[Review] O (Circle) – ONEW (SHINee)

ONEW’s second mini-album, DICE, was voted as the Best Album of the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Congratulations to ONEW! Click here to see who else won in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards.

ONEW made his solo comeback earlier this week, with his third solo Korean release since his solo debut back in 2018. O (Circle) headlines this comeback, as part of his first studio length album, Circle. Both Circles follow the release of BLUE and Voice (from his solo debut in 2018), DICE (title of both his second Korean solo single and second Korean mini-album) and his Japanese comebacks last year.

O (Circle) reverts away from the retro city pop that ONEW had opted for his last comeback, and takes us down what almost sounds like a balladry path. But it isn’t like BLUE, which was pretty much your standard ballad with stunning orchestral instrumentation and amazing vocals from ONEW himself. Instead, O (Circle) takes on a softer and delicate R&B tone. The heavy bass line and organ-like synth in O (Circle) helps create a riveting backing piece to the song, while ONEW shines with his velvety vocals. Altogether, O (Circle) comes together to be a dreamy and soothing piece that stands out in the influx of comebacks, debuts and other releases we are experiencing. The use of the gospel choir as a backing to the chorus made for an excellent centrepiece and gave O (Circle) some deep impact. It also helped heighten the message of the song – just like the seasons are slightly different but also similar each year, life is quite similar as we have different experiences, but we are similar in the end. Relatively, it does make the verses sound lacking and very much less memorable. But it doesn’t necessarily stop O (Circle) from being an impactful and gripping song on a whole.

The montage at the start of the video of ONEW singing was one of the most captivating moments in a music video that I ever seen before. And this pretty much sets the aesthetic tone for the rest of the music video. We have some artistic shots of other things throughout the video. At one point, the items are colourful and alive, depicting the happier moments in life. Then, we see a bloodied phone screen, an unlightened light bulb cast aside and some crayons with dust around them, which depicted the darker moments in life to me. In the latter half of the video, we have a similar montage of items. The acting sequence of the video is probably the part that I find hardest to connect to, as I don’t know what is on going on there. At the end of the video, we get another montage of ONEW. It is a lot quicker and looks like the video is buffering. But I see it as a quick montage of a life, with the life being the entire music video.

Just like the music video, the choreography has this aesthetic side to it, which I really enjoyed. It definitely made for a captivating routine. I honestly did not expect to see a choreography routine for the comeback, given the song is very close to the balladry side of music. But I am glad it did, as it makes the live performances worth returning to. I also like how graceful the movements were, which not only fits the song, but give ONEW the opportunity to focus on the vocal work for the performance.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10


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