Review

Song Review: Astro – One

Astro - OneI 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.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

25 thoughts on “Song Review: Astro – One

  1. Astro is one of the smaller boy groups who I cannot pick out, despite them being around for several years. All their old videos are being re-uploaded to 1theK so it gave me a chance to rewatch, and each time it was “nope, don’t remember this one either”. Perhaps Crazy Sexy Cool, yes. Its that they have changed sounds to match the current gestalt every year, and this is the kind of career that happens, even for people like myself who follow kpop closely.

    This song sounds like the SM NCT-style song again, and it is pretty well done. But we are definitely at the nth iteration. Empty parking deck with red+black moto jacket variation. I didn’t pick out the new jack swing rhythm until Nick pointed out, but now I can’t unhear it. A couple of standout lines: the spitfire 2nd verse rapping; the key morphing chromaticism such as 1:09. Those little wobbly lines are awesome – kpop used to put more of that into songs but not so much these days.

    But is it enough for me to buy it? I don’t know, I have enough of a playlist already of this kind of sound, do I need another?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m feeling this more and more with each next listen and I’m sort of surprised they somehow made this work. The rap parts are really interesting, JinJin and Rocky definitely know how to do their thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The MV doesn’t make any justice to the song. I know this post isn’t about that but why do Fantagio insist on making ASTRO look edgy even when the song doesn’t feel that way? ugh
    The bside they’ll promote (All Good) reminds me so much of their old material before Crazy Sexy Cool arrived. I hope you can review it in the future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Despite edgy styling they were looking pretty good in my opinion! Also rooting for All Good as buried treasure.

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      • I’m not sure if I’ll do a Buried Treasure for this album or not. Unsurprisingly, I like the energy of All Good and All Stars, but I think both pale in comparison to most of their pre-2019 upbeat songs.

        The problem I’ve had with Astro’s music since the Blue Flame mini is that it feels like a means to an end. It doesn’t sound “top shelf” to me and doesn’t really attempt to have a personality of its own. My cynical side assumes that Fantagio is more concerned with banking Eunwoo’s drama money and will occasionally release new Astro music just to keep the brand going. But why not have your cake and eat it too? I think they should be giving the guys much stronger material across the board.

        Thankfully, One is the exception to this trend. I really like the song. The album is… fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was really expecting to hate this after the teasers and song description. I had to prepare myself to listen to it cause I really want to like Astro and their music. It was kind of the same situation with Shinee’s Don’t Call Me where I was waiting for them to just make a generic edgy boy group track and completely let me down but then they completely subverted my expectations. Now not to say ONE is as good as Don’t Call Me but I surprisingly don’t hate it and given a few more listens I might really really like it.
    As much as I love the Astro vocalists, especially MJ and Moonbin, I really have to shout out the rappers. Jinjin always steals a song for me (HES one of my favorite rappers mainly because of that rasp) but my man Rocky came from nowhere. It was a really interesting and jarring change up. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.The whole song itself was a pleasant surprise. I guess it’s because I went in with low expectations that when presented with a decent song I’m so excited.
    Also I feel like a song like this was what Exo was trying for last year when they released Obsession(which never has and never will grow on me). I would have preferred ONE as an Exo song than an Astro song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see the EXO vibe in this song! That would have been so much better than Obsession..man.

      Astro’s rappers are so interesting. They are very much idol rappers but they really make their lines work with creative delivery.

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  5. I was so curious to see what you were going to say about this one! It’s satisfying to see then, that our thoughts are similar.

    My (strong!) bias for Astro has largely disappeared as they ventured in different musical directions. I was fully prepared to shove this song aside as just another NCT-ism. As I listened though, something about this one felt different. Yes, it’s a bit slow, with a lot of stomping percussion, but it is móre. The pre-chorus is wonderful! MJ pulls it off beautifully. Rocky’s rap verse kind of blew me away, a great way to spice up the second verse.

    I have complained about my favourite groups going ‘dark’ a lot, but there are always exceptions – I like this.

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    • Fellow Astro bias here! I’m still totally clinging onto mine, though — I never did have the same distaste for their recent material that some others here did. I just think that Astro has an incredible cast of performers who can really sell whatever they’re given, so even Blue Flame, which was many people’s they’re-not-Astro-anymore moment, is a huge hit with me. My soft spot for Astro’s earlier, brighter material isn’t going away anytime soon, but I agree with your point: it’s less of a blow when they do such a darn good job!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What some of you aren’t thinking about is the fact that they are aging and are much older than when they made their debut so you really can’t expect them to stay the same and give off the same vibe as they did 5 years ago
    They’ve grown and obviously want to try something new and it’s working for them unless you’re looking at it from the negative point of view
    Bafikala imwe

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    • I absolutely don’t want them to do their early styles because at this point it would be a bit cringy for a 5 year old group. I personally like their more mature style like with Knock and All Night but there’s this belief among a lot of boy groups that to be mature you have to go dark, edgy, and moody basically killing all the fun of a song when that really isn’t true. You can still make mature music that’s upbeat or exciting. Take Seventeen’s Clap for example. That’s a mature upbeat song that doesn’t compromise the sound of the group. Or you can make softer songs like Thanks that are mature but not aggressive. My trepidation with ONE was that I worried it was going to fall into ear grating, unpleasant tropes. Again I really wish Astro followed a similar style with Knock since it’s a pleasing, soft yet still mature song.

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      • It’s a shame that it’s seen as cringy because those early songs are phenomenal. I have yet to find another song like Hide and Seek or Breathless. Agreed with Clap being a fantastic hybrid. Callx3 also does it well.

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      • The song felt like a fusion of NCT and their earlier work and I’m glad we didn’t get a lot of the angst that boy groups songs have these days. The song as a whole sounded a lot better than the teasers revealed, which I was very happy about. I hope it’ll be like that for STAYC’s title track because the melody for the performance teaser did not click with me at all.

        Liked by 1 person

    • They’re not independent artists, they’re idols under an agency, so whether they like or not what they do is irrelevant. And I’ve read that ‘age’ argument at least 1000 times with every boygroup that changes concepts (which these days is like every group that exists), age has literally nothing to do with the concept they go for in their music. They performed When You Call My Name last year and they pulled it off just as well as they did when they debuted (if not better). That lie of being on your 20s = dark/edgy concept required needs to stop.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This reminded me of Astro’s early sound. It’s bright but not bubblegum. I adore the pre-chorus! The chorus opens really well, but I wish there was more motion after that first line. The dance break is my least favorite part. It’s just similar and dissimilar enough to sound like it should belong but doesn’t. I think the vocal performance on this song really shows their maturity and growth, especially Eunwoo. I agree with Nick’s rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I gotta say Nick, you really influence my attitude towards a song (and i’m not saying this in a bad way — i’m just easily swayed).

    When I first listened to this yesterday I was so disappointed and thought, maybe Nick would give this a 6.5 or 7. Seeing an 8.5 shocked me, so I gave it another few listens and for some strange reason… it’s on repeat now.

    This happened with Jessi’s What Type of X, IU’s Eight, and many other songs you’ve reviewed higher than what I expected. I guess your ratings do hold some sort of power over me hahaha

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    • Haha glad to hear some of those songs clicked with you! Sometimes they just need time, or a counterpoint opinion to reframe the way you look at them. I know that’s true for me!

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