[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

[Album Review] Don’t Fight The Feeling (7th Mini Album) – EXO

Next album I am picking to review is EXO’s latest release after a long while, Don’t Fight The Feeling. I am a bit unsure if the album is considered their 7th mini-album, or just a special mini-album. But basing off a few sources, I have decided to go with their 7th mini-album. Anyway, as mentioned, this is the group’s first release since their 2019 comeback, Obsession (title track and studio album) due to military enlistments of some members who have since returned (i.e. Xiumin and D.O). The comeback occurred after additional members enlisted (i.e. Baekhyun and Chanyeol) and hence it may be a while until we get another comeback from the group. In the meanwhile, we are treated to this mini-album and future solo promotions (D.O is confirmed for a solo comeback in the coming days!).

Don’t Fight The Feeling Album Cover

1. Don’t Fight The Feeling (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Don’t Fight The Feeling. (8/10)

2. Paradise (파라다이스) – Following the upbeat and fun sounding Don’t Fight The Feeling, Paradise slows the pace of the album with mid-tempo R&B track. While I don’t mind a slowed down song, I felt Paradise was a bit too slow and sluggish, relative to the first track. Now, this isn’t an issue if I were listening to the song by itself. But I found this to be an issue when I was listening to the album in order of the tracklist. Despite the slow profile, the chorus was still a strong one. I really like the melodies (they helped add some faster tempos to the song) and the warmth that the members gave the chorus via the vocals and melodies. I also found it lighthearted and ‘easy on the ears’. The rapping didn’t have that seem feel and was largely forgettable. Overall, a decent track. (7/10)

3. No Matter (훅!) – While No Matter is still in that ‘mid-tempo’’ territory like Paradise, I feel that No Matter has a bit more of a bit to it. Everything felt cohesive and had a place in this song. I liked the funky atmosphere that the instrumental gives the song. The vocals were quite strong and added that needed substance to the song. The falsetto-like ‘Oh Oh Oh’ hook was quite memorable. The rapping felt fitting and continued the momentum and energy from elsewhere in the song, which was great. No Matter is definitely one of my favourite side-tracks on the album. (9/10)

4. Runaway – While the other songs on the album thus far have been more on the brighter end of the spectrum, Runaway feels and sounds a lot darker and moodier. I really like this slow rock, guitar and piano fusion sound. I also know that Runaway is a lot slower than the previous songs, but I feel its placement on this album is justified and it works nicely to help build a captivating and alluring atmosphere. For the vocals, I liked how they sounded echo-y, which adds additional depth to the song. On top of that, the chanty style of the chorus was quite memorable. Personally, it is another favourite on this album and is the first song that really stood out to me when I listened to the album for the first time. (10/10)

5. Just As Usual (지켜줄게)Just As Usual both ends and returns the album to its brighter sound. Just As Usual starts off as a soft R&B track, before the instrumental builds into a soft pop style instrumental (with the actual use of instruments, rather than synths to build the song’s backbone). I liked this buildup of energy and it puts forward EXO’s skillsets better than what a ‘straight’ coffeehouse track would have presented us with (which was a concern I had at the start of the song). Vocal and rapping-wise, I liked both elements in this song. Chanyeol was the standout member, with his husky vocals and cool rapping. Kai was the other member that stood out for me. The ad-libs from some of the other members were really good and the fade-out of the song was a good idea. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

Don’t Fight The Feeling Teaser Image

[Review] Don’t Fight The Feeling – EXO

EXO IS BACK! That is the first time I am saying that since their last ‘full-group’ comeback under the name of EXO with Obsession (both the name of the title track and album) in 2019. The main reason to the almost two year hiatus is because of military enlistment. Even during the Obsession comeback (and even today’s comeback), EXO has a few members currently enlisted in the military. And in 2020, it was announced that EXO would focus more on solo and unit promotions, with the successful debuts of Suho and Kai, and the successful comebacks of Baekhyun (Candy and Bambi), Lay and EXO-SC. But today, we welcome back EXO through the release of a special single, Don’t Fight The Feeling, which features members Xiumin, D.O (both who have returned from the military), Chanyeol, Baekhyun (both who have just enlisted), Lay, Kai and Sehun. This comeback also marks the first time Lay has featured in a comeback since 2018’s Tempo. Suho and Chen are currently on hiatus due to their enlistment (alongside Chanyeol and Baekhyun). Okay, formalities out of the way, let’s have a closer listen to Don’t Fight The Feeling.

