SF9 only debuted a year ago and have already experimented with a number of styles. Switching things up again, their new single finds them trading hip-hop and EDM for Spanish guitars. Latin music has long been a familiar excursion for boy bands of the West, but its influence is far more unusual when it comes to K-pop. Because of this, a song like “O Sole Mio” could easily have come off as gimmicky or even insensitive. Thankfully, strong production and engaging melody help SF9 twist the genre into something that feels surprisingly authentic.
From its opening moments, “O Sole Mio” is an aural shock. I can’t think of another K-pop song in recent memory that opens with this kind of gentle, sumptuous guitar. Even as a more typical electronic beat kicks in, the entire track is splashed with delicate ornamentation that gives it a unique appeal among recent boy group comebacks. Though the production never builds to any sort of stunning climactic moments, it provides a continually lush soundscape that compliments the group’s smooth performance.
This gorgeous set-up could have been undone in an instant if the song had resorted to a “drop” style chorus that favored instrumental repetition over melodic complexity. Fortunately, “O Sole Mio” impresses with a hook as lavish as its production. SF9 have given us more memorable choruses in the past, but the swirling blend of wistful falsetto is a perfect match for the song’s energy and vibe. It’s understated and mature — the kind of refrain that might not impress immediately but will likely stand the test of time. I’m not sure that this will (or should) become SF9’s trademark sound, but experimentation is always a good thing, and this is one experiment that worked.