[Review] Not The End – HIGHLIGHT

Kicking starting this week is HIGHLIGHT. It has been two and a half years since we last heard from this second-generation group in 2018 through the release of Outro and Loved. At the time of that release, HIGHLIGHT was a quintet. Since the group’s hiatus due to military enlistment (which all members have now officially completed), the group reformed into a quartet after the departure of the group’s main rapper, Junhyung, due to a scandal in 2019. The group’s lineup now features only Doojoon, Kikwang, Yoseob and Dongwoon. Today, HIGHLIGHT makes their long awaited return with THE BLOWING, which features the title track Not The End.

Not The End is very fitting song for their return. You can tell this by just referring to one line of the song – the song’s main English hook ‘I’m still here. It is not the end‘ which is repeated throughout the song really hones into the fact that despite being around since 2009, the group is still active and will continue pumping out music for their fans (Light or B2UTY). The song’s entire message is that ‘that this is a new beginning, rather than the end’ (taken from Soompi’s article), which also feels fitting for the occasion. Moving away from the meaning of the song, I really like the atmospheric vibes during the verses. The piano work and percussion was all quite captivating and stilling to listen to. What makes Not The End quite memorable is the contrast between the stillness that comes from the verses and the use of the upbeat electronic synths for the chorus. It makes the chorus quite punchy and exciting to listen to. The synths used in this the chorus drops give off a very notable vibrancy that one would expect with songs as you approach/enter in the Summer season. They are pretty traditional synths and aren’t really mind-blowing on their own. But as a whole picture (i.e. the verses and choruses together), Not The End comes off as memorable as Loved (for me, at least). What makes Not The End even better were the vocals. It is definitely nice to hear their familiar voices, particularly since they were one of the first KPOP groups that I listened to (way back in 2009!). I felt their voices brought this really enjoyable sense of warmth and comfort to the verses. It was interesting to hear they kept the same tone for the chorus. I wished they hadn’t as their voices could have been slightly louder and strengthened to match the energy coming off the chorus’s instrumentation. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed and overpowered by the instrumentation in the chorus. But overall, Not The End still is a touching return for the group.

The music video definitely gets points for being quite aesthetic. I really like how the colours pops out at you, especially when it layered over the white in the video. It really matches the vibrancy of the song. Think of the chorus’s synths and the blue/green that just contrasts so well with the plain white sets during the choreography scenes. I am sure each member’s solo scenes in this video has some sort of purpose that somehow corresponds to the new beginning that the members sing about in this song. But I am entirely sure what I am seeing. I might have a theory that one of Kikwang’s main props is a bare tree in the middle of his set, while Yoseob’s scenes feature a forest mural – showcasing that there is potential for that tree to re-begin its life and become a lush green forest. For Dongwoon, his scene features flowers which are very much alive. But Doojoon repurposes the flowers into perfume, which shows you that even while you may be growing and maturing, you still have that opportunity to change yourself to become something else. It is a wild and out there theory, but that is what I got from the video.

I really like softness that really prevails in this performance. It adds a nice delicate touch to the performance, despite it being quite fitting for the upbeat energy we get from the synths in the chorus. The choreography also looks sharp, which made this performance look even better. I am also impressed that their performance skillset has not been impacted despite a hiatus and the fact that they are in their 30s.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.7/10

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