I have never wanted to be more wrong about a song. TXT were my favorite rookie act of last year, injecting some fun into boy group K-pop while most of their contemporaries opted for moody material. Based on their track record, I fully expected them to deliver my favorite single of 2020. I knew that sense of youthful exuberance wouldn’t last forever (it never does in K-pop…) but I thought we’d get at least a few years of sunny, upbeat title tracks. Yet, as teasers began to unveil for new single Can’t You See Me (세계가 불타버린 밤, 우린…), the all too familiar clatter of trap beats foretold something far more angsty. I held out a sliver of hope that these fresh young performers who brought us Crown and posed like cats and dogs would resist the urge to go dark. But, it was not to be.
To Can’t You See Me’s credit, it’s not quite as generic as most of 2020’s slate of moody boy group mush. TXT have too much funding and talent behind them for that. I like how the song continues the rock influences that made Run Away so exciting. And, the guys’ vocals are as ethereal and compelling as always. The verses feel more cohesive than I would have expected, and even if the instrumental drops out for a murky post-chorus breakdown, this segment is a little more sonically inventive than the simple trap-rap we usually get.
However, Can’t You See Me’s chorus is a total bore. It’s repetitive, dispiriting, and underlined by obnoxious, trap-influenced percussion. I can see what the track is attempting to do, and it captures a certain teen gloom quite well. But, “teen gloom” wasn’t what I signed up for when it comes to TXT. Can’t You See Me robs the group of their addictive, whimsical energy, replacing it with something I could only describe as BTS-lite. This is what happens when K-pop agencies prioritize trilogies and storytelling over songs. By nature of the lore Big Hit has established around The Dream Chapter series, Eternity almost had to be gloomy. So rather than craft the best song possible, Can You See Me opts for modern K-pop’s tried-and-true boy group tropes. This plot is wearing very thin, and it’s absolutely depressing to see TXT become yet another male idol act to succumb to 2020’s unending, angsty mood-bating.
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