Borders, edges, and boundaries serve many purposes. Protecting someone, imprisoning someone, or preventing an emotion or action. As evoked by its title, Enhypen’s debut album is full of edges, borders, and first-times–from first crushes to a transformation into creatures of the night.
The members, specifically Jake with his raspy Australian bravado, tease this supposition with the Intro “Walk the Line.” Accompanied by music that sounds like the opening to a movie soundtrack, Jake narrates that they “walk the long drawn out line that cuts across the vast land” asking where their next step will be–even if what lies before them is uncertain–and what should they do if “the world that unfolds is not what [they] intended.” The song communicates a desire to move forward, across the line that divides them from their unknown future. The border here can have a multiplicity of meanings, but, if their debut show is any indication, it is likely the transformation of the members from regular teenage boys to idols.
The title track “Given-Taken” steps away from that line in a big way, especially for a debut. The boys transform from boys to idols and then to vampires: fangs, supernatural powers, and all. For a debut, this song is a lot to take in. It is incredibly dark and shows the members bleeding, chained up, and defiling each other (such as one member seemingly turning the other into a vampire).
The setting of the MV looks like an old orphanage, a boys’ home for outcast youths, or maybe even a home for “gifted” children. Clips of the boys interacting in the boys’ home are interspersed with atmospheric shots in the wilderness, negative exposure closeups, and images of some members being chained or even on fire. “Facing the horizon,” they seem to be breaking from their past, transforming, and facing the future as changed creatures of the night.
Some of the visuals and sounds in the MV are relatively chilling, especially considering the youngest member Ni-ki was born only in 2005. Not only is Ni-ki chained up in one scene, but he’s also floating in the air in another. Heeseung takes a pill that makes him writhe in pain, Sunghoon bleeds from his nose, and Jungwon bares a mysteriously vampiric incisor as well. With the mix of dark, Victorian elements and sinister underlying theme of the song, it is a memorable MV for the visuals alone.
The music itself sounds similar to something I would expect from TXT but with a more intense darkness. It is exciting and contemporary with a solid mix of fantastical samples and unique melodic deviances. However, the group has managed to make the sound all their own with the uniqueness of their voices, solid falsetto, and the prominent low, overdubbed bass tones. The difference is subtle, but distinct in its delivery. I do hope that they further this darker narrative and continue to set themselves apart. Musically, I would be amiss to not mention the most jarring horror sound in the song: the sound of young children playing after the song’s conclusion. It is only in the MV but teases a continuation of the story. The sound is a bit unnerving and makes for a memorable moment to hold onto until the next chapter unfolds.
The next to last track, “Flicker” is most thematically and sonically similar to the title track. Steamy and slow, it has a reserved allure that pulls the listener in. The visuals are dark and mischievous with a catchy, slow-jam accompanying it. The texture of the song is thinner and mostly driven by finger-snaps and the members’ falsettos. One of the most memorable moments in the music itself is the repeated syllables in the chorus. It makes the melody unique and catchy, but gives it some character and light to juxtapose the serious visuals as well. Keeping with the theme of borders and edges, the lyrics speak of a “flickering moment” signaling the beginning of romance, or a new beginning.
The middle two tracks “Let Me In (20 CUBE)” and “10 Months” do not directly relate to the narrative set up by “Given-Taken”, but connect thematically to the idea of borders and lines set up in the intro. The songs have charm on their own, tackling two different love stories: one that is serious and mischievous, and the other that is boyish, charming, and lovesick.
“Let Me In” is an analogy for the feeling of being outside a fish bowl begging to be let in. Rather than a fish bowl though, the members are beckoning the listener to let them into their life and their reality. The sound is evocative, vaguely sensual (but they are minors so it is discreet), and catchy. The repetitions in the chorus are enough to make it an earworm, but the subdued trap or hip-hop-like beat gives it a restrained sensuality, more on the “vampire boy” side of this concept. Here, the “border” is the listener’s lives before and after letting the group into their unknown, and the consequential transformed reality is yet to come.
The next track “10 Months” is similar to “Let Me In” thematically, but embarks on a more puppy-like love, complete with “Puppy Kindergarten” VCR content and teenage boy looking stage outfits. Talking about a “ten-month love,” the music that accompanies the lyrics is upbeat and pop-centric. It is simple but a catchy and enjoyable addition to round out the sound of the album. Urging the listener to let them protect them rather than treat them like a loveable puppy, the border in this song is the transition from a little crush to a true, protective romance.
The last track “Outro: Cross the Line” sees the members “crossing the line into a new world.” The music is haunting, evoking the same Victorian horror-esque sounds of “Given-Taken,” complete with the unsettling voices of singing children. It seems not only are the members crossing into new territory, but new identities, entities, and narratives as well. Around the 1:28 minute mark, there is also a weird “Phantom of the Opera” transition that sounds almost identical to the iconic musical melody, furthering the mysterious and dark nature of the whole theme. It then quickly melts into an ending narration that teases the end of a beginning and waking from “dreamless sleep” in which “maybe tomorrow begins like a dream.”
One border has been crossed, but there are still a multitude to face, and having only just debuted, Enhypen have shown they are powerful rookies to reckon with. With a massive budget to draw from, handsome visuals, and formidable dance, vocal, and rap skills, only time will tell how they continue to step across the line and transform from the I-Land boys to the idols of Enhypen.