A K-pop group’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. 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.
Yep, it’s another Produce 101 Japan post. I’m as surprised as you are! Like many viewers, I became increasingly disillusioned with this franchise and its effects on the industry, but the Japanese version is a different beast. For one, its participants are largely amateurs, which frees the show from inter-agency squabbling. This has allowed its groups to debut on a permanent basis, rather than the 2.5-year contract we’ve seen in Korea. Season Two spawned new group INI (“eye, en, eye,” for those curious of pronunciation), and I’m happy to report that most of my favorite contestants made it into the line-up.
The series also delivered another grade-A track. Like Shadow, Runway was composed by a team of Korean writers. The 13 team (Score, Megatone, etc) has been on a role this year. They’re already responsible for some of my favorite songs of 2021 (JO1’s Born To Be Wild, Golden Child’s Burn It), and had their hands in Taemin’s Criminal from last year as well. Runway isn’t as perfect as those three tracks, but it boasts a killer chorus.
At first, I was annoyed that the song waffled between its euphoric, dancefloor-ready hook and slower, more pensive verses. You know me… I tend to dislike dance tracks that don’t maintain their energy all the way through. But, Runway isn’t an example of a high-octane banger that lurches into a completely different tempo for one verse. The entire song is built around its sense of contrast, and I think this makes the chorus stand out even more. At its best, the track thrives upon a sense of warmth and optimism. The melody absolutely shines, feeling like a big, aural hug each time it comes around. I love how the instrumental builds here, matching the fullness of the vocals. It’s immensely satisfying.