Over the past few years, BTS have been churning out showstopping singles with an almost inhuman regularity, rightfully earning their place as k-pop’s biggest international breakthrough. New single Spring Day (봄날) comes only three months after their superb Blood, Sweat and Tears, and represents a shift in sound well-suited to these cold winter months. Releasing a big, sweeping ballad was an inevitable step in the group’s career. They’ve veered toward this territory before, most notably with the powerful I Need U, but Spring Day feels more traditional than their 2016 work.
Though the quality remains high, Spring Day is also the first BTS title track in years that hasn’t absolutely wowed me right out of the gate. It’s a gorgeous melody and vocal performance marred by problematic production choices, and that makes the song almost as frustrating as it is absorbing. The group’s gorgeous, melancholic vocals suit a song of this tone, driving the emotional melody with impassioned authenticity. Though some of the track’s genre-bending elements are new to their music, the sentiment at the heart of Spring Day is something only BTS can give us. The chorus is especially strong, forgoing a bombastic approach for a nuanced, subtly affecting refrain. It frames the central hook as a call-and-response, answering with a discouraged shadow of a reply rather than the hyped up build we’re accustomed to when it comes to this particular melodic structure. It’s a smart twist that casts the entire track in a downbeat, almost slow-motion atmosphere.
What keeps Spring Day from completely matching the quality of BTS’s best work is its oddly flat instrumental arrangement. The production aims for a widescreen, cinematic approach, but has a compressed feel, with every element seemingly targeted at the middle range. It’s an interesting experiment for a song of this nature, but robs the track of the richness that could have been present with a more diverse set of sounds. There are evocative things going on within Spring Day‘s muddle — that zipper-like synth that frames the chorus, or the incessant electronic squiggle that coats every inch of the instrumental — but they all exist in the same narrow space, resulting in an overly busy arrangement. All it would take is some slight tweaking and we’d have the contrast needed to really open up the track and let its best moments shine. With that said, BTS knows how to deliver. And even with these slight frustrations, Spring Day is another big win for them.