WM Entertainment‘s ONF might have gone under the radar for many K-pop fans, but those that have given the six-piece a chance have been treated to a compelling discography and a cinematic music video universe that has followed the boy group since their debut in 2017.
Much of the group’s larger-than-life appeal can be attributed to the team working alongside ONF. Interestingly, they are one of the few K-pop groups that have stuck loyally to the same team each comeback — Monotree for their entire discography, Sunny Visuals for their music videos and Freemind for their choreography. The result is a winning formula of flourishing artistry, where the evident knowledge of ONF’s strengths and colours has created a thoughtfully crafted sound and image unique to ONF that grows with each comeback. It is a shame that more groups fail to do this.
Following a record-breaking 2020 for the group, with an underdog victory as runner-ups on Road to Kingdom and the buried summer gem “Sukhumvit Swimming” last August, ONF are finally back with their 1st full studio album ONF:My Name. Initial teasers suggested a continuation of a darker sound from recent releases, but the quirky pre-release track “My Name Is“, which has the members introducing themselves in a refreshing jingle, teased the group’s return to bright and energetic title tracks from their earlier days. But regardless of the sound they had chosen, expectations for “Beautiful Beautiful” were inevitably high given their stellar track record.
The MV opens with a shot of a futuristic virtual city, immediately alluding to its connection with ONF’s existing dystopian storyline. As the song’s grand, rhythmic hook enters, the scene cuts to a shot of J-us jumping fearlessly off a building, teasing an epic and already ongoing adventure. The subsequent scenes showcase the ONF members surrounded by gorgeously designed CGI backdrops, and viewers are quickly being oriented to the midst of action-packed sequences. Machines fly over E-tion, Hyojin surfs in the air on a hoverboard of sorts, and humans in elaborate robotic suits take over the screen. This is the furthest ONF have taken the cyberpunk aesthetic to date, and the neon lights and bright colours add an appropriate atmosphere of spectacle, power, and passion, all as the song reveals its true nature as an upbeat, funk-driven track.
Yet, unlike many songs that are carried by a bolstering and anthemic chorus that falls flat everywhere else, the track manages to consistently surprise and delight with changes in the tempo and textures. Monotree once again prove their deserving street cred for the sophistication of their productions, as they introduce new elements and sounds through the track masterfully, pairing glorious harmonies and exciting instrumentals to fully exploit ONF’s bright and distinct vocals. Making a song as thematically simple (happiness, basically) dynamic is no easy feat, but “Beautiful Beautiful” manages to still be the highlight and driving force of the MV, despite its show-stealing visuals.
The groups’ lyrics have also always been noteworthy, and this is no different in “Beautiful Beautiful”, where ONF encourage listeners to sing and cheer — to the beauty and art that is life, the courage to be you, and the liberation that comes with embracing it all. Even in a song so joyful, the lyrics retain an air of drama and romanticism through grand declarations that has become a signature part of ONF’s otherworldly story.
So you know we have a galaxy in hearts of all
Tears are dropping after overcoming darkness
We become brilliant stars
Beautiful, sing it!
ONF are capable and competent performers no matter what genre they tackle, but there is something especially satisfying about the way they embody bright concepts in an era where moody, edgy boy group concepts dominate. Main dancer, U, in particular, gets plenty of shine here in the choreography shots, and he performs with so much passion and skill that it is hard to take your eyes off him. In a display of the members’ well-roundedness, ONF’s boast their vocal capabilities in an abrupt, but welcomed, acapella bridge. This combination of the group’s talent, along with their unfaltering charm and energy will likely win over even the most cynical.
Much more successfully than some of their previous efforts, the MV for “Beautiful Beautiful” also manages to strike a healthier balance between entertaining fans and casual listeners with little knowledge about their pre-existing storyline. With scheming looks and handcuffs, viewers were initially led to believe J-us is the sole antagonistic figure in the video, but as the video gradually reveals itself, ONF are seen as working as a team trying to help him escape. Near the song’s climactic end, harmonious scenes of U and E-tion, along with Hyojin and J-us, are shown. These would come across as simply fun for the average viewer, but fans would enjoy these scenes on a deeper level due to the pairings’ significance in ONF’s MV universe.
Similarly, Wyatt and MK‘s roles in “Beautiful Beautiful” that mirror ONF’s earlier MVs may not come to mind for most, but this context is not needed to enjoy the duo’s motorcycle and computer-centric scenes respectively. In a cheesy yet perfect ending to the music video, the robots are seen doing a mass dance to the choreography, before ONF are seen standing in a row, looking on at fireworks and a pandora box in a festive atmosphere. Seemingly, ONF have found their utopia, but J-us’s sharp and nearly unsettling gaze in the ending shot foreshadows that this is not the end. But by this point, listeners are less likely to be fussed by that, and more likely to be focused on hitting replay to take it all in again.
A palate cleanser amongst this year’s rather mediocre releases, “Beautiful Beautiful” is as glorious as its name suggests. It is a comeback that hits all the right spots — addictive, entertaining and an all-around polished piece of art. In a gloomy period of time in our lives, music is a solace for many, and ONF successfully take listeners to a happier place. With it, they leave behind a beautiful message. Even as the members fight big battles in an alternative universe, their feelings of love and joy come from within and the people around them. Thus, despite their poor track record with having comebacks frequently, this hopefully will not be the last we see of ONF in 2021. They have much to celebrate, and we could definitely use more of the splendour they bring to K-pop.