The third iteration of SM’s Station project is living up to its promise of providing momentous — and often unexpected — duets. So far, this has mainly consisted of collaborations between various Korean acts from differing agencies. But with Written in the Stars, SM has cast its sights globally. American notoriety seems to have become a bigger priority of late, with NCT 127 recently giving their new song a Stateside premiere before returning to Korea.
Pandering to Western tastes has always been a concern of mine, and this (sometimes unpopular) opinion has worked its way into more and more of my reviews as K-pop has expanded its reach. I fear dilution and mainstreaming, and I don’t like the idea that any international collaboration has to be geared toward English-speakers, filtered through styles and trends that are already popular in the West. But, I also understand how economics work. The United States has a population over six times greater than Korea’s. That’s a lot of potential listeners (and money) to target.
At least when it comes to Written in the Stars, the pairing of Red Velvet’s Wendy and singer-songwriter John Legend makes sense. I may not jump at the opportunity for these kind of all-English collaborations, but Wendy has spent much of her life living and studying in Canada and the United States, honing her English fluency and creating a natural bridge between the two cultures. I would have loved to hear some Korean intermixed within the song’s lyrics, but I understand the decision to keep things more straightforward. Both vocalists bring undeniable warmth and precision to Stars, offering contrasting tones that blend into one, ultra-smooth whole. The track’s low-key groove and silky melody recall 90’s r&b, and that can never be a bad thing.
Now, it’s time to flip the script. Give us a Korean-language Red Velvet track with a John Legend feature. It’s only fair.