“We really want to be brilliant performers,” says Love, OnlyOneOf’s leader and owner of one of the best stage names in K-pop. Clad in red outfits and ready to perform their latest single, “a sOng of ice & fire” at The Show later that evening, he and his six bandmates speak to Seoulbeats via Zoom. “As we monitor our performances through our comebacks, we learn that the more effort we put in, the more progress we see.”
OnlyOneOf is a group dedicated to expanding the possibilities of idol music. Mixing art references and indie sounds to an intricate narrative, they are led by creative director and producer Jaden Jeong, who previously worked with girl group Loona. OnlyOneOf’s concept was inspired by both Wassily Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane and Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, Jeong tells Seoulbeats via email. “We should never forget that everything starts from a small point.”
As the group often mentions, small points in sequence become a line, and lines gather to eventually form a plane. Jaden Jeong crafted what he calls a “structural universe” for them, one that is expressed through layers of meaning instead of “a top-down approach to convey the bigger picture first, and then go down with specific stories.”
Settled around a table in an unassuming conference room, OnlyOneOf are comfortable yet polite; their colorful personalities burst up in laughter at times, but quickly silence as soon as one member speaks. KB, the eldest among them, explains, “Jaden shares the storyline beforehand, and then lets us interpret and find matching elements between them.”
This exchange results in a rich cosmos where temptation and redemption are often the main themes, surrounded by mystery, lust, and religious allusions. Immersed in such experiences, fan theories abound—and are often correct. About the speculation that OnlyOneOf’s singles were inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Jaden Jeong says, “I sincerely appreciate that the fans have noticed that. It is indeed a fact that we got inspired by [it]. We commit sins and are saved in our lives, but after all, everything is an adventure and part of the journey.”
When asked if the members are aware of fan theories, all of them nod enthusiastically. “We feel really happy when fans notice the links between our songs, like ‘picassO’ and ‘dOra maar.’ These songs are about telling the same story from two different perspectives, and we’ll be doing that more from now on, so it would be great if fans could keep on noticing that,” shares the all-rounder Rie.
“We tend not to cast a very obvious storyline to the albums,” explains KB, his paced words inspiring an aura of responsibility. Their goal is to allow fans to exercise their creativity, just like the members do. “We are on the way to create our own storyline and our own emotions,” he adds.
An example of their growth and autonomy is Junji’s unique hairstyle—a long, ash-blond cut that covers his eyes completely. “I personally wanted to express it in this chapter of our story,” says the group’s resident shy boy. “It was 50% Jaden’s intention to get a unique visual for me, but it wasn’t very planned or intended to be interpreted in a particular way. It’s just something I personally love.”
The chapter Junji refers to is their latest single album, Produced by [ ] Part 2, released on August 27. It is a sequel to Part 1, released in May, and continues “the journey we’re on, trying to find our unique color and musical identity,” says KB.
In Part 1, the focus was on hip hop sounds as they worked with renowned producers GRAY, Boycold, and Cha Cha Malone. For Part 2, they wanted to keep the style and genres more open, actively exploring what direction it could take. The result is indeed a varied soundscape. “a sOng of ice & fire,” produced by the duo GroovyRoom, is tinted with deep house synths, while Samuel Seo’s production “blOOm” is a chill future R&B track. Closing the setlist is “Off angel,” a soothing ballad produced by JR Groove.
“We really learned how to approach songs as musicians, and how to differentiate ourselves from other K-pop idols,” shares the lively, purple-haired Mill. His rap verses are one of the highlights in “a sOng of ice & fire,” a feat he attributes to the teachings of GroovyRoom. “Since they work with many rappers from H1ghr Music and outside of H1ghr Music as well, I learned a lot from them about expression in my raps. That was a remarkable experience.”
Differently from their previous MVs, “a sOng of ice & fire” opts for a minimalistic approach. It’s essentially a performance video, where the seven members carry out sharp choreography in front of shipping containers. Jaden Jeong reveals that “it took me a lot of thinking to incorporate the [Game of Thrones] reference into our works. Obviously it’s not possible to dance in an armor suit, but I thought really hard about whether Junji was going to ride a white horse or not in the MV.” While that idea would certainly excite a lot of fans, they decided instead to compare ice and fire to romantic relationships. “We normally get heated when we start and get cold very quickly as soon as the romantic emotion is gone,” Jeong says.
Ice and fire are represented in the MV mainly by red and blue lighting. Between glitches and camera twists, OnlyOneOf—dressed in white from head to toes—are the main canvas through which the concept is expressed. “[The single] draws inspiration from fantasy, so we used that to emphasize our choreography. The audience will enjoy it if they focus on that,” says the striking main dancer Yoojung. Together with Rie and Junji, the trio is known to choreograph most of their performances, including this one.
Dynamic jumps and arm motions that represent the mixing of elements are some of the main dance points. It’s a fluid spectacle, where members appear and disappear according to the highs and lows of the song. Junji, who remains quiet through most of the interview, transforms himself when onstage, and his solo part during the bridge is a compelling highlight.
Part 2 is also the first of their albums to have a colorful packaging. Versions ice and fire are, respectively, represented by the colors blue and red. Nine, the soft-spoken maknae of the group, explains, “It means a lot to get away from black and white. By adding more elements and colors to our albums, we hope to represent our growth.”
As expected of a group so thorough, the future steps in their journey are already planned. Their next comeback, named if surface m, will happen in January 2021. Rie exclaims that any other information about it is “top secret!” But Nine eventually reveals their hopes. “In Produced by [ ] Part 1 and Part 2, we worked with great producers that helped us, but for the next comeback we want to add more of our own contributions.”
(Images via RSVP Entertainment.)