ASTRO is yet another group that I feel is doing well but deserves so much more. While they have a certain level of notoriety and success – and some truly fantastic songs – they haven’t had that “breakout hit” that would make them undisputedly top tier. I thought it would happen with “All Night” a couple of years ago, but that was sadly not the case. I’ve mentioned before that my students are often a good indicator of which K-pop groups are hot right now, so I asked them about ASTRO: a few kids had heard of them, but most only knew Cha Eunwoo. Which I guess makes sense because the guy is everywhere right now (I’ve literally seen his face on the side on a bus here), but it’s still kind of a bummer. So I’m really hoping “ONE” will help ASTRO get more recognition, because it’s another excellent song to add to their already stellar discography.
ASTRO has cultivated their sound so carefully over the years; they transitioned from their youthful energetic rookie music to smoother and more charming songs almost seamlessly. I always kind of hesitate to say this because most of ASTRO is significantly younger than I am, but their recent music certainly has a more sexy vibe – and while I think any adult idol could be capable of pulling off a sexy concept, their particular version of it is surprisingly mature and sophisticated for a group where half the members are barely in their twenties. Their latest single “ONE” keeps that energy, but it adds a twist: it’s the group’s first venture into EDM. Since that’s fairly popular with boy groups these days, I’m not overly surprised that ASTRO would try out this trend. However, it’s nice to hear that “ONE” still retains qualities unique to them and their style.
K-pop is usually all about versatility, and many groups spend their careers showing how they can adapt themselves to fit any song or image. And while that’s definitively impressive, the fact that ASTRO has done the reverse and molded the song to fit their own particular skill set is also pretty noteworthy. Normally, K-pop EDM songs often go all out and sound quite intense since they’re filled to the brim with lots of different elements. (The most recent example I can think of is MIRAE’s “Killa,” but there are plenty of others out there.) By comparison, the arrangement for “ONE” forgoes most of the bells and whistles to highlight the strong beat and the members’ soaring vocals. While it’s still quite energetic and packs some power – as EDM should – it also sounds as light and polished as ASTRO’s other music.
One of the things that always impresses me about ASTRO is that they’re such a consistently balanced group. They started out strong when they debuted, and they’ve only gotten better with time. This comeback really highlights everything they have to offer. They have so many strong vocalists, and “ONE” suits all of their voices perfectly. While the rap verses for JinJin and Rocky are on the shorter side, they’re definitely high impact moments. (It’s genuinely amazing how fast Rocky can rap.) And of course, the excellent choreography is an ideal reflection of ASTRO’s high dance level. It’s really entertaining to watch, and I wish that awesome dance break lasted just a *little* bit longer. Each and every member is killing it on all fronts, though I personally feel this comeback belongs to Moonbin – my main takeaway from the music video was how he really looked like he was in his element.
As much as I am loving “ONE,” there’s one slight downside for me: the music video. To be clear, I don’t think it’s bad at all. The production design is stellar, and it’s very high quality. It’s the camera work that’s the issue for me. There’s a cube that heavily features in the aesthetic and special effects, and I think the shots are supposed to mirror assembling it or something like that. Maybe it’s a message that the members are the six sides of the cube, and together they become one. Which is a super cool idea to try and visually execute… however, I have very sensitive eyes. So all the zooming in and out and flipping the camera angles makes me nauseous. (I’m one of those people who can’t deal with action movie scenes where the camera is all shaky or play video games from first person POV.) So that’s kind of a letdown for me, but not really a big deal in the long run.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
I never listen to highlight medleys or watch music video teasers – I like to experience everything at once on comeback day – so I was fully expecting “ONE” to be another song like “All Night,” “Blue Flame,” or “Knock.” Clicking on that music video and seeing that ASTRO slightly switched things up was a DELIGHTFUL surprise. I honestly love so much about “ONE” (aside from that shaky music video), and I feel it shows ASTRO at no less than their best. Everything is so clean and polished, from the clear vocals to the perfectly synchronized choreography, and it’s proof that they just keep getting better and better. I’m not sure if it’s my new favorite ASTRO song – I’m particularly attached to “All Night” – but it’s definitely one of my favorite songs of the year so far. If it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, I will THROW HANDS.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to Fantagio Entertainment.