For years now, I’ve been crossing my fingers for Astro’s return to the bright, carefree pop of their debut era. Those fingers also begged for a reunion with producers Iggy and Youngbae, who crafted a definitive sound for the group. But, the world rarely gives you everything you want, so in place of another Hide & Seek or Confession, I’m happy to be content with the buoyant – but generic – After Midnight.
With all the success enjoyed by BTS’s Dynamite and Butter, I’m surprised more boy groups haven’t ventured into this bright sound. Summer is the perfect time for hazy synths, uptempo arrangements and breezy vocals. After Midnight contains all these ingredients and stirs them into an appealing confection. Astro’s light performance suits the song, offering a shot of excitement that keeps the energy brisk and addicting. They avoid the dreaded “second verse momentum stall” by tethering Jinjin’s strong rap verse to the rollicking instrumental. In fact, After Midnight never slows down, bounding along its giddy spirit from start to finish.
Yet, the song doesn’t hit as hard as it could. As joyfully infectious as After Midnight is, its melodies are a bit pedestrian. The chorus lacks a killing point – something that would have listeners rushing back for more. I’m certainly satisfied by the hooks on offer, but I’m not bowled over. Luckily, a generous dose of synth strings and chirpy electronics lift After Midnight’s familiar frame. It’s almost impossible to dislike a song so eager to please. After a barren July, K-pop summer is back. Thank goodness for that!