It must be a tricky choice when deciding how to debut a new group from a small agency. Without name recognition or pre-debut hype, a rookie’s success lies solely on how their first several tracks are received by the public. So do you try something out-of-the-box in hopes to appeal to Korea’s fickle taste? Or, do you model yourself after a proven, successful act and pray that the market hasn’t been completely over-saturated? Both approaches are far from certain, but the latter choice seems to be much more popular.
The latest to jump on a k-pop bandwagon is newly debuted boy group Seven O’Clock. Echo (시계바늘) pulls heavily from the hip-hop infused tropical house popularized (in Korea, at least) by groups like BTS. In doing so, the song is a solid debut but not particularly memorable. Its percolating synth beat underlines the bulk of the track before cresting into a more prominent electro squiggle during the chorus. I wish that this instrumental refrain took a more unique approach. By its very nature, tropical house can feel a bit repetitive. It often relies on one synth hook to drive the song, and if that hook isn’t super strong, the whole thing feels kind of redundant. Last month, KARD were smart to switch things up at the climax of Don’t Recall. No such luck, here.
That’s not to say that Echo is a bad song, or that repetition itself is necessarily bad. The song’s simple hook is effective, and utilizes its call-and-response background vocals to great effect. And though the group sounds like BTS-lite through Echo‘s unimaginative verses, they pull off the sound. The problem, then, is the same one k-pop runs into over and over. There are already so many groups tackling this general vibe. How are Seven O’Clock going to stand out?