Review

Song Review: ONEUS – To Be Or Not To Be

ONEUS is the latest Road to Kingdom group to make a comeback, joining the summer rush that’s included Golden Child, TOO, VERIVERY and ONF. Their stint on the series was fraught with frustration, landing near the bottom of the rankings far too often. This belies their talent, as does the dark horror concept they’re currently lodged in. New single To Be Or Not To Be makes many interesting moves, but it’s held back from excellence by an inconsistency in structure.

The foundation of this song is strong, with a solid chorus and dramatic atmosphere. However, it often feels like a Road to Kingdom performance rather than a piece of music. That sense of theatricality is appreciated, but some things don’t work as well in pure audio form. To Be Or Not To Be bends over backward to unleash big moments, no doubt crafted to accompany cinematic visuals. But as a pop song, there are too many stops and starts preventing the momentum from building to a satisfying crescendo.

Still, To Be Or Not To Be delivers plenty of highlights. Its opening verse is promising, as the instrumental unfolds with a moody – but funky — drive. This segues into a standout pre-chorus, where the rhythm transforms into a driving (almost industrial) structure as the guys offer a dramatic melody. This same arrangement repeats itself as a vocoder-assisted post-chorus, which is one of the track’s undeniable highlights. In between, To Be’s chorus is smooth and satisfying.

Unfortunately, the song collapses during its second verse. Trap-rap breakdowns have become an expected hallmark of modern K-pop tracks, but this one is particularly jarring. The momentum is upended for a needlessly-aggressive, downright unpleasant segment that causes the rest of the second verse to feel disorganized. This is such a shame, because To Be rights itself during its climax and delivers a beefed-up final chorus that revels in the full brunt of the track’s melodramatic charm. If the entire song had been structured to artfully build toward this moment, we’d have a real showstopper on our hands. But too often, To Be Or Not To Be gets in its own way. So even if there’s a lot to love here, I can’t fully embrace the track’s bombastic missteps.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

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24 thoughts on “Song Review: ONEUS – To Be Or Not To Be

  1. This is a great song! that’s it………………….
    Seriously Oneus song is the only good one today Hyolyn’s song is Ok and Dongkiz’s is just straight up awful

    Imagine delivering such good hooks only to make A song named Beautiful which is Ironically ugly

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  2. I don’t think a trap breakdown has ever come this close to running an entire song for me. I usually don’t mind them but this one is just plain ugly and made me drop like .75 points from my final score. I so wish that the whole song carried the kind of energy they had during the chorus and especially that trance like post chorus.

    Airplane off the album is an absolute gem though

    Liked by 4 people

  3. It’s a shame the second verse is such a meandering mess – just about everything else here is fantastic. The shifts in meter for the pre- and post-chorus work really well (and I love that they’re reminiscent of the recent Great Guys track, of all things!), but that damn trap breakdown makes everything feel cluttered.

    Regardless, probably my favourite track of theirs since Valkyrie. Oh, and that video… I knew to expect dark imagery (it is 2020, after all), but an entire firing squad?! A bold choice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That music video caught me off guard and I could barely focus on the song itself especially at that scene when I first watched it. It threw me the hell off and though I hate gratuitous violence(can thank American popular media for that), I can appreciate the commitment to the concept. I think the gore was a little better done and made more sense in Come Back Home. Like how on earth was a freaking firing squad allowed by Korean broadcasting? It probably wasn’t. I feel like Oneus is really leaning into this darker horror genre which I kind of like. Valkyrie, Twilight, Come Back Home, and now To Be or Not To Be. I really hope they keep up this style. Cause consistency is a little rare nowadays (unless you’re Dreamcatcher).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Everything about this song is amazing…except for that ghastly trap breakdown. It has everything I love about K-pop: bombastic composition, interesting soundscape, with some unique element that makes the song stand out–the vocoder in this case. That trap breakdown is the only snag in what is otherwise a 10/10 for me. They should have leaned into the electric guitar for the rap verse, which is a musical highlight of this song and IMO would have been the perfect way to move the song musically. The trap simply makes absolutely no sense and just feels like they’re appealing to convention, rather than making something truly unique.

