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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Golden Child: 奇跡 (Miracle) 2nd Mini Album Review

Golden Child had their first comeback with 奇跡 (Miracle) on January 29th, 2018. This is also Golden Child's first release as a group of 10, without Jaeseok. There were actually hints of Jaeseok's anticipated participation in this album, as several behind-the-scenes photos revealed a Golden Child banner naming all 11 members and the uniforms in the moving posters containing 11 stars...This is Golden Child's second mini album, with a Version A and a Version B. I pre-ordered 2 copies of Version A and 1 copy of Version B from Ktown4u, which I discuss more about here. I will do a parallel unboxing of both versions in this post.
My 3 albums and 3 folded posters came wrapped up in several layers of bubblewrap inside a cardboard box. The albums are rather large and heavy; the package weighs 4.97 pounds! I'm really happy that the albums came in perfect condition.

I'll first discuss the posters, which will help to distinguish the differences in Version A versus Version B. This album release includes 3 different posters, which is the main reason why I chose to buy 3 albums. All 3 posters are of Woollim's usual poster dimensions, and this time the image quality is much crisper than Golden Child's grainy Gol-Cha! posters.
I'll refer to the above as the schoolboy photoshoot. Version A contains images only from this photoshoot.
I'll refer to the above as the pastel photoshoot. Majority of the photos from this photoshoot have a locker room setting decked out with Golden Child banners and posters.
I'll refer to the above as the colorful classroom photoshoot. Version B contains images from both the pastel photoshoot and this photoshoot.

Woollim is really investing a lot into this comeback. All 3 posters have the "Golden Film" logo. "Golden Film" is the short film that the members filmed, which is like an extension to the "It's U" music video.
I love how Golden Child consistently has their own branding. For Gol-Cha!, they had a series of uniforms for baseball, school, PE, etc. And for 奇跡 (Miracle), they take it to the next level! Golden Child continues with schoolboy concept, with the album packaging looking like a yearbook for Geumdong High School. As a note, Geumdong is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters for "Golden Child". There is even a beautifully design crest for Geumdong High School embedded on the yearbook, as well as on one set of the boys' school uniforms.
The yearbook is really sturdy and high quality, with a hardcover canvas cover. Removing the metallic gold paper strip also makes the packaging look even more like a yearbook than an album.
The text and crest on the front cover and spine are embedded on the canvas. These albums are quite large - the dimensions are 10.25" by 8.75" by 0.625".
On the back cover is the Golden Child logo embedded on the canvas while the fine print on the bottom is simply printed on top in a gold hue. The gold strip contains the track list, holographic sticker, and the same fine print as on the canvas.
Here is the back cover without the gold strip.
The inside of the front cover reveals the other side of the gold strip, containing the members' names.
The inside of the back cover has much more. The backside of the back cover has a thicker card stock paper on top to hold additional goods. The gold slip covers the random goods.
The top flap contains the CD. The bottom flaps contain the name tag and the student ID card. I really like how each pocket has a little design matching the front cover.
Here is the envelope that contains the CD. The CD plate and envelope are the same in both versions, except that Version A is blue and Version B is green, matching the album color.
Here is the backside of the envelope.
Here is how the CDs were placed in their respective envelopes.
And here is the design of the CD.
I like how the CD plate design is consistent with the design of Golden Child's first mini album CD.
Each album includes 1 random member name tag out of 10. I received the 3 youngest (from top to bottom): Donghyun, Joochan, and Bomin. These are iron-on name tags that one would use on their school uniform. It would be cool if each album also included the name tag with the school name on it, like the members wore in their latest PE uniforms!
Here is the backside of the name tag. The name tags are 2.75" by 1".
Each album also includes 1 random student ID card out of 10. I received Y, Donghyun, and Bomin. These cards are really cute and such high quality, made of thick plastic like a real student ID card. I love how the albums come with the name tag and student ID card, which ties in beautifully with the yearbook design. All images for the ID cards are from the schoolboy photoshoot.
The backside of the student ID card is the same for all. The policies printed on the back are pretty funny - I suggest reading the translation online!
Each album also includes 1 random member photocard out of 10. The photocard is slipped somewhere inside the photobook. The photocard was slipped in between pages 86 and 87 in my first Version A album.
The photocard was slipped in between pages 98 and 99 in my second Version A album.
The photocard was slipped in between pages 82 and 83 in my Version B album.
I pulled Jangjun's photocard from all 3 albums. All 10 photocard images are from the colorful classroom photoshoot.
The backside of the photocard has a printed autograph and message by the member.
The above photo is what I pulled from all 3 albums (left is what I pulled from my second Version A, middle is from my first Version A, and right is from Version B). To give more information, the serial numbers of both Version A albums are consecutive, while the serial number of my Version B album is 1000s apart from my Version A albums. Therefore I'm not sure how the items are randomized that I ended up with the Jangjun photocard 3 times. The below table summarizes what I pulled from each album.

