Despite debuting with one of 2017’s best dance tracks, Wanna One have slowly succumbed to the same fate as IOI. Their overseers clearly know that the Wanna One brand is more formidable than any actual song they might release, and this has resulted in a series of “that’ll do” singles instead of tracks that live up to Energetic’s electrifying potential. It’s a shame, because the group itself has been an incredibly enticing prospect. They’ve got great voices, great personalities and a surprisingly strong bond given their temporary status. On paper, Spring Breeze (봄바람) is also promising. It reunites the group with producers Flow Blow — one half of the team responsible for Energetic. The song is meant to be an emotionally-charged finale to their story, but I’m ready to move onto the next chapter.
In writing, we’re often taught about the importance of sentence fluency — the diversification of sentence structure and length so that text reads more interestingly. There’s probably an equivalent term in music, but if I were to think of Spring Breeze as a poem, it would be one in which all lines were the same length, ending with the same rhyming sound. Each of Breeze’s sections churn out bar after bar that cycle back to roughly the same note, giving the melody an apathetic, overly predictable flow. In fact, without any dynamics or surprises to maintain interest, its verses are almost the opposite of melodic.
This criticism is not unique to Wanna One. It’s become a larger problem as the construction of pop music relies more and more on loops and samples. Melody is not a loop or sample, but I fear too many producers are seeing it as such. This, combined with Breeze’s purposefully listless pace, results in the kind of track I often call a “dirge” or “plodding.” It lacks the spark of life that sends a pop song — mid-tempo or otherwise — soaring.
Because of this lack of structural imagination, there’s a limit to how involving Spring Breeze can be. You can throw all manner of cool production touches and dazzling vocals over the top, but all it does is mask a hopelessly inert song. Breeze has its moments — the breathless pre-chorus and evocative hook — but never really gets going. This is a shame, because the instrumental suggests a much more memorable comeback. I love the rubbery synth and footfalls of percussion that underline the chorus, and the recurring, dreamlike riff that opens the song adds beautiful texture. Wanna One sound incredible, proving that they could pull off a much stronger ballad than this. Instead, Spring Breeze is another track that evolves the narrative but doesn’t fully engage musically.