Onewe Know Their Niche in “Planet Nine: Isotropy”

Onewe Know Their Niche in “Planet Nine: Isotropy”

Has it really been two years already? In that time, Onewe’s eldest members Kanghyun and Yonghoon completed their mandatory military service. The band’s youngest, CyA, also changed his stage name to his given name — Giuk. Under his new name, Giuk kicked off his solo career with two mini albums (Psycho Xybernetics: Turn Over and Rise Waves) that let him show off his eclectic musical style and introspective lyricism. Dongmyeong made his acting debut and landed a leading role in the musical, We Will Rock You, as Galileo Figaro. Plus, the two youngest members and drummer Harin released a singles album called XOXO with its lead track “Salty Boy.” 

Essentially, Onewe have been busy. With Yonghoon and Kanghyun back, the band dropped their new album, Planet Nine: Isotropy, on April 17. In this six-track mini, they continue their Planet Nine series and continue world-building their own little Onewe universe. But first, the title. “Isotropy” means “having the same value when measured in different directions,” according to Alternatively, one could interpret this scientific term to be that something is the same no matter where it goes. This poignant sentiment is quite apt for a band like Onewe who have just concluded a significant hiatus. 

Once again, all five members had a hand in writing and composing the six tracks on Planet Nine: Isotropy. While their individual personalities are clear in the tracks each member created, there still remains an overarching “Onewe” sound and feel. From title track “Beautiful Ashes” to closing track “Pleasant,” the stamp of “Onewe” is all over this mini album. They know their niche, and so, they — quite literally — reach for the stars. But this time around, they find magic on Earth, too. 

Onewe are well-known for their cosmos-related songs, as they have built their own universe through their discography. In the six tracks of Planet Nine: Isotropy, the band’s themes are no different. “Shoot It Out” follows the lead single “Beautiful Ashes” with steady energy and a guitar-driven hook. Kanghyun, who penned the track, plays with the idea of signals: “Follow me towards you / As my signal flows / Look into the memories laid out before you.”  

Just like a signal refuses to be ignored, Onewe capture a similar message, whether through their voices or through their instruments of choice. Although Giuk does not have any rap parts in “Beautiful Ashes,” he makes his presence known in “Shoot It Out.” He has his classic flow, but, this time, it is accompanied by the growl in his voice. The youngest member digs deep into the story as he raps, “In the night we listen in silence / The signal we shot… On my frequency, you finally opened your eyes.” 

They are back among the stars at the start of their new mini, although in a less slow ballad, romantic kind of way. Guitars, bass, and drums crash during the peak transition — imagine the visceral experience one would go through seeing this track performed live. “Shoot It Out” makes it particularly clear how many hats the Onewe members wear. From lyricists and composers to vocalists and rappers, the five also know when to step back a bit for another team member to shine a little more. 

Once Onewe “Shoot It Out,” they come tumbling down back to Earth. Yet, in “Meteor Shower,” they can still be considered to be among the stars. Unlike the steadily growing energy of “Shoot It Out,” its follow-up track can be best described as an adrenaline rush. As Onewe’s maknae mentioned in the album highlight video, the upbeat energy and bright feeling of “Meteor Shower” is akin to his composition from Planet Nine: Alter Ego, “Veronica.” Although “Meteor Shower” starts softly with Yonghoon’s gentle vocals, the electric guitar and drums soon kick in with high energy. It almost feels like these instruments are trying not to run away in the feeling expressed in the lyrics: “A star shining brighter because it resembles you / You, who are like a spark in my darkness.” 

This song penned by Giuk is dreamy and romantic, in part because of the delicate descending notes (possibly Dongmyeong on the keyboard) that enter as the empty chorus. However, calling it an “empty chorus” is a bit of a disservice: there are so many layers in the hook that listeners cannot appreciate it unless they listen multiple times. They begin to hear Giuk on the bass and the foundations of the chorus; they start to hear Harin on the drums move the song along; and they start to hear the subtle vocal harmonies that glue everything together. 

Somehow, Giuk and Onewe have captured what a meteor shower sounds like with only their voices and their instruments. Kanghyun’s guitar solo around the 2:40 mark is played in a significantly higher octave than his solos tend to be in. But that is because Onewe are still hanging around the stars in “Meteor Shower.” Through this track, they push their sound into new territory while remaining very clear about their sonic roots and their identity as a band.  

In the album’s highlight medley, Yonghoon noted that the transition between “Meteor Shower” and “Count the Stars” cannot be missed. If you are to listen to two songs from this mini back-to-back, these are the ones. After the adrenaline rush of love in “Meteor Shower,” “Count the Stars” brings Onewe and their love back down to the earth — both lyrically and musically. Dongmyeong on the piano opens the track with the simple repetition of a few notes. This line is then reflected later in the electric guitar notes found in the verses. There is a warmth to this simple theme, as the lower notes contrast with the higher and faster one of “Meteor Shower.” 

A story about missing summer and its memories underscores Yonghoon’s second track on Isotropy (the first being the title track, “Beautiful Ashes”). The leader sings the softly powerful hook with a lullaby cadence: 

Always come running and nestle in my arms tightly

I’m telling you I can’t let go

Counting the stars, I promise while watching you sleep

I’ll protect you on my shoulder

When Dongmyeong, meanwhile, sings the pre-chorus, “Those moments were happy, oh / The seasons really suited us both,” listeners can hear how much his vocals have grown over the years. He also tackles the chorus with grace and poignant emotion, even the higher notes where he belts out his notes. Each album features a stronger and more confident Dongmyeong, who has developed his vocals and songwriting skills. 

