ENHYPEN Comeback Review

ENHYPEN always grab me with their music, but never with themselves as a group. I wouldn't say I 'stan' ENHYPEN, nor that they're one of my favourite groups, and yet I listen to all their albums religiously as soon as they're dropped. Maybe if I'd watched their survival show I would be more attached to the members themselves, but I shouldn't have to necessarily force myself to be into a group. It's a failing of HYBE's marketing, I think - something is amiss in terms of identity. They may be on track to fixing this, though.

ENHYPEN has always had a borderline vampiric concept, but they've never leaned so far into the traditional gothic expression of that as they have in DARK BLOOD. Given-Taken got the closest, but even then it was more of an American horror movie creepy concept rather than specifically giving Bram Stoker's Dracula. Again in Drunk-Dazed, they're vampire-adjacent, frat boy vamps who feed on blood with a high alcohol content. Tamed-Dashed has no trace, Blessed-Cursed is a repackage, Future Perfect looks like a 2019 BTS MV. It's been a while since we've had creepy, let alone vampire. Maybe the debut of &TEAM (under HYBE) with a clear werewolf concept has encouraged them to play it back up a little.

Just a disclaimer, before we move on: the lack of vampire is NOT what makes them 'meh' to me, it's what follows. I happen to love the vampire concept; I also think where ENHYPEN's members shine is in hip-hop-R&B fusion, and not actually Halloween music.

In terms of success, late 4th gen groups tend to market one of two things: their members, or their concept (this is the thesis of a larger article that I'm releasing soon - WIP title NewJeans vs LE SSERAFIM). An example of a group that markets their members individually rather than their concept would be LE SSERAFIM, and the inverse, marketing concept over members, is NewJeans. ENHYPEN is a group that would benefit greatly from individualising their members. A 7-member group is not exactly small by mainstream 4th gen standards - groups nowadays tend to be smaller so that they are more palatable for mainstream Western audiences, who can't tell the difference between Asian people. It's also not large enough that the member approach is an absolutely dire need, so I see why they went with concept - they do have something cool with the whole vampire thing. The problem is that I, a casual listener, know absolutely nothing about the members themselves. I'm sure they have personality traits, cool skills, weird tidbits. None of that has made it past the filter of casual listenership and into the media surrounding ENHYPEN. No-one is talking about the members themselves, and this ends up alienating people from wanting to know more about them.

In terms of other groups' execution of this marketing, LE SSERAFIM is the most on-the-nose example. After Garam left, they've been heavily marketing the skills of the members themselves, to the point where you've probably heard this coming sentence paraphrased and repeated across the internet in different forms: "LE SSERAFIM has two IZ*ONE members, an opera singer, a ballerina, and an Eunchae." Successful marketing. BTS is also a group from HYBE that has 7 members, like enha - they used to prioritize concept, but as they became more well-known they ended up developing almost individual concepts for their members. They stereotype them. RM is the leader, Jin is worldwide handsome, Suga is a bitch, J-Hope is the silly one, Jimin is the sexy one, V is a weirdo, Jungkook is like the Harry Styles of K-pop. And it works. People who want to get into BTS, who only have a surface level knowledge of what they are and have listened to a few of their songs can instantly find out about their personalities and their dynamic as a group.

This BTS approach, in my opinion, would be best for ENHYPEN. Not having a big enough incentive to learn who the members are is the biggest barrier for me. What if I do all the research, and they end up just... being really boring people? I'm sure they're not. I'm not a hater. But it seems like membership to the fandom of Engenes itself is a driving factor for many people to stan ENHYPEN - Engenes are funny, and the way they promote themselves is almost like a secret club. So rather than incentive coming from the group itself, it's coming from the fans. Seems to work well enough for most people - not well enough for me to justify really trying to get into them just yet.

I don't have much else to say in terms of an overview, so I'll jump straight to an individual track review.

As a result of the mixing, the song sounds very good through headphones and not so much through speakers. The high siren-esque ‘woo’ in the fate part gets lost in mono audio. As an intro, it functions well - the organ sounds and choir chants introduce the Halloween music well so that the title track isn’t a complete slap in the face. ENHYPEN love this harp sound - as they should. It fucks supremely.

