Wanna One Debut Review: “Energetic” and “Burn it Up”

It’s hard to believe there was a time people scoffed at the idea of a male Produce 101.  But even for the less skeptical, Wanna One has had an astounding amount of success. They literally dominated August, from charts to music shows to even variety show viewership ratings.  I did a profile on them, and my list of their variety show appearances literally doubled my site traffic.  And my friend who visited Seoul confirmed they were everywhere. Basically, they’re so successful that they’re potentially damaging the way things work in K-pop.  Not only was their debut wildly popular, but it was also really good – and it proved these young men are indeed super rookies to keep an eye on.

If you’d like to know more about what I look at in my reviews, click here.

*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Concept: Wanna One had two title tracks with two concepts.  “Energetic” has a more bright and refreshing feel, while “Burn it Up” is more intense.  You could vote to choose the title track, and an overwhelming amount of people chose “Energetic.”  So I guess we’ll see a lot of boy next door stuff from now on.

THE MUSIC

SONG:

Energetic:

Music by: Flow Blow and Hui (Pentagon)
Arranged by: Flow Blow

“Energetic” is so intriguing. It sounds bright and refreshing as advertised, but there’s also something about it that’s super unique.  The entire first section is mostly piano, with a little bit of synth backing it up.  So initially, it has a laid-back and romantic feel. But the synth takes over as the song ramps up in energy, and we end up with a fast-paced dance jam.  The melody also stands out because the song relies heavily on Wanna One’s vocal line. It’s catchy, but it definitely doesn’t sound like the uber-repetitive stuff we usually get in K-Pop. I’m not sure I can think of any songs that I can compare it to. Although “Energetic” is not personally my style, I acknowledge it’s a good song.

Burn it Up:

Music by: Diggy, LIØN, GRVVITY
Arranged by: GRVVITY and Diggy

“Burn it Up” is definitely more my speed because it’s a fierce club rager that’s impossible to resist dancing to. It makes you feel as confident and on top of the world as Wanna One probably is right now.  It’s definitely not as unique or complex as “Energetic,” but it does have a couple of distinct traits.  While it’s mostly influenced by synth and percussion, it also relies heavily on the vocals and melody. Many dance songs sound the same with or without vocals, so it’s a great way to infuse “Burn it Up” with Wanna One’s personality.  I also found it interesting that the percussion took a backseat to the synth, but I think the synth is really what makes the song sound edgy.

SCORE: “Energetic,” 18/20 |||| “Burn it Up,” 18/20

LYRICS:

Energetic:

Lyrics by: Hui and Wooseok (both from Pentagon)

For a while, I wondered why so many people chose “Energetic” over “Burn it Up.” There’s so much evidence that “Burn it Up” was supposed to be the title track. But when I finally got around to reading the lyrics, I understood.  This is a total boyfriend song, describing feelings of happiness and euphoria just by being with the person you love.  While this topic is often covered in K-Pop, there’s a very attractive quality to the lyrics that makes the song stand out. Even the first lines are enough to get your heart fluttering: “In this moment where I gradually feel more of both our lips, it’s so hot / A shiver runs through my entire body, now it’s time for us to write down our story.” Personally, the quality of these lyrics makes me very impressed by the members of Pentagon.

Burn it Up:

Lyrics by: LIØN and Min Yeonjae

The lyrics for “Burn it Up” are one of the reasons it seemed like such a lock for the title track. It’s basically about this legendary moment when they first take the stage, and everything it took them to get there.  It speaks about their hunger and desire for performing, and it acknowledges the bond that they’ve formed through the past few months. Though the members didn’t write it themselves, there are many lines that will remind you of Produce 101: “We’re a bit young and wild, we grew up in this fierce atmosphere / I’m an intense type, I kept my eyes straight ahead and pushed through the darkness.” While it’s a song all about prowess, it’s more about confidence than bragging.  And though it’s not as poetic as “Energetic,” it’s still powerful stuff – especially for fans that have been there from the beginning.

