Amidst comebacks from Sandeul, BoA, WJSN, fromis_9, and NCT Dream, long-time running group Teen Top has also joined the foray of early June releases with “Run Away.” Returning with their ninth mini album DEAR. N9NE on June 4, this comeback also marks their ninth year since their 2010 debut. Despite the loss of L. Joe in 2017, the group has consistently churned out diverse concepts and genres for fans to enjoy – particularly with “Love Is.” This album further boasts of Chunji and leader C.A.P having participated in the making of B-side and title tracks, respectively.

However, “Run Away” also signals their first attempt at a “mature sexy” concept, according to their recent comeback showcase. Mixed in with tropical house tunes and outdoor or bouncy neon settings, Teen Top altogether brings a style that rings familiar.

Think Winner with “Island” or Shinee with “View.” This spunky, tropical house genre has been on the rise around 2015-2017, with some remnants left in 2018 through Chungha’s “Love U”. Meanwhile, 2018 saw the shift into EDM and pop with tracks such as Twice’s “Dance the Night Away” and Golden Child’s “Let Me.” On this note, Teen Top’s attempt at this genre midway through 2019 makes it for a slightly mismatched aim. Particularly with a more mature concept at hand, the two approaches lead to an outcome stuck between the past and present.

The MV focuses more on aesthetics than a plot, having the boys dance in curated, artsy rooms or take a drive to escape down a field. The attention to detail is splendid, with each setting contributing a different facet of all the attractive sides of summer. From party rooms to an indoor garden, to the empty field with a gradient yellow, blue sky – Teen Top’s MV depicts summer as a colorful season that can’t help but outshine the mundane reality of everyday life. The members’ styling and the camera work further collaborate to bring forth an upgraded presentation.

“Run Away” alone signals a more mature comeback, though the nostalgia for their past upbeat, pop genre still resonates. Musically, it is inclined towards the safer side amidst a transition in trends. The instrumental is catchy and pleasing to the ears, and the track is carried well by giving a fair balance to every member. The overall spectrum of voices is also varied and this enables the song to keep the listener interested. In particular, Changjo’s addition of singing allows C.A.P’s rapping to stand out quite well. The layering of Ricky, Niel, and Chunji further serve to balance the song out, as well.

By the end of it, “Run Away” seems more like a cookie-cutter summer track as opposed to a “Teen Top track.” To be fair, the members’ voices are quite distinct and charming in and of themselves. But the production behind the song could’ve utilized those voices in a more creative way to enhance their own color. While the members can certainly deliver their best with any track, “Run Away” brings a general introduction to the group rather than a new spotlight.

Fortunately, their choreography skills remain sharp and synced, clean and ideal for the song’s leisurely mood. The choreography itself is very creative and makes good use of five members to fill the stage. Deviating from a simple repetitive routine, the members present unique changes per chorus and verse to surprise the viewer. During the bridge especially, the members all raising their hands toward the middle to slowly fall apart is a poignant, simple way to express light. Yet, the choreography is also powerful and fun in order to have the song stand out further.

Their concept at hand is fitting for a group that has matured through the newer generations of K-Pop. From hairstyle to clothes, MV quality to skills, fans won’t be disappointed through the fresh progress Teen Top continues to make. Moreover, the idea of running from confusion and darkness towards the light is simple, yet perfect for summer. The song urges the listener to open their eyes and run again, towards achieving their goal, dreams, and ultimately freedom – an encouraging notion for students and adults alike.

Yet, considering their ample discography, one might hope for a more daring, distinct approach to a comeback. Not only do they have the leisure and experience to do so, but their longevity itself leads to a security that allows experimentation. While the genre and concept were new for Teen Top in general, the execution could’ve worked to bring something only they could fulfill. On the other hand, taking on a familiar approach does possibly warrant greater public appeal and sales. But in doing so, they may have compromised a chance for more creativity.

Nonetheless, their return marks a series of upcoming performances for fans to look forward to. So far, summer promotion plans include a July concert and their participation in the upcoming 2019 K-Pop Artist Festival on June 15 – alongside AB6IX, Hotshot, TRCNG, Loona, Park Bom, and more. As it is their ninth year running, it’s commendable to see the group consistently growing as artists and maintaining a community with their fans. While the industry welcomes the fourth generation to bring change, it will certainly be worth watching how Teen Top makes further landmarks with both their music and longevity.

Sources: (Digital Times, E-Daily, No Cut News, SBN News, TV Report, X Sports News, YouTube, YTN; Images from TOP Media)