I can’t overstate how much I adore JO1’s Born To Be Wild. I loved it from the start, but it’s grown into the kind of pop behemoth that spawns entire essays on this blog. From build to chorus to breakdown, the track is perfection and still gives me goosebumps every time it pops up on a playlist. Because of this, my attention has been keenly focused on JO1’s music. Their singles thus far have been quite solid, but now my expectations have been bumped up a notch.
Given this, Real was always going to suffer from comparisons to its predecessor. It feels less fresh and daring, even when borrowing some of the sonic elements that made Born To Be Wild so fantastic. Much of this spawns from the track’s inability to find one great groove and leverage its maximum potential. Instead, Real sputters back and forth between disparate segments, building energy only to plunge into murkier territory.
On the plus side, much of the song is powered by a bright sheen of funky synth. Parts of the melody recall SHINee’s work, though the chorus never reaches the bombastic brilliance I’d hoped for. The vocal melody just lays on top of the instrumental, formless in a way that feels aloof and unsatisfying. Real’s best moments occur late in the track, ushered in by the gorgeous synthline that powers the bridge. From here, the production’s various pieces finally fit together and Real finds its focus. It’s too little, too late to make this a definite standout, but I’ll keep watching JO1’s development as I repeat Born To Be Wild for the thousandth time.