Trilogies and series are all the rage in K-pop, but few have lasted as long as iKON’s New Kids. Barring their 2018 album Return, the group has been releasing tracks under this title for so long that they’re in danger of turning into old kids. But with the arrival of I’m OK, it seems as if the guys have finally put a capper on the steady stream of music they’ve released since 2017 (“steady” being relative when we talk about YG…). This feels like as good a time as any to move on to new things. After all, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Love Scenario, which transformed iKON from a successful group to absolute superstars.
As a single, I’m OK is an end-of-promotional-campaign affair. It’s not the kind of track you lead a comeback with. Like October’s Goodbye Road, the song dials down the group’s livelier tendencies in favor of an emotive hip-hop ballad. There are echoes of past YG hits everywhere. The circular structure of its chorus feels like a more combative version of Bigbang’s Loser, while the resounding mid-tempo beat echoes iKON’s own Airplane. In other words, the song plays things quite safe — almost like the ending credits for a successful film.
Stacked against iKON’s recent material, I’m OK’s reluctance to play with sound or structure makes it hard to enthusiastically recommend. The chorus gets a bit repetitive as the track goes on, failing to build to the cathartic moment that it seems to promise. Beginning at the second verse, we get a taste of what I’m OK could have been, as the instrumental incorporates subtle orchestration that grows more pronounced as we head into the standout bridge. This gives the latter half of the track much more resonance, and helps end the New Kids story on a solid — if conventional — note.