SF9 rarely — if ever — disappoint. Since their debut in 2016, FNC Entertainment’s first dance-focused boy group explored a variety of styles, from the bravado of “Fanfare,” to the Latin sounds of “O Sole Mio,” and finally to one of 2018’s best releases: the dark club anthem “Now or Never.” They might not have a specific sound identity yet, but definitely enjoy charms that render memorable releases more often than not.
Considering the group’s stellar discography and talented members, it’s surprising how underrated they remain. Fortunately, things seem to be taking a turn. “Now or Never” attracted considerable attention — if not for its quality, rapper Hwiyoung can plead guilty for stealing hearts with his luscious hair and cool looks. The popularity of the drama SKY Castle, in which maknae Chani stars as Hwang Woo-joo, and the announcement of an upcoming international tour add to the feeling that all eyes are finally on SF9. Could the group’s latest comeback, “Enough” push their long-awaited breakthrough?
The song’s reggae-infused background immediately recalls the tropical wave of 2016/2017 releases, like Wonder Girls’ “Why So Lonely” and EXO’s “Ko Ko Bop.” Despite the unexpectedness, reggae often ensues nifty results when combined with K-pop, and “Enough” is another successful example. Mixed with trap beats and electronic bends, it offers a fresh approach that doesn’t rely too heavily on one gimmick.
However, the stylistic autotune that leads many recent releases is also present, stalling what could have been more memorable verses. But that’s a minor observation, as the full-blown chorus that follows suit is a delightful reward. Catchy hooks, like in this song’s “ya ya ya ya ya”s and Oneus’ “Valkyrie,” are certainly a trend that should come back to stay.
Another highlight of “Enough” is the successful build-up. Main vocalist Inseong deserves praise for his delivery, both in the rap-ish verses after the chorus and in the satisfying high notes during the bridge. He adds nuance and emotion to the distorted synths that infuse the song’s apex, making for a truly majestic moment.
The release also benefits greatly from the choreography, as expected from a dance-focused group. Beautiful formations, sensuous body-rolls and heaps of floor work express the song’s dramatic color with ease.
Moving onto the lyrics, Jaeyoon and Dawon promisingly croon about a natural, effortless beauty. But it would be naive to assume that the song heralds a positive message, as the verses later deflect to possessiveness:
I pray as I look to the sky
Praying for something selfish
That in other people’s eyes
You would look unattractive
What could be worrisome finds justification in context. SF9’s mini album is named Narcissus, inspired by the Greek myth of a man who falls in love with his reflection. In the myth, upon realizing that his image could not reciprocate feelings, Narcissus is consumed by passion and eventually turns into a daffodil (the popular name for the plant genus, Narcissus). The story warns about the dangers of being obsessed with one’s own appearance, and SF9 depicts this message accurately. Although the lyrics are arguably directed towards a lover, the MV opens the interpretation on whether they are fixated on their own images instead.
Despite this compelling twist, the MV presents the biggest setback to “Enough.” Not because of budget limitations or a minimalistic approach, but rather due to a lack of creativity. “Now or Never” had similar visual modesty; however, the extraordinary use of colors, illumination, and camera work proved that you don’t need complex props in order to make a visually stunning video.
In “Enough,” SF9 opts for a darker, muted palette reminiscent of works from the beginning of the decade, like VIXX’s “Hyde” or Super Junior’s “Sexy, Free & Single.” While the nod to those years is appreciated, there is not a single spark of innovation or effort to differentiate SF9 from the sea of boy groups drawing inspiration from the same well.
The myth of Narcissus is packed with symbolism that could have been pushed further. Mirrors and reflections are simple tools, yet yield incredible results when used with originality. The MV surely gives us gorgeous shots of the members staring at themselves (and eventually breaking those images), but the untapped aesthetics of this concept are undeniable.
Even though “Enough” is a great release, I can’t help but wish that it had switched places with “Now or Never.” The latter does a much better job in showcasing SF9’s full charm and potential. In all forms, both are important stepping stones in the group’s career, and even if their breakthrough doesn’t happen now, it surely is on the way.