It’s been a year since SF9 made an actual comeback. Though the act seemed quite absent in the K-Pop scene for a brief time, the members were branching out by establishing themselves in different fields notably small screen gigs, musicals, modelling.
Their latest album, ‘Turn Over’ is their first release after the members’ contract renewals with their label, FNC Entertainment and their participation in Mnet’s show, KINGDOM: Legendary War. The nonet drew a wide range of audiences with artistic performances that captured emotions and narrated tales. With much anticipation, the group made their comeback on the anniversary of their last release ‘Summer Breeze’ 9loryUS and left fans in awe.
The 9th mini-album, ‘Turn Over’ includes 6 individual tracks along with the single ‘Tear Drop’ and pre-released track ‘|Believer|’ that was performed during the final stage of KINGDOM. Though it’s been a month since the release, the mini-album is still stuck in our playlist on repeat and after the impression it left on us, well, we had to review it!
If fans were anticipating a fast number after following their recent releases as ‘Summer Breeze’ and ‘|Believer|’, they would probably be surprised by the tranquil sound of ‘Tear Drop’. Yet, the deep house genre isn’t any stranger to the group and fans after the release of one of their successful singles, ‘Now or Never’. The title track begins with tingling music notes as if we have opened a music box and gently unfolds with Jaeyoon and Dawon’s mellow verses. The marimba sound is distinctly found in all the verses and halts every time the synth-heavy chorus drops. The very title of the song hinted at a bewailing track and so it is as the members mourn over a lost relationship. The pre-chorus led by Inseong and Taeyang continues with a melodious tone and kindles listeners with emotions. Following Taeyang’s lines, “Pretending I’m ok, pretending I’m cool/ Acting like it’s fake/ But you and I, we say Goodbye”, the song drops for a pop-influenced instrumental chorus. The repetitive chorus uses much of Onomatopoeia words like “Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh/ Tear Drop” and “Drip Drip Drip, your falling tears/ They blind me, Tear Drop” which makes the part catchy and easy to sing along. Chani being a rapper, showcased his skills as a vocalist by taking part in the chorus.
Youngbin starts off the second verse with his breathy lines that not only perfectly blends with Taeyang’s soft vocals but intrigues the listeners. The verse continues with the members’ mellow verses continuing the same pattern and opening up for the finale. “I’ll write it all over again/ Hoping for a happy ending/ With my heart’s desire, Yeah yeah/ I will be waiting here,” sings Jaeyoon and Rowoon in the second pre-chorus expressing how the members still yearn for their loved one despite knowing that things can’t go back together. Hwiyoung and Zuho didn’t get to outshine as rappers in the mellow track but that doesn’t stop them from capturing fans’ attention with their short rap verses in the second half. During the finale, the song drops for an instrumental piece, letting the nonet showcase a brief dance break. The climax of the song is led by Zuho’s fierce rap followed by Taeyang and Chani repeating the chorus for one last time. Though the song doesn’t have the bombastic beats of a title track, it still sounds rich and courtly.
As for the lyrics of the song, one doesn’t really need to translate the lyrics to understand the prolonging gloom present among the members. The mellow angst tone is very well expressed through the members’ expressive singing accompanied with the melodic music. Lines such as “On your smiling face/ I can see your hidden tears,” and “Where the tears will take me/ I’m clueless but hoping for the better/ Tear Drop,” are successful in delivering the storyline and add a poetic touch to the song. Without a doubt, the title track is a plus to the group’s discography.
The Music Video
The music video is visually calm and aesthetic with black and white being dominant colours. After earning a name for their model-like looks and graceful performances, the act of nine portrays a serene yet sophisticated picturization. The video begins with the camera descending down passing by different sets that might signify the nine worlds in the Yggdrasil. Each setting had unique imagery like broken statues, dry plants and glass vessels holding tears to represent the grey tone of the single.
