loved this song when it first came out in the UK last summer and still love it now. It has a great melody and is amazing to dance to at parties. The lyrics are pretty typical of a club track (I have to admit the line “you look well on me” still makes me double-take every time I hear it still) and the boys have a charming accent when they sing that makes the song stand out from the huge drone of pop tracks out now.

Chasing The Sun 
One of the newer tracks on the EP, and the next single. Penned by Example, the song is in the same vein as “Glad You Came” and is a good party track. I don’t think the melody is as good as “Glad You Came” but I really like the backing track and the production. This was definitely a smart choice for the second single and I’m sure it will be another big hit for them on both sides of the Atlantic. I was a little disappointed by their performance on The Voice, but the song is strong and is on par with their previous singles.

All Time Low
I heard this song almost 2 years ago now and my feelings haven’t really changed. It is catchy (and extremely fun to sing at karaoke…especially when trying to imitate their accents) but I’m going to be honest when I say that I really don’t understand why it was such a big hit. It has a good chorus but the melody in general is a bit stale. The build-up with the strings and the beat in the music is different and interesting though.

Satellite
The other newer track. I had high expectations when I heard it was produced by Ryan Tedder. After listening to it a couple times, I actually like this song more than “Chasing The Sun” and I think it could be a cool single. It continues the dance-pop direction they have been going in, but has a different mood from “Glad You Came” and has a catchy melody. I like the intense middle 8 before the final chorus (and epic backing music).

Lightning
I actually quite like “Lightning” despite the boys actually saying it was kind of filler material. Though it’s not as strong as some of their other singles, I think it has a great chorus and the production on the track has a lot of depth. Another fun one to sing along to and different from the past few tracks on the EP so far.

Heart Vacancy
A single off the first album in the UK. I have to admit, I really didn’t like “Heart Vacancy” before and I still don’t really. It’s all a bit cheesy and I don’t think it’s the right key for the boys’ voices. It all sounds a bit strained and not that nice to listen to. The Wanted definitely have their dance tracks down but I definitely think they could do better midtempos and ballads.

Gold Forever
My least favorite off the EP for sure. Another one that I didn’t really like when it had first come out. The chorus is a bit of a letdown and another one that doesn’t really stand out as anything special or interesting. I appreciate the backing track but I definitely think they have some better album tracks that they could have included instead of this song.

Lose My Mind
I love this song. Possibly my favorite song of theirs ever. I can’t believe it’s only a bonus track on the special edition of this EP because this song deserves as much attention as possible. It has a great melody and a fantastic chorus. The boys all sound really good on this song and the melody is easy to get caught in your head.

Warzone
The only real ballad on the album. It has a cool feel to it (very moody and dark) which is different from the rest of the album, but I hope that they get better ballads as they progress. I think they can do better than this song. I like the verses more than the chorus.

Rocket
The only non-single on the EP…and it was a good choice! I do think they have some stronger ones on the first album, but this song isn’t bad. I think this is better than the other mid-tempos (“Warzone,” “Gold Forever,” and “Heart Vacancy”) and it has lyrics that are a bit unique and it’s a solid end to the EP.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: 
The EP runs as a little Greatest Hits package for those that have followed the band since the start, and overall, it is a solid EP. The songs are all catchy and stand out from each other. I’m glad they have been doing well for themselves and hope this has opened the door for other British acts (ahem…The Saturdays) to enter the US market. The personas they’ve decided to portray are interesting to me (kinda douche-y to be honest…but I guess people here like that) and I’m not really totally behind them yet. However, I look forward to what they have planned in the future.

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EP REVIEW: EXO – MAMA

EXO is SM Entertainment’s latest project. The label, one of the largest in the K-Pop industry, handles artists such as SHINee, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior. I had a chance to see their concert, SMTown, at Madison Square Garden in New York City last year, and I got to see first-hand the quality of SM Entertainment’s artists. Needless to say, I had extremely high expectations when EXO, a new boyband, was announced. After what has felt like hundreds of teasers, their first EP has finally been released!

The whole concept behind EXO is really interesting – 12 boys are split into two groups, EXO-K and EXO-M, that sing the same songs in either Korean or Mandarin. Looking at it from a business sense, it is brilliant. SM can now simultaneously enter two markets with essentially the same group. The two subgroups can fulfill double the commitments a regular artist could. Also, fans now have double the merchandise and music to purchase. However, from an artistic perspective, this is definitely a little weird. There are Korean and Chinese versions of every song and music video and it’s literally the most manufactured a pop group could possibly be.

