Thursday, August 9, 2012

m-flo Square One Review

This is going to be a short series where I review some albums. I'm picking albums that I would actually recommend to someone, which is why it's highly unlikely I'll review any idol albums. I know some people are probably thinking "What the fuck, m-flo is Japanese." Well, yes, but m-flo has worked with a lot of Korean artists in the past, feature 2NE1 on this album, and Verbal is Korean himself. The only other albums I plan on reviewing in the forseeable future is Nell's album and Lessang's album, mainly since I never reviewed their title tracks when they came out. I'll probably also review Epik High's album when it comes out, since it'll be the first true Epik High album since 2009's [e].

m-flo came back with their first album in five very fucking long years. Verbal was busy with Teriyaki Boyz's second album in 2009 and his solo album in 2011. Like usual, he featured in about 50 songs each year between 2008 and 2011. Taku was busy as well, forming ravex with Shinichi Osawa (Mondo Grondo) and Tomoyuki Tanaka (Fantastic Plastic Machine.) They made club music, but like m-flo's Loves series, they featured artists for each track. Taku also produced the OST for the anime Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. In 2011, he released a solo album full of remixes. In 2011, he also founded, an online radio station for dance/club music in Japan. Between the hiatus, he also produced some songs for other artists.

With the Loves series officially ending in 2008 with the release of the best of album, Avex had milked the fuck out of m-flo during their hiatus. There were two tribute albums where artists would cover a song and two more Inside Works albums, which took all of the songs Verbal and Taku featured on/produced and lumped them into an album.

To give a short history on m-flo, they were a three member group from 1998 to 2002. Lisa left after their second album, Expo Expo. She had released a solo song and it was very popular, so she thought she could make it on her own. Big mistake from her. m-flo took a break for over a year and Verbal worked on two Mic Banditz albums, which was an all-star collection of him and some underground MCs. m-flo returned in 2003 with the Loves series that spanned for five years, collaborating with some popular artists, but mainly bringing attention to a lot of artists that would have gone overlooked if it weren't for their featurings on m-flo's albums. Square One begins the third phase of m-flo. It's similar to the Loves series where they feature a vocalist in most songs, but unlike the Loves series, m-flo keeps all of the attention to themselves instead of having the focus on the featuring singer. Without further delay, let's get on with the review.

sayonara 2012: It's the intro to Square One and sets off the album on the right step. To understand the references made about this and that being canceled, you would have to listen to Planet Shining and Expo Expo. Back when m-flo debuted in 1999, Jpop was dominated songs composed by Tetsuya Komuro. m-flo's whole concept was being from the future because hiphop had yet to be mainstream in Japan and it was different from what most of Japan was putting out at the time. (It's a problem that still plagues Japan today, sadly.) Anyway, the theme in Planet Shining and Expo Expo was that each album was coming from the year 2012 and there was intergalactic travel via the Global Astro Liner. Now that it's actually the year 2012, there's a time paradox. The intro also samples m-flo's Come Again, their biggest hit from when Lisa was still in the group.

Perfect Place: One of the many songs in the album featuring Minami from CREAM. This is a good song to start the album off with. It's one of their lighter songs in terms how heavy the beats are. Minami's vocals are great here, but her parts are sparse, as are Verbal's. Verbal has a short rap in the song, and that's pretty much it for him. This song is more about Taku's production than the singers.

Alive: One of the promoted tracks before the album came out, featuring EXILE's Atsushi. It's not surprise that Atsushi featured on the song, given how much Verbal has worked with EXILE in the past few years. This is one of the more accessible songs from the album, sounding a lot like an m-flo Loves song. The buildup in this song is great and goes with Atsushi's vocals well. The beat during Verbal's verse was bumping, and I enjoyed how the song "restarted" after his verse. This takes a while to get used, but Taku does this a lot during m-flo's live performances, so it was nice to hear it in a studio song.

[frozen space project] is an interlude that requires you to have listened to Planet Shining and Expo Expo to understand the references.

Never Needed You: Another song with CREAM's Minami. The song starts off displaying Minami's vocals and a nice beat, then does a tempo switch when Verbal throws in his rap. This is one of those songs where Verbal raps like he did in Visionair, relying on a hook to carry his verse, throwing in a short rap in the middle. After that, the song goes back to Minami and then back to Verbal. It's okay for an m-flo song, but I still liked the beat to it.

