I fell in love with Astro’s music over the course of their debut year. In fact, I picked them as my favorite rookies of 2016 – above even the much-hyped NCT. However, I’ve barely recognized Astro in their past two comebacks. It wasn’t just that their concepts had become “darker.” The music itself felt increasingly generic, to point that the group seemed to lose their unique charm. New single One may be miles away from the poppy 2016 sound that first captured my attention, but it’s a reinvention that works.
One is most successful when it breaks free from its claustrophobic production and hits hard with shots of bright melody. The chorus and post-chorus make a formidable duo, harnessing that jolting electro funk that SHINee are so fond of. Had the entire track leaned in this direction, I’d be absolutely thrilled. But, much of One feels inspired by another popular SM act: the ever-present NCT. This is most evident in the verses, which blend trap beats with throbbing bass to forge a highly percussive backbone. Often, it’s more of a thud than the light-on-its-feet bounce a song like this requires, and I wish the production was smoother throughout.
Thankfully, there are some interesting turns to be found within these verses. Rocky’s post-chorus rap opts for an unexpected flow, making this segment’s tempo change less of an issue. And, the pre-chorus kicks up great energy while giving the always-impressive MJ a chance to shine. However, what surprises me most about One is how much its jerky, lockstep rhythm feels like an updated take on new jack swing. The textures are different, but the structure of the beat, coupled with the song’s seesawing synth hook, has a very late-80’s/early-90’s feel. It’s an interesting way to reference retro sounds while crafting a track that’s very modern.