STAYC are promising rookies who debuted late last year, and they seem to have a pretty strong following despite being less than six months old. (The music video for “ASAP” has racked up over 13 million views in under a week!) I don’t actually know much about them except that they’re produced by Black Eyed Pilseung, who has created some of my favorite girl group songs over the years. I liked their debut single “So Bad,” but I truthfully didn’t listen to it a lot. While it’s a great song, it was a case of bad timing – I was already over the synthpop 80’s throwback trend when it came out. So since I didn’t spend much time on STAYC’s debut, I was looking forward to seeing what they would do for their first ever comeback.
In the five years that I’ve been a K-pop fan, the trend for girl group songs has changed significantly. Right before I discovered K-pop, a lot of older girl groups had a lock on the sexy concept. As younger ones started to become more popular, cute sounding songs began to take over. Then a few years ago, we made another shift over to fierce girl crush as K-pop expanded and started drawing in more global audiences. Now, I’m noticing a decent amount of songs that have aspects of both cute and girl crush concepts: they’re bright and girly, but they also have an edge to them (and sometimes a stronger beat). This “in-between style” – for lack of a better term – seems to be the vibe STAYC’s latest track is going for.
“ASAP” is a sweet song about wanting your ideal type to appear in front of you as soon as possible (hence the title). There’s an interesting balance between the fairly laid back tempo and the more energetic melody, and it makes “ASAP” sound fun and fresh. Usually, these kinds of “in-between” songs aren’t an exact split of 50% cute and 50% girl crush; they’re generally more influenced by one or the other. For example, while ITZY’s songs are quite bubbly and upbeat, they have a power and attitude that pushes things slightly more to the girl crush side. Based on “So Bad” alone, I’d have thought that STAYC would also lean in that direction. I was a little surprised when it was the opposite, but I ultimately think it’s a good choice. It seems like a very natural look and sound for them.
As you might know, I’m not into cute songs. There are several reasons why, but the main one is that I just feel too old for them. The “in-between” songs are *slightly* easier for me to vibe with, but not always. In the case of “ASAP,” this was actually a time where watching the music video first didn’t work out for me, because I saw the girly aesthetic and immediately felt like it looked super young. (I actually like a lot of the individual visual elements – like the pink and the pop art style – but putting them ALL in one music video just seems like overkill to me.) And that influenced me and made me notice more of the cute parts over the girl crush parts. When I listened to “ASAP” on its own, I had a more favorable reaction because the music video wasn’t reinforcing those sugary sweet aspects.
Though “ASAP” isn’t a case of instant love for me, I do really enjoy the chorus. I couldn’t sing or hum 75% of the song from memory, but I could instantly do the chorus if you asked me. It’s THAT catchy. Plus I really like the flute – or is it synth? My ear isn’t really that well trained, but it sounds like a flute to me. I also think the key point matches the rhythm and melody perfectly. It’s not quite like the iconic “Single Ladies” move because the arms are more of a cycling motion (and they do it in place), but that’s the closest description I can come up with. And it transitions so seamlessly into those hip bounces and that body wave. Seriously, props to the choreographer for making a key point that looks so fun.. So while I’m pretty fair weather on “ASAP” from a personal standpoint, I’m glad that it has such a memorable hook and highlight dance.
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.)
While there are parts of “ASAP” that pique my interest, it’s not something I can see myself being super into. (I was debating what to put as my opinion for the song itself, because I do really like that chorus… but I felt I had to say “neutral” because I genuinely don’t remember the rest of the song.) In this particular instance, I know for sure my ambivalent reaction is 100% subjective and is mostly because of my age. Objectively, I think “ASAP” could be a hit with their target audience; it’s just that their demographic is clearly high schoolers and *maybe* young adults, but certainly not a thirty year old woman like me. It honestly sounds like the kind of thing my 5th and 6th grade students would enjoy, and STAYC is much closer in age to them than they are to me.
So personally, I think I’ll just stay at casual listener level when it comes to STAYC. However, both “So Bad” and “ASAP” have shown me that they’re a girl group with a lot of talent and potential. I’m not sure what their visibility is like in South Korea – the Korean people I know are only familiar with the mega-famous names in K-pop – but I definitely think they could get big if they keep going on the path they’re on. I believe I’ll be seeing great things from them in the future.
(“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 High Up Entertainment.