Oh Baby: This is one of those songs that sounds like it could be on Cosmicolor, and seeing as Cosmicolor is my favorites Loves album from m-flo, I enjoyed this song a lot. Taku created another catchy beat here. It's hard to discern who the vocalist in this song is, since it's heavily altered. The focus of the song is Verbal, which is pretty rare for an m-flo song. The last m-flo song that had this much Verbal in the song was Quantum Leap from Planet Shining. This song is about Verbal's fashion. I'll just talk about it here, but I've read some interviews Verbal had and he said he'd rather rap about stuff he would talk about on a daily basis rather than artificial love lyrics. Well, considering he isn't in his 20s anymore, it makes sense that he'd grow tired of it, especially after having three albums that focused on love songs. The last verse was good, overshadowing the first two verses. I wouldn't mind more m-flo songs in the future focusing solely on Verbal, as it changes from the usual formula of focusing on the vocalist while Verbal shows up with a rap verse here and there.

square1 scene1 murder he wrote: Another interlude in the song, featuring a male who sounds a lot like the vocalist in Don't Stop Me Now.

Don't Stop Me Now: For those of you that watched Toshi Densetsu no Onna, you may recognize this song. This is the first song in the album where the album goes heavy with the beats. This song mixes in rock with some dance music. This is one of those tracks that took me several listens to warm up to, but after I've listened to the album a lot, this is one of my favorites. The song is like yin and yang, where it has it's calm moment, but the other parts of the song are chaotic, but it's controlled chaos. Verbal was great in this song, and I enjoyed the male vocalist in the fast part of the songs. His voice sounds weird as fuck in the slower parts where it's altered to hell.

All I Want Is You: By far the most accessable song on the album. This song would please the fans that like the Loves series, but old and new listeners as well. I'd have to say it's my favorite on the album by a long shot. It reminds me of songs such as Love or Truth from Planet Shining and Let Go from Beat Space Nine. After hearing She's So Outta Control, which came out first, I was hesitant about the album like most people were. After this song came out, my fears were put to rest. Minami really shines in this song, Taku used a great melody throughout the song, and the fast paced beat during Verbal's rap sounds good. Speaking of the beat, I love how Taku builds up to it and after the Verbal's rap, slows it down. Kpop producers should take a page from Taku's book. The rap sections in idol songs sound forced and thrown in there. You're listening to an idol song and enjoying it, but a rap comes out of left field and disappears as quickly as it comes. That shit always make me think "What the fuck was that?" In this song, you know when the rap is coming up, since there's a build up of about 30 seconds between Minami's last verse and Verbal's rap. All in all, this is my favorite song from the album, my favorite Japanese song released since capsule's Love or Lies in 2010, and this song tops the whole Cosmicolor album for me.

Acid 02: This is a song that mainly focuses on Taku's beat. There's hardly any vocals in this song. Catchy beat and probably would have sounded good if it were an actual song.

Call Me: Another track featuring Minami. It follows the same formula of the other songs the feature Minami. This song has a heavier beat compared to All I Want Is You. Verbal's rapping in this track is better than most of the earlier tracks. It's one of the songs where he channeled a bit of L Universe when he rapped his part. At 3:15, this is surprisingly short for an m-flo song, where most of their songs range from 4-5 minutes long.

[ok i called]: A very short interlude with Verbal making a quick call to the listeners.

Sure Shot Ricky: One of my favorites from the album. The song samples a commercial song about deodorization. I think it was for something to make the bathroom smell fresh or something. I couldn't find the original CM on Youtube. This is the first song that really uses dubstep, and I was surprised to find this catchy, seeing as how I've disliked the dubstep used in most Kpop songs. Taku's production was great in this song and I enjoyed Verbal's rap here. I just wish that Verbal had another rap verse during the second dubstep interlude, but that's the only downside to the song.

Run: Another one of the highlights in this album. Verbal has some good verses here, but the song really shines with Mademoiselle Yulia. I love the melody to the song when she's singing. I'm actually surprised that this is the only song Yulia was on in this album considering that she's under Verbal's label, KOZM Agency. This is another song to use dubstep and heavier dance music throughout the song, especially during Verbal's verses. For those of you wondering why Verbal mentions Reebok in the song, it's because this is basically Reebok's theme song in Japan. Last year, Reebok and Verbal teamed up and Verbal is designing shoes for Reebok in Japan.

square1 scene2 don't blink: Another interlude that sets up the listener for the next song.

So Mama I'd Love To Catch Up: Another song that starts off with a light dance beat, but within 30 seconds, Taku says "This isn't fucking Cosmicolor" and drops a heavier beat into the song. This is another song where there aren't many vocals in the song. Verbal repeats the same phrase whenever he shows up, but this song is all about Taku's beat.

