One of the most anticipated comebacks of 2012 was that of Beast‘s, the six-member “reject” group from Cube Entertainment that had skyrocketed to success with their last full album, Fact and Fiction, from 2011. Their hit single, “Fiction,” was one of the best K-pop songs released last year, acclaimed by critics and winning over the hearts of many to-be Beast fans. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that literally everyone (including us writers here) had sky-high expectations for Beast’s new mini-album released just last week to eager fans.

Something that many people expected from Midnight Sun was the same catchy yet artistic tone the boys wowed their fans with last year, and Beast delivered. However, they took the chance to also experiment with a whole new sound instead of continuing down the angst-filled R&B road they had approached in their previous songs. Midnight Sun was chock-full of songs with synthesizers, something that hadn’t been seen much from Beast since their Lights Go On Again days, and energetic vocals from all of the boys.

The first track from Midnight Sun was “Midnight,” a pre-released single from the mini-album which wasn’t remarkable, but at the same time pleasant on the ears. While the song combined acoustic elements such as guitar and piano, most of the track was very upbeat and filled with electronic elements. One thing that surprised me about it was that even though Beast revisited some of the previous qualities of their pre-Fact and Fiction music that had been criticized for overshadowing their vocals, “Midnight” actually made the boys’ voices shine for me. I thought that the track was well-executed and while not one that Beast could promote easily, it gave us a taste of what was to come on the rest of the mini-album.

Beast’s promotional track from Midnight Sun, “Beautiful Night,” is the second track on the mini-album. Unlike “Fiction,” which was a mellow selection with overlapping parts of the chorus that made it shine in comparison to other K-pop songs, “Beautiful Night” embraces a very upbeat, electronic pop feel that fans typically associate with Beast’s “Bad Girl” days. Luckily for us listeners, Cube took a lesson or two from the lack of response to Beast’s debut track and changed their game, using a groovy bass line and vocal processing tastefully to bring out energy and youthfulness from the song. I especially enjoyed how funky and unformulaic “Beautiful Night” was for Beast, especially the bridge and Dongwoon‘s lines. The boys also seem to have a lot of fun performing this less somber track live and while it may not be as widely loved and known as “Fiction,” I appreciated the nostalgia for Beast’s earlier days Cube managed to bring back with this distinctly Beast track.  

The other track that Beast has been promoting on music shows (and also the third song on Midnight Sun) is “It’s Not Me,” a slick-sounding, clearly Beast song that has a great beat and sassy style. I was extremely happy to read that Junhyung helped write the lyrics for this song because if there’s one thing that irks me, it’s definitely when I see the rapper in a K-pop group as dead weight. Luckily for Beast, Junhyung has been working on his composing, arranging, and writing skills (almost like G-Dragon) and it’s easy to see from his work that he has talent. When Beast retires, I see a bright future for Junhyung as a producer, as he spent a lot of time in putting the mini-album together with other composers, arrangers, and lyricists. “It’s Not Me” is paired with flowing choreography that looks both relaxed and fun by the boys for performances, and it’s great to see something that’s not as “in your face” from Beast. Not only do we get to see a cool rap sequence during the dance, we also get a great dance break from Yoseob toward the end. Even though all Beast members have their strengths and weaknesses, it’s nice to see them spread the dance parts out evenly instead of hand them all off to Kikwang, who is noted as the strongest dancer in the group.

The boys threw in a song with their signature ballad style stamped all over it for the fourth track on the mini-album. “When I Miss You” is a soft, slow selection with a sweet sound created by the meshing of Hyunseung and Yoseob’s voices. The lyrics are melancholy and well-composed, so they match well with the tone of the song. My favorite thing about “When I Miss You” was Junhyung’s rap at the end, which was more sung than spoken and thus had a smoother style than his other raps. Overall, “When I Miss You” was a beautiful ballad that could have gone on any soundtrack for a K-drama and reminded listeners of some of Beast’s best works, such as “On Rainy Days.”

The style that Beast takes on in the fifth song on Midnight Sun, “The Day You Rest,” is a groovy one that has an interesting beat that is neither fast nor slow. While it’s great to see them experimenting with such different styles, “The Day You Rest” didn’t really win me over. The melody in the back was too distracting and the vocals felt a bit weak compared to the rest of the tracks so I never felt like I was really listening to the song. The transitions felt very blurred and I couldn’t distinguish between verses and the chorus, so while it wasn’t an entirely sloppy track, Cube could have done a better job to clean up this song.

Beast wraps up Midnight Sun with “Dream Girl,” their one R&B selection for the mini-album. “Dream Girl” was my favorite between the six songs, hands down, but I’m also partial to Beast’s R&B sound. Regardless, they did a great job meshing pop and R&B as they always do and gave “Dream Girl” a sweetness that I typically don’t get from K-pop songs. Hyunseung’s vocals especially shone in “Dream Girl” and everything about this ballad just came together, bringing a touch of sophistication and maturity to Midnight Sun.

Overall, Beast’s Midnight Sun was a great step in terms of artistry for them. They’ve demonstrated themselves to be capable vocalists even with a completely different style of music from Fact and Fiction, and they deserve respect for that. While the mini-album wasn’t as epic or mindblowing as their previous album, it still did a great job in showing their growth as a group through tracks that were put together cleanly and executed flawlessly. Junhyung especially impressed me with his raps and producing prowess in Midnight Sun — his rapping displayed his skills as one of the most talented idol rappers and won me over with his swag onstage (even if I’m not really digging the purple hair). Beast knew that it wasn’t going to be possible to top Fact and Fiction so they took a different route instead this time around, and so they didn’t try to do that. Instead, they opted for growth sideways instead of up, which is still growth at the end of the day.

Rating: 4.6/5

(Cube Entertainment)