If something isn’t good, does that automatically make it bad? How you respond to this question might determine your opinion of Fromis 9’s latest release. My Little Society is a perfectly agreeable five-song EP. There are no automatic skip tracks, and the album leaves a refreshing aftertaste. But there’s also nothing special here.
The songs of My Little Society go in one ear and out the other. While not ideal, this isn’t automatically an unforgivable feature. Music that doubles as art is a wonderful thing. Yet, there are certain times that call for a soundtrack of wispy bubblegum pop. This EP would serve that purpose nicely. For a comeback over a year in the making though, My Little Society is distinctly anticlimactic.
Title track “Feel Good (Secret Code)” exemplifies the album’s pleasant mundanity. Layers of upbeat synths and a bouncy rhythm create a sunny vibe. Fromis 9 sing about being in a really good mood, their emotions sent flying sky high thanks to the excitement of new love. Everything about the song is light and fun.
The problem is that a few minutes after a listen, it would be hard to describe anything about “Feel Good (Secret Code)” in detail. It is simply too simple. Nothing about its musical composition or lyrical content stands out, making the track utterly forgettable despite its charm.
“Starry night” is even less distinctive. A cookie-cutter ballad, it was presumably meant to be a showcase for Fromis 9’s singing. The results are mixed. Many of the song’s high notes are strained and thin. On the other hand, the group’s vocal expressiveness is impressive. Gyuri deserves special recognition for delivering the track’s predictable lyrics with startling levels of emotion. Given the positive impression Fromis 9 make in “Starry Night”, imagine what they could do with a ballad that was actually well-written.
A promisingly jazzy piano riff opens “Somebody to love”. Unfortunately, its first few seconds are its best. The song feels like a filler track, or maybe an unintentional lullaby. It is musically monotonous, ideal for sending listeners to straight to sleep. Additionally, as in “Starry night”, many of the members seem uncomfortable with the song’s high key. “Somebody to love” isn’t unlistenable, although it is completely uninspiring.
Album-closer “Mulgogi” has a lot of promise, but not nearly enough follow through. The literal translation of the title is “Fish”. Appropriately, Fromis 9 sing about swimming in the boundaryless waters of their minds:
Close your eyes
Swim in your imagination
Boredom is a nope
Can’t stop me baby
It is an uplifting metaphor backed by sweet staccato melodies. Unfortunately, “Mulgogi” doesn’t capitalize on the cleverness of its concept. With such a rich idea to play with, the largely pedantic lyrical imagery is a letdown. It doesn’t help that the track can’t seem to decide if it is about the power of imagination, or about forlornly waiting for a love interest. “Mulgogi” could have been a great song. Due to its lackluster execution, it is just okay.
My Little Society’s strongest track is “Weather”. The song is full of sonic contrasts, both fast-tempoed and relaxed, peppy and edgy. The result is a bit messy. It is also a lot of fun. The rhythmic “Drippin’ drippin’ drippin’” pre-chorus is especially delightful.
Like “Mulgogi”, “Weather” has a unique premise. Unlike “Mulgogi”, “Weather” does a good job handling it. Fromis 9 use the unpredictability of weather to describe their volatile emotions, which simultaneously frustrate and captivate the person who loves them. “Weather” doesn’t completely fulfill its lyrical potential, but it consistently sticks to and expands on its central metaphor, to solid effect.
The story of “Weather” is about changeability, and its musical composition is dominated by juxtaposition. This is a good match, a satisfying case of words and melody working in harmony to communicate a shared message and mood. If memorability was the goal, “Weather” may have been a wiser title track choice compared to “Feel Good (Secret Code)”. Regardless of its promotional role, this song is My Little Society’s best offering.
Fromis 9 are packed with talent and possibility. Their long hiatus prior to My Little Society was a shame, as it cut off the momentum they had built with earworm releases “Love Bomb” and “Fun!”. This break was probably connected to the Mnet survival show rigging scandal, which Fromis 9 are linked to because they were formed on Idol School. Being associated with such a well-known controversy also isn’t a win for a young group. Still, nothing that Fromis 9 have faced so far is an insurmountable barrier to future success.
To claim that success though, Fromis 9 are going to have to do better than this. As comfortably enjoyable as My Little Society is, it is not a good EP for a group trying to break out. Fromis 9 need something bold, brilliant, and unforgettable. My Little Society is not it.