U-KISS are better than your oppars aka EX(wh)O

Hearing Alone for the first time was like every holiday had been mixed together and stuffed inside a pie.


While I have been MIA for the past several months, I assure you my ears have been awake and working hard. Where some groups have been doing shit-all (that means you, EXO) others have been working their pretty, sculpted backsides off to no avail.  Arguably, EXO’s success—which has come about from one mere, mediocre mini-album—is riding off the power of their company and label mates’ established names rather than their own merit and hard work. Because of this, I find it difficult to not to shed a tear for the poor souls on lesser known labels whose talents are just as good as—or perhaps better than—the power groups of SM, YG and JYP Entertainment.

Yes, I’m looking at you, U-KISS.


U-KISS have been so prolific in my absence (actually, I haven’t gone anywhere—I’ve just been lazy) I’m actually using this semi-opinionated rant article as a mass review for the stream of releases in Japan and Korea over the past few months. Following DORADORA, our little workaholics have released eight MVs, two Japanese singles, two mini-albums, one full-length album, and two digital singles that no one actually remembers. The point is U-KISS have done more in seven months than some groups (coughexocough) have done their entire career. Is this the result of the age-old quality vs quantity debate? Maybe. Or a testament of label power? Most definitely.

As fun as it is to rip on EXO—their fans are so blindly and hilariously defensive it’s actually sad—that is not the point of this article. I’m here to glance over U-KISS’ recent endeavours and lament over their continued but unjustified lack of notable success. I know I’m supposed to be (relatively) unbiased but get over it: U-KISS are awesome and deserve my love and your money.

DORADORA was very quickly succeeded by yet another mini-album; The Special to KISSME hit our screens just one month after DORADORA with title track Believe. While notably lacking the edge and style of the previous release, Believe was certainly fresh and easy listening. I mean, how could it not be with all those pastels and aqua? Written by member AJ, the track was catchier and more likeable than anything called Believe should have been. Thus, AJ’s decision to take a brief hiatus from the band to pursue tertiary education was the saddest day of my life. (It wasn’t really, because I’m not insane.)

AJ’s departure did not leave the hole I thought it would: Stop Girl was an amazing mini-album and despite its ballad-like appearance, it didn’t make me want to kill myself as ballads tend to do. If that isn’t a credit to U-KISS’ talent then I don’t know what is. The black and white MV was poignant and the inclusion of an English version of the song was very much welcomed. Another highlight of the Stop Girl mini was accompanying ballad Time to Go. I’m not really sure what it was about September that made me so welcoming to slower tunes, but I certainly won’t complain because this album quenched a thirst I didn’t know I had.

Somewhere in between Believe and Stop Girl were Japanese releases, Dear My Friend and One of You. I don’t really have a much of an opinion to offer on these tracks because Japanese music labels are monumental tight-arses when it comes to offering full-length videos on YouTube, thus I have never given them more than a once over. Evidently, they were not that memorable—much like digital singles Cinderella and Gangstar Boy which no one outside the diehard KISSMEs have even heard of. Rounding out 2012 was yet another mediocre Japanese ballad by the name of Distance. It was … nice. And that’s all I’m going to say.

If 2013 is not U-KISS’ glory year then something is horridly wrong with the world. The year has started strongly in the industry, headed by new releases from big guns SHINee and Super Junior M. While I think Breakdown is brilliant and my ears like Dream Girl much more than my eyes do, my highlight so far this year is U-KISS’ latest Japanese single. Hearing Alone for the first time was like every holiday had been mixed together and stuffed inside a pie. And if there’s one thing I like, its pie. Alone is dark, gritty, catchy and undeniably sexy. Even Kevin with his androgynous looks and borderline homosexual mannerisms had me swooning. The sheer joy this song had AJ forgotten in seconds. But let’s face it—what group actually needs three dedicated rappers? In any case, this song had me cursing avexnetwork more than ever for being so narrow-sighted and backwards and not having HD version of their music videos posted in full to their YouTube Channel. Believe it or not guys, free public exposure is actually helpful. Who would have thought?

No comeback, however, is official unless it takes place in Korea.  While I question the decision to release so closely to SHINee I strongly commend U-KISS on their comeback stages. Personally found title track Standing Still had much more of an impact than SHINee’s eye-murdering Dream Girl. If wardrobe was anything to take into consideration then U-KISS would have won hands down because God knows SHINee’s stylist should have been euthanized years ago.

Taemin's awful wardrobe in DREAM GIRL

Standing Still is an amazing showcase of vocalists Hoon, Kevin and Soohyun. As with much of U-KISS’ discography these three carry the bulk of the workload, and with well-earned justification.  And Hoon’s blond hair is just smokin’. Appearance aside, Standing Still is a solid track and I regret to say I’m unable as yet to locate a copy of the full album, Collage. How about you import some Korean CDs other than TVXQ, eh Japan?

Let’s put praise on hold for a minute and remember: no band is perfect. While U-KISS’ music and vocals are definitely up to snuff their choreography blows more than an underpaid prostitute. This is not really a reflection on the talent of U-KISS themselves but more the rather strange inspirations of their choreographer. How about we take a moment to remember the enraged chicken of the Neverland video.

