Throughout human history, the heavens have enthralled our minds. For thousands of years, the nebulous space around the earth served as a source of mysticism and wonder, its bodies inspiring awe, fear, romance, and religions in turn. Even throughout the 20th Century, when advances made in science allowed us to touch the sky, the power over our imagination held firm. Magic was traded for science, the sky shifting from unknown mysteries to a new frontier, but the cosmos still reigned supreme.
One of the greatest forgotten oddities of the 70s is space disco. A delightfully weird subgenre that combined synths and arpeggiators with the post-Star Wars Sci-Fi boom, the result is a heavily atmospheric sound that has proven surprisingly influential. “Cosmic Girl” by Rainbow is a fantastic throwback to this forgotten genre, in sound and lyrical tone.
I want to follow the faint starlight starlight
The approaching spotlight
Everything is OK
I want to go toward the burning sunlight sunlight
Ooh~ hot, burning up now! Make it new!
Across the space is a bigger stage – shout it loud
To them, the unending emptiness of space is not scary or depressing. The vastness is an opportunity for adventure and fame. The danger, the risks, these are incentives to Rainbow, pushing them further as they chase their dreams to the end of the universe. They see the blackness as a blank slate, a place with endless potential for them to make their marks on the world, and they cannot wait to get started. Space is where their destiny is, and they are chomping at the bit to get started.
Stray Kids, however, feel the inverse. To them, space is not where you paint your name, but how to learn who you are. “Astronaut” is a song of exploration and investigation.
I will go explore Right now
Young and free there’s nothing to fear
Anywhere will be my hideout
Let’s go to space
3, 2, 1, take off
Over and over, they hit the point of astronauts as explorers, venturing into strange new worlds without a map regardless of the risk. They also see endless potential, but in the shape of what they will find and learn as they voyage forward. Interactions with space can also apply internally and externally, both learning who you are and how the world works when you are interacting with it as an adult — experiences which often feel strange and alien the first time around. Still, Stray Kids frame it as a positive, seeing all the new routes life can go.
To Luna, the idea of other worlds speaks less about a personal journey and more about a romantic one. In “Galaxy,” she choses to fling herself into another galaxy altogether in pursuit of love.
I wanna know more about that dazzling light
I’m jumping into your galaxy
To a world that you slightly opened only for me
Without hesitation, I’m into your galaxy
What is striking about Luna is that rather than codependence, her choice to fling herself headfirst into love comes off as an act of self-love as well. She was not happy, describing herself as leaving a world that is dark and lonely for one that is warm and dazzling. She sees this relationship as a chance to be loved, an idea that is so strange to her that it feels like something from another galaxy. It is risky, it may backfire, but that chance of something better is worth everything.
Sometimes, though, love is not liberating. In “Black Hole”, Shinee views their love as a force they cannot escape, even if they want to.
You are my black hole
I can’t escape this attraction
It’s that kind of attraction
You are my black hole
I can’t take my eyes off this attraction
You’re an attraction
Much like the astronomical event, the girl of the song exudes a gravity field that one cannot escape from. She has become the center of Shinee’s world, and there is nothing they can do about it. And much like the real thing, this emotional black hole is not something they are okay with. While making someone your universe sounds romantic, in reality it is a very unhealthy dynamic, and Shinee are aware of this. They want to be held back and woken up from her. In the end, though, there is just nothing capable of breaking them away from her.
The cosmos will always fascinate the human mind. Even when it shifted from the realm of gods to an endless frontier, it simply altered that fascination rather than eliminate it. And given that it is untouchable, filled with the unknown, and fraught with risk and glory, that probably won’t change any time soon.