A New Grammar
Kang Myungseok: Since ENHYPEN’s debut, the titles of their lead singles were made up of two passive verbs: “Given-Taken”, “Drunk-Dazed”, “Tamed-Dashed”, and “Blessed-Cursed.” However, the lead single of their new album, DARK BLOOD is entitled “Bite Me.” “Bite” isn’t a passive verb, but “me” isn’t the subject of the word. According to the lyrics, “me” is hoping that the prospective biter would leave “a sign that I am yours” “on my neck.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that “me” is passively waiting. In the DARK BLOOD concept trailer, ENHYPEN members speed through the road on a motorcycle, fiercely gallop on horseback, and engage in sword fighting. And at the end of the vigorous activities, SUNGHOON finally says, “Bite me.” This is because he, who was “repeating foolish mistakes” wants to return “all the power and glory” to the person who will bite him. This is how “Bite me” became the most dynamic passive sentence. “Come back to me, tie me,” “I will offer you the brave heart that will protect you,” and “just come kiss and bite me.” To make you bite me, I need to want the pain that my body would have to go through. The performance of “Bite Me” includes the members choking themselves, or dancing in pairs with the dancers. They choose to express their candid emotions by inflicting pain on themselves or coming in contact with other people’s bodies instead of describing them with words. The song is powerful and brisk from the very first measure and is responsible for creating the most memorable hook of the song. The four previous leads, which chose an answer from two passive verbs, built up the mood slowly but surely with the climax at the chorus. However, the new title track seeks to draw in the listener from the get-go with its emotionally intense melody. ENHYPEN filled their new album with content that is near opposite to their previous works while still maintaining their team identity through “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” that has four passive verbs, one noun (and a verb in parentheses), and until the single verb “Bite” became the title of the lead single. They are vampires in DARK BLOOD, just like in the HYBE Original Story Webtoon DARK MOON: The Blood Altar that was created in collaboration with the team. But they ask to be bitten instead of biting someone themselves; they express their desires through an intuitive melody, and body movement that creates tension as illustrated in the dancers’ choreography.
In ENHYPEN’s well-known love song “Polaroid Love” love is “an outdated emotion,” and a “predictable emotion anyways.” In it, the boys are happy they are in love but are cynical towards the idea, describing it as “a trap that I knew I was walking into.” Still, the tingly feeling of cautiously opening up to love is the highlight of “Polaroid Love.” But, “Bills” off of DARK BLOOD begins like this: “Sign the bills that rush you all of a sudden/ with teary eyes you learn about the right price/ I don’t wanna let you go/ is there no way to turn back time no time,” and the young man tries so hard to pull himself together in front of her, saying “Our farewell might be the best example.” But “I was sure I paid for the pain that became mine” but alas, “it’s not paid,” and HEESEUNG adds intense emotions to the first measure, as if to break down and cry out. Someone who was once skeptical about love falls into its trap, experiences loss, then falls into despair from the sadness that won’t resolve itself. This is perhaps the reason why the vampire in the DARK BLOOD concept trailer asks “you” to “bite me.” He would rather be bitten by “you” and never be forgotten, even if the cost is to lose “myself” rather than go through the pain of losing love and experience the oblivion that follows. This is the process through which a boy, who wanted to know if what he had was given to him or if he earned it, realizes a new kind of emotion through “you.” A new world opened up through “you” and he ardently confesses that he doesn’t want to go back to the closed off one of his past. Love has finally blossomed in the cold and dark world of the vampires.
Expansion of the Universe
Song Hooryeong: ENHYPEN borrows fantastic devices like “white fangs” and “red gaze,” but uses them to tell real-life autobiographical stories. Just like the narration in the DARK BLOOD concept trailer that says “I became me because of you,” it seems that ENHYPEN’s new album DARK BLOOD is telling us about the life of an idol, and how it can only be with the existence of their fans. For example, the act of biting in DARK BLOOD isn’t one of one-sided salvation but a symbol of the relationship that is formed over the trust between you and me. “You and me” in the lead single lyrics “Bite Me” can be replaced with the relationship between an idol and his fans - one that is inseparable. The DARK BLOOD narrative that unfolds with the premise of “forgetting each other” perfectly mirrors ENHYPEN’s situation of debuting during the pandemic, unable to meet their fans like zombies. The team was only able to meet their fans in the imaginary realm until they were able to go on their first word tour. In the first track off the new album entitled “Fate,” the act of forgetting is deemed “a cruel punishment,” and he blames himself, “How could I have forgotten?” It is almost like they are looking back on their journey so far. When they could finally meet with their fans after waiting for so long, the boys accept their fate, confessing, “I now know what I have to do,” and their encounter became an opportunity for the boys to finally realize their identities. In reaching the last track of the album “Karma” ENHYPEN call out that they have been waiting for “you” “since my past, past, past life” (“One in a Billion”), and “No matter what you call fate/ I don’t give a what.” They proceed to affirm their fate saying that, by encountering “you” “this world” became more substantial than any other we spent together” and ask to be “together always” “in our next life and the next.”
