As Astro continue their descent into more edgy and darker territory, it’s quite an odd feeling for fans of the groups bright, early sound. I am not one against musical maturation but in an age where mature automatically signifies lurching instrumentals and hum drum melodies, it’s not the most promising of signs. Thankfully, bar an unfortunate bump in the road with the mundane Blue Flame, the boys have transitioned well into their new sound. I loved last years emotive Knock more than most (so much so that it ended up as one of my favourites of the year) and so I was pumped for how One would turn out. And while it is another solid evolution of the groups sound, there are aspects that prevent me from fully embracing its charms.
Let’s start with the positives. That brilliant pre-chorus and first half of the chorus. These are the kinds that fit the boys like a glove and their bright, yet anthemic sound are enough to give me chills. I love how the arrangement just opens up here, lending an extended, cathartic build towards to a towering synth laden hook that hits like a truck. This is what I mean when I say I want some more variety in these edgy boy group tracks and in that regard, 2021 has been a real kicker. The boys also give a great performance. MJ’s distinctive vocals are always a highlight and the boys sound truly immense together. Rocky’s post chorus rap breakdown is also a highlight, incorporating a unique, rather pacy flow over a percolating breakdown that works despite its shift in momentum. And in that way, One is already much stronger than many songs of this style.
But that’s where the production comes in. I appreciate the number of elements that have been stuffed into the song but to these ears, the final product just sounds a little messy. The staccato, chanted post chorus is addictive but the arrangement makes it come across as messy and grating. It’s instrumental is very SM/NCT like, pulsing forward on a claustrophobic beat that feels as though there’s little room to breathe. And as such, One comes across as a very tiresome listen. It’s not a deal breaker but it distracts me from appreciating the more enjoyable moments of the track. And while I would love for it to grow on me over the coming weeks, I’m rather lukewarm on One right now.
Final Rating: 7.75 / 10