After taking their first steps into the K-pop scene last summer, ZeroBaseOne (ZB1) have returned with a new wintry EP accompanied by a slight change in concept. While Youth in the Shade showcased the boys’ youth, finding beauty even in their imperfections, the members display more confidence in Melting Point. Their uncertainties are made less apparent as the group compares pure ice melting at 0°C to their desire to melt listeners’ hearts with their pure passion and ambition.
This idea is conveyed in various ways on the album. From cheerful pop melodies to stronger and heavier tunes, Melting Point showcases ZeroBaseOne’s versatility without straying too far from their previous image.
Lead single “Crush” is by far the most dissimilar track on the record. It is not a 180° change for the members as faint elements from Youth in the Shade are still distinguishable, but the song takes the group’s sound in a remarkably different direction.
“Crush” starts off in a familiar plane, continuing the synth-pop and drum and bass sound of “In Bloom” with the addition of Jersey club influences. Even though the mix here produces a darker soundscape, the atmosphere retains the smooth and dreamy vibes of the group’s debut as the quick rhythm keeps the anticipation high.
Having said that, all of it falls apart as soon as we reach the chorus. Rather than continue the track’s momentum and take the tune to new heights, listeners are presented with a disorderly percussive segment coinciding with loud and grating shouts. The song quickly mends itself with a melodic and less abrasive post-chorus, but even then, the lines feel quite weak and uninspired.
This drastic turn can be viewed as an expression of the number’s lyrical message in which the boys become protectors (rose thorns) for their loved ones even if they get crushed and torn apart:
Crush me, even if I break, I’ll protect you
Crush me, even if I fall apart, I’ll hold out
Crush me, for you, oh oh oh
Even if it hurts more, I’ll go to you, crush
However, musically, this portion is extremely jarring and does not connect to the rest of the track in any significant way. Had the chorus actually matched the tone of the song and perhaps emulated a closer arrangement to the final post-chorus and outro, “Crush” could have been a very striking addition to their discography. Instead, while it does have a few enjoyable moments, the number as a whole is not as engaging or refreshing as their debut single.
In contrast, the B-sides on Melting Point are a lot more intriguing and build on the group’s bright yet hazy sound that they established in their first release. “Melting Point” and “Take My Hand,” the two opening tracks on the EP, both carry a fast rhythm like “Crush” but branch out in different directions, with the former being a euphoric Jersey club number.
Embracing the members’ sweet voices and soft lyrics, “Melting Point” feels like ZeroBaseOne’s version of a Christmas carol. The hooks and harmonies in the chorus are addictive, and the brisk Jersey club rhythm helps convey the ticklish feelings of love much like a fluttering heart or blushing cheeks.
The lyrics are also very endearing, fostering a warm and fuzzy mood as the boys sing about their frozen hearts melting from love:
Why do I like you so much?
When I’m just looking at you, my heart is a roller coaster
I break down again and again
Even if I melt down and become small in front of you, feeling alright
With this, the tune is a cute and wistful take on the group’s dreamlike sound.
“Take My Hand” follows this dreamlike path as well, but does so in a more mysterious way, combining drum and bass with 2-step garage to form a strange, illusory air. The leading synths in the intro intrigue listeners right away, and their inclusion in the chorus is a nice touch that makes the section feel a bit drowsy and peculiar. Furthermore, the swift instrumental coupled with the more sluggish vocal melody provides a compelling contrast that helps enhance the song’s fantastical ambience and whimsical lyrics, inviting listeners to hold hands and enter a new, undiscovered world.
The last two numbers, “Kidz Zone” and “Good Night,” vaguely continue this soundscape but have a warmer atmosphere with the energy levels notably toned down.
“Kidz Zone” is a refreshing pop rock tune whose vibrance and carefree spirit is somewhat reminiscent of “New Kidz on the Block” from Youth in the Shade. The funky bass and lighthearted guitars are a lot of fun, but it’s the vocal layering for the choir-like chorus that really makes it shine.
With only two and a half minutes however, “Kidz Zone” doesn’t have enough room to expand beyond its initial idea. This feels a bit like a wasted opportunity as the melodies offer several chances for further exploration. Still, at this time, the track is quite different from the rest of the group’s discography and stands out amongst their growing catalog.
Closing the record is the ballad-style contemporary R&B number “Good Night.” If “Melting Point” was ZeroBaseOne’s Christmas carol, then “Good Night” is the group’s Christmas lullaby where the boys wish listeners a night of peace and comfort.
Similar to the sampling in “In Bloom,” the gentle “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” melody is utilized well here without ever being gimmicky. Moreover, the strings and piano in the instrumental give the song a playful touch that complements the heartfelt vocals. It’s a soothing tune that’s perfect to close out a tiring day, and a cozy way to wrap up this wintry album.
Overall, Melting Point is a pleasant follow-up to the group’s debut EP, appearing more fleshed out and specific to them. “Crush” is the most polarizing song, but the other four tracks do an effective job at diversifying their style while still preserving the group’s prior identity. Their inclination toward dreamy synth-pop and drum and bass influences is distinctive, and helps lay a firmer foundation for ZeroBaseOne to form a unique musical color of their own.