About during the same time earlier this year two boy groups debuted from different companies and with very different sounds and images; KNK and Astro. One is handsome, mature and stylish and the other one is cute, youthful and energetic. Since the two splashed onto the scene at approximately the same time they ended up doing a lot of interviews and shows together, resulting in fans of one group also becoming fans of the other. With me this was certainly the case as I first was more interested in KNK but later also grew to enjoy Astro. Now they've both come back at a similar time again and yet again with severely different approaches.
KNK made their first comeback on June 1st which I realize now is a pretty long time ago (I had to wait until Astro's comeback to make this post which was a few weeks later) and for anyone who's been a K-pop fan for more than three years or so this song will sound quite familiar to you. KNK are truly channeling that Late 00's/early 10's K-pop sound with "Back Again", which sounds like it could just as easily belong to a group like Beast during their early years. I can't quite pinpoint it but it is truly like a blast from the past and it's kind of strange to hear this type of sound these days, since K-pop sounds vastly different now compared to five years ago. I definitely don't think this is a bad song but sadly it's nostalgic sound makes it sound a bit dated and the chorus sadly isn't that memorable. Their debut track "Knock" was definitely more interesting.
The video is quite similar to the one of "Knock"; dim lightning, dark sets and a vibe of melancholia. I don't really need to read the translated lyrics to understand that this is a song about a lost lover, heartbreak and wanting them back, which the video slightly touches on. It is, however, mostly composed dancing sequences and close-ups of the members, none of which I can complain about because the dance is decent enough and they're all very good looking. It doesn't give the video much substance though, but I still think this video is an upgrade from "Knock". The budget is slightly higher, the production is of higher quality and the overall impression is a bit sharper. I can't say that I'm wholeheartedly digging this comeback but I don't dislike it either, instead it has almost just kind of passed me by. I do think KNK are onto a good track and has a solid image that fits them, but unfortunately this comeback is only average to me.
With Astro's maknae being four years younger than KNK's it's no surprise that Astro has been going for a boyish and playful image, and this comeback doesn't step away from the concept of their energetic debut earlier this year. "Breathless" is upbeat, summery and a lot of fun to listen and even sing along to, and compared to KNK's moodier release this one definitely feels more suitable for the season. Still I don't find this song as catchy as their debut either, but I do like it more than "Back Again". It feels very fresh and all the members play their parts well, both vocalists and rappers, and the chorus is insanely catchy.
The video is all the more interesting though, as it begins and ends with the members sleeping on the beach, but there's a lot that happens in between. The MV features I.O.I's Yoojung, who's from the same company, and she plays a young girl that has a lot of fun with soda bottles. In the boy's dream (passed out from the heat I assume) they become the soda bottles and are brought along to wherever Yoojung carries them. She lifts them up, swings them around and stocks them in a freezer box, all of which result in some pretty funny moments and expressions on the boys' part. I don't really "get" the video and I don't understand why they're dreaming this or what it means, but it ends up being a great watch because the concept is something I've never seen before. Luckily Astro has just the right amount of charm and talent to pull it off, and speaking of talent this comebacks carries a pretty spectacular dance performance once again (it can't be seen as much in the MV though).
It seems as if a lot more thought and planning was put into this MV as well, and the execution does reveal a slightly larger budget as well. Everything from the camera work and editing to the beautiful summer scenery and well-chosen locations show that this comeback is a bigger investment from Fantagio's side, and video-wise I certainly prefer this to their debut "Hide & Seek". I think these boys have a lot of potential of making it in the future, although requiring better promoting tactics on their company's part, but I'm definitely hopeful.