December is such a barren month for new K-pop releases, and what we do get tends to be an endless stream of ballads and mid-tempos. This languid pace makes it hard to drum up any excitement for a song like Candle Light (사랑한단 뜻이야). However, the track is significant for several reasons. Not only is it the final idol group single of the year, but it’s also the last time we’ll be hearing from this specific configuration of NCT Dream. As such, it’s a warm, affable end to 2018.
Rather than tackle the youthful hip-hop of their latest comeback We Go Up or the bubblegum pop of their earlier work, Candle Light sees Dream weaving a subdued, vocal-driven performance. In fact, the track opens with soon-to-graduate rapper Mark transformed into a wistful vocalist. The lilting hooks that follow take advantage of the group’s sweet harmonies, delivered with a gentle touch that gives the song a feather-light appeal.
Candle Light’s throwback instrumental follows suit. It’s an uncluttered arrangement, driven by folk guitar and splashes of brass that add to the track’s comforting vibe. The latter instrumental touch is especially effective, and perfectly compliments the group’s bright vocal blend. It’s hard to justify giving a song like this a particularly high rating. It’s just not that ambitious. But, it’s equally hard to imagine this winsome style being pulled off with more charm than it is here. NCT Dream won’t be the same without Mark, but Candle Light gives him an uplifting farewell (and an absolutely delightful music video).