With BTOB’s transition into a ballad-focused group, I feel like most of the issues I’ve had with their recent material has centered around the awkward shoehorning in of rap sections. But with this new sub-unit, composed of vocalists Eunkwang, Sungjae, Changsub and Hyunsik, rap is definitely not a concern. True to expectations, BTOB-Blue are given a straightforward ballad that allows them to focus on showing off their much-lauded vocals.
I was actually surprised to learn that Stand By Me (내 곁에 서 있어줘) was composed by production duo Black Eyed Pilseung, who have become much more known for their quirky uptempo hits for groups like Twice and Teen Top. With this knowledge, I would have expected Stand By Me to feel more inventive than it does. Instead, the song is total k-ballad comfort food, hitting straight down the middle and fulfilling every expectation you would have for a track of its ilk. Listeners’ enjoyment will largely depend on their inclination towards this type of release. I’d expect Korean fans will eat it up in larger quantities than those outside of the k-ballad bubble.
The strongest aspect of the song are its verses, whose lilting melody feels instantly familiar and warm. The guys trade off parts without any one singer overpowering the other. Though the song possesses definite emotion, it’s oddly characterless, building towards its conclusion with an almost stoic determination not to color outside the lines. Stand By Me could have done with more vocal flavor — more interaction between the members. It’s hard not to compare every BTOB ballad to the brilliant It’s Okay, but the sheer power of that song’s climax can’t be overstated. Stand By Me needs a climax like that. It needs to feel like it’s heading towards something more explosive than what we get, especially to justify yet another ballad from these guys.