Described as a dance song with a ‘cheerful rhythm’, Don’t Fight The Feeling really delivers with its upbeat instrumental and catchy lyrics. If you are looking for the usual serious and mature sound from EXO, this isn’t the song you are looking for. But if you are looking for something upbeat and vibrant as Love Me Right or Power, then Don’t Fight The Feeling is what you be looking for. I really like the no nonsense approach the song has when it came to its instrumentation. From the very start, you could feel what the song’s description was stating. And as the song went on, the synths gave off a funky vibe (which is a very 2020s thing), while the bass gives the song its depth. I do dislike the inclusion of the trap-based background for the rap sequences, with its stripped back nature being a bit too standard for my taste. I felt that these part could have been a bit more enticing with something a little more original. Overall, it is a really cool instrumentation that gives you in the mood for a bit of a groove. The chorus was catchy with the repetition of the song’s title and the overlapping of vocals. This technique really kept the song going and helped key the song’s hook into your mind. Though, I would have liked to hear a more dynamic hook to the song, but what we got in Don’t Fight The Feeling was satisfying nonetheless. When it comes to the vocals and rapping, it is definitely great to hear everyone again. There wasn’t anything as explosive with their delivery however and I didn’t think any member stood out of the pack. That’s fine though, because EXO still gave us a satisfying showing of their vocals. But while that was the case for the overall song, it was definitely nice to hear Xiumin, Lay and D.O, as it has been a while since we have heard from them. As for the rapping, what we got was okay. But it wasn’t really the best showcase of Chanyeol or Sehun’s skills. I think if the producers went with a backdrop that flowed with the rest of the upbeat instrumentation’s momentum, it would have worked more in Chanyeol and Sehun’s favour. Personally, Don’t Fight The Feeling is a really good return for the group and a song I wouldn’t mind casually replaying. It isn’t until I sit down to consider the elements individually, that I find myself slightly disappointed.

Don’t Fight The Feeling‘s music video fits into the new SM cinematic universe, which appears to revolve around KWANGYA (the planet in which aespa’s virtual members live on). As the lyrics, I think that members have to travel through KWANGYA to EXO-Planet, which is EXO’s destination in this video. I think that is a nice tie into the cinematic universe, but also keep EXO’s storyline as its own separate entity. As for the visuals of the music video, I thought it looked quite cool, with the spaceship and air-craft carrier. It was definitely nice to see most of the group on our screens, as well. Lay also made an appearance during his solo part. Though, it is clear he had to film elsewhere (most likely China) and the editor(s) inserted him in later. Everything was all good until we got to the final scene, where the members are all partying up and we see a snippet of the choreography. I am happy they inserted Lay into the choreography shot, bringing EXO together once again. But the green screen usage at the end was pretty poor in my opinion, and I felt like this impacted the quality of the music video in the end. The video just didn’t feel great anymore, thanks to the ending.

The choreography definitely looks cool, and I am glad the green screen didn’t ruin this aspect. It is definitely more lighthearted and not intense as EXO’s usual style, but I attribute the change to the music which calls for a lighter set of moves. I liked the chorus, when they do pivot with their arms stretched out in a diagonal fashion.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8.5/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Album Review] Bambi (3rd Mini Album) – Baekhyun (EXO)

The next album on my reviewing radar is Baekhyun’s third mini-album, Bambi, which was released back in March of this year. Bambi is also the title track of the album. Amusement Park is also featured on the album after its digital release in December of last year. This is a pretty significant release for Baekhyun, with the album selling over a million copies within a few weeks of its release, breaking his personal record which he had set himself with his Delight mini-album from last year. It is also significant in a sense that this is Baekhyun’s final mini-album release before his military enlistment which occurred earlier this month. I believe Baekhyun has hinted at some solo stuff while he is away. But until that is officially confirmed and released, we only have this mini-album to fulfil our Baekhyun cravings for the next two years or so.

Bambi Album Cover

1. Love Scene – The album starts off with Love Scene. This form of R&B isn’t my personal cup of tea, given that there isn’t much going on. However, I felt that Love Scene was quite soothing to listen to. There is something about the consistent guitar work and the soft thumping in the instrumental that carried the song for me. Baekhyun’s vocals were smooth and there was a decent degree of raspiness to it. But as stated a few sentences ago, the song does feel quite consistent and I wished that wasn’t so much the case. (7/10)

2. Bambi (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Bambi. (8/10)

3. All I Got – The opening beats of All I Got really perked my attention towards the song. Then comes Baekhyun’s falsetto note, before the R&B genre truly kicks in. In comparison to the opening track, All I Got has heft to it, which is more of my style. I really like the bass that sits under the rest of the song’s instrumentation. I really like the backing vocals in the bridge, giving a choir-like effect to the song. And to add to all of that, Baekhyun constantly returns with his vocals. A combination of falsettos and impressive ad-libs that only Baekhyun is capable of. (9/10)

4. Amusement Park (놀이공원)Click here to read the full review for Amusement Park. (9/10)

5. Privacy – This song combines jazzy notes and with lo-fi effects to give us Privacy. It is a really nice mix of styles that work really well with one another. And in addition to that, Privacy is really smooth so it is an easy listen. I would have liked to hear more of Baekhyun aligning with the jazz side of the song, rather than the lo-fi side. While I think his vocals in this song are amazing as usual, I felt there was some missed opportunity to do some further exploration in the jazz genre space. (8/10)

