[Review] Count – 1THE9

1THE9 takes a bow for the final time with Count, an unexpected release but a much welcome send off for the project group who officially disbanded on the 8th of August (just a few days ago). Half a month ago, 1THE9 returned with what I persumed to be their last comeback (Bad Guy) before they were due to disband since their contract was up. In that review, I had wished the group returned more often given that their time as 1THE9 was limited. It turned out that the group delayed their comeback due to the ongoing health pandemic. I wasn’t aware of this and I apologise for making such comments without knowing the full picture. Luckily, 1THE9 and their company were able to squeeze in one extra comeback, which is (obviously) the focus of this review.

Given the context and timing of this release, it was obvious that Count would be a fan-service song, so that the group can thank their fans (Wonderland) for the support they gave to the group for the 1 year and a bit they were active for. The song could easily have been a ballad, but I was glad it wasn’t. Count goes does a typical pop route and I find this more suitable for the current season they are releasing the song in. Whilst pop is the genre of the song, Count isn’t a choreography enabling track. Instead, it focuses more on vocals and they actually sound quite good. I did feel that the autotune that seemed to be used on most of the members could have been toned down a bit. It just didn’t feel necessary. The instrumentation was light and minimal, allowing the vocals to be a clear forefront of the song. It also allows fans to get a sense of the gratitude and appreciative tone that the members put on. The one thing I would have liked and would have made this song even more special and touching if all the members sang the chorus together, particularly the final chorus. It seems like they did do that, but Count‘s take on this technique felt fairly weak. This could have bolstered up the final chorus and fulfilled the missing inclusive feeling that I felt was missing. But overall, Count was pleasant and (I am sure) it did the job for fans and the group alike.

I don’t much to say about this music video given the message it is giving. We see the members enjoying their final moments: putting together a picture collage of their memories on a window, decorating a cake and hanging up some washing. Wait, one of them sounds a little off. I am sure they could have done something a little more touching than laundry. But then again, I am sure everyone will appreciate clean sheets. Other than that lame joke, the most important aspect is that the members are having fun. They lipsync along to the song in a nice manner. It is simple and fits the brief. And I am sure fans are enjoying these moments that the group are sharing on the screen, as well.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Review] Bad Guy – 1THE9

The one thing I don’t understand when it comes to project groups are their lack of comebacks. These groups have only a limited time to make a mark in the industry. But often, their companies schedule in massive gaps between comebacks. Take 1THE9 for example. Formed in 2018 through the survival show Under 19, they debuted in April 2019 with Spotlight. Within 6 months, the group returned with Blah. But it took them eight months to finally return with their third release and it seems it is going to be their last comeback ever as their contracts wrap up ‘soon’. I don’t blame the members, as I am assuming this is a management decision (I think the members would be eager to get back onto the stage since they are just newly debut). But rant over. I am excited that 1THE9 is back with Bad Guy, which is featured on the group’s third mini-album, Turn Over.

I will admit that I have forgotten about 1THE9 and their two previous singles. Looking back on their reviews, I can’t blame myself as their songs were not as memorable or impactful as I had hoped when they first released them. Bad Guy might have a bit more luck in this department. What I have listened to while writing this review is actually not bad. It does lack uniqueness as it does have a certain level of standardness to it. The instrumental feels a little too consistent and I feel that it is missing a spark, particularly around the rap sequence. The rapping is is fine. I just expected something a little more exciting rather than a mild instrumental strip back. But apart from that missing spark, the instrumental felt quite solid and had a nice level of intensity. I like the buildup in the pre-chorus, using that ‘pew pew’ electronic dubstep synth we hear often (there is probably a proper name for it, but I love calling it that). I also like how the chorus felt like it ‘leveled up’ from the verse, by loading it with the synths we hear. Their vocals and raps were also a strong aspect. I liked how their vocals stayed on top of the instrumental. The instrumental during the chorus felt like it could easily have overpowered the vocals due to the intensity. But upon multiple re-listens, it seems that the vocals take the edge. I also really like the song’s melody when it comes to the chorus. All the positives aspects occur in the chorus and this really helps make the Bad Guy chorus bold and memorable, hence why I said Bad Guy might be able to perform better in that area earlier.

