Song Review: TO1 – No More X

TO1 - No More X
TO1 made their rebooted return with May’s Son Of Beast. That track was a lot of fun, courting the inherent silliness of the idol world with an over-the-top performance. But as cringy as the barking ad-libs may have been, the track’s foundation rested upon strong hooks and a memorable instrumental. For follow-up No More X, the guys have traveled down an edgier path that causes them to blend in with so many of their peers.

This fall, it seems like most boy groups have set their sights on blustery sing-shout delivery and pots-and-pans production. There may have been a time where this approach felt badass and exciting, but now it’s become a template. There are big-name producers behind this track, but it’s as if they’re working within the plug-and-play confines of a song that’s already been pre-assembled. I don’t know about other K-pop fans, but I’m so hungry for new ideas. It’s beginning to feel like we’re listening to the same song on repeat.

No More X opens with a brash, descending hook that will become its chorus. On first listen, I assumed this catchy flourish would act as a post-chorus – used sparingly for maximum effect. Unfortunately, there’s no additional refrain to flesh out the bombast. At worst, the hook’s constant repetition becomes obnoxious. At best, it’s a very slight effort. No More X is in need of a more galvanizing centerpiece, because no other element is memorable enough to stand on its own. TO1 punch their way through the track, bringing occasional life to the energetic rap verses. But mostly, they come across as a copy of a copy. A song like No More X tells us nothing about who TO1 want to be beyond their video’s usual dark, post-apocalyptic trappings.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.25


21 thoughts on “Song Review: TO1 – No More X

  1. Sigh another generic BG track. At least it’s not as bad as the TBZ track but that’s literally saying nothing.

    Sidenote…BILLLIE mini tracklist dropped and BOY am I excited. Getting Lee Minsoo and Kim Eana for a debut track is quite the accomplishment. Given their work with some of my favorite idols and groups in kpop…my expectations are very high. The B-sides look promising too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Quite generic, but terribly catchy. I’ve had this chorus on mental repeat since I saw the teaser a few days ago.

    Still, as a fan, this seems to validate my feeling that pretty much everything good about TOO died with their first iteration—up to and including the boys’ enthusiasm, though I certainly can’t blame them for *that*. Say whatever you want about Magnolia as a song, the mini itself is one of the few non-Big Bang EPs I find enjoyable from beginning to end. Same with the second one, with the bonus of a title track that’s way better. And I definitely wanted to see what they’d do with that concept of the 10 “Asian” values and elements like wood and gold and whatnot.

    …and now they’re just like any one of the conceptless Produce-baked groups. Alas.

    BTW, am I the only one feeling like these vampire/hinting-at-vampirism concepts for MVs are suddenly everywhere?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It felt like the song wasn’t sure if it wanted to do something ethereal like E’last Dark Dream or just go for a garage band attitude song… The chorus was again so out of place. But I really loved the other parts. It wasn’t as fun as Son of a Beast on first listen, but still felt alright and I have a feeling it could grow with the stage performances 🙂


  4. Its not a bad song, its just the nth version recently of this style. Heck, we’ve gone beyond counting and now have to do fancier math with integrals and functions.
    The open question is how much of a market is there for this stuff anyway? Are all the kids really flocking to this sound and buying it in droves?

    Its like how the supermarket has so many varieties of flavored seltzer in cans in one aisle, and also in another aisle flavored boozy seltzer in cans. There is only so many that can be consumed, no matter how many flavors there are.

    That said, song is fine, performance is fine. I honestly don’t know how to rate these things anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The open question is how much of a market is there for this stuff anyway? Are all the kids really flocking to this sound and buying it in droves?”

      Now that you mention it, I think this has the issue on its head, actually. The kids are buying it in droves *even though* it’s all the same sound. Companies must have noticed.

      Suppose you follow JYP’s dictum of “selling artists, not music.” And so it is that at Company A, Lee PD-nim has come to notice that ABC247, 5IVETeen, SP.ACE and V-lanc all have loyal fandoms routinely buying 150-200k physical units and filling concerts venues, all while doing slight variations on the same song and MV style. Every single one.

      Conclusion: I just need to find pretty boys, do what everyone else’s doing from a musical standpoint, and with the right amount of marketing I can at least sell as many albums as 5IVETeen and ABC247. Who knows, perhaps they might even reach STD’s success some day?

      Liked by 2 people

      • The funny thing is that your example names could actually be real names
        V-lanc pronounced Violence, but the V stands for Victory.
        SP-ACE in hangul is Shih-pay-sshi, and is also an acronym that stands for Super positive ACronEeem.

        (wait a tick, are they real names …. ?)

        Liked by 2 people

      • The thing is, I don’t think this is sustainable. For the past few months, I’ve had this persistent — almost subconscious — feeling that the K-pop “bubble” (such as it is) is about ready to burst.

        I could be totally wrong, and obviously K-pop and idol performers aren’t going anywhere as an idea, but it definitely feels like we’re climbing to a moment of inflection.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think the same whenever I see either Mnet or one of the big cable networks announcing the umpteenth survival show. Like, which market is absorbing all of these groups?

          But if you think about it for a second, the industry still has *lots* of places to expand into if a savvy CEO came up who wasn’t so blinkered into trying to expand into either Japan or the US, Japan or the US, same two places all the time. I mean, is anyone trying to create Mexico’s favorite K-pop group? What about Brazil, India, Indonesia?