6. Cry For Love – The saying ‘saving the best to last’ is applicable for this album. Cry For Love is my personal favourite side track from this mini-album. Like the entirety of this album, Cry For Love falls into the R&B genre. But the song is the heftiest on this list, thanks to the beat of the instrumentation.  What makes this an even better song is Baekhyun’s vocals (per usual). He showed off a lot with his voice. You can hear the emotional drive behind his voice, which was fitting for the lyrics of this song. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

Bambi Teaser Image

[Review] Bambi – Baekhyun (EXO)

Before we proceed with any more reviews for this week, I have to write my review for Baekhyun’s Bambi. Bambi dropped almost a week ago on Tuesday as the title track of Baekhyun’s third mini-album of the same name. This release has also been confirmed to be his final release before his military enlistment, which is scheduled to occur on his birthday (May 6). However I did recently read somewhere that Baekhyun may be releasing even more material while he is enlisted. But I guess we have to wait and see. Baekhyun’s third mini-album also become the most pre-ordered album for a soloist to date. Congratulations to Baekhyun for achieving such a feat!

It is no surprise that Baekhyun’s latest release taps into the R&B genre. All of his solo releases have dug deep into the R&B genre in some form or another. But there is always variation between this releases. I don’t think any of them have been as straight forward as Bambi however. And as I have previously specified in other reviews, this isn’t always a bad thing. Kicking off with atmospheric guitar work, Baekhyun’s vocals becomes the star attraction of Bambi with really smooth and engaging delivery. I also really like the clearness of his vocals in this song. It really helped elevate the vocals to that ‘star attraction’ feel and it doesn’t feel overcomplicated by the instrumentation, which in turn was quite simple and (as mentioned previously) straight forward R&B. I personally really enjoyed the ‘Bambi bam Bambi Bambi Bambi‘ hook, which was really keyed into my mind since its release last week. But while it sounds like it is all praise for Bambi and Baekhyun this time around, I have to note that there was one flaw that really stuck out at me. Pretty much from start to end, the song sounded all the same. And as a result, I don’t feel that the song goes for the three and half minutes that it is actually goes for. It is more so a blur. Not really a great impression. But once you listen to the song in detail, you notice Bambi‘s details and positives.

The music video opens with a very intense sequence with Baekhyun stepping in front of a train to pick up a coin he had flicked onto the train track, as it is chugging full steam ahead towards him. The video then cuts to Baekhyun on the train dancing, which is when the music kicks in. Throughout the video, we see Baekhyun hang around on the train, however I am unsure of the train’s significance in the video or who Baekhyun is playing. Aside from the confusion, I did like various aspects of the video including the noir-like appearance of the video, which is thanks to the suit and hat outfit that Baekhyun dons throughout the video. It adds an addition layer of mysteriousness to the video, which was already present thanks to the darkness that the video is set in. Also, when Baekhyun hangs outside the train while it was raining was also a strong moment. Firstly, it showed emotional commitment. Secondly, it felt very dramatic, which aligned with the rest of the video. Maybe slightly over the top, now that I have rewatched that part a couple of times. But overall, a good video.

Based on what can be seen in the music video, the choreography for Bambi is very sensual. And this matches up really nicely with the straight forward and typical side of R&B. On top of that, I really like the sharper moments of the choreography, when they move in time with the percussion beats of the song. The suit and hat also elevate the performance. I wish we get to see a full performance for Bambi soon.

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

[Review] Amusement Park – Baekhyun (EXO)

Baekhyun is nominated for Best Male Soloist in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Vote for Baekhyun and your other favourite artists now by clicking here.

Baekhyun has made a surprise comeback with Amusement Park. No one saw this release coming, with news of a comeback dropping out of the blue. This follows Baekhyun’s first studio album Delight, and the title track, Candy, which both dropped earlier this year. Both the album and title track landed him a nomination in this year’s KPOPREVIEWED Awards for Best Male Soloist, so make sure you go vote for Baekhyun if he is your favourite male soloist by clicking the link above. And after you do that, come back to continue reading the review.

Amusement Park falls into the genre of R&B, a style of music that we know Baekhyun for fondly when it comes to his solo works. It is a nice, warm and soothing track that really highlights his vocal ability once again. There was this huskiness to Baekhyun’s vocals that enhanced the smooth texture of the song. It also sounded like he went into a falsetto mode for certain parts, which further showed off his ability. The song has this very melodic flow, one that makes me sway along to the song and drove it forward in a graceful manner. The instrumental was quite soothing and keeps true to the R&B genre all throughout. That warm feeling I mentioned before was very apparent, especially thanks to the classical instrumentation that was also present in the song. I would have liked a hint of something more in the song, like stronger ad-libs to give the song a bit more oomph. But what Baekhyun presents us in Amusement Park is already quite fantastic and touching.