I found the music video to be on that typical side. Once again, it follows the closeup and choreography mashup. The lyrics was about choosing to be the bad guy for their partner and I feel that this could have been interpreted into an interesting plot line. This would obviously make the video boring and I did not need to put this video on the typical side of the spectrum. Some of the closeup shots shared between members were a little interesting. I sensed some hostility and I wished they had expanded on this a little more to be more interesting. I also liked the different patterns they had projected on the walls, though I think these were more artistic choices rather than contributing to those hostility vibes I got.

The performance was also a bore. It didn’t seem impressive and this feels disappointing. I felt that the members could have gone with slightly edgier moves that could have highlighted more of their skills. The choreography that I saw was quite safe and bland.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 5/10
Overall Rating – 6.9/10

[Review] Blah – 1THE9

Let’s jump into a time machine and go a little back further than last week. Apologies for the delay in its review, particularly since it was released mid-October (it should have been reviewed at the start of the week). But I guess better late than never. Well, the song to be focused on today is Blah, which is released alongside the group’s second mini-album, Blah Blah. They made their debut earlier in the year with Spotlight. And we haven’t much from the project group since that set of promotions. But they are here now and that is what matters.

Relistening to the song, the real reason to why the song hasn’t been reviewed yet could be due to its blandness. If it was memorable, I would have gotten around to reviewing it a lot sooner. Blah conforms to the typical nature of male group releases and hence it wasn’t able to stand out in the crowd. Another way to think about the song is that it is too ‘inside the box’. That is my overall impression of the song. Digging into the individual elements, I found the vocals and rap sequences to be okay. I think these easily could have been manipulated to pack a punch. Similarly, the instrumental would have been amped up. It felt like the group was playing it safe with the song and that isn’t something that benefits a newly starting group.  There some good melodic moments in the song, but these were more during the verses. The chorus was very unimaginative and what should have been the catchy hook was very dry and boring. If I were to sum everything up with one word, the song’s title says it all.

No doubt similar comments can be made with the music video. I have watched it once and I can’t seem to sit through it again. What I am trying to get it is that the video feels like one of those, ‘you’ve seen it once, you have seen it all’. It just felt typical. A lot of my comments would have been ones I have made before on this blog. So I am not going to repeat myself for once.

I really liked the energy that they managed to channel through the choreography. It is a little more than what we get from the song and I feel like that alone is a step in the right direction. I also like what they do with the slower moments of the song. I did wish for some bolder moves but I think the choreography was the strongest point of the comeback.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 5.4/10

[Album Review] XIX (1st Mini Album) – 1THE9

This was meant to be Friday’s album review. But instead of cancelling it, I moved it to today in order to keep up with the continuing influx of albums (for IZ*ONE fans, I will be publishing the album review for their mini-album in May, apologies for the delay). Today’s focus is on 1THE9’s debut, with XIX and Spotlight. For those who don’t know, 1THE9 was formed through the survival show, Under Nineteen, which aired between 2018 and 2019. More details about the group have been dug up recently (by myself) including that they will be together for a period of 1 year and that all members are currently under the age of 19.

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XIX Album Cover

1..Domino (ft. Crush) (Pre-Release Track) – Kick-starting their career in the industry is Domino, which was produced the featuring artist, Crush. The song starts off with a strumming acoustic guitar. It was an intriguing start but disappeared once the members started singing. Instead, Domino ended up being an R&B dance track, containing many dubstep effects and synths throughout to make it engage listeners. Adding to this engagement is the tempo of the track. It is slow churning but well paced, and I like how they kept with that throughout the track. Vocals and rapping were quite good. Altogether, the Domino elements come together nicely, making this track a great opener to their album and career. (8/10)

