“Youth can be hurtful, but it also at the same time makes your heart flutter,” ATEEZ’s leader Hongjoong once told Forbes about the most formative time of human life. Capturing the essence of the limitlessness and vigour of youth is akin to taming a wild sea. Lucky for us, ATEEZ are pirates who are not afraid of a challenge.
- READ MORE: ATEEZ – ‘Zero: Fever Pt. 2’ review: messages of comfort clash with jumbled experimentalism
That’s not to say the group haven’t stumbled in places along the way – the first two mini-albums in the ‘Zero: Fever’ series were very hit or miss in certain aspects. Their need to demonstrate different facets of themselves sometimes resulted in uncharacteristic, and therefore weaker, tracks that diluted the overall impact of the releases.
While ATEEZ’s latest offering ‘Zero: Fever Part.3’ is not without its shortcomings either, it certainly lands on firmer ground than its predecessors. You can attribute it to the group’s successful stint on the Mnet reality TV series Kingdom: Legendary War or the fact that they’ve had two releases to test the waters, but whatever the case, ATEEZ have hit the ground running and are fully aware of their strengths on this project. Is it perfect? Perhaps not. But it is a release reflective of their hunger to grow and evolve.
Kicking things off is ‘Eternal Sunshine’, the shimmery, pop-leaning single that, at first, seems like just another pop song asking us to celebrate every moment, but inverts itself with references to Peter Pan and the Mobius strip. While youth may not last forever, ATEEZ believe that living every moment as if it were special somehow makes it “eternal”, bringing a wistfulness to the track.
The theme of eternal connections carries over to ‘Feeling Like I Do’ – It’s here, however, that ‘Zero: Fever Part.3’ falters a bit. The song starts off strong but soon falls flat in the middle, never quite reaching the crescendo that’s expected. While the rest of the mini-album sees ATEEZ return to their strengths – boisterous and confident on ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Rocky’, not to mention the emotional ‘Not Too Late’ – the lack of cohesion here warrants docking a few points.
Don’t get us wrong: both ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Rocky’ are solid standalone tracks, a firm and familiar callback to classic ATEEZ circa ‘Pirate King’ and ‘Hala Hala’. The staccato beats and paced vocals on ‘Deja Vu’ are testament to how easily and effortlessly an act can execute a conceptual levelling-up while still staying true to their ethos. The only thing that makes it better is the seamless segue into ‘Rocky’, which takes the attractive confidence of ‘Deja Vu’ and dials it up to eleven.
If the title does not immediately click, the boxing metaphors surely will. Named after Rocky Balboa, the song imagines ATEEZ as fierce boxers, ready to fight for their place in the ring. It’s the same determination we saw on tracks like ‘Fireworks (I’m The One)’ and ‘The Leaders’, and dang does it look good on ATEEZ. Powerful, boisterous, and loud, it’s what they do best.
On their own, both ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Rocky’ are a triumph for ATEEZ, but prefacing them with the polar opposite energies of ‘Eternal Sunshine’ and ‘Feeling Like I Do’ feels counterproductive to the overall vibe of the mini-album.
Coming down from the high of ‘Rocky’ with the sweet ‘All About You’, however, is much more palatable. If the high-strung ‘Rocky’ was about the fight of their lives, ‘All About You’ is its conceptual successor, giving us a glimpse of the treasure (and that word is intentional) worth fighting for. The song’s slow-tempo fits perfectly with lyrics that resemble a love-letter, and Jongho’s high-note is just the cherry on top.
The track that takes the crown, however, is the balladic ‘Not Too Late’, a proverbial coming home after a long day of toil and shedding all pretenses. Sometimes loneliness goes unnoticed in this increasingly busy world, often only surfacing in moments when you’re alone with your thoughts in a “dark and freezing cold” place.
‘Not Too Late’ is a much-needed hand of comfort, a voice that tells you to carry on. The track is both a confession and an acknowledgement – here, the band admit that it’s not always as easy as they make it look, but it’s okay to want to stop and take a breather.
- Release date: September 13
- Record label: KQ Entertainment