Bite Me
Actually SO funky. ENHYPEN is one of few kpop groups who actually have a sound that they stick to. This song is a really good blend of some of their funk stuff and the spooky music way back in their debut. The bass in the verses is so funky! Only word I have. I think the ‘oh my oh my god’ is a victim of poor English lyricism - the rhythm switch-up itself is already jarring and altogether it seems a bit… silly. This may have been the right move with a vampire concept though, because there’s only so much spooky music you can make with a straight face. Like imagine if they tried to use those chords seriously. Without even a little silly at all. Anyway the melody (NOT the OMG part) in the prechorus saves it! I’m like 90% sure that the arpeggiating, hollow-sounding sample they use in the chorus is in a Stray Kids song - Charmer or Venom?? I’ll have to check. [I checked - it's in Venom! The sample at the very start of the song.] Anyway, it works very well - sounds spidery. THIS is how you do an ‘anti-drop’ - there has to be a true drop (in my opinion), and it’s so, so good if they complement each other like they do in this song (same syncopation). There are other ways to do it but this has got to be one of my favourites.

Sacrifice (Eat Me Up)
Another classic ENHYPEN beat, bouncy, almost tropical. But make it depressed! Also I have to say the half-steps in melody and chord progressions are very gothic. They know what they’re doing. I do feel like the pre chorus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the song - it’s oddly dramatic, and so it feels like the verses didn’t build up enough to it, and that the chill chorus is a bit of a letdown. I think maybe (maybe) they would have been better off keeping the chorus beat in the pre chorus. Also, this line: "내 아내 남긴 star, 운명에 번진 darkness", is a very enha melody. Same note for most of it, then a third up. Classic. The bridge is nothing special. Altogether I think people are hyping this song up way too much based on their previous conception of enha songs that sound like this - it’s just a mediocre version of those.

CHACONNE THESE NUTS!! I think that was the wrong choice of melody for the start of the chorus (the flat notes and then the third); it doesn’t fully utilise the chord progression. I get that it’s one of their signature melodies or whatever, but no. But the second is really nice. I also think the post chorus ‘whoa’s are just so slightly off tonally - again, not technically wrong, but i’m sure there were better choices. With this chord progression and build-up, I just want that chorus to explode into something soaring and broad in terms of range (like the bridge), so the all-one-note top line seems really bland. In the last chorus it would have been so cool if they incorporated the bridge melody in on top of the all-one-note topline. Instrumental-wise it’s great, makes me upset that the topline isn’t quite there.

Best song on the album. In my opinion this is what they do best - fuckboy music! Sounds like a Chase Atlantic song, but the instrumental is almost shoegaze-y. What’s interesting is this song has the same all-one-note topline as Chaconne, even more so as it’s carried through the verses as well, but it works here because (and I’m not actually gonna check this but I have a hunch that) the repeated note is one of the base triad of each chord in the progression that it’s held over. I could be wrong. Maybe I should fact check this [I fact checked it: although it’s true the melody is part of the triad for the chord it’s in, the chords actually don’t change while they’re repeating the same note in the chorus at least. Not that you can’t change chords when you hold the same note, that would be stupid. Whatever]. Ni-ki’s deep voice is so nice.

Just a pop rock song? Right? No. WHAT IS THIS MODULATION. WHY DOES IT GO MAJOR. WHAT. This is not the cool experimental thing they thought it was. It has two problems:

1. It doesn’t fit in the genre. This wouldn’t be a problem if #2 didn’t exist.
2. It sounds fucking terrible. THE SONG WAS GOOD WITHOUT IT.

The melody of the major parts is complete pus, as well as being a bit tonally off again. It’s not clashing in a cool way. It clashes in a bad way. Begging enha producers to learn the difference.

1. Bills
2. Bite Me
3. Sacrifice (Eat Me Up)
4. Fate
5. Chaconne
6. Karma

Overall: very strong as a concept album. I think it’s very cohesive. Although I love that they have such a consistent style, I think they’re pushing it here with the self-plagiarism, reusing the same melodies and drum patterns et cetera - they’re teetering on the edge of making a boring song.