Over the course of their young career, SF9 have tackled a number of concepts. This constant shift in sounds may make it difficult for casual listeners to get into their music, but it’s proven the group’s impressive versatility. With new single Now Or Never (질렀어), the guys are tackling a genre they call “dark pop,” which basically means moody electronic pop music. This descriptor could easily match most of what K-pop has been obsessed with over the past few years, but SF9 pull it off with a certain panache.
Now Or Never’s warped synth intro is concerning, as it seems to promise yet another dark, murky boy group track. Thankfully, this moody palette is quickly joined by an addictive funk beat that carries through the rest of the song. There’s some strong drum and bass influence during the verses, but Now Or Never really hits its stride as it launches into its pre-chorus. A deep electro thump takes over, coupled with rhythm guitar that lends a sinuous drive that’s hard to resist. It’s amazing just how effective this segment is, since its hook is spoken in relative monotone without any melody to back it up.
This brings us into the chorus, which picks up the pace to create a dramatic centerpiece. Hwiyoung takes the lead here, with his breathy vocals layered as a pulse of strings gives the instrumental a cinematic air. It’s not the most indelible melody of the group’s career, but its brisk construction works well with the nimble dance beat. I kind of wish Now Or Never would abandon the darkness entirely and become the euphoric pop track it seems to want to be, but this is still a high water mark of SF9’s already-impressive singles run.