After the disbandment of Wanna One, many of its members had newly-formed groups to conveniently slide into. But, some of the most popular Wanna One personalities were heading back to an agency without any announced plans. In some cases (Kang Daniel), this resulted in a messy situation. For others (Ong Seungwu), it’s more of a shoulder shrug. Fantagio Entertainment has recently emerged from an intense round of internal power shifts, making it hard enough to manage acts like Astro and Weki Meki. Without any clear-cut position for Seungwu to occupy, his unofficial debut comes via the Starship Entertainment-sponsored Pepsi CF Heart Sign.
While I’m happy to hear any music from Seungwu, this is a relatively inauspicious (semi)debut. Heart Sign pairs him with producers Flow Blow, who co-composed Wanna One’s biggest hit, Energetic. They’ve fused a similarly high-energy backbone to this track, but forgot to make it interesting. Instead, Heart Sign’s chorus feels fashioned out of scraps from Energetic. I kept waiting to hear the iconic “feeling so energetic” refrain as part of its familiar brew. Essentially, the melody here traces the same path as its underlying instrumental, resulting in a rather underwhelming hook. It’s a chorus designed for group vocals, and without any layering, Seungwu’s solo performance feels insubstantial.
Of course, a rip-off of Energetic is not an unwelcome proposition. Flow Blow have self-plagiarized one of the most addictive boy group singles of the past few years. Heart Sign succeeds off the strength of its brisk energy, and Seungwu’s performance is every bit as charismatic as his work with Wanna One. Trade the track’s over-played tropical synth riff for electric guitar and we might have even had a real stunner. Instead, Heart Sign is an above-average commercial jingle, slick enough to swim with the K-pop crowd but never daring enough to stand out.