When it comes down to it, the whole BOYS24 experience has been kind of frustrating. Though the program didn’t have close to the cultural impact of its similarly-minded predecessor, Produce 101, it was a highly entertaining series with great talent. Even better, it resulted in a very strong mini album of original songs that were used on the show. But that’s where the excitement ended. Rather than promote or actively release music, the winning trainees were shuttled off to some performance hall in Korea, where they will continue to perform (and apparently, continue to fight for survival) for the next year. This severely limits their appeal, unless you’re a Korean fan who can afford to go see them in Seoul. For the rest of us, I guess we just have to wait.
Luckily, we have E to tide us over. Released as a result of “winning” the series’ final challenge, the six guys of Unit Yellow are the only ones featured on the track. The first time through, listening to E was an odd experience. The song is a complete throwback to the k-pop boy band sound of 2008-2010, just as the genre was beginning its modern reinvention. But rather than cherry pick the era’s best bits, E encompasses both the highs and lows. It’s a cluttered grab bag of influences, overcome with robotic vocoder and a dense, claustrophobic blend of instrumentation. The moments where it pauses to breathe, like its first verse and prechorus, reveal a glimpse at what might have been a powerful melody.
Unfortunately, the actual chorus is a bit of a mess. It feels over-produced and scattered, lacking a strong enough through-line. To a certain extent, this is actually a charm — recalling a time when k-pop felt particularly ambitious and experimental. But there’s just not enough melody there, and the guys don’t yet have the experience to deliver such an oddly tuneless refrain with the force and individuality it needs to stand out. There were much stronger tracks on the post-series EP, so I hope when the group actually does debut they get to work with some of the genre’s best producers.