Though this spring’s Bite Me was not without its issues, it went on to be a big hit for ENHYPEN by tapping into the Y2K trend and prioritizing a short-but-sweet song structure. The funky teasers for new title track Sweet Venom promised something even better, and HYBE-related acts have found recent success with MJ-esque throwbacks. But as much potential as the songs holds, its charms are undercut by a lack of development.
It’s gotten to the point where I check a single’s running time before even pressing play. It’s not that you can’t craft an amazing song that’s under three minutes. Decades ago, that used to be the norm. However, Sweet Venom‘s brief two-and-a-half-minute life doesn’t allow for any interesting flourishes to poke through.
I think we can all be happy that member Ni-ki finally gets to live out his long-simmering MJ fantasy. The retro outfits are the coolest thing about the music video, and the song’s groove captures a taste of the intricate, lively percussion that fueled so many of those Jacksonian classics. But, Sweet Venom misses the expansive sense of drama that’s made those songs endure for decades. It’s all surface pleasures, smoothed of their edges to create an amiable, boppy bauble.
I’m not immune to an amiable, boppy bauble, and Sweet Venom‘s core influences greatly appeal to me. That bias is enough to earn it an easy above-average rating. But just once, I’d love to hear a modern K-pop track stretch beyond pure homage. Elevate rather than replicate. Sweet Venom is sleek and consistently hooky, but also feels hollow and incomplete — a copy of a copy of a copy that lacks the robust melodies and unpredictable funk to make it truly crackle. When it comes to K-pop’s marquee acts, fans deserve music that settles for nothing less than its full capacity. This is “A+” style settling for “B” execution.