Music Monday, August 24, 2020 – ITZY, DONGKIZ, ONEUS, MCND + Wonho

It was a good week in K-pop with some great new releases from several groups. Soaring anthems and dramatic performances, here’s some of last week’s new title tracks.

“Not Shy,” ITZY

ITZY returns with another confident outing in “Not Shy.” I loved “Wannabe,” released earlier this year, more than their first comeback “Icy” last year. I felt like “Wannabe” took the catchiness and uniqueness of “Dalla Dalla” and churned out a rousing anthem.

“Not Shy” isn’t as anthemic “Wannabe,” but it isn’t any less positive and fearless. ITZY is definitely carving out their own signature sound and style. And “Not Shy” continues to allow them to stand out from the K-pop crowd.

The wild-west themed music video with the ITZY outlaws is fun and a great visual representation of their confident and self-assured personalities that is very refreshing for K-pop.

(My bias is Lia, by the way. *blush*)

“Beautiful,” DONGKIZ

DONGKIZ continue their step-by-step growth with another more mature track in “Beautiful.” The powerful, performance-based track reminds people of (or perhaps introduces others) to the group’s dance roots. (They gained attention pre-debut with their excellent covers.)

The song is an interesting anthem-like love confession, telling someone they are beautiful just by being who they are. The pre-chorus is particularly strong before they go into the first-pumping anthem-like chanting of the title.

Even more interesting about DONGKIZ is the seeming contrast between their last two singles and their first tracks which were more bright and cheeky. It’s undoubtedly a shift in style on the surface. But again, DONGKIZ’s pre-debut activities included regular covers of some of K-pop’s biggest hits.

While this may not be the best title track they’ve released so far, it is undoubtedly the best showcase for their all-around talent that many people may not have been aware of yet. It’s a song made for a live performance:

And it’s matching sexy music video.

I’m certainly waiting for a mini-album or full album release from DONGKIZ soon. And whenever that does happen, I’d love to see it feature both sides of DONGKIZ that we’ve seen since their debut.

“To Be Or Not to Be,” ONEUS

After making a splash on Mnet’s Road to Kingdom, ONEUS returns with their darkest and most dramatic track yet. The cinematic music video perfectly matches the cinematic-sounding track.

The irresistible chorus seamlessly shifts to a powerful rap section and later to a haunting hook. The group’s vocalists take care of the silky verses.

A highlight for me is definitely member Leedo’s double duty singing and rapping. Leedo (my bias!) has such an engaging duality with his singing voice and rap voice. And both get a prime spotlight in this track.

The music video is a bloody, dramatic continuation of the group’s equally bloody and dramatic pre-release (and Road to Kingdom) track “Come Back Home”.

The epic, medieval storyline spanning the two music videos perfectly encapsulates the overall vibe of their latest album.

“nanana,” MCND

MCND’s “Ice Age” is one of the best, strongest debut tracks. Not just for this year, but in a long time. The surprising track came roaring through the K-pop scene, announcing MCND’s arrival.

It definitely left some big shoes to fill for MCND’s first comeback. And sadly, I’m not sure “nanana” was able to fill ’em.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for this title track. But “nanana” lacks a lot of what made “Ice Age” so good. There’s a lack of surprise. It doesn’t have a catchy hook. I know it’ll take a couple of listens to really appreciate it. But it feels and sounds like a very standard K-pop track. Which is disappointing for a group that made such a huge splash with their debut.

The rest of the “Earth Age” album is better though, particularly “Breathe” and especially “Bumpin'”.

The funky “Bumpin'” (“쾅쾅쾅”) is the kind of unexpected track that immediately grabs you right from the start and never lets go. It might be my favorite track from the album.

“Losing You,” Wonho

And a bonus! Though released the week before, former MONSTA-X member Wonho released his first solo track “Losing You” in preparation for his solo debut album.

The emotional ballad is a love letter to his fans as he embarks on a new path.

The stripped down, melodic track allows for Wonho’s vocals to shine through as he gives a heartfelt, almost vulnerable performance. For such an emotional track, it is a roaring introduction for Wonho’s solo career.

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