Adorned in black outfits, the members showcase their idyllic visuals on the monochrome screen. The scene shifts and brings in colour with Inseong lying on the table amidst the glass containers holding tears denoting that he has been collecting his own tears for a long time and still hasn’t got over his lost lover. The glass vessels are partially filled, denoting the famous reference, “Is the glass half full or empty?.” The phrase is often used to describe a person as being optimistic or pessimistic by the way they observe the glass. In the context of the music video, it is up to the members to interpret their break-up.
Though the member still mourns, he isn’t weeping anymore as his tears have turned into stones after shedding them for a long time. In another shot, Taeyang is confined in a glass box while dancing in still water and Yongbin is in the middle of the broken statues. Each member has a different setting as Chani with a dead tree, Dawoon with a black umbrella, Rowoon on a bed laid with flowers that symbolize the members’ dreary state.
All the members remain in their black outfits throughout the music video except for Taeyang and Chani who are seen in white outfits while being trapped inside the glass box.
As for the choreography, the moves are sleek and elegant. The dance steps are thoughtfully made to effectively narrate the storyline and theories through expressive gestures and formations. Though we don’t get to see much of the choreography in the music video, the entire video is a visual treat as the members serve us with striking visuals and eloquent gestures in their individual shots.
The album TURN OVER being the final part of the trilogy continues with where 9loryUS left us. The theory all began with the members being trapped in a spell cast by the golden snake in the ‘Good Guy’ Era. During ‘Summer Breeze’ the members apparently broke the spell by identifying the actual enemy and letting in light to shoot the mirror, letting the light in to diminish the spell. But, in the epilogue of the series, Chani suspiciously spotting the snake, still alive crawling.
The prologue of TURN OVER introduced the fans to a monochrome visual of a huge tree and all the nine members standing beneath the tree. With references to Norse mythology, the picturization of the huge tree represents the sacred tree, Yggdrasil and the members indicate the nine different worlds. The intro video spots the golden snake crawling into the roots of the huge tree which can be related to Nidhogg. Nidhogg is a dragon/serpent creature that stays tangled in the roots of Yggdrasil, gnawing the deepest roots of the tree in order to destroy the world and bring chaos. The serpent is considered to be dread bitter, a symbol of decay and loss of honour.
The influence of Norse mythology also continues with the group’s album versions and photo teasers. The versions were relieved in the form of three tarot cards holding three unique letters of ancient Germanic alphabets or the runes.
The runes can be read as Wunjo, Kaunaz and Eihwaz which has its own meanings and interpretations. The first letter of the card, Wunjo (ᚹ) stands for joy, hope and harmony. But, the letter is written upside down in the teaser which hints that it means the opposite. The second letter Kaunaz (ᚲ) represents knowledge, creativity and experience when the third letter Eihwaz (ᛇ) is a rune of the mystery of life and death.
Fairly decoding the theories, the symbolism and the runes hint us of the Nidhogg or the golden serpent trying to destroy the worlds by trapping them in its spell. The huge white tree in the prologue turns into black as if it’s dead or decayed when the serpent crawls. And, the trilogy so far in and it can be interpreted that Nidhogg has higher chances of winning with the members being trapped under its spell. But, in ‘Tear Drop’, the members succeed in breaking the spell as the golden bracelet turns silver and drops from Inseong’s hand. The colour change of the bracelet from gold to silver can be associated with the defeat of the snake.
The members’ journey through the trilogy also reminds the story of Odin, the God of wisdom and the supreme deity who went on a quest in search of freedom. Inseong is suspected to have made a deal with the snake in the prologue of ‘Good Guy’ and is found sacrificing himself to break the spell. In the epilogue, Inseong is found lying beside the three with his bracelet cut off along with the other eight. And, the story doesn’t end here as the tree turns white in the epilogue hinting that it is back alive.
At times, small parts of us need to die every now and then to allow new shots of wisdom to grow in their place. In the end, Inseong decided to sacrifice his older self for the sake of his new beginning.
