Debuting back in March, Tempest first stepped into the K-pop scene with their mini album It’s Me, It’s We hoping to take the industry by storm as their group name suggests. And storm they did with three EPs already under their belt along with two rookie of the year awards. Despite being active for only nine months, the group has quickly developed a strong musical color as they utilize groovy and melodic lines to create a fun, bright sound.

With the septet receiving much love for their lighthearted performances, the direction for their latest record On and On is quite puzzling to say the least. Setting aside the playful elements that were prominent in their past singles, Tempest do a near 180° change and opt for a darker tone in “Dragon (飛上).” Regrettably, the song offers little to intrigue seasoned K-pop listeners and follows a typical formula for angsty boy group releases.

Expressing their desire to constantly aim higher and avoid being content with the present, the group compares their ambitions to a dauntless dragon that soars high in the sky:

Dragon fly, fly high

Drive the momentum and fly high

Uh, raging heat

Brеathing up to the tip of the chin

(Oh) Dragon fly, fly high

I do evеrything my way, fearless type

Uh, shake the world

Follow me and flip the boring mood

The Chinese characters 飛上 in the song title also translate to ‘fly up’ and help to reinforce their aspirations.

Musically, this hybrid trap number combines a plethora of intense trap beats with various electronic sounds. Right from the start, the tune greets us with a gritty instrumental hook that evolves into a disoriented mess of noise during the chorus. This in tandem with the members’ aggressive shouts feels incredibly harsh and grating to the ear, making for a very unpleasant listen. Though, the number is somewhat redeemed by the gorgeous pre-choruses and bridge where the most abrasive pieces of the instrumental are out of the picture, allowing the vocals to shine brilliantly. The rap lines delivered by Hwarang and Lew during the verses are also a nice, effective showcase of their skills. But even then, the forceful chorus sits as the centerpiece of the track, and its spirit is felt throughout the melody which makes it difficult to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the song.

“Dragon” is carried mostly by the boys’ charisma and performance than the actual contents of the song. They execute the track well, but there’s still only so much that can be done while following a generic structure. And while it’s great to see their versatility, this extreme image transformation feels really sudden and inorganic.

What’s even stranger about the lead single is that it does not reflect any of the other tracks on the album. All of the B-sides sit nicely beside their past two EPs, embodying the youthful concept that Tempest have become known for. “Dragon” sticks out like a sore thumb not only in the album, but their entire discography thus far.

Perhaps this decision is an indication that Yuehua Entertainment was hesitant on the boys completely leaving their bubbly past behind. Even though they make the album incohesive, the cheery B-sides feel like Yuehua’s way of appeasing pop sound lovers that enjoyed Tempest’s previous releases. With that perspective, “Taste The Feeling” seems like a fitting tune for those having trouble connecting with “Dragon.”

This sunny pop disco number makes good use of the bright elements that we’ve come to expect from Tempest with a funky melody and an addictive, vocal-centric chorus. The claps, strings, groovy guitar, and energetic brass all work to create a cheerful party-like mood. While the tune isn’t vibrant enough to be an appropriate title track and probably wouldn’t sound out of place in a Pepsi commercial, “Taste The Feeling” still effectively captures the group’s boyish charms that they showed in “Bad News” and “Can’t Stop Shining.”

Dance-pop tune “Loving Number” is also a welcome addition to the album as the members convey the fluttering feeling of falling in love. The boys are quite witty with their words, confessing their love with a secret code that only they and their beloved know:

One, two, three, new, yeah

Four, five, six, count, yeah

You always tell me every day, every day, every day

It’s like a dream, you, you, you

One, four, three, yeah

Two, three, you tell me, yeah

Our own sense, loving number

No one knows (Yah)

The combination of relaxed synths and tasteful percussion produces a lovely tone with a warm, laid-back energy. There are a lot of shouts during the chorus but different than in “Dragon,” the shouts here are gentler and laced with sweet, honey-like vocals.

Last but certainly not least is synth-pop track “Raise Me Up.” If Yuehua had wanted Tempest to make a comeback with another youthful release instead of “Dragon,” “Raise Me Up” would have been great as a lead single. The retro melody is very lively and energetic, but the soothing vocal lines also add a slight gentleness to the ambience. Hyuk’s high note in the bridge and ad-libs during the final chorus are especially stunning and help end the album on a memorable note.

As a whole, On and On would be another solid, cohesive record for Tempest if only its title track was left out. The members have a lot of potential and it’s easy to see their desire to grow musically. That said, “Dragon” doesn’t seem like the most suitable song for the boys to explore their musical identity with.

Surely there are other, more coherent ways to express a powerful image rather than walking along the same overbeaten path that many have already taken, right?

Nevertheless, Tempest’s next move is sure to be one to look out for. Will they continue with a darker tone or return to their playful roots? Or perhaps they’ll surprise listeners again with another concept change? Hopefully whatever it is, Tempest’s unique charms and charisma will shine through.

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius [1][2]. Images via Yuehua Entertainment.)