[Review] WJSN’s key is “Unnatural” but the nu-disco transition shows promise

It feels like ages since WJSN made a comeback. I’ve missed their music, and consider them one of this generation’s most consistently great girl groups. Apart from a few notable offshoots, the girls have cultivated an identifiable sound and twisted it just enough to remain fresh. New single “Unnatural” twists that style a bit more noticeably, offering a club-ready sound that sharpens their ammunition but loses some of their unique appeal.

I really should love “Unnatural” more than I do, but there are a few things keeping me from fully embracing the track. First, I think the key is much too high throughout. The chorus and parts of the pre-chorus — as catchy as they are — come across as strained. That runs counter to the polish of the instrumental, making for a jarring contrast. I’ve always loved WJSN’s vocals, so I think this is more about arrangement than ability. And while the “Unnatural” atmospheric club sound might be a slight shift for the group, I feel like some of its elements have been overdone by boy groups these past few years. The laborious verses are too sluggish for their own good, and I’m not a huge fan of the muted synth that opens the track.

But with those gripes out of the way, there’s plenty to like about “Unnatural” as well. It often has a thumping energy that reminds me of the best IZ*ONE singles, and the rhythmic pre-chorus is a real treat. This repeats later during the bridge and again just as “Unnatural” draws to a close. It’s undoubtedly the song’s knockout moment, especially when the group forges together to transform it into a galvanizing chant.

So there’s certainly potential here, and I can imagine WJSN turning into queens of nu-disco. But, I think there are some kinks to work out first.

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