In “Flicker” which is a track off their debut album BORDER : DAY ONE, they sing of their determination to “connect the world that is out of step” even if they have to “cross countless nights.” By engraving the hyphen (-) in their team name ENHYPEN, the message that they have been communicating to their global fandom and online since they were on I-LAND reads as efforts they have made to reach “you.” “When you believe that I believe you, and when you believe in yourself, when that time comes, bite my neck.” Just like the dialogue that features in the first episode of DARK MOON: THE BLOOD ALTAR, the HYBE ORIGINAL STORY webtoon, ENHYPEN’s trajectory so far seems like the process of proving this belief in an endless waiting game. In essence, the one thing that could alleviate the anxiety that this team felt from the very start was the inevitable and much needed reunion with their fate. The “world that is out of step” align at last, and they have reached a point in time when they can finally say “Bite my neck” (“Bite Me”), which is their “language of promise” (“Flicker”). ENHYPEN who have been agonizing over their fate “between what is given and what they have taken” (“Given-Taken”) place their relationship with others at the core of this album and expands the world. They encounter the world that is “you” and newly make way towards the one called “us.” And so, the boys who took their fate that they were tossed drew a line to make a connection between you and me. They drew the line themselves.
A Clandestine Experiment
Randy Suh (Music Writer): Let’s recall ENHYPEN’s discography. A particular scene from a video comes to mind; the music they have been producing is distinctive. Their lead singles especially, are reminiscent of movies or television shows that target young adults (usually people in their late teens to early twenties).
The vampire concept that they have been persistently holding onto since their debut is evocative of The Twilight Saga. “Drunk-Dazed” was like a drug-ridden dance party for wayward teenage boys on an OTT show. “Tamed-Dashed” gives off sports drama vibes that’s all about speed as hinted in the music video. These songs are like young adult flicks that are mainly about portraying the liveliness of youth. The themes most young idols sentimentally base their work on are youth or boyhood. But what ENHYPEN released so far are a bit darker, with a hint of grunge, and stressed the speed and vigor, which paired perfectly with the members’ youthful voice.
But their previous album MANIFESTO : DAY 1 started showing signs of change. “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” was the bridge that connected ENHYPEN's past sound to the new release “Bite Me.” There are still traces of sports drama left, but this time, there's a little less sprinting. First and foremost, there’s an added menacing and declarative air. It’s still a sports film, but not a speedy ball game. Perhaps something along the lines of boxing or martial arts. Not a lot of space is needed, but it is still charged with explosive energy. This was a welcome change that complemented the boys’ mature voice, too.
“Bite Me” re-adopted their original vampire aesthetic after a long U-turn. It is a sensual pop that focuses more on sensing how they are standing up or laying down, rather than galloping about. The lyrics that they give the fateful person the role of vampire, and passively surrendering themselves is notable. The overall mood is reminiscent of the soft and sweet chorus from TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s start-of-the-year release “Sugar Rush Ride.” However, while this song stresses the chorus by contrasting it with the verse, the tone is seamless and subdued throughout the entire song in “Bite Me.” Cirkut who is known for producing The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and Sam Smith’s “Unholy” is also responsible for “Bite Me.” Perhaps they were aiming for similar dark, dangerous, and seductive pop vibes. This ambiance is carried through, from the intro “Fate”, their lead single “Bite Me” to the rest of the tracks, “Sacrifice (Eat Me Up)” and “Chaconne.” They are even heavier and darker. They brought the sultry in time for the early summer.
Then, there is a change in mood in “Bills.” A hip hop rhythm underlies the hazy guitar. It is about capitalism and love like their formerly release “Not For Sale.” This is a regular theme among HYBE artists’ discography of late, like in TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s “Trust Fund Baby.” “Bills” is the most polished track out of these group of songs. Tido Nguyen who is the composer behind the song is a Finnish musician who also participated in SHINee and KEY’s album. He has an exceptional talent for creating emo-inspired but not overly heavy hip hop beats. It’s no surprise that it was my favorite track off the album. The last number “Karma” is a funk hip hop that Waveshower, who brought you the very popular “SHOUT OUT” from the previous album, participated in. If “SHOUT OUT” is refreshing like an ice-cold glass of soda, then “Karma” is cooling like a frothy pint of beer. It is more of an adult beverage.
Even when ENHYPEN introduce themselves, they seem to have shed away their boyish ways, and adopted the attitude of a young person entering the next stage of their lives. Their voice and performance have also evolved. DARK BLOOD feels like the swan song of ENHYPEN’s young adult phase, or perhaps it’s a clandestine experiment done by men who have already secretly become adults right under their guardians’ noses.
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