SCORE: “Energetic,” 10/10 |||| “Burn it Up,” 9/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

“Energetic” sounds like a harder song to sing, so it makes sense that the vocal line (Jaehwan, Sungwoon, Sungwoo, Minhyun) would have the most parts. Together they have about two thirds of the song.  The rest have around one to three lines, and there is a huge gap between who has the most (Jaehwan at 26%) and the least (Jihoon at 2%). Obviously, it’s hard to evenly divide lines between eleven people – especially given that this song is not easy for everyone.  But I’m very surprised that popular members like Daehwi and Jihoon have so little.  It seems like “Energetic” is a showcase for certain members. But I don’t personally mind, because I’m Sungwoo and Minhyun biased!

“Burn it Up” has a much more even line distribution, which is another reason why I think it was supposed to be the title track.  There are some members that are more prominent (Jaehwan, Minhyun, Woojin), but for the most part everyone has around the same amount of lines.  The gap is much smaller this time, between 14.5% at most (Jaehwan again) to 6.1% at least (Sungwoo).  And though the amount of lines differs from member to member, each part seems to have a little more impact.  It all flows together a little better.

SCORE: “Energetic,” 7/10 |||| “Burn it Up,” 9/10 

***

The Performance

CHOREOGRAPHY:

*UPDATE 9/19/2017* – added the dance practices that Wanna One released a few days ago.  I’m too lazy busy to redo the GIFs at the moment, though.

Energetic:

Energetic-ChorusThe dance for “Energetic” is just as unique as the song is. We’ll see that the music video veers more towards the bright and refreshing concept, but the choreography has very little of that. Instead, it’s quite powerful and dynamic – appropriately matching its name. It corresponds more with the romantic lyrics.  The dance has a low-key sexy vibe, and it definitely makes your heart flutter.

Energetic-Key-PointNot only does the choreography have a unique vibe, but it also has a unique dance style. It focuses a lot on the arms, and it’s very directional.  Most of it continually moves laterally from left to right, which is really visually interesting. I also really like how the dance is so sharp and how it emphasizes clear lines and angles. It’s not really my personal favorite, but it’s a very visually distinctive dance.

Burn it Up:

Burn-it-Up-Dance.gif“Burn it Up” is almost the complete aesthetic opposite of “Energetic.” It’s all about fancy footwork, power posing, and body rolls.  I find it interesting that this dance actually relies heavily on formations and creating shapes, more so than usual.  However, what choreography is there is quite powerful and masculine – which matches the song perfectly.  I wouldn’t say it’s overly memorable in the long run, but you’ll get hyped up while you watch it.

SCORE: “Energetic,” 18/20 |||| “Burn it Up,” 17/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

Energetic-PianoBoth choreographies have some great formations, “Energetic” in particular.  That opening sequence of them forming a piano is so creative.  “Burn it Up” uses less static imagery and favors staggered movements, which really helps adds dynamism to a fairly simplistic song and rhythm. The choreographer(s) really knew how to use a large group of members and make both routines memorable.

Burn-it-Up-ChorusFor all that talk about centers in Produce 101, it’s ironic that neither song has a definitive one. This could be a wildly unpopular opinion, but I think they were right to give the “Energetic” center parts to members like Sungwoo and Minhyun. They’re both pretty boys, and they have charismatic and friendly vibes. I like Daniel a lot and I think he’s a great dancer.  But as cute and adorable as he seems, it doesn’t translate onstage. That being said, I think he’s is supposed to be center for “Burn it Up,” and this is a perfect fit for his sexy onstage persona.

I’d also like to point out another perfect choice that they made in giving Woojin that killing part at the end of the song.  That part is literal fire, and the GIF I made barely does it any justice.

Burn-it-Up-Killing-Part

SCORE: “Energetic,” 8/10 |||| “Burn it Up,” 9/10

***

The Visual Aspects

MUSIC VIDEO:

Energetic:

Energetic-MV-Jinyoung.gifIn my opinion, the music videos are the weakest part of this debut. Both of them are underwhelming in different ways.  “Energetic” has a huge flaw in that its clear objective is to appeal to fans.  Now that’s generally the goal of any K-pop music video, but the problem here is that it’s way too obvious.  The whole video is probably about 80% glamour shots, giving us constant reminders of just how handsome they are.  They also have to look relatable, so they’re shown doing various activities and playing around.  But since there’s no logic or background to these actions, they just look empty.

