Rather than a full on review, I decided to simply “react” to SF9’s latest album, RUMINATION. Released on November 22, this EP has 8 new songs, including the title track “Trauma.” Here are my initial thoughts while listening to the album all the way through for the first time. Pardon any all-caps reactions, scattered thoughts, or any other randomness. These are unedited. Ha! I also paired each song with a couple of other SF9 releases, in case you’re new to the fandom or just want some other recommendations! Let’s dive in!
I did watch this music video on the day it was released, but I haven’t listened to it since because I knew I wanted to write up a reaction to it. Right away, the instrumentals stand out to me. There are so many floating sounds; I don’t know how else to describe it. It adds this ethereal layer to the track that goes so well with that bass that comes in for the chorus. Speaking of which, The rappers have some super cool moments on this track; Zuho reminds us that he’s the male version of Venus, which we first heard on SF9’s performance of Taemin’s “Move” on Kingdom. Then in the bridge, Chani and Hwiyoung have a back-and-forth section that I love. Overall, I think Taeyang’s scratchy notes at the end and Rowoon’s “I don’t like this drama” line are a couple of my favorite parts. I won’t lie to you…the lyrics confuse me just a touch. Ha! “You become my trauma…oh, you are not my trauma.” The back and forth makes me cock my head just a little bit. Maybe after listening a few more times and studying the lyrics, I won’t be as confused.
[ For fans of “Tear Drop” and “RPM.” ]
That producer tag immediately makes me think of “RPM” and EXO’s “Overdose”. The opening instrumentals are kind of eerie? I don’t hate it. Ok, we’re just diving right into a rap. We don’t get that too terribly often with SF9 and I’m INTO IT. Inseong and Rowoon really don’t get enough credit for their vocals. The chorus has these really silky vocal slides from the :55 – 1:15 marks, as an example, that are BUTTER. What these guys are doing here is not easy, but they make it sound effortless. Is…is Zuho singing? Are we having a vocal Zuho moment? There’s so much that’s happening on this track that’s A+ fantastic quality music. *processing* It’s the notes for me. We’re bouncing around constantly in a way that’s so beautiful and intriguing; there are zero dull moments in this entire song. And the VOCAL QUALITY; if anyone tries to tell you that SF9 aren’t vocalists, just throw this song their way. Big, big fan. So silky. So delicious.
[ For fans of “Fall in Love” and “Like The Hands Held Tight.” ]
Track 3 and my hopes are already feeling high. Why does this sound like a song I would’ve listened to in high school during my punk rock phase?! This is soooo different from any other SF9 song and I’m smiling at how fun this is. Ha! More vocal slides; these guys are really showing off with this EP. This pre-chorus with those distant harmonies and what is this low key rock style?! No thoughts. Just jamming. The song title feels appropriate to me because this STYLE is a dream! These transitions from the verses to the chorus are genius; the tempo slows down just enough to feel like we’re going in slow motion, then the chorus just explodes in. The bridge takes us on a whole other journey, later. Slower, faster, slower, high note. There seems to be a trend of blending pop and rock in KPop releases and I think it’s awesome. The rock sound on this track grounds everything and adds so many instrumental details in the background. I hear something new each time I listen!
[ For fans of “MAMMA MIA” and “K.O.” ]
We’re back on the interesting opening train. Let’s gooo! Oooh Youngbin said “Trust me. You should not test me” and then he said “KISS ME”?! *sits down* TAEYANG?! This is his era. This is his vocal style. He is THRIVING. Imagine if he had a solo debut. None of us would survive it, so I guess FNC is really throwing us a bone there. Then Inseong and Rowoon again are kings of the chorus. Those powerful, pointed notes from Inseong really soar. Dawon hits some really nice, high notes, too. Then we get more autotuned smoothness from Hwiyoung and Chani, it sounds like. This section adds a nice variety and helps break up the song. That autotuned texture keeps things interesting. I love how this song is about being a gentleman and the vibe of the entire track has this air of being up and above mere mortal songs. It’s just gliding through our ears like a fine wine hitting the taste buds. You’ll hear no complaints from me! “I guess [I] get it.”
[ For fans of “Am I The Only One” and “Shh.” ]
“On And On”
Ok rain sounds and bass guitar! …annnddd that’s not where I was expecting things to go. Ha! In my head, we were about to get groovy, but then we brought the energy down a notch. Inseong…how does he just keep delivering stunning chorus after stunning chorus? Does Youngbin have two rap sections? There’s significantly more rapping on this track than I was expecting from its slower tempo. Wait. WAIT. This is just Inseong and Youngbin, isn’t it?! No wonder! Ha! WE ARE BLESSED. There’s some harmony in the second chorus that’s literally making me crank the volume up higher because they’re unexpected and beautiful. Those opening rain sounds were so appropriate, as this is the perfect kind of rainy day, sitting in a coffee shop or something kind of song. It also feels like a farewell, which makes me feel a little sad since Inseong and Youngbin are the two oldest members in the group, nearing the age they’ll need to enlist in the military. This song adds some nice variety to the EP overall and I love that we have a duet!
[ For fans of “Echo” and “Forever.” ]
Again, I have to comment on the instrumentals. Those acrobatic sounds are so interesting! Youngbin is once again DELIVERING with the fun rap sections. The chorus has me moving my shoulders to the beat; this is the kind of song that would be easy to learn and sing along with. It’s repetitive in the best way. Zuho’s rap feels like being on a rollercoaster, which is a nice variation from him. I really think that when they divided up parts on this EP, they gave Taeyang every moment that could be remotely sexy or involve a whisper. Haha. He crushes it every time. Inseong with that high note! Then the bridge feels like the climax of a musical. I just imagine a stage performance with the whole cast being center stage all of a sudden. Dawon leads us into that moment as the drums break up his lyrics and everything shuts down for a moment. That definitely created a moment of high interest! I love how Hwiyoung comes in with a short rap at the end there, too; it forces the ending to pick up the pace just a little before it drops away completely. This was a fun one!
[ For fans of “Love No.5” and “Summer Breeze.” ]
The title alone has me excited, since Fantasy is SF9’s fandom. I always enjoy a song that’s written specifically for fans with some sort of message from the artists to their fan base. Ahhhh that acoustic guitar as the opening instrumental. The tone is so sweet right away. I remember reading that the whole group participated while writing this track, which I love. When I know that, it automatically kicks the authenticity and genuine nature of the lyrics up to 10. Jaeyoon there at the beginning was a brilliant choice; he has such a warmth to his voice that always makes me pay attention. This song talks about the happines their fans bring them and how they wish to return that happiness. “I see your love again like a gift.” I would love to see them perform this song with a full band; it would really create a whole experience. I genuinely enjoyed this song. There’s so much apparent sweetness and you can tell that the lyrics WHOA ZUHO LOW NOTE. So sorry. But he ends with a note that’s so low that it shook me. Anyway, you can tell that the lyrics came from the group’s heart.
[ For fans of “Dear Fantasy” and “So Beautiful.” ]
I have to tell you…this is a no skip album. Yes, I’ve been a fan of SF9 for years, so I’m somewhat biased. But even if I take my Fantasy hat off for a second, every song really does have merit and is able to stand on its own. But then when you package them all together, they add up to a great EP. We got some different styles, a duet, high notes, low notes, and more!
Have you listened to this album yet? We hope you’ll share your favorite song in the comments!