Lately, I’ve noticed a worrying boy group trend. I like to think of it as “the Road to Kingdom effect”. It’s like a K-pop pissing contest, where comeback tracks have become little more than tools to showcase elaborate, badass performances. This shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? But we’re getting to a point where these are less songs than they are collections of sound effects and set pieces. I suppose this is fine if your only consumption of K-pop involves music videos and television performances. But for someone who loves listening to the songs themselves, this can be quite frustrating. I mean, these two aspects aren’t mutually exclusive.
More and more, I’m noticing ONEUS fall into this trap. They’ve delivered darker, dynamic tracks since debut, but a song like Valkyrie had plenty of melodic meat on its bones. New single No Diggity (반박불가) is all bluster and bombast, with little in the way of inventive melody or structure to compensate. It’s the sound of ONEUS trying to be ATEEZ, but forgetting that ATEEZ always bring the capital “C” choruses.
This is evident from the very first moments of No Diggity, as the verses opt for an unimaginative sing-talk approach. I’ve heard this exact phrasing countless times before, which effectively neuters its overall effect. Distorted rock guitar provides a compelling backdrop, but it’s not until we get to Seoho’s dramatic pre-chorus that the song begins to take flight. He’s a powerful vocalist, and that carries this segment into an ATEEZ-like taunt with aplomb. Unfortunately, this drive is sacrificed in favor or a noisy, charmless drop. No Diggity’s chorus layers distorted vocals on top of distorted synths and strips all semblance of melody. The result is noisy, combative, and ultimately forgettable. The track tries to bring everything together for its anthemic, double-time climax, but by this time it feels like the listener has been engaged in a shouting match with the group for three minutes. It’s kind of exhausting, and not in a satisfying way.