Astro have been one of 2016’s brightest k-pop hopes, debuting as a rookie group with an instantly recognizable upbeat style and image. In these uncertain times, their particular brand of hooky power pop is just what the doctor ordered. And luckily, that sunniness and youthful energy continues with their new single, Confession (고백).
Composed by Youngbae and production team Oreo, Confession kicks off with a mix of electric guitar and pulsing synths that sweeps us into the verse. The initial melody is a bit of a red herring, as the second verse eschews its structure in favor of a burst of rap and extended pre-chorus. In fact, the entire track follows an oddly unpredictable structure. Other than the addictively anthemic chorus, the song constantly throws curveballs, making it a bit of a head-scratcher on the first listen. Most of this settles quite nicely once the track becomes familiar, though I’m still not sure about its abrupt ending, which feels as if it’s building to a final refrain that never materializes.
Those issues aside, there are few groups who are pushing this style of surging, melody-driven pop. That aforementioned chorus is a brilliant distillation of what makes their music so addictive. The melody is in constant ascension, punching forward until it coasts to its wistful conclusion. True to the song’s off-kilter structure, no repetition of this central refrain is quite the same. Much of the instrumentation drops out during the second chorus, a technique usually reserved for a song’s middle eight. But during the hook’s final repetition, the track climaxes with extra stabs of percussion. This all adds up to Confession being a bit of an odd beast, but it gets by on Astro’s winning charm and the song’s ubiquitous pop smarts.