          In fact, I doubt even the US has been exploited nearly enough as a market for K-pop. Only, it’s gonna take more of a push than BTS (and SM’s scattershot promotion of 127, but let’s not even get into that. I mean, a rodeo. Like… a rodeo.) can give for it to really become mainstream, I think. That’s why I see SM and CJ ENM’s plans to make audition shows in the US and Latin America, respectively, as steps in the right direction.


          • Fans seem to talk as if the primary goal is to take k-pop mainstream, but I’m not convinced there really is a “mainstream” anymore when it comes to the entertainment industry. Every so often something gets big enough that most people in my sample size of the people I interact with have heard of it – right now that seems to be Squid Game – but I don’t think that being a household name is necessary to make plenty of money, and maybe that’s why we aren’t being completely flooded with English-language title tracks even after a couple of years of BTS pushing hard I that direction. You don’t need everyone to be your fan if you can get enough people to be loyal fans, and idol groups seem to excel at that.


      • I have a theory about that totally unsupported by anything but my own personal observations over the last year, but I wonder how many fans actually know how repetitive many of the songs coming out are. I notice and a lot of us notice because we listed to everything, but the money in idols is in devoted fans, not amateur students of the genre. So if you spend most of your time and attention on one group and maybe only branch out to a few of the biggest names or groups that crossover with yours in some way, you might not notice that your favorite isn’t necessarily all that talented or creative compared to the broader industry.

        Again completely talking out of my ass, but I think the reason we haven’t and won’t see another group get as big as BTS is that they’re operating as a gateway drug – anecdotally, I’ve seen many English-speaking fans say they started with BTS and then moved on to another group, which frequently became their ult (but they’re still fond of BTS and toss them money every comeback, out of guilt if nothing else). But unlike a decade or so ago when there were a limited number of agencies targeting foreign audiences, now everyone is doing it, so those new fans have lots of options for where to devote their time and money. And I think it largely just depends on who the next group to catch your eye is, which inures to the benefits of other HYBE groups but there are plenty of people who like rooting for the underdog, and it turns out that every idol group is the underdog.

        I spend maybe 50% of my free time trying to keep tabs on everything new in k-pop, 25% digging into old releases, and 25% keeping up with free content from maybe a dozen groups. That’s all the free time I’ve got. I don’t vote or stream or buy multiple copies of albums or get into fights with people on Twitter or create fan-content, but if I don’t have time to do those things, I bet that the dedicated fans don’t have time in watching every new debut and comeback and comparing it to the last three decades of k-pop, even if they wanted to, which I suspect most do not. They just want to watch pretty boys or girls dance to catchy songs and for that, basically any group will do.

        This essay brought to you by the hour I spent listening to TO1’s new EP and then half-listening to their last couple of releases, which is time I could have spent streaming “Changer” and that’s basically taking food out of the mouths of our poor boys who work so hard for us and are so underrated.

        That said, “Golden” is a pretty solid track – I like the strings that I’m pretty sure aren’t strings and the random elevator dings are the kind of flourish I enjoy.


        • 1) That does square with my personal experience too, and I think your theory ties in with mine above. So sadly it’s not the multistanning grouches and grumblers at TBL that the companies are catering to, and the end result of devoted fans along with new markets seems to be that they don’t even need to have their product be distinctive to find buyers anymore.

          2) I’m constantly baffled by the way that BTS have become THE “gateway drug” into K-pop, as you say. Back in the day there seemed to be a lot of options to choose from, same as today. When Justin Bieber was still adorkable and way before BTS was even a thing, the first K-pop group I ever heard about was SuJu, which is huge in LatAm, as you may know. Once I saw either a Beast or VIXX MV on a TV screen at a department store. When I finally took a dive years later, the options I had were SHINee, Big Bang, SuJu and I think GOT7 (along with a few GGs, but I’ve never really paid attention to GGs).

          And now somehow you’re lucky if people have heard of EXO before becoming bona fide K-pop stans (and the MVs on store screens are, predictably, BTS. Usually Idol.)

          Kinda unrelated but it works as anecdotal evidence, that for all the time I’ve spent on K-pop over the years, the only spending I ever did was buying a single NCT album—and then regretted it almost immediately. (I mean, I’d probably have happily bought an Enhypen album if they hadn’t done my man dirty, but alas…) OTOH, the sister bought every Bangtan release for 3 years or so (and only Bangtan).

          Well, at least the streaming I’ve done for Verivery and CIX should be equivalent to an album sale or two by now.

          (*go beyond the barrier, go beyond the barrier*)

          BTW, thanks for putting food in the mouth of *my* poor underrated boys done dirty by CJ EMnet, then. The redebut was rather uninispiring, but if anything, the profusion of elaborate teasers for this release makes me hope for a return to some semblance of their old concept.


  5. As a fan that started following them after being affectionated by ‘Count 1, 2’, I’m longing for another refreshing and just fun title track from the group. But it looks like I’ll need to wait more *sigh*. The title track isn’t bad, I just wanted more melodies which I know TO1 can deliver. At least they don’t shout as much here, I guess?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love this. I don’t really care if it’s the umpteenth version of anything as long as I enjoy it. I’ve only been listening to k-pop for a year, but I’ve listened to a lot of the current offerings. If it’s repeating I guess I like what it’s repeating. It’s catchy and fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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