For an album entitled “Devil” one would expect sinister visuals, mostly hip-hop and rap heavy tracks, and/or generally savagery. Oneus’s newest album Devil delivers that and more, but with several songs that manage to be surprisingly soft- embodying longing, fading love, and hopelessness. Showcasing both finesse in songwriting and performance, Devil steps even farther into the darkness, showing new sides and maturity of Oneus following their stint on Mnet’s Road to Kingdom.
While some of the songs on the album embody cardinal sins like gluttony, pride, and envy, the nuance in the album proves that the devil really is in the details. Subtle details suggests a darkness that yearns for something the members can not possess, much like their antithesis album Lived. However, rather than a mythical, monstrous romp of transformation and contradiction, Devil is smooth and unsuspecting, demonstrating that the members have given into their tempestuous inner demons but remain slaves to those same transgressions and desires.
Oneus’s first full album Devil has a much looser story running through it than their previous album but instead demonstrates allure and temptation in a variety of forms. Most obvious are tracks that sound like hubris, envy, and lust, but other sins like gluttony, greed, anger, and sloth can be heard as well. Ironically though, nearly a third of the tracks are wistful ballads. With that being said, they still demonstrate a hopelessness and desperation that can come as a consequence of their devilish actions.
The opening song “Intro: Devil is in the detail” evokes demonic imagery with red lights, revealing clothing, and a dark, bass-heavy sound. The vocal chops are brought down several octaves, distorting and twisting them to sound almost unhuman as the members smolder directly into the camera and dance provocatively. While only a short 90 seconds, the line “devil is in the detail” sticks out from the frameworks and sets the theme for the album. Finesse is the name of the game here, rather than unbridled chaos, contrary to what one (or at least I) would expect.
Note: This MV may not be suited for those uncomfortable with intense flashing lights.
Most similar to the intro is the title track “No Diggity.” A throwback to the 1996 Backstreet song of the same name, the American slang “no diggity” means “no doubt” or “no cap” in contemporary terms. The visuals in the MV are chaotic, almost frenetic, and the music is one and the same. If “Come Back Home” and “To Be or Not To Be” were intense comebacks, “No Diggity” is even more so. The members serve up looks that could kill, give in to unbridled chaos, animalistic snarls, and sometimes looks that are borderline psychotic (ex. Leedo’s creepy smile at 1:35 or Xion’s spiky, cage-like mask).
Lyrics describe an unnamed force being like the snake in the Garden of Eden in which the members and the listener are Adam and Eve “spreading bad vibes in our garden” and soiling their paradise. Claiming that the other is jealous, the chorus proclaims that that love is irrefutable (the title’s Korean translation) and that they should just not waste their time. Dripping with hubris, confidence, and a DGAF attitude, the MV and music quickly become more and more chaotic as they progress.
The music is a mix of the group’s signature charismatic, EDM sound but with an edge driven by overdriven basslines, and a teasing, addictive “da ra ra da da ra ra da.” The vocals and rapping of the members are mischievous, and the music is raw. While much of the group’s recent music has been on the more intense side, “No Diggity” utilizes more guitar and bass in the forefront, giving a surprising sharpness and power to the sound. Sonically, the difference is dramatic, innovating the group’s overall sound.
The remaining tracks on the album fall into generally two other categories: pop-centric, and ballads. “Leftover,” “BBUSYEO,” “Lion Heart,” and “What You Doing?” are up-tempo songs that sound fun and tempting while “Incomplete,” “Youth,” “Rewind,” “I.P.U.” and “Outro: Connect with US” are softer ballads. Both sets explore dynamics of flowering and dying love.
“Leftover” has a Latin flair and describes a dying love that leaves the members wishing for warmth where only coldness remains. Envy and lust are on full display and matching the sensual, provocative music. A half-time bass line juxtaposes syncopated piano riffs, digital flute doubling the vocals, and busy drum set tracks. The lyrics refer to leftover feelings when love fades into only hollow vestiges and memories.
Both “Lion Heart” and “What You Doing?” are charismatic, sexy, and alluring, evoking images of a heated romance between two lovers. “Lionheart” (meaning someone who is brave and determined) is loud, in your face, and unforgiving just likes its meaning, while “What You Doing?” is sexy, provocative, and restrained. One can imagine these songs in a sequence where “What You Doing?” is the foreplay and “Lionheart” is the fiery aftermath.
The track that does not seem to fit at first glance is “BBUSYEO.” Upbeat, bubbly, and serotonin-inducing, on the surface “BBUSYEO” tells the story of a boy experiencing first love and breaking emotional barriers. However, the MV has a little-too-happy, destructive undertone that screams gluttony and indulgence. Surrounded by candies and treats of all kinds, the members can be seen destroying snacks with hammers with creepy smiles plastered on their face. Related to a savory snack of a similar name, “BBUSYEO” means “Break it!” and has a fun, careless, and chaotic-good vibe. There is no mistaking the bright colors, humor, and playful sound in the song, but behind all the bright colors one can not help but wonder what love-blind chaos might lurk below the surface.
Ballad tracks “Incomplete,” “Youth,” “Rewind,” “I.P.U.,” and “Outro: Connect with US” are all surprisingly soft. While one or two ballad tracks are to be expected to round out a full album, four seems a bit much for such a hard-hitting release. With that being said, they do provide a breath of fresh air and further evidence the descent of the members into a corrupted decline that perhaps they are beginning to experience the repercussions of.
One of the most interesting ballads on the album “Incomplete” features lyrics that talk of an “incomplete life” without the listener. The sound is up-tempo with driving vocals and rapping and soaring bar chords and bass lines. Rather than more rhythmic songs like “Leftover” and BBUSYEO” “Incomplete” is more akin to a gentle step-clap tune offset with melodic bravado and satisfying anti-drops.
One standout detail is superb songwriting that references incompleteness “like the maze of Crete” and folklore about the elusive Minotaur. Born out of Poseidon’s anger and Minos’s selfishness, the Minotaur was a trapped creature that longed to escape his confines. However, he was later slain, never to experience freedom, and a victim of his own unfortunate conception. In similar fashion, the members are trapped in their own treacherous descent from transformation, to love, then to loss and desire.
“Youth” and “Rewind” both express a wish to return to a different time, fly away, and slow down. Both sound similar with soaring vocals, thinner musical textures, and a lilting, wistful sound. Both are simply beautiful in their own right.
“I.P.U.” is similar in message and sound to both “Youth” and “Rewind” but the memebers’ vocal prowess are on full display. Out of all the songs on the album this one is the most clearly balladic one. Simple, vocally driven, and restrained, “I.P.U.,” short for “I promise you,” is almost helpless, promising an eternal devotion and urging the listener to accept their love. The music behind the vocals is relatively simple, allowing the vocals to breathe and take the forefront. The members are all powerful singers, but Keonhee and Seoho’s vocals are especially evocative here.
The final track “Outro: Connect with US” ends the album with a whisper. Short, gentle, and contemplative, it is an acoustic-driven addition that expresses Oneus’s desires to connect with their fans. It seems a bit counterintuitive to end with a whisper instead of a shout for an album entitled “Devil,” but honestly it could also be the beginning of a new story. Devil steps further into uncharted territory, pushing the envelope with the title track “No Diggity” and showcasing a subtlety of desire that comes from superb songwriting and concept design. While the theme and story are a bit looser than previous albums, the fine details of Devil make this a well-rounded and enjoyable endeavor into sin, desire, and consequence.