The road to SuperM’s first full-length album has been paved by two pre-release singles: the high-octane, polarizing 100 and the EXO-meets-NCT Tiger Inside. Both did a good job showcasing the grandeur that fuels the SuperM project, but now that we’ve arrived at the album’s official title track, it feels like the time to really throw down the gauntlet. One (Monster & Infinity) is described as a hybrid remix track, which means it borrows elements of two separate songs and forges them together to create a greater whole. SM Entertainment has taken this approach before, resulting in SHINee’s legendary Sherlock (Clue + Note). I consider Sherlock to be one of the top five K-pop songs of all time, which puts tremendous pressure upon One. I mean, the song was never going to fully live up to my expectations.
Rather than infuse every moment with bombast, One chooses to dole out its drama strategically. It’s a solid example of the SM sound, if not quite as overwhelmingly awesome as I had hoped. But, the song is still pretty “out there” compared to the Western pop music it may try to compete with. Its opening verse is almost impossibly cheesy, as the guys rattle off lame boasts over the rubbery bass that provides the backbone to the instrumental. It’s not a particularly galvanized start, but One quickly gathers steam as the pre-chorus unfolds. A bed of ascending vocals sets us on the right path, suggesting more exciting things to come.
On first listen, One’s chorus instantly reminded me of NCT 127’s Limitless. It has the same towering appeal, fueled by tightly layered vocals that create a wall-of-sound effect. This refrain is easily the song’s most potent moment – larger than life in a way that befits its silly subject matter. The melody sinks its teeth further into your memory with each listen, and is especially effective when paired with the sci-fi synth line that becomes more prominent as we reach One’s climax. I only wish the entire track carried this same energy. Its verses don’t amount to much at all, and drag down the momentousness of the chorus.
A song like Sherlock found a way to compel across its entire running time, never once dipping in energy. One spends too much time idling on the way to its knockout moments. This uneven approach prevents it from becoming absolutely legendary, even as it hits some very high points. Still, SuperM have quickly cobbled together a strong, unified discography that feels like a well-deserved K-pop victory lap.