One’s debut with YG Entertainment is historic: he’s the first solo rapper the firm has backed in 14 years. He has an existing fanbase who know him for his first debut with Produce 101 season 2’s Samuel Kim and appearances on Show Me The Money, seasons 4 and 5. One deviated from his previous appearances which were more aggressive and focused on themes of work ethic and swag to release two songs concerned with relationships.

One is being presented as a ‘flower boy rapper’ with a lot of focus being drawn to his visuals and his characteristic energetic rap toned down on both songs. YG Entertainment warned that his new music would be going against everyone’s expectations and they were correct. Judging from his songs with 1Punch and on SMTM, it might be deduced that One would debut with something more dynamic than “Gettin’ By” and “heyahe”. The lead to the release of the MVs also signaled a change of focus with multiple shots of One in a school uniform, and intimate close-ups of his face.

The first MV released was for “Gettin’ By,” that One co-composed with AOMG producer Cha Cha Malone. In the Making of the MV, One said,“the song was put together really quickly. I think the melody and the lyrics for ‘Gettin’ By’ were all written within one hour. That’s why I like it more.” The song doesn’t lyrically come across as being written in a rush but it definitely isn’t breaking new grounds in terms of content. It’s a straight-forward, mid-tempo ballad about a break-up.

You and me
I strongly believed
That we had a different kind of love
But in the end, it was just the same
We said our goodbyes
And as if nothing happened
We went back to our familiar places

The intention of the lyrics was to be relatable and to that effect, it is successful. One switches his rhythm up between the sing-talking chorus and faster verses but he never pushes past a conversational tone. The use of finger snaps, muted percussion and tinkling keys makes it sound even gentler. “Gettin’ By” is a little pedestrian but mostly pleasant.

Visually, One dominates the MV which is fine, he has a beautiful face. He’s displayed from most available angles in a variety of settings subtly inserted with surrealist elements mostly involving water. There isn’t a ton of symbolism in the MV — it’s positioned to convey a clean, summery aesthetic and it does a reasonable job.

All-in-all, “Gettin’ By” retreads familiar ground in sound, concept, and visuals but is a sweet listen. The song tones One down more than it shows his creative chops but it seems like that’s the intention of the comeback.

“Heyahe” adds a sexy element to his boyfriend image with a pulsing back-beat and suggestive lyrics. One pushes his speak-singing enough to attempt a few high notes but the vocals are not the focus of the song.

The lyrics of this little bop are supposed to represent a “pure love” according to One even though a lot of can be interpreted in an explicit way.

Don’t close your eyes right now
It’s too early to fall asleep
Don’t wanna hide it, we have to do it
We need to do what we need to do
We must do it

While the lyrics are sexual there’s a traditionally romantic idea that can be associated with not being able to control your passion around your lover that it expresses. The tone rides the line between affectionate and graphic with changes in One’s delivery being the only marker of variation. The song has enough dimension that it’s not dull but layered, autotune-altered vocals can take most of the credit for that. The heavy production of the song is what prevents it from sounding too monotonous.

The MV for “heyahe” is sensuous and features a much stronger fantastical element than “Gettin’ By”. It’s got a higher age rating too which was used to insert James-Bond-style shots of giant reliefs of women’s bodies. Water, again a major symbolic device, breaks up dreamlike sequences with One repeatedly being submerged. Was this a ploy to showcase his features in water or a visual metaphor for the all-consuming feeling of love? Maybe a little bit of both.

One’s debut seems to have been intended to pivot his established image from being focused on rap to a more commercial (hetero female-friendly) idol by giving him romantic pop songs. A YG insider said, “it is a very satisfactory result for a first debut song,” so he has achieved at least his company’s goal. There are songs planned for release throughout the rest of the year so listeners can reasonably anticipate more easily-digestible, visually appealing work from One.

(Naver [1], [2], [3], NateYoutube, Lyrics via Pop!Gasa Images via YG Entertainment)