U-KISS has been through a bumpy road, but as far as their musical progression is concerned, it's surely one of the most established in K-Pop. They had a number of minor hits in the past with their former go-to producer, Brave Brothers, but therein lies the problem. They didn't sound any different from the other boy bands at their time. It wasn't until their commitment with Marcan Entertainment that UKISS really defined its sound and image.
U-KISS returns to the K-Pop scene with funky rock-tingled track, "DORADORA", a production by Kim Hyung Seok. If you guys don't know who he is, he's a respected producer responsible for hits for Kim Gun Mo, Baby VOX, Insooni and even J.Y. Park. Here, we have some influences of electronica and dubstep, but it's tastefully done. The blippy synths don't distract the listener from enjoying the smooth and sensual feel of the track. The only thing that might disinterest "DORADORA"s listeners is that it strays from the usual pop formula that U-KISS and most K-Pop artists tend to abide by. A composition by a less contemporary musician might be the cost of having a less-trendy track, but making bold choices is something rare in K-Pop (especially when it comes to title songs) and it's certainly more rewarding for an artist/group.
Another star collaboration we hear on this album is U-KISS and Jay Park with "4U". It's an interesting blend of '90s club beats and light synth layering, giving the song a sharp dance beat, but yet a sweet sound many U-KISS' lady listeners will fancy. U-KISS is no stranger to American influences in their music so "4U" sits nicely with the rest of their songs.
"Amazing" is the next noteworthy track on 'DORADORA'. Many fans will point out that U-KISS member, AJ, co-produced this track. This could have been a decent single, but personally, "Amazing" fares better as a strong album track, strengthening the quality of the album as a whole. There's not much to say here besides the usual side-chained bass on a fast paced common time beat, but the fact that it's the song that sounds the most like U-KISS prior to 'Neverland', brings a lot of attention to the track.
For those who are familiar with the group's recent expedition to the Japanese market, you guys will already know this one. "TICK TOCK (Out of Time)" is pretty much an upgraded "Neverland". I'm a little against having clocks ticking and rain drizzling in K-Pop now since it's been beat to death, but the track is so catchy and enjoyable, its forgivable. Unlike many of their other tracks, this track's chorus opens with complete English lines, which is interesting, but in a way, it's also sort of distracting. You can either take pieces of English phrases to convey your Korean lyrics better like most good K-Pop songs, or keep it all in English like 2NE1's "Ugly". Singing half of it straight through in English and then all the sudden with a line Korean like in "TICK TOCK" will probably throw most listeners off. "TICK TOCK", like "Neverland", is loud and hook heavy. They both sort of have this snowball effect where the track starts steady and melodically, but releases an outburst of energy once the chorus hits. Now when I said that "TICK TOCK" is like an upgraded "Neverland", I meant it as a good thing. One thing I really admire about pop producers is when they develop a distinct, yet practical formula that works exclusively for an artist. SHINee has one that can be heard in "Sherlock" and "Lucifer", and U-KISS has one in "Neverland" and "TICK TOCK". Its this formula that helps us identify that this is a U-KISS song, and its something more K-Pop bands should take note of.
U-KISS is experimenting with new sounds, and to be honest, this time around, the band took this reviewer by surprise. Too often, we hear K-Pop bands stuck on a sound once they find some success in it, but it's clear U-KISS learned from its mistakes. They suffered enough from their catchy-but-basic string of Brave Brothers singles. Seeing that they just missed winning that Mutizen over KARA with "Neverland", it seemed only natural that they release a better version of it (aka "TICKTOCK") in Korea the second time around. However, by using "DORADORA" as their title track, that is exactly what they didn't do.
'DORADORA' (album) is a combination of a safe pop sound as well as an experimental one, but with Ryan Jhun playing executive producer for UKISS, we're handed one solid, consistent and interesting mini album. Even if U-KISS doesn't win a Mutizen this time around, they shouldn't be too bothered, as they've already shown their quality as artists by taking on risks.