From the release of their first teaser for this mini, I pretty much knew that BEAST would be taking a very different route in this year’s album promotions. As mellowyel noted, BEAST have generally been rung dry of their angst and moody concepts. It’s what molded their style in “Shock Of The New Era” and “Mastermind“, and it’s what propelled the amazing “Fiction & Fact” era of 2011.
This year they’re heading the exact opposite direction for their lead single, “It’s A Beautiful Night“, as they take cues from the party vibes of the summer and unload an array of bright synths and a trendy beat. We’re so accustomed to BEAST being mopey that for a few moments this entire song feels uncharacteristic of them. But as the song unfolds, so do most preemptive expectations of their music, because this is so good that it couldn’t have come from anywhere else.
“It’s A Beautiful Night” feels like a reinvented version of “Bad Girl“, musically, which is the one song that helps me remember that this fresh new phase in BEAST’s music derives from a style they’ve gone for before. Not executed properly back then exactly, because “Bad Girl” was pretty freaking bad itself, but clearly a sign that BEAST and Cube Entertainment have come a very long way since their humble beginnings. Both entities have grown, and it shows in spades here.
The song opens with its pre-chorus/chorus, sung by vocalists Kikwang and Yoseob, which sets the upbeat tone immediately. Then it steps right into Doojoon‘s first verse, where we’re hit with a building beat of hard kicks, claps, a groovy bass line, and buzzing high hats. The vocal processing is a throwback to the heavy auto-tune craze of 2009-2010, which hasn’t exactly disappeared these days, but hearing it on BEAST again in such a blatantly obvious manner was surprisingly pleasant to listen to. Partly because it was tastefully used, and partly because nostalgia tells me this is what they used to sound like. And just as fast as we’re stamping in verse one, we’re swiftly taken back to the sweet pre-chorus/chorus set.
The rest of the song works in this same build up and build down manner, very common in the party anthems I know and very effective. It’s got a cool, funky electronica style to it that has managed to retain and hone in on the K-pop aspects that make BEAST’s music so unique. The style is inspired, but the melodies and structure are uniquely K-pop, and that’s where it’s all at right now.
Sadly, “It’s A Beautiful Night” is the only true party jam on the album. That is if you’re not including “The Day You Rest“, which for me is the lowest moment on the entire mini-album. While the brassy, groovy style a la Stevie Wonder ought to receive props for even existing in my K-pop, the song itself left too much to be desired. The vocal performance was on point, but when isn’t it these days? “The Day You Rest” stumbles in its structure, if anywhere. Something about the progression isn’t exactly intriguing, even with the great instrumental in place. The movement from one bit of the song to the other, say verse one to chorus, isn’t defined enough, which leads to “this song is taking forever” feelings, and I get those every time I listen to this song.
Valiant effort, for sure, but this is more of BEAST experimenting with style than anything particularly redefining in their musicality as idols. On the up side, the rest of the mini-album is absolutely b2utiful, so we’ll go ahead and call this a minor bump in the road.
“Midnight“, the song that was released in advance to the mini — or as they’re calling it, the prologue track — is definitely the most BEAST-y thing on the album. At first, I wasn’t exactly feeling the heavy synth transitions in the song because they reminded me too strongly of the mess that was 4minute‘s “Volume Up“, but as the song developed, everything came together a lot better than I was hoping for.
The guitar riff that opens and closes the song was never out of place, and it actually framed not only the style of this song, but the style of the mini-album as a whole. It’s a trendy song that blends electro flares with solid pop melodies and captures the essence of BEAST’s musical style by bringing out the strong hooks and, above all else, showcasing them as a mature vocal unit. Their voices sound extremely lush and I’m kind of losing my mind just listening to it.
They’re definitely not the strongest singers in K-pop (as a unit, formidable for sure), but BEAST undoubtedly have that entire department on lock this year.
One of the interesting aspects of “Midnight Sun” is the chill riffs they threw in here with the use of the acoustic guitar in nearly every song. It’s a stark difference from the heavy electronica style they were going for two years ago, but it’s nothing new, as we heard it all over “Fiction & Fact”. Yet, something about the way it is utilized on this album feels different.
After a few listens, I realized that it was less hip-hop/R&B than any of their past works, which isn’t exactly a bad thing because I thoroughly enjoyed what they did.
“When I Miss You“, one of two ballads on “Midnight Sun”, does a really interesting job of placing BEAST on what seems to be a near Spanish-esque song of sorts. It brings us back to what they started with “I Knew It” earlier this year, and I honestly wouldn’t mind if they went ahead and added that in as a bonus on this mini. “When I Miss You” is very OST, and very reminiscent of the B-sides of “Fiction & Fact”, which was my exact impression of “I Knew It”. I feel a solid thread connecting this song to BEAST’s past songs, yet still pick up on its new interpretation, and I find that to be a positive sign of their musical growth from a listener’s point of view.
“Dream Girl“, the last song on the mini, has to be the winning ballad if I were to choose one. It has a sweet tenderness that is borderline novelty pop, and I really dig it because that’s precisely what I love about Korean pop music. It’s a really fluid cross between the pop and R&B overtones, it’s sophisticated, and it takes me way back to Kikwang and Hyunseung‘s 2010 duet, “Let It Snow” (which is one of my favorite BEAST songs ever). It’s not a mind-blowing song, but it has every ounce of BEAST coursing through its veins.
Which brings us to “It’s Not Me“, the song that takes bits and pieces of everything new and old of BEAST, juices it, and offers a very different dose of awe to this group’s discography that I was pleasantly surprised to hear manifest itself on this mini-album.
The thing that I enjoyed the most about this track was that it’s experimental without going too far off base (like what happens in another track on this mini). It combines a traditional Korean instrumental with a jingling, hip-pop beat and allows BEAST to sing its engaging melodies in that roll-off-the-tongue way they do. Junhyung in particular is a star here. His raps come in at perfect intervals, never once interrupting the flow of the song, and even wins at adding a dose of sexy and swag to the whole thing, tying the whole thing together really well.
It’s a peculiar track, but it was executed with such grace that it feels natural by the time you reach the final bits of the guitar solo at the end. For me, it’s hands down one of the best songs on “Midnight Sun”.
“Midnight Sun” isn’t as epic as BEAST’s work last year, but I can get with the classy experimentation they’ve initiated through this mini-album. It’s a change in pace, but not a change in direction, and I think that was key in developing this body of work.
If there’s anything missing, it’s an edge. There is something about the rough and gritty sides to BEAST’s older material that have slowly been filtered out of their recent releases, and I think that if they can find ways to blend those details with the sophisticated and mature boy band we see and hear today, they can easily build an even more interesting sound.