YG boy group iKON had a frustratingly sparse 2017 in Korea, releasing only a double a-side single that came and went without much fanfare. Their late-2015 debut album hinted at a much more versatile group capable of delivering a variety of moods and tones. New single Love Scenario (사랑을 했다) hearkens back to those days, easing up on the attitude to refocus on a more nuanced sound.
The most notable aspect about Love Scenario is that it never builds to any substantial drop. Over the past year or so, k-pop listeners have become conditioned to expect a certain level of payoff once a song’s melody begins to rise. But every time Scenario appears to be signalling a big instrumental switch, it retreats back to the kind of minimalist production that drives its opening moments. This feels frustrating (and mildly disorienting) during the first listen, but allows for a comfortable amount of breathing room where the performances can shine. I applaud iKON for bucking trends — especially following their last comeback, which seemed completely beholden to a sort of superficial posturing. Love Scenario’s instrumental may not be immediately enthralling, but it sure is refreshing. I mean, when was the last time any of us heard cowbell used so prominently in k-pop?
Equally refreshing is the equity of time given to each member. The distribution of parts still isn’t perfect, but this is far from the “B.I and Bobby Show” that many past iKON singles have been accused of being. Love Scenario feels very much like a group effort, drawing on all of iKON’s various strengths to ensure its success. The individual performances flow tightly together, offering a patchwork of moments that feel compelling on their own, but even stronger as a whole. It may not be their most momentous piece of music, but it’s a definite step in the right direction.