The last time I reviewed a single by The East Light, I bemoaned the fact that they’d reverted to a more juvenile sound. This is — of course — an exceedingly young group. If anyone has the right to produce child-like hits, it’s these guys. But after bursting onto the scene with 2016’s raucous Holla, it was clear that their potential eclipses any sense of novelty. With a tongue-in-cheek title like Real Man, their new single could have been little more than the set-up for an extended gag. Instead, it turns out to be another step in a new direction — and this time it works.
Though I still miss the rockier sound of their debut, Real Man retains a band sound and fuses it to a disco-funk beat that proves to be a smart match for the guys’ feather-light vocals. As a rumble of synth bass opens the track, the instrumental is fleshed out with ornaments of electric guitar and a persistent use of strings. It would be tempting to completely “Saturday Night Fever” it up and turn this into a complete pastiche, but the 70’s influences never become over-the-top cheesy.
It helps that the actual song is so catchy. The group’s youth frees them from having to pursue the kind of brooding, trend-driven vibe many boy groups have fallen into recently. They’re at their best when tackling a more nostalgic sound, and that includes Real Man‘s full-throated, melodic chorus. None of their voices have broken yet, but that lightness of tone is actually an asset when it comes to disco. Nothing about the track feels forced this time around, even though this genre was popularized decades before anyone in The East Light was born. It’s just a simple, pleasant pop song. We can always do with more of those.