[Review] JO1 of ‘Produce 101 Japan’ debut with “Infinity”

Even as the Produce 101 monolith crumbled in Korea, the franchise remained alive and well this past fall in Japan. The first season spawned new boy group JO1 – an eleven-member unit who might as well be interchangeable with any other winner from the series. Still, the idol corner of the J-pop market has shown a welcome level of creativity these past few months, making me hopeful that JO1 would embrace their own industry’s tropes rather than act as a K-pop copy.

Unfortunately, debut single Infinity (無限大) seems to be written by the same A.I. machine that’s composed too many K-pop tracks lately. It follows the expected formula to a tee: moody intro followed by brief influx of percussion, beat-drop chorus with catchphrase hook, post-chorus trap breakdown into a truncated second verse, chant-like climax built for confetti-drop moments on stage. This exact structure has become so familiar over the past year that it practically writes itself. It’s hard to get excited about something that we’ve heard dozens – if not hundreds – of times before. JO1 may have personality, but a song like Infinity renders them faceless.

Thankfully, the track’s individual moments hold some excitement. The more upbeat portion of its verses is actually pretty fun, harnessing a rhythm that isn’t just the same deep house copy we’ve grown accustomed to. The percussion here is surprisingly funky. I just wish it lasted longer. Infinity’s chorus is also energetic, but doesn’t boast much in the way of melody. Instead, it’s composed of the kind of sing-talk hookiness that feels lazy and under-formed. Structurally, it’s almost a boy group version of IZ*ONE’s Violeta. Yet, it lacks the same punch. This is the sound of the Produce franchise running on fumes, cannibalizing itself with ever-diminishing returns.

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