U-KISS - Neverland Dance

But if the industry worked on dancing prowess alone, there would be some serious eyebrows raised over Super Junior’s success. Yes, that is an unveiled stab at Heechul. Possibly Yesung. Definitely Ryeowook.

And on that note …


Dora Dora Dora Dora the Explorer?

It might appear I’ve been too busy for Kpop and that’s mostly because I have been too busy for Kpop. Although full-time employment has unfortunately interfered with my music blogging it hasn’t prevented me from listening to all the new releases hitting the stores. As always, it’s been a tale of hit and miss, but let’s get back into things with one of the sure-fire hits: U-KISS DORADORA.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: U-KISS is severely underrated. As hard as I try to be apathetic in blog posts and keep my personal biases close to my chest, it’s hard when something as fresh and wonderful as DORADORA pops up. I was first introduced to U-KISS when they released Neverland and, with the inclusion of their Japanese debut, the seven-member band has continued to go from strength to strength. Now with the release of their sixth mini-album I think it’s safe to say U-KISS has solidified their sound. And what a very good sound it is.

Title track DORADORA is, at first glance, a jumble of genres. With its unusual deep and low opening, DORADORA ends very different to how it starts once the power vocals of Hoon and Soohyun kick in. Let’s ignore for a moment how much the chorus sounds like Dora Dora Dora Dora the Explorer and enjoy what it has to offer as a whole: the bass-heavy melody is delicious and when coupled with the ridiculously catchy (albeit unfortunate) chorus, there was no way this song was to be anything but a hit. Unfortunately for U-KISS (and their beloved KISSME) this was not reflected in the charts as strongly as it should have as their comeback coincided with Girls’ Generation TTS’ debut, who—unsurprisingly—took a clean sweep of the music shows with Twinkle. But if the boys continue to churn out delights such as DORADORA I dare say they’ll be winning one of the weekend stages before too long. I’ll cross my fingers for them.

The MV for DORADORA is just as wonderful as the track itself. Although Kevin looks as though he’s dressed in a picnic blanket and Eli’s hair is an offensive shade of white, the boys have a crisp, mature image more or less epitomised by AJ. That short hair is working for you, boy, keep it up.

DORADORA - Screen Cap 01 DORADORA - Screen Cap 02

Now, for me, the choreography for DORADORA is the selling point. While I have been known to laugh at U-KISS’ dancing prowess in the past—seriously, what was that dance in Neverland?—they certainly stepped it up with Tick-Tack and Forbidden Love and maintained this standard with DORADORA. Loaded with body rolls and undulating pelvises the choreography is painfully erotic—especially when you consider maknae Dongho being but the tender age of seventeen. Awkward difference in our age aside, DORADORA is an utter joy and there is very little I can seriously find to fault. And that is rare indeed.

Amazing served as the teaser for the mini-album, being released prior to the full album drop. The track was penned by member AJ, who has done a fine job on this dance hit. While it pales beside DORADORA, Amazing is more than satisfying in terms of tempo and catchiness. As always, there is little to note vocal-wise aside from Soohyun, Kevin and Hoon who dominate with their combination of power, harmony and the ubiquitous wail. The track is a great little party piece which will no doubt raise the mood as you can’t help but cry out it’s so amazing.

A notable highlight for me in regards to this album was the single ballad track which manifested in the form of 사랑이 멈출 [When Love Stops]. Contrary to what you’re all expecting, I actually really like this song—it’s emotional, powerful and strangely moving despite the language barrier. Have I become more tolerant of ballads recently? It’s possible; however I don’t expect to be listening to this song—or any pop ballad—on repeat anytime soon but it certainly is a nice track.

4U (For You) rounds out the new tracks on this mini-album. It’s lighter than both DORADORA and Amazing and consequently weaker. Once again, it’s not a bad song, but it’s not that great either and would have been rather forgettable were it not for the cringe-worthy line Thanks to you I’m jumping like a kangaroo. Cheers for that, Eli (AJ? I have no idea).

The album finishes up with an instrumental of DORADORA, which no one cares about, and a Korean version of Japanese super-hit Tick-Tack, renamed TICK TOCK (OUT OF TIME). The wonderful thing about this song is regardless of the language in which it is sung it’s still ridiciously great. It’s interesting to note in addition to the Japanese the English lines also underwent renovation. The rewriting of this handful of lines has certainly changed the overall meaning and feel of the track. Was this a smart move? In my opinion: yes. The two songs are very different and have gone from being a simple language swap to almost individual tracks. That said, I will always listen to the Japanese version for no particular reason other than it was the one that came first.

Although I still rate U-KISS’ Japanese tracks among their best and strongest, the boys have certainly proven themselves contenders on their native Korean charts with DORADORA. With their follow-up mini The Special to KISSME released little over a month behind DORADORA it’s safe to say U-KISS are set to give their home turf a pounding. You go, U-KISS.