To say that The Eye (태풍) was my most anticipated release this year would be an understatement. My utter adoration of Infinite and their music pretty much neutralizes my ability to write anything truly objective, but it also means that I hold them to an impossible standard. Any new addition to their flawless discography is bound to come under unfair scrutiny, like a stranger being invited to a close-knit circle of friends. With new Infinite singles, it often takes me a few listens to sort out my thoughts. Rarely has one exceeded my lofty expectations on the very first listen.
Working with one half of production duo Rphabet yet again, The Eye returns Infinite to the darker territory of 2014’s Back. Sonically and structurally, it feels almost like a sequel. Back set such a high mark for this particular sound that The Eye struggles to keep up, so it’s best not to be overly comparative. After a brief intro of what sound like warped violins, the song tiptoes forward with nearly a minute of plaintive balladry. This being Infinite, we know that it’s going to build to something. And boy, does it. The extended pre-chorus is the song’s strongest and most dramatic moment, with its swirl of symphonics and ghostly background vocals that whip around just below the surface. It gives the impression of standing still in a wind tunnel, with aural debris flying towards you in all directions just before the titular typhoon hits. From here, we’re brought into the chorus, which utilizes a unique melody that curves downward when you’d expect it to climax. This was definitely a shock the first time, but imbues the track with a melancholic individuality that fits the tone and subject matter. Initially, I wasn’t a fan of the instrumental breakdown that follows, but I’ve come to love the sense of release it gives the song. The beat has a gravelly, rough quality that grounds an otherwise transient chorus.
The Eye isn’t perfect, nor is it among the very best of the group’s singles releases. Rphabet interjects some spoken English samples in the middle of the track, similar to the (slightly irritating) one that opened last year’s Bad. It felt awkward then, and it still does now. There’s just too much of a contrast between Infinite’s ornate sound and the pop-culture cheekiness of the samples used. I also would have loved different mixing during the track’s chorus. The Eye is just begging for a massive beat drop like the one that sent Back soaring, but what we get instead is much more cautious. The song never gets a chance to truly explode. And that brings me to my biggest gripe, and this might be considered just as much a positive as it is a negative: The track ends too soon. The way it’s structured, the song takes a long time to really get going. By the time the second breakdown comes around, The Eye is just begging to be extended by at least thirty more seconds. Instead of just ending abruptly, this is the moment where the beat should come thundering back for a true climax. On the plus side, this less-is-more approach pulls you back for repeated listens. It’s also a definite missed opportunity. But even with these quibbles, the song’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. And let’s be honest — even before I ever heard it, I was preordained to obsess over it and play it about a gazillion times.