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  5. I was never on the “Valkyrie” bandwagon when that one came out. This song has about the same effect on me. For me its OK. Plenty of people will go holy cow wow, and that is also OK.

    Oh great, more guns, more gun culture.

    The post-chorus rhythm is rather intriguing. It sounds like a trick Ateez pulled in “Wonderland”. By itself it isn’t enough for me to be pulled into this song, but worth acknowledging.

    I keep debating upon repeat listens if the song needs more orchestration, strings, horns, timpani, or would that be too obvious and shouldn’t be added. Well, there aren’t there, so of course I think that they should be there. Killer rock guitar, perhaps? Or would that be too obvious too?

    Rating is high, mid 7’s for me at best.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I like it!

    Also Nick, other than run, which other songs would you give 10 on the first listen? It could be from any language, and from your pre-alienhits, alien hits, or bias list era of music listening.

    Thanks for the review!

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  7. Personally I’m really happy with this. The overall direction was very interesting and there were many great and show-stopping moments. Though I’ll have to agree on the second verse which is the worst trap breakdown I’ve ever heard. Normally trap breakdowns are just mind-numbing, but this one was mind-infuriating. Other than that the rock and funk touches were welcome and I think that this was a perfect succesor to Come Back Home. I easily enjoy this more than their last two comebacks and this made my day. But next time, don’t hold back, this track could have been perfect if they just went for a streamlined second verse.

    Also Dead or Alive is easily my favorite Oneus track! It’s chorus doesn’t hold back and takes it’s time to deliver as much power as possible. Shoutout to Airplane!

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  8. I’m trying to grasp this one. I like a lot of what it does, there’s lots of great melody, and I truly appreciate its ambition, but the stop-and-go, constant tempo-shifting nature of this one makes this a really jarring listen. Even more so than, say, Boca, which, while I love, I’ll admit isn’t the most digestible of Dreamcatcher titles… And man is the second verse trap verse here ugly. It doesn’t help a song that is already disjointed as hell. Still, I’m working with it, because when it’s good, it’s great.

    Also annoying, but more a critique of the MV: literally the same perfunctory pause in the bridge just to show off their Matrix-style move. It’s something of their trademark I guess but I hate dramatic pauses that only exist in the MV version to ruin my immersion in the song. Makes me want to put on the album version on Spotify instead.

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    • Your first paragraph perfectly summed up my feelings as well. It’s why my review is a bit longer than normal. I’m actively grappling with this song, which is frustrating. It’s even more frustrating when you realize how easily its bad moments could have been fixed.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The visuals of the MV are great, almost like a VIXX/B.A.P vibe. But the song shifts around too much to be fully enjoyable. It didn’t need the aggressive rap to hit hard, it just needed to build on the drama organically. I reckon they thought that the breakdown and rap built tension but it just actually made the song weaker.

    Lit is still their best track, I think they should lean into that kind of sound more instead of falling down these dark trap holes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This song is a major improvement from come back home, which I found to be a disjointed mess. Though I have to agree that it felt more that they focused on the presentation than the music itself; nevertheless, they managed to deliver something solid.

    I am really loving the song’s beautiful melody and its nice pacing, and yet that trap breakdown ruined it. It is brief, but it’s a letdown from the song’s overall consistent energy.

    That electric guitar though, that was a killer!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m so glad I wasn’t disappointed with this because I liked all of their stuff so far. That chorus is giving me some older kpop vibes and the music video is super VIXX-esque so even though the trap breakdown isn’t… it, the song still sounds great. Glad you liked it overall!

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  12. I’ve always sympathised with Oneus since Valkyrie, which to me remains one of the best debut songs in KPop together with Nu’Est Face and Wanna One Energetic. But as a moderate fan only, I didn’t like at all what followed those promises (having its disturbing climax in Come Back Home at RTK, which is probably the worst track of the year) and I gradually lost all my hopes in seeing – and listening – them back to the roots.
    In these terms, To Be Or Not To Be (and Dead Or Alive) are a new breath of fresh air. I’m not that allergic to the trap drop in the second verse (probably because Verivery’s Lay Back set a bottom benchmark which makes any other trap drop sound much better) and I like it as a whole.
    I’m not sure it will be a relevant step up in their freefalling awareness, but I think their talent deserves far more than a random title tracks generator.

