With their newest mini-album Take a Leap, Golden Child have completed their self-discovery album trilogy. Together with title track “ONE (Lucid Dream)”, they take listeners through a full cycle love story: from fawning crush to futile heartbreak. The songs in the album generally fall into two subsets, with the title track as the tipping point in between them. If we imagine all aspects of a love story from its conception to its end, we have initial attraction, seduction, the honeymoon phase, tension or disagreement, breakup grief, and eventual acceptance. Interestingly, the first song, an instrumental, suggests uneasiness right away. It has a cinematic sound, heavy bass riffs, and silence to build intensity. The order of the songs in the album don’t necessarily follow this order, but instead express a variety of emotions with dream-like ambiguity.

“OMG” and “Make Me Love” personify initial attraction and seduction, while “H.E.R.” is gentle and wistful, as if they are contently admiring their significant other rather than wishing from afar. These are the happier tracks, suggesting a boyish love, free from reality or worry. “OMG” has been performed live as part of the group’s live comeback showcase. Its sound is bright with retro synthesized sounds, especially in the percussion accompanying the drum set. The vocals are lively, repetitive, and addictive. Not surprisingly, the choreography is also fun, energetic, and full of aegyo. The members bounce around the stage opting for smiles and throwing hearts to the audience rather than their usual stoic smolder. “H.E.R.” is similarly bright and cheerful, but musically, it is less overtly happy and more emotional. High, breathy vocals are paired with acoustic instrumentals, namely piano and synthesized guitar. The structure is fairly predictable for a standard love song. It sounds nice, but there are few surprises to be found.

By contrast, “Make Me Love” is incredibly seductive. It is hard to ignore with the line “I just wanna make love to you baby” at the beginning of the song. The music that accompanies it is EDM-inspired, like much of their music, but with more R&B-style vocals and instrumentals. The verse-chorus form is fairly typical, but fits the style the group is emulating. One very cool moment that makes this track stand out is the use of complete silence for some transitions, especially the deafening nearly four seconds before the final chorus. It does not hold any importance metaphorically. However, it is musically very satisfying and builds tension to give the last drop more impact. Thematically, this song feels like a lover in the throes of a deeply passionate relationship.

The title track “One (Lucid Dream)” is where things start to go awry. A lucid dream is an often-fantastical dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming, and often able to control the dream, but unable to consciously wake yourself up or escape. Similarly, the line “you’re my lucid dream” personifies the trapped feeling one might feel in a failing relationship. Depicting the feeling of being deeply in love but unable to cope with it fracturing before your eyes, “One” ties the two subsets of the album together. While the rest of the tracks have been love songs in some form or flavor, this one is more desperate, confusing, and confining, and the MV is no different. Inception-like imagery is juxtaposed with the dream slowly unraveling and the members unable to escape the wreckage. Otherworldly dream settings are offset with shots in open spaces that look like an empty room and a desolate landfill. Often, these open spaces are filler for open dance spaces, but here they amplify the desolation and seemingly endless expanses lucid dreams can be.

The music in “One” is predominantly inspired by EDM with thumping bass and synthesized percussion throughout. Interestingly, the form is subverted; the verses are heavy while the drop is subtle and sexy for the pre-chorus and chorus. The members’ vocals are more in their falsetto and the texture is thinner, creating a weightless feel. It seems that this song is the intersection between the lighter, happier tracks and the more melancholic ones. Whether the love is unrequited or eroding is unclear, but regardless, something has gone awry, leading to the two remaining tracks: “Moment” and “Pass Me By.”

The remaining two songs on the album personify two different stages of grief: disbelief and acceptance. “Moment” is a thoughtful song that explores where things went wrong and reflects on past memories. It is a typical ballad track with sweeping, standard harmonies, piano accompaniment, and simple, minimal percussion. It’s beautiful and simplistic, although predictable. “Pass Me By” by comparison is accepting, although begrudgingly. Time seems to have passed, and while the persona still yearns for the familiarity of a lover, they urge them to pass by and leave them to wait where they are. Lyrics like “I’ll be there for you” are tinged with a struggle between lingering desire and reminders of painful memories. The uneasiness suggested in the very first track has come full circle, fitting for the last track. The mix of upbeat piano and pop singing style are a bittersweet end to the album as well as its respective trilogy.

Much like a lucid dream, Take a Leap, covers a wide range of emotions one could experience in a romantic encounter. It is refreshing to see them explore not only obvious happy and sad love tropes, but dark, dangerous ones as well. This is not unique to Golden Child, but it is satisfying to see the darkness as the title track that holds the rest of the album together. The B-side tracks, while beautiful, are fairly standard and safe, while “One (Lucid Dream)” is clearly the unique star. With this album and exploratory trilogy finished, here’s to hoping that they take a leap themselves – exploring more experimental and unique themes rather than safe ones.

(Images via Woollim Entertainment)