While their sibling group ONEUS releases a series of heavily-promoted mini albums, ONEWE has received a more subdued roll-out. I guess this makes sense. When it comes to K-pop, dance groups are an easier sell than rock bands. Still, it’s a shame that we didn’t get to hear the gorgeous Reminisce About All performed on weekly music shows last May. As the second of a four-part series, Regulus (야행성) promises to have more of a music show push, though I don’t think it’s the right song to establish ONEWE’s name with the general public.
As anyone who’s watched these guys on variety shows would know, ONEWE are an engaging group of goofy personalities — at their best when their music matches their jovial energy. I understood the idea of debuting with a ballad, as it acted as a great spotlight for frontman Yonghoon’s vocals, but Regulus is more of a head-scratcher. I’m honestly surprised at how mopey its sound is. As someone who went through middle school during the epicenter of the 90’s grunge rock explosion, I’m well-acquainted with the ‘mopey aesthetic.’ It’s even nostalgic, in a way. But, it’s an odd fit for ONEWE.
With a vocalist as amazing as Yonghoon, I’m also surprised that Regulus spends so much time trading between rapper Cya and lead vocal Dongmyeong. That’s not to say that either of these performers are untalented, but relegating Yonghoon’s incredibly engaging vocals to the song’s chorus feels like a missed opportunity — especially when they’re replaced with a large amount of autotuned rap during the verses. Regulus has a great hook, but without the right connective material to tie everything together, it kind of fizzles. Even more frustratingly, we get peeks at the astonishing track this could have been — most notably during Regulus’s pensive, pitch-perfect bridge. I hate to be so biased on The Bias List, but dang… just let Yonghoon do his thing without interruption. And get rid of those murky vocal effects while you’re at it!
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I realize I’m being almost overbearingly salty but – it’s like the songwriters started off wanting to make an aesthetic follow-up to LEDApple’s seminal “Let The Wind Blow,” but then they tripped and fell over N.Flying’s “Lonely” and Nell’s 2012 Slip Away album, in the process confusing themselves so much that they gave us this instead. Truly one of the most confusing and frustrating pieces of music I’ve heard in 2019.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.
THEY. HAVE. SO. MUCH. POTENTIAL! Why are they wasting it?
The first twenty seconds or so of the song are fantastic. That sonorous low tenor just draws me in..
But then the horrible vocal effect NFlying Rooftop rip off rap verse kicks in. I also have no idea about the song structure, so I don’t know where it is going, or when it is there, or when it is coming home. I have listened to it a few times already, and I *think* it starts with the chorus, However, I am not crushing on the song enough to listen more times to figure out the structure. I am guessing sonata form A B C A B C, but unwilling to keep listening to confirm.
The vocal performances are quite good, except for that horrible vocal effect verse (if it is the verse). We are fortunate that in kpop the bands go on the music shows and there are already live versions. Without that effect kicking in in the live performance, the song becomes tolerable. Except then the main leading 5 note repeating line of the chorus (if it is the chorus) just wears itself thin, even though they try to change it up by having it an octave lower, an octave higher, someone else singing it, harmonies, descant, etc.
To contrast: REM “Everybody Hurts” isn’t that much more complicated, and repeats the main theme for half the song, but the surrounding structure and instrumentals support the simplicity. The 6/8 time gives it lift and lilt. And there are no crappy vocal effects.
To be fair, I don’t think the problem is the boys for either this group or the one the other day (IZ). I think it is the producers. I think it is that the number of Korean bands is so small that the number of competent producers for bands who can help fledgling bands hone a sound and craft a song is equally small.
There are loads of producers who can do standard kpop sound for an idol group. Also a fair number who do orchestral productions for ballads and OST’s, certainly more per capita than the US given Korean tastes for these genres. (I wouldn’t be surprised if SM has an in-house orchestrator or two.)
But outside of JYP and FNC, I am guessing that the number and quality of freelance band producers is very small.
I listened to the song again (to spare you the pain), and I wouldn’t call this sonata form. The intro is just a toned down version of the chorus (same melody, no percussion, fewer layers), making this more analogous to a Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Bridge/Breakdown-Chorus structure. The verses, however, *are* plodding and meandering enough that I can understand why your head might go “is this supposed to be the development?” K-pop also tends to be pretty extra in terms of separating verse from chorus through modulations/chord progression changes/other stuff, while this song really doesn’t try to do that (besides switching vocal effects and getting the drums to kick in more).
Also, I’d agree that simplicity isn’t what drags this song down! Not every song has to be like cOunTerPoInt MeLodY sUsPenSiOn MoDulAtion ModuLation – it’s just “Regulus” happens to suffer from some ineffective and un-subtle songwriting that wears quite thin quite quickly.
Thank for your kind service!
Kpop tends to use “prechoruses” and “postchoruses” more than the pop / rock I grew up with, so when the pre/post chorus is stronger than the chorus, it can get confusing. And usually the rest of the song is a wreck if that is the case.
(The pop/rock I grew up with also used other structures like one long passage that builds and repeats with no formal chorus (probably has a term idk), or verses with short refrains, or call and response.)
This song is growing on me and I really like it.
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