We don’t actually have a music video for this release. The accompanying video for Amusement Park was a live video, which featured Baekhyun singing live to the camera. He was appropriately positioned in front of a merry-go-round in an amusement park, fitting with the lyrics of the song in which he compares love to an amusement park. I love the golden hue that the lights from the merry-go-round gives the video, which goes really well with his skin tone and the warming feelings of the song I mentioned earlier. My only complaint with the video is that he looked somewhat distracted. But honestly, that could have been just me being distracted from trying to find something to nitpick in this video.

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

[Album Review] Kai (1st Mini Album) – Kai (EXO)

Kai’s fellow EXO members, Chen and Baekhyun, are nominated for Best Male Soloist in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. If you haven’t yet supported Baekhyun or Chen (or any of your other favourite artists that were active in 2020), click here immediately to vote for them! Remember, voting closes on 31st December.

It has been long time coming, but Kai officially made his solo debut with his first mini-album, Kai, on the 30th of November. EXO’s main dancer was one of the most anticipated members to make his own solo debut from the beginning. His solo debut comes in the form of the title track, Mmmh, and a six track mini-album. Today, obviously, I will be having a deeper look into his mini-album. I just want to quickly tease that Kai is everything I expected from Kai. Sensuality is a recurring theme in this mini album. And so are upbeat tempos to facilitate dance performances, which we already know that Kai can nail effortlessly. Interestingly, I have a preference for just one of these two styles, so continue reading to find out which one is my preference.

Kai Album Cover

1. Mmmh (음) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Mmmh. (9/10)

2. Nothing On MeNothing On Me starts off in a distorted manner, briefly warping the sensual vibes of the song that slowly become clearer as the song progresses. I am not entirely fond of it, but it has its charm. The song manages to compensate this by sweeping me off my feet with its chorus. It brings a very strong amount of bass to the mix and the resultant energy really oomph up the sensual vibes of Nothing On Me. Kai’s vocals throughout the song were really strong and surprising. He handles all his lines, even the ones at a higher pitch extremely well, as if he was a main vocalist in EXO all along. (9/10)

3. Amnesia (기억상실) – I really liked Amnesia’s flow from the very start of the song, which is what anyone wants from a sensual track. The appeal of the flow peaks during the chorus, help making the song quite memorable and quite hypnotic. Coming along with the memorable flow of the song are Kai’s vocals. All my comments in the preceding track regarding his vocals can be said about this song. What probably might make Amnesia a better piece is that it showcases more to Kai’s vocals, which I am sure fans are digging. (9/10)

4. ReasonReason taps into the hip-hop scene with a more upbeat track. I think of Reason as if it is a fun change up to the tracklist thanks to that upbeat energy. Other than that, nothing in Reason stands out for me. It just feels like your typical Korean hip-hop meets pop mash that is often heard throughout the industry. (6/10)

5. Ride or Die Ride or Die fairs slightly better than the preceding track. Only because I felt the instrumental was a bit more interesting, with the electric guitars in the first verse/final moments of the song and the really deep bubbling synth that is carried throughout the song. The second verse also gives it a bit of a retro flair, which really helps make the song more appealing. I personally didn’t like the centric point of the song (i.e. the chorus). It just didn’t feel as interesting as the rest of the song. And I do prefer his vocals in the verses than the chorus. He just sounds meh during what was meant to be the catchiest moments of the song. (7/10)

6. Hello StrangerHello Stranger brings back more of the R&B style that started off the album, whilst remaining upbeat like the second half of the album. It was a nice middle ground between the albums two styles, which is accompanied by a trap centric instrumental piece that is accented using electric guitars and piano. I do feel that the R&B nature of the song manages to make the song shine more than the upbeat tempo. And because of that, Kai’s vocals are quite solid. There were also some catchy moments. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

Kai Teaser Image

[Review] Mmmh – Kai (EXO)

Kai body rolls his way into this week with the release of his solo debut single, Mmmh. It is the title track off his first solo and self-titled mini-album. From what I understand, Kai is the final member of EXO to officially release a solo song in some capacity, eights years after he kicked off his music career as an EXO member. I find this completely surprising, given that he is one of the popular members of the group. It is definitely an overdue release, so I am not going to keep you waiting anymore. Without further ado, here is my review for Mmmh.

Personally, I wasn’t exactly sure what style of music Kai would get into for his solo career. Not that I don’t follow him or anything. He just has that vibe that he is an all-rounder and can pretty much pull off whatever sound or concept that is thrown at him. I could easily see him doing something upbeat or along the lines of hip-hop for a solo song. But Mmmh goes in a different direction – sensual R&B. Of course, it makes complete sense to why he would have gone with this style for his debut. And it was well executed. I did have some concerns about how Kai would handle some parts of the song, especially since he isn’t the best vocalist in his group. But one listen into Mmmh and those concerns were tossed out of the door. Kai handles the vocal department without any issues, with his appealing low and breathy tone. He pulls off those ad-libs effortlessly, which confirms that those concerns are no longer a thing for me. The ‘Mmmh‘ hook in the chorus was quite catchy and smooth. As for the instrumental, I really liked the very subtle electronic influence we get. It is rather masked by the rest of the R&B and trap based instrumentation. But I would say this is refined rather than lacking. The same technique was used in the bridge, but this is on the opposite end of the spectrum. I could hear a hint of violins towards the end. I wished they could have gone with more of that to make Mmmh a little more interesting, as it was something I personally didn’t see coming and liked it to be explored more. Overall, Mmmh was a solid debut song that shows off Kai’s skills and talents pretty well.

