To me, a knockout debut should immediately establish a group’s identity. It should convince me that there’s a spot for them in an overcrowded marketplace. And, at its finest, a debut should offer something new. 2019 has seen a few debuts like this, but boy group AB6IX have yet to carve out their personal style. Instead, Breathe is K-pop’s umpteenth deep house track, augmented with all of the expected bells and whistles.
At this point, if a group is going to go deep house, they better be delivering the absolute best deep house track I’ve ever heard. Like a handful of other trends, this genre has been scraped clean. A song like Breathe feels recycled from so many other boy groups, and lacks the spark that might establish AB6IX as a force to watch. To be clear, the group itself is quite an exciting prospect. Composed of Daehwi and Woojin from Wanna One, as well as Donghyun and Youngmin from MXM, AB6IX has become a quintet with the addition of member Jeonwoong. With this kind of star power, the guys are rightfully one of the most anticipated debuts of the year.
This sense of excitement makes Breathe all the more underwhelming. It’s not a badly produced song. It’s just wholly unnecessary. The instrumental opens with moody synth ripped straight from Seventeen’s most recent work before coasting into its propulsive verses. The rap is pretty solid here, even if I hate the way the beat collapses into half-time trap nonsense. This tempo change occurs again as we veer into the chorus, which employs a catchy vocal hook over minimalist electronic production. None of this really builds to anything, or incorporates any unique ideas. It feels like the kind of music you’d hear in the background at an H&M. As polished as Breathe is, it’s a pretty narrow idea of what a K-pop title track can be in 2019.