YG Entertainment has a long history of releasing excellent mid-tempo ballads, but none has ever sounded quite like BLACKPINK’s new single Stay. The girls have constantly been compared to 2NE1 (the only other female act in the agency) and portions of Stay‘s melody feel lifted from directly from that group’s oeuvre, but it’s been repackaged in a surprisingly compelling way.
Like Playing With Fire, Stay works well because of its restraint. This isn’t a quality you’ll see me heralding too often when it comes to k-pop, but Stay‘s simplicity allows its melody to shine through, and this is important. Driven primarily by acoustic guitar and harmonica, the track feels like a complete throwback, modernized through the prism of YG. The chorus is especially surprising, upping the tempo with the addition of hand claps and a strummy singalong. This could have come across as overly cheesy, yet the melody retains a sense of somber longing even as the folksy accompaniment kicks in. It’s a delicate balance, and Stay gets it right. I can’t remember any other track by a YG artist employing this particular instrumental trick.
Most importantly, Stay injects some substance and variety into BLACKPINK’s young catalog. That’s not to say that their other tracks haven’t been substantive, but the song proves that the girls can deliver a sound that lives outside of trends and ultimately feels close to being timeless. It’s certainly a whisper compared to the dance beats of Playing With Fire and August’s Boombayah, but it uses that quiet confidence to deliver some of the strongest pieces of melody the group has given us yet.