Okay, whoa. JBJ, a new project group made up of Produce 101 trainees who didn’t make it into the final group Wanna One, came out of nowhere for me. I didn’t keep up with P101 and so I had no idea what to expect when JBJ dropped their debut. I have to say, I’m impressed. In fact, I enjoyed almost every song on their debut mini-album (named “Fantasy” after the name of the title track) more than the music Wanna One has turned out so far. While JBJ doesn’t have the vocal depth of Wanna One, their rap talents and stage presence are at least on par with those of Wanna One, and title track “Fantasy” checks out with more concentrated punch than Wanna One’s “Energetic.”
But enough comparisons with Wanna One—let me just talk about JBJ. The six-member group commits to their dark concept, with three out of the five tracks on the mini-album featuring a hefty, measured beat and sinister, minor-heavy composition. “Fantasy” is naturally the standout. It has a classic K-pop feel to it, focusing on a driving melody instead of relying on a beat. It’s tastefully simple, refusing to chase trends or pile on too many sounds, and it is that consistency that packs so much power into the track. But, while “Fantasy” is the more judiciously written and produced song, my personal favorite from the album is “Say My Name.” It’s “Say My Name” that caught my attention with more adventurous writing as well as bigger rap and vocal moments. The hook lets the absolutely wild beat lead, but doesn’t leave it to stand alone, instead filling the second half of the chorus with a dizzyingly catchy, but never simplistic, vocal melody. The weakness of “Say My Name” is its disparateness. The sweet, slow prechorus has no place in such an aggressive song. In fact, I would have loved to see that prechorus be lifted out and turned into its own song to replace one of the later tracks, which, while both good, are decidedly forgettable in comparison to the rest of the album.
This mini-album is unquestionably one of my favorite debuts of the year. It’s a shame JBJ is a temporary group, because I’d love to see these guys working together for a long time—the chemistry on stage is off the charts considering that they’ve only been together for a short period. I’ll cross my fingers for at least two or three more comebacks before our time with them is up.
FANTASY: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bibbity bobbity bop.
Take a look at JBJ’s “Fantasy” MV below: