The Unit may not have drawn huge ratings, but the series has spawned a universally solid run of singles. This is surprising, as I wouldn’t normally trust a huge conglomerate like KBS to select songs that are anything more than cynical commercial endeavors. Both UNB and UNI.T’s releases haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel, but they’ve been composed by a veritable who’s who of tried-and-true K-pop talent.
I Mean (난말야) may end up as UNI.T’s final single, but the girls are going out with a bang thanks to producer Brave Brothers. From start to finish, the song follows his high-energy, hook-filled formula. Usually, this lack of innovation would be a criticism. However, familiarity can also be comforting. With so many Western trends infiltrating K-pop’s mix, it’s kind of a thrill to hear a song that could have just as easily been released back in 2010.
Of course, this been-there, done-that feeling also limits I Mean’s effect, requiring a dynamite hook to compensate for all the cheap nostalgia. The song’s instrumental pumps forward on enthusiastic synths and frenzied breakdowns. The vocals are constantly set at eleven, from the layered ad-libs to NC.A’s massive power note at its climax. However, the chorus feels a bit empty, skirting past “familiar” and flirting with “derivative.” It gets by on energy and enthusiasm, but these are momentary thrills. I Mean is at its best during its propulsive bridge, which hints at a more aggressively anthemic melody hiding just under the surface.