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  13. I guess I should stop assuming that the song will be great just by judging the 1st verse. Cause here I was expecting a bombastic song just to be met with the 2nd verse trap nonsense. To be honest, I don’t mind trap as much as you do Nick, but here it was AWFUL. The song was building up and then that nonsense happened. There’re no words to express my disappointment.

    Hopefully, one day, kpop boygroups will apandon trap.
    One day….

    Liked by 1 person

  14. While this probably wont top my Favorite Oneus title tracks I really enjoy it overall. I love the pre chorus and the rock guitar that emerges from the end of the chorus. Now that I’ve listened to the full album, I really think someone at RBW has a particular love for rock guitar and that’s something I’ll gladly take more of. I am seriously pleased by the new B sides. As for the title track the ending is easily the best part. Oneus title tracks often triple the intensity of the final chorus by adding several layers, they did it in Lit, Come Back Home, and now here. Regardless of how much you do or don’t like those songs it’s a clever thing to do structure wise.
    I do agree that the second verse was the worst part and I could have done without it but for me the better elements of the track win out. Honestly, I wasn’t even really mad at it the first time through while watching the mv. I think within the context of the mv and storyline it worked slightly better than it does on its own. Don’t get me wrong it definitely could have been done better though. I think in this case the music may have suffered a bit for the sake of theatrics, but Oneus’s acting skills are particularly strong so I get why the storyline would weigh heavily on the song itself. Personally, I have no problem with dark concepts themselves when executed well and I do think Oneus’s performance in the mv was stunning.

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  15. I’m honestly just echoing what everyone else has said. A song has to be greater than the sum of its parts but with Oneus it seems like they have really great sections in isolation but put them together and something doesn’t really work out as well as it should have. The connection between the parts just doesn’t really exist. Its kind of like a muscle without tendons to hold it together. Can’t really do much heavy lifting.
    I am also hella confused about Dead or Alive. Is it a continuation of To Be or Not to Be or is it a separate song? They sound too alike to be separate. Were they trying to do what Seventeen did with Fear and Fearless? Honestly, I think they should have taken to best parts of DoA and TBoNTB and smooshed them together. I feel like the electric guitar is much stronger in DoA and it really worked(I think, I have a really bad memory with music so I might be confusing the two in my mind).
    And again it confuses me why they needed that rap part because both Leedo and Ravn sang earlier in the song so it wasn’t needed to add in members(which is usually why I feel like rap sections are used in songs) and it is just so jarring. The instrumental is completely different from the rest of the song and comes out of nowhere. It’s right after that amazing chorus and its sort of like eating something sweet and suddenly biting in a chili. They totally could have made it fit in more seamlessly or just gotten rid of it entirely(I vote the latter).
    Besides me being such a negative nelly, I have to admit that the parts that I did like, I REALLY liked. The pre chorus and chorus were great and I really like the effect when they say “to be or not to be” which really surprised me because I hate hate hate autotune and most voice-altering effects.
    Honestly get rid of the rap and the weird pause with the heart monitor beeping before the last chorus and I would give this a 9.25. With those parts in I rank it an 8.75 maybe an 8.5 we’ll see how unpleasant I find the rap as I listen to it more.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. If 1:45 to 2:02 never existed, this would have been my favourite song of the year. In fact, i downloaded the song and edited out the trap breakdown. Now it sounds much better 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! LOL! Back when I had a physical CD player, I would know instinctively when to move my hand to the fast forward button on certain tracks, and how long to hold it down for. These days, I have to click around the screen to find the iTunes window and by then the moment has passed fully heard. I am thinking now maybe I should get my 9 year old onto learning the task of editing for me and my life would be better.

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