DIA is back with their first mini album Happy Ending, nine months after the group made their debut with full album Do It Amazing. Several changes to the group lineup have happened since then, such as the departure of their former leader Seung-hee, addition of new member Eun-chae, and perhaps most notably, Jung Chae-yeon and Ki Hee-hyun’s (formerly known under the stage name “Cathy”) temporary withdrawal to join Produce 101 before being re-inserted into the group after the show ended.
DIA’s career had an obscure start to say the least – despite having promoted two songs from their first album, “Somehow” and “My Friend’s Boyfriend,” the group failed to win much commercial success and public recognition during this time, and debuting in the same year as a number of power rookies such as Gfriend and Twice, the group quickly disappeared under the radar. However, 2016 proved to be a game changer for the group as both Chae-yeon and Hee-hyun gained considerable popularity from the survival show Produce 101, with the latter having made it into the final 22 and the former actually debuting in the final group, I.O.I. It was around this time when MBK announced that Chae-yeon would be joining DIA for their summer comeback, which is how the group arrived at its return with “On the Road” on June 14.
“On the Road” is a sweet, upbeat pop track that describes a girl’s reminiscence of her first love as she walks along the same path as she did in the past. The song is based upon a simple melody that is then infused with energy though the dramatic strings in the opening and steady percussion, and the occasional tinkling of wind chimes also create a fantastical effect not unlike the“fairy-like” vibe many girl groups aim to convey. However, the song borders on overly saccharine when the composition is combined with the ridiculously high pitched vocals, from which we are only offered a break during Hee-hyun’s rap lines.
If I were to describe this release in one word, it’d be harmless – the song is cute and pleasant but nothing memorable, and the same goes for the concept. I thought we’d be seeing less of the schoolgirl concept after Gfriend and Lovelyz graduated from their trilogies, but DIA it seems has taken the baton. Granted, the group pulls it off well – the simplicity and consistency of the outfits conveys the purity of the concept and allows the group’s good visuals to shine through. However, for those that may remember their “Somehow” days, this comeback feels like a step back – the group has the potential to be much more colourful on stage and pull off more energetic choreography, without losing the cute and approachable image MBK seems to be aiming for.
As for the MV, it stays true to the lyrics. The video starts off with the members uncovering a time capsule, which sets the scene for a song about memories, and then shows multiple cuts of the members with their faceless first love, playing out nostalgic scenarios from sharing ice cream to unspoken confessions. The entire video is certainly visually pleasing, with the shooting locations well chosen to give rise to aesthetic shots, and the pinkish filter that was placed over all the clips, which wasn’t exactly necessary but gave the video a soft look which was consistent with the concept. The shots also do a good job of highlighting the members’ beauty.
My biggest complaint, however, is MBK’s active attempt, it seems, to make the group into Chae-yeon and her backup dancers. Yes, Chae-yeon is undoubtedly the most recognised member of the group at the moment, and yes, her visuals do suit the center position. However, at the same time, the Produce 101 finalist doesn’t need to be on screen every five seconds for people to remember that she’s in the group. If the album cover, in which she stands in front of the rest of the members isn’t indication enough, it also happens in multiple other parts of the choreography, and she is also given chorus lines in favour of her standing in the center. Don’t get me wrong – I adore Chae-yeon, and recognise her looks and popularity make her one of the most marketable members, but instead of stressing Chae-yeon’s existence in DIA, MBK should be using her recognition to bring more attention to the group as a whole, instead of creating a one-top amongst its members.
All in all, DIA’s “On the Road” is a pleasant comeback that is certainly not unenjoyable by any means, but undermines the potential they showed in their earlier days. It feels like MBK should’ve spent more time planning their return as opposed to riding the Produce 101 wave while it hasn’t yet died down, but given the newfound attention the group is getting, I’m still optimistic about their future endeavours.
Song rating: 3/5
MV rating: 3.5/5
(YouTube, Images via MBK Entertainment)