[Album Review] Empathy (1st Mini Album) – D.O (EXO)

Half a year after he had left the military after fulfilling his civic duty, D.O unveiled his first solo mini-album since debut as part of EXO back in 2012. The album is titled Empathy, and features the title track Rose. It was released back at the end of July of this year, and features a heavy presence of acoustics throughout all of his songs. On top of that, D.O also featured an English version of the title track and a Spanish version of It’s Love, which is a side track off this album, as well. In terms of other work, D.O has launched back into acting with a confirmed role in an upcoming drama and also participated in EXO’s most recent, Don’t Fight The Feeling (both album and title track).

Empathy Album Cover

1. Rose (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Rose. (8/10)

2. I’m Gonna Love You (ft. Wonstein) – The next song on the album takes the acoustic but goes in a R&B direction. I’m Gonna Love You is brought to life via D.O’s perfectly suited R&B vocals and Wonstein’s rapping and vocals. There are also some harmonies within I’m Gonna Love You that makes the song even better. The melodies help bring some energy into the song, while the ‘I’m Gonna Gonna Love You’ hook is quite catchy. Altogether, it is a warm and easy to listen to track. (8/10)

3. My Love My Love delves further into the R&B genre. Instrumentally, it is quite good but it definitely on the simpler side. So, a lot needs to be done elsewhere, and hence this burden falls on his vocals. But D.O rises to the occasions by putting a bit of oomph to his vocals as the song progresses along. It isn’t to the point of powerhouse vocals. But rather, he keeps the song balanced to the extent in which it does go, making this another easy to listen to track. I also like the intimate side of the song, which I am sure EXO-L’s and other listeners are appreciating as well. (8/10)

4. It’s Love (다시, 사랑이야) – Right off the bat, D.O brings impact with his vocals and steals the show with them in this song. The other two songs preceding It’s Love have been a bit light on, though appropriate for the styles that they were going for. But here, over an acoustic ballad instrumentation, D.O really flourishes. His ad-libs are amazing and the melodies that he brings to the song are so dreamy. (9/10)

5. Dad (나의 아버지) Dad is another ballad, a song dedicated to fathers. This time the acoustic guitar is accompanied with a bit more in the instrumental department, including piano, percussion and orchestral elements. The vocals are superb. In Dad, D.O is significantly more emotive and captivating. And this just makes the message of the song so much more meaningful. I also like how his vocals build in this song, making it a powerful number, as well. (10/10)

6. I’m Fine – The ‘final’ song on the album is I’m Fine. Compared to the rest of the mini-album (aside the title track), I’m Fine is slightly more upbeat and brighter. It adds a bit of a different colour to the album, which I am appreciative of. Like the sound, the vocals also go in a different direction and I like the development of his vocals in I’m Fine. The reassuring tone in subtly jazzy instrumental, the hefty vocals from D.O and the fulfilling vibes of I’m Fine makes it a strong ender. (8.5/10)

7. Rose (English Version) Click here to listen to the English version of Rose.

8. Si Fueras MíaClick here to listen to the Spanish version of It’s Love, Si Fueras Mia.

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

Empathy Teaser Image

[Review] Rose – D.O (EXO)

Once again, I am catching up with reviews. First up for what felt like a long time is the review of D.O’s solo comeback, Rose. The EXO member previously made his solo debut back in 2019 with the single That’s Okay, which was released the same day he enlisted into the military. Fast forward two years, D.O completed his military enlistment and he has also returned as an EXO member earlier this year with Don’t Fight The Feeling (the single review and the album review). He surprised fans at the end of June with news of completing his first solo mini-album, and subsequently released Empathy a month later, which features the title track Rose.

Rose had this feel-good and no nonsense vibe to it, which I found to be enjoyable. It is feel anything else with a song like this. Apart from this vibe, I also really liked the simplicity of the instrumentation. The acoustic guitar was the only instrument in the song, but yet it managed to pack a bit of a punch by giving off such a happy tone and a summery flair, fitting for the current season. D.O vocals are quite substantial and gives off a similar tone as the acoustic guitars. The pairing of the two elements was just so riveting to listen to. I am glad that D.O didn’t go with the cliché ballad route for this release, giving us a bit more colour with this release. Also, Rose just makes me want to smile every time I have listened to the song since its release. But while Rose is quite good in itself and the smile-inducing tone is always nice, I find myself struggling to put in the effort of searching up the song itself. It is for a different reason than usual, however. I pretty much like the track, but I feel it has the potential to become boring. I think consistency is the key here. Consistency is good, as I always say. But if something is a bit too consistent, multiple listens would put the song at risk of draining whatever effect it had on me. I am more than happy to listen to the song if it appears on my playlist or appeared as the next video on YouTube. But I just don’t see myself voluntarily searching up the song anymore, just so I can keep Rose appealing. Overall, Rose is a decent track and presents D.O’s vocals in a really positive manner. I just feel I need to keep my distance from the song to keep it like that.