One of the things that I have noticed recently with the music videos is that the editing and post-production have been amazing. Take that city scene we see in the background while Kai is sitting on the edge of the roof. That was very detailed, futuristic and very visually appealing. The yellow hue sky dance choreography scene also looked amazing. The best part, however, is how Kai is dancing (towards the end of the video) and he is transported to a different section of the same scene, leaving behind a thousand small glass shards where he used to be. That is already on a whole different level, but the fact that he could interact with those former pieces of himself added a whole new level of coolness. And his fashion looked awesome throughout the video. And his abs is quite something as well.

At the start of the review, I mentioned that Kai is body rolling. But I just uncovered some information about that particular part of the dance (I think you know which part I am talking about). It is more of a hip grind, but it still looks like a tiny body roll from afar. The rest of the choreography looks really cool and sharp, which is expected from EXO’s main dancer.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.3/10

[Review] Hello – Chen (EXO)

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

[Album Review] 1 Billion Views (1st Studio Album) – EXO-SC

Today’s album review focuses on EXO-SC’s latest album release, 1 Billion Views. It has been a while since I promised this album review for a reader of this blog. The long delay was mainly because I wanted to write reviews for each of their duo’s solo tracks that are featured on this album (as they had music videos). I just kept on running out of time to write them and ended up delaying them until earlier today. Please accept my apologies for the long wait! And before I delay it any further, here is my review for the 1 Billion Views album, which features the title track of the same name.

1 Billion Views Album Cover

1. 1 Billion Views (10억뷰) (ft. Moon) (Title Track)Click here for the full review of 1 Billion Views. (7/10)

2. Say It (ft. Penomeco) – There are two main appealing elements in Say It. Unfortunately, neither of those two elements are actually EXO-SC. They are good in this melodic hip-hop track, but I just don’t have much to say about them. The first element that I enjoyed was the instrumental. It is quite laid back and has a lazy vibe to it (a compliment). Interestingly, it is also quite upbeat. Say It manages to find a well-balanced middle ground between having an active consistent beat and that lazy carefree vibe. The second element is actually Penomeco’s featuring. He comes into the track during the song’s chorus and helps smooth out the song quite nicely. I also like his voice and how it compliments that lazy vibe that I mentioned (also another compliment). But as this is an EXO-SC track, I am left wanting more from the main pair. (6/10)

3. Rodeo Station (로데오역)Rodeo Station jumps right out at me with its guitar melody that kicks off the song. The rest of the instrumental builds on this, bringing in some brass and bass to give the song that oomph that I am always looking for in upbeat tracks. The song is more vocal centric, with both Chanyeol and Sehun focusing more on vocals for the most part in Rodeo Station. Both members sound pretty nice in this song. It also helps when the melodies is actually quite catchy and fun to listen to. There is a bit of rapping towards the end of the song and they do give the song a bit of a punch. Overall, I found the track to be quite likeable and each element in the song was appealing. (9/10)

4. Telephone (척) (ft. 10cm) (Pre-Release Track) Click here to read the full review for Telephone. (4/10)

5. Jet Lag (시차적응) Jet Lag is a sentimental R&B track, which is all about wanting to return to their lover in their home country whilst they are overseas. The song is brought to life with pleasant acoustic guitar melodies, which I quite like. My only major complaint with this is that both Chanyeol and Sehun’s vocals seem to overpower the instrumentation at times and I would have preferred a finer balance between vocals and instrumental. However, the duo’s execution of vocals in this song is nice and enjoyable. Their harmonies throughout and the melodies are quite appealing in this song. It is a bit slow paced for my liking, but there is enough in this song to put it on the superior end of tracks. (9/10)

6. Fly Away (날개) (ft. Gaeko) – We get into even moodier territory with Fly Away. I really liked the instrumental for this song. It seems to delve into the R&B realm, featuring classical instrumental in addition to drums and R&B centric percussion. It is a stunning backing piece. Chanyeol and Sehun return to their status as EXO’s rappers by rapping throughout the song. It is a nice change up to their vocal-focus approach with their songs on the album thus far. Gaeko (one half of Dynamic Duo) actually does most of the singing in this song and his voice helps smooth out the intensity that the main pair add to the song. I quite like this contrast and this makes it a powerful track. Given its position, I would put this down as EXO-SC’s hidden gem. (10/10)

7. Nothin’ (Chanyeol Solo)Click here to read the full review for Nothin’. (8/10)

8. On Me (Sehun Solo)Click here to read the full review for On Me. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

1 Billion Views Teaser Image

[Review] On Me – Sehun (EXO)

In preparation for the album review later today, I will be reviewing both Chanyeol and Sehyun’s indvidual tracks that appeared alongside their 1 Billion Views and Telephone releases last month. I had promised these two reviews for some time now, but I just kept on running out of time to post them. But as I always repeat on this blog, it is always better late than never. As you can tell by the title, this particular review post will be focusing on Sehun’s On Me.

