As Beast closed out their career with the melancholic drama of last summer’s spectacular Ribbon, the newly renamed Highlight opens theirs with a much more upbeat offering. The guys have been self-composing their material for awhile now, but leaving their former agency has given them license to try on some new sounds. This is a pretty exciting prospect for a group going into their eighth year since debut.
From the start, Plz Don’t Be Sad (얼굴 찌푸리지 말아요) feels much more jovial than most of the group’s recent material. The last time they unleashed such an uptempo title track, it was with 2015’s Yey. But that song relied on quite a bit of posturing — like the guys were pretending to be a different group entirely. Plz Don’t Be Sad doesn’t feel overthought in any way, casting a carefree, confident tone that befits Highlight’s reemergence on the k-pop stage. The song’s central refrain is assisted by a bright, spacey synth unlike anything we’ve heard from Beast in the past. It gives the track a slight 80’s vibe, but not enough to make it feel completely indebted to the decade. Other than this flashy production element, the instrumental bops along without drawing too much attention to itself. It supports the melody well, though I wish the beat didn’t stall so awkwardly during the pre-chorus.
Plz Don’t Be Sad‘s melody feels like the type that will stick around for awhile. Though its verses aren’t particularly memorable, that boisterous chorus grows more infectious with each listen. The second repetition, with Doojoon taking lead vocal, is particularly punchy. Its raucous, shout-sung delivery is very Block B, filtered through the prism of a veteran idol group. With that in mind, Plz Don’t Be Sad is too easy-going to challenge Beast’s best work, but it’s a strong and exciting first step for Highlight.