2021 has been a banner year for ONF. Not only have they released more material than ever, but the music itself is among their strongest work. Those looking for a spiritual successor to February’s excellent Beautiful Beautiful will find their match in new summer single Popping (여름 쏙). Beautiful set an impossibly high bar, making it difficult for any song to climb out of its shadow. But while Popping doesn’t quite clear that burdensome goal, its bright, infectious energy makes it an easy standout.
As with all of their singles, Popping pairs ONF with genius producer Hwang Hyun. These days, it’s hard to find long-running idol/producer collaborations. ONF and Hwang Hyun have been allowed to grow their sound together, with that symbiotic relationship resulting in a discography that’s both cohesive and daring. If anything, Popping is testament to the importance of a great producer. Taken on their own, each of its melodic pieces are lightweight and potentially throwaway. But, Hyun pulls them together into a kaleidoscope of brilliant energy and colorful instrumentation.
Opening with a catchy, chorused melody, Popping quickly moves into its perky electropop groove. Rhythm guitar chugs along, lending the verse plenty of funk. Each segment is brief and punchy, as the pre-chorus swerves forward to add a sense of weight to the dizzying confection. It’s so satisfying when the pieces of a pop song fit this well together.
Popping opts for a beat drop chorus, as the chirpy synth from verse one returns in full force. But, the track has more to offer than this simple riff. A rousing post-chorus adds edge to the featherlight hook, pounding forward with unexpected bombast. Verse two continues the momentum, as Popping builds to its euphoric, chant-along climax. It’s unabashedly optimistic, and that sentiment is more welcome than ONF and Hwang Hyun probably realize. It’s an absolute joy to get lost in Popping’s buoyant take on the summer season.