Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
In an alternate timeline, Stray Kids just released their new mini album “Haven,” with a tracklist that looks like this:
And, they simultaneously scored the year’s best boy group mini and title track.
Of course, in reality, they padded Go Live with some fine-but-filler material and released a title track that’s more performance piece than actual song. Of course, I’m thrilled that we got those great songs listed above. But, it’s almost more frustrating to imagine what might have been — especially when the potential exists right in front of you.
From its very first moment, Haven is incredibly refreshing. For a good part of the year, I’ve been questioned whether I was falling out of love with K-pop. A song like this reminds me that when K-pop is good, it’s great. We’re just stuck in a seemingly endless stage where every comeback looks and sounds the same. For those who enjoy the current trends, this must be a great situation. For the rest of us, it’s just disappointment after disappointment.
Haven succeeds because it’s a fully fleshed-out song, with a real chorus! Every time I thought it was going to take a turn for the worse, it went exactly where I’d hoped for instead. Barring a regrettable foray into trap during its second verse, this is a satisfying pop/dance track that builds to an honest-to-goodness climax.
If I sound surprised, it’s because I am. K-pop’s current tropes have beaten me so far down that something like Haven feels like an absolute revolution. It takes Stray Kids’ central message and ties it to a song that dares to be joyous. That chorus is everything I’ve been missing this year, repetitive and straightforward as it is. We’ll see how this ages, but for now I honestly think it’s a worthy successor to Miroh.
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