K-Pop debuts can be tricky things. At times, they’re the best song a group delivers. Sometimes, they’re the only song a group delivers!
But, debuts can also be huge wtf moments in an artist’s career. In this feature, I’ll be looking back at debut songs through the prism of time, re-evaluating how well they hold up and how representative they are of an artist’s eventual singles run.
Debut Date: June 12, 2013
BTS’s credibility wasn’t immediate. Back in 2013, idol groups were idol groups, and didn’t often cross over into genres like hip-hop. Within the context of that year’s musical trends, BTS were like fish swimming upstream – needing to convince audiences of their authenticity while proving that a rap-heavy idol group could be successful. I recall opinion on their debut being quite mixed, and No More Dream wasn’t helped by its music video’s overly-swaggy styling. It threatened to come across as pastiche rather than earnest homage.
It wasn’t until the group’s excellent 2014 variety series American Hustle Life that their genuine charms were on full display, causing many fans to reassess their early work through a new lens. And while I don’t think No More Dream is one of their better singles, it has a scruffy charm befitting a rookie upstart.
The track opens with rubbery bass, not too far removed from the legendary intro to H.O.T’s 1996 first-gen hit Warrior’s Descendent. This provides a nice historic through-line, even if — like H.O.T — BTS would go on to explore a much wider variety of sounds. Musically, the song trades between hip-hop verses and a chanted hook. It doesn’t put nearly enough focus on the group’s vocalists, but it’s amazing how assured BTS’s content and delivery was right from the start. They set out to speak to the nation’s youth, and No More Dream’s honest observations instantly cast them as an idol group with an unusual focus on social issues. Of course, you had to get past that awful spiky mask on J-Hope first! Thankfully, most of these kinks would get worked out in the next year or two.
Does the song hold up?
Is the song stronger or weaker than most of the artist’s title tracks?
For me, it’s in the lower rung of their title tracks. But, I appreciate its message.
Does the song represent the artist’s music going forward?
For the next year or so, yes. But, BTS would later move away from 90’s rap and into more pop-influenced territory.