After a busy 2018, BoA’s been pretty quiet this year. Her special spring single Feedback came and went with little fanfare, but the change of seasons brings new material. Her mini album Starry Night seems poised to soundtrack winter, positioning her normally upbeat sound within a more subdued framework. And when it comes to subdued material, few collaborators would be as obvious as r&b superstar Crush.
Last time an SM act worked with Crush (Key’s One Of Those Nights), I felt that the added vocal was unnecessary to the song’s overall effect. But judging by her musical preferences on variety competition series The Fan, BoA seems to have a penchant for his kind of singer-songwriter r&b. And, their two voices are different enough that the contrast works to the track’s advantage. That’s important, because Starry Night is hardly one of her more galvanizing works. Like so many winter songs in Korea, the song is more about sentiment than dynamic songwriting. This is the kind of music that’s well-suited to coffee shops and study sessions — pleasant but not distracting. BoA has one of my favorite voices in all of K-pop, capable of conveying both nuance and power in equal measure. I’d gladly listen to her sing anything. However, nothing about Starry Night pulls me in. It’s a typical Crush composition in that way — light and vibey and almost inconsequential.
There’s a slight throwback quality to the duo’s performance. I particularly enjoy BoA’s vocal trills that open the track. They instantly bring me back to 90’s-era Mariah Carey. She maintains a nimble delivery throughout the rest of Starry Night, blending well with Crush’s huskier timbre. But, no amount of acrobatic vocal turns can bring the song’s formless structure together. It’s missing a strong focal point — one central refrain that connects all of the great r&b affectations that lend Night its comforting appeal. The track feels circuitous, circling around melodic themes but never settling on anything all that interesting. I’m not asking for in-your-face pop music hooks on a song of this style, but without anything to latch onto, Starry Night threatens to evaporate.
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