Well… this is awkward. Just a short time after Ravn left ONEUS after allegations were made against him, we have a Japanese track that places him front and center. Obviously, these releases are planned and recorded far in advance, but it still feels weird to see ONEUS as a six-member group and know that this will be the final time that happens.
The opening of Dopamine gave me great hope, and a sliver of that hope remains throughout much of the song. It has a propulsive quality that appeals to me, even if the melodies are boiler-plate K-pop-turned-J-pop in a way we’ve heard hundreds of times before. Still, if you underline a lackluster hook with a brisk, funky beat, it’s bound to elevate a song’s appeal. Like so many boy group releases of this sub-genre, Dopamine can’t quite commit to its strengths. We’ve got a thrilling burst of energy during its chorus, followed by a lifeless post-chorus hook that lands with a thud. A second-verse tempo shift also does the song no favors. I’m not sure why producers remain so intent on screwing up the momentum, but it remains a consistent problem on tracks like this.
At its best, Dopamine tries to take advantage of ONEUS’s vocal line. Whenever the vocals are allowed to soar, the track nearly takes off. But, these moments are truncated in a frustrating way. Rather than hit us with a blaze of glory, Dopamine settles for the style of aimless sing-talk that fills space but doesn’t thrill in the long run. It’s too bad, because the song’s electro-powered chorus has tons of potential.