One the biggest feathers in SM Entertainment’s cap has been their ability to retain veteran artists on their roster. Kangta debuted all the way back in the mid-90’s as part of legendary idol group H.O.T. Like most pop acts in their fourth (!) decade of performing, Kangta’s output has become more sporadic. But, he’s back with his latest studio album — his first full-length release in over seventeen years!
New single Eyes On You (야경) pairs Kangta with a couple frequent NCT collaborators (NCT’s Taeyong also appears on a b-side), bridging the gap between generations. It’s a slow burn, slinky R&B track, harnessing Kangta’s smooth vocals to create a dynamic sound from simple ingredients. As expected, it’s a stately affair – never trendy and always sophisticated. The instrumental augments its skeletal beat with all sorts of fun flourishes, from cascades of harp to sleek synth strings to an ever-shifting bed of vocal ornamentation.
While Eyes On You might not always pop as an actual song, it’s a great showcase for Kangta’s prowess as a performer. The track becomes particularly beguiling during its final minute, as his vocals weave, bend and peak in a series of compelling runs. It’s a performance that makes you feel something, which isn’t always the case with idol acts. I might not often seek Eyes On You out on its own, but I can admire what it’s doing and where it’s placing Kangta in this new generation of K-pop.