SM Entertainment keeps their solo comebacks chugging along with Starlight, which is a prerelease for Taeyeon’s second album. Title track Why promises something more informed by dance music, but Starlight takes a laid back approach. It also pairs Taeyeon with up-and-comer DEAN, which feels like a smart business move for both of them.
In fact, the producers seem to love DEAN so much that they gave the bulk of the song to him. Starlight is definitely a duet rather than a simple featuring, with DEAN crooning the hook while Taeyeon takes the verses. But the last third of the track is so DEAN-centric that it nearly becomes his own release, relegating Taeyeon to a few adlibs. It’s not that it doesn’t work for the song. It just feels like an odd choice for her first comeback in months. But putting that aside, Starlight‘s hazy summer bounce works more than I’d expected it to. The chorus is king here, combining a catchy (if generic) refrain with an unexpected, soaring outro that instantly gives the melody more heft. This hook becomes even more potent with the inclusion of layered, choir-like production trick at the song’s climax.
Pre-releases are tricky to review because my expectations are always a bit lower. Given this, Starlight more than succeeds. It’s still not the summer smash that I know Taeyeon has in her, but it features just enough little eccentricities to stand out among its many midtempo, sound-alike peers. If this is the what the chill side of her upcoming album is like, I can’t wait to hear the dance tracks!