Fanmade group-turned-actual group JBJ had some of the most promising teasers I’ve seen from a debut group in a while. They were an aesthetic escape mixed with smooth techno back beats that promised a strong showing right out of the gate. What the group actually delivered on October 18, however, was far from the fantasy I’d been anticipating.
Some Brief History
JBJ—short for Just Be Joyful—is made up of former Produce 101 Season 2 contestants who were put together by fans. All six of the members finished within the top 30 on the show, however none made it to the live finale. Kim Youngguk (who now goes by Longguo) placed the highest among them all, finishing at 21, just one place away from the live finale. Kwon Hyunbin was second at 22, followed by Takada Kenta at 24, Roh Taehyun at 25, Kim Sanggyun at 26, and Kim Donghan at 29.The group was also supposed to have a seventh member, Kim Taedong who finished the season at 30, however he ended up not debuting with JBJ due to an ongoing conflict with his agency, which he tried to leave in late July.
While JBJ only just debuted, half of their members are experienced idols. Taehyun is an active member of Hotshot, who just came back with “Jelly” in July; Sanggyun, otherwise known as A-Tom, is an active member of Topp Dogg; and Longguo debuted as a part of project group Longguo&Shihyun in late July. Kenta was also named by several of the show’s mentors as the trainee they were rooting for. Needless to say, with the amount of experience and talent present in JBJ’s lineup, it was easy for fans to expect great things from the group’s debut.
A Fantasy That’s Lacking in Appeal
If I could only use one word to describe JBJ’s debut track, it would be disappointing. While “Fantasy” isn’t a terrible song, it also isn’t great. The beat underneath the entire song is catchy, but the song fails to utilize and highlight the talent available. Instead, “Fantasy” is filled with an almost 30-second long all-member chorus with a 15-second pre-chorus that’s repeated three times, taking up over two whole minutes of the three and a half minute song.
That leaves room for a 10-second rap break in the middle, which is split between Sanggyun and Hyunbin, and two verses filled with pauses that hardly showcase the vocal capabilities of Donghan, Kenta, and Longguo. The tiny rap break, which serves as the song’s bridge, is so different from the rest of the song that it feels like it was torn from another song and stuck in there just to give the rappers some lines. It’s a shame, since the song’s beat is so rap-friendly. Why they felt the need to change everything completely for that 10-second break is beyond me.
The music video for “Fantasy” left me with so much to be desired, despite the impressive teasers leading up to the music video’s release. The constant jumps from shot to shot barely give you time to process what you see before moving on to the next, leaving any intended message or deeper meaning in the dust. It also makes it close to impossible to appreciate any of the group’s choreography, which is a shame because the group is made up of some incredible dancers. Even Kenta and Donghan’s brief dance break isn’t completely shown. I had to watch their choreography focus on M2 to see it.
A Disconnected Album
Fantasy is a super-quick list, lasting about 15 minutes from start to finish. However, almost all of the album’s five songs feature a different style, making it feel more like an attempt to find their sound rather than a cohesive collection.
“J.B.J (Intro)” is a hard hitting, rap-heavy quick track that’s meant to introduce the group, but instead puts a sour taste in your mouth. The last lines of the song sound more like an out-of-tune karaoke rendition rather than something that was professionally produced. What’s worse, it’s a confusing way to lead into the mid-tempo, electronica-esque title track.
After “Fantasy”, the album moves on to “Say My Name”, a hard hitting track with an instrumental-heavy chorus that personally reminded me of Yogi & Skrillex’s “Burial.” While the switches between heavy beats and more low key vocal moments threw me off a little, I can’t help but appreciate the song. It showcases not only Sanggyun’s buttery-smooth rap style, but also gives us the first solid glimpse at the vocal line’s range.
Taking yet another unexpected turn, the album then goes into “From Today,” a ‘90s boyband-style track whose synth and piano-filled backbeat reminds me of something NSYNC would have released back in the day. While it’s an easy track to listen to, it’s nothing that really sticks in my head. There aren’t any aspects that have me coming back for more, so to speak. If a track that’s slightly nostalgic but mostly forgettable is what you’re looking for, “From Today” delivers.
The final track, “As If In a Dream,” is the album’s only ballad, albeit an uptempo one. The four vocal line members really get the chance to shine here, giving them plenty of time to show off their chops. Hyunbin’s low voice is mixed in just enough to make an impact without oversaturating the entire track. It’s a sweet and simple end to the album, sweeping away almost all of the bitterness that the former tracks may have left.
Only a First Attempt
While Fantasy as a whole was rather underwhelming, JBJ managed to showcase just enough of their talents to prove that they can still shine. As with almost any other debut group, it will take some time for them to find a sound that suits all six of them. However, with their extremely short seven-month contract, you have to wonder if they’ll have enough time to find that sound before it’s too late. Fantasy was their first attempt, but with the clock ticking, they need to use it as a huge learning opportunity and bounce back fast.
Fantasy Album Score - 6.5/10
“Fantasy” Title Score - 6/10
Music Video Score - 5/10