[Review] TXT return to form on “Blue Hour” despite vocal processing

After an incredibly strong debut year, I began to worry about TXT. Visuals and lore aside, it felt like Big Hit was pushing them too hard to sound like agency-seniors BTS, rather than embracing the group’s unique strengths. This hit a sour note with May’s Can’t You See Me, which felt like a junior version of Fake Love, minus the charm. Luckily, new single Blue Hour (5시 53분의 하늘에서 발견한 너와 나) returns TXT to the bright sound of their debut, though its heavily-processed disco sheen pulls equally from BTS’s recent hit Dynamite.

I think this style fits TXT more convincingly than BTS, even if its ebullient energy feels better suited to spring or summer than the dog days of October. Blue Hour has a laidback disco groove, heavy on percussion and light on tonal shifts. Unlike many K-pop title tracks, its structure is kind of flat, and that’s oddly jarring the first time through. It’s not that the song is subdued, but there’s an ease to its arrangement that initially comes across as underwhelming. I actually think this approach may prove helpful in the long run. There’s something so ingratiated about Blue Hour’s rhythmic energy. The production may not really modulate, but that’s okay.

Melodically, Blue Hour follows suit. It delivers a breezy pop melody that sneaks up on you. Taken apart from the cotton-candy music video, the song feels less sugary, but still bright and exuberant. Unfortunately, Big Hit’s awful vocal processing strikes again, robbing TXT’s members of most of their unique vocal color. I’ll never understand why the agency decided to move in this direction, as it seems to be overwhelming unpopular with listeners. A crisper vocal might have sent Blue Hour up a notch, but even so the song feels like a return-to-form after Can’t You See Me’s angsty detour.

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