She's So (Outta Control): This is a song that had a lot of potential, but fails in execution. I could write a whole article about this song, but I'll keep it short since it's part of a bigger review. This isn't m-flo's worst song (I believe that title belongs to Love To Live By on Cosmicolor), but it is the worst song on this album. The problem is that there are too many people on this track, and there are too many beat changes, like a Kpop song. The part with Minzy and Dara comes out of nowhere and feels forced in. This song could have been better if it were just Verbal, CL and Bom. I liked how Verbal and CL went back and forth, as it reminded me of Taste Your Stuff from Beat Space Nine. I have a problem with Bom in the song though. I'm not a big fan of her singing and her Japanese sucks. As for the m-flo members, it seems like they half-assed this song. The instrumental was alright, but just listen to the previous song and it seemed like Taku tried catering to 2NE1's style of music instead of forcing 2NE1 to adopt to their style. Verbal's verse was his weakest one in the whole album, but it seemed like he did that in order to not overshadow CL.

The MV makes me want to puke. They deliberately picked the ugliest Japanese girls they could find, and many of them had yaeba. Brb, gonna hurl.

I was originally going to write about this song when it came out, but there were so many delusional BJs shitting all over the comments on the YouTube video. BJs were thinking that m-flo was trying to ride Hallyu by featuring 2NE1 in their album and saying that m-flo would gain new fans through the collaboration. It's actually the other way around, as m-flo is one of the most popular hiphop groups in Japan and no one cares about 2NE1 in Japan, so the collaboration was to bring more attention to 2NE1. This was a case of Kpop fans not knowing what they were talking about and making themselves look like dumbasses.

m-flo didn't do this to ride on the Hallyu either. Verbal collaborated with SES back in 1999. m-flo collaborated with Jinusean around 2000. Verbal produced a song for Sunday in Japan in the early 2000s. Verbal collaborated with BoA in 2003, collaborated with her again in 2004 with m-flo, and several times in 2009. m-flo featured Wheesung on their Beat Space Nine album in 2005. m-flo collaborated with Alex from Clazziquai Project in 2007 on Cosmicolor. m-flo collabroated with Korean artists long before it was the cool thing to do in Japan, in large part to Verbal being Korean himself.

Yesterday: A nice way to end the album. The song starts off as a ballad, but then some dance music is thrown in there as a curveball. It actually works in this song. No idea who the vocalist is, but I've read that it could be Matt Cab, who just debuted a month ago by featuring Verbal.

to be continued...: Just don't make us wait another five years.

In conclusion, m-flo comes back with a big fuck you to the Japanese music industry and I thoroughly enjoyed the album except for She's So Outta Control. For the first time since Expo Expo, it feels like a real m-flo came out. Yes, the Loves series was fun, but the each song catered too much to the featuring vocalist. In Square One, Taku and Verbal made songs for themselves and had the vocalist adapt to their style of music. I also see this album as a big fuck you to the fans of m-flo who only like the Loves series. As someone who enjoys Planet Shining and Expo Expo more than Astromantic, Beat Space Nine and Cosmicolor, I'm glad m-flo went back to focusing on themselves. They may have alienated some fans with this album, but did they really? From what I have observed, the people who clamored for the Loves series to continue didn't actually like m-flo for m-flo. They liked m-flo for who they featured. My two reasons for liking m-flo have always been Verbal's rapping and Taku's beats, so moving past the Loves series was a good thing in my eyes. I don't know, maybe Jpop fans are afraid of change like Japanese music executives are. m-flo doesn't want to stay in the past while most of Japan is contempt with a 20 year old music style.

This album isn't for everyone. I'm a huge fan of capsule and I enjoy music from Mondo Grosso, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Daishi Dance, etc., so this album was right up my alley. Every m-flo album has a different sound, so it's inevitable that it was going to sound different compared to their other albums. Do I miss Planet Shining's sound? Yes. Do I miss Verbal's rapping prowess in Planet Shining, Expo Expo and his underground featurings as L Universe? Yes. I can always revisit those songs, so expecting m-flo to rehash ten year old music is retarded to me.

For now, I'm just hoping that m-flo releases another album before 2017 and that they collaborate with Epik High one day. They're using the YGEX thing to work with 2NE1 and Big Bang, but they should skip those two and just work with Epik High.


  1. I really like She's So (Outta Control)'s hook with Bom. Also agree that Minzy and Dara's parts seemed forced just for them to get into the song.

    Minami's voice during the All I want Is You intro is great. It got me watch the MV (and listen to the song) throughout.

    Sure Shot Ricky is okay. I like how they experimented on a lot.