Unlike Chanyeol, Sehun has yet to release a solo track in the 9 years since his debut. So On Me is a great gift to all the Sehun fans out there. The song finds itself in hip-hop domain, settling with a trap-based instrumental. Not really a ground-breaking combination or instrumental by today’s standard. But it had good ryhthm and energy that makes the song very appealing. A great thing about solo tracks that I am sure that all of you are aware of is that we get to hear the artist in all their glory. For Sehun, in On Me, we get to hear a lot of his husky rapping voice. It was harsh (a compliment) and added amazing texture to the already rough texture we got from the instrumental. We also got to hear Sehun sing briefly during the chorus. It adds a layer of smoothness to the song. Intererstingly, I liked how his rapping and vocals remained low throughout the song. It is his best sound and he really captialised on this. I also liked how the hooks of Sehun’s solo track (the ‘Forever Love Sad Happy‘ and ‘Work Work Work‘) were all emphasised versions of the huskiness and low tone. This added some depth to the song that I wasn’t sure we would be getting from Sehun. Overall, On Me really puts Sehun’s best foot forward.

On Me‘s music video only goes for a certain length and doesn’t capture the entire song. But as it is still considered a music video, it enables the release to earn a review on this blog. The music video is choreography based and focuses on Sehun’s performance skills. Can’t argue with that, given that we haven’t see Sehun have an opportunity to officially show off his dancing skills in a solo release. His performance really intensifies the song, which is fantastic. I also like the various camera angles and transitions employed, which adds to that intensity. Best part of his music video is when he is moving forward to the front of the dancers with one hand holding a hat on his head. That parts needs to be made iconic and should be appreciated more!

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

[Review] Nothin’ – Chanyeol (EXO)

Excuse me while I divert our attention to releases from a while back now. In preparation for an album review later today, I will be reviewing both Chanyeol and Sehyun’s indvidual tracks that appeared alongside their 1 Billion Views and Telephone releases last month. I had promised these two reviews for some time now, but I just kept on running out of time to post them. But as I always repeat on this blog, it is always better late than never. As you can tell by the title, this particular review post will be focusing on Chanyeol’s Nothin’.

Despite having a number of solo tracks already, Chanyeol manages to show off a different side to his rapping skills through the easygoing yet subtly intense Nothin’. The song starts off with the catchy vocal hook of ‘I will never worry about nothin’‘. I am not a fan of autotune usually, but his autotuned vocals added some texture to the song. The verses come into play and we hear Chanyeol slow rap along to slow trap instrumentation that the song is backed with. There are some guitar that is present in combination with the trap instrumental. Together, these two elements pretty much make Nothin’ sound like straightforward R&B. Unfortuately, the instrumental is repetitive and plain. It is disappointing to an extent, but I also find that this acts as a blank canvas for Chanyeol’s rapping, which is what gives the song some variety and appeal. We do get some profound electric guitar riffs at the very end, which was nice and much appreciated. As the song felt relatively short, the placement of this additional instrument actually felt appropriate. I couldn’t imagine what the song would have been like if this explicit electric guitar was brought into play earlier. Going back to his rapping, you could feel the emotion in his voice as the song progresses. It is subtle, but definitely present. It is also quite captivating. Overall, I quite like the song. It fits the chill nature of the album and direction of the subunit. Yet it manages to add a bit of Chanyeol flair to the song.

The music video is noticeably shorter than the actual song itself. But as there is still a music video, it earns itself a review. The song itself is about not worrying what people are saying and to stick to being yourself. And I thought that the path to the song’s meaning was well shown in the music video. The music video depicts Chanyeol as a photographer. His pictures seem to represent the thoughts and comments of others. After he develops them, he puts them on this wall, which acts like his thought bank. In this life, it is rather monotone and repetitive. We see Chanyeol clearly wants change. Once we see him certain of this, he rips a picture off the wall, revealing a bright light. It is uncomfortable, which is the harsh reality. But he gets used to it and runs away from the underground studio setting. He slowly gets used to it and this becomes a stroll, as shown at the start of the video. Moving away from my interpretation, I liked how the atmosphere we get from the video really suits the moody nature of the song.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] 1 Billion Views – EXO-SC ft. MOON

Finally making their official comeback today is EXO-SC with 1 Billion Views. This new track is part of the EXO unit’s first studio length album, which also shares the same name as the song. The release of the music video and album today comes after EXO-SC teased us with the pre-release single, Telephone. Both Chanyeol and Sehun also had solo music videos (Nothin‘ and On Me, respectively) at the end of the week. I have yet to review them and hope to get to them soon. But we are hear to listen to 1 Billion Views, so let’s get to that first.

