After releasing their 9th mini album Gateway back in May, 6-member K-pop boy group Astro have decided to switch it up and debuted their first ever sub-unit; a duo composed of two of its younger members, smooth honey vocalists Moonbin and Yoon Sanha, with their EP ‘In-Out’ and the sexy title track ‘Bad Idea’.
Known in the early days of their career for their cute, boyish concepts, ‘In-Out’ is a continuation of the groups’ maturity not only as artists but as men. Though perhaps not a household name like some powerhouse groups (you know the ones), Astro are most certainly a group to watch and have been for some time. Formed by Fantagio Entertainment, a company known primarily for producing actors, Astro have, over the past 4 years, proven themselves to be an exceptionally talented and versatile group. ‘In-Out’, as an album, does the whole group an incredible service by really showcasing members Moonbin and Sanha as the strong and capable vocalists that they are.
The EP opens with ‘Eyez On U’, an interesting and excellent choice. The song immediately draws listeners in with its intriguing instrumental. It bounces and hops on a light trap beat, punctuated by lips smacking together before letting Sanha open with “Bright light / I feel good / Close your eyes for a second and think again”. Light and inviting, it immediately puts you at ease as Moonbin comes in to carry the rest of the verse, trailing off in soulful runs and punching through the pre-chorus as the instrumental picks up speed before abruptly stopping so we can hear “Can you keep a secret” whispered over nothingness. The song is fun from start to finish and instantly stands out as the most memorable on the album.
Second on the EP is the duo’s title track ‘Bad Idea’. Again, the song opens with Sanha and strolls into the pre-chorus on Moonbin’s heels, but the feelings between ‘Eyez On U’ and ‘Bad Idea’ are totally different. Featuring a slinky funk bass and rhythm guitar as the driving force of the instrumental, ‘Bad Idea’ is nothing short of delicious. Though the chorus lyrically feels a bit repetitive, “But all I got is bad, bad, bad ideas / I’m scared this bad, bad dream comes real”, especially as these lines appear in some variation in both the chorus and post-chorus (7 times throughout the whole song), the song remains defiantly infectious. There is no universe in which this song could not elicit a head bop or shoulder shimmy. While not a particularly revolutionary song, ‘Bad Idea’ came and completed the task it was assigned; it gave both boys ample room to show their style and personality as well as vocal prowess (falsettos, anyone?)
The middle track, ‘Alone’, marks a shift in the EP’s tone. While sporting an upbeat tempo, ‘Alone’ tells the story of a boy missing the girl he loves, “There’s still no answer… / The night without you is like a remote island… / Maybe I’m still lonely”. While not a sonically stand-out track like ‘Eyez On U’ or ‘Bad Idea’, what ‘Alone’ brings to the table is a more pared back instrumental that gives Moonbin and Sanha infinite room to show off their vocals. As they front a chorus each, Moonbin and Sanha both complement each other’s leading vocals with airy refrains of “Alone, alone, alone”, eventually leading into Sanha’s smooth power note in the bridge.
The following songs, ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘Dream Catcher’, do much the same as ‘Alone’. By giving the boys simple instrumentals (‘All I Wanna Do’ punctuated with church organs and ‘Dream Catcher’ sounding like something Boyz II Men would have released decades ago) these songs provide them with breadth to lay down slick, soothing vocals. While these three pop-ballads don’t seem like much on the surface, ‘Alone’, ‘All I Wanna Do’, and ‘Dream Catcher’ proved that both Moonbin and Sanha are capable of actually carrying a song by opting not to disguise their vocals inside and under punchy beats and autotune.
For those unfamiliar with Astro as a whole, consider ‘In-Out’ your appetiser. The album is full of smooth production thanks to producers like Jan Baars, Rajan Muse, Hae and Stally (who have worked with prominent K-pop artists such as Twice, NCT, Kang Daniel and more), and also contains some insanely catchy lyrics that will absolutely get stuck in your head. But more than that, Astro’s Moonbin and Sanha delivered an album that is vocally solid and easy to enjoy, satisfying just enough while leaving a shred of hunger for more.
Images by Fantagio Entertainment.