Not every survival series can be a massive hit, and 2018’s Under 19 struggled to attract a wide audience. This made the fate of debuting group 1THE9 a tricky proposition. Due to the confines of the series, their contract was limited to two years. And rather than capitalize on any hype the show may have given them, their management seems content to let them sputter out with increasingly less promotional support. It’s not a particularly uplifting story, but at least it might end on a creative high.
With the way things have been going, Bad Guy could be 1THE9’s final comeback. But, it’s also their best. The song hearkens back to a more straightforward K-pop era, where tracks maintained their appeal the entire way through without needing to shoehorn in trends that break up the flow. Bad Guy has the angsty atmosphere that so many 2020 boy groups have embraced, but it’s never glum. Instead, the style is accomplished through layers of evocative synths and a big, dramatic centerpiece.
Bad Guy’s two-part chorus is surprisingly robust and covers more of the track’s running time than you might expect. This is a massive strength. It lends the song a satisfying anchor, surging with an emotive melody and big, stomping percussion. I could do without the vocal effects, which make Bad Guy sound more compressed than it should, but I’m all about the cathartic hook. It’s not particularly complex, but comes across as very expressive. The melody swerves in a few directions I wasn’t expecting, giving it welcome heft and nuance. 1THE9 may be posing as bad guys, but this is really quite good.
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