Rookie boy group 14U have had a hard time finding their niche, but their sparse discography has been bolstered by equally-new production team DEZION. Together, they’ve crafted a quartet of bright, funky tracks that overflowed with potential. But like so many other groups struggling to gain a foothold, the guys have switched producers for new single N.E.W.S (나침반). Commercially, this decision was definitely a step up. The song’s trio of composers (which includes Steven Lee) hold accomplished resumes in both Korea and Japan, filled with work by high-profile artists. Creatively, it’s more of a lateral move. N.E.W.S lacks the unique 14U stamp listeners have grown accustomed to, even as it unlocks new avenues for the group.
Experimenting with the ever-increasing Latin trend, N.E.W.S marks a refined dive into acoustic-guitar peppered dance pop. Its rhythmic structure is addictive if familiar, and the vocal layering is polished and effective. The group sounds great throughout, and they’re given a series of catchy hooks to take advantage of that newfound confidence.
The constant presence of flamenco guitar prevents N.E.W.S from breaking free of its own genre constrictions, but this is the type of pop song that would have sounded fine with any musical trope thrown over the top. That’s because, at its core, N.E.W.S rides on solid melodic construction. Its sweeping chorus reminds me of a less dynamic version of Snuper’s excellent 2017 b-side Hide & Seek, forming a strong centerpiece that cuts through the production’s less-inspired moments. I could do without the slight trap influence that runs through most of the instrumental, but asking K-pop not to “trap” in 2018 seems like a fruitless effort.