Another day, another 2019 debut. OnlyOneOf’s claim to fame comes via a connection with much-hyped girl group LOONA. The guys were initially cobbled together within the same agency, Blockberry Creative, and share a creative director in Jaden Jeong. They’ve since transferred to a new agency, and don’t seem to be pursuing the solo-tracks-before-group-tracks strategy that worked so well for LOONA.
Instead, OnlyOneOf have dropped a pair of title tracks, promising to release the rest of the album when their fan base has generated enough tweets about the group (22,000, to be exact). This all sounds like the most convoluted roll-out ever. Honestly, this isn’t the time to test the fortitude of your fan base. It’s the time to establish one.
More worrying is the generic nature of both title tracks. Savanna is too heard-it-all-before trendy for me to write about at length, so I’ve chosen to focus on the more classic sounding Time Leap. Despite its exciting title, the song is a mid-tempo melodic ballad. As debuts go it’s a low-key effort, retreading the same angst-filled ground many boy groups have harnessed before. Its verses pulse with an emotive hip-hop meets crooning style reminiscent of mid-tempos by YG Entertainment artists. The production has a nice acoustic edge, augmented by electronic influences. The chorus is catchy from the first listen, but too repetitive to amount to much. Time Leap could have done with more modulation everywhere. Listeners basically get the whole package in the first thirty seconds, with little variation to follow. With so many new acts vying for the same audience, OnlyOneOf are going to have to get more creative than this.
Doesn’t help that with a name like Time Leap it has some lofty standards to live up to in the form of 100%’s best mini album ever and (in my opinion) the best mini album in kpop, period. And it definitely doesn’t meet them or come close to meeting them tbh, I’m sorry.
Don’t forget the excellent Sweetune-composed “Time Leap” track from BOYS24!
Unless it’s the trope that’s going to define your group, I really think you should NEVER debut with a mid-tempo track. This is when you really have to hook people, make them at least casual listeners for the next time around, and at that stage mid-tempo is synonymous with forgettable. At least a bad but fast song might end up stuck in your head.
It works from time to time. Oddly enough, the instances that come to mind immediately are both YG groups. Winner’s Empty and iKON’s My Type were both good examples of debuting with a mid-tempo. Time Leap, however, is no Empty or My Type.
History repeating, and so do I.
These last two years are bringing us tons of new rookie acts whose average value swings between “So what?” and “Who cares?”. Some of boy groups who debuted in 2018 have been vanished yet, some others came back from nowhere and turned back to nowhere, some others have no reason itself to justify their own birth.
In this frame of uncertainty, marketing best practices would suggest to be more experimental than ever, because setting new rules pays much more than learning (or aping) old ones and – anyway – you have basically nothing to lose. So it’s really disappointing to see most newcomers (do they really deserve the label of “NextGen”? I don’t think so. Probably “NeverGen” is more fitting) play so comfortable and so anonymous.
OK: it doesn’t necessarily work even if you follow a different path (Target, I’m sadly thinking of you), but at least you tried to move a single, little step further.
It’s likely OnlyOneOf this bundle of rookie groups will actually come out from nowhere in a couple of years and EPs, and no doubt it won’t be OnlyOneOf.
Looking back, I don’t think this pattern of forgettable rookies is all that new. It’s just that we’ve — surprise, surprise — forgotten about most of their ilk from years past. With more and more acts coming out each year, I’m not expecting genre-defying, experimental work from all of them. But, when there are several of these average/forgettable debuts bunched together within the space of a week or two, it becomes a little exhausting.
I didn’t mind that it is a mid-tempo, but it is still mid-tempo basic k-pop.
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