A new kind of mixed-nationality group debuted last year, as the five boys of Uniq released their debut title track "Falling In Love" in Korea and China respectively. The group consists of two native Koreans and three native Chinese members, and all of them actually speak both languages. For the majority of the year they promoted in China and were quite invisible on the Korean idol scene, but now they're back with a different image with title track "EOEO".
Uniq debuted with a very bland image, if I'm going to be brutally honest. They were handsome, dapper and certainly sweet and romantic, but at the same time a bit boring. Their debut song sounded much like a stereotypical modern pop track, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in its own, but "Falling In Love" was not very memorable as a debut single. I did feel like they had tons of potential though, and that the members were talented enough in both rapping, singing and dancing. The fact that they all are multilingual and are actually promoting actively in China too makes me happy and hopeful that they might become successful in both countries.
The song too was somewhat of a shock for me, as I had never really placed them as a hip-hop group. Naturally it does make sense because the number of rappers on the team outweigh the singers, but their debut track was not really hip-hop at all. "EOEO" on the other hand is heavily rap-dominated, with only snippets of singing in the bridges as the chorus consists of a beat drop and a repetitive hook. At first listen I seriously disliked the song, and at second listen I liked it no better and not even at third listen did I find myself even slightly enjoying it. Now after I've heard more than 10 times I can say it's growing on me, but the process of getting there has been slow and painful. Sure, the hook is catchy and I can give it that, but this is really not my type of music.
Sadly I don't find the video that much better either, which could have been the savior of this sinking ship. The sets aren't particularly original or exciting but rather predictable for this kind of video: dark and dangerous. Or more like trying to be. The song is basically about partying until the police show up to bust you, hence the siren-like "Eoeo". In the video, they are playing with fire, splashing water and dancing on top of cars, and I can swear that I've seen about half of what they're doing in other, better videos. The only somewhat cool scenes are the ones near the end with the members covered in neon body-paint, but the rest of the video does nothing for me.
I know I'm sounding really harsh and overly negative, but I'm really tired and sick of these kind of concepts. No, you're not hip-hop, you're not gangsta and you're certainly not impressing me by pulling all these gimmicky tricks that have been used to death these past few years. Other groups and labels have already worked this genre from so many angles that I honestly can't stand it anymore. It's not that I particularly hate hip-hop by any means, but this type of concept is getting tiring and boring and I wanted something much better from a group as talented as Uniq.
The styling too is a huge let-down for me, as they've regressed from looking smart and handsome to looking like a group of guys trying to be swag. The face masks, gold chains and fake tattoos are a few of many styling details that all contribute to this concept, and I can't help but cringe at how gimmicky and stereotypical it is. I honestly thought K-pop as a whole were slowly but steadily moving away from this fad, but that's apparently not the case. It makes me mad to see Uniq like this because they're all gorgeous and wonderful and shouldn't be looking like this, or singing songs and doing videos like this either for that matter.
I also get really frustrated watching them perform this live because NO music show has yet banned any of the moves, and I swear to God that if it was a girl group performing this they would get shunned immediately. I know that's not Uniq's fault but it's still an upsetting reminder about how unequal society is. It's also upsetting to see Uniq's skills so underutilized performing this dance routine, and I'm wondering why they couldn't have gone with a choreography more like the one for "Listen To Me", which is another song from their album.
To round this up: Yes I am disappointed and a bit irritated but it all comes from a good place. I seriously like this group and all the members, and I would have wanted this awaited Korean comeback to be spot on. I did not want them to change concept or musical direction, and even if they did I would have at least hoped for a better video and choreography. I know they have been gaining more fans during this round of promotions, but I for one have been massively let down. Let's just cross our thumbs that their next comeback will be all that this one should have been.