1THE9 Wants to Step into The “Spotlight” in Their Debut Mini-Album
1THE9 (원더나인), pronounced “wonder nine,” is a nine-member team that debuted on April 13 with the album XIX. 1THE9 was formed by the survival program Under Nineteen. Out of the 57 trainees, these nine were picked for a 12-month long contract with MBK Entertainment, the company that houses the girl group DIA. With 1THE9’s strong pre-debut track “Domino” making waves among K-Pop, it’s no secret that XIX was an album to keep your eyes on.
XIX the Debut Mini-Album
The Album Music Video
1THE9 has done something isn’t seen a lot in the K-Pop industry: they created a music video that tells the story of the album. This 22-minute long video follows a fictional story of how 1THE9 was formed. The story takes place at a boarding school campus and starts out with the introduction of a new student. At first, he gets the classic new kid treatment, but things begin to look up for him when his roommate notices that he is watching an idol stage in their dorm room. One day during class, a fellow student is taking notes after watching students give music presentations, and he notes which class members would fit what roles in an idol team. Fast forward a little bit, and together they form a group of nine classmates to become what we know as 1THE9.
Together, the group creates choreography and music, and soon they have the song that we know as “Domino.” They sneak out to film a video for “Domino” on the soccer field late at night but are soon caught, and their music making equipment is confiscated by the principal. One of the members, however, manages to keep a flash drive hidden away. Soon after this, they work together to put on a guerilla performance in the school gymnasium. This performance is actually of their mini-album’s title track, “Spotlight.” This performance is filmed and, eventually, one of the members posts it online. To everyone's surprise, the video goes viral and catches the attention of a music producer. This is how nine high school boys become 1THE9. What is really cool about this video is that it is three different music videos stitched together. The beginning of the story where the new student is joining the school is actually pieces of the music video for “Our Story,” then the performance on the soccer field is the music video for “Domino,” and finally, the last performance in the gymnasium is part of their music video for “Spotlight.” This method of storytelling is refreshing to see. I would love to see more idol teams follow in 1THE9’s footsteps.
This was the first song released prior to the group’s debut. The intro is full of guitar that has a Latin feel to it, something that seems to follow the current pattern of spring and summer K-Pop releases. Once the verse starts, however, a low, smooth rhythm is introduced that is reminiscent of the feeling of bass vibrating through you when played loudly through speakers. The song has an R&B feel that one would expect from a song that was written, composed, and produced by Crush and Gxxd. Of the entire song, the chorus is my favorite because of the way the members’ vocals ride the beat. The melody reintroduces the guitar but then adds a soft piano line, giving the song a pop feel.
The Music Video
The music video for “Domino” is just one part of a larger story. This music video picks up after the discovery of the team's last member—a student who would cautiously watch the others practice from afar. Once the others agree to let him join the team, they help him catch up quickly. They then sneak out to the soccer field in the middle of the night to perform together for the first time. The choreography for “Domino” is smooth and very satisfying to watch, with the most eye-catching part being the hip-popping movements during the chorus as they are slow and fit the song well.
The Latin feel returns in “Spotlight.” If I hadn’t been watching the music video the first time I heard this song, I may have thought the title of the song was “Merry-Go-Round” as the chorus repeats the line, “We spin like [a] merry-go-round.” This song tends to lean more towards rap than vocals in the verses and then more towards the vocal side during the chorus. This is a different format compared to a lot of other K-Pop songs. Musically, the song is heavy on brass, with a lot of trumpet sounds included in the chorus. In the verses, the trumpet sounds blend with sounds of a marimba or a xylophone. The percussion in the song's verses blends the Latin rhythm with a hip-hop beat, creating a delightful fusion of sound. The chorus is super catchy, so it will be easy to find yourself humming at random parts of the day.
The Music Video
The music video for “Spotlight” starts out with a shot of all the members sitting on the roof of a house underneath a deep blue sky. It then jumps to the scene of the members performing in the high school gymnasium that is featured in the album music video. There’s a clicking sound and the scene changes to the members dressed in black and red in a back alley scene. The choreography features a lot of familiar movements including a modified (read: easier) version of the shoot dance. The chorus choreography looks very easy to follow; however, like any K-Pop choreography, looks can be deceiving. The camera movements are really generous, allowing all the members to get a fair share of screentime. The end of the music video cuts back to the school where the members are all partying with their classmates. For the “official” debut music video, it is a fresh and fun debut.
“우리들의 이야기 (The Story)”
This song is a classic K-Pop ballad that could easily be dropped into the credit sequence of any romance-centric K-Drama. The song is very vocal-driven—but they managed to sneak in a little bit of rap—and it is also very piano heavy with a soothing beat. Because of this, the song is drastically different compared to the other songs on the album.
The Music Video
This music video is the longest of the three individual videos, and it chronicles the first days of how the members formed 1THE9. It gives the viewers a bit more background on how the members met each other. The base of the team started with two members, with other members being discovered after witnessing them being bullied, or performing, or even noticing a slight interest in idols. The video shows the members’ story, making the title of the song fitting. For a 15-minute music video, it is a wonderful watch. There really isn’t any choreography visible in the music video as the focus is in the plot.
“R.N.R.H. (Right Now, Right Here)”
“Right Now, Right Here” is a song that was confusing on the first listen. It starts out sounding like an R&B track, but the chorus sounds like it was plucked from the middle of an EDM DJ’s set. The verses still lean into the R&B sound, but the song blends into the EDM sound nicely with a slowly increasing beat. This song is one that would make a good addition to any party playlist.
Compared to the rest of the songs, this song wasn’t that impressive. During the chorus, the melody is overshadowed by a very busy beat. The verses are focused on percussion more than melody. Although this song isn’t up on my list of favorites on this mini-album, I can definitely see why it could be a favorite for others.
As someone who hasn’t watched their survival show, the sound and teamwork of 1THE9 make it look like they have been training together for a long time. While survival shows may not be the best way to form idol groups, I think that 1THE9 was formed well and that each member balances each other out. 1THE9 is a group to keep an eye on as they complete their time with MBK Entertainment, and their debut mini-album is one that I will be listening to again.