August 8, 2018 iKON – New Kids : Continue (Mini-album Review)
In 2015, a group of trainees from YG Entertainment formed “Team B” to compete on a Korean survival band show. Making it to the final reality show, based on their prowess in all fields of singing, rapping, and dancing, while they were not the winners, “Team B” still placed second and became the group to debut as iKON.
iKON, meaning they will become the ‘icon of Korea’ hence being spelled with a ‘K’, continued their quest of that icon status on Thursday, August 2, 2018 with the release of their new mini-album, New Kids: Continue.
Consisting of seven members, while that seems like a rather large ‘boy band’ in The States, to Korea, that is an average size group. That in mind, each member plays an integral role to the band. There is B.I (leader, rapper, writer, composer), Jay/JinHwan (vocalist), Song/Yunhyeong (vocalist), Bobby (rapper, vocalist), DK/Donghyuk (dancer, vocalist), Ju-ne/Junhoe (vocalist), and Chan/Chanwoo (vocalist). For those curious, the reason some members have double names is because of this latest comeback. Management decided New Kids, new beginning, new style, new stage names.
Debuting in September of 2015 with a two-part album, Welcome Back, the second the songs were released they charted, and had millions of plays on YouTube. They even scored several wins on popular music challenge shows in Korea. After the release of that album, fans anxiously awaited the next comeback, but it was not until 2017 that they released a follow up mini-album, New Kids: Begin. It was not the smash hit they were hoping for, mainly due to how long people had waited, but still broke a lot of their own records. Fortunately, they did not wait long for the next comeback, releasing Return, in February of this year. The title-track, “Love Scenario,” was an instant success, garnering millions of views, tons of streams, and downloads, bringing them back to their glory.
Following the success of Return, they brought back the New Kids concept for New Kids: Continue. Consisting of five songs, the albums starts with their title-track, “KILLING ME.” A break-up song that is hidden in an interestingly modern tropical beat, it is simple, with all verses sung or rapped over a steel drum, and clapping backbeat, while the chorus is a straight EDM mix track. Their vocals, whether it is Ju-ne, Jay, DK, Chan, or Song, and their rappers, whether it is Bobby or B.I, all convey the emotion of giving up and falling into despair after a breakup. Creepily, it is a bop, but once the lyrics are understood it is actually rather gut-wrenching.
While the title-track is a fairly normal run of the mill current Korean Pop song, the rest of the album takes on a whole different sound. In fact, all the songs are so genre-ly different. For example, “FREEDOM” is like an old school rebellious Pop Rock song that meets an anime theme song. If a current group like 5 Seconds Of Summer decided to go K-pop, this would be their anthem song. The fast pace, high energy of the drum beat mixing with the power chords of a guitar, make any defiant teen, young adult, adult, throw their ‘rock on’ symbol in the air and bang their head.
“ONLY YOU” changes genres again to something like a Funk love track. Just like “FREEDOM” is 5SOS in Korean, “ONLY YOU” is Korean Bruno Mars. Lyrically a total change from “KILLING ME,” where the song is screaming heartbreak, “ONLY YOU” is all about finding love. Next up, “COCKTAIL” is a song that makes you want to scream, “More cowbell!” The beat is kept with, well, a cowbell, and follows a similar Funk pattern as the previous song, but in a different way. Instead of a plucked bass, the guitar takes main stage, alongside the cowbell, and delivers a much more enticing dance-y feeling.
The final song, “JUST FOR YOU,” takes a total turn from the last few upbeat songs, concluding the mini album with a heart-crushing ballad about the promises of love even through the hard times. All of the vocals are powerful, raspy, and bring home the slow, loving, hardships of a relationship built between an idol who cannot always be there, but wants to simply hear a loved one’s voice.
While at first New Kids: Continue feels like an odd mix of songs and styles, you realize that they actually do, in one way or another, fit together. From heartbreak, to finding yourself, to finding new love, it is all there. This mini-album tells a story, which any album is supposed to do. Simple put, iKon was able to accomplish in five songs what some albums cannot do in twelve. That is why CrypticRock gives New Kids: Continue 4.5 out of 5 stars.