OnlyOneOf only debuted in 2019, but they’ve already made waves within the world of K-pop with their unique discography and abstract concepts since then. After working with several high-profile K-pop producers on their Produced by [ ] album series and across their discography, the septet are now tackling the production and writing themselves on their latest single album, Produced by [myself], to prove that they can keep up with the unconventional concepts they’ve emulated in their music so far.
Led by creative director and producer Jaden Jeong, who previously worked with girl group Loona, OnlyOneOf was first formed to be an “original” group performing and creating “original” music rather than following the conventional path of male idol groups. With Jeong’s direction, the group has created a lore-filled musical and visual universe rooted mainly in psychology and art, as well as religion, pulling inspiration from the works of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Picasso, and Dante Alighieri. Since their debut with “savanna” and “time leap,” which introduced their art pop-meets-R&B sound and conceptual storyline, OnlyOneOf have proven that in the oftentimes highly regimented K-pop industry, there is still room to subvert typical idol expectations and carve out a unique path.
Produced by [myself] is the next step in OnlyOneOf’s journey to do just that — this time, on their own. Unsurprisingly, the album originally began as a game between the group’s seven members (Love, KB, Rie, Yoojung, Junji, Mill, and Nine). For two weeks, they were divided into three teams (“Only,” “One,” and “Of”), and were tasked with each producing a new track on their own (with the help of producer Nap!er). The three teams documented their journeys of composing, arranging, writing, and recording the songs with their fans, then released a demo of each. Fans, known as LyOn, and the group’s company, 8D Creative, voted for their favorite song out of the three, which would be released in full.
Between “cOy,” “? (questiOn mark),”and “night flight,” “? (questiOn mark)” by members Nine, Love, and Mill was ultimately deemed the winning submission. However, as a treat to their fans, OnlyOneOf chose to release all three songs in full on this album, in addition to a new physical photobook entitled “unknown art pics 2.0.”
Produced by [myself] is a thematic follow-up, or perhaps even a precursor, to their most recent album, Instinct Part. 1, which features the sensual title track “libidO.” One interesting aspect of OnlyOneOf’s “universe” and lore is that most of the songs and MVs that comprise it are purposely abstract and metaphorical enough to be left up to interpretation. It’s therefore uncertain whether each song in their discography is part of a linear, overarching story or part of smaller, unrelated story arcs.
Instinct Part. 1, however, clearly centers around a more linear storyline detailing the Freudian, impulsive desires and temptations of a boy, as described by the group themselves. While Produced by [myself] isn’t as explicitly lore-heavy or cinematic as Instinct Part. 1, it still feels related enough to the unconventional themes, stories, and sounds explored in the previous album to add to the overall color and depth of the group’s discography.
The single album begins with “cOy,” produced and written by Rie and Junji. “cOy” begins with a collection of light piano notes and a lo-fi guitar riff that continues throughout the rest of the song, layered unexpectedly with a sound reminiscent of someone pressing play on a cassette player, then a tape speeding up. This motif repeats at the tail end of each pre-chorus, leading into the chorus. The track overall features a relaxed lo-fi sound and beat that perfectly personifies the “coyness” and wistful feelings conveyed by the track’s lyrics:
“I know you’re being coy, coy
Let’s get honest just a bit
Tell me love it’s you
Color me with you tonight
I know you’re being coy, coy
Our breathing gets heavier, toy, toy
Whisper that I love you
You the only one for me, for me”
On top of these lyrics, which express “coyness” and shyness amidst growing feelings of affection, the delicate quality of the higher-pitched piano notes, layered underneath the lo-fi beat and guitar and the members’ soft vocals, emphasizes the song’s overall meaning subtly yet clearly. While the song’s lo-fi instrumentals and genre aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, they’re definitely newer territory for the group, and are unconventional in comparison to the current sounds of other 4th generation boy groups.