The pre-released track, ‘|Believer|’ stays as a solid track in the album. The song received great love among the viewers and fans alike. With heavy synths and beats, the track sounds superior to the other b-sides. “Going into the deeper darkness” begins Dawoon as the song sings about being a support for each other during the hardest times. Both the members and their fans rely on each other and decide to hold on because of the other. The group acknowledges the fans’ sincere support and love through the years and during the show by singing, “Just for you, every day/ I live by breathing and holding on, yeah/ I have you,/ who secretly cries and prays for me/ I’ll get through this”. When the vocalists’ evocative lines hail during the chorus, rappers take advantage of the verses and solidify their strength. In contrast to the bold instrumentation, the members express their gratitude and give a promise as the track closes with the lines, “You make me wanna believe/ I won’t give up, I get up again, new start”.
The song is accompanied by a spectacular stage performance by the members during their final stage of KINGDOM.
‘Love Again’ is definitely a hidden treasure in the album. The romantic track is fresh with its tuneful instrumentals and melodious vocals of the members. The easy-going song is actually an apologetic confession to a loved one as the members sing, “I apologize/I forgot because of a small misunderstanding/That we should be together” asking for another chance to fix their relationship. Abiding by the mild instrumentation, the members show off their vocal strength as a group with a few mellow rap lines. The pre-chorus lead by Dawoon and Rowoon sounds rich and ethereal with the beautiful lyrics followed by the members’ harmonization. Taeyang and Inseong naturally steal our hearts with their soulful singing and jaw-dropping bridges. Even Chani’s brief line ‘Love again’ along with Jaeyoon during the post-chorus also adds a touch in making the track sound wholesome. The song would even sound perfect as an OST and is definitely a must-listen in the album.
‘Off My Mind’ deals with a different set of emotions and is a contrast to what the members sing in ‘Love Again’. As the title suggests, the lyrics sing about the protagonist wanting to let go but still struggling to make a decision. The pop track has a similar touch to SF9’s signature b-side tracks and disregarding the edgy mood, the song is catchy with its tune. “Let me, let me, let me, let me, let me/ Let me go, girl, now,” goes the repetitive chorus yet the verses express the members baffled state with Youngbin singing, “I can’t let you go so easily/ Because we can’t do it, we’re still here”. There are often times when we feel on and off with relationships struggling to make the right decision and SF9 tries to capture such emotions through their penned words.
The fifth track ‘Fanatic’ sounds confident and peppy in the playlist for the listeners. With pop beats and synths, the song sets the mood for a chill party and makes us want to sway to the rhythm. The lyrics profess about two individuals having an interest in each other and making things work out as Taeyang begins, “I feel the same for you baby, yeah/ There’s no need to be old-fashioned, no, no”. With raspy and husky verses influencing most of the song and lyrics like, “And wrap around me sweetly/ Shake it up now, shake it up,” the track sounds exciting. The catchy tune and members’ flattery lines together are sure to make the song one of your favourite listens in the playlist.
The final track in the album ‘Hey Hi Bye’ continues with the peppy beats and rhythm. The pop track is fun and very much brings a bright mood. The song is about a protagonist going head over heels for a lover. The lyrics are more like a genuine confession with Taeyang singing, “I’ll pull out the words in my heart one by one/ Don’t be surprised when I confessed what made my heart flutter every time I saw you”. The song also shines the limelight on the rap line. Though we had a sneak peek of the rappers’ verses, it is predominant with Hwiyoung introducing the track and Youngbin and Zuho leading the second verse. The song ends with the lines, “Can’t nobody, can’t nobody love you like me/ Hey, hiya, bye,” letting the wrap the album with a sweet smile.
A new phase for SF9 necessarily not musically but as artists who have been outperforming in the dark for a long time. With TURN OVER, the act proclaims a genre to be theirs and what the fans could expect in the future. Though the EP might fall short in being the best definition for the group’s potential, it might be a good start for new fans.
If you haven’t checked out the album yet make sure you do!
Have you listened to SF9’s latest EP? What were your favourite tracks? Let us know in the comments!
PC: FNC Entertainment