14U debut with a lot of members and a pleasant surprise in “Very Very Very”

No, this is not a cover version of IOI’s hit from last year. It’s one of those happy surprises K-pop gives us every so often, arriving with absolutely no fanfare but captivating with its high energy and breakneck pace. 14U (pronounced “one for you”) is one of the largest groups K-pop has ever seen. I’m surprised an agency that can’t seem to fund a halfway decent music video is willing to put up the money required to debut a fourteen (!) member group, but at least “Very Very Very” uses that high volume of idols to its advantage.

“Very Very Very” borrows more than a little from Seventeen‘s winning formula. And though it never reaches the heights of a track like Mansae or Very Nice, I’d rather have a rookie group emulating this exciting sound than limp out of the gate with yet another tropical house retread. In 14U’s case, they’re given a track that feels stuffed to the brim, bounding from one hook to another without a moment to breathe. This energy kicks in from the first moment, as the instrumental explodes with a nimble funk beat that pulls in rhythmic vocal samples and retro synths for a tightly packed, uninhibited blast. The song was composed by newcomer DEZION, who also produced the album’s B-side. More than anything, this is an incredibly impressive debut on his (or her? their?) part.

It remains to be seen if the guys of 14U are capable of anything beyond the efficient, polished performance they give here, but at the very least the song’s dynamic melody gives them plenty to play with. “Very Very Very” does a nice job moving between smooth, 80s-esque refrains and more staccato moments. It’s unclear how many of the guys are actually singing on the track, as their similar tones tend to blend into one. Nevertheless, it’s a tight arrangement that packs more surprises than we usually hear from rookies. Whether the K-pop world pays attention or not, 14U have thrown down the gauntlet as a group with huge potential. If only they’d sort out that music video budget next time around.

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