Rapid(ish) Reviews: August 2017 ROOKIE EDITION (NCT Dream, Momoland, Golden Child, and more)

I feel like I’m always mentioning the large amounts of music released every month, but August was something else.  There were so many artists that I had to make three different posts!!!  Now you can see why I’ve decided to consolidate my reviews in the long run. I already covered a lot of rookies in the Produce 101 alumni post, but there are some others that I think are worth noting.  Aside from NCT Dream, these are groups that either just debuted or rookies I haven’t really checked out.  I usually don’t pick groups I’m unfamiliar with, so this will be a different perspective.

Table of Contents:

  1. NCT Dream, “We Young”
  2. Victon, “Unbelievable”
  3. Momoland, “Freeze”
  4. ONF, “On/Off”
  5. Golden Child, “DamDaDi”
  6. Good Day, “Rolly”

NCT DREAM, “We Young”

Song: 18/20
Lyrics: 8/10
Line Distribution: 8/10
Choreography: 19/20
Center/Formations: 10/10
Music Video: 17/20
Styling: 8/10
TOTAL88/100

NCT Dream has come a long way in a year! Though their concept is still about being young – it’s literally the name of this title track – this is probably their most public friendly song to date.  Tropical house is trendy, and it’s light and fun with a soothing quality.  “Summer” is quickly becoming an actual K-Pop concept/aesthetic, and “We Young” hits the nail on the head. While I like the song, I’m especially impressed by the dance.  Not only does it match the music perfectly, but they dance like groups who have been active for years.  And that low-key breakdancing in the second verse? So good.

Like many, my main issue with NCT Dream is that they literally look like children. It’s one thing for me to think that, because I’m a decade older than most of them. High schoolers have been looking like babies to me for years (sorry, nothing personal!).  But if teenagers think it’s too much, that’s a problem.  We get that they’re youth oriented, but it’s overkill. Seriously, half the work would be done if they took away those uniforms. While I have strong feelings about this, I will say that I like how the music video follows the boys playing with a lonely little girl and cheering her up.

While “We Young” is still quite heavy-handed with their youthful aesthetic, it’s definitely an improvement from “Chewing Gum.” While I’m not really into NCT Dream, I keep up to date because I am a Yuta and Taeyong NCT 127 fan.  I tried my best with “Chewing Gum,” but I just couldn’t do it.  And my boyfriend, who’s double their age (!!!), hated it.  But guess what? I was playing “We Young” the other day, and he was like “Oh hey, this song is good.”  Basically, there’s nothing wrong with marketing NCT Dream to a younger audience – it’s age appropriate, and that’s probably where all the money is anyway.  But it’s always good to have music that non-fans can appreciate too.

STYLE MVP: Jeno. I keep accidentally liking pictures of him on Tumblr because I think he’s Taeyong, and it’s happened more times than I’d like to admit.

NCT-Dream-Jeno.gif

***

VICTON, “Unbelievable”

Song: 16/20
Lyrics: 8/10
Line Distribution: 8/10
Choreography: 17/20
Center/Formations: 9/10
Music Video: 16/20
Styling: 8/10
TOTAL82/100

For some reason, I’ve never really checked out Victon until now.  I think it’s because they debuted right after SF9 and Pentagon, and I was just overwhelmed by all the new boy groups. Now that I’ve finally come around, I’m impressed. “Unbelievable” isn’t really my type of song, but it’s darn catchy. The fun and bright concept is clearly a good match for them, and I like their fancy footwork. They’ve got a lot of potential.

Victon checks off all the boxes on the list: good music, solid dance moves, balanced members (in terms of talent/positions), nice visuals, and from what I’ve seen on Weekly Idol, variety sense.  They have an established concept and brand, which is always a plus.  Unfortunately, they’re in an over-saturated market.  Not every rookie group is lucky enough to have the same solid foundation, but there’s a fair number that do. At some point, you can argue that any group is good-looking/is full of hilarious dorks/has great music and dance moves/etc.  So what happens then?

