K-Pop: ATEEZ Comeback ‘ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE’

Promotional image of Song Mingi, Choi Jongho, Jung Wooyoung, Kim Hongjoong, Kang Yeosang, Choi San, Park Seonghwa, and Jeong Yunho for ‘ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE’. Copyright goes to KQ Entertainment and ATEEZ.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE’ finally dropped yesterday and if you’ve been on this blog this past week, you know how excited I was for it. I gushed about the “Turbulence” music video as well as how emotional the song itself made me. From just that song I expected great things from this comeback. And this comeback exceeded by expectations more than I ever could have imagined. It isn’t the hype album we tend to expect from ATEEZ. ATEEZ generally does albums full of badass concepts and thrumming beats. This album definitely has some of its own faster songs as well, but the primary pieces on it are slower and more heartfelt. If anyone thought ATEEZ could only do one type of style before, ‘ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE’ proves them miserably wrong. The slower ballads here are some of the best I’ve heard in the entire K-Pop industry. Every member shines in each song and delivers a side to them we haven’t fully seen explored in past works from ATEEZ. I could talk about how gorgeous the album was all day, but let’s focus up and look at these songs individually.

“Turbulence”:

As I noted above, I actually already did a deep dive on this song. When the music video came out I very much felt like I needed to talk about how much I personally related to the lyrics. The song discusses feeling lost in life. Feeling like there’s a goal you should be meeting, but being unsure how to get there or even what that goal is. It goes through struggles with patience, trying to discover what you should be doing when it’s hard enough to be true to yourself, and even battling against depression. But ultimately, the song encourages all of its listeners to strive to be themselves above all other things. The song is relatable to many, especially those who were left without a direction during the pandemic. And it’s delivered expertly, by each member. Yunho and Seonghwa ground each verse with calmer, sweeter tones that each pair with Yeosang’s deeper vocals. I love how Yeosang is stepping out and getting much more time in each of these songs, and his lower register is perfectly somber throughout “Turbulence”. Wooyoung and San interject most through the choruses and their voices are impactful. I was blown away watching the power these two had while doing a live performance of this song. Mingi and Hongjoong, as usual, deliver amazing rap verses here. They don’t get a ton of time overall in this album, but their rap verses are low and melodic, and we even get to hear both of them sing at points. And, of course Jongho’s voice is unmatched within the industry. He comes in during the chorus each time to tug at your heartstrings, and I don’t think anyone can resist the emotion in his voice, nor his incredible range. Despite my love of all the songs on this album, this one remains to be my favorite.

“Be With You”:

We have another ballad! This song is very heavily piano based which gives it a simpler, pretty feel. Until it gets to the chorus and the rest of the instruments kick in to pack an emotional punch. Yeah, that’s right. Even after “Turbulence” you’re not allowed to escape the emotions. If ATEEZ’s goal was to make me cry for the entire album, I’d say they succeeded. This song describes being there for someone who’s struggling. It does this by both confessing how painful it is to see someone you care about going through a tough time, and pledging to stay by their side. I’m not sure if this was the point, but I feel like this could very much relate to the way ATEEZ has been attempting to be there for their fans throughout the pandemic. Whether it is or not, the message of the song is still very strong. Though this is another ballad, I was surprised to hear some differences in the way some of the members were utilized here. Yunho and Seonghwa both deliver some sweeter vocals throughout, but Seonghwa also gets quite a bit of time in the chorus both for the bittersweet ending and the powerful beginning. Every time the chorus came up I was blown away by his contributions. Yunho, meanwhile, hit some notes I didn’t even know were part of his range. San and Yeosang both also surprise with a much higher range here than they had in “Turbulence”. Wooyoung shows off the power his voice holds in the chorus of this song once again. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him belt out notes like this before this album, but I’m appreciating it so much. Mingi and Hongjoong get very little in this song, only appearing once towards the end where they switch off singing. I do like their singing voices, though! And Jongho’s here to hit you with his incredible voice and all the feels once more. What’s not to love?

“The Letter”:

Finally, we get a little bit of time to breathe and wipe our tears. “The Letter” is a peppier song, but in a way that’s still very calming and easy to listen to. The message is similar to “Be With You”, but with a bit more of a positive spin. The song alludes to being there for each other through difficult times, but it’s more about being thankful for the time spent with one another. Here we get some great, calming vocals from all members. We get some more Wooyoung and San showing off the belt they both have showcased in this album, just in an easier form. Yunho and Yeosang both give us some relaxed vocals in a higher range than you might expect from either of them. Seonghwa is back in the chorus for this one to demonstrate how insanely versatile his voice is. And Jongho shows us how his incredible voice can also be used for the lighter-feeling choruses. We do get much more Hongjoong and Mingi for this song too. Their verses are slower and more melodic, but definitely not somber. It feels more like their styles are coming through here and I always love hearing that. This one is just nice to listen to.

