[Review] Highlight are sentimental but optimistic on “Not The End”

Though they’re short two original members, Highlight have become one of K-pop’s longest-running groups thanks to a rebranding and revitalization in 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their new single “Not The End” seems to spring directly from that year’s musical trends, feeling like an outtake from their earlier work rather than a new push forward.

Highlight have been absent from promotions since 2018, so it makes sense that their sound might lag behind current trends. And, it’s not like the group has anything to prove. They’ve served their time as trend-setting idols, and now it’s time to reap the rewards. “Not The End” plays more like a promise — a recommitment to the career they’ve chosen. It’s sentimental to the max, but doesn’t forget to deliver a few musical peaks.

The song’s verses are largely forgettable, trudging along with a measured hesitance rather than embracing the bombast of the chorus. The synth-heavy instrumental drapes the track in drama, paying off with a grand drop reminiscent of B1A4’s excellent 2017 hit “Rollin. This drop-as-chorus format feels like a missed opportunity, but “Not The End” smartly tacks on a melodic refrain.

At its best, the song surges with a majestic drive. It boasts a few satisfying touches that keep it from sounding like a dated copycat, such as the influx of filtered guitar that fuels the bridge. In fact, I really think the instrumental is the star of the show. It’s derivative at every turn, but harnesses a welcome sense of optimism.

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