In the middle of writing about last year’s I-LAND, I questioned whether I should continue with the show. It didn’t seem to be creating the buzz I’d expected among K-pop fans. But, then ENHYPEN debuted and sold a boatload of albums. Clearly, you don’t need a huge viewing audience to spawn a successful idol act. With support from the newly-rechristened HYBE, the guys seem to have secured their future in the industry. And while I thought debut track Given-Taken was just okay, the teasers for Drunk-Dazed promised to up the tempo and offer something a little different.
Spoiler alert: I like the song. But, I’m going to get my criticism out of the way first, because it’s what keeps this track from claiming an excellent rating.
I’ve complained about HYBE’s vocal mixing several times before, but Drunk-Dazed might be the most egregious example yet. The vocals are muffled and compressed. The mixing drains all character from the performers. It’s not robotic in the way autotune can be. Instead, it sounds submerged, like a lo-fi transcode playing on a tinny speaker. I just don’t get it. This heavy-handed approach threatens to turn ENHYPEN into avatars rather than artists. They can’t simply be a delivery method for HYBE’s house sound.
With that rant over, the actual song is fantastic. This only makes the low-quality mixing more frustrating, but at least we’ve got a commanding beat and exciting chorus to look forward to. I like how Drunk-Dazed kicks off at high energy and doesn’t let up. It really captures the feeling of a carnival, in keeping with the album’s title. And the addition of rock elements lends it a different texture than most boy group tracks. It’s fun to hear a comeback go this unabashedly big, and I hope this will become a trend going forward. If given a robust vocal to match, this would easily score in the nines for me. Unfortunately, the producers get in their own way, constraining ENHYPEN when they should draw upon their authentic, unprocessed voices instead.