After showing a more mature image with emotional record We Need Love last summer, StayC have returned to their youthful roots with latest single “Teddy Bear.” But while the tune aims to encapsulate the group’s signature “teen fresh” sound, it still feels notably different from previous releases like “ASAP” and “Stereotype” despite projecting a similar cheerful concept. With a more childish presentation, the number seemingly targets a much younger generation compared to their past songs. And like their last title track “Beautiful Monster,” this change in direction is sure to be met with mixed reviews.

Right from the start, the lively guitar intro makes it apparent that pop-punk number “Teddy Bear” is meant to be a fun, kitschy experience. Its vibrant instrumental is full of different quirks with the chorus featuring a chirpy synth and the second verse even utilizing some old-school hip hop beats alongside Sieun’s and J’s rap lines. This abrupt rap section also prevents the tune from feeling too cutesy. But apart from that, the song doesn’t really offer any other compelling parts.

“Teddy Bear” is certainly a sweet and quirky ride but also seems to lack a destination. The chorus feels rather plain and subdued, leaving the buildup from the pre-chorus without any place to take flight. There’s an attempt to make the second half of the chorus more memorable with a repetitive ‘Teddy bear’ hook; however, it sounds quite dull without many intriguing elements to captivate listeners. Although this effect doesn’t necessarily take away from the peppy atmosphere, it can make the number feel very underwhelming especially when placed next to the group’s more engaging singles from their discography.

While the song itself may struggle to satisfy some listeners, there’s no denying the comfort its message brings to the audience. Korean students in particular are likely to find much-needed motivation from the lyrics as they prepare to start the new school year next month.

With a hopeful tone, the members encourage listeners amidst this stressful and fast-paced life:

Don’t rush, no worries

Anyway, anyway

We’re all living life for the first time

There isn’t no one right answer, one hunnit

Stop expecting one, you’ll get disappointed

Correspondingly, the music video for “Teddy Bear” features the girls supporting those in stressful situations. And using an abundance of teddy bear motifs throughout the video, StayC portray the children’s toy as a dependable hero that silently protects us no matter what life throws at us.

As the video opens, the entire group is seen wearing bright pink hoodie and skirt ensembles as well as whimsical ski masks with bear ears on top to represent a teddy bear. Moving into the story, the heroes who appear with the same hoodie and skirt outfit come to save the side characters from their predicaments in the most extreme ways. Isa, who fails to get the last teddy bear-shaped bread at a shop, is aided by Yoon who boldly crashes a truck into the store with a plethora of teddy bear snacks in tow.

In the next scene, Sumin acts as a SWITH ready to buy tickets for a StayC concert the moment they become available. And as many fans are probably aware, the race to get tickets before they sell out can be brutal. With that, Seeun gives a boost of energy to Sumin to help her click faster and in turn, secure the tickets in time.

For the third situation, Sieun boards a crowded bus and is visibly troubled by the tight space. In response, J magically widens the bus with enough room for Sieun to freely walk in. She even takes another step further and transforms the area into a flashy dance hall complete with neon lights and a dazzling disco ball. And though brief, the animated scenes depicting the members as they get saved are utterly adorable and help add to the silly, childlike theme.

Though the heroes extravagantly display some of their superpowers in the video as they assist others, the circumstances that the side characters find themselves in are everyday incidents that a lot of people can relate to. Just like how many of us had teddy bears which we relied on as children, there are also reliable heroes in our daily lives.

To complement “Teddy Bear,” StayC have included the Korean version of their Japanese debut track “Poppy” as the sole B-side of the single album.

The bubblegum pop tune fits with the upbeat concept and plays a similar role in cheering listeners up. But despite this, “Poppy” appears to be a better representative of the group’s teen fresh genre than “Teddy Bear.”

Its chorus can be a bit disappointing with its monotonous melody but is nonetheless an immediate ear worm. The post-chorus also offers a more dynamic vocal arrangement and does well in hooking listeners. As the girls compare a bubbly soda to a heart that feels like it’s about to burst with lyrics like “This drink of popping bubbles, it’s like my heart” and “Shake as I please, there’s no doubt it’s carbonated,” the electronic instrumental feels fresh and fizzy which helps the track leave a memorable impression.

Interestingly, it’s quite easy to imagine a release where “Poppy” is the lead single and “Teddy Bear” a B-side but alas, this isn’t the case with this record.

With this single album, StayC’s current musical direction has become a bit difficult to discern. They made a significant step toward leaving their cheerful identity with We Need Love but came back to it with Teddy Bear without the engrossing elements that helped make their first few songs hits. If producers Black Eyed Pilseung intend to continue with the group’s teen fresh image, they will hopefully find a way to do so while also naturally evolving their sound.

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius [1][2]. Images via High Up Entertainment.)