The winter of 2018 has yet to give us many great ballads. I’m certainly not complaining, as January yielded a steady supply of uptempo pop instead. But it does feel unusual not to be reviewing ballad after ballad this time of year. Highlight’s main vocal Yang Yoseob is here to remind us of the season, lending his inimitable voice to the gentle Star (별). He’s even ankle-deep in snow for his new music video!
It’s hard to believe, but this is Yoseob’s first solo comeback since 2012. Much in k-pop has changed since that time, but Star forgoes trends and opts for a very classic Korean presentation. The song begins as a piano ballad, utilizing minimal instrumentation to support Yoseob’s lilting delivery. The first verse unfolds like a subdued selection from a musical. Its melody has a cinematic appeal, casting itself as the opening salvo to something bigger. I’m not sure that the ensuing chorus fully delivers on this promise, as its surging refrain is perhaps a bit too hesitant for its own good.
Of course, with Yoseob at the helm we’re in safe hands. Even if Star never builds to anything spectacular, it’s a pleasure to hear him interpret this kind of song again. Its small touches — the soft thunder of percussion in the second verse, the modulation that changes each repetition of the chorus — give Star enough nuance to stand apart from past works. And as this is only a pre-release, I’m excited to see what he’s cooked up for the full comeback.