Hooray for evolution! The cutesy ASTRO of the past is dead and gone, folks. Mature ASTRO is here to take their place, and I haven’t heard anyone complaining. That’s probably because on the whole, ASTRO hasn’t changed a bit—they’ve just put on nice jackets, more hair gel and a slightly funky sound. Everything else is the same. They still radiate relatable, boy-next-door, could-be-your-friend-in-an-alternate-universe vibes. They still dance mad good. The ratio of songs I loved, liked, and disliked on Dream, Pt. 2 was exactly the same as it has always been for past ASTRO EPs. And, well, the music has not gotten better or worse. ASTRO has delivered quality work on Dream, Pt. 2, but the musical risk taken is minimal as usual. Yes, that’s probably a wise move given that the concept development is a risk in itself, but still, I was hoping.
“Crazy Sexy Cool” isn’t ASTRO’s best song, but it’s good. The funky bass really made this track. It drives a feel-good rhythm that suits ASTRO completely. For example, take Rocky’s (ever-so-brief) rap part: the main dancer’s rhythmic singing is one of the best parts of the song. The biggest problem in “Crazy Sexy Cool” is the lack of solid vocal melody to hang onto in the chorus. The “So easy to love you, so easy to love you” refrain is simplistic and a little boring compared to other ASTRO hooks. The preceding falsetto part and following cascade of jazzy “ooh”s are catchy enough to make up for it to some extent, but not enough to forgive the unmemorable chorus completely. I also sorely missed big vocal moments throughout the entire song. How did “Crazy Sexy Cool” make it through a whole three minutes without once letting MJ show off his chops? I’m all for fair line distributions, but what I’m not interested in is when visual members sing significantly more than the main vocal (no shade to the very talented Sanha and Moonbin). It’s a shame, because MJ has one of the most unique and stable vocals among today’s rising rookies.
The rest of Dream Pt. 2 was more typical ASTRO than “Crazy Sexy Cool” (although—is it just me?—I did note significantly more unnecessary autotune, which was disagreeable). The sparkly synth-peppered beginning of “With You” sounds as if it were lifted straight out of the bubblegum pop end of Pt. 1, but sike, it’s actually one of the most impressive songs on Pt. 2. Don’t let the repetitive hook fool you—“With You” is surprisingly complex, with a creative dance beat, clear production, and plenty of crisp little background vocal harmonies that are wonderfully satisfying.
I wasn’t enthralled with the composition of “Butterfly,” but it displayed the members’ talents miles better than the title track. Rocky showed up impressively with his characteristic melodic rapping, JinJin got a chance to deliver a great rap part, and MJ finally let loose, thank the K-pop gods. The mid-tempo “Run” is wonderful, though. The chorus toys with multiple phrasing styles, interrupting itself with a new tune, developing the melody as it pushes itself forwards. There’s a sense of dynamic here that’s stronger than anywhere else on the album, guiding the listener through peaks and valleys to deliver more emotional clout. The best of these moments is the breather in the bridge before the final chorus, where the boys sing exquisite melodies over a gently strumming acoustic guitar. It’s a very pleasing structure, one that I honestly wish Dream, Pt. 2 had delved deeper into.
I couldn’t help but feel the absence of a solid ballad on this EP. ASTRO has always included one dramatic, powerful slow song on their past releases: “Innocent Love” on Spring Up; “Growing Pains” on Summer Vibes; “Your Love” on Autumn Story; and most recently “Because of You” on Dream, Pt. 1. It’s become somewhat formula for ASTRO to go big with at least one downtempo track. While “Better With You” aims to fill this spot, it’s missing the sheer scale of showstoppers like “Innocent Love” and “Because of You.” The atmosphere of the instrumental in “Better With You” is comparatively muted; the vocals don’t take off much, a crime considering MJ’s talent. And the composition of “Better With You” is adventurous, yes, but it’s too adventurous: the melody doesn’t ever come together, and it’s hard to follow. “Run” was beautiful, but I missed the drama; I wanted ASTRO to really hit me in the gut. That didn’t happen this time around.
As lukewarm as some of the tracks on Dream, Pt. 2 were, I’m quite happy with this comeback. It was definitely time for ASTRO to break out of the restrictions of the cute concept—because while you can do great things with a cute song, you just can’t do phenomenal things. With the more mature concept leading the way (and I’m quite sure it will stick, because the K-pop fandom is raving about it, at least as far as I’ve seen), ASTRO will be freer to make new stylistic choices in future title tracks. I’ll be anticipating it.
CRAZY SEXY COOL: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Boppy enough.
Take a look at ASTRO’s “Crazy Sexy Cool” MV below: