ONF’s Complete was as close to perfect as 2018 got, and wound up as my favorite K-pop title track of the year. This puts the group in a difficult position. Very rarely is a song as stellar as Complete followed by something just as good. Expectations are simply too high. But if anyone was set to buck this trend, it’s ONF. New single We Must Love (사랑하게 될 거야) drafts the same composer (the brilliant Hwang Hyun from Monotree), and borrows many of the synth-fueled hallmarks of the group’s best work. Yet, as solid as the track is, there are elements that hold me back from fully embracing its charms.
Let’s get the quibbles out of the way first, because I’d rather gush. When it comes down to it, I can’t fault Love for its construction or performance. I just really don’t like the future bass sub-genre. I never have, and I don’t think I ever will. ONF are able to twist its tropes into something more substantial, but those lurching synths that support Love’s chorus just kill the energy. Modern EDM can often feel too stop-and-start fitful, and We Must Love would benefit from a more streamlined arrangement that kept the tempo pumping. We get a bit of this during the propulsive bridge, but I want more.
With that said, there’s much to like about the track. The icy synths that herald the opening verse bring a moody sense of texture that instantly draws interest. This leads to a standout pre-chorus that gathers steam before dropping into that aforementioned chorus. The second verse brings in even more elements, utilizing keys and guitar to outstanding effect. I love that Hwang Hyun borrowed the distortion from Complete’s breakdown and laces it through Love‘s best moments. It adds a wonderful sense of drama to the second pre-chorus, and makes me wish the guys would embrace this sound with even more aplomb.
An impressive power note from Hyojin rounds out the track as we enter the final chorus, supplying a satisfying spike of catharsis. But even with all of these dynamic ingredients, We Must Love is no Complete. It’s going to take a pretty special song to exceed the high water mark ONF set for themselves. This feels more like a (very enjoyable) side step.
I really enjoyed this track… even if it doesn’t have the same energy as their other singles. Like you mentioned, the best parts are probably the guitar throughout and the bridge, which flows a little better than the verses. The high note was incredible, and it adds some heft to a song that feels incredibly light and short. I honestly could do without the post-chorus synths as well; they seem like a safe end route to a chorus that really could’ve benefited from being more daring, and they definitely sound like something we’ve already heard thousands of times. Still though, the single is pretty great, though not as incredibly solid as the album. It’s definitely one of the best Kpop albums of 2019 so far, and I’ve already found that it has amazing staying power. I really enjoyed listening to every track on it, especially “Yayaya” (violin!! guitar!!), and “Happily Never After” (chorus!!). I hope you’ll make one of those your buried treasure (or even “Fire and Ice,” perhaps), I’ll be looking forward to it!
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Of their three albums, this one has actually taken the longest to grow on me. I think that’s mainly due to the energy being lower this time around. We Must Love (the title track) has definitely grown on me, though. It just had such high expectations to live up to that I was bound to be a bit disappointed right off the bat.
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Been listening to this -on and off- for a year. Desperate/unrequited love done right, 10/10
ONF’s discography is pretty much incredible.
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