While first impressions are often misleading, it can be exciting to greet a new group that goes out of its way to make an impact. However, thanks to the idol survival show that formed the group, fans are already somewhat familiar with X1. Perhaps that is why, as far as debut titles go, “Flash” feels comfortable about keeping things safe. The song is of the standard EDM genre as it opens with enticing synths, though going on to continue the present lackluster trend in K-pop of replacing the chorus/hook with an electronic instrumental. What sets “Flash” apart from other debuts is the boy group promoting it, for X1 is the fourth group off Mnet‘s highly successful Produce series.

It the success of earlier post-Produce groups I.O.I, Wanna One, and Iz One is any indication of what is to come, X1 is poised to be K-pop’s next super group. With all cameras firmly on them, “Flash” is an appropriate name for X1’s debut title. The song does not need to offer something different to draw attention, it only needs to be spectacularly good at what it does offer — catchy music, precision choreography, and appealing visuals.

I was curious about how the group would manage without a standout main vocal à la Kim Jae-hwan, and the members certainly do a fine job. All rounders Cho Seung-yeon, Han Seung-woo, and Kim Yo-han have the most lines, with vocalist Kim Woo-seok trailing not far behind. Three of these four have prior debut and promotion experience, and giving them the bulk of the song is a smart move as it takes pressure off the rookies. While not ground-breaking, the song is an earworm that refuses to leave your head . But how does the MV fare?

Debut MVs are always fun to examine since they play a dual role. They have to not only conceptualize the song and entertain the viewer, but also play an important part in introducing the group — and many take up this challenge with gusto. BTS‘s “No More Dream” chooses to formally introduce the members by their stage names, whereas EXO‘s “MAMA” provides a lengthy introduction to the group’s concept. While Shinee try to woo a noona i.e. fans (since the members were so young back then), as they follow her around in “Replay,” Got7 are followed by a girl in “Girls Girls Girls” and are confident girls love them just for existing.

In a similar vein, what does “Flash” tell us about X1? Sadly, not all that much. Slick and sleek, “Flash” is a choreography MV without a story line, playing it safe much like the song it accompanies. Unlike the song, however, the MV fails to make an impression and does not stand out amongst similarly sleek debut MVs such as that of Produce alum Bae Jin-young‘s group, CIX.

Although a few interesting hints and symbols are scattered throughout the MV, flashes of color dominate the frames, shifitng constantly between red and black, green and white, purple, white, moss green, and blue. It is an MV to to watch for aesthetics only, but only if you like artificial, closed spaces with stylish but mostly meaningless props and endlessly flashing lights. It is unlikely that Swing Entertainment wants fans to equate the group with most of the words used above, particularly when the manner of selection regarding its members is under scrutiny. The set is thus an unfortunate choice.

The best that can be said about the MV is that it embodies X1’s promise to fans in the song. If Wanna One’s fans made the group feel high and “Energetic” at the time of their debut (“You make me feel so high“), X1 promise to take their fans higher:

I can take you higher,
Now it’s the time,
To that higher place,
I will bring you there oh baby.

In a throwback to the final ranking announcement, the first members given solo shots in the MV and lines in the song are Yo-han and Woo-seok, who ranked high at #1 and #2 respectively. Going even further, the MV features many shots of the members sitting at high locations. In separate shots, Seung-yeon, Seung-woo and Yo-han, as well as Nam Do-hyeon and Song Hyeong-jun, sit on top of a truck respectively. At other moments, Woo-seok or Son Dong-pyo sit alone on a horizontal bar that connects two walls, whereas there are also shots of members in red leap high against a black background. While Seung-woo sits on a foot ladder surrounded by white brick walls, Seung-yeon stands on a platform with a kite ready to fly.

The MV also reminds its audience of X1’s roots as it announces the debut of the group. The alphabet “X” which dominated the fourth season of Produce, frames the backdrop to the black and red set, and the “X” in the group’s logo flashes by in other frames rather regularly. The name of the album appears in multiple shots: first in red, as Lee Eung-sang and then Lee Han-gyul are given solo shots, and again in another frame as a member leaps, and the letters “Quantum Leap” flash by.

Appearing in flashes, the butterfly seen at the very start and end of the MV is perhaps the most beautiful prop to be utilized within the MV. The butterfly plays a meaningful role in the X1 universe. It resembles the “X” in the group’s logo, and name. The Korean word for butterfly, “나비” (nabi), was a popular choice among international fans for the name of the fandom. In some unexpectedly powerful symbolism, the colorless butterfly at the start gains colors at the end, representative of the group’s debut.

The momentary flashes of color on the butterfly are beautiful to behold, and it conveys a message for fans to watch out for the colors the group will show over the next five years.

In the month since the finale of ProduceX101, the members of X1, many of whom are rookies, have had to record a mini album, learn, practice and perfect the choreography to a number of songs, and film variety appearances and album promos, all done in addition to filming this MV. As is clear from the first episode of the group’s reality show, the schedule has been tight. This hectic schedule leaves little room for the creativity and experimentation needed to tailor the debut to the members, giving it individual personality and flavor. In its current state, “Flash” is too generic, albeit well done. However, given the short turn around time, one must applaud the eleven members for pulling it off. It is amazing that the song “Flash” is good as it is, even if the MV is forgettable.

(Lyricskpop, YouTube. Images via Swing Entertainment.)