This is the second part of extensive review of all musical output from fromis_9. In
part 1, I took a look at their debut and first two comebacks, and will, in this part, continue with Fun Factory and further on cover all of what is left until today. I have explained my methodology in part 1, so you can take a look there if needed.
FUN FACTORY, Special Single Album
I was not very happy when this came out. Whereas I said about Love Bomb that it was not quite full enough of things to be overbearing, FUN! is quite the opposite: busy, screechy, loud, loaded. There is just so much going on. When I heard it the first time, I was very annoyed by the intro, and thought that it’s going to be not a very pleasant thing to hear. The worst part of the song, by a long shot even, is Seoyeon’s rap in the second verse full of not very coherent English words followed by Saeroms shot at equally meaningless English phrases just to end it screaming for some reason. What I can say is that it certainly can be a fun song – it is energetic, doesn’t drag on too long and the refrain is alright. The best thing about it is the video, just because there are many great looking shots and a lot of, well, fun ideas. Outside of that, I still think it is their most underwhelming comeback to date. I did expect quite a lot just because their previous singles have all been really good, but I was disappointed. Maybe not massively so, the song is still alright. It just is disappointingly mediocre with some really not very good parts. 5/10.
2. LOVE RUMPUMPUM
This, however, is much better. So much more enjoyable, much more mellow and melodic. Fromis_9 have finally included a great B-side that honestly should have been the single all along. They did well by giving it a “Special MV” and promoting it a bit, and reaped the benefits of doing so using a good song. It outshines FUN! in every aspect. Is it perfect? Not really. I can get a bit bored of it and I am certainly not always in the mood for it, but it is an easy to listen to song with nice melodies that won’t leave my ears for some time, usually. There is also no annoying, dragged out rap part with random English lyrics, no random screeching, no 10 things going on in the instrumental at once,… It’s nice. 7/10.
3. FLY HIGH
Boring as hell. The about 3½ minutes feel like ages, nothing’s really happening, I fail to really recollect how it even sounds after I literally just heard it. Classic uninspired B-side, I guess. 3/10
My Little Society, Mini Album
1. Feel Good (Secret Code)
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I enjoy it when it plays and wouldn’t ever say it is a bad song, but on the other hand, it is just kind of forgettable. I always fail to remember it. When I think of fromis’ music, “Feel Good” is not what I recall, and when I get reminded of it, I don’t really get excited about it. It is just kind of there. One big problem I have is that many of the vocals are “too layered”, it kind of sounds like ass, especially in the refrain. It doesn’t do anything wrong outside of that, but also, there’s nothing really interesting happening either. So, I don’t know, it certainly is better than FUN!, but probably only because there’s nothing annoying about it. 6/10
“Please, notice” is really funny to me. Mostly because the song is pretty boring, so maybe they thought that they need to remind the listener that a song is playing from time to time. 4/10.
3. Starry Night (별의 밤)
The video looks great. It is extremely cheesy, but just very aesthetically pleasing. Especially the shots outside with the fallen leaves and generally the whole autumn vibe is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t believe for a single second that any of them would actually use one of these old projectors, and I also don’t know why they are making pictures of things like their recorder or a letter (since, you know…you…keep…those…things? you don’t need to make photos to memorize them?), but the whole thing looks comfy as fuck, and I like it. So what about the song? It is utterly forgettable, a boring, uninspired ballad. There is absolutely nothing else to say about it, sadly. 3/10.
4. Somebody to love
I am a sucker for these “made-to-sound-old” piano tracks, they remind me of nights with old, crackling fireplaces and dim, warm-coloured lights. After that in the intro, the song turns into a kind of chippy, but still kind if moody song. I would’ve liked a full song in the style of the intro, but I don’t mind this song at all. It is just a bit uneventful. 6/10.
5. 물고기 (Mulgogi)
I know that many people like this song, and I don’t understand them. Honestly, the most interesting thing for me is that this song was the first time I heard any Korean use the Hanja equivalent for “left” and “right” (the “pure” Korean word for right, e.g., is 오른쪽 (o-reun-jjok), but there is a word based on Chinese too, which are called “Hanja”: 右, which is pronounced 우 (just “u”)). I know they are used in traffic as well, but I don’t drive, so I have never actually heard them. It makes sense to use them here, though, just because 우로 and 좌로 have significantly less syllables to cram into a line than the pure Korean equivalents 오른쪽으로 and 왼쪽으로. Also, I like the title a lot, just because the word “물고기” (meaning fish) is just very funny since it literally translates to “water meat”, but whereas “고기” is usually used for meats you eat, it, in this case, refers to the still living and happily swimming animal. When talking about the fish meat as a product you consume, you’d say 생선 (saengseon). I always thought that’s interesting. More interesting than the song for sure. What I guess I can say about both the video and the song is that they are quite cute, which is…I mean, it’s something. 5/10.
9 Way Ticket, Single Album
1. Airplane Mode
So, the video is kind of cool, but also, after seeing it once, it’s nothing spectacular anymore and I stopped caring about it, really. The song, on the other hand, is fantastic. I missed saying that since the last few songs haven’t been very exciting, but this song I absolutely love. I love the writing, I love the dichotomy of the mellow parts and the power in Hayoungs and Jiwons voices in the refrain and the exceptional bridge, I just love the song. However, I, to this day, do not understand how Hayoung says 너와 나만 아는 꿈을 꿀 거야 without tripping over her own words in the chorus. In any way, the song is great, easily in my top three fromis tracks. 9/10.
