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ODD EYE CIRCLE's 'Version Up': EP Review
With doubts over a possible return, the renowned K-pop trio are back and better than ever.
Unfamiliar with the K-Pop industry, some might overlook the significance of ODD EYE CIRCLE's return. However, for long-time fans of the genre, this comeback is both unexpected and highly anticipated. ODD EYE CIRCLE is a well-known Korean trio, recognized as a sub-unit of the former 12-member group, LOONA. They achieved immense success, captivating fans worldwide with their various EPs.
Unfortunately, troubles surfaced when fans expressed concerns about the treatment of group members by their company, Blockberry Creative. In response, loyal fans known as Orbits, vowed to boycott the group's next album to avoid supporting the company financially.
The group faced a myriad of issues during a gruelling world tour across North America and Europe, which eventually ended in Seoul. The members appeared to be overworked, leading to 6 out of the 12 missing shows at different points of the tour, with 1, Chuu, not performing at all. One particularly dark moment was when member Haseul performed whilst wearing an arm sling due to a deteriorating shoulder injury. This was allegedly due to financial issues that Blockberry was facing, meaning that members had to grin and bear poor treatment, to make up for the company’s losses.
Recently, all 12 members successfully parted ways with the company after going through various lawsuits. Now, 5 out of the 12 members have decided to sign with a new label, MODHAUS, which is owned by their former creative director, Jaden Jeong. Among these 5 members are three who used to work together in the sub-unit ODD EYE CIRCLE.
Within the K-Pop industry, the trio is renowned for creating catchy pop hits and stands as one of the most famous subunits of LOONA. Comprising Jinsoul, Choerry, and Kim Lip, these South Korean singers bring their distinct styles and talents to their collaborative project. Thus, the recent announcement and release of their new EP ‘Version Up’ came as a pleasant surprise to many fans, who were unsure whether the group would ever reunite.
The EP itself consists of six tracks, each with a varied and unique sound, proving that ODD EYE CIRCLE still has the ability to stand out which earned them their fanbase.
The opening track of the EP titled 'Did You Wait?' serves as a captivating instrumental piece that continues the atmospheric style established in their previous EP. It creates a compelling ambiance, effectively setting the stage for the subsequent tracks. This emotionally charged piece weaves together snippets of their past hits, seamlessly flowing into the following track, 'Air Force One.'
'Air Force One' takes centre stage as the EP's main single, and it's not difficult to understand why. This infectious and high-energy Jersey club hit is sure to thrill and delight their fans. The song skilfully blends moments of powerful vocals with a fast-paced, catchy melody. While some may perceive the refrain as generic, the track's experimental production and diverse elements help maintain the unique essence that ODD EYE CIRCLE is renowned for in the industry.
Moving on to the next track, 'Je Ne Sais Quoi,' the tone takes a sharp turn, providing a welcomed breather midway through the album. The title of the song, a French expression for 'an indefinable, elusive quality, especially a pleasing one,' perfectly encapsulates the song's vibe. It exudes a relaxing yet captivating aura, skilfully combining elements of R&B and pop to create a compelling sound. The song is intended to be seductive and sensual, and the lyrical content reflects this, describing a passionate love that takes the subject by surprise. The trio’s voices are at their best in this song, beautifully harmonising to create an elegant and smooth tone.
Lucid, the fourth track on the album, continues with the slower tempo, offering a dream-pop style sound that sets a different mood from 'Air Force One.' The intentional minimalistic approach provides a pleasant contrast, but some listeners may find the song repetitive. While the simple production is deliberate, a touch of experimentation could have added more depth. Despite this, the song remains enjoyable, especially due to its well-crafted lyrics that artfully portray a hazy, dream-like realm where two lovers find themselves intertwined.
Following Lucid is the delightful gem called 'Love Me Like,' which stands out on the album. It evokes nostalgia reminiscent of the revered 80s Japanese city pop genre, which has gained a cult following. The track incorporates a groovy disco element in its production, injecting a lively energy after the previous two tracks. It's undoubtedly a night-time song, perfectly suited for cruising through a city adorned with neon lights. The vocals shine brilliantly in this track, allowing the trio to showcase their soulful register and leaving a lasting impression on listeners.
The final track, 'My Secret Playlist,' brings a delightful and exciting conclusion to the album. It revolves around the theme of forging a personal and intimate musical collection shared between two people, cleverly interweaving the trio's favourite songs into the lyrics, such as 'High and Dry' by Radiohead and 'Paris in the Rain' by Lauv. The track exudes a light-hearted and carefree vibe, making it a fun addition that doesn't take itself too seriously.
One of the most remarkable moments on the album occurs unexpectedly in this particular song. It takes a surprising and delightful slow-jazzy twist, crafting a stunning vocal display that brings a delightful balance to the entire composition. This unforeseen section truly highlights the trio's immense versatility and artistic talent, leaving the audience thoroughly satisfied with a track that truly stands out from the rest, living up to the trio's reputation for unpredictability.
Overall, the EP presents a diverse array of songs that convincingly demonstrate that ODD EYE CIRCLE has retained the spark that initially earned them admiration. There's a distinct sentimental element to this comeback since, for a time, uncertainty surrounded the group's return and the extent of Blockberry Creative's influence over its members. The EP may have some experimental moments, but the trio plays it safe on many of the tracks.
This approach seems to work in their favour, especially as they begin to gain popularity and a bigger budget under their new company. Sticking to a more conventional K-Pop sound could prove beneficial in the long run, allowing them to take more risks in the future. There is nothing wrong, with the catchy, formulaic moments on the EP; after all, it sells records and resonates with fans.
I’m excited to see what ODD EYE CIRCLE does next, with their comeback EP released and under their belt, the trio has proven that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the K-Pop scene. Their ability to maintain their distinct spark while adapting to new challenges bodes well for their future endeavours. As they continue to grow in popularity and explore their potential with their newfound freedom, fans can anticipate even greater achievements and music from this talented group.
What has stood out the most are the amazing performances that have accompanied the promotion of this EP. It is both heart-warming and relieving to see this trio fully enjoying themselves on the stage, which stands in stark contrast to the disastrous world tour they had to endure as a 12-member group. This time around, they are performing with a genuine love for their craft, and it shines through with their passion and energy; something that had been somewhat diminished before.