Musically, the biggest risk involved with debuting a reality show-spawned project group like UNB is that their sound will be completely generic. There simply isn’t enough time to develop a unique aesthetic, especially given that fact that these members were brought together through public vote rather than musical compatibility. This isn’t to say that the task of crafting individual color is impossible. Had Wanna One stuck with their Energetic sound, they may have already forged a unique identity for themselves. But groups like this seem more interested in churning out as many different concepts as possible before their short lifespan is over.
UNB’s debut, Sense (감각), is largely successful despite its lack of distinctiveness. It’s certainly more enjoyable than its production team’s last offering, the disappointing and chorus-less Boomerang. At its heart is an aggressive, sledgehammer chorus that opts for bombast over restraint. But like so many other k-pop songs this year, the verses pull back for a murkier tempo that blunts the song’s overall momentum.
This structure is signaled early, as Sense opens with a slow, keys-driven build reminiscent of Energetic (though not as effective). The remainder of verse one chugs along with an addictive sense of power, eventually blossoming into that aforementioned sucker punch of a chorus. It’s understandable that the group’s rappers need something to do, but verse two ends up as something of a low-energy throwaway. On balance, Sense‘s strong moments outweigh its weak, but the fact that the song only fires on all cylinders in fits and starts makes it a little frustrating. And it all circles back to the larger problem with UNB — and the upcoming girls’ act, UNI.T. By casting the net so wide, we end up with music that is too replicable for its own good.