Armed with a variety of supernatural abilities, Drippin return to steal hearts and thwart masked villains on their own terms. However, in their newest album Villain, are they really the true villain in this story?

The overall styling of Drippin as a group, both visually and sonically, is reminiscent of Golden Child, their label senior. This is not particularly surprising given the inclusion of producing teams Aiming, NEWTYPE, and Full8loom, who all have worked with Golden Child and other groups like Ghost9. However, Drippin’s stable vocals, chic styling, and cohesive tracklist sell the concept for Villain. While it sticks to the Woollim formula (dance-heavy tracks with thick, busy, midi-heavy texture), it still remains an addictive and well-rounded album.

The tracklist is predominantly danceable and exciting with some killer production finesse. The introductory track “7Villaz” is grungy and loud. The instrumentation is mostly midi composition and layers of synthesizer that act as a sonic sampling for the whole album. There are a few vocal chops taken from the title track “Villain” that provide contrast against the intense and domineering music. “7Villaz” is a bit lackluster on its own, but provides a nice introduction for the track that follows it: “Villain.”

The title track “Villain” is powerful and groovy with high production value visuals to go along with it. Because of the funky, bass-heavy melodies and prominent, busy synth patches, it does begin to sound a bit derivative. However, the song is still catchy, especially with Alex and Dongyun’s intense rapping and Hyeop’s crisp high notes. Lyrics like “baby, why so serious” and choreography framing their faces with a thumb and forefinger to mimic a wide, overexaggerated smile are both reminiscent of the infamous Joker.

Each member possesses a different supernatural ability. However, rather than an all-powerful villain that has it all, the members come across as more of an antihero. Their persistent cries of “I’m the villain” are ultimately at odds with both their inability to obtain the love of the listener, as well as their actions towards other people in the MV. Rather, it could be possible that in fighting for something they believe to be right, they have unwillingly become villains of the story but are now using it to their advantage. Their emphatic repetitions that they are the villain then begin to sound more like they are reassuring themselves of their identity rather than flaunting their treachery.

Ground zero for all the conflict in the MV seems to be in a vintage diner, and in one scene, Hyeop (who can control animals) draws crows into the diner, likely to thwart the members’ pursuers. As Hyeop’s crows are willed to break into the diner and swarm upon the unfortunate guests present, one of them throws a fork in defense. As it hurtles toward a random bystander’s face, Chankguk stops time to save her.

While the members claim to be “villains,” it becomes clear that not only do they have morals, but they also seem despondent about their current state. At the opening of the whole MV, Junho stands atop a skyscraper and looks down upon a city seemingly in chaos. Helicopters circle, smoke is seen rising from buildings, and sirens are heard blaring away. Suddenly, a plane hurtles towards Junho before exploding just above his head. After the song starts and the scene changes, the camera cuts to Yunseong locked in a fistfight with a man in a mask, and the members unconscious and trapped in an armed car.

The rest of the story in the MV is unclear, but the downcast gazes of the members and absence of a desire for true unhinged chaos make it clear that their villain origin story might not be all that it seems.

The story does not have a clear ending beyond Drippin incapacitating their pursuers with Minseo’s ability to control lightning, Alex’s drawing coming to life, and Junho appearing in a fiery inferno like the Human Torch. However, it does have the potential to be a compelling story if given more extensive worldbuilding and storytelling.

What Drippin lack in originality for the title track, they make up for in fun B-sides that extend their ambitious and villainous narrative. “Switch” is most similar to “Villain” except for the prominence of electric guitar and distorted synth patches instead of electric bass. The lyrics refer to turning on a romance, but the dual meaning of “turning on” something (or someone) is not lost. I see you Woollim.

“SHY” and “Remember” are both fun and flirty. The bass is even further back in the mix, and lean into the sounds of electric guitar and various synthesizer loops instead. Vocal chops are more prominent as well, especially behind vocals and as phrase indicators. “SHY” sounds especially sunny and happy with its handclap samples and mid-range electric guitar lines. It also includes Alex and Dongyun rapping in unison, creating a nice timbral contrast to the smoother vocals from the rest of the members.

By far one of the most interesting and effective B-sides is “Delusion.” The word delusion is exemplified through flowy suspensions and drum set parts juxtaposed with desperate vocals in the chorus. In more narrative form, the build from the thinner, floaty verses to the rhythmic chorus evokes feelings of slowly losing yourself to a delusion you cannot escape. The lyrics and music are especially effective in this track, but the bridge is where this track really stands out.

After a short beat of silence, the vocal enters with a different melody than any of the ones introduced and uses triplets to create a 3 against 4 polyrhythmic sound. Not only does it make the listener stop in their tracks because it is so different, but it signifies a last-ditch effort to regain control. However, the bridge quickly comes to a climax for the return of the last choruses layered with Hyeop’s ad-libs overtop.

Drippin’s Villain showcases the group’s potential for darker, edgier concepts. While it does leave something to be desired in clearly distinguishing them from their brother groups, the album does deliver in concept and cohesiveness. Here’s to hoping the group’s future releases build on a common sound or story rather than one-off concepts that fail to build any clear identity.

(YouTube, Aiming, NEWTYPE, Full8loom, DC Comics, Marvel, Images via Woollim Entertainment)