[Review] New-look iKON gets back to their basics on “Dive”

Its not too often that an idol group loses their leader and their main songwriter in one fell swoop. But, this is the reality that iKON now faces after B.I departed the group last year. It’s hard to imagine what iKON would sound like without B.I’s influence, and we don’t have to just yet. Their new mini album was originally planned for a 2019 release, and the vast majority of its tracks were co-written by B.I. However, they don’t feature his vocals, and that is a bitter pill to swallow.

New title track Dive (뛰어들게) takes the group back to their roots. Its upbeat, propulsive sound would have felt right at home next to early singles like Dumb & Dumber and What’s Wrong. In a way, this is refreshing. It must have been tempting to chase the sound of 2018 mega-hit Love Scenario, but I don’t think that would have worked for this new iteration of iKON.

Dive chugs along with a pop-minded amiability, never coloring too far out of the lines. It’s a lot more melodic than I would have expected, and brings in some interesting instrumental touches. An influx of Spanish guitar blends well with synths that feel as if they were taken from the soundtrack of an old frontier movie. When thinking about K-pop tracks of the past few years, my first comparison was with ONEUS’s underrated 2019 b-side BingBing, which pulls from some of the same textures. Dive isn’t quite as aggressive in its performance, and retains much of the singsong appeal that made Love Scenario such a force.

Instead, this is a straightforward, well-produced dance track. It doesn’t take any real missteps, which is enough to make it an early 2020 standout. However, the song could do with a bigger sense of ambition. Unless Dive somehow becomes a slow-burn sensation on the charts, I doubt whether I’ll be coming back to it much in a year’s time.

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IATFB says: This comeback is significant in terms of the gaping hole in their lineup, but I’m definitely more interested to see what they’re going to be like post-B.I. influence on their music.

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