In an all-too familiar K-pop template, Astro’s increasing success has come with a shift in their music. Their once bright, energetic style has dulled to a generic, moody haze — the likes of which are peddled by so many other boy groups of this era. This transformation started with 2018’s excellent “Always You,” but took a worrying turn late last year with the cumbersome “Blue Flame.” New single “Knock” continues their trajectory into monotonous, could-be-anybody fare, and it’s honestly kind of depressing.
The critique of Astro’s current state comes from someone who thought their first few years were near-perfect. They debuted with boatloads of individual character and addictive material. Their stable of producers was tight and complimentary, imbuing them with a signature sound and energy. But, apparently male idol groups can’t stay energetic past a certain point, as “maturity” becomes cloaked in humdrum melodies and an endless supply of trap beats. “Knock” isn’t a terrible song, but it’s utterly faceless and uninspired. There’s not one element we haven’t heard a million times before from the likes of GOT7 and Monsta X and every other boy group who’s gained a foothold in the international market.
The verses are largely a lethargic affair, plodding along with aimless, angsty melody and hip-hop. The chorus has a halting structure, with both the vocals and instrumental targeting the same fractured approach. I appreciate that this is meant to come across as grand and cathartic, but I think the arrangement lets the song down. The hook feels overly repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere, even when the guys rattle off some thrilling power notes at the climax. This refrain pounds with lockstep precision, preventing any spontaneity or genuine emotion from poking through.
Astro sound great, but the melody lets them down. And, that’s pretty much how I’ve felt about their music for these past two comebacks. The group remains strong, but their material and concepts feel like they’ve been pulled from a bargain bin labeled “Very Serious Boy Group K-Pop 101.”
IATFB says: Even as somebody who never quite got into the group, the switch in tone has been obvious, but nothing about the average-ness/okay-ness/fine-ness is all that new, in my opinion.