2. WE GO
Thematically, this ties into “Airplane Mode”, talking about just going somewhere together, but not physically – using different means to feel like you’re wherever you want to be. Well, isn’t it wonderful then that this song is just as wonderful, if not even better than Airplane Mode? The verses are written really well, have a great flow to them and feel nice and coherent, leading to a great chorus that just takes the energy previously built up and adds to it in a way that doesn’t feel overbearing or crammed. I especially love the first chorus because Nakyung leads it in, and I actually really like Nakyungs singing voice which we sadly don’t get to hear that much in prevalent places. In the last two comebacks, she had her time in the beginning of the songs and just kind of “sing-rapped” around a bit. Anyway, the song is fantastic. There are two parts I especially like: First of all, both verses have a line that’s flowed the same way, both starting with “Oh oh oh”, ending in “함께 우리 너무 많아”. I absolutely love this part because they used the plosive consonants so well, “fitting each syllable to a drum” or however you’d describe that. And then, Hayoungs part in the second verse is great, too: The ㄹ sounds just sound so nice. This is really close to being my favourite song of theirs, but I honestly don’t know if this or To Heart is number one. It’s a fresh, energetic track with amazing writing and Nakyung in the chorus. 10/10.
Typical for fromis, they just need to include a completely boring and uninspired ballad that I will have forgotten by tomorrow. Or, no, scratch that: I already forgot how it sounds. 3/10.
Talk & Talk, Special Single
I like this song a lot, especially Jiheons and Nakyungs rap part, but after a while, the chorus gets annoying and I stop listening to it for some time until I crave it and then I really like it again, at least until the chorus starts getting annoying again and so on. But seriously: the rap part is magnificent – from the flow to the intonation/use of their voice, it is perfect. Rap parts in Kpop are usually intensely cringeworthy and almost every time by far the worst part of a song and quite often completely spoil a song for me (especially most of Blackpink is unlistenable to me due to the garbage rap), but here, the rap is what I am excited about when I start playing it. 8/10.
Midnight Guest, Mini Album
1. Escape Room
“Growl” by Exo was very mediocre, but for some reason, there are many groups trying to create their own “Growl”, usually accompanied by performance videos just like that where everyone wears a leger suit. “Escape Room” is a slightly good rendition of that kind of song. 6/10.
After the magnificent last few singles, I was quite disappointed by this. It’s not bad by any means and the chorus certainly has quite some power and stayed in my head a bit, but this is also kind of everything the song has going for it. I never catch myself thinking “Damn, some DM would be good right now” or something. Just kind of okay 6/10.
3. Love is Around
Ballads are seldom interesting to begin with, but they can be good. There great ballads. One example is “A Million Roses” from the 나의 아저씨 (or “My Mister”) OST (I know that’s not the original version of the song, but I don’t care), a fantastic and emotional song about the meaning of “true” love with amazing, poetic writing. Fromis has never done anything like that, and “Love is Around” is no exception. It is boring as fuck, and I have already forgotten how it even sounds. 3/10.
4. Hush Hush
The chorus is sang so weirdly that it almost makes me interested. 4/10.
City Pop vibes are never really bad, but they sadly don’t really do much with it, and the verses are really mellow, almost…well…boring. All the b-sides of this album are. 4/10.
From Our Memento Box, Mini Album
1. Up And
It has some energy to it, and that immediately makes it more palatable than most other fromis b-sides, but it’s also quite uneventful. 5/10.
2. Stay This Way
It’s a single in the style of “We Go”, which is a good thing generally since this is what they do best. However, it has a weird trap part in the pre-chorus that I dislike and the writing isn’t as meticulous as in “We Go”. The best part here is the refrain, but only until the shrill “Stay with me, st-stay with me” comes in. I don’t like the sound of this at all. I don’t know why they didn’t manage to make this good, since it should’ve been. Like this, it is rather irritating at some points. I blame the writing first and foremost. 5/10.
3. Blind Letter
I don’t care about this even a little bit. 4/10.
They actually do some interesting stuff here with the instrumental, especially in the chorus. It certainly is not enough to really make the song worthwhile, but at least it isn’t bland. 6/10.
Not my style of music, many random noises getting thrown around in the instrumental, kind of annoying. 5/10.
Sea of Moonlight, Special Single
When I first listened to it, I was very bored, but somehow, the kind of poetic title got me interested again and then the weird flute noises got me hooked, and now I really don’t mind it anymore. Would I ever actively seek it out again? Probably not. But at least it’s not completely uninteresting. 6/10.
It is really sad to see how mediocre and boring most of fromis’ b-sides are. This is a problem with Kpop in general, of course, but I do actually
want to listen to full albums and enjoy all of it. I just can’t when most of it is completely bland and uninspired, especially all the ballads. There are some exceptions of course (notably “Love Rum Pum Pum” and especially “Airplane Mode”), but for the most part, I listen to fromis’ singles. And they have some exceptional ones to show off: To Heart, We Go, Talk & Talk, DKDK,… all absolutely great songs with a lot of charme and often some creative writing. There are mediocre ones too, but overall, fromis_9 has developed to be one of my favourite Kpop groups that find their way into many of my playlists. What I am sad about is how “one-sided” their music can be. All of their ballads are nothing noteworthy, and songs that utilise more mellow parts in a good way (like “Airplane Mode”) are far and few in-between. “We Go”, I think, is the archetypal fromis_9 song, and they usually don’t do all too well when they deviate from that formula, although they do have the potential. I hope to see their strengths in some more creative ways in the future and hope to see some more inspired b-sides, too. I am sure to follow them. Thank you for reading.