NINE.i emerged earlier this year with a song and album that positioned them firmly within existing boy group tropes. Their appeal lies in self-production, though they’re helped by composer Kim Seung-soo (who may or may not be one half of Sweetune, depending on your source). The teasers for their first comeback hinted at more daring sounds, bringing a synth rock edge to their burgeoning discography. Title track Young Boy supplies a welcome dose of rookie energy, even if it’s a bit rough around the edges.
The song’s fusion of synthwave elements and distorted guitars is like musical catnip to me. Even if the melodies or performance aren’t quite up to par, I’m bound to love the final product by virtue of its genre choices alone. I’m also happy to see NINE.i return with something that has more individual character. Some of the vocals are unpolished, but this gives them a scruffy appeal that accentuates the song’s concept. The synth line that opens the track is a crystalline beauty, adding great texture to the driving rock beat. The second half of the verse, leading into the pre-chorus, takes greatest advantage of this blend.
Conversely, Young Boy loses a bit of luster during its chorus. I appreciate its cathartic energy, but the melodies feel undercooked – particularly when we hit the vocal climax. This line warbles awkwardly in the center of the track. If we must have this melodic peak, more robust vocal stacking or different effects might have made it feel as immense as it should. But as a spirited battle cry from an under-the-radar act, the vast majority of Young Boy gets the job done (and might even get your fist pumping).