Chen made it onto the headlines of the KPOP industry and related media for his surprise announcement of marriage and (at the time) upcoming entrance into fatherhood. A little later into the year, Chen got married in a private ceremony and also became a father to a young girl. Congratulations to Chen and his wife! Since the shock announcement until now, Chen has been absent from the industry (though I do remember him popping up in the congratulatory video for BoA’s 20 year anniversary). However, a week ago, SM Entertainment announced the (another!) surprise comeback for Chen with Hello, which dropped today. This is his first solo comeback since the release of Shall We? and his first music release since EXO’s Obsession.
Within a matter of seconds (yep, not even a full listen to the song), I was admiring Chen’s voice and the song (in general). Hello is such a beautiful sounding song. It falls into the realm of britpop, taking on more of a ballad profile, which is expected for Chen. I really love the combination of the piano, drums and electric and acoustic guitars throughout the song. Very traditional instruments, but they all blend together spectacularly for Hello and in a very wholesome type of way. I also love how the britpop aspect of the song gives the chorus a kick, which makes the song so much more appealing. Chen’s vocals effortlessly delivers the song’s melodies and you can definitely hear the emotions in his voice. Hopefully, I am selling the idea that I enjoyed Hello. This reaction was pretty much guaranteed, given how Chen had previously impressed me with Shall We? and even more so with Beautiful Goodbye. Before I proceed with the rest of the reviews, I think I need to address the lyrics of Hello here (and not in the music video portion of the video). The emotions we hear in his voice during stems from the lyrics, which is pretty much his fears and concerns that experienced whilst wanting to say hello to fans since (what I would assume) the announcement. It actually made me emotional and Hello just felt so much more impactful, as a result.
For a ballad like this, the music video needs to be slow to compliment the song. And that is exactly what the pace of the music video was. For the first half of the video, we simply find Chen pacing around his apartment. Other than a lighting change, there wasn’t much to it the first half. My guess this was some time after leaving a lover. The world went on (i.e. the lighting changed signifying that time went by) and for whatever reason, he didn’t take action (though clearly, he still remembers this lover). In the end, he decides to write a letter to express interest. However, when he starts to write the word ‘Hello‘ to say hello to his lover, time starts to slow down due to his hesitation that he expresses throughout the lyrics of the song. The second part of the video see his possessions in his apartment start floating around. I am not exactly sure what this means exactly, but my guess is that time is coming to a definite as we shortly see those items break apart. This tells us time has stopped completely. However, Chen makes to the end of the pier at the very end, where life is quite sunny. This might signify that he moved on to continue writing the letter. However, the very end shows him in a greyscale world, similar to the greyscale we got when time came to a stop earlier on in the video, and the final few lines indicate that he did not move on from the word ‘Hello‘ that was the start of his letter. This is just my take on the video though, so I may be wrong.
Song – 10/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.6/10
Reading in an article a few days ago, it seems like an EXO comeback with the remaining members who are not in the military just yet is coming our way. But as we wait for that, we get an opportunity to listen to Chen as he makes his first solo comeback. He made his solo debut earlier this year with Beautiful Goodbye. Chen is also one of the first solo artists to make a very quick return after the release of their previous track. Usually, the gap is quite wide. But I am not complaining. Let’s listen to what Chen has to offer in Shall We?.
Once again, Chen gives us a ballad as the title track. But Shall We? isn’t the same style of ballad that we got from Chen when he promoted Beautiful Goodbye. Instead, Shall We? seems approach the ballad genre with a retro mindset, which is a very different approach to any ballad on the charts at the moment. So big ticks for uniqueness already. I really like the brass in the instrumental. It is a small detail in the music, but I thought it gave the song a really nice touch. The rest of the instrumental wasn’t as captivating, unfortunately. It was still good but I wanted the song to pick up a little more as it progressed. Chen’s voice is breathtaking, once again. I really like how delicate his voice gets in this song. I know his tone is a lot softer to match the instrumentation, but I feel like the same comments (as per the instrumentation) can be made for his vocals as well. I do prefer hearing him with a bolder approach, which would explain why I feel this way. But nonetheless, a really nice soothing rack to listen to.
I found the music video to be equally soothing, matching extremely well with the music. I really like how they captured Chen in this video. From the lights in the night cityscape to the sunrise, he looked good throughout the video. The rest of the video was showing a couple loving each other, which was appropriate for the song. The combination of the two made the video more interesting if the producers opted for one over the other. And it is always nice to watch a music video that doesn’t end in heartbreak, which is surprisingly rare (from what I can remember).
Song – 8/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.4/10
As groups progress with their careers, we see a lot of the members branch out into solo careers. EXO is a fine example, with many of the members excelling at their solo careers, such as acting, collaborations and OSTs. What we have not yet seen from the members in Korea is actually a solo album! Lay took the honours as the first member to have a solo album, but that was released in China. But today, Chen will be the first Korean member to release a solo mini-album, April, and a flower, today. The title track from this mini-album is Beautiful Goodbye.
Given Chen’s amazing OSTs in the past, it was highly expected that Chen would go down the ballad route. And Beautiful Goodbye is a breathtaking ballad. A few reviews ago, I mentioned that there are the types of songs that you have to stop what you are doing and listen to it that way in order to fully appreciate the song. This is another perfect example of this. Beautiful Goodbye features only piano in the instrumental. As it is the only instrument in the song, it is extremely striking especially during the moments when the song ‘builds up’or peaks. Chen’s vocals compliment the piano. It doesn’t push himself in this domain nor does he reach ‘powerhouse’ mode. Instead, I find his voice to be very moving and also well-balanced. This combination works in harmony and it leaves us with a fantastic song to listen to.
I also like how aesthetic the music video is. It isn’t artsy in any way but rather it is simplistic. It is all shot outside, with a very large tree-trunk like structure in the centre of the video. Within the centre, we find Chen and a piano player, whose piano is embedded into the structure. Surrounding them is are many female dancers, all dressed in a pale pink-ish colour that really works well with the setting. That is pretty much it to the video. I came across a news article today that stated that the video took 6 hours of filming and that Chen was concerned about whether he conveyed the right emotions. Well, those 6 hours paid off and Chen did wonders in the video.
Song – 10/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.6/10
Every time I have paused to do an SM Station review (which I haven’t done in the past few weeks), it always ends up being a ballad. In the coming days, due to the lack of comebacks this week, I will be catching up on some of the SM Station releases I have missed in the last 3 months or so I have not looked at the tracks (one of them is a dance track – take a guess which one). Today, I am starting off with Chen’s collaboration with 10CM, Bye Babe.
Bye Babe is not a ballad, which caught me off guard the first time I saw it. Instead, it is an extremely funky guitar dominating song that feels bright and vibrant. It does fall towards the indie side, which 10CM is known for. It has me tapping along and that brightness just makes you smile. The highlight of the song for me is actually that crunching effect that the guitar produces to open up the chorus. Very ear-catching and unique (for me at least). Another standout for this track is the obvious vocals. Chen’s vocals felt just right for the song. It complemented well with 10CM’s vocals and the harmonies that the two produced makes the song so much more enjoyable. If you can’t tell by my comments, I pretty much enjoyed the song. Great collaboration.
The music video states that it is the ‘live version’. So my guess is that the entire song and instrumentation was recorded in the video? That is quite cool. Overall, I thought it was a good video despite it only showing the two artists singing, while the other people in the background are playing the instruments. The layout and the setting were quite awesome. The warm colour filter worked well with the song.
Song – 10/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9.5/10