I was surprised how invested I became with the second season of Japan’s Produce 101. I decided to watch it on a whim, and found myself rooting for the contestants in a way I hadn’t since Korea’s second go-around back in 2017. I’m delighted with the final line-up, particularly since it includes a few killer vocalists. With this in mind, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the chant-driven nature of debut single Rocketeer. As part of a double A-side, it will be paired with the (presumably) more vocal-focused Brighter, but JO1’s epic Born To Be Wild proved how powerful these big dance tracks can be when bolstered by thrilling vocal lines.
True to its name, Rocketeer opens with a blast. The extended intro is dynamic and exciting, and I wish its inventive beat had laced more of the actual song. Instead, we lurch into an NCT-like rap verse. I enjoy the undulating electronics here, but the transition loses momentum just as we should be soaring. Melodic vocals drive the so-so pre-chorus, but this proves to be a brief oasis before Rocketeer plunges into its chanted chorus. This is a catchy hook. There’s no doubt about that. However, it feels like an awful use of the group’s talent. The structure and delivery render them faceless — a self-sabotaging move for a newly-debuted act.
After a forgettable second verse, Rocketeer swerves into a series of dance breaks. These are admittedly cool, and cement the track as a choreography showcase rather than an actual song. INI’s vocalists are finally given room to flex during the atmospheric bridge. I just wish it was in service to a stronger melody. This group has so much potential, and I’m still looking forward to following them closely in the hope they’ll find their own Born To Be Wild. For now, it’s frustrating to watch their natural charm be swallowed up by this tired NCT-chasing style.