When STAYC debuted with So Bad, I was thrilled by the arrival of a girl group who seemed to deliver a new, exciting sound. Then, they returned with ASAP – a more sparsely-produced, sing-song affair that conformed to many of this era’s girl group trends. Of course, that’s the song that became a huge hit. Judging from new single Stereotype (색안경), this is the sound STAYC will continue to pursue. And although ASAP grew on me a lot, the approach is already starting to wear thin.
Despite not being my preferred style of production, Stereotype’s instrumental is undeniably interesting. The percussion has the light, skeletal form favored by too many current pop songs, awash in hi-hats when I’d rather hear some hearty bass. But, producers Black Eyed Pilseung throw a carnival of musical flourishes over the top. I love the flute-like synths that sweep in and out, seemingly unmoored from the rest of the track. The song is a little flat overall, but there’s always something going on in that beat. Unfortunately, I find the production easier to appreciate than truly get lost in.
Melodically, Stereotype unfolds like one long verse. We’ve become so used to K-pop’s obvious pre-choruses and hooks, often signaled by massive shifts in energy. Stereotype forgoes these expectations with a gentle, unassuming bounce. There’s some force in the vocals during the chorus, but other than that the song doesn’t bend over backwards to deliver peaks and valleys. This could be seen as a strength or a weakness depending on your taste. It doesn’t make for a very instant track, but might pay off in the long run. For now, I’m just wishing the girls would meld this new direction with the pop gloss that made So Bad such a treat.