“Still Here”:

“Still Here” feels very much in the same vein as “The Letter”. It’s peppier, but slower and with a somber undertone that’s enveloped by a more hopeful message. This song is about feeling far apart, but still feeling the happiness of one another’s presence with the promise that they’ll always be there regardless of distance. This one is definitely about quarantine, and it’s a really touching message for ATINY. I love when San and Wooyoung pull out their higher, sweeter sound, and they definitely do that here. Which is also why it’s so fun to hear Seonghwa go a bit deeper in parts of this song. The range of ATEEZ, everyone. Yunho always manages to sound so comforting in these songs, which also makes it insane when he suddenly starts with something more powerful during parts of the chorus. Yeosang’s deeper vocals get more spotlight here once again, which I always love. Also, there’s tons of Hongjoong in this song. His style here is less melodic but even more addictive. There’s also a back and forth moment in here with him and Seonghwa that I could listen to over and over again. And Jongho tops it all off with the perfect ending to the chorus to make it feel satisfying. If only Mingi was in more than the outro of this song. It’s very likely only because he wasn’t present when they first started performing it.

“Better”:

This song’s message is more on par with “Turbulence”. It’s very much about struggles with anxiety and feeling like you’re being held in place when you want to move forward. However, the song is just as much about how you aren’t the only one experiencing those feelings and that all of us can come together and appreciate that we’re still improving day by day, even when we don’t feel like it. While Yeosang shows off his deeper range again, I was surprised by how neutral toned and sweet, Seonghwa, San, and Yunho all sounded together. Their voices all blended together nicely and there was the added appreciation of San not joining in on configurations like this all too often. Wooyoung’s belt was even a bit sweeter here, which I thought was a nice touch. And, as usual, Jongho kicks the chorus up a notch by ending it with even more of a belt. Hongjoong and Mingi sing in this song once again. Although I wish we had heard more rap verses on this album, I really love the consistency of Mingi’s deep voice and the unique sound Hongjoong has when he sings. It’s another slow piece, though it doesn’t really match a ballad or the peppiness of the other songs. Still, it’s very comforting.

“The Real” MV and ‘Kingdom’ Songs:

We’ve talked about the ‘Kingdom’ songs on this blog before while reviewing the competition show, so I won’t spend too much time on these songs. What I will say, though, it “The Real (Heung Version)” is even better than the original. The traditional sound matches the song so well! The music video for “The Real” also dropped with the release of this album. It’s definitely a stark contrast to the “Turbulence” video. This MV is extremely high energy, with a lot of really cool looks to discuss. The whole thing takes place in a high school where we see all of the members separated. Hongjoong and Seonghwa get the traditional outfitting, both in various shades of blue. Hongjoong’s newly dyed black and white hair pulled back is so incredible, meanwhile the pastel of Seonghwa’s hair is perfect against the white background. The confidence these two radiate when they’re together is extraordinary. Wooyoung and San sit in a class together, both wearing varsity jackets. It’s a laid back look, but it pairs well the well-fitted suits they rock later on in the MV. Yunho and Jongho sit astride motorcycles in leather jackets. Need I say more? This concept always works. All of the members change into school uniforms at some point in the video. Mingi wears the uniform most and it’s loose fitting look fits him very well. Yeosang, meanwhile, stands on a rooftop in a nice suit and pearls. This Is such a striking look that I understand why he needed all the time alone to show off. The dance battles that occur in this music video are the most entertaining part of the whole thing. It feels like the members are all having fun, and if you watch the behind the scenes clips, it’s because they were. As for the other songs “WAVE (Overture)”, “WONDERLAND (Symphony No.9)””, and “Answer (Ode to Joy)” are all perfectly epic for their performances on ‘Kingdom’. I seriously recommend looking those up if you haven’t.

And that’s it! This comeback surprised me more than I thought it would. When I heard “Turbulence” I wasn’t sure what to expect. I expected greatness, obviously, but making the center piece of this album a ballad was surprising for ATEEZ. But ATEEZ proved that they are more versatile than any of us expected by giving us a whole album of slower, emotional pieces. And there isn’t a single song on it that I would skip. Go check this out if you haven’t! ATEEZ is changing the game and you don’t want to miss it!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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