2. Spotlight (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Spotlight. (6/10)

3. The Story (우리들의 이야기) – Judging by the song’s title, I had expected it to be ballad-like. To an extent, the song does have that ballad-like vibe to it. It, however, is combined with another well-paced and slow tempo dance instrumental. Together, it gives The Story a reflective and appreciative tone that shows their commitment to themselves, each other and their fans. The song has a nice melody that is very easy on the ears and isn’t cluttered in any way. Both vocals and rapping were showcased in this song, so I thought it was a well-balanced track. The only problem is that this track is a little cliché, especially with Produce 101 doing this for each of their seasons before sending the participants off to the announcement of the final resulting group. (8/10)

4. R.N.R.H. (Right Now Right Here) – We now return to something a little more intensified. R.N.R.H starts off as a nice standard pop dance track. It felt melodic and almost beautiful. But nothing is what it seems, as demonstrated by many tracks by other KPOP songs. They start infusing some electronic effects and a rolling drum beat into the background. Not too extreme of a change as the track doesn’t make a complete changeup and it was a very nice change. But it is after the rap-spoken line, ‘Right Now, Right Here’ that the track takes an unexpected turn. The chorus goes with a low and tenses up. This was an extreme change but it fascinatingly interesting. They continue the same format of pop and then intense chorus for the rest of the song to maintain that interesting appeal. One final thing but I would have expected an ending with a little for definition. It just felt incomplete, especially after all those changes. (8.5/10)

5. Gravity – Ending the album is Gravity. I am a little torn about the song. I wanted something to lead off nicely from the somewhat flippy R.N.R.H, so to hear a more standard dance track was a little disappointing. But if I were to listen to the song standalone, I think this would be a decent track with a nice melody. I particularly like the post-chorus hook, which was rather catchy. The vocals were nice and the rapping definitely kept the momentum of the track up. I think I would have wanted something a little more catching to really give the song that needed attraction. And maybe this extra element could have been what was needed to allow the song to continue from R.N.R.H. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

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XIX Album Teaser

[Review] Spotlight – 1THE9

Weekend releases are quite uncommon, especially at the start of a group’s career. 1THE9 made their respective debut over the weekend, with their first album release occurring on the 12th of April (Saturday). Currently under MBK Entertainment, 1THE9 was formed through the survival program, Under Nineteen. Also based on the name, the group has 9 members including Yoo Yong Ha, Kim Tae Woo, Lee Seung Hwan, Shin Ye Chan, Kim Jun Seo, Jeon Do Yum, Jung Jin Sung, Jeong Taek Hyeon and Park Sung Won. Their debut track, Spotlight, is featured on the mini-album, XIX.

Spotlight follows the trend of Latin pop, which we all know has been dominating KPOP for the past year or so. And as it goes for a very overused trend in the industry, the song fails to really standout. It also doesn’t help that I thought the song was rather weak in terms of hooks and memorable elements. I found the main hook (the ‘Merry-go Merry go-…round‘) in the chorus to very, once again, very typical and not that catchy overall. I feel like more could have been added to the instrumental to make the song pop right out. I had the craving for some electric guitar towards the end, which I think could set the track up to be slightly more powerful. The vocals were alright. They just didn’t have anything to really make me go wow in this domain. The rapping was a lot more interesting. I liked the tone and it really showed a lot of potential down the road! Overall, Spotlight was an okay debut track. It was just very typical.

The music video starts off with two songs that I assume come from their mini-album. The actual Spotlight song doesn’t start until 1:07. However, the presence of the two other tracks didn’t allow the video to flow too nicely and a little hard for me to get through. The same thing could have been said about the music video. It connects with their album teaser’s video but it seems to be its separate story. The members end up having a party in the gymnasium, which seems to upset the coach (who already had previous beef with one of the members). He is escorted away and they all have fun partying. The entire Spotlight subsection in the video isn’t connected to any of this and I wonder why the start and end were even wrapped around it. This subsection contained bright vibes through the use of vibrant colours in the choreography and solo shots. I did think this was a little too much, as I felt a darker vibe could have really shown a nice contrast. But that wouldn’t fit the group’s young image.

The choreography was rather nice. Finally, something that wasn’t typical or confusing. I liked their energy and the post-chorus section was probably my favourite parts of the entire performance!

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.4/10