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.