If Victon wants to survive, they need a stronger way to stand out and appeal to non-fans. In my opinion, the best way for them is through their music.  For example, you wouldn’t expect a song like “Unbelievable” to have so much rapping – but it works. Similar-concept groups like Astro and NCT Dream have strong rappers as well, but they put more focus on their vocals.  If Victon keeps adding little twists like that to their music, it would be a lot more unique.  Even if this comeback wasn’t their time to shine, I think they’re a group to watch out for.

STYLE MVP: Subin.  Normally I don’t like that shade of hair, but it works on him!

Victon-Subin

***

MOMOLAND, “Freeze”

Song: 14/20
Lyrics: 8/10
Line Distribution: 7/10
Choreography: 15/20
Center/Formations: 9/10
Music Video: 14/20
Styling: 8/10
TOTAL75/100

I know extremely little about Momoland.  I was waiting someone to sub their survival show…and to this day, no one has. (At least, nowhere I won’t get a virus) The only member I know is Nancy because she hosted The Show. And technically Taeha, but I failed to recognize her from Produce 101 which is why they weren’t in the other post. I watched their previous music videos, and neither made a huge impression on me.  The only thing I really remember is the dabbing in “Wonderful Love,” which was just a no-no.

From what I’ve seen so far, I think Momoland will have a hard time going forward.  Cute concepts are trendy, but they’re a double-edged sword. Since so many groups do them, you really have to make sure yours is memorable. And I hate to say it, but “Freeze” doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It doesn’t bode for the group if the most memorable part is Wanna One’s Jaehwan awkwardly wandering around in the music video.  While the song has some repeat value, I doubt people will listen to it enough times for that to happen.

Like I just said with Victon, it’s so important for rookies to set themselves apart from the crowd. Momoland’s current strategy doesn’t really show any of their potential. They’re also at a disadvantage because they’re not generating a lot of buzz compared to their rivals. Even recruiting a Wanna One member’s help didn’t do much. Unfortunately, a girl group’s success is usually tied to members with strong visuals (so they can nab CFs). DIA would be in a similar boat if Chaeyeon wasn’t so popular.  Momoland needs to push members known to the public like Taeha and Nancy to build some momentum. But even if it’s not as conducive to their success, I sincerely hope they can also evolve creatively.

STYLE MVP: Hyebin, because I really like that hairstyle and color.

Momoland-Hyebin

***

ONF, “ON/OFF”

Song: 16/20
Lyrics: 8/10
Line Distribution: 9/10
Choreography: 17/20
Center/Formations: 8/10
Music Video: 16/20
Styling: 8/10
TOTAL82/100

ONF is the newest group from WM Entertainment, home to veterans B1A4 and rising rookies Oh My Girl.  It’s easy to see how these newbies fit in with their “siblings.” Their simple and clean music brings their brother group’s discography to mind, as both avoid lots of effects and embellishments in favor of a classic melody. And their bright energy mirrors their cutesy sister group.  But ONF also has their own unique flavor, veering towards a trendy house sound and blending their fun image with some power dancing.

As far as debuts go, I think “On/Off” is pretty solid.  It’s pleasant to the ear, and while it’s catchy it doesn’t get stuck in your head. (Their whole mini is worth a listen) The dance is difficult like with most boy groups, but it has key points that are easy to remember.  The music video is a little confusing – they said on After School Club that they were supposed to be androids, but I didn’t quite pick that up.  However, it did a good job making a futuristic setting. Finally, the team’s is also pretty balanced, with half of the members focused on vocals and the other half on performance (and one member that does both).

It’s a coincidence that I gave them the same score as Victon, but my feelings on both are similar.  At this point, nearly every major agency has either recently debuted a boy group or is planning to soon.  That means at least a dozen rookie boy groups are fighting over a limited number of fans – and that’s without taking heavy hitters like EXO and BTS into account.  It’s gotta be tough, and what sucks is that it has nothing to do with talent either. Unfortunately, I think ONF got lost in the shuffle of August comebacks. Maybe they would have fared better in a slower month. They have a distinct sound though, so I hope that will make a stronger impression in the future.

STYLE MVP: Hyojin, who’s got that classic idol look.

