Of all the K-pop acts marking their comebacks this year, it’s no surprise that BVNDIT are up there as one of the most anticipated. After releasing powerful but sadly underrated tracks like ‘Dramatic’, ‘Dumb’ and ‘Jungle’, many have (naturally) wondered why the group had been placed on hiatus instead of building on the momentum they had gotten going.
We probably won’t get answers about their sudden hiatus, but we can at least enjoy the fruits of their two-year break: ‘Re-Original’, a small collection of the group’s hard-hitting and experimental releases to date, which opened with a short intro track of the same name. This instrumental EDM track runs just over a minute, but it delivers a striking, encouraging first impression of what’s to come from this mini-album.
Leading BVNDIT’s comeback is title track ‘Venom’, an explosive flurry of EDM beats and a high-energy bassline. It’s a welcome change of pace for the group, with an instrumental that kicks it into high gear from the get-go and confident lyricism: “Kick everything that’s boring / No matter what anyone says, / Try it, I’m a winner.”
Its structure and production, however, leave a lot to be desired. The verses in ‘Venom’ rely far too much on repetitive chanting and shouting, to the point where the track as a whole starts to sound grating. The track certainly gets points for having an addictive refrain, but it doesn’t have quite the desired impact when it’s preceded by verses that sound almost the same.
Fortunately, the B-sides on ‘Re-Original’ make for much more cohesive listening experiences. On delightful hip-hop and future bass hybrid track ‘Jiggy’, BVNDIT show us that it is possible to produce a strong track that isn’t overrun by loud vocals. Here, the chanting serves only to elevate its chorus (one that, if we’re being honest, demonstrates enough staying power to hold its own).
But the real star of ‘Jiggy’ isn’t its production, it’s the vocals. Jungwoo and Simyeong, in particular, deliver the strongest performances on the track – their rich vocals weaving a tale of yearning to let loose with a special someone on the dance floor: “I’ve been waiting for you so much, my eyes are red / I want to be reborn / I’ll burst, pop and pop / I’ll show you.”
While the album thus far has been an exercise in experimentation, BVNDIT show us that there’s still a semblance of their old sound on ‘Re-Original’. Powered by a masterful blend of Latin pop and reggaeton elements, ‘Awaken’ is a vocal-focused track that sees BVNDIT shed their tough girl persona – both sonically and conceptually – for a lighter tone that stays true to their roots.
Here, the group’s higher register shines through, albeit with an undercurrent of desperation that complements its lilting instrumental. “When you feel my emptiness / When you want to make me crazy / Don’t miss me now / So keep me awake,” Yiyeon cries in the chorus.
Capping off the project is ‘Don’t Mess With Me’, a deceptively simple R&B ballad that keeps listeners on their toes by picking up the pace as it progresses. The track boasts some of the strongest vocal performances from the group thus far: the combination of Yiyeon’s conversational-sounding rap verses and Songhee’s lower register and steady vocals are the stars of the show here. It’s certainly a surprising, if a little underwhelming, choice for a closer – especially given the highly experimental nature of the tracks that preceded it.
Hiatuses are tricky in the K-pop world. Far too often have we seen groups that either fade into obscurity or return only to announce that the group will be going their separate ways. Thankfully, BVNDIT have shown us that hiatuses can still have hopeful endings – and that an extended break is not enough to keep them down.
And for a record that serves as a “contemplation on [BVNDIT’s] own musical identity”, ‘Re-Original’ is certainly a big step towards the right direction. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for the group to truly nail down their own unique sound, but BVNDIT have shown us that they’re willing to hustle their way to greatness.
- Release date: May 25
- Record label: MNH Entertainment