BON BON DESSERT
EXO's long awaited new album
EXO IS BACK!
It’s been so heartening to see all the new milestones they’ve achieved despite a hiatus for much of their 11 year career. This is their first full album since
Obsession in 2019, although they’re still incomplete as a group. The k-pop landscape is just so barren without them.
Even if I was a casual listener I would still think EXO is making the best music. Rolling Stone recently put out a list of the 100 greatest k-pop songs, and there wasn’t an EXO entry in the top 10?! More puzzling is this line written in the blurb about
Growl (all the way at 34!): “While SM’s ambitious plans for EXO — a multinational boy band meant to bridge the Korean and Chinese pop markets — ultimately fell through, their early tracks solidified the act as one of the most thrilling boy bands of the time.”
Ambitious plans…you just have to laugh. SM stated themselves that EXO was a failed group. They were never meant to achieve such overwhelming success. The group has actually soared despite the agency’s sabotage and favoritism towards younger groups. After the CBX lawsuit settled, SM has continued to interfere with this comeback, but as usual, EXO prevailed.
I’ve been seeing way too many fans and casual listeners call their seventh album
Exist undwerwhelming. It apparently fell short of their expectations, not at all the grandiose return that would justify the long absence. I don’t know what album those people are listening to. While the album’s title is lackluster, the music isn’t.
Exist however is deceptively simple: EXO is still around and they aren’t going anywhere.
I’m not sure where I would rank
Cream Soda among their title tracks. I usually don’t bother. For me, it’s
MAMA followed by a wall. I’m impressed by how silkily
Cream Soda straddles the line between unsubtlety and coyness. There’s no question just what this song is about, but it still has some restraint. Even the music video has straight up nasty imagery, but it’s all done in a classy and elegant way. The song has the same vocal dexterity that is EXO’s trademark. The chorus is entirely falsetto! Combine that with their most complex choreography to date, one they still execute flawlessly. Xiumin and Sehun shine the most on this track. Suho’s chorus is also my favorite.
As strong as
Cream Soda is, this is the first EXO album where the title ranks last on my list. And that’s just fine, since the title track is not necessarily the best song on an album. So let’s get into all these gems!
Regret It: Love the punchy hook and intro contrasted with gentle verses. First listen was a teensy bit jarring, but I love Chanyeol’s “I’m on your side.” This song which he participated in writing defintely has his handprints all over it.
Hear Me Out: Funky, fresh, fun, groovy! It gives the album a mellow vibe especially following the previous two songs. Xiumin’s verse before the second chorus is my favorite part. He, Sehun, Kai and Chanyeol stand out a lot on it. This one is Chanyeol & Suho’s favorite.
Private Party: sonic excellence, what more is there to say? THAT’S MY SHAWTY! I have to bust a move when I hear this. And that beginning, the quiet orchestral touch? Magnifique. Someone said that makes it more fairytale-esque than the next song, but that’s a choice I adore.
Cinderella: This is the one I was most anticipating from the title alone. And a retro synth won me over completely. I love how edgy it is; it doesn’t sound like what you’d expect from the title. The high notes, especially Baekhyun’s, are just so magical. Leave it to EXO to make a song with a la-la-la hook to still sound full and intricate. Chen’s favorite.
No Makeup: Slow and sensuous, but still very energetic. It echoes ‘90s R&B. It’s simply a masterpiece. It would be right at home alongside the slow jams on
Exodus, this has thee EXO flourish. The harmonization, let me swoon a little bit. Baekhyun’s favorite.
Love Fool: Another highly anticipated one for me. I am indeed EXO’s love fool. Some great vocal highlights from Sehun, and of course his and Kai’s “let’s go nege gipi” is already iconic. There’s so much happening on this song but it never overwhelms or sounds crowded.
Another Day: The sleeper hit and my personal favorite, along with D.O. and Sehun. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this is Chen’s first group album since 2019. Naturally
Exist is all the more special for it. I think he’s perfect on this song. But, when is he not?
Let Me In: I wrote about this release last month. It was a preview but as the melancholy closer, it made the album all the more unpredictable. Even if it’s more stripped back than the rest, it’s not out of place. I also think it’s the perfect song to end the album on. After such exhilarating highs, here’s the chance to rest and keep opening your heart up to these eight wonderful men. Xiumin’s favorite.
When EXO first appeared on my radar years ago, I thought they were incredibly good looking and kept scrolling. K-pop didn’t seem appealing to me then. (That was for the best; I’m sure EXO would have been too much of a distraction in undergrad).
I don’t usually grow attached to celebrities, not anymore, unless they’re over 70 or dead. K-pop idols are burdened with too many expectations and fan devotion that can be scary at times. There’s a tendency, more-so than with western celebrities, to place them on a pedestal or cruelly reject them when they make mistakes. I didn’t find EXO again until the tail end of 2016, so I wasn’t there for a lot of the hardship they’ve endured. They’re truly unlike any other group. They don’t make a career out of seeking pity, they never speak bitterly, they’re intensely private, have no interest in the fame machine, and they have the warmest, close-knit brotherhood.
It’s infuriating to think of all the ways SM and the industry at large have attempted to bring them down. Uncommonly handsome, talented and humble? No wonder there’s a target on their backs!
I feel very lucky to invest as much time and passion as I do on this EXO thing. I guess I’m just in this for life.