Overall though, the group is on par with other SM artists – good singers, good dancers and a lot of star quality. So how is their first EP? Let’s take a listen to both EXO-K and EXO-M’s versions of MAMA…

1. MAMA

The lead single. After two very good prologue singles, I had very high expectations for the actual single. It’s good – but not as good as I wanted it to be. I love the heaviness of the music and the creepy chanting, but I feel like the chorus could have been stronger – not sure if that’s down to production or what – but it never reaches the epic proportions that I want it to. The screamo bridge is a little much for me (and a little scary in the video) but I do like the buildup throughout the song. As a first single though, it’s a good start for the group and the choreography is great. I look forward to seeing them perform it more and singing it live. I definitely think the song sounds better in Korean (I just think it’s a prettier language when sung) but the members of EXO-M definitely sing just as well as those in EXO-K. In an ideal world, I would mix and match their voices to form the perfect group of 6.

2. What Is Love

I love this song. This was the first song we ever heard from the group, and I was pleasantly surprised. It sounds a lot like TVXQ’s RnB ballads. The two leads in the Korean version, D.O. and Baekhyung, are awesome. The leads in the Chinese version, Lu Han and Chen, are just as good. Out of the four, I like Baekhyung and Lu Han’s voices the best, but all four of them are definitely amazing vocalists. I hope that as time goes on and the group becomes more established, the four of them have a chance to sing together and really do some crazy harmonies and adlibs together. The song’s backing track is really interesting (it has a really choppy riff that goes through it that makes it memorable) and the emotion in their voices really show. Those adlibs at the end are crazy…I haven’t heard many Western male singers sing like that in a long time.

3. History

Definitely my favorite on the album. This was the second prologue single released by the group, and it is catchy with a good beat and a great dance routine. The chorus is fun and has a great hook. This is definitely a more “typical” K-Pop song, but it’s a good one and I hope that the group continues in this direction. Kudos to the whoever did the choreography cause I love it!

4. Angel

A ballad! This song is more of a generic boyband slow song (kinda soppy) but it has a pleasant melody and good harmonies. I’m glad that it doesn’t just sound like some Super Junior/SHINee/TVXQ reject and actually matches the sound set by the first three songs.

5. Two Moons (feat. Key from SHINee)

Rap song…interesting. It’s alright…good to showcase some other skills that other members have but I definitely think I’ve heard better rap stuff from SM before. I do like that Key’s there though and he brings a lighter/thinner voice to accompany the low/thick voices of EXO members.

6. Machine

First thought as the verse starts is that it sounds like f(x) – which isn’t a bad thing at all. I like the production in the song. It’s a solid end to the album – a song that’s not good enough to be a single but could be a really good performance if given a quality dance routine. Love the breakdown for the bridge as well – harmonies are cool and the build up back to the chorus is fun. Chorus is catchy and easy to sing along to.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Solid first EP. Not the best EP I’ve ever heard in my life, but definitely on par with other SMTown releases. I will definitely keep an eye on EXO and I hope that they keep getting better and find their niche within the huge array of boybands in the K-Pop world. SM has done a good job of not making them sound too much like TVXQ/Super Junior/SHINee and I’m interested to see how they develop.

SHINee were my introduction to K-Pop. Their song “Lucifer” was too good to not get into, and soon after that I was researching about other groups and getting into the whole industry. I was extremely excited when they finally announced their comeback and knew that it would be amazing. Their RnB-tinged pop is awesome and so catchy, and their dancing and singing skills are just crazy. There is honestly no Western pop band that is as talented as them.

Sherlock (Clue + Note) – 10/10
Brilliant. The song is exactly what I expected from SHINee – a progression from “Lucifer” that has a Michael Jackson-feel and is reminiscent of “Juliette” and “Love Like Oxygen.” The music video is great as well and I love that it was choreographed by Tony Testa (Michael Jackson and Kylie Minogue!!). The chorus is brilliant – really catchy and just enough English for me to sing along! The way the song was put together reminds me of Girls Aloud – where each verse is completely different and has a different feel. Jonghyun sounds awesome (as always) and this is definitely up there as one of SHINee’s best songs. The end is amazing as well – GIVE IT UP FOR SHINEEEEEEEEE!

