REVIEW: “Border: Day One” by Enhypen
Story: Penny Rae Hawkins
The hype for BE:LIFT’s first boy group seemed to begin with the first teasers for I-Land, the competition reality show that created Enhypen. The seven-member group were specially selected by industry legends Rain, Zico, and Big Hit Entertainment CEO Bang Shi-hyuk, with the assistance of votes from the viewing audience. Their debut album Border: Day One was released on Nov. 30 and has set the bar pretty high for this promising new group.
The group’s influences, especially from fellow rookie group ATEEZ, is present from the very beginning of the album. Not only are both groups very high-concept, but the introductory track “Intro: Walk the Line” was definitely inspired in part by “Intro: Long Journey,” a verbose English-language monologue that sets the stage for the word they’re building, and is much like the first track on ATEEZ’s debut album Treasure EP. 1: All to Zero. Rather than “hip hop pirates,” Enhypen takes Engene (Enhypen’s fanclub) into a world where Twilight-esquires vampires wait in smoky forests for a girl to worship and adore.
This sentiment is solidified by “Let Me In (20 Cube),” a dark guitar-based pop song that boasts deep vocals from the maknae Ni-ki and promises to be your boyfriend. While it feels like a generic love song on the surface, the vampiric subtext isn’t forgotten. Lyrics like “will you open your window / I might hurt you,” and “baby, joy is blooming in pain” give credence and depth to their darkness. It’s a perfect follow up to the title track “Given-Taken,” which opens with a delicate harp before Heesung offers the crisp and clear vocals that got him on the team. From references to red eyes and blood to white fangs, the lights that burn their skin are no match for the dreams and goals the boys are no longer afraid to face.
Unfortunately, the album isn’t all mystery and 2011 Panic! At the Disco-esque baroque darkness. The oddly tropical percussion of “10 Months” breaks the energy of the album with an almost Calvin Harris-vibe, despite him not being one of the fourteen credited producers on the track. In a bottle, it’s a fun and simple summer-ready song. But, on the album, it just feels a tad out of place.
In a way, “Flicker”, a light yet mysterious track, acts as a bridge between the two vibes. Especially interesting considering the instrumentation on “Outro: Cross the Line,” which not only goes right back to the energy established by the first three tracks, but sounds like a lost demo from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It makes “Flicker” and “10 Months” seem even more out of place, keeping the album from being as great as it could have been.
As it is, “Border: Day One” is a solid debut with lots of promise. While not entirely cohesive, the mini-album succeeds where it’s most important: introducing these talented young vampires to the world. They proved their talent and work ethic on I-Land, but they’ve only just begun proving their merit as Enhypen.