Highlight’s new mini-album is released in honor of their eighth year together — a feat for any k-pop group. Of course, Highlight itself only “debuted” earlier this spring, but the guys are rightfully including their time together as Beast. Can Be Better (어쩔 수 없지 뭐) follows up on the incredible success of March’s Plz Don’t Be Sad, and it’s no surprise that the song seeks to replicate the same jubilant sound. But in going even bigger, Better supplies an instant shot of much-needed energy.
Based on style alone, the track is closer to a group like B1A4 than anything Beast used to release. I love that Highlight have flipped the expectation and gone more lighthearted and boisterous as they enter this new stage of their career. Knowing that this is an anniversary song, you might assume to hear a self-serious, strings-laden ballad. Instead, Can Be Better roars out of the gate with stadium rock guitars and a bright synth attack. The entire thing is produced with an incredible punch, pulsing with layers of fizzy electronics and an insistent, upbeat drive. Sonically, it shares more in common with classic power pop than current trends, and that fits Highlight surprisingly well.
It also gives the guys the chance to really attack the vocals. Can Be Better is a feelgood party track through and through, requiring a level of buy-in from the performers to really work. Yoseob, in particular, has often been able to draw upon an unexpected grit within his otherwise light tone. It comes out more frequently during live stages than studio recordings, but Better allows him to fuel the chorus with that contagious, character-filled energy. This is the sound of a group who is comfortable enough with their legacy to throw caution to the wind and just rock out. It’s exactly what a celebration should be.