C9 Entertainment has debuted another boy group! EPEX, a name which seems to be a blend of the words “eight” and “apex,” has arrived on the scene with their powerful first song “Lock Down.” (Though according to the Hangul, it’s pronounced “ee-pex” rather than “apex.”) I must say that I’m slightly questioning C9 Entertainment’s choice to produce another boy group so close to CIX, who are doing well for themselves but are also just barely out of their rookie years. But EPEX includes Keum Donghyun, a popular contestant from Produce X 101, so I understand that the company probably wanted to put him in a group as soon as possible. And it seems like EPEX has a completely different concept from CIX, so they shouldn’t step on each other’s toes too much.
Like many boy groups these days, EPEX has opted for powerful music that leaves a strong impact. Their debut song “Lock Down” is heavily hip hop and rap based, with some EDM mixed in. It’s definitely my style because I like dance music, so I’m pretty into this arrangement. And while I’m not a rap expert at all, I enjoy what the rappers are doing here – I personally think they have pretty good speed and flow. I’m not really feeling the chanting in the chorus; I find it less interesting than the rap verses because the rhythm isn’t as syncopated. In my opinion, it just seems overly repetitive in comparison to the verses, and it doesn’t go over quite as well. But it’s possible it could grow on me over time.
One thing important to note about “Lock Down” is that it’s about the drawbacks to using social media and its negative effects on people. The lyrics keenly examine people’s different social media habits: how it can become an obsession, how it’s focused on putting up appearances, how damaging it can be to friendships and your own mentality, etc. I was a teenager when Facebook first became popular, and I’ve lived with social media for over half my life – I know firsthand how toxic it can be, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for today’s teenagers with the rise of apps like TikTok. So I really appreciate EPEX making a song like this, because they’re teenagers themselves and it’s an important message for people their age to hear.
It actually appears that EPEX is going to speak out on issues of mental health in general, because their first mini-album is named Bipolar Pt 1: Prelude of Anxiety. So not only is this the main topic of their debut, but it’s implied they’ll continue to explore this in the future. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I admire them and their company for wanting to talk about mental health. It’s something that I always think celebrities should use their platforms to speak out about, especially in South Korea where there’s still a pretty big stigma about it. However, that album title really just isn’t sitting right with me. Though I don’t think this is intentional, it feels like they’re treating being bipolar or having anxiety as an aesthetic – and it makes me rather uncomfortable.
To be clear, I don’t place the blame on EPEX at all – I know they’re not the ones responsible for that decision, and that power rests with their agency and their creative team. And I’ve lived in South Korea long enough to know the people involved probably have no idea an album name like that would be a no-no in other cultures (particularly Western ones). I doubt there were any ill intentions behind it, so I’m not going to come down hard on them for it. However, I imagine that C9 Entertainment is probably aiming to gain a global following for EPEX like many K-pop agencies do these days. This is an assumption on my part, but I’m making it based on the fact the album title is in English. So if the company wants to do that, then they need to learn how things like this can come across to some international fans. It’s important to know your audience.
In any case, I think EPEX has made a promising debut. The song is definitely memorable, and like I said before, I’m glad that it talks about an important subject. The other aspects of their debut are pretty solid as well: the choreography is powerful and boasts the members’ impressive synchronization, and the music video has some really nice production design. It does kind of feel like what a lot of boy groups do these days, but I think that’s a side effect of me checking out way so many music videos for this blog. And “Lock Down” is just their debut, so it’s understandable that they need more time to establish their own unique image and path.
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.)
To be honest, I can tell I’m probably not going to be into EPEX. It has nothing to do with the quality of their music or their skills; it’s purely because of the age difference. The oldest member was born in 2002, which is twelve years younger than I am. And while I do listen to groups who have a member or two that age or younger (like NCT Dream or IZ*ONE), I just feel weird about following one that’s literally all teenagers – especially a boy group, since I’m a woman over 30. So when it comes to them, I’m really just going to check in every comeback and do a write-up. But I think they’re off to a good start (album title issue aside), and I’ll be interested to see what they do in the future.
(“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 C9 Entertainment.