2021 has been relatively short on big-name debuts, but December is ready to squeeze in a few before we flip the calendar. Leading the pack is Starship’s new girl group IVE, who arrive with tons of hype thanks to two members hailing from IZ*ONE. Their visual and audio teasers seemed to promise a sleek, sophisticated concept, and debut single Eleven largely delivers.
Opening with a catchy percussive loop, the track pushes forward right from the start. We’re dropped into a scattershot verse, but it doesn’t take long for Eleven to find focus. The continued drive of the instrumental keeps the energy brisk, except for when the track pulls back for the pre-chorus. The slowdown here is unexpected and a bit bizarre, but adds emphasis and helps to set up the chorus.
The way Eleven’s chorus is arranged reminds me a lot of early Red Velvet. I love the vocal layering here. Combined with a renewed focus on percussion, the hook is given great heft that makes it feel like a natural climax. The melody is simple but immediately memorable, and buttressed by a robust post-chorus flourish that takes advantage of the song’s middle eastern elements. I think there’s room for Eleven to grow toward an even more striking finale, but the track is definitely effective. I don’t know that it will go down as one of K-pop’s more iconic debuts, nor do I think it needed to. With a built-in fanbase, IVE could have released anything to great success. The fact that Eleven is enjoyable and fresh on its own is a satisfying bonus.