Song Review: ONF – Sukhumvit Swimming

Though they didn’t win Road to Kingdom, ONF have proven to be the series’ biggest beneficiaries so far. Like agency-mates Oh My Girl, the series raised their profile big time, making the release of new mini album Spin Off highly anticipated. If ever there was a time to pull the rabbit out of the hat with a killer track, this is it. And, that’s what makes Sukhumvit Swimming (스쿰빗스위밍) so frustrating. Rather than go big and fully embrace the most exciting elements of their sound, ONF have opted for a much more generic approach.

You can almost feel the strain on Monotree’s Hwang Hyun – an incredibly compelling producer – as he tries to craft something mainstream and inoffensive enough to appeal to the widest audience possible. That’s never been the formula for an outstanding pop song, nor does it lead to standout ONF tracks. Sukhumvit Swimming is perfectly fine and enjoyable, with a polished arrangement and performance. But, it’s easily the weakest title track in the group’s (admittedly excellent) discography. In this case, that’s down to the song’s fundamental nature. Rather than bring something new, Swimming attempts to place ONF’s quirks over the kind of mid-tempo tropical trap-pop that countless other boy groups have already covered.

Those quirks come in the form of ornate strings accents and a repeated chant that makes up the song’s post-chorus. Hwang Hyun’s choice of synth textures remains excellent. I only wish they were in service of a more dynamic song. Swimming’s verses pulse along a languid beat – highly reminiscent of the more “island” inspired moments in EXO’s 2017 hit Kokobop. The chorus isn’t much more interesting. It largely sidesteps melody in favor of a languid chant. The vocal blend is gorgeous as always, even if the underlying refrain disappoints. ONF’s sheer talent elevates the track, yet Sukhumvit Swimming feels more like a b-side than a continuation of their incredible singles run.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!


28 thoughts on “Song Review: ONF – Sukhumvit Swimming

  1. I actually really like this. I initially didn’t think much of it on first listen but the more I listen to it the better it gets! The chorus has a way of just sneaking up on you. I just love their layered vocals so much.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Hmmm it’s abit early right now but I would say it’s my least favourite of their main singles if we were to not count Message. If I were to rank them it would be something like:

        *Places 3-5 probably interchangeable based on mood

        1. Complete
        2. New World
        3. We Must Love
        4. Why
        5. On/Off
        6. Sukhumvit Swimming
        7. Message

        But for me that says more about the strength of their other titles than the song itself. Sure it’s not exactly what I wanted from them (especially after New World) but for now it’s one of those songs that just makes me happy.

        Also love the subtle reggae influence.

        Liked by 1 person

          • It’s funny because as someone who also ults OMG (as well as ONF) my reaction to Nonstop was the same as your reaction to this track—-instant disappointment on first listen, but then a gradual increase of appreciation for it upon further repetitions. Now I quite like Nonstop, even if it’s still on the lower end of OMG’s title tracks for me. I think Sukhumvit Swimming will have a similar trajectory, as it’s definitely growing on me already.


  2. Kokobop is exactly what came to my mind when I listened to it. Unfortunately there isn’t the memorable hook or instrumental breakdown that we have in Kokobop. I like it but not sure if I’ll remember this song in a few months


  3. I’m just… so disappointed with this… I have loved all of their previous title tracks, this honestly is a huge step back in their discography… Give us the daring approach “We Must Love” took or the summer pop hit “Complete” is~


  4. You can’t imagine how much I love this lol.

    At first I actually felt quite weird because it sounds so different from New World or Why and the MV was so cluttering but I started to love it after listening to it alone.

    This obviously does not compare to Complete, but it’s a nice addition to their discography.

    (I might be biased though, but hey this is The Bias List anyway)


    • But yeah the disappointment you have is very understandable, it’s their most generic release to date.

      I wish WM would make New World (and Guerilla) a title track. Two great songs shouldn’t go to waste.


  5. For some reason it feels wrong to me , to have this , And 1TEAM’s new comeback in the Top 3 , they are just so disappointing and even Inception from ATEEZ grew out of me


  6. What is this the summer of the cowboy? I will not even begin to decipher what the video is supposed to mean. I think it might be time machine as coin operated kids shaky ride theme or sometimes a cowboy time train. That is all I’ve got and I am sticking with it.

    OK song, so, interesting. This one has some charms. They borrow from so many other songs it is truly a smorgasboard of sounds. Parts of the chorus with the synth chords are like their own oeuvre “We Must Love”. The oh oh way oh background anthem is like old school Ateez pirate sea shanty, old school meaning last year. Then we have the full on reggae beat going. Its got the deep baritone voice part. Other parts remind me of late 2nd gen, like an old VIXX song. Then back to 3rd gen with the construction (especially the 2nd verse).