OnlyOneOf’s music can overall be classified as sensual, although “cOy” takes that sensuality in a new, more innocent direction. Typically, their sensuality (as evident with tracks like “libidO”) falls on the side of mature and sexy, but with this track, that sensuality becomes more modest, and perhaps even naive. Considering the sound and lyrics of “cOy” in relation to the rest of their discography, “cOy” could be a precursor to the storyline of “libidO” or Instinct Part. 1. Although it’s unclear whose perspective the song is from (i.e. “the boy” in Instinct Part. 1 or the object of the boy’s affection), the track’s sound and lyrics express the shyness and innocence of the feelings that would be present before “the boy” gives into his desires and loses control to his subconscious, as expressed in “libidO.”
“? (questiOn mark),” the second and winning entry from Produced by [myself], is almost the polar opposite of “cOy” in terms of sound, but lyrically, it expresses similar themes of desire. In connection with Instinct Part. 1, “? (questiOn mark)” explores the questions that arise from being led by instincts, as described in their previously-released track “instinct.”
When I see you, this mysterious feeling suffocates me
You’re hiding from me the emotion of being used to me”
While other lyrical references to previous tracks still remain, like “Keep your nose out of me” (possibly a reference to “byredO”), the song’s lyrics are still vague overall, leaving listeners to interpret how they might connect to the group’s greater storyline. The lyrics are also structured in a question-and-answer format, but seem one-sided, as the members pose the question of “What’s your question mark?” then attempt to answer that question themselves.
Musically, “? (questiOn mark)” is more reminiscent of the group’s earlier R&B- and EDM-influenced tracks, serving as a natural extension of their already-established sound. However, in comparison to the original demo version released during the voting portion of the album project, the production in the final version sounds more more muddled and at the same time almost hollow. In the demo version, the vocals were at almost the same volume as the background instrumentation, but in the final product, the vocals are far louder. In the demo, the vocals fit more seamlessly into the track, almost sounding like a part of the instrumentation itself. But with the louder vocals, they feel out of place, making the remaining layers of the song sound incomplete and not fully fleshed out.
With that said, there are still interesting elements to the production, namely the 8D sound that travels from right to left or left to right when listening to the song with earphones. This is another unconventional and unique interpretation and expression of the song, as the traveling of the sound from earphone to earphone emphasizes the call-and-response format of the song and therefore the “questions” that it poses. On top of that, in an unexpected switch-up, the track almost immediately begins with an EDM drop, which flows directly into the chorus.
The last track, “night flight,” written by Yoojung and produced by KB, returns to a very familiar, R&B-influenced sound, led by an echoing snap that charges the beat forward, along with varying low, groovy basslines. In another expression of the group’s musical sensuality, the chorus is mostly sung in falsetto, while the verses are sung in almost a whisper. The distinctiveness of the basslines introduces a new sound to the group’s discography, while the repeated echoing snaps (which can also be heard in “savanna”) and vocal stylings by the members make “night flight” an unmistakably OnlyOneOf track.
Lyrically, “night flight” is actually more literal than the other two songs on the album. The lyrics describe the fleeting feelings and yearnings for the object of the members’ affection to “take control of me / Don’t worry about a thing” and to “Just get closer, hold me tight.” They very literally describe these desires that come to a head during the night, leaving little wiggle room for interpretation. However, this doesn’t detract from the song’s strengths, and if anything is a pleasant departure from OnlyOneOf’s more lyrically abstract songs.
The nighttime vibe of “night flight” extends beyond just the expressions from its lyrics, and instead comes from other subtleties in its production. This includes the crackling, static noises audible in only small portions of the song, as well as the members’ soft backing vocals and adlibs, which add additional color to the song’s late night mood.
While Produced by [myself] isn’t the most lore-heavy or sonically original pocket of OnlyOneOf’s discography, it does continue the unique and unconventional thematic and musical path they have so far carved out for themselves. For an album that only sprung from a friendly competition between the group’s seven members, Produced by [myself] is a promising sign that OnlyOneOf can continue to subvert and expand the standards and expectations of idol music all on their own.
If you enjoyed this review, check out our exclusive interview with OnlyOneOf here: seoulbeats.com/2020/09/interview-the-multilayered-universe-of-onlyoneof/