Since last summer’s ‘Produce 101‘ ended, Samuel has hit the ground running. In less than a year, he’s delivered three albums (one full, two mini) and a Japanese debut. That’s pretty prolific for a 16-year-old soloist, and though his work has never gone beyond the confines of what we might consider “teen pop,” each comeback has presented a slightly different take on the sound. With “One“, Samuel works again with producer Brave Brothers to pull us all the way back to 80s synthpop — and the song is most successful when it sticks to this idea.
“One” opens with a bright synth stomp that largely dominates for the next three minutes. It’s a pretty simple instrumental, accented with a fun, fragmented breakdown after the first chorus. The song’s biggest misstep is the inclusion of a second verse rap by BTOB’s Ilhoon. It’s not Ilhoon’s fault (he’s barely present enough to make any impression at all), but this diversion is an excuse for the production to make a distracting shift that feels at odds with the rest of the track. It’s only March, but I’m getting really tired of weird EDM and/or trap breaks sabotaging the momentum of otherwise decent songs. K-pop needs to get this out of its system, and quickly.
Other than that minor irritation, “One” works surprisingly well. Samuel is still more interesting as a dancer than a vocalist, but the song matches his youthful tone without ever grating. And even though the repetitive chorus is not among Brave Brothers’ best, it fights past the annoyingly pitched vocal chirps layered on top of it to become quite addictive.