Just nine days after I.O.I returned as an (almost full) group, Produce 101 is once again churning out material, this time in the form of I.O.I’s sister group, I.B.I, which is composed of girls who didn’t quite make it into the final line-up (still with me?). In contrast to the hard-hitting r&b-styled pop of Whatta Man, I.B.I takes a softer, more bubblegum approach. While the song’s not terribly inventive, the sound suits them well.
Molae Molae (몰래몰래) begins in familiar territory, with a bouncy synth beat underlining melodic verses that recall a mixture of GFriend and Apink. The chorus hits right in the sweet spot, balancing an ultra-catchy refrain with a nice post chorus hook that briefly ups the energy. It’s all slavishly indebted to the tropes it aims for, which ultimately affects its ability to stand out. But, I’m delighted that it’s an actual song, unlike the hodgepodge experiment Whatta Man felt like. Sohee and Hyeri’s rap break in the middle eight is a welcome punch in the gut, segueing into the effective key change that carries the track to its conclusion.
Though it doesn’t feel like much of an impactful single, Molae Molae‘s wistful sound goes down easy. That said, Molae is paired with a second track, the self-titled I.B.I, and actually suffers by comparison. I.B.I really should have been the single, as it’s probably the most enjoyable Produce 101-related song I’ve heard since the series ended. But at the end of the day, the girls decided to play it safe, knowing that anything spawned from Produce 101 basically turns to gold anyway. Molae Molae isn’t quite gold-star quality, but it’s a pleasant-enough late summer diversion.