Album
ID Card
Name Tag
Photocard
A1
Donghyun
Joochan
Jangjun
A2
Y
Bomin
Jangjun
B
Bomin
Donghyun
Jangjun

Now I'll discuss the photobooks in depth. I'll talk about both Version A and Version B in parallel, then I'll deviate and point out details that are unique to each version. Each photobook contains 120 pages.
The first page contains a group photo. The photobook includes page numbers, and they have numbered the page with the group photo as Page 1.
The following page is like a table of contents, displaying which page contains the lyrics to which song. This page is identical in both versions.
The following page shows the album credits and Golden Child's social media. It's sad seeing links listed as GNCD11...the opposite page shows the song credits. I'll discuss the tracklist in more depth later on. The only difference between the versions is that Version A has white pages while Version B occasionally has other colored pages, like this cream hue.
The following pages contain a 2-page group photo spread. These are 2 of the poster designs. The third poster design is also included in Version B. There are a total of 3 2-page group photo spreads in each version.
Here is a more apparent shot of Version B's colorful pastel background page colors. I like how the lyrics take up the whole page per song are much bigger and a lot more readable since the photobook is so large.
In both versions, majority of the photos are individual shots. Furthermore, many pages across both versions contain the same member, keeping consistency.
Many of the pages also have the same simplistic layout, similar to a more traditional yearbook design.
Version A also includes several photos with members in groups of 2. There are also several photos with an artsy blurry filter, like the page on the right.
Version B includes several photos with members in groups of 2 and groups of 3.
Each album also includes 3 pages with different lines in Korean, and 2 pages with Golden Child's logo.
Here is the second 2-page group photo spread. The one in Version B is the last poster design.
It's interesting that in some of the photos of Golden Child in their colorful classroom outfits where they're not in the colorful classroom, the Golden Child badge isn't on their blazer. However the photos of the members in the colorful classroom do include the badge. This is especially apparent by comparing Jibeom's blazer here.
I really like how the classroom and locker settings have a lot of banners and posters with the Golden Child brand. It really completes the Geumdong High School theme!
The last pages before the Thanks To section is a final 2-page group photo spread. I'd like to point out here how well this photobook is constructed, with a layflat design so that no part of the photo is lost in the spine.
The remaining pages are for the Thanks To section. The left page is the group thanks to while the following 5 pages are individual member thanks to messages. Many of the members wrote so much!

Now I'll discuss the tracklist. This mini album contains 6 tracks:
  1. 奇跡 (기적) - (Miracle) is the intro track. The first 3 tracks of this album are compared by SWEETUNE! SWEETUNE is my most favorite composer as they created many of Infinite's earlier titles, and I'm so happy that they are now working with Golden Child.
  2. 너라고 (It's U) - is a really fun track with an energetic choreography to match. I'm so proud of Golden Child for receiving much recognition for performing this track live with their stable vocals despite such a tough choreography.
  3. Lady - this is a beautiful song that showcases Y's vocals along with Joochan's. While I love hearing the 2 main vocals, I'm disappointed that Bomin and Jaehyun don't have any lines.
  4. Crush - this song is definitely the most different of Golden Child's tracks due to its rock sound, and it took me a few times before I fell in love with it.
  5. 모든 날 - (All Day) is a sad ballad that fits so well with Jaeseok's situation. 2 members who worked on "DamDaDi" also worked on this track.
  6. I'm Falling - Razer of Rphabet (another composer of many of Infinite's more recent works) worked on this track. I'm so proud of Jibeom for receiving many lines in this song!
Overall, I love everything about this comeback! The songs are beautiful, the albums are beautiful, EVERYTHING is beautiful. I can't wait to see what else Golden Child has in store for this year!

Friday, February 9, 2018

[Update] Ktown4u Requesting Additional Shipping Fees

I have had another experience with Ktown4u asking me to pay an additional shipping fee, which I would like to add in conjunction with my previous post here. This time around, I decided to pre-order 3 copies of Golden Child's 2nd mini album Miracle in 1 order from Ktown4u so that I can guarantee receiving all 3 poster versions, despite the higher cost of shipping 3 albums together. Therefore I ordered 2 copies of Version A and 1 copy of Version B with 3 posters. The 3 albums weigh 1,940 grams and totaled to $40.80USD with shipping via Registered Small Packet(Air) at $28.85USD, so that my total was $69.65USD.
Golden Child's Miracle album was released on January 29th, and Ktown4u shipped out packages on January 30th. On the 30th, Ktown4u sent me an email saying that I could either pay an additional $10.94USD for shipping or Ktown4u would remove 1 album and 1 poster from my order and refund that. If I didn't respond with an answer, Ktown4u would automatically perform the latter by February 2nd.

