Seventeen – “Highlight” Review

(Music
Video—Dance Version)

Seventeen – Highlight

Reviewed
on January 8, 2016

In
terms of my stance, while I agree that the choreography aspect is stunning—as
to be expected from the performance unit—and I equally agree that the vocals
are decent, I do hesitate to highly praise the composition of the song. As the
review will attempt to highlight in “Highlight” (pun partially intended), the
song uses many unique composition techniques and decisions, but akin to
Meng
Jia’s “Drip,”
those said decisions might not be
the most optimal choices for musical appeal.

Personal Message:
Shout-out to the men and women who
worked as makeup artists for this music video. Random compliment aside (though
truly the men looked stunning in the music video—and yes, this is coming from a
heterosexual male as we need to critically challenge current notions of what
“being a man” is), I wish to thank a reader for recommending this song—and the
other ones—to me. While recommendations are not necessarily requests and thus I
could have opted not to review this, I find that “Highlight” brings interesting
musical discussions and that it perfectly fits with my review schedule of
bringing in more male artists.

Furthermore, as the recommender
mentions, she/he is curious on my take to songs that are, in summary, less
mainstream “idol songs”—songs that are not of the usual, traditional pop genre.
While Seventeen is a boy group that is still definitely a part of mainstream
pop music and are rather popular now, “Highlight” does technically deviate
away: physically, this is the “performance unit” of the normally
thirteen-membered group and thus consists of only Jun, Hoshi, The8, and Dino; and
musically, “Highlight” follows more of an EDM genre versus pop. That said, I
acknowledge EDM is still under the overarching label of “popular music”
especially as of the late (such as with EXO’s “Dancing King”), but indeed it is different from
the more common form of K-Pop.

Onto the review itself, I have
noticed many people have been praising this song in particular. For one, it
comes from the performance unit and considering the other units are the
“hip-hop unit” and “vocal unit,” it is a unit that might be overlooked. Besides
that, however, on a musical level “Highlight” has been deemed by many fans as
the best song on Seventeen’s recent album—this being what we care most about
for our discussion. Fans praise the song for its spectacular vocals, excellent composition,
and of course for its stellar choreography. In terms of my stance, while I
agree that the choreography aspect is stunning—as to be expected from the performance
unit—and I equally agree that the vocals are decent, I do hesitate to highly praise
the composition of the song. As the review will attempt to highlight in
“Highlight” (pun partially intended), the song uses many unique composition
techniques and decisions, but akin to Meng Jia’s “Drip,” those said decisions might not be
the most optimal choices for musical appeal.

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 6/10
(5.75/10 raw score) – “Slightly above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 5/10
(5.14/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Rap, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
3/10

2.     Verse: 5/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 3/10

5.     Rap: 7/10

6.     Bridge: 5/10

7.     Conclusion: 7/10


Instrumental: 5/10


Lyrics: 7/10

[Introduction instrumental]

When spread out pieces come together,
I’m finally able to breathe
When two lights meet,
they shine each other’s tomorrow
When the sun sets and darkness comes,
I remember only your warmth
A place where stars are embracing
Go towards there, I’ll be there

I want to match you to my heart
Like the sky and sun at dawn
We’re becoming similar along with time
Look at us that will become one in the end
I’m like a bird, I’ll fly
To wherever it is that I hear your voice from
In the air, whenever
(The moment that we face)

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

My lips only move
in your sight
Emptiness is filled by
each other’s expressions
making it meaningful
A feeling that only we know
You’re pulling me somewhere

My reason of existence is you
You make me want to smile like the spring
Wherever and whatever we’re doing
I know well that it’s not important
I’m just attracted by your stare
In order to make this moment shine,
I turn on the switch

I want to match you to my heart
Like the sky and sun at dawn
We’re becoming similar along with time
Look at us that will become one in the end
I’m like a bird, I’ll fly
To wherever it is that I hear your voice from
In the air, whenever
(The moment that we face)

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

Baby you
I look back at the time,
the times I earnestly dreamt of,
are becoming closer
Days where I held back tears
are left behind in my footsteps
Wherever in this world it may be,
if we believe in each other
This moment that we face

Highlight
Highlight
Highlight
(The me in your eyes
The you in my eyes
I can’t see the end
to the depth of your eyes
Believe in this moment
A miracle will appear
Regardless of whether it’s day or night
I’ll be by your side)

[Conclusion instrumental]

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Regarding what I mean by my statements above, “Highlight” is a song that
focuses on “imagery”—and readers should refer to the linked review of “Drip”
for another song example of such. In other words, many of the creative
composition points in the song are not geared towards augmenting the song in a
musical sense per se; those points, instead, are done to promote the lyrics’ narrative
or to create a more vivid “imagery” of the said narrative—both of which are not
purely focused on music in of itself, however.

Let
us focus on the choruses for an example. From a non-musical perspective, one
very unique aspect here is that the murmurings are not inaudible nonsense: they
are, if correct, lyrics in Chinese (Mandarin in specific). Now not only does
this steer away from the usual form of including English lyrics (which I plan
to one day write a Critical Discussion on it that discusses the inclusion of
English in K-Pop and even Chinese Pop—both musically and socially), but moreover
the style in which the Chinese lyrics are included enhances the song’s
narrative as we could interpret this as the protagonist’s inner thoughts. Another
non-musical strength that exists is towards the very beginning of the song: the
inclusion of ambient noises. That said to clarify this, it should be noted that
the ambient noise at the very start of the song is in fact a part of the song; it is not just due to the music
video itself as I have checked various audio sources and all include it. As for
why this particular introduction matters, while we will soon discuss it in a
musical sense, I do wish to give credit to the storytelling effects this
brings: it sets an emotional tone of reminiscing over matters—this being one
possible interpretation of the song in whole.