Right from the very start, I can already say that 1 Billion Views fairs better than EXO-SC’s pre-release Telephone. Though, it still does suffer some of the issues I had previously noted in the Telephone interview. Let’s start on the positive that 1 Billion Views had. The chill R&B instrumental had a more of a beat to it, which was quite nice. With this kick in the instrumental, the song is more likable. I would gladly listen to the song given that there is more colour to the song. Their vocal work, in this instance, was quite good. The chorus featured really smooth melodies and I really liked how the vocals and rap segue-way into each other. Their harmonies during the verses was definitely one of the stronger moments of the song. I also enjoyed Moon’s featuring towards the end of the song, as her vocals do compliment the style that EXO-SC went for. However, as mentioned at the start, there are some issues that EXO-SC just haven’t fixed up. First, the song suffers from that ‘more’ concept (i.e. I wanted more). I think we all know of the potential that Chanyeol and Sehun have. 1 Billion Views (nor any of their unit releases so far) just doesn’t seem to capitalise on this, which results in the song coming off dull-ish. Even though I praise the instrumental earlier, I also wanted more from this element. I wanted it to be rougher and a lot meaner, that way the song could get to that style that I wished for the duo to go with. I get it that EXO-SC’s style is more chilled than your average Korean release, but I find that this song also lacks character. Thirdly, I find the song to lack memorable hooks and lines. They were heading in the right direction, just it didn’t feel like there was enough. The lack of character and hooks in 1 Billion Views do contribute to a dullness. But it isn’t as bad as previous tracks, given the instrumental and its more positive aspects that I mentioned above.

The music video is set at an arcade that would be best described as a hole in the wall. It also incorporates a few modern elements including virtual reality and Instagram live broadcasts. I also noticed that there were a few viral trends hinted throughout the video, such as the In My Feelings trend. All of these elements seemed to make sense, as the duo sings and raps about thinking of their lover for the billionth time. It was a nice video to watch overall. I found the editing to be suitable for the song, smooth and sleek. No choppiness, which I am thankful for. I also note that some of the post-production effects that were added to the video should have made the video feel choppy (such as the coloured static in the background). But it ended up being quite smooth, overall.

What we saw in the music video choreography-wise seems to be quite good. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of the choreography (i.e. the verses), so I am intrigued to know what the duo have up their sleeves. But if the chorus of the music video was to be the basis of my thought, I think this will be a pleasant routine suitable for the music.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] Telephone – EXO-SC ft. 10CM

The second SM Entertainment release came unexpected last night. EXO-SC has been confirmed to making a comeback and will be releasing an album on the 13th of July (that’s just under a week!). And while fans are preparing for that release, EXO-SC released a pre-release track that no one saw coming titled Telephone, which features 10CM. This is the unit’s first comeback since their debut with What A Life last year (another review which I haven’t gone back to update once the live performance came out).

What A Life came off as dull and lackluster. That is essentially all I remember about their debut song. And it is looking like Telephone is shaping to be the exact same. It delves back into the hip-hop genre, with the duo going with a rap-sing delivery of the lyrics. More specifically, Telephone delves into the chilled side of hip-hop, with the entire track going with a laid-back vibe, similar to their debut track. Though, I felt the song might have gone many steps too far into the chilled spectrum, that both Chanyeol and Sehun’s vocals were pretty expressionless and this really dulled out the song. Same comment can be made with the instrumental. It is pretty much straightforward, with the repetitive and simple tapping of a piano key. Not really the most exciting piece of music. It was pretty much empty and sparse of sounds, besides some phone sounds and the duo echoing the lyrics and providing some ‘few words’ in the background. And even they didn’t do a good job of filling up the song. The most exciting bit of the song is when 10CM joins in, providing smooth vocals and this leads to Chanyeol and Sehun doing a little more with their own vocals to close off the song. But by then, I had already tuned out and became distracted. It sucks that I have to echo the disappointment I gave in their debut review, but that is the reality. Hopefully on Monday, the pair will give us something a little more exciting to breakdown.