    I kinda dislike how m-flo embellishes their songs with too much interludes. I was expecting more of an all-out rapping, but then hiphop isn't all abou that. Much of Takahashi has to come in as well.

    1. Well, that was never m-flo formula. It was mainly Lisa singing with Verbal having a 30-40 second rap verse in the song. They do have some songs that are mainly rapping (Quantum Leap, saywhatchugotta, Dispatch, Expo Expo, Love Me Hate The Game), but it's not really their style to have a lot of rapping in their songs.

      I usually don't like interludes, but it really worked in Planet Shining. Listening from the first to the last track, it really feels like a journey instead of random songs thrown together.

    2. I've been listening to Sure Shot Ricky again. I can say, I didn't make the wrong judgement. Very creative and makes me like it the more I play it

      Perfect Place's intro lyrics reminds me of Rihanna's We Found Love. I think the instrumentals/beats weren't jiving well with that part, but if you try to listen the rap part without the intro, it's perfect. That's the kind of rap I was expecting. Overall lyrics is also good.

      ALIVE is awesome. Autotuned, but blends well with Atsushi's vocals

      Frustrating cuz lots of Jap songs aren't available on YT which is the most accessible place. Don't have time to hoard the net for mp3 downloads :[

    3. m-flo is one of the few Japanese groups that embrace YouTube. They've uploaded about 95% of their songs onto their channel.

      If you want to hear Verbal rap for a whole song, I can provide some links. L Universe is his name that he uses for his underground featurings.

  2. I finally found out that the vocalist for "Dont Stop Me Now" is Akihiro Namba some days ago. I listened to his band and the voice definitely sounds like him.

    Love Mflo, to me, they havent released a bad album. I love the Cosmicolor album. Many of my favorite songs are on the album. But Astromantic is still my fav M-flo album.

    When "She's so outta control" came out.....omfg, so many fucking blackjacks. I fucking hate BJ's, so annoying. They kept saying M-flo is riding the hallyu wave, gtfo. He doesnt need that shit to be popular.

    1. Ah. I remember a lot of people speculating that it was Gackt lol.

      I love all of their albums, but Astromantic is my least favorite lol. It has some of my favorite songs, but the pop and jazz don't mix to well when listening to it as a whole imo.

  3. Omg please review Nell's album (Slip Away), that shit is the best thing I have ever heard ever since I got into Korean music. I wanna see what AKF thinks about it though.

    1. I loved Slip Away, so you'll probably like my review haha.

  4. I haven't listened to the album but.. aw I liked "Love to Live By." lol. I think Chara sounded cute in it ^^

    1. I first heard the song live. I just don't like Chara's voice at all lol.

    2. Aaah ok her voice is one of those acquired taste things. Either like it or hate it ^^; I heard the song via mp3 (did hear her sing live before with Kattun. Sounded just the same) Oh yeah wanted to add that Ravex was awesome~

  5. If YG's music is crappy
    why did tablo join ?
    why did Epik High join YG
    lets face it, YG gives the most money to his artist
    Epik High sell themselve to be mainstream?
    bull shit
    they are already mainstream!

    If bigbang and 2ne1 sucks. why does m-flo and want to work with them?
    u hate bigbang and 2ne1 because of the fans?
    thats stupid
    i guess i should hate you and this stupid blog for hating bigbang and 2ne1, my soshi's then?
    stop being a Hipster you faggot!

    1. YG's music does suck. It's sound derivative of what we've heard already. Tablo joined because his wife is in YG. Duh. He wanted a big agency that would actually promote him after Woollim left him out to be attacked in 2010. Epik High joined because Tablo was already in YG.

      Epik High has been mainstream since 2005, so no one cares about that argument. EH fans are just worried that EH will be dressing up like Big Bang, especially since Tablo was styled by YG stylists during his solo promotions.

      I didn't say Big Bang and 2NE1 suck. I like the three singers in BB and I like GD. The only one who I think is actually shit in BB is TOP. His rapping is just awful. At least GD has some skill. I don't hate 2NE1, I just hate Teddy's production. There are 2NE1 songs I like.

      m-flo wants to work with them because they think Korean idols are vastly superior to Japanese idols. 2NE1 has some talent, aside from Dara. Bom sucks at Japanese, which is why I didn't like her in this song.

      No, I hate VIPS and BJs, not the actual groups.

    2. lol
      acting innocent arent we?

      okay it was me :D i cant resist trolling XD

    3. If you're gonna try and BE The Cheat, at least use English, dumbass. Also, I never call anyone "faggot" because it's the most juvenile and idiotic insult in the English language.