ONF-Hyojun

***

GOLDEN CHILD, “DamDaDi”

Song: 18/20
Lyrics: 9/10
Line Distribution: 8/10
Choreography: 19/20
Center/Formations: 9/10
Music Video: 16/20
Styling: 9/10
TOTAL88/100

Personally, I think Golden Child had one of the best debuts so far this year. Like I said before, a lot of groups are similar in terms of appeal.  But Golden Child set themselves apart because Woollim promoted them well.   Since May, we got information, teasers, and even a reality show.  We were hearing about them months before “DamDaDi” was ever released. Woollim kept up the momentum after their debut and gave them another reality show. They even appeared Weekly Idol – probably because the host loves Infinite, but they definitely held their own.  Even if you don’t listen to Golden Child, you’ve probably heard of them if you’re fairly active in K-Pop.  And that’s half the job!

Solid marketing is usually what helps bring in the money, but we K-Pop fans generally care more about the material.  Luckily, Golden Child is good with that too.  “DamDaDi” is a really great song, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s actually on repeat while I’m editing I love the retro fifties vibe, and it reminds me of updated versions of music from Grease and Bye Bye Birdie. It also makes me think High School Musical, which I will love no matter how old I get. And the dance is so entertaining!  I’m not quite as interested in the music video because it’s all aesthetic and no story, but I think the baseball theme is a fun idea.

Even though I’m unapologetically multifandom, I find it hard to pay attention to so many groups.  Recently, I’ve decided not to invest any more rookies.  I’ll check out their music and perhaps blog about them, but I won’t follow them closely. I just don’t have the time and energy. However, “DamDaDi” was so good that it’s making me reconsider my stance.  I’m still on the fence because I’m too lazy to learn about eleven (!!!) people…but if Golden Child’s comeback is as good as their debut, I’ll add them to my list.

STYLE MVP: Y, aka the Jungkook lookalike.

Golden-Child-Y

***

GOOD DAY, “Rolly”

Song: 16/20
Lyrics: 7/10
Line Distribution: 7/10
Choreography: 17/20
Center/Formations: 8/10
Music Video: 16/20
Styling: 9/10
TOTAL80/100

I must admit I’m slightly disgruntled to discover yet another cute concept after Good Day teased that fierce dance practice, but I accept that’s usually how things work in K-Pop.  And though we all know about my ambivalence towards cute concepts, “Rolly” is pretty fun.  I’m not super into the song – I listened to it a couple times and then moved on to something else.  However, I like how they went for a more fifties retro sound like Golden Child did.  And they get bonus points for all the pink and the sparkles in their aesthetic. (I may get bored with cute concepts, but I’m still quite girly for an adult woman)

While Good Day’s debut was promising, there’s definitely work to do if they want to make an impact going forward.  There were some interesting ideas, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to actively follow them. They’re using the same strategy as Momoland, right down to using a Wanna One member to draw in potential fans (this time it’s their labelmate Jinyoung). But as we saw with “Freeze,” this plan is weak.  Good Day needs to build up more hype – perhaps by doing more project with those units? – but they definitely have what they need to do so.

STYLE MVP: Chaesol because she has the best outfits (and partially pink hair!)

Good-Day-Chaesol

***

So I’d say all of these groups are in similar positions, with the exception of NCT Dream and their SM pedigree.  I think that most of them will build small but devoted fandoms, but it’s hard to tell if that will be enough in the long run. I’m interested to see that ONF will go on Mix 9 and Good Day will go on The Unit.  I know a lot of people are iffy about survival shows right now, but I think it’s a great idea.  Even if they don’t make it all the way, it will help bring their groups some recognition. And maybe it will give the chance to show off some skills that we might not see otherwise.

I feel bad that my overarching opinion was rather lukewarm.  I went into this wanting to bring attention to rookies I don’t hear people talking about, but I feel like I spent the whole post coming up with articulate ways to say “meh.”  Hopefully some of it’s just my opinion. I really did like a lot of the songs, just not enough to go beyond a few casual listens.  But it’s important to pay attention to rookie groups, so I’m glad that I did.  Even if I don’t become their fan, I’ll still probably check out their latest title tracks.

VIDEO SOURCES: C9 Entertainment (Good Day), Duble Kick Entertainment (Momoland), Plan A Entertainment (Victon), SM Entertainment (NCT Dream), Woollim Entertainment (Golden Child), WM Entertainment (ONF)

Additional sources: Omona They Didn’t (Livejournal)

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