Energetic-MV-JihoonA huge part of K-Pop is visuals, so in one sense they’re spot on in trying to make hearts flutter through sheer handsomeness. However, I think it doesn’t work because we spent months watching them on Produce 101. We saw all of their highs and lows, and because of that we have a better grasp what they’re like.  In a way, they’re much more “real” to us than other groups that we only see in happy variety (read: non-stressful) situations. So these random settings are cute, but they fall flat because we actually already know things that they enjoy and things that make them laugh.

Energetic-ShenanigansThat being said, this music video is extremely high quality. It’s very pretty to look at, and every shot looks straight up gorgeous. Lighting? Focus? Framing? Color correction? Aesthetic? It’s all spot on. I just wish that there was something a little more inside.  There are couple of funny moments that bring out the lighthearted and playful nature of the song.  If they had added just a couple more of those, it would have been perfect.

Burn it Up:

Burn-it-Up-MV-Daehwi.gifI usually don’t say music videos are bad, but this one is definitely not great. Most of the members’ slow motion one-shots look painfully awkward, and the editing is terrible.  I’m all for rapid pacing, but we barely see the frame before we’re pushed to another one.  Coupled with the extreme close-ups, it feels really messy.  The cuts in general are just kind of sloppy. But what’s interesting is I didn’t notice any of this until the second time I watched it.

Burn-it-Up-Daniel.gif
I wasn’t going to be this person, but I couldn’t resist.

A lot of K-Pop fans watch the same music videos over and over, myself included.  But I think the first time watching a video is unique.  It sounds obvious, but it’s the only time you’re going to see it for the first time.  It’s the only time you’re exposed to something you’ve never heard or seen before.  And if the music and the visuals balance each other out, then it’s easy to love it.  “Burn it Up” definitely doesn’t hold up under multiple watches, but in that first one it all works.  The black and white aesthetic, the dark piercing stares, the dancing in the rain…it all fits the general first impression of the song. And it pushes everything great about it, which is probably why we can overlook the flaws the first time around.

Burn-it-Up-AestheticMy editing teacher once told me that it’s rare to get everything you want to work.  But if you get the story and emotions correct, people who didn’t go to film school will forgive the occasional continuity error or visual mistake. I think that this applies here in a way, especially with “Burn it Up.” There are a lot of huge technical errors at play here, but it does manage to capture the essence of the song and the concept.  And I personally prefer that to a video like “Energetic,” which is technically solid but has no substance.

SCORE: “Energetic,” 16/20 |||| “Burn it Up,” 15/20

STYLING:

Both music videos are saved by the fact that the styling is spot on.  Not one member got the short end of the stick; they’re all extremely good looking here. Many of them were noted for their visuals on Produce 101, and they only seem to have gotten more handsome in these past months. Their clothing is also on point, from the sharp black suits in “Burn it Up” to the trendy dusty rose shirts in “Energetic.” There’s not one outfit I don’t like, and that’s super rare for me.

STYLING MVP: Sungwoo.  Obviously I’m biased, but he’s just so freaking good looking.

Burn-it-Up-MV-Sungwoo
Just look at that pretty boy face!

SCORE: “Energetic,” 10/10 |||| “Burn it Up,” 10/10

***

FINAL TALLY:

“Energetic” “Burn it Up”
SONG  18 18
LYRICS  10  9
LINE DISTRIBUTION  7  9
CHOREOGRAPHY 18  17
CENTER/FORMATIONS  8  9
MUSIC VIDEO  16 15
STYLING  10 10
TOTAL  87 87

CONCLUSION:

It’s super interesting that I ended up giving both songs the same score.  I prefer “Burn it Up,” but I can see it has some glaring (though not crippling) shortcomings.  And while I’m not so hyped about “Energetic,” I recognize how good it is.  All in all, this is a really solid debut for Wanna One.  A huge part of their formation and popularity was and is obviously based on the more shallow stuff. But their debut proves they’re so much more than that.  They’re a group that’s well-balanced in talent, visual, and personalities – which is the recipe for perfection. But personal opinions aside, I think we can all agree they’re just going to keep rattling up the industry through 2018.

Sources: Youtube, YMC Entertainment, Wikipedia, Omona They Didn’t (Livejournal), Netizen Buzz (Blogspot), Arirang (Simply K-Pop Fancam), MBC (Music Core Fancam)

One thought on “Wanna One Debut Review: “Energetic” and “Burn it Up”

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