Release Date: January 30, 2018
- One & Only
- See Saw (feat. Kim Lip)
Total Runtime: 00:06:17
Recommended for: LOONA fans, non-LOONA fans who haven’t gotten into the group because of its more experimental or retro sound
NOT recommended for: Folks looking for a more “out there” take on pop
We’re nearly at the end of LOONA’s pre-debut journey, everyone! BBC’s long break thankfully still makes this review relevant, which makes me feel much less terrible about being so late to the game. So, we’re eleven members in, each one distinct from the last. What does Go Won offer to the clan? Does she fit right in, or does she stand out in all the wrong ways? Better keep reading to find out.
Track One: One & Only
There is something quite obvious from the get go upon first listen to “One & Only”: it is not nearly as risk-taking, as adventurous as the more ambitious of LOONA’s tracks. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it surprising. The subunit Go Won will eventually form with Yves, Chuu, and the yet to be revealed final member of the group has arguably been given the most conventional music of all of LOONA.
“One & Only” is slightly different from “new” and “Heart Attack” in that it pushes forth the most modern and forward-thinking kind of pop the group has offered thus far. The song capitalizes on some of the most recognizable tropes that are present in pop that prides itself on being current rather than derivative of some other time and place. For one, the production is entirely reliant on soft electronic beats, not entirely synth nor entirely rooted in club music. It finds a sweet in between spot. Secondly — and this, I’m less thrilled about — sing-talking is highly, highly prevalent in the track.
Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I have real issue with the way K-Pop tackles rapping, in that many groups — girl groups in particular — will toss rapping to a sub-vocalist just to give that member more to do. This is both a disservice to that member and the audience that has to swallow the sub par rapping and accept it as commonplace. Rapping is itself a skill that should be respected, not tacked onto a member’s resume just for the sake of it. Instead, in “One & Only”, we get treated to the usual half-rapping, half-talking drivel that has become a staple in K-Pop. And it isn’t great. In fact, it’s the worst part of the song — so why have it be a part of it?
Well, there is one reason, and it almost redeems the choice for me. On the digital release of this single album, Blockberry Creative decided to include a version of the track that provides what they call a 3D sonic experience. As Go Won sing-talks, her vocals bounce back and forth between your ears, playing a game of ping-pong. It distorts the verses in a way that manages to be far more pleasurable to the ears than they are when just played straight. However, the producers allow the actual vocals to play straight, which is exactly what the track needs. Go Won doesn’t sing with much flourish, but she’s pleasant to listen to, and the song is easily digestible because of that.
I’m being quite harsh on this song, quite frankly, when I do like more things about it than I dislike. Besides the sonic experimentation, the subject matter of the song is a lovely surprise. C’mon, this is kpop, and more than that, pop in general. You see a title like “One & Only”, and you’re expecting an ode to some guy you could hardly care about. But this song isn’t about that sort of thing at all. It’s about how Go Won is her own “One & Only”, and, really, after watching her get crowned by Yves in the music video, you kinda just have to think to yourself: damn straight.
It’s not the most vocally challenging track in the world, and it fails to make the psuedo-rapping interesting without employing some cool studio tricks. Still, it is a display of what modern pop excels at. LOONA, for the most part, has taken glee in revisiting the past and bringing it back for another spin, reminding us what was great about a certain era of music — be it late nineties and early aughts R&B, or thirties and forties blues and jazz — while giving it a twist. “One & Only” isn’t serving that purpose. Not really. It’s showing us what pop is right now, and what it could be.
Track Two: See Saw (feat. Kim Lip)
“See Saw” is the stronger track of the two, bar none. There are many reasons I could cite as the specific explanation. So, I’ll just dive into all of them. Honestly, it’s worth the deep dive, because I am prepared to say, unequivocally, that it is the best b-side LOONA has ever released. Period. You can fight me on it if you want to, but you’ll lose. Sorry.
It takes the best of the modernity of “One & Only” (the sophisticated electronic beats) and sprinkles in some conventions of R&B that are quite reminiscent of LOONA’s previous subunit, Odd Eye Circle (riffs, whistle tones, background snapping). The result is a duet between two formidable talents who are speaking to one another, losing sight of each other. Or maybe they’re singing about someone else entirely.
Let’s just get this out of the way: “See Saw” proves that Go Won is done a real disservice by the vocals expected of her in “One & Only”. If you were to only listen to “One & Only”, you would be under a far different impression of her vocal capability. It’s rather clear that Chuu, who duets with her on this track, is the stronger and more competent vocalist of the two, but she is a main vocalist. That is to be expected. But Go Won still holds her own, providing wonderful, clear harmonies. Go Won’s bright and more simplistic tone balances out Chuu’s tenacity well.
No words I can write to describe this track will ever do it proper justice. It’s a sonic experience of epic proportions, one I could not have possibly expected after a title track that didn’t manage to flip all of the right switches for me. It flipped most of them, sure, but my expectations for LOONA are set quite high because of their previous releases.
I have two issues, though.
The producers for this track have never produced for LOONA before. Why? What’s wrong with y’all? Why have you deprived me of this?
Kim Lip is a feature on this track to sing two lines. I’m not kidding. Was that really necessary?
But still, this is a serious achievement for LOONA, and it would be one for any group. I’m not easy to get a rave out of, but “See Saw” deserves approximately seventeen of them.