Rookie boy group 1TEAM debuted this March with a laid-back hip-hop sound that left me thoroughly underwhelmed. Judging from their new single and all of the b-sides they’ve released so far, this chill, heavily Western-influenced vibe will become the group’s signature style. If that’s the case, I’m afraid 1TEAM’s music will not be for me.
Rolling Rolling (롤링롤링) picks up right where Vibe left off, setting ambitions (and tempo) low. Though not nearly as egregious, its heavily-autotuned aesthetic is reminiscent of Winner’s dreadful Everyday. If you would have told me seven years ago that this sound would come to characterize a dominant sub-section of K-pop comebacks, I wouldn’t have believed you. Oh, how times change. Korean language aside, there is nothing distinguishing a song like Rolling from every generic American hip-hop track clogging the digital charts. Globalization certainly has its upsides, but I worry when pop music from every country around the world starts to sound the same.
On the plus side, Rolling is slightly more engaging than its predecessor. Its chorus is an irritating little earworm, but I like the synths that support it. They’re unexpectedly bright, and briefly pull the track out of its autotuned murk. The group’s vocalists clearly have potential, as the smooth pre-chorus displays. It’s a shame that so much of their crooning takes place in a swaggy, hyper-affected setting. In so many ways, Rolling is emblematic of these severely disappointing first few weeks of summer K-pop releases. It’s uninspired, monotonous and could use a major boost of energy.