    There is an oboe solo bridge(!). Sampled? The sound is real oboe, but the line could be sampled and digitally manipulated, whatev ITS AN OBOE SOLO!

    I think it works, somehow. Somewhere in the low 8’s for me.

    (This song will also be added to the “misheard in English” list”. The chorus really truly sounds to me like “I’m like a stupid, swimming”.)

    Off Topic: the best thing released this weekend is Gaho’s cover of Blackpink “How you Like That”. ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love it,I did also think it was kinda generic given what we usually receive from ONF, but I find when groups I like do that, I like the song(even if it has to grow on me) .Most of the time , it is far superior than what is out there anyway. I really love the beginning of the sound and the chant. I guess for the purpose of pleasing the public is works. New World remains superior. Kinda like how Oh my girl’s Nonstop was generic but I still like bc what they bring makes it better than the usual tropical like songs from other girl groups.


  8. I actually… like it. It somehow felt refreshing to me, despite its usage of those trendy sounds that every discography of 2020 had; it’s like they managed to keep it lowkey rather than make it stand out. It’s just my view though.

    The track still sounds hwang hyun to me, and that’s good(?). But honestly, it is by far the weakest title track in their solid discography. The rating is just right, though mine would be more like an 8.25 or something. But hey, at least it felt like a breather after Seungwoo’s debut song (which I don’t really like, quite disappointed in it).


  9. I really like this! It’s more easy-listening fare than their last two comebacks and New World, and though there isn’t a lot of melody, the instrumentation is more than enough to make up for it for me. Geppetto or Belle Epoque for buried treasure please!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I lowkey love this! It also gave me kokobop (at times even love shot?) vibes but in the best way lol. I thought the chorus is really catchy and it put me in a positive mood! Wishing ONF all the best with this cb (I saw they hit #1 on Bugs for the first time). 🙂


  11. I really just wish they’d thought of something better than “millennial whoop” for the chorus, because other than that I like it well enough. I appreciate that it’s not another instrumental drop because that structure was wearing a little thin after Why, but this isn’t an amazing alternative either.


  12. Road to Kingdom introduced me to ONF, and while I really like their voices, especially Hyojin, nothing in their discography has impressed me as much as their It’s Raining cover. The synth hooks in their music are great, but a lot of times it’s pretty jarring when they take over the song (like at 2:04) which makes the song as a whole feel less cohesive. If there were better transitions, I think I would like them a lot more. New World was really disjointed to me, so I do prefer this one. While I wouldn’t say I love any of their songs currently, I think familiarity definitely makes them more enjoyable. I’m hoping they grow on me because the members themselves are very talented and I really do want to be a fan.


    • the synth hooks are just a consistent feature of their title tracks! not sure if you’ve listened to their discography beyond that, but i’d recommend listening to the rest of their mini albums. full of luscious harmonies, soothing ballads, pop tracks but without instrumental drops in their titles… i’m not sure what your taste in music is so it’s hard to recommend any specifically! but since you like it’s raining, i’d recommend fly me to the moon and geppeto for the funkier element?


  13. I couldn’t agree with you more. In terms of music, ONF has become one of my favorite groups, so this was probably my most anticipated comeback of 2020, especially considering the infrequency of their material. While the song is pretty good and certainly has its moments, it definitely does not live up to ONF’s incredible collection of title tracks. Since this is their first release following the exposure on RTK, I feel as if they tried to play it safe in attempt to appeal to the new listeners. I guess it’s simply frustrating that the signicance of profit and popularity in the music industry are just the reality of it.


    • they’ve actually been working on sukhumvit swimming for months now and it was first mysteriously teased in february way before RTK (at the end of the official instrumental for moscow moscow on their channel). so i don’t think they were trying to play it safe at all to appeal to a larger crowd! i actually consider this to be their most experimental title track yet. uses all the cliches, but it sounds entirely new. not my favorite title track from them, but only because their discography is so strong!


  14. ONF could have been the new Snuper in terms of sound and unconventionality, but the sensation is they’re gonna be the new Snuper in terms of involution and un-awareness.
    I guess their road to kingdom is running down in the wrong direction.


  15. The first time I listened this was… extremely disappointing, especially since the part they had teased (the post-chorus) turned out to be the only part of the song I really liked. Since then, the song has grown on me a bit(mainly due to that post-chorus), but still no where near their most recent singles.


  16. is it just me or does the back track sound very similar to mask off by future. i really liked the song. i first hesitated but as i kept listening it seemed to grow on me


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