Though it grew on me a bit as time went on, I’m still not a big fan of SF9’s debut single. Regardless of that, the group has already cultivated a nice fan base out of the gate and are clearly on the track to become a big player in this new generation of k-pop. New single Roar (부르릉) suffers from some of the same issues I had with Fanfare, but it’s a much stronger track. It manages to compensate for a general lack of chorus by cultivating a dynamic sense of energy throughout.
Many new boy groups tend to pattern themselves after one of the two pillars of modern k-pop success, borrowing from either the mega-successful hip-hop style of BTS or the slick pop bombast of Seventeen. Roar somehow combines elements of both. Its dynamite pre-chorus utilizes the same tightly-packed, clipped vocal harmony that gives Seventeen’s tracks such power. From here, the song crashes into its beat-driven breakdown of a chorus, recalling BTS’s Fire‘s aggressive arrangement. While neither of these production choices give SF9 much of an identity for themselves, the result is surprisingly galvanizing.
Luckily, Roar goes beyond being a total pastiche of other groups’ work. Its constant, breathy vocal refrain adds a solid through-line among the chaos, adding a welcome touch of lightness to an otherwise forceful track. Roar’s creeping, slow-burn verses are also effective, creating a nice contrast with the song’s more bombastic moments. And while I wish the chorus amounted to more than a series of disconnected vocal hooks, it smartly grows into a spectacular fireworks show of aural elements at Roar’s extended climax. This sense of set-up and pay-off is the only way a track like this works, and Roar gets it right.