Chinese boy band WayV prove their mettle with second album ‘On My Youth’

“On My Youth” by WayV. (SM Entertainment)

SM Entertainment’s Chinese boy band WayV have come out with guns blazing on their sophomore album, “On My Youth.” It’s no small feat for the six-piece group to stand out, particularly because they are the the fourth sub-unit (a smaller group made up from members of a larger one) from the K-pop mega boyband NCT.

But WayV manage to forge their own style and path in the dizzying world of K-pop divisions and subdivisions. They are in spirit, musically and aesthetically, the new generation’s EXO-M — SM Entertainment’s previous Chinese subgroup of their super act EXO — loaded with similar charisma.

WayV, whose name is an acronym for We Are Your Vision, expertly mix hip-hop, pop and electronica on their new 10-track album in a style uniquely their own. From the neo-soulful “No One But You” and the bright pop “Be Alright,” this album is a journey that always seems to revert back to a sense of hopefulness, uplifting the listener even when detouring with a weird trap stanza. (In that way, moving from a kind of softness to an edge feels like the sonic equivalent of watching Bambi pretend to be the hunter.)

The title track and single “On My Youth,” which also gets an all English-language version on the album, moves from electronic music to trap to rap in a mid-tempo melody, an an unexpected but welcomed combo. “Poppin’ Love” is ripe for dancing, with its Y2K boy band-style production flavor with a dizzying beat. “Lighthouse” is a pleasant stripped down piano ballad, and “Moonlight” goes full pop with a majestic string arrangement.

If there is an outlier on the album, it’s found on “RODEO,” with its deep bass EDM beats and surprising reference to Lil Jon’s “From the Window to the Wall.” But its uniqueness doesn’t make for a disjointed listening experience — instead, it works as a great break on the album, arriving midway through. Think of it like an animated intermission.

Lyrically, the entirety of the record is an ode to youth, young love, immature mistakes and hope for the future. With beats like these, it’s a safe bet the sextet will be a lasting part of the C-pop pantheon.

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