Clue – 8/10
So this is where the mini-album gets kinda weird because since “Sherlock” is actually a mash-up of “Clue” and “Note,” they decided to let us hear what those two songs originally sounded like before they were turned into “Sherlock.” I’m not sure this was really necessary as there aren’t enough different parts in the song to make them stand out as an independent song. The whole intro/first verse (over a minute!) is exactly the same as “Sherlock” and is just missing the chorus. The little breakdown near the 2:35 mark by Jonghyun is the only interesting part of having “Clue.”

Note – 8/10
Love the intro and the backing track in “Note.” Again, there’s nothing that interesting about the song since it makes up half of “Sherlock” and just feels like a half-song. But the chorus (that is also used in “Sherlock”) is so awesome that I don’t mind listening to it again. Again, this song is a non-event since the majority of it is used in “Sherlock” anyway.

Alarm Clock – 9/10
I love this song. I love all of SHINee’s slower RnB tracks and this definitely doesn’t disappoint. All the boys have great voices and this song showcases it in a great way. I’m glad that Jonghyun got to write it as well because “Obsession” from their last album was great. This song has a great chorus and a great feel and I’m excited to hear them sing it live. Love Minho’s spoken bit at the end too.

The Reason – 8/10
Another slower track that is on par with SHINee’s past ballads. This song has a good chorus. It’s not really anything special but is a good addition to their catalogue and rounds out the mini-album nicely. The middle 8 is the best part of the song and I love the strings in the backing track.

Stranger – 9/10
I loved “Stranger” when it was on SHINee’s Japanese album, “The First,” so I was actually excited to hear the Korean version. The song has a great feel and has a cool chorus with a good melody. They have been performing it as part of their comeback performances as well which has made me like the song even more. The song is just dramatic enough and is another one that’s fun to listen to.

Honestly – 8/10
Oooh, an acoustic track! Something different for SHINee. This was apparently written by Jonghyun and Minho for the fans. It has a pleasant melody and is a good end to the mini-album. I wish it had some harmonies in there because I know they can pull it off, but other than that, it’s a good simple song.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:  Solid comeback! I wish we got two other tracks instead of “Clue” and “Note,” but with plans of a full album later in the year, this will hold me until then. I am very excited to have them back and will definitely be listening to these songs for awhile. Now everyone watch the dance rehearsal of “Sherlock”!


Anthony Callea is one of the best modern male singers I have ever heard. He got his start through Australian Idol, and his first independent release is the EP, “Last To Go.” Before I review each track, please hear his amazing voice in action during his breakout Idol performance of “The Prayer.”

OK, now on to his EP. Anthony had released his last album, “A New Chapter,” in 2006 and I was really excited that he finally released something new. The EP is available on iTunes worldwide and includes 7 tracks.

Last To Go – 8/10
This song is a decent single – it’s got a good tune and is fun to sing along to. It’s not mindblowingly original, but it’s a simple pop song that is a natural progression from some of Anthony’s more upbeat songs from the last two albums. His voice is still just as great as it used to be and this song definitely showcases his range to the fullest. Though it’s about partying, I like that the beat isn’t just a generic club beat and is more of a song that is perfect to sing along to in the car.

Oh Oh Oh Oh – 6/10
When I first heard this song from Anthony, I was a little thrown off because it was so dance-y compared to all of his previous stuff. It’s a fun song that seems to be written to get the crowd going at a concert. However, I think that Anthony is stronger with rock/pop style songs than songs in the dance genre. The backing track has great production though and it’s interesting hearing Anthony’s versatility. I definitely prefer the acoustic version featured at the end of the EP. Anthony Callea definitely does NOT need autotune.

Tangled – 8/10
Yay! A ballad! Anthony’s voice is really emotive and always sounds great with slower songs. This song has a pretty melody and a good chorus. This is definitely one of my favorites off the EP. I love that it was inspired by the Disney movie of the same title too! I love the strong drums in the backing track and the subtle build-up throughout the song.

Last Night – 4/10
This is my least favorite off the EP. The music and lyrics are a little too generic and I know that Anthony can do better! This is another dancier track, but not as catchy as “Oh Oh Oh Oh.” This is definitely more of a filler than the other tracks on the album. Even though dance music is the big thing right now, I preferred the sound that “Last To Go” had –  it was still danceable but didn’t take it one step further to using generic club beats.

