A K-pop group’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
ONF’s new album is really strong, and I couldn’t decide between two tracks when it comes to “buried treasure.” Ultimately, I opted to go for the one that seemed to be getting the most buzz from listeners, but give me a sentence or two to write about how much I like Secret Triangle. Usually, I don’t care for upbeat songs that shift tempo for a beat-drop chorus, but I think Secret Triangle manages this structure well. And the guitar during its final moments? Completely epic.
Now onto The Realist, which is a more cohesive production. The song’s synthwave aesthetics seem to take heavy inspiration from The Weeknd’s After Hours album, but Monotree has always pulled from these textures so it doesn’t feel like a cash-in. The hazy synth that forms the backbone to the instrumental has an almost tactile quality, at once retro and futuristic.
The vocals are also heavily processed at times, but it’s all in service to The Realist’s overall effect. It has an amorphous appeal, as if the song could fold in on itself and disintegrate at any moment. This illusion of elusiveness is hard to pull off while maintaining a pop song’s integrity, but The Realist manages to feel at once dreamlike and urgent. I think this is due to its strong hook, which swirls throughout the track with a subtle intensity. However, the element that really steals the show is the electric guitar, which punctuates the bridge with a spike of neon-colored drama. With that said, I could do without the muted coda that ends the track (though I understand why it’s there from a storytelling perspective).