The whole Produce X 101 and X1 phenomenon may have collapsed, but its biggest beneficiary was boy group Victon. They came roaring back last fall, their popularity buoyed immensely by the series. And now that X1 has disbanded, leader Seungwoo is able to join the guys for new single Howling (하울링). This should bring the group even more attention. Now, all they’ve got to work on is the music.
Though I wasn’t too hot on November’s Nostalgic Night, the song grew on me a bit. And, it was paired with strong b-sides that hinted at a potentially interesting future for Victon. Maybe that’s why Howling feels underwhelming. It’s not a bad song, but it closely mirrors almost every boy group release we’ve heard this past month or so. Moody and dark are the keywords of 2020 so far, and Howling uses all the expected tricks to get there. Its opening verse is a slow burn of muted synths and trap percussion. The structure here is fine, though hardly galvanizing. At least the autotune is kept to a minimum and the arrangement feels relatively taut.
Howling’s chorus is its strongest element, and could have been a total knockout. The melody reminds me of 2014-era Beast, but with more downbeat angst thrown over the top. Its final lines are particularly pleasant, bringing in a swirling vocal hook that’s almost hypnotic in its simplicity. Unfortunately, much of this goodwill is undercut by an inert instrumental that sacrifices drama in favor of murky boy group affectations. I get that all these groups want to be taken seriously, but I’m really longing for the show-stopping comeback songs of days past. More than anything, I’d like to see groups like Victon having fun with their music again. Enough with the pop song depression.
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