Some consider this to be the greatest and most beautiful years of life. But for others, it can be the most tragic and painful time.

With two vastly different sides, CIX explore both in the latest and final chapter of the series OK Episode 2: I’m OK.

As they continue the story that started in 2021, the group also brings the 2019 narrative from their second EP Hello Chapter 2: Hello, Strange Place back to light. “Numb” mourned their lost days of youthful innocence while new single “Save Me, Kill Me” yearns for a love that can bring them out from the darkness. This storytelling aspect applies to the B-sides as well and helps strengthen the record despite its overall downcast energy.

Musically speaking, the entire EP is mellow, and feels very much like an autumn or winter album. It could appear as a weakness, to be slightly out of place amongst the bright and energetic summer releases, but CIX’s tenacity to carry on with their more muted musical tone is impressive. Seeing a fourth generation idol group come out with a sentimental mid-tempo tune as a title track also feels like a rare occurrence in the current K-pop scene.

“Save Me, Kill Me” does have its high points though. Its future bass instrumental never reaches the dramatic heights it could have — but what it lacks in power and dynamics, it makes up for with an overwhelming sense of emotion brought forth by the vocals.

The melody is pretty but subdued for the majority of the song. Even when the chorus drops, there aren’t as many sweeping flourishes as one would expect. However, the members’ airy voices help give their singing a soft and fragile touch. Pairing this with the poetic lyrics, the chorus ends up leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouth as the boys convey their desperation and vulnerability:

Just save my love or kill this heart
I hope that my beating heart for you
Will be cut into pieces
You’re my curse and dazzling trap
Only a different pain
Could heal this pain

At a glance, the track can easily pass off a plain and sappy love tune. But for those who can connect with the anguish voiced in the lyrics, the song cuts deep and has the strength to really pull at your heartstrings.

Continuing this low-spirited mood, “Back to Life” also expresses a wistful desire to travel back in time to our younger and happier days:

I followed the first car and left home alone
A transient flower, that place is you
Even the hot summer doesn’t feel warm
Even the cold winter doesn’t feel cool
I followed the first car and left home alone
It’s one in a million, that’ll bring me back to home

The opening piano notes immediately set the tone, and the addition of the wispy vocals help create a lonesome atmosphere. And similar to “Save Me, Kill Me,” the ballad stays mellow for the most part. Other inclusions, like the guitar and orchestral strings, raise the emotional highs a little but still feel gentle overall. There’s more focus on immersing listeners in the song’s emotive words than being musically innovative.

While the aforementioned tracks start off the album with a disheartened mood, the last two numbers offer a more positive perspective on youth.

If “Save Me, Kill Me” is an expression of longing to find a ray of light amidst the dark, then “Curtain Call” is an assurance for listeners that light will come to us eventually:

Beautiful curtain call, only once in a lifetime
Our hearts are filled with radiance in this tragedy of youth
Wait for the curtain call, the moment when the light pours down
Only then will I smile brightly, our beautiful curtain call, curtain call

Though the tune starts off with a calming acoustic guitar and a delicate melody that sounds like the beginning of another ballad, the addition of piano and strings gives the song a more pop R&B vibe instead. The snaps and whistles during the chorus were also tasteful touches that help paint a laid-back, campfire-like scene.

Closing the EP is pop-rock track “Color.” As the most vibrant song on the record, it also contains the most hopeful and optimistic message. With lyrics like “Look for your color, now is the time” and “Try to dye this pure white world,” the boys encourage listeners to find and follow their own individual path after the end of their wandering.

The guitar and percussion are lively and bring a lot of energy, but the slightly melancholic melodies make it so the tune sits nicely next to the other B-sides. It’s the perfect ending for the album and OK series as a whole.

All things considered, OK Episode 2: I’m OK is a pleasant listen. Although it’s not exciting, grandiose, or very befitting of the bubbly summer season, the album does have a lot of heart and sincerity put into it. And those are qualities that seem to be becoming rarer and rarer these days. CIX’s musical direction has been quite the ride to follow so far, and it’ll be intriguing to see what the group releases next as they begin a new chapter in their story.

(YouTube [1][2]. Lyrics via Genius [1][2][3]. Images via C9 Entertainment.)