I Don’t Care What You Say – 7/10
Love this backing track – sounds great with headphones. This is definitely more the direction I think Anthony should pursue – just a good simple pop song. The lyrics have a good message as well and the verses have a great melody. Again, not mindblowing but still a decent song!

Last To Go (Acoustic) – 8/10
I love Anthony’s voice so much. I am so glad that he included acoustic versions of the singles because they really show how great his voice is, which is something I think might be slightly lost throughout the EP. This definitely adds some depth to the song and I love how he uses so many different tones in his voice.

Oh Oh Oh Oh (Acoustic) – 8.5/10
So much better than the actual track in my opinion! It’s got a great groove to it during the verses and there is so much more depth and interesting moments throughout it. Great end to the EP.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: It’s a solid EP and I am so happy to get new music from Anthony. None of the songs are absolutely amazing, but it’s a good comeback after such a huge hiatus and I hope that he has something up his sleeve so he can be more popular both in Australia and in more markets around the world. I hope he keeps his roots as a pop singer and doesn’t transcend too deep into dance music. There’s enough of that now and his voice is too great to be drowned out by generic club beats.

Oh Oh Oh Oh (Acoustic) Live at The Circle

Last To Go – Behind The Scenes

ALBUM REVIEW: Madonna – MDNA

Freshly leaked only a few hours ago, here is my track-by-track review of MDNA by Madonna written as I listen to each track for the first time. I’m not the biggest fan of her, but since this is one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year I thought I would give it a shot!

Girl Gone Wild – 6/10
Much catchier than Give Me All Your Luvin’ but not as good as some of her previous work, the track is a solid effort and single. It’s not really anything special but it has a catchy beat and chorus that will be fun in clubs. The music video was basically everything you can expect from a Madonna video. This song is very typical Top 40 in America – not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Gang Bang – 7/10
Love the haunting beats and backing track, as well as the breathy vocals. As I listen to the song, I’m hearing some build-up so am hoping for an explosive ending. The chorus is awesome – love the police car noises and the beat getting stronger. And there’s a dub-step breakdown! I can imagine this song having really cool choreography. Not sure if this song needed to be over 5 minutes – the buildup at the beginning took a little too long but the song overall is quite cool. The spoken outro is a little strange/unnecessary in my opinion, but I’m sure tons of people will say it’s the best part of the song.

I’m Addicted – 3/10
1 minute in and there’s nothing that really grabs me about this song just yet. No real tune yet…first impression is that it’s filler material. The backing track is quite cool but the tune is a bit boring. I’m not really feeling this song – there’s nothing about it that would make me want to listen to it again.

Turn Up The Radio – 5/10
This song has a great happy feel to it. Definitely one of those that everyone can jump to during the concert. The chorus is a little underwhelming melody-wise but the backing track is good. Again, the song doesn’t really go anywhere and doesn’t have anything too memorable about it. Another filler track, though I imagine it sounding better with a live band.

Give Me All Your Luvin’ – 6/10
Catchy, but didn’t really meet the high expectations I had for Madonna’s Super Bowl single. The Nicki Minaj and MIA features are only OK. The cheerleader bits are kind of annoying, but the chorus is simple and memorable. The music video is interesting and definitely made me like the song a bit more. It’s ironic that she says something about how all the songs sound the same so we need to step into her world…..based on what I’ve heard so far, all these songs are pretty typical and what I expected from her.

Some Girls – 5/10
The backing tracks throughout this album so far have definitely been of really high quality and are very consistent. The song has a simple chorus and is OK….not that memorable.

Superstar – 8/10
Oooh I’m liking this! This song has stuck out the most to me so far….the melody is catchy and I like the feel. “Oooh la la you’re my superstar…” Loving the drums after the first chorus as well. This is definitely one of the highlights for me so far. It’s still not the best song I’ve heard from Madonna, but at least it’s memorable and fun.

I Don’t Give A – 7/10
Loving this musical intro…and the lyrics are pretty good too. The melody of the verses are a little annoying but as a whole the song has a good structure and it has a cool feel. I like the middle 8 a lot and the little breakdown afterwards. Nicki’s rap verse here is better than the one in Give Me All Your Luvin’ and I love her saying BITCH at the end of it. The outro is quite epic…Madonna must have had some anger to let out for this release!

