Sorry for the delay on this post! Normally I try to do reactions within a week of a song’s release, but I’m super behind because I’ve been writing material for the K-pop Starter Kit. I debated just moving on to this week’s music, but I didn’t want to skip over Highlight because I’m quite fond of them. I became a K-pop fan when they were entering the veteran years of their career, like right before they left Cube Entertainment and changed their name. So I wasn’t there for a lot of the high points of their career, but I still felt it was really easy to get invested in them. Their excellent music was part of it, but I also just found them really relatable because we’re around the same age. A lot of things have happened since their last release – both in K-pop and in the members’ own lives – so I was curious about what their comeback would be like.
Honestly, I think that “Not the End” is absolutely lovely. It’s like a breath of fresh air personified in a song. The verses are soft and gentle, supported by piano notes and light percussion, and then a splash of synth picks up the chorus and adds some energy. (In the performance, this is further accentuated by some stunning lyrical and fluid choreography.) In my opinion, the whole arrangement is really well done – it blends nicely with Highlight’s emotional and sincere singing, and it knows exactly when to tone it down and let each member shine. The end result is a wonderfully sentimental song sure to warm the hearts of fans.
My favorite part of this comeback is by far the beautiful music video. I’m always really interested by production design and aesthetics, and I like how this video goes the minimalistic route. The sets are wide and spacious, but mostly empty except for a few key statement pieces (like a majestic grand piano or a car filled with flowers). In my opinion, that contrast is really eye-catching. There’s also a nice mix of neutral and vivid colors, and I’m a fan of how the colors of Highlight’s outfits slowly transition from dark to light over the course of the video. It’s a subtle but effective way of depicting change and transformation – which is a major part of the overall theme of “Not the End” – and it’s very well done.
Objectively, I think that “Not the End” is an excellent comeback. But personally – and my regular readers will know where I’m headed – it doesn’t really match my tastes. It has nothing to do with Highlight or the quality of their work, because I truly think they’ve done an amazing job. It’s just that lowkey and gentler pop songs rarely stay in my head for long, no matter how hard I try to keep them there. I’ve been listening to “Not the End” on a loop as I write this post, and I genuinely forget the melody right after I turn it off. It’s times like these when I curse my inability to focus on this kind of music, because I’m fully aware I’m missing out. Thankfully, I know there are plenty of people who will appreciate “Not the End” properly and give Highlight the attention they deserve.
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 I enjoy “Not the End” and I think everything is high quality, I know deep down that it’s not the comeback for me. That being said, I do think this is the perfect comeback for Highlight at this point in time. While veteran boy groups can still be active and successful after their military service period, it’s true that it’s a different kind of success from before. How much longer they will – or can – stay together becomes a much bigger concern for fans. But just like the song title indicates, “Not the End” is Highlight’s reassurance to us that they’re not going anywhere. The more mature and serious nature of it all clearly indicates that they’ve grown and experienced a lot in the time they were away. (I’m basically the same age as them, and this comeback makes me feel like they’re more mature than I am right now… though I’m sure military service will have that effect on someone.) This is definitely just the beginning of a new era for Highlight, and I’m excited to see where it leads.
(“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 Around Us Entertainment.