In an unexpected move, veteran group BTOB joined Mnet’s Kingdom competition. While most of their junior competitors opted for the hard-hitting, performance-focused style that’s come to characterize this generation of K-pop, BTOB got by on old-school appeal. Vocals were always put front and center, and their stages often felt like old-fashioned theater pieces. The guys came across very well, cementing their place in the idol world.
For me, BTOB’s post-2015 music can sometimes come across as a little fuddy duddy. I say this as someone who is circling fuddy duddyness himself, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’re at their best when they utilize their strengths rather than chase trends, and new single Outsider pulls off this balancing act well. Perhaps inspired by Kingdom, the track has a theatrical, brass-heavy sound that feels tailored to a live performance. Its central riff makes for a sturdy backbone, pulsing across the entire track with a gleeful energy. The rest of the instrumental assembles around it, effective but not particularly memorable. However, I appreciate the occasional orchestral flourish. A show isn’t a show without some strings!
Melodically, Outsider is a bit repetitive. Despite a killer dance break, much of the song is stuck in the same gear. This would be fine if the production had more kick to it. Rather than break free from its lockstep arrangement, the chorus riffs upon the underlying brass loop. While these two elements have great synergy, I wish the melody broke free and delivered a few powerful jabs. Instead, Outsider’s most unpredictable moments happen during the rap verses. I think more of this freewheeling energy would have elevated the song.