Minji Oh: ENHYPEN’s first studio album is titled DIMENSION: DILEMMA, and the dilemma alludes to Odysseus, who faces a decision that will result in a difficulty no matter what he chooses. Odysseus, who lends his name to one version of the album’s concept photos, is a hero of Greco-Roman myth who, while returning from war, is forced to choose between the whirlpool-like Charybdis and a monster called Scylla, ultimately choosing the latter in a move that costs him six sailors but which allows him to escape the narrow strait otherwise intact. The concept photos draw parallels between this literal choice between Scylla and Charybdis and the dilemma facing the members of ENHYPEN. In the CHARYBDIS version of the photos, the members each live in their own small room, but they fill their rooms with things they like: NI-KI has paint; SUNGHOON has boxing gloves; JUNGWON has car magazines. They can also find stability as they play around with likeminded friends in the grass and among laundry hung out to dry and put their arms around one another’s shoulders. The SCYLLA version, however, feels like a world where they’ve achieved everything but don’t have anything that’s completely their own. Even with dollar bills floating on water and lying down with gold coins scattered on the ground (as JAY and SUNOO do) or dressing up with accessories and looking into the flashy lights and neon signs, they only end up seeming lonely and unfamiliar. There’s a gap between the small, ordinary place filled with things they like, and a place that doesn’t seem to be theirs despite having everything they had wished for: It could be a dilemma representing how ENHYPEN currently find themselves at a crossroads between ordinary life with friends and the fancy but unfamiliar life as artists, or it may be an inner conflict they’re experiencing post-debut, as seen in their diaries in the CHARYBDIS photos (JAKE’s “fight with myself” and HEESEUNG’s “swamp of concerns”).
Odysseus escaped a perilous situation by sacrificing the lives of his fellow adventurers, but ENHYPEN doesn’t take a step back away from anyone as seen in the lyrics for the lead single, “Tamed-Dashed”: “Taking a step / Makes me afraid” but “Just dash (NA NA NA) / If flames trap you, abandon you / Can’t see the answer right now.” Decked out in sailors’ outfits for the ODYSSEUS concept photos, they swim and play at the beach looking out over the ocean where Scylla and Charybdis lie in wait. The rugby ball the members play with here makes another appearance in “Tamed-Dashed”—an interesting choice for a performance that takes place at the peak of ENHYPEN’s dilemma given they decided to “just dash.” Teams may tackle each other during a rugby match, but once “no side” is called and the match ends, the distinction between us and them falls away. Likewise, might “no side” someday be called for ENHYPEN so that their binary dilemma that followed after their happy times together can come to an end? The boys had previously been at another crossroads—the need to prove themselves in “Given-Taken” after their debut—but came to face a new dilemma as they became aware of the paradox of a new world. They still aren’t sure whether they can make it out of that narrow strait or what sacrifices they’ll have to make, but the answer lies in having confidence. It’s like the voiceover at the end of “Intro: Whiteout” says: “We’ve either got to get through a brooding monster or a swirling tornado. Whatever we choose, we’ve got to run. What do you think?”
If anything could be called “dark freshness”
Myungseok Kang: ENHYPEN’s vocal direction has had a consistent character from their debut all the way up to DIMENSION: DILEMMA. Take, for example, when JAY sings “Can’t see the answer right now” in “Tamed-Dashed,” the lead single: The members eschew elaborate technique and instead yell out their vocals to reach the high notes. Other than songs like the opener, “Intro: Whiteout,” and the closer, “Interlude: Question”—both of which see them speaking in English—the members’ enunciation is fairly clear regardless of which language they’re using. Unlike the way YEONJUN of TOMORROW X TOGETHER sings as featured on “Blockbuster feat. YEONJUN of TOMORROW X TOGETHER,” another track off the album—heavily filtered, mumbling, and almost cynical—ENHYPEN sings with their strong, natural voices. Those differences in the way they sing are analogous to the difference in the way they perceive the world. Whereas YEONJUN sings, “No answers in this world / Unify reality and virtual,” ENHYPEN reveals their aspirations for the world: “Shake the world as you please.” YEONJUN experienced the harsh reality that left a bad taste in his mouth in the world of TOMORROW X TOGETHER as he sings about in “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” feat. Seori and “LO$ER=LO♡ER.” By contrast, ENHYPEN has moved past reality and the BORDER series, beyond the phase where they need the public’s approval, to a dimension with a dilemma. It was through the giant egg-like closed world of competition on Mnet’s audition program I-LAND that they became ENHYPEN, after which they entered the real world with the release of BORDER: DAY ONE, while they expanded on their position in the idol world further with BORDER: CARNIVAL. It’s a good time for them to shout out the lyrics from “Tamed-Dashed,” even in real life: “I can’t stop me like / Summer.”
