[Review] ATEEZ settle a bit in solid “Deja Vu”

As they have in the past, ATEEZ held a public vote to decide which of two songs would become their newest title track. My choice was soundly beaten, proving yet again that Old Man Nick and the general K-pop fandom have diverged in taste. Thankfully, a music video for Eternal Sunshine is waiting in the wings to be released… eventually. For now, let’s turn our attention to the official, fan-voted title track Deja Vu.

To be honest, I think ATEEZ and I are at an inflection point in our relationship. I was a day-one supporter, galvanized by the strength of their Treasure series. But apart from excellent b-side Take Me Home, I’ve been ambivalent about their Fever project, and haven’t been smitten by a title track since January 2020’s Answer. I’m eager to be won back, but also skeptical of the direction the group is heading.

With this in mind, Deja Vu feels like a lateral move – neither strengthening nor detracting from their singles run. It’s groovier than most of their title tracks, laying out its plinky plonk percussion early and rarely straying from that beat. Shots of icy synth and rumbles of distortion flesh out the instrumental, but this arrangement feels in keeping with typical boy group fare.

Early in their career, ATEEZ’s title tracks thrived on two things: wonderfully bombastic pre-choruses and last-minute switch-ups that tore the songs open and sent them out on a high. These elements are sorely missed from their recent work, and I wish Deja Vu held some structural surprises. Even its inevitable Jongho power notes seem dulled. The chorus is fine, if a bit sing-song, but the whole effort seems stuck on autopilot. For a group who felt poised to change the game, it’s maddening to hear them settle – even if the resulting music is objectively decent.

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