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Rant and Rave: Straight ahead with Treasure’s ‘The Second Step’

Treasure’s unique brand of energetic and optimistic pop has captivated audiences across the globe. Since their stint in survival show YG Treasure Box, the group has released THE FIRST STEP: TREASURE EFFECT, which cemented the group as a K-Pop mainstay after releasing several iconic tracks such as Boy, Going Crazy, and My Treasure

Since then, Treasure actively expanded their expertise and reach through different forms of media. Just last year, the group launched their personalized avatars—TRUZ—translating it to merchandise that further connected the group with their fans. Meanwhile, the anime Black Clover’s soundtrack was blessed with their track, Beautiful. In November 2021, they took over YouTube after starring in the top billed web drama The Mysterious Class. While the newfound exposure helped the group become more widespread, they were sadly unable to produce music for their own.

But this year-long absence of new music finally ends with THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER ONE (The Second Step). Showcasing the maturity they gained between projects, the group’s latest mini-album contains six of Treasure’s rich tracks, exploring themes of passion, optimism, and youthfulness. Now shining brighter than ever, the group continues to convey their growing musical prowess and hopes to dominate the K-Pop scene one release at a time. 

Unpacking new gems

Just like its predecessor, The Second Step highlights Treasure’s sweet vocals, catchy verses, and dynamic choreography. The immersive lyricism of members Hyunsuk, Yoshi, Yedam, and Haruto, who have worked hand in hand with YG’s writer roster, is also evident throughout the tracklist.

Courageous and passionate love that is willing to go “straight ahead” is the centerpiece of title track, Jikjin, and Treasure’s radiant and  striking take on this love confession shines with every note. The deceptively majestic pre-chorus is delivered with power and tact by Yedam, Junkyu, and Jeongwoo. In direct contrast, the explosive chorus unfortunately registers more as aggressive than fearless, leaving a rather confusing message to its listeners. Nonetheless, the catchy hooks and magnificent displays of the member’s talents make the song a solid performance track.

Jikjin’s muddled messaging disappears in the mini-album B-sides; serving as a confession of feelings, U ecstatically highlights the group’s charm. The track features Treasure’s chiller and fresher styles, effectively communicating its romance to its listeners. Its masterfully written lyrics and upbeat instrumentals provide U with a heart-fluttering tale for its listeners. Similarly, Darari uses onomatopoeias, such as “darararari” and “chiki-boom”, to illustrate how love is likened with sweet music. 

But love songs aren’t Treasure’s only strong point. The K-Pop group proves their versatility through the comforting It’s Okay and Gonna Be Fine. These songs are built on a mix of soothing vocals, soft harmonies, and delicate guitar strums, blissfully emanating warmth and companionship. Their structures deviate from the other tracks in the mini-album’s lineup as they heavily rely on gimmicks and quips instead. 

Thus, it is surprising to learn that Gonna Be Fine was originally released as part of The Mysterious Class’ soundtrack. The same goes for the mini-album’s last song BFF—a delightful tune about platonic relationships. Through the song’s lively beat and positive lyrics, Treasure displays their playful chemistry that adds to the song’s overall flavor. While these tunes might seem like odd additions to The Second Step’s lineup, both songs’ inclusions are justified as they capture the group’s unique colors of energetic, uplifting spirits.

Familiar flair

Even with Treasure members’ numerous credits as writers and composers, YG Entertainment’s (YG) signature style remains indelible. Similar to BIGBANG’s Bang Bang Bang, iKON’s Dumb & Dumber, and BLACKPINK’s Kill This Love, Jikjin does not escape the entertainment agency’s style of having catchy choruses, heavy beats, enticing dance breaks, and electrifying chants. 

On the other hand, U, Darari, and BFF’s approaches deviate from the YG formula. Unlike the chic and swaggy styles, Treasure takes a more youthful approach by incorporating positive lyrics and lighter beats in the aforementioned tracks. This technique takes listeners back to the group’s previous tracks such as My Treasure and Bling Like This

However, only time will tell if the group will conform to YG’s standards and become routine rap machines, or if they’ll explore more charming and bubblegum like concepts.

A step closer

Treasure balances their youthful aura with YG’s timeless style with every release. The result is an interesting and refreshing take on the K-Pop genre that emphasizes the group’s individuality, establishing distinct and captivating identities. Though limited runtime hinders the K-Pop group’s full potential to further showcase their artistry, The Second Step is still filled with cloud nine-worthy melodies that everyone should listen to. 

However, in the competitive music scene, this would not simply suffice. YG’s constant influence, particularly in scheduling and deciding the quantity of Treasure’s releases, may ultimately do more harm than good. The company’s comeback tactic seems scary as it can impact the group negatively considering they are still newcomers in the industry. 

While this may be a marketing strategy aiming to paint YG comebacks as once-a-year holidays, it will come with risks—including losing a portion of a music-deprived fandom. The long wait may also make comebacks seem underwhelming, especially if the waiting time fails to justify the quality and quantity of new releases like how The Second Step’s impact was weakened by the prolonged anticipation. But if this well-rounded team gets propelled forward, there’s no doubt Treasure would accomplish their goal: to conquer the K-Pop world with limitless possibilities. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

By Addie Holgado

By Carl Joshua Mamuri

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