Amongst the influx of idol groups these past few years, CSR’s summer debut felt like a breath of fresh air. With all seven members being born in 2005 and having the same Korean age, CSR are fully embracing the sweet and innocent image–a concept that has become increasingly rare in the K-pop scene as many girl groups are opting for more chic or edgy styles. The group’s name is an abbreviation of their Korean name “cheotsarang” which means first love. As this name suggests, CSR’s concept revolves around memories of first love.

Their debut “Pop? Pop!” conveyed the start of the girls’ first love and the excitement that comes along with it. In their latest single “Loveticon,” CSR continue the story of their first love by expressing the various emotions that come after the initial enthusiasm.

Though the girls’ pure sound and styling in their previous release were reminiscent of older girl groups like Lovelyz and GFriend, “Loveticon” takes a more modern approach with a trendy high teen aesthetic.

The MV follows the members around school as they have fun hanging out together and get cheery at the thought of their first love like protagonists in a teen film. Moreover, with CSR’s peppy performance in extremely bright and colorful sets, the MV is an intense burst of sugary energy. There are also some tasteful nostalgic touches such as the brief scrapbook edits and shaky camcorder-like footage that match well with the high teen theme.

What really makes the MV pop, though, is the abundance of CGI effects. The striking 3D emoticons are the most apparent and show the girls’ varying emotions. From heart-fluttering joy, trembling nervousness, and lighthearted irritation, the CSR members are puzzled by their mix of feelings toward their first love:

You’re not my type, but you keep coming to mind

Woah, ah, ayy

I think about you every night, it’s weird

Hey, you

Yet, despite their confusion, the girls confidently convey their love by sending out numerous loveticons throughout the video. As they text on their phones in delight, incorporate heart-shaped cloth badges in the choreography, and make bubbly gestures during their individual scenes, a variety of heart graphics surround the members as they express their feelings in clumsy but sincere ways.

Like the MV, the bubblegum teen pop tone of “Loveticon” seems like something out of a teen film with sunny electric guitar sounds and sparkling synths. The instrumental buildup during the verses and pre-chorus does a great job of getting listeners in high spirits before exploding like fireworks in the chorus.

That said, while it is nice that CSR have a cute concept since all the members are minors, there is a noticeable difference between cute and childish. In the case of “Loveticon,” the song leans a little too much into the childish category. The number is still a fun, enjoyable experience but certain elements such as the cheerleader-esque chants in the intro and chorus as well as the vocal lines overflowing with aegyo fail to do much to make the track any more appealing. Its hooks are quite lackluster, and there isn’t really a specific section that attracts attention despite the song being well-developed as a whole.

Considering “Pop? Pop!” had several refreshing elements that made the group’s debut feel unique, “Loveticon” is a bit disappointing as it veers away from the more lovely and graceful style that made CSR a particular standout in the industry.

In comparison, “Anding,” the sole B-side on Sequence: 17, utilizes the girls’ pretty and youthful voices in tandem with a graceful orchestral instrumental. The dreamy ballad evokes more similarities to their debut than “Loveticon” does and works nicely as the last track. Even though the song marks the ending of the single album, “Anding” also acts as a transitional piece to the next part of their first love story:

Anding, a story full of excitement

Let’s draw a new beginning together

In our memories, we have the same dream

Tonight is not the end, anding

The melody is tinged with wistfulness, but its lyrics end the single album on a sweet and hopeful note.

While Sequence: 17& may not have as much of an impact as their first album, it still garners anticipation for the next chapter of CSR’s story. First loves are diverse, and the ways to express those fluttering emotions are even more varied. With the girls bubbling with potential, it will be intriguing to see how CSR’s first love continues as 18-year-olds.

(Genius, YouTube. Images via Pop Music.)