Whatever headphones D.O is wearing, let me know the brand name and model. I need something like that (i.e. product placement has worked and I am gladly happy to exchange money for those headphones to block out the world). He happily cycles through town with the headphones on, listening to Rose. And he doesn’t stop for anything. Not the burst fire hydrant he just passes, not the school kids (who are always nosy), not the robbery in the cafe, or the exploding garbage truck. Noise-cancelling must be really effective with those headphones! But that is aside from the actual plot of the video. The real plot of the video portrays the aftereffects of falling in love, which puts him in a good mood and gives him some good luck at the same time. It also fits the bill and compliments the cheerful nature of the song. I also like the sketchy effects added post-production, which gives the video some extra detail and depth.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Review] That’s Okay – D.O (EXO)

To me, a missed opportunity with EXO is the lack of solo promotions for the Korean members. It wasn’t until this year, 7 years after their debut, are they finally focusing on solo promotion, given that it will be the main driver for EXO’s immediate future. This is because of impending military enlistment. Xiumin enlisted earlier this year and the next member to follow him (shockingly) is D.O. For those who don’t know, today is actually D.O’s enlistment date. And to coincide with his departure from the public eye for the next 2 years, D.O also released a special single as part of SM Station.

That’s Okay is the title of this special single. And being a solo single, That’s Okay puts D.O’s slightly raspy voice on full display. I like it how the song isn’t sung in a straight forward manner. There are some textural aspects present thanks to the melody and the way he ended some lines, allowing him to showcase some techniques that he never got a chance to show off within EXO releases. The way he harmonises with himself is also beautiful, a very obvious sign of a good ballad. Knowing that is he is one of the main vocalists of the group, it is expected that the single would be a ballad. But it is a good ballad. It is mainly acoustic, with guitars being the only instrument in the instrumental. And I like it this way because it doesn’t sound overly emotional, which could have been a cliche thing to do. The lyrics also don’t go into an emotional overdrive, with D.O telling you that time will heal all wounds, regardless of how deep they are.

The music video for this release is animation. I am not sure if there are any laws that prevent D.O from appearing in the music video (as Xiumin did for his single), given the complexity of military enlistment, as it would have been nice to see him one last time (before he goes away for two years). But the animation was quite nice. A guy finds a sad looking cactus and brings it home. His nurture over time helped heal its limp nature and it regained some flowers. On the flipside, it was revealed that the guy lost his dog and this caused him to stay indoors. And I am certain the flowering cactus ended up nurturing him over time, showing him that no matter what state you are in, there is always a way to get back up. You just got to let time do its thing.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

Tell Me (What Is Love) – Yoo Young Jin & D.O (EXO)

This is the second song from SM Station, where new songs from SM artists constantly. The previous song released from this Station project was Taeyeon’s Rain, which has performed wonderfully on the charts, as expected of the main vocalist of SNSD. Now the baton has been passed onto D.O (otherwise known as Kyungsoo) from EXO, who collaborated with Yoo Young Jin for his first solo release.

And damn, is this a good song or what? Both artists are so good, it is was pretty hard to differentiate between the two as they sang and as the song progressed, it got harder and harder to do so. For a ballad, there is a lot of different things going on at once, and that makes this track really good, but for some reason, it just seems like a simple song. It isn’t monotone or relies heavily on the instrumental. A song with “colour” in it. Actually, it sounds like a RnB type of song, which consists of lots of body rolls. From my guess, the really good high note or adlib at around 1:53 in the song was performed by Yoo Young Jin and was amazing. Actually, their vocals from start to end were amazing. The adlibs from the start gave the song a really nice impact to our ears from the start. There is no other way to describe their vocals, just amazing and it blows you away. They have this really nice vocal chemistry and they harmonise together really well. Not a single flaw could be found in the song. Might not be your cup of tea, but it was mine and I would recommend this to anyone, any day.

The music video was a little disappointing. The song first of all, was around 4:42 minutes long. But the video only lasted for 3:19 minutes, so the song was awkwardly faded out at the end of the video. Don’t know why and we haven’t got any clue to why that was the case. But beside that, I think it was a nice video. The girl goes along and puts down pictures of what seems to be the two singers recording and producing the song. Have no clue what’s going on, but it seems to go hand in hand with the song. The video was shot entirely in black and white (well, edited I think). Minus the short video, I think it is a nice video that fits in well the style that the song was going for. Simple yet artistic.

Overall, I think this is a great release from the two and it just makes me want to know what SM Station has coming our way. 9.5/10