iKON is one of those groups that has a lot of potential that has gone somewhat wasted by their label (YG Entertainment).  While the boys have had lots of success, especially outside of Korea, we think it’s not reaching to say that their first album was somewhat of a disappointment when you consider the hype that surrounded them at the time.  It wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t live up to expectations and fell flat in execution.

We are happy to report that this is not the issue with this album by any means.

While we’re not sure this is going to have them breaking through in the way that other groups like BTS and EXO have to become the male, YGE equivalent for Generation 3, this has them on that trajectory.  We recognize some of the elements of the first album in this one–unexpectedly mellow or poppy production choices, a lack of distinctively hip-hop or hip-pop tracks, music that seems skewed younger than the perceived demographic–but those elements have been refined and balanced out in a way that makes them a little easier to handle.

You can easily say that there is a lot more rapping this time around despite the fact that there is more emphasis put on the vocal line (which contains 5 of the members) and each member has a lot more time to shine this time around.  The production is definitely poppy (barring one MAJOR exception) but the vocals are strong and the production is a lot stronger this time around.  And the slightly more youthful than expected sound doesn’t sound nearly as immature as it did before and, instead, gives an air of wonder and happiness instead of inexperience.

The vocals are solid here.  One of the main complaints we had about the last full project was that the vocal line seemed lost in a lot of places because so much emphasis was put on B.I and Bobby to carry the sound.  What this project shows is that the vocal line for this group needs their flower now because they are more than able to hold their own against the rappers in terms of charisma and command of their solos.  It’s getting easier (if you are someone who isn’t a major fan) to recognize individual voices as everyone has their own style, tone, and texture.  Chanwoo and Donghyuk sound so good that I’m about to demand either a vocal subunit or two individual projects from them.

Again, full lyrical translations elude us for the moment, but the gentlemen seem to have kept that aspect of their process in the right place.  The lyrics have been some of the best parts of this group’s discography and preliminary translations seem to show that to be the case again.  They manage to tell good stories in their songs with solid wordplay and not losing the plot for some weird, ill-fitting aside.

If there is one downside to this album it’s that it still doesn’t sound distinctively iKON.  We know that Teddy and Perry are still heading up songwriting duties in-house and that Bobby, B.I, and Millenium are adding into the pot to help develop a sound, but most these songs still sound like you could hand them to any member of the label and they would just sound slightly different.  Don’t Forget sounds like something you would get from Taeyang or G-Dragon; Sinosijak is very BLACKPINK, and Just Go sounds like a leftover from first-era WINNER.  One of the reasons we loved Love & Fall was that Bobby managed to find himself and make those songs his own; we are waiting for that moment for iKON.  They are still young and you can hear that individually emerging, but they haven’t quite grabbed it yet.

Still, we can’t help but be charmed by this project overall.  We can see this winning them more fans both in and outside of Korea as well as calming naysayers who didn’t think they could ever evolve beyond those first singles.

Our favorite tracks are One And Only, Hug Me, and Love Me.  The most skippable tracks are Everything , because the hook is bomb but the rest of the song is lackluster, and Love Scenario because it just seems like a better version of My Type.