CyA’s rap in “Regulus”—”Memories are alive and breathing”— proves to be true over and over again. As Onewe creates more music, they continually build on this idea, most recently through their special single album, Timeless. Released on May 20, Timeless follows the band’s Planet Nine: Voyager album, their O! NEW E!volution II concert, and recent encore. The two-track single album commemorates Onewe’s third anniversary, which they celebrated on May 13.
Since Timeless is an anniversary gift, and Onewe tend to be romantic songwriters, it comes as no surprise that this project focuses on memories. Besides the overlap in subject matter, the cover art designed by Deanventor makes a clear connection to their album Memory: Illusion. In Korean, Timeless is called “A Small Room Filled with Time,” which is not only a very romantic and very Onewe title, but also paints a vivid and touching image. Positioned in the center of the cover sits a cardboard moving box splayed open. Wisps of light to a magical effect surround the box and the little space around it. The bird’s-eye view allows us to see the miniature instruments inside, sitting on a bed of soft green.
Although none of the five members are shown in the space, their dedicated instruments (Kanghyun’s guitar, Yonghoon’s microphone, Harin’s drum set, Dongmyeong’s keytar, and CyA’s bass) are such an extension of themselves that they do not need to be present. Framed on the wall is the album cover of their first full-length album, ONE, which the band released to celebrate their first year as Onewe. In Timeless, Onewe seem to note, they are unlocking—or rather, “unpacking”—their timeless memories. There may have been some major changes in the last three years, including a global pandemic, but some things also have remained the same.
“Roommate,” the title track of Timeless, captures this sentimental and nostalgic feeling by looking back on Onewe’s story. Like many of their other MVs, “Roommate” is simple and chooses to focus on the members together. While there are obligatory solo moments, like CyA’s close-up during his rap verse, the camera spends the most time on the band as a whole. Whether they are performing “Roommate” in an empty courtyard or sharing inside jokes in a secret garden behind an abandoned school, Onewe are there for one another.
Dressed in school uniforms, the five are brought back to their younger days in the “Roommate” MV. It further establishes an emotional visual work through the soft cinematography, warmth seeping into each frame. The cherry on top of this cake of sentimentality is one of the locations where “Roommate” was shot. Some may recognize it as the place where Na Hee-do’s “fight” scene in Twenty Five Twenty One was filmed (confirmed by Yonghoon in the “Roommate” MV Making Film).
Onewe’s latest ballad builds on this sentimentality through its drama OST sound. The soaring melody, the introduction of strings, and resonant chords especially contribute to this lasting feeling. “Roommate” leans into its movie quality through its lyrics, such as the mention of Onewe being the main characters in the drama of their artistic journey. Sometimes, the MV is a bit on the nose, like when Dongmyeong sings “looking back” and looks over his shoulder to find Yonghoon and his other three members running after him. However, this is a cute cliché when framed through Onewe’s nostalgia.
The title of the track is an apt one, as “roommate” is a way to describe Onewe, among friends, songwriters, and, maybe, family. The five’s closeness and shared memories are clear throughout the song and the MV. Yonghoon and Dongmyeong harmonize to a chilling effect, joining together to support each other with their own vocal colors. Later, the leader sings, “We have many memories together / I just hope they won’t be forgotten.” Despite the warm nostalgia woven throughout “Roommate,” Onewe still recognize the worries, the hard times, and the shadows that exist in every moment. As these lyrics show, there are often two sides to one coin, a push-and-pull between their innocent past selves and their more experienced present ones.
Visually, this is expressed in the staircase scene in the “Roommate” MV. The camera slowly zooms in while Yonghoon chases his younger members down the rusting metal stairs in slight slow motion. This action is relegated to the left-most third of the frame, the shadow of the staircase and their bodies cutting through the center at a diagonal angle. Although Onewe’s faces are mostly blurred out, their playful yet relaxed body language gives viewers all they need to know about the relationship between the five. Here, light and shadow co-exist as they grow as artists and learn more about themselves. Like Onewe sing in “Roommate”: “We will know when we grow up / We will miss the present when we grow up.”
In 2015, Yonghoon, Kanghyun, Harin, Dongmyeong, and CyA debuted as M.A.S 0094. A year later, they released “Starlight” and its MV. Now, after re-debuting and promoting as Onewe, the five included this 2016 single as the second track of Timeless. Similar to how “Roommate” reminisces about their journey, “Starlight (2022 ver.)” showcases Onewe’s growth as a band—just rewatching the original MV shows viewers how much time has passed—while keeping the core of this fan song.
Although comforting lyrics such as “It’s gonna be all right” and “The love you gave me / Is overflowing in my heart” remain the same, Onewe shaved a minute off of the track. An earlier key change also tightened “Starlight” to help it flow more effortlessly. Another adjustment reflective of the band’s growth is Kanghyun’s new guitar solo, which highlights the skill he has consistently honed over the years. As a result, Onewe reshaped “Starlight” into a song that recognizes their evolution since becoming a band and since becoming “Onewe.”
Timeless celebrates Onewe’s story by combining the old (or rather, the reimagined) and the new. The five look back on their time as M.A.S 0094 through “Starlight (2022 ver.)” and reminisce about their friendship through “Roommate.” Both tracks in Onewe’s new single album highlight the band’s timeless memories, reflecting on the fact that while time may march on, the five always have each other.
(YouTube. Lyrics via Lyrics Translate. Images via RBW Entertainment.)