OnlyOneOf is known as an “art pop” group, known for pushing boundaries, especially with overt sexuality with songs like “libidO”, and for bringing greater queer representation to K-pop. Meanwhile, the group, whose members contribute to songwriting, has also established a distinct sound, consisting of sensual R&B, with industrial influences in songs like “skinz” and experimental production throughout their discography.

Their latest album Things I Can’t Say LOve aims for consistency with their past work. For instance, the video description on title track “dOpamine” declares that the group expresses in their music “lovers who feel their love isn’t blessed, feelings that had to be hidden and concealed.” Meanwhile, Yoojung’s “begin,” the first song from the group’s series of solo songs called undergrOund idOl, was dedicated to “all those lovers that couldn’t be blessed.” 

This comeback appears less boldly ambitious in its concept. While “begin” and the other music videos in the undergrOund idOl project portray queer love stories, “dOpamine” does not directly depict the “lovers that couldn’t be blessed.” Instead, its MV resembles a performance video (albeit with the members dancing shirtless as though out of a Calvin Klein ad). “dOpamine”, and the album as a whole, focus on rendering feelings through music. 

OnlyOneOf often combines their signature sound with elements of trendy genres, and in line with this tradition, “dOpamine” incorporates drum and bass. KB sings in the first verse, “My neurons wake up,” and the song replicates this feeling, with the rapid percussive elements recalling a racing heartbeat. Similarly, the tempo quickens considerably between the pre-chorus and chorus, reflecting the euphoria that comes from a rush of dopamine. The song’s hook is in itself upbeat and catchy, with call-and-response background vocals that engage listeners. Ensnaring us with its charms, “dOpamine” replicates the experience of the excitement from an infatuation turning into an addiction.  

Before the bridge, the song switches up, with distorted synths emphasizing these dangers on the mind. “Can’t live without you, you’re the only one, one” Mill spits out in his deep voice. As with any addiction, however, mere acknowledgment does not necessarily lead to change. At the end of the bridge, Junji sings in a soaring vocal, “So crazy, woah,” and the chorus of “you’re my dopamine” surges as intensely as ever. 

“Give me the lOve, bitxx,” on the other hand, seems like a bit of a misstep with the text painting that is powerful elsewhere on the album. The aggressive tone of the title does not match the silky R&B style or the members’ soft and airy vocals. Lyrically, the song depicts a conflicted person who warns his partner, “Don’t make me pull the trigger,” and does what he can to push the other person away. Nine’s lines in the bridge, however, uncover the speaker’s underlying fears: 

You know what? Actually, I’m
Afraid you will leave, that’s why
Give me a chance to kill my doubt

Nine’s admission ends the bridge, but does not necessarily lead to either a sonic or lyrical shift. The song, which feels smooth and laid-back throughout its runtime, could have more effectively illustrated the perspective of the speaker through vocals and instrumentals.  

Meanwhile, “O” provides some of the darker emotion and drama that feels lacking in “give me the lOve bitxx.” The song “O” depicts a speaker who has undergone heartbreak and experiences loneliness that feels interminable. The instrumentation reverberates in a way that suggests the preoccupations of the speaker, pausing momentarily until Rie sings the first line in the chorus, “Loop, a repeating infinity.” At times during this pause, though, a trailing vocal echo carries over – the negative thoughts that the speaker has towards himself continue in a seemingly endless loop. With the members’ layered vocals, the chorus repeats “stuck in a time loop, time loop, inside of it.” Like the title track, “O” involves thoughtful production choices that reinforce the song’s meaning. 

Things I Can’t Say LOve depicts several forms of cycles and circles, with even its logo reflecting the infinite loop described in “O.” The final track “gravity,” written by Nine, is a smooth, dreamy R&B song that portrays a speaker who is drawn to a love interest: 

I go to you before I know it (To you)
No need to say it (Ah)
I’ll probably keep getting attracted to you again and again (Again and again) 

Lyrically and thematically, the song circles back to the magnetic attraction between two people touched upon in “dOpamine.” Musically, the atmospheric instrumentals of “gravity” easily loop back to the instrumental intro “things i can’t say lOve.” The cyclical nature of the album suggests that one could continually take the journey depicted in it: growing addicted to someone, questioning and separating from the relationship, and then finding oneself pulled back to love again. 

Things I Can’t Say LOve is a cohesive album that reflects OnlyOneOf’s main interests as a group. In another full circle, it also harkens back to the R&B style from the group’s early albums like Dot Point Jump, with “O” even alluding to OnlyOneOf’s debut single “savanna.” The album may not stand out enough to make an impact beyond the fandom, but for those who know (or want to know) OnlyOneOf, it is a nuanced, satisfying listen. 

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius [1][2][3][4]. Images via 8D Entertainment.)