I always feel so bad for iKON. Even though they’re from a big company and have more advantages than others, they’re still treated so badly. Their career has had a lot of highs and lows compared to other groups who debuted around the same time. And while those highs brought great things, those lows came with serious blows. It’s a sad story, and YG has basically acted like they were an afterthought in the past year or so. I’m not even a big fan, but still I find it immensely frustrating. Thankfully, it seems like iKON is looking to turn things around in 2021. First, Bobby released his solo album. Then, they joined the cast of Kingdom. And now, they’ve made their first comeback in over a year. Like I said, I don’t follow iKON regularly – especially since their music is not always my style – but I was quite curious about this newest release.
iKON has had a major shift in their signature sound over the course of their career. They initially started out with a strong image and hip hop sound that heavily favored rappers Bobby and B.I; but once the mellow and catchy “Love Scenario” became such a massive hit, they slowly transitioned into much more public-friendly music. It seems that they’ve continued in this vein with their latest single, “Why Why Why.” It’s a soft and sentimental almost-ballad that lets the vocalists really emote, effectively communicating the sadness and loss one feels after a breakup. It’s really beautiful and calm, but also genuinely moving.
Unfortunately, I’m not that drawn in by “Why Why Why” because I’m not a ballad/soft pop song kind of person. I’ve tried really hard to widen to my horizons, but that style just isn’t my cup of tea. I personally prefer iKON songs that have a bit more energy, like “Killing Me.” Or even “Love Scenario,” which I couldn’t stand in 2018 but actually started liking once I stopped hearing it everywhere. I think “Why Why Why” is a lovely song, and I can hear and appreciate the sincerity in iKON’s vocals. I know I’d be more partial to it if I were going through a breakup and needed something to help voice my inner feelings. And the expressive choreography does help elevate it in a way that I can connect with more. But I know this ultimately isn’t the kind of comeback I’ll dwell on for long.
Objectively, I feel like “Why Why Why” is an excellent song even if it’s not my preferred style. But subjectively, there is one thing that slightly bothers me. I’ve always found iKON’s overall group balance to be off-kilter, but it seems like it’s getting even more drastic… especially when it comes to Bobby. Back in 2017, I remember watching “Bling Bling” and thinking how he stood out so much. All of the iKON members are very talented, but back then his stage presence and charisma created this wall that made it hard for the others to match. iKON seemed to resolve this for a time in 2018, and released music that was more favorable to both the vocalists and the rappers. But now, it feels like they have the exact opposite issue. Bobby doesn’t even appear onstage until the second verse in “Why Why Why” – and even though he has that verse to himself, he kind of fades into the background after that. He’s practically a non-entity except for that one part. I remember feeling similarly about “Dive” last year as well.
Of course, I know there are potential reasons behind this. Bobby released his solo album at the end of January, so I’m sure there was some crossover in preparations and he wasn’t as available. He also had a hand in making the track and was probably responsible for his rap, and I imagine he probably created it like this while keeping the energy of the song and his members in mind. I can respect that this was at least partially his choice and/or design. Plus I do think it’s nice to hear more from members who have traditionally been short-changed by line distribution in the past. It’s just now that iKON is really focused on making more public-friendly songs and seems to have departed from that hip hop influence, it feels like there’s very little room for a serious rapper like Bobby. I hope that they can eventually find a happy medium for everyone.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
I heard that iKON had a lot of creative input in this comeback, and it definitely shows. It’s obvious that they thought carefully about the sound they wanted to have, the images that they wanted to put forth, and the audience they wanted to attract. I can tell that they clearly put a lot of hard work and emotion into this single, and I’m really impressed and proud of them. It’s just not really for me, but I can live with that if it gets them good results. YG has handled iKON so badly over the years that I’m just happy they’re starting to have more control and actively turning things around for themselves. I hope this beautiful song helps them gain a bit more visibility before Kingdom starts, and I look forward to seeing how that show inspires them musically and creatively.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to YG Entertainment.