New boy group TOO has a cool-sounding (and completely ridiculous) name. TOO stands for “Ten Oriented Orchestra,” which makes me imagine some super ambitious, symphonic performance group. In reality, the guys were formed through yet another MNET survival series called World Klass. This show had a heavy presence at last year’s KCON LA, with the contestants present on the convention floor and as opening acts for the concert. This promotion also included life-sized cardboard cutouts that were given away as prizes at the end of the weekend. I remember sitting in line for Sunday’s concert and seeing the occasional fan pass by, clutching an unwitting, two-dimensional K-pop boy under their arm. For some reason, that image has stuck with me.
But, that really doesn’t have much to do with TOO themselves. Given MNET’s push, the guys will be participating in the upcoming series Road To Kingdom alongside more established groups. It’ll be interesting to see how (or if) this affects their popularity. Debut single Magnolia (매그놀리아) shows promise, though much of its hip-hop heavy sound hinges on generic boy group tropes. Its verses forgo melody in favor of rap. The flow here feels surprisingly restrained, underlined by an insistent beat that has some nice snap to it.
Things improve as we enter the chorus. Guitar bolsters the instrumental, injecting drama into Magnolia’s otherwise straightforward production. But, I wish the refrain itself went harder. The hook is fine, but lacks personality. Its militant arrangement could do with more spontaneity, though there are some nice vocal ad-libs as the song goes on. Compare Magnolia to a similarly-pitched track like Stray Kids’ District 9 and there’s a gap in both energy and impact. Still, I’m happy that we never fall into dreaded half-time trap territory, and this general “hip-hop meets rock” sound holds incredible potential. Only time will tell if TOO are able to harness it in any meaningful way.
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