It’s so great to have TVXQ back, steadily releasing new music in both Korea and Japan. Yet as much as I’ve enjoyed their new material, I’m still waiting for a comeback with that old “SM Performance” style that they execute better than anyone. Over the course of its history, the duo’s Japanese discography has been more musically diverse (and prolific) than their Korean output, responsible for some of their most experimental work but also home to more than a few treacly ballads.
New single Road is TVXQ at their most adult contemporary, casting its net wide to ensnare as many generations of listeners as possible. It’s not my favorite sound for the guys, even as its unashamed sentimentality goes down easy. What I do appreciate about Road is its choice of instrumentation. Rather than opt for OST-style piano and strings as you might expect, the song takes a rootsier approach with what I assume to be melodica and fiddle ornamentation throughout. This unique tone separates Road from almost everything else TVXQ has recorded, and provides a surprisingly tight match for their vocals.
With that said, I wish that the overall arrangement had a bit more kick to it. The chant-like bursts of background vocals hint at a livelier direction, but the song is content to remain laid-back from beginning to end. In this sense, it feels like a calming road trip through the countryside — just as its music video suggests. That’s all well-and-good, but a few unexpected bumps in this Road would have been appreciated.