In the past half-decade or so, JYP Entertainment has garnered a reputation for getting debuts right. It’s not just in the numbers that their acts rake up – just look at ITZY’s ‘Dalla Dalla’, which broke records left, right and center – but also the fact that JYP always sets a tone that seems to fit the act perfectly and precisely, like an outfit that is almost an extension of you. ITZY came roaring on the wave of self-love cushioned by catchy electropop. Stray Kids, on the other hand, kept things real with the homegrown ‘Hellevator’.
This makes us wonder – where did NMIXX’s debut go wrong? Why does it sound so wildly inconsistent? Rather than set the stage for a young, fresh act, NMIXX’s first single album ‘Ad Mare’ makes them look like a group trying to cram the entire syllabus into one night of studying – and that’s being kind.
Let’s start with the title track ‘O.O’ – one half of NMIXX’s debut offering – the rollercoaster ride of genres on which reminds us of Girls’ Generation’s ‘I Got A Boy’, or aespa‘s ‘Next Level’ if you’re looking for something more recent, except this one comes off as a weak facsimile in the face of the complexity of the former. Going from electropop to pop rock to hip-hop, ‘O.O’ tries, but fails, to capture any attention for very long.
While it starts off bolstered by a solid, edgy instrumentation complemented by pointed choreography, by the time we get to the proverbial part two, the charm wears off and the transition is more surprising than jarring. It happens again another minute into the track, when the sugary-pop and vibrant candy-cane dresses are switched out by leather and bravado, but the metamorphosis is anything but seamless – instead, it feels like being woken up abruptly from a dream. Instead of easing us into the next sonic palette – much like the delightful build-ups did on ‘I Got A Boy’ years ago – ‘O.O’ hurls us into the changes, making the whole effect counterproductive.
Credit where credit is due, however: on their own, some of the sections on ‘O.O’ could make for solid standalone tracks. Together, however, they do more harm than good for NMIXX’s image: despite the goal to depict a genreless, limitless world, all we see is an act trying to cover too many bases at once.
Fortunately, the B-side on the album, ‘Tank’, fares much better – see what we mean about inconsistency? Throughout its three minutes and thirty-four second run, ‘Tank’ keeps the energy high and bass low. The choppy progression alternates between steady drums and marching beat before dissolving into frenetic loops of “I’m so freaky fresh fresh” on the chorus. Despite the head-scratching lyrics, the song does a great job at holding attention, even surprising at times with soft harmonies layered onto the chorus like a sweet treat.
‘Tank’ is a track that knows exactly where it came from and what purpose it serves – unlike ‘O.O’, which tries to do too much at once, ‘Tank’ is self-assured and simpler in comparison, making it the superior track on this album. Despite this, with only two tracks on their debut offering, ‘Tank’ does little to alleviate the damage that ‘O.O’ does.
While the effort to transcend the labels of genre is to be commended, ‘Ad Mare’ falls short of the mark by a wide margin. Of course, this is only NMIXX’s first offering – “only a teaser”, as they say on the song. Then again, if this is the teaser, you almost want to pass on what is “coming soon”.