      "soshi's"? What the fuck, WHY THE APOSTROPHE? And you don't put an apostrophe where it's actually needed too.

      Now normally I'm not pedantic, but come on, if you're going to BE me you have to TALK like me. What can I say, I'm The Cheat.

    4. i actually enjoyed ur bigbang , 2ne1 , soshi article
      i just dont like ur T-ara articles

    5. Oh, I should have known...

      I've actually been listening to m-flo, but only on YT. What can I say, the Verbal/GD collab will be awesome. Maybe GD can teach him how to rap! Heh heh.

    6. Pretty much everyone in BB and 2ne1 sux. Bom cant sing. Dara is untalented. Cl can't rap. Shitop.
      At least minzyass, Daesung(who sounds more like a trot singer not raphephap) Taeyang are the truely talented ones.
      Pretty much everyone in kpop suck.
      Ur oppa and Unnie cant sing. A majority of idols are untalented and cant rap :-(

    7. How do??? Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    8. Lol.
      I knew it!
      The cheat doesnt use improper english!

      Or... Maybe this is a publicity stunt. hahaha

    9. What Man Tits said bout YG artists. Minzy alone can be the dancer and singer. Bitch got better voice than Bom who has a liter of jizz up her throat.

    10. Jooyi bitch still a better singer

    11. OMG Jooyi! Bitch is a butterface, but I've always been into K-Pop for the songs and voices (LOLWUT)

      RaNia comeback soon! RaNia hwaiting!

    12. Raina oppas cumback September 11! (i think)

    13. Raina? RaNia? Bish make up yer mind </3

      I miss Joy :( dat hawt bitch

    14. I thot u said bigbang doesnt have usless members mantits! Made up ur mind!! </3

    15. I guess not since GD people think he can actually rape and compose and Taeyang is an good singer not great but good enough and one of best dancers in Kpop and Shitop idk looks? And Daesung can sing but his voice suited for trot. Good singer tho but also the most ugly guy in Kpop. Though not as ugly as Yoseob. And Seungri is an untalented kid with panda eyes and a big nose. JK. His voice is sound good and his dancing is good. He just dont showcase his talents. :-\ Still they make more money than my oppas.o_

    16. Ur ava.. Sunny? <3
      Hahaha taeyang is already picked by experts as the best dancer beat ur bias
      Too bad his fans are mostly fanboys. That doesnt really vote or give a fuck about a irrelevant poll or ghei fanwars

      Ur oppars cars...beat my oppars

      So whats the news with jyj coming back kr not?

    17. Sunny Bunny<3 couldnt decide Qri or Seobot or placticJoong.
      And i always thought Jaebom was best dancer. But Taeyang is better dancer than my bias. My bias too tall and ghei :-\ Always the midgets who can dance well. And i hope Jaechunsu and Tvxq never reunite. Fuq u all ot5! Jyj bishes can suq diq for all i curr!!!11! But there is gonna be another trial in September though they are too much pussy to even show up to court though sm should win the case because of all the damage jyj caused for Hoemin and SM ent. Too much $$$$$₩₩₩₩₩ lost, Yoochun being a whiny bitch(though his father died so idk) Junsu thinking he is artistic like Lady Caca or someshit and Jaejoong being butthurt that TVXQ are actually doing quite good without the three of them, though they were bound to becum hazbeens

    18. It pains my heart seeing the great fandom divided liek this hhuhuhh

    19. but jaypark pick taeyang as the best dancer
      his fans can not stfu now

      im not a cassie
      but i always think uknowwho is the best dancer
      sorry taeyang

  6. Where do you find these 30 year old nugus lol? Is the Verbal you're referring to verbal jint? He's one of the hipster artists I stumbled upon that I actually liked. You look good and you deserve better are pretty fucking sweet, although I still wouldn't call him a better artist than the mainstreams (<3).

    By the way, am I the only one on this site who doesn't know korean and therefore doesn't understand kpop song lyrics?


    2. thats because u donno whats real

    3. m-flo has been around 1999 and they're one of the most popular Japanese hiphop groups. Topping the Oricon makes them far from being nugus.

      And I really hate it when people confuse Verbal for Verbal Jint. Verbal Jint fucking sucks so much.

  7. Speaking of Boa i really like Love Bug. That song will never get old.

    1. I honestly played that song everyday for over a year straight.

  8. Ok, whos this fag that just highjacked my name : /

  9. I can't get into j-hip hop or idol pop. Its just to much garbage for me. The best thing to come from japan is metal and rock. I try to listen to m-flo just didn't feel it.


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