It feels almost like our dear ASTRO is back from the dead after months of financial and legal uncertainty over at Fantagio have made Fantagio groups’ futures largely undetermined. While Fantagio’s troubles are still far from over, they’ve managed a special ASTRO comeback to reassure fans that the group’s activities haven’t halted completely. While it’s wonderful to know that the boys aren’t out there hanging in total limbo, the new album doesn’t compare to anything they’ve released in the past. Title track “Always You” just barely holds its own in comparison to past ASTRO songs, and EP “Rise Up” is altogether a disappointment.
One of the things ASTRO has always done best is picking and choosing trends. While they beat the crowd to the resurgence of the boy group cute concept a few years ago—even led the wave—and were judicious in the incorporation of the funk trend into their previous title “Crazy Sexy Cool,” they’ve always sidestepped EDM where it didn’t serve them, unlike most boy groups of the past two years who have beat the trend to death and then some. And now, of all times, two years into the EDM rage in K-pop and at a point when we’ve all heard everything, they’ve decided to inject their familiar sweet pop with wubbing synths and slow beats with heavy drops. Here’s the thing: It’s okay; it’s fine. But it’s not ASTRO standard. The melodies, while engaging to a point, never have the chance to fully stretch out. The guys’ performances are great, but the material they’re given isn’t much.
The side tracks only deteriorate further. The production feels careless, and at the end of the day there’s so much of the same brand of EDM that it all begins to blend together. The one track I would recommend, highly, is “Real Love,” which feels like a callback to the ASTRO pop of old with its rich vocal melodies and harmonies. Other than “Real Love,” which I could listen to on repeat for hours, “Rise Up” is skippable. But in a way, we’re lucky to have gotten an ASTRO comeback at all, so for now I’ll just sit tight and cross my fingers that everything goes well for them in whatever may remain of the Fantagio tempest.
ALWAYS YOU: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Uhhh…
Take a look at ASTRO’s “Always You” MV below: