It’s been ages since I’ve written about anything BTS-related. Though the group’s name remains omnipresent, the members have taken a well-deserved break to recharge. But even before that, 2021 passed by without an official Korean comeback. Fans were treated to Japanese and English language hits instead. We’ll see what 2022 brings, but for now the OST release Stay Alive emerges as a welcome surprise.
This song pairs members Jungkook and Suga, the former on vocals and the latter on production duty. It’s recorded as an OST for webtoon 7FATES: CHAKHO and has been given a short music video. The full song is a minute longer, and fleshes out the melody you hear in the video. After a year of outsourced material and global collaborations, it’s nice to hear the guys move inward. With that said, Stay Alive is still bolstered by a veritable army of songwriters. It’s a miracle it feels as focused as it does.
Stay Alive fully understands the needs of this type of OST. I wouldn’t call it a ballad, though it’s not a particularly upbeat piece of music either. I think the word “atmosphere” is better suited to its charms. The melody is pretty, if a bit reserved. But, it’s buoyed by an instrumental that grows grander as the track goes on. Stay Alive never explodes into full bombast, but its fantasy-like tones give it symphonic swell that brings the drama. Jungkook’s vocal adds emotional weight to the arrangement. It’s lovely to hear his voice front and center again.
I would second that the song is more “atmosphere” than song as well.
Just the other day, I got the latest Coldplay song on my feed, the latest one being a duet with Selena Gomez. It occurred to me that Coldplay has been making the same ballad song since The Scientist reworked over and over again, similar plaintive melodies and sentiments. People keep listening to them and stanning and all that.
So too with this song. For the occasionals like myself, this song sounds like many of their softer songs of the greek name series, wordy sentimental lyrics, comforting resolving chord progressions. The Army loves this stuff. Me, I just can’t differentiate. Its just not for me.
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For this wondering, the answer is 7 songwriters: SUGA・EL CAPITXN・Maria Marcus・Louise Frick Sveen・Gabriel Brandes・Matt Thomson・Max Lynedoch Graham
Just a fun fact for those who don’t know: El Capitxn is Yijeong from History, now working as a producer.
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I have no idea that Yijeong was ELCAPITXN!!! Well done for him, because he is an absolutely amazing producer. I’m excited to see more of his work. Wow, HISTORY is surely alive working on the best music.
I’m really curious about the evolution of Jungkook’s solo sound as I think out of everyone in BTS he has the most potential to be a global solo pop star (if he sings in English). But this kind of sound isn’t going to help him get there. His vocals are nice, as usual, but I’d like to see what else he can do.
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Agreed but right now this is a webtoon ost we’re talking about (big emphasis on “webtoon”). But yes he does indeed have the most potential out of the group and i hope his future solo discography broadens.
I like this kind of song in small amounts. It’s really well done and Jungkook sounds great. Wish it was weirder or had a Suga rap, but I’ll take it over a lot of recent related sounds from their camp.
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I am going to change my mind. I think the bones of the song are fine. I think Jungkook’s performance is fine. I think it is all buried under suboptimal arrangement and production. Now, I don’t want to overthink it too much, because OST’s are a dime a dozen in Korean music. But this is Jungkook, and the kid can sing, and so.
Since this is (or should be) a vocal-lead solo performance, that vocal should front and center. It starts out OK, with enough space for the vocal. Then it adds too much too soon. For one example, by the time we get to nice low part starting around 1:05, the instrumental is already fully built so usually they should drop out half so that we can hear the lovely low notes. Instead they add more, and extra synth strings line. Jungkook’s vocal instead of being front and center gets half-buried under all that gumpf. And then they add a heavy autotune whether he needs it or not.
In a song like this, the vocalist should be ebbing and flowing, and the instrumental should match and support that ebbing and flowing. Instead it competes with it.
It doesn’t help that the recording is broken up so that audibly it doesn’t sound like one emotional arc but bits and pieces of many. There is no through line – for example the break around 2:07. Its very common for singers to double and triple the main, and add plenty of harmonies, but a song like this should have a through line.
As a contrast, two immensely popular OST’s also with a ton of atmosphere.
Park Hyo Shin “The Day”. For a PHS, it is actually quite restrained, but the symphonic arrangement is spot on. There are bells towards the end which just kill me. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwvUnK-agb4
Crush “Beautiful” Popular as all get out, sentimental, soft, emotive. Here is a fine live jazz version. All Crush has to do is stand and sing.
As a bonus, Jungkook himself singing “Beautiful”.
I think this song with a different arrangement could have been Jungkook’s own Beautiful. Just stand and sing. As is, it is overwrought.
I like it, but I live for this kind of atmospheric hazy vibe these days. I can already tell that I’m going to go “oh, who is this, they’ve got a great voice” every time it comes up on shuffle.