As I didn't want to receive only 2 albums and 2 posters, I felt obligated to pay the additional shipping fee. On the 30th, I used PayPal to give $10.94USD to payment@ktown4u.com and added a message with my Ktown4u account name and order number. I then replied to the email chain on the option I chose, along with the PayPal account I used and the message I included.
On the 31st, Ktown4u acknowledged my email and receiving the additional shipping payment. They shipped out my package later that day. I was always weary about paying additional shipping via PayPal to Ktown4u's email account because it's not directly linked to the Ktown4u website or my Ktown4u account. However afterwards I checked my order on Ktown4u's website and see that they updated the shipping method to Parcel POST(Air) and the shipping total to $39.95USD, for a total of $80.75USD.

After receiving the package, I understand why shipping cost so much. The package weighs 4.97 pounds! While I don't mind paying more for shipping, I wish Ktown4u could better predict whether certain shipping methods would be insufficient for the weight of the package.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Infinite: Top Seed 3rd Full Album Review

Infinite is back! Infinite made their comeback on January 8th, 2018, over a year since their last Korean comeback and the first release as OT6. Sadly 2017 was a relatively stagnant year for Infinite, but hopefully this year will be different. This release, titled Top Seed, is Infinite's third full album. With the release of a full album, it breaks Infinite's chain of releasing mini - mini - single - full - repackage. Furthermore, the packaging of this album greatly differs from Infinite's previous regular Korean releases.

I preordered 2 copies of this album with folded posters from Ktown4u for $37.82 USD for both copies plus $21.48 shipping for a total of $59.30. This is my first time preordering multiple copies of the same version, and all for good reason as this album comes with many randomized goods. My package shipped on January 9th and arrived on the 23rd, in exactly 2 weeks. My package came in a cardboard box with the albums and posters bundled together in bubblewrap.

This album comes with the following:
  • 1 3D special card (random out of 2)
  • 1 booklet & CD-R set (random out of 6 member versions and 1 group version)
  • Metallic postcard set (14 cards total)
  • 1 photocard (random out of 12)
Sadly like many people have experienced with this album, my 2 copies contained the same exact contents (3D special card, booklet / CD-R, photocard are all the same). However I don't regret purchasing both copies together, so that I can guarantee receiving both poster versions.
The packaging for this album is really upgraded compared to Infinite's usual album releases. The box dimensions are 9" by 6.3125" by 1.25".
First off, I like the lid design because it reminds me of the design for the History of Infinite postcards.
The top and bottom of the lid have the album name printed.
The bottom of the box reveals the tracklist.
The lid has a clear plastic lining and has a cardboard insert on the sides with a height of 0.375" so that the lid can rest on top of the contents inside. This is really nice because it gives the illusion like the album is a shadowbox to display what's inside.
Lifting up the lid reveals the gold sheet, which is highly prone to fingerprints. This sheet is meant to hold the 3D special card.
Here is the gold sheet without the 3D special card. You can see just how reflective it is.
Here is the backside of the gold sheet with the 3D special card in place.
Here is the backside of the gold sheet.
This is the 3D special card, with dimensions 7.125" by 4.75".
The backside of the 3D special card is simplistic, with this era's logo in the corner.
I like how you can choose to display the 3D special card inside the album, and the lid perfectly outlines the card.

