I’ve deliberately refrained from writing about the ongoing LOONA project, even though members of the upcoming girl group have been releasing songs steadily for the past five months. It’s an ambitious debut (by the time the actual group is unveiled, they will have had well over a dozen pre-releases), but so far it’s seemed like a case of quantity over quality. I think I would have rather seen their agency pour all these resources into one unforgettable title track rather than string out a series of non-promoted, genre-shifting songs.
Nonetheless, LOONA 1/3 represents the group’s first sub-unit, and also the first time any of the members have actively promoted on music shows in support of a mini-album. For those who don’t consider themselves a LOONA die-hard, it feels like a good place to start. As part of such a sprawling roll-out, title track Love & Live (지금, 좋아해) is an oddly familiar k-pop song. Produced by Hwang Hyun of producing team MonoTree, the track’s fizzy synths recall Lovelyz‘ retro sound, buoyed by the girly bubblegum melodies so entrenched within the genre. Its hesitant verses are oddly low-energy, delivered over a warm synth refrain that could have done with a kick in the butt.
Things improve as the chorus hits. Its drenched in a heavy wash of synths, and they do an effective job of propelling the otherwise simplistic hook. It’s not a particularly interesting melody, but it’s delivered with zest and a nice climactic power note that brings a spark of energy to what otherwise feels like a mid-tempo Lovelyz b-side. The funny thing is, Love & Life is immediately preceded by one of the fiercest intro tracks a girl group album has given us in quite some time. If only LOONA 1/3 harnessed some of that boundary-pushing verve for their debut, we might finally have the track that helps them stand out among the crowd.