WM Entertainment’s ONF made national news in late 2021 when they abruptly announced that the group would be enlisting together in December, an unprecedented move for a K-pop boy group. Months have passed since, with the group’s social media channels expectedly silent, except for Japanese member U’s individual schedules and some throwback videos. This August, marking the near midway mark of their enlistments, ONF pull yet another unprecedented move.
On the group’s fifth anniversary, they surprised their fans with the announcement of a comeback–a full album with physical versions, teaser photos, and an MV. South Koreans are not allowed to work while in the army, and this rule extends to celebrities as well. However, it was revealed that the group had prepared for this album alongside their packed year-end schedules, as they raced against time to make the most of their pre-enlistment hiatus. This all sounds impressive by itself, but when considering that ONF had churned out a total of five comebacks in a year with their first concert, fan meets, variety shows, and other schedules, it becomes clear that all stops were pulled to make this comeback happen.
This context is important when reviewing the MV for the title track, “Your Song”. Compared to ONF’s signature energetic title tracks, “Your Song” is an appropriately slower, vocal-oriented track, which makes sense as the song would not be promoted. Overall, the MV is quite a simple affair with no choreography. This particular product was clearly filmed in under a day, carried mostly by the ONF’s ever-reliable CG team. That being said, the MV is still gorgeously shot, but the main stars of the viewing experience are ONF’s voices and the song’s melody and lyrics.
The MV starts with Hyojin walking and mouthing a whistle, as the lyrics “whistle for me” play in the background. For the casual viewer, this piques their interest and teases a mysterious song. However, ONF’s fans will recognise this as a rather symbolic easter egg. The line is taken from a b-side of their last album before their enlistment–Goosebumps. Titled “Whistle”, the song sings about whistling as a secret form of communication only they understand, used to call out to the other when they miss each other dearly, and alluding to the present feelings of longing between fan and idol.
Opening with simple snaps as the main percussion line and synths that are reminiscent of the group’s debut song, “On/Off”, the verses start off with the distinct and rich vocals of Minkyun and Hyojin, before the song picks up its pace with a rap that quickly turns melodic. The song’s pre-choruses can be described as nothing short of ethereal, as the tune introduces choral-like backing vocals and an echoey quality to U’s voice all at once. Suddenly, listeners feel as if they are being softly lifted, and the addition of a shimmer-like reverb and synths further surprise listeners and intensifies the track’s magical quality.
The accompanying visuals match this part perfectly, as viewers are treated to a stunning shot of U on the top of a tall building. As the only member currently not in the army, the emotional significance of this shot contrastingly weighs down on viewers, all as the song’s melody soars to its chorus. As the members are revealed one by one, it becomes evident that U is the only member at the top of a building, while the others are seen on roads and on streets, as if still in transit to their final destination. ONF is finally seen together for the first time at the end of the chorus, and here they are seen at the top of a building, symbolising that the group has reached their final destination together as one.
CGI has became a large part of ONF’s MVs ever since Covid-19 prevented the group from travelling overseas to shoot their extravagant MVs like in their earlier work. This works well here considering the tight timeline to put together this MV, which predominantly consists of a city landscape. Moreover, the cityscape is a direct reference to the City of ONF’s MV universe, one that their team has faithfully stuck to throughout all of the group’s releases. The icy cool tones are reminiscent of last summer’s euphoric anthem, “Popping”, where a slightly sombre winter aesthetic and a tragic plot twist in the MV is jarringly accompanied by an otherwise cheery song. Details of a flying car and uniquely shaped skyscrapers are also symbols that feature in their previous videos. Despite the overall simplicity of the concept, a clear amount of effort was still put into the CGI, and it is sharp, polished, and detailed with a stunning selection of colours.
Composed in a major key, the track maintains a bright atmosphere consistently, even as it dips into its more emotional, slower verses. The fullness of the production and the forward positioning of the sound makes listeners feel like they have been warmly embraced. Simultaneously, different instruments and sound effects are seamlessly introduced throughout the song, adding freshness and excitement to the track. Main rapper and the group’s only baritone, Wyatt, also surprises in the track’s second verse, where he shows off his vocal chops for the first time in ONF’s title tracks. Though comparatively unpolished, his emotiveness and timbre make for a lovely vocal performance and ear-catching contrast to all the other higher voices in the group.
As the tune reaches its climax in the bridge, the song’s colour palette completely transforms from a blue, cool-toned one to a vibrant, warm-toned orange, which would remind viewers of the festive, celebratory ending of “Beautiful Beautiful”. What appears like metallic cubes are introduced to the video, but fans of their work would recognise these as pandora boxes that contain the memories of the ONF members. The ending of the song is seen as an emotionally charged one, as the members are surrounded by these memories, all as the song reaches its grand end. The members are then mysteriously erased from the scene, just like a glitch–an exciting prelude to what is to come for the group.
Tightly compact, the song fills up its three minute run time in satisfying fashion without feeling rushed or abrupt. By the end of it, the song feels like it has been fleshed out to its fullest, all without running out of tricks and outstaying its welcome, which many shorter songs of similar length fail to achieve. As with nearly every fan song, the lyrics speak of an earnest desire to be with and uplift a person that one loves. It is nothing revolutionary, but the lyrics are written with a similar flair and class of ONF tracks, courtesy of the group’s main producer Monotree Hwang Hyun once again. Furthermore, it manages to feel achingly sincere and uplifting.
Large amounts of detail and thought were obviously put into the making of this track and the final product is one that is grand, nostalgic, and rousing. While it is unlikely to be this summer’s most memorable comeback to the average K-pop listener, it doesn’t try to be, and it may even be unfair to compare it to an average release. “Your Somg” is a standalone piece of work that serves primarily as a gift of appreciation to their fans. For everyone else, it is an enjoyable and healing summer song, and a reminder of just how exactly boy groups should approach their military hiatus–with grace and unity, all while keeping the fans and the music at the forefront.
Along with the MV, ONF has released a mini album of love entitled “Storage of ONF”, with five new high-quality tracks that see the group experimenting with new sounds that are sure to delight any music enthusiast. In addition, there are five re-recorded and remastered versions of songs from their debut days. With “Your Song”, ONF loudly declare that their gratitude and love for their fans are more than just obligatory lip service; they’ve put it into action. Fan or not, it’s hard not to be convinced.