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.
My reaction to Astro’s After Midnight strongly correlates to my thoughts on the album as a whole. It’s fun and upbeat without many highs and lows. No song compels me in a dramatic way, but the overall listening experience is really pleasant. A few of the album’s tracks have some great moments (that soaring chorus in Waterfall, the funky new jack swing hook of Don’t Worry) but Footprint (발자국) was my instant standout.
I’m a sucker for this tropical summer sound. Footprint’s percolating synths take me back to 2017, delivering a bright texture that instantly raises my mood. But, Footprint enlists some 2021 trends as well – most notably during its effects-heavy chorus. I’m not always one for vocal effects, but I love the use of vocoder here. Much of Footprint feels like a refreshing dive into a pool, and this segment brings an underwater sensation. The first time through, it acts as prelude to a fun, frothy beat drop. But, the arrangement supporting this melody soon becomes more robust.
The energy here recalls my favorite Astro album: 2017’s Dream Part.01. For that alone, Footprint gets kudos. It’s a bit too simplistic to compete against classics like Dreams Come True or You Smile, but I appreciate how the group has blended their newfound maturity with the upbeat bubblegum pop that first shot them to stardom. Footprint strikes a nice balance, easily earning its place on my 2021 summer playlist.