It’s been gratifying to watch Astro’s surge in sales numbers this year. 2018 was rough for the group, without a fully-promoted comeback as the fate of their agency seemed unclear. But, their first full album was a surprise success this January, and now the guys are entering the Japanese market. With J-pop’s love for bright boy groups, they seem like the perfect fit. Hanasake Mirai (花咲ケミライ) draws on these assets while sounding distinctly Japanese in its approach.
We’ve gone too long without an upbeat Astro comeback. Mirai doesn’t quite scratch that itch, as it feels a bit different from their past work, but its cheerful energy does a good job encapsulating Astro’s appeal for the J-pop market. The track kicks off with jagged synths over a percolating pop beat. The instrumental snowballs as Mirai chugs on, adding some kick during the first verse and satisfying splashes of 80’s synth during the chorus. The latter is an especially spirited touch, and gives the instrumental punch just when it needs it most.
Hanasake Mirai‘s sense of organic growth matches well with the song’s melody, which goes from coy to celebratory as the descending structure of the verses blooms into a full-throated hook. The structure and aesthetic feels very different from what’s happening in K-pop at the moment. Instead of distinct transitions between verse, pre-chorus and drop, Mirai unfolds gradually. This may blunt its effect the first time through, but rewards repeat listens. Through it all, the guys offer the same unforced charm that has made their Korean work so consistently great.