I felt that the music video had a lot more substance than the song. The lyrics is all about their reservation to the phone, which everyone (including their crush and themselves) to communicate to other people. Chanyeol and Sehun are trying to get their crush’s attention. When they are together, their crush to too busy looking at their own phone. When they are not and Chanyeol/Sehun are trying to communicate with them, they blame their phone and use phone-related excuses for not being able to answer (i.e. the phone was charging, I was driving so I couldn’t pick my phone etc.). This leads to Chanyeol and Sehun entering the phone and destroying the attention stealing stuff on the phone, leading their crush to have nothing to do, other than message the two guys back. At least that is my take on the lyrics and the visuals from the music video. I also think there is some sort of hidden message at the start of the video, that we would be too busy doing one thing (i.e. reading the messages that popped up on the screen) to notice some of the stuff the pair were doing, such as applying wood filler to a toothbrush, overfilling a bowl, wearing odd socks and oversalting food.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 5.6/10

[Album Review] Delight (2nd Mini Album) – Baekhyun (EXO)

Making his return at the end of last month was Baekhyun. This comeback was in the form of his second mini-album, Delight, which features the title track, Candy. And as you can tell by the title of this post, we will be focusing on his album (as I have already reviewed Candy – link to this review is down below). I have previously reviewed both Baekhyun’s solo debut title track (UN Village) and mini-album (City Lights) when it was released last year. His first mini-album contained really memorable side tracks such as Psycho and Diamond. Continuing his R&B influence, let’s see unwrap the new album and see if it is truly a delight.

Delight Album Cover

1. Candy (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Candy. (9/10)

2. R U Ridin’ – At first, R U Ridin’ begins like a straightforward R&B track. As the song progresses, it defuses into a dance track, thanks to the use of percussion during the chorus. At large, the song would fit neatly into the R&B genre. The chorus actually reminds me of those trends that people used to put up online, where they danced whilst next to a slow-moving car (excuse my old person’s way of describing this). There seems to be some good energy coming from the track and there is a decent appeal to the song. While there is a likable vibe, the song isn’t my cup of tea or personal style. Sure, there are many R&B tracks that I listen to, but this one comes off as rather plain. It is just not something that I would go out of my way to seek and play. Though, Baekhyun’s vocal work here was really good, particularly those ad-libs he threw into the song at the end. (7/10)

3. BungeeBungee gets a slightly more positive review despite it being quite similar to the preceding song with the R&B genre. I find Baekhyun’s use of falsetto to be an attractive aspect of the song. I also find the piano and drum beat synth to help create a dynamic yet soft instrumentation. This separates this and the preceding song apart in a very distinctive manner. Just listen to the piano in the bridge sequence as an example of how more dynamic the instrumental feels. Pairing the vocals and instrumental, we get a pretty smooth track overall that I enjoyed. (8/10)

4. Underwater – What drew my attention to Underwater is that the synths come together to make it feel like we are underwater. It has that wavy type of feel that feels like the bubbles that come about when we try to talk under water (I am sure that most people would know what I am referring to). Just the synths in the background aren’t consistent, so it feels like those bubbles are of varying sizes. Apart from that analogy, the song adopts the R&B genre, once again. He has an impressive display of vocals in this song, go into falsetto during some parts and opting for a slight breathy approach in other parts. I also liked his ad-libs and ‘Ooo’ at the end of the song, which helped ease the song out in a unique manner. (8/10)

5. Poppin’ – We re-enter energetic territory through Poppin’. A much-needed boost for this album as more consecutive R&B tracks could easily drag this album out and would result in a bore. Poppin’ isn’t an overwhelming injection of energy, which keeps it in line with the previous songs. I liked the simple beat of the instrumental and what seems to be a muffled 8-bit type of sound. It gives texture in a subtle way. Overall, the instrumental feels very easygoing and lively, relative to the other songs on this album. The vocals also feel a lot more dynamic and brighter, which helps add additional energy into the song. The chorus is undoubtedly the strongest part of the song, with a catchy ‘Here Now’ hook, though it sounds more like ‘Hey Now’ to me. (8.5/10)

6. Ghost – This is the song that attracted my attention the most prior to listening to the album. I just liked the title of the song. I have a dark soul like that. My expectations were that this would be a grungy or angst number. But that wouldn’t fit into a predominately R&B number. Instead, Ghost opts for an upbeat dance number. And before I go any further, this set up exceed any expectation I had. The instrumental for this song is very attractive, incorporating hand drums, guitars and synths. These seem to be an odd combination, but they come together very nicely and each of these elements have a boldness to them throughout the song. Vocally, Baekhyun sounds amazing. He has the support of a strong chorus with catchy melodies. Together, this song becomes the memorable number of the entire album (and dare I say, a better track that the main track). (10/10)

7. Love Again – The final song the album predominately features acoustic guitars and a deep drumbeat (there is a bit of piano infused later on). Baekhyun’s vocals start off muffled by some autotune, before it goes low and deep. Once the chorus comes along, his vocals stay quite low. But the instrumental seems to go into a soft pop mode. I liked how the acoustic guitar gave the song texture and it became the bold element of the instrumental. For the final moments of the song, Love Again changes it up to infuse little bit of angst before diffusing out back to the acoustic guitar. While this change doesn’t make sense initially, it grew on me and became a very interesting manner to end the song and album with. (8.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Delight Teaser Image