Speaking of Dongmyeong, his self-composed track, “Kiss in the Rain,” is one of the gems on Planet Nine: Isotropy. Onewe transition from their usual ballad sound to an experimental jazz-y/lo-fi one in “Kiss in the Rain.” The light beat provided by the drums, bass, and piano, as well as the vocalists’ falsettos, bring the band back down to earth. They, once again, have their feet firmly planted on the ground through the clear lyrics. Classic rom-com scenes shine in the lyrics Dongmyeong sings, 

Let’s say, if a strong wind blows in the place we left together

Would that be okay? 

Even if flower petals poured down from the sky crumble

You’ll shine every day. 

The two vocalists seamlessly pass the melody back and forth in a way that makes it impossible to not sway along with their voices. If you need a soundtrack for a romantic summer evening stroll under the stars (probably sans rain), then “Kiss in the Rain” absolutely fits the bill. 

Another highlight of “Kiss in the Rain” is Giuk’s surprise vocal moment. As the bassist and rapper of Onewe, he doesn’t always showcase his singing abilities — although, he did occasionally in his solo releases. Giuk softly sings his part in “Kiss in the Rain,” adding his warm timbre to his lines, “A sonata soaked in rain, fears broken / Abandoning the umbrella, we kiss in the rain.” With its calming energy and jazz style, “Kiss in the Rain” tries out a new style and creates new memories for the band. 

Unlike the other “earth” songs, which focus on romantic love stories, “Pleasant” (Korean title: “Nice to Meet You Again”) is for the people who love Onewe. From the track’s first note, “Pleasant” is bursting with the energy of an anime pop-rock theme song. A little bit of the starry hook from “Meteor Shower” is present at the beginning of “Pleasant,” maybe to connect Onewe back to their universe storyline. “Count the Stars” lets listeners sit with nostalgic feelings, and “Kiss in the Rain” calmly builds up their mood. Meanwhile, “Pleasant” throws away any hesitations and pushes Onewe’s sadness and happiness into the spotlight.  

In this track written by Harin, Onewe pour all of their energy into the mix. As the drummer noted in the highlight medley, the song is about saying goodbye (for now), so he wanted the production to be as happy and upbeat as possible. But still, since this is Onewe we are talking about, they still manage to punch listeners in the feels with hard-hitting lines such as, “I’ll hug you first” and “In the sky are stories of thinking about you” — all while rocking out. 

As the final track on the mini album, listeners might have expected “Pleasant” to be a ballad. However, it was a “pleasant” surprise to see Onewe continue to try new things despite having found a successful niche. It was also a pleasant surprise to hear all of Onewe’s voices in the last chorus of the song. They sing together, “It’s nice to see you like this again / Looking at each other and smiling / Now, I’ll find happiness looking at you.” “Lalalas” may close “Pleasant,” but considering the topic of the track, Onewe probably imagined their fans — Weve — singing along at the band’s upcoming concerts. When you think about the “lalala” choice that way, it makes perfect sense, especially if you want to maximize all the feels.  

Interestingly enough, at first the B-sides of Planet Nine: Isotropy stand out over “Beautiful Ashes” (Korean title: “Incinerator of Memories”), the album’s title track. However, after a little more listening, “Beautiful Ashes” does grow on you. Onewe’s lead single provides the clearest evidence that the band has found their niche and know their “Onewe sound” the best. Yonghoon, the composer and lyricist behind the track, remembered the songwriting process as “difficult.” But, the sad emotions coupled with swelling production strikes listeners as quite Onewe. If their last title track, “Universe_,” was about finding connection with their loved ones, “Beautiful Ashes” tells the story about needing to let those connections go. 

In the MV, which has accumulated one million views in the last two weeks, Onewe are at their most vulnerable. They are seen stumbling through dark spaces as tears stream down their faces and blood marks up their faces. “Beautiful Ashes,” in a word, speaks of pain. While hope underscores “Universe_” and even “Regulus,” “Beautiful Ashes” sinks into the pain and lets Onewe really feel their feelings without ignoring or sugarcoating them: 

You were so brilliant, and I took you for granted

Now I can’t look at you, I can’t hug you anymore

Honestly you still come to my mind

I’ve never forgotten about you even for a day 

To do this, Onewe build on their five-plus years of experience. They weave in noticeable “Onewe” elements throughout “Beautiful Ashes.” The song’s slow build is reminiscent of “Regulus” and “Universe_,” while some of the rhythms and synths are familiar since they are found throughout Onewe’s discography. Yonghoon’s long, belted note, of course, is often a staple in the band’s title tracks, along with Harin’s brief pause before crashing down on the drums in the final chorus. But these moments of familiarity are not necessarily a negative thing; rather, it is part of how listeners can say, “Ahh, now this is a Onewe song.” 

In their previous two mini albums, Onewe journeyed to their very own Planet Nine and spent some time among the stars. Now, the five members are again suspended between the stars and earth. But just like the hot air balloon found on Planet Nine: Isotropy’s album cover, Onewe can still return to the stars — if they so wish to. 

(YouTube [1][2]. Lyrics from Genius [1][2][3][4][5]. Images via RBW Entertainment.)

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