Arriving the day after a farewell track from Wanna One, we’ve got another farewell song of sorts from Highlight. The nine-year-old group aren’t disbanding, but members are preparing to serve their mandatory military conscription. Starting soon, Highlight will be on hiatus for around two years. Before they go, they’ve given fans a gift in the form of Loved (사랑했나봐). The song features only four of the group’s five members, as leader Doojoon has already enlisted.
The best thing I can say about Loved is that it carries a more optimistic tone than most goodbye singles. The percussion alone — dynamic and driving — gives the track a surging appeal that feels hopeful rather than downcast. This helps paint over the threadbare melody, which is not one of the group’s most memorable. A dynamite chorus certainly would’ve shaken things up, but Loved follows the beat-drop-as-hook trend and places a fractured strings sample in place of the kind of anthemic refrain that could have made the song really pop.
You all know how I feel about instrumental loops subbing in for choruses, but fortunately Loved is a decent example of the structure. The loop is dramatic and fitting — sort of a callback to the group’s 2016 hit Ribbon. Coupled with dramatic drums, it delivers a stronger wallop than expected. The riff is still not evocative enough to replace a well-written chorus, but it’s not unforgivably bland either. The modulation between keys goes a long way towards fleshing out what could’ve felt overly repetitive. With that said, this centerpiece loop casts a large shadow over the rest of the song. Highlight’s performance, as always, is an absolute pleasure to listen to, but I crave more from Loved’s forgettable verses. The ascending pre-chorus is where we find the good vocal-driven stuff, and I wish that energy was present throughout more of the track.