This album contains photos from 3 sets of outfits / photoshoots. I'll refer to the photoshoot used in my 3D special card as the casual outfits. The outfits used in the first poster I show (at the bottom of this post), I refer to as the Burberry outfits. And the outfits used in the second poster I show, I refer to as the black-and-white outfits.
Underneath the 3D special card and gold sheet is the random photobook. I got Sungjong's~ The photobook cover is from the Burberry photoshoot.
I really like the quality of the photobook; the finish is really smooth without being prone to fingerprints. The photobook has 64 pages, excluding both sides of the covers.
I like how the image on the front cover extends onto the spine and even a bit to the back cover. The details of the design of the photobook is really nice and intricate; I really like the photobook overall for the aesthetic that the details create.
The first page contains the Thanks To from Sungjong.
The next page contains the tracklist, along with the song credits for the first track.
Up to page 26 are photos from the Burberry photoshoot.
The lyrics and song credits are spread throughout the photobook.
Pages 27 through 51 are from the casual photoshoot.
I really like the layout of each page; it shows they really put the time into designing the photobook.
The remaining pages are from the black-and-white photoshoot. I like how each photoshoot gives off a different feel, like how this one shows Sungjong's bright smile.
The last page contains the album credits and social media information. I just realized some of Infinite's social media uses "IFNT7"...
Each album comes with 1 random photocard out of 12, with 2 versions per member. These cards are fun shots from the music video making with the members making either a heart sign or a fighting pose in their Burberry outfits. In my first album the photocard was slipped in between pages 10 and 11.
For my second album, the photocard was in between pages 26 and 27.
I got Woohyun for my photocard^^ Looking at all the photocards online, I was disappointed that both Woohyun versions look almost identical. The photocards are roughly the same size as the photocards from Season 2, Reality, and Infinite Only.
The backside is gray and has a printed message and autograph. Woohyun's is wishing us a happy new year^^
Underneath the photobook is the metallic postcard set, which is the same set included in every album. Though it's hard to tell in my photos, these postcards are highly reflective due to their metallic finish. The cards are held together with a paper strip. In my other album, the strip was covering Sungyeol. These postcards have dimensions 5.5" by 3.75".
Sadly there wasn't sufficient quality control as the top of the paper strip was a bit crunched, probably when the postcards were initially being packaged.
There are a total of 14 postcards, 7 from the Burberry photoshoot and 7 from the casual photoshoot. The order of the postcards, from top to bottom, is group from the Burberry shoot, then group from the casual photoshoot, then oldest to youngest.
Here are the postcards from the maknae line. The images of the 2 Sungjong postcards aren't in his photobook.
The backside of the postcard is simplistic.
And lastly is the CD. The CD version matches the booklet version, hence I got Sungjong's. The disc image is from the Burberry shoot as well. The disc is secured on a hard cardboard bed with a plastic center.
First press albums also come with 1 random poster out of 2, both of which are the same size as Infinite's usual posters. For this poster, the members are in their Burberry outfits. I personally love this group photo poster; Sungkyu looks like such a boss.
The other poster is a collage of individual images of the members wearing the black-and-white outfits.

This full album contains 12 tracks:
  1. Begin - intro track composed by BLSSD (aka BEE of Rphabet who also composed Infinite's titles "Destiny", "Back", "Bad", "Typhoon").
  2. Tell Me - title track composed by BLSSD of Rphabet. I really like that Infinite has continued working with Rphabet, as this duo creates songs that branches Infinite's musical style.
  3. Synchronise 
  4. No More
  5. TGIF (Dong Woo Solo) - I'm so proud of Dongwoo for having a solo track, and participating in the lyrics! This is actually his second solo studio track that I know of, with the first being "마음에 묻다 (Asking the Heart)", part of the OST for webtoon Lookism.
  6. 기도 (메텔의 슬픔) - (Prayer) is composed by SWEETUNE, my most favorite composer as this team has created so many masterpieces not only for Infinite, but also Kara, Snuper, Boyfriend, and many more artists.
  7. 왜 날 - (Why Me)
  8. 분다 
  9. I Hate
  10. 지난 날 (L Solo) - I'm so happy Myungsoo has a solo track, and for him to participate in the lyrics as well. Ballads suit him so well.
  11. 고백 (Sung Jong Solo) - (Confession) is Sungjong's first solo studio track! I'm so proud of Sungjong and his growth as a singer. This song really fits his voice well and I can definitely see this type of song in a drama OST - I hope Sungjong would have the opportunity to participate in an OST in the future!
  12. Begin Again - I really love this song, but the lyrics are so fitting to Infinite's situation at the moment, that I feel sad every time I listen to it.
My favorite tracks are definitely "Tell Me", "Synchronise", "기도", and "분다"! But of course all of the tracks are very beautiful and I do love them all. They all fit Infinite's style very well.

Infinite held a year-end showcase series, Begin Again, during the last 3 days of 2017 where they performed "Begin Again" and each member performed a new solo track, with Dongwoo's, Myungsoo's, and Sungjong's tracks landing on this album. I am sad that not all members have a solo track in this album, but that just leaves the possibility for their solo tracks to be released later on^^

I'm so proud of Infinite for winning 5 awards on music shows for "Tell Me" for the first 5 nominations they received. Despite being inactive for 1 year 4 months and losing 1 member, they came back as strong as ever. I hope we will have a repackaged album of this in the near future!

I have made several trades from the contents of my 2 albums, and will provide an updated post about those in the future.