all hail ONF!

If you would ask me what my favorite year in K-Pop is (assuming it’s something brought up in social events, deep conversations, or what have you, or hell, if that even makes any sense to you), I’d say it’s 2013.

Chile, that year hit different.

Lemme give you a quick rundown of the servitudes that occurred in 2013: Girls’ Generation shook the scene with the trailblazing I Got A Boy, f(x) sealed their legacy and influence with Pink Tape, Brown Eyed Girls dropped Black Box, T-ara had the timeless bop No. 9.

Most importantly, it was in 2013 when I discovered one of my all-time favorite K-Pop groups – 9Muses. Yes, the gorgeous, turbulent Muses themselves.

I was lucky to be stanning hard around that time because I do believe it was their peak as a group. First off, they’re at freaking nine members for once (if you backtrack their history, you’d understand). They had what I would say “modest” success for a group of their stature, and they kept churning out majestic comebacks almost every quarter (this I cannot stress even further). Each release was either as good or even better than the other. Good times, really.

I never thought I’d encounter a group with a year filled amazing releases like the Muses did in 2013 not until ONF started slaying my existence this year. Their most recent comeback, Goosebumps, sealed the deal for me – they are the second coming of the 2013 9Muses! This is an exclusive testimonial (lol) and I’m here to tell!

1. Four releases in a year – This is quite obvious but while we’re at it, I’d like to point out that this productivity puts a lot of bigger, more prominent groups to shame. Not just in number but in overall quality. Your faves need to keep up.

ONF started their year with the grandiose “Beautiful, Beautiful”. Any track with a dedicated acapella section really gets to OP idc (hello, Tempo!)

2. Sweetune Impact – A big part of the Muses’ iconic 2013 run was all thanks to Sweetune, their constant collaborator/producer. Now what link does it have with ONF? All of their tracks this year were crafted by the team from Monotree – which were once upon a time known to be producers under Sweetune.

What makes Sweetune so interesting and distinguishable from others is their own grasp of retro. A lot of K-Pop producers rely on this style (from JYP to Brave Bros to Brown Eyed Pilseung) but when it’s in their territory, it tends to take a more galactic, out-of-this world form – if that makes sense. A spin of Rainbow’s A or Infinite’s BTD could shine some light re: this (and those songs are required listening btw!).

Various astronomical studies have postulated that forms of life outside humanity have been bumpin’ and grindin’ to Rainbow’s Mach in alien discotheques lightyears away from Earth.

In Monotree’s case, they seem to have kept this core style while seamlessly mixing it to the trends in the recent K-Pop scene. I guess this is why they are more prominent than Sweetune now (they’re everywhere – from Red Velvet to the older, better Loona). They have done a spectacular job this year with ONF’s streak of newtro hits that are different yet similar from each other.

Serving a summer bop ala Monotree with Popping.

3. Ending on a high note – Well, all’s well doesn’t mean that everything will end well (so true in K-Pop, bestie!) and this is applicable to both groups in a way. For the Muses, that streak was followed by the exit of core (!!!) members (I still miss Lee Sem). For ONF, it’s not necessarily unfortunate because they will just be enlisting but the next two years in K-Pop will be dry without their musical offerings. At least both groups served a whole year of nothing but strong bops and like what the kids would say, when will your faves?

9Muses closed 2013 with this timeless classic. The lineup was right, the distribution was right, the song is all kinds of correct obvs, and while the budget was tight (Sera Ryu, 2021) – it didn’t look like it!
I wasn’t really expecting another ONF comeback after their enlistment news but here we are. It’s a perfect mix of Sweetune’s space oddity and Monotree’s modern approach. The male 9MUSES!!!!

Hmm, there’s nothing much about this post but to tell you of the perfection that ONF served this year. The lights were definitely on, no signs of flickering up until the end. Let me just wrap this up with my favorite out of their four amazing comebacks. All hail ONF!!!

Oh, and they aren’t just title track kings. Here’s are some amazing b-sides from K-Pop’s bright lights!

Featured image: Screengrab from ‘Beautiful, Beautiful‘ MV

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