And
so, readers may be confused on why I mention these points if they do not relate
to the review itself. I do this so that readers can understand why the composers made those decisions.
Even if these decisions, as we will find, are arguably hindering to the song’s
musical appeal, they exist for another purpose that I still have to acknowledge
and do not wish to merely dismiss as poor composing. Especially if we return to
Jia’s “Drip,” it would be limiting to just criticize that song’s composition
without at least acknowledging why the composers opted for “Drip” ‘s odd
choruses. In Seventeen’s “Highlight,” I wish to equally do the same: give
respect for the composers’ decisions that help forward the song’s lyrical and emotional
narrative.

With
that aside, though, let us now focus on the song itself and particularly with
how those “story enhancing” components play out. With the choruses, while the
plain instrumental that is backed by the occasional “highlight” phrase is at
most average, I argue it is the murmuring that impairs these sections.
Certainly the murmuring adds contrast and prevents a potentially stale and
repetitive chorus, but because of how the song is overall structured to have a
pure, electronic instrumental as the climactic moments—as we can tell by
gauging how the verses and pre-choruses escalate the song to the choruses—it would
have served the song better if that very structural form was supplemented and not contrasted or if
the murmuring portion was simply removed. As it currently is, the murmuring
ironically still add onto the choruses’ repetitive nature—and potentially even
more so as the low, grumbling creates a more monotonous sound—and more
detrimentally, it steals away the choruses’ main sonic appeal: an upbeat, clean
wave-like instrumental.

As
for the introduction, for something I have yet to discuss on the blog, length
is a factor to bear in mind. Unfortunately, “Highlight” falls into the problem
of being excessive in length: the introduction could have started when the
lighter instrumental sounds kicked in and of which then are instantly followed
by the vocals. Instead as a result, the many seconds at the start come off as
fillers: moments that are simply unnecessary. The ambient noises do not bring
any sonic appeal, and additionally, are never referenced to again throughout
the song. If, for example, the ambient noises were then heard again at the
conclusion, it would have added cohesion to the song and doing so would have
very much been a sharp conclusion. While the conclusion still is a stronger
one, the introduction however struggles now because without actually reusing
the ambient noises, the introduction seems to be overly abstract and out of
place and, harshly said, wasted space and time.

Miraculously,
though, as readers can notice, the song still scores at a six and thus, there
are still indeed many stronger points—these I would say outnumber the
weaknesses to the song. The vocals are a category to focus on. Intriguingly
here, many parts of the vocals throughout were edited with electronic sounds.
However, unlike in most cases where doing such reduces down the tune and
muddles the vocals’ sound, in “Highlight” the vocals when edited were
appropriate in scale and thus the tune was still clear and it allowed the
vocals to sonically match with the instrumental. Furthermore, the vocals were
edited only at specific moments: when the song was greatly increasing in
intensity—such as towards the latter half of the pre-choruses. Otherwise,
vocals were not modified and during these cases, the members delivered excellent
singing and rapping.

On
the topic of rapping, the sections barring the choruses and introduction were
overall decent. The rapping in particular was well positioned and executed. In
more depth, I refer to how the rapping seamlessly occurred after the second
verse as the section continued on the second verse’s instrumental and pacing
but then slightly increased said pacing to create a perfect setup for rapping.
The rapping itself, then, was also well done with the usual of flow and tune.
The only weaker sections—though “weaker” is an inaccurate term as both are at
least average—would be the verses and bridge as, while they accomplish their
usual roles, both bring minimal interest in the overall hearing of the song
versus merely progressing the song. Similar, the instrumental follows suit: the
sound of it is nothing unique though it is still pleasing, and structurally the
instrumental adds the usual of transitions and a foundation for all the other
sections though it is merely average in those roles.

Overall,
“Highlight” is a song that ultimately holds well even with many weaker points.
The instrumental and sections may be average and if focusing on particular
sections even weak, but indeed “Highlight” is a song that orientates toward not
just sounding well but also performing
well—both visually with dance and emotionally with the song’s lyrics. Given
that this is the performance unit of Seventeen, the song makes sense: it sacrifices
some musical appeal for some additional performance appeal, and that is perfectly
acceptable if we consider that this song is meant for the performing aspect and
not so much as for, say, the vocals. Now if this song was for the vocal unit, it
would be questionable but as said, this is not the case. Regardless, though, as
this blog focuses on the pure musical aspect to K-Pop songs, “Highlight” still
has a few glaring issues that exist due to that trading of “music-for-performance,”
but in the end, it still holds as a decent song.

_______________________________________________________

I
personally am not too satisfied with this review as I could have definitely
spent more time discussing the song itself and not just focusing on the
discussion of “performance versus music,” but given that reviews truly hone in
on individual songs and each song’s particular case (lest, as said before,
readers read robotic input-and-output reviews), I find that the discussion in
this review will be relevant to Seventeen fans.

Also,
I do want to apologize for not being as active with reviews as I should be, but
I definitely have many coming out and with following the reviewing philosophy
of focusing the discussion of each song to its specific context, I can probably
be more concise yet even more thoughtful for the reviewed song at hand. But,
either way, readers deserve an apology for a somewhat slower posting rate than
promised. I will do my best to keep releasing reviews, and when university
returns in a week, I hope to increase the rate of reviews by being more precise
yet concise in discussion.

Look
forward to many comeback reviews—two of which include two older pop artists,
and a request (which I received during the time of writing this). “A miracle
will appear,” hopefully, so that reviews are on schedule. AOA’s “Excuse Me”
will most likely be the next review.