Fresh off the heels of a collaboration with NCT’s Doyoung and Haechan, Ryan Jhun has delivered the second installment of his new Maxis series. I love when notable producers tackle this concept – finding channels for their own work rather than submitting songs to an agency. I’m not sure how long this project is slated to last, but my hope is we eventually get enough songs for a whole collaboration album. Last month’s Maniac was a fantastic start, while new release Not Friends offers a shift in sound.
Not Friends pairs Jhun’s music with HeeJin, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Yves of girl group LOONA. This alone will be enough to raise the eyebrows of listeners, as we’re often starved for new LOONA material. And rather than force the girls into a sound outside their comfort zone, the song feels comparable to the group’s own discography. This could be seen as a strength or a drawback, depending on how you feel about past LOONA title tracks.
For me, Not Friends is familiar and satisfying, but not something I’d be aching to return to. In contrast to the ultra-melodic Maniac, this song rests more strongly on attitude. The verses unfold over a catchy guitar loop, though their energy feels muted. This takes us into a chanted chorus, which mirrors the rhythm of the instrumental. It’s an effective – if somewhat underwhelming – centerpiece. Followed by a melodic post-chorus, this segment includes just enough diversity to maintain interest. But, I wish Not Friends burst free from its restrained arrangement to deliver a killer bridge or climax. It quickly becomes repetitive, and that limits its ability to grow and surprise.