I’m A Sinner – 4/10
Filler. Nothing special – no real melody or build in the song. The verse about Mary/Jesus etc. is interesting and the whole part after that is a bit more unique…but the song as a whole is just kind of “meh.” And it feels waaayy too long.

Love Spent – 6/10
Love the intro and backing track. Interesting lyrics. The whole feel of this song is quite cool. Again, the backing track is better than the melody itself. These banjo bits are the best part of the song.

Masterpiece – 6/10
I was looking forward to a slower song! Has quite a heavy/haunting feel. Not the best moody ballad I’ve heard but it’s decent. The melody of the verses remind me of something but I can’t think what….I like all the harmonies in the song. I wish it had more buildup.

Falling Free – 8/10
Great intro, the strings are a nice addition after so many synths throughout the album. I’m quite liking this so far….simple melody with a building orchestral backing track. Great end to the album!

OVERALL THOUGHTS: The album is pretty much what I expected – nothing was mindblowing. None of the songs made me like Madonna any more than I did before. I definitely appreciate her as a great performer and a distinctive voice…but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to replay this album or paying thousands to see her anytime soon.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

“Alive” is a solid effort from Big Bang. None of the songs measure up to the Big Bang classics such as “Lies,” “Haru Haru” and “Heaven” but it’s definitely better than their last EP. The album is very consistent – there is no bad song, but at the same time there isn’t one song that stands out and calls for multiple repeats. All of the melodies are pleasant and the production is great across the whole album. The group has definitely shown their growth in versatility and improvement in vocal and emotive abilities throughout the album. I am extremely excited that they have planned a world tour over the rest of the year and hope that I can make it to one of their shows! They are definitely one of the best K-Pop artists out there and I’m very happy that they are getting so much attention around the world.

TRACK BY TRACK: 

Intro (Alive) – 9/10

This is an energetic introduction to the album. Despite not understanding the exact lyrics, I can feel the sentiment and positivity. After everything the group went through last year, the group is alive and ready to continue their journey. The sound is reminiscent of some older Big Bang songs and the production is great. I wish this was a full song and not just an intro!

Blue – 9/10

It’s a little weird to go from such a positive intro to a mellower song. I definitely think that “Blue” is the best song on the album. It took me a couple listens/video views to really get into it, but I love the feel of the song and it has a great melody. One thing I love about Big Bang is how good the members are at emoting through their voices. I can’t understand most of what they’re saying, but I can still feel everything they are singing. The chorus has a catchy hook and they all sound great. I look forward to a performance!

Love Dust – 7/10

“Love Dust” has a Europop feel, which I of course love. It’s got a positive melody and is one of those songs that you naturally start bopping your head to. I like the verses more than the chorus though. The chorus is a little underwhelming and doesn’t really match the build-up in the music. The middle 8 is definitely the best part of the song in my opinion.

Bad Boy – 8/10

When I first heard this song (through watching the music video), I wasn’t that into it. However, the song grew on me really fast and I now really like it. I think I was too distracted by G-Dragon’s awful hair when watching the video to give the song my full attention. I love the chill vibe and the beats sound great when using headphones. I love the use of piano and its subtle R&B feel. This is definitely one of my favorites off the EP!

Ain’t No Fun – 9/10

Love the 90’s feel of the song! From the second the music started, I knew I would like this song. The feel of the song reminds me a bit of “Fool” from Big Bang’s Hot Issue EP released back in 2007, which is still a favorite of mine. I love the chorus and this is definitely a standout for me on the album! Can’t wait to see the MV and how they perform it.

Fantastic Baby – 7/10

This song sounds like a Black Eyed Peas song. The instrumental sounds extremely American. It’s a good club track and is probably the most predictable song on the album with a simple hook and a generic electropop vibe. The whole feel reminds me of 2NE1’s “I Am The Best” and GD&TOP’s “High High,” which isn’t a bad thing. It’s definitely catchy and rounds out the album well, but it’s not my favorite.

Wings – 8/10

When I heard that Daesung was going to have a solo on the album, I was expecting a really emotional ballad about all of the problems he faced last year. But I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it because it’s actually a very happy song! It has a great melody and is very radio friendly. The use of guitar brings in a pop/rock feel, which kind of reminds me of some of Kelly Clarkson’s instrumentals (which of course is a great thing). Daesung has a great voice and I’m really glad he got to showcase that with this album. The song is a great way to end the album.