H1-KEY didn’t make the best first impression on me with “Athletic Girl”, but after replacing their controversial member, they then returned with the addictive “Run” that took them in a fun new direction. Now the group changes directions again with their latest comeback, using “Rose Blossom” to tackle more serious material and pairing it with a melody that grows on you.
The creeping synth strings and the consistent echoing percussion hits are at the core of “Rose Blossom”, and it gradually builds and picks up pace, with a synth loop creeping along the floor of the track that caught my ear.
It quickly accelerates into a fleshed-out chorus, one that admittedly wasn’t as immediately memorable for me as “Run”, but over time the melody and the delivery by H1-KEY won me over. It almost felt like the chorus of an upbeat ballad, and the anthemic nature of it eventually got through to me, as it’s not hard at all to picture this being sung at a concert or something.
Adding another element of appeal to the release is the lyrics, which match perfectly with the visual cues of the music video. The defiant central message is self-assuring, declaring “I’m a rose among the concrete, until this bleak city becomes filled with color“, providing anthemic lyrics to go with the sound. However, it also delves a bit deeper, saying the message is not just about those who don’t meet beauty standards, but points out that even those who do get picked also wither under criticism and scrutiny. Thus, it’s a Catch-22, and the only solution is to not fuck with people who have their own color in the first place.
By some, the ugly flowers are picked on and snapped off,
By others even the pretty are picked and end up withering,
Why can’t you just let them be?
A message of self-determination, really. So the melancholy soundscape that has a warm assurance to it fits perfectly. Honestly, if a non-nugu group had lyrics like this we’d probably be getting daily threads about how genius it is or something. While certainly not broaching a novel concept, it’s more nuanced than the typical fare in this mode that tends to just stop at ‘haters bad’ and ‘be confident’.
While I do worry somewhat that H1-KEY seem to lack the conceptual and musical identity that helps so many groups attain popularity in this saturated market, that’s a separate concern from quality, and what they’ve done in their last two releases in that sense has been impressive. They could continue to go in different direction with every comeback or stick with one of the last two and it should be fine, but either way I’m now definitely intrigued in what they’ll bring next.