Despite the tense political climate between the countries, rookie K-pop acts are making Japanese debuts earlier and earlier these days. ONEUS haven’t even been around for a year and they’ve already released two J-pop singles. The first was a Japanese version of their Korean track Twilight. The second is 808, the group’s first original J-pop single.
Japanese discographies can go one of two ways. Either the group sticks to their guns and records music that follows their original sound and concept, or they differentiate their material between regions, opting to explore new territory for their new audience. Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, and groups have found success with both in the past. With 808, ONEUS try to have it both ways. There are elements of their intense K-pop sound within the track, but they’re fighting against generic, blustering production that could have supported any boy group with exactly the same effect.
808 does not open in a promising way. The warped repetition of its title makes for an irritating introduction, and feels dated in the worst way. The canned symphonics that follow are better, though not nearly as dynamic as I would hope. They materialize again during the chorus, which manages to ignite a few sparks. Unfortunately, it’s surrounded by verses that feel like placeholders, trading noisy hip-hop for melody. Many of the “boy group banger” tropes are present throughout 808, but the song forgets to inject a perspective of its own. I wasn’t a huge fan of September’s Lit either, but at least that track had a unique calling card. This is just woefully forgettable.
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