By contrast, ENHYPEN’s vocals are buried beneath the metal guitar in the chorus of the song after “Blockbuster feat. YEONJUN of TOMORROW X TOGETHER,” called “Attention, please!” Between “Tamed-Dashed” and those two tracks are songs like “Upper Side Dreamin’,” where they sing about “a midsummer night’s dream”; “Just A Little Bit,” detailing how someone can cause your world to collapse; and “Go Big or Go Home,” with the lyric, “A world like a game, where there’s only winning or losing.” They came into to the wide world after a period of proving themselves, but it’s not always going to be a good time like a summer’s day at the beach; the laws of the world seem to take precedence over putting in an effort, results (like “daebak”) being more important. The rapid changes in volume from the beginning of “Intro: Whiteout” bring with them an ominous atmosphere, while the variations on drill beats in each song thereafter (besides “Upper Side Dreamin’ ” and “Just A Little Bit”) imbue the whole album with a sense of tension. As in “Tamed-Dashed,” the songs closely resemble the kind of light-hearted rock ‘n’ roll songs that would be right at home in a 1980s American teen movie but the melodies and rhythms cast some darkness on the album thanks to the deep electronic sound and perfectly echoing vocals. Right from the outset, ENHYPEN are attempting to do something within the “Dilemma of choice.” And in this bright and booming but vaguely foreboding world born of complex sounds, ENHYPEN’s vocals show the kind of attitude with which they press on through the world. Even in a world where effort alone isn’t enough to “go big” the way it was in their auditions in the egg, they scream as loudly as they can. It’s a way for each member to leave their distinct mark, as clear as they are rough, within a delicately shaped soundscape. They’re not quite ready yet, and they don’t know what will happen next. But for now, they’ll run and shout.
From the edge of choice to the dimension of internal dilemma
Wonyoung Na(pop music critic): Let’s set every lead single ENHYPEN’s ever released and the curious subtitle DILEMMA against Hamlet’s existential dilemma, mentioned in an earlier FIRST+VIEW article: “to be or not to be”—the principle of contradiction. The matchup of “Given-Taken” on their debut EP was that of words in conflict, though that was not the case with the next EP’s “Drunk-Dazed”; yet they return to paradox this time with “Tamed-Dashed.” Still, the true quandary on DIMENSION: DILEMMA is surely “Go Big or Go Home,” as the title suggests. The song starts out by placing a rock-like emphasis on the backbeat and bass reminiscent of the sublimely thumping “Drunk-Dazed,” but then abruptly switches to more typical house music written by LDN Noise and Adrian McKinnon, like the song were a loot box. In the song, the members “have all the luck” in “a world like a game, where there’s only winning or losing” and where “anything in the middle would feel like a loss,” but still eventually try to take action, declaring, “Don’t waste time overthinking it / Let’s play a gacha game.” But still, their dilemma isn’t about this kind of gambling.
But right as the next track starts and YEONJUN jumps in with a rap accompanied by electric guitar, the upgrade from merging collected items that ENHYPEN chose within this dilemma becomes clear. We could put “Tamed-Dashed,” with its rock nature centered around FRANTS’ bass performance, to one side, and place the house-inspired “Go Big or Go Home” on the other, and forcibly try to create fodder for conflict on the EP. But “Blockbuster,” with its electric guitar and spattering of elaborately dense drum and bass that combine in the chorus, almost acts like a problem solver called in from THE CHAOS CHAPTER to deal with what is actually a false dilemma between rock and house. In that sense, the first problem, one of thousands of doubts/distrust may not have been a mutually exclusive choice to begin with; rather, perhaps ENHYPEN had already crossed the border before and entered their own dimension.
It seems only natural that they should make a rush to a harder rock sound toward the end as they nonchalantly ask for “Attention, please!” FRANTS is right at home on the electric guitar with a performance that feels like it’s made for this pop-grunge track and ups the rock feeling in the song, so much so that when the boys cry out to the fantastically catchy melody, the whole thing feels even more energizing than the comparatively serious lead single. But following that triumphant rock part, the members open up about a fear of uncertainty on the bridge that’s different from what they’ve demonstrated up to that point, singing, “Stuck at a crossroads / I’m in a dilemma and afraid I’ll lose it all.”
The narrative ENHYPEN went through to make it to the border saw them pass through a dangerous carnival and become “Mixed Up” as the former last ones standing on a reliable label’s survival program. Unlike the unrelated choices they made between their previous releases, however, DIMENSION: DILEMMA sounds more like a rock-oriented extension of the “Drunk-Dazed” formula. But in “Interlude: Question,” where they ask, “what do I want?” and “what should I choose?” it’s as though they’ve gone back to their roots to deliver the message that they’re still facing “endless pages filled with unanswered questions.” Within all these songs you’ll find an unsolved inner dilemma, one where they can’t be certain about what lies beyond the problem of choice.
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