SME’s youngest group EXO has finally come back with a full album titled ‘XOXO’. It seems that the boys of the 12 member powerhouse group wanted to return with an endearing gesture – hence hugs and kisses to all the waiting fans.
The album features tracks used in their debut teasers last year, two of which were most anticipated: Baby Don’t Cry and My Lady.
All of the tracks in the album display the vocal prowess of the members who have very clearly improved. The members’ harmonization is of high caliber, as the tracks were tailor-made for their voices.
Despite having their separate versions, EXO-M and EXO-K both display equal and impressive talent for the album. Of course, there’s room for comparison, because of the fans’ preference. In example, the raps for both albums are of their own styles, what with Kris, Tao and occasionally Xiumin for EXO-M, and Kai, Chanyeol and Sehun for EXO-K rapping for their respective units. The quality of their voices are distinctive, and it helps in distinguishing who’s who and which unit it is — apart from the fact that one group sings in Korean while the other sings in Chinese.
Power vocals D.O, Chen, Baekhyun, and Luhan belt it out on their title track “Wolf” and on the rest of the tracks, showing how nothing has changed except that they have gotten better. Luhan’s distinctive singing is also notably spine-chilling, and Suho’s ever-so gentle crooning is the cherry on this sundae of an album. This song by the way, has four versions: Korean version sung by all 12 members, a Chinese version by all 12, and then the EXO-K and EXO-M versions. It wasn’t too far fetched of an idea to hear the Chinese members sing in Korean, and vice versa, but the idea of them performing as one group was the delightful surprise. To listen to the members speak in a language not of their own was interesting – you had expectations from them considering that their training covers language, among other skills necessary for them to go global.
The music video for Wolf is yet another studio MV. But this is because they’ve only released the dance version. A story version is to follow, as per the teasers released days before were Drama version contents.
In the MV, EXO is seen at the very beginning, silhouetted as they formed a chill-inducing formation that people say is reminiscent to the head of a wolf, or even the “tree of life.” Either way, the opening scene is paired with an Oriental background sound, and howling is aptly cued.
EXO members are grouped into two, although not necessarily as M or K. The members were getting justified screen times, although still some fans may complain about the necessity of more screentime for their biases. In comparison to the previous MVs like MAMA and History, this time around all the members pretty much have had their fair share of camera time, and singing lines. Since the MV has two versions – Korean and Chinese – the members had different lines to sing in both MVs, so fans were able to listen to the singing of all 12 in both languages.
The video was aesthetically easy on the eyes given the nature of the video being dark and eerie, and the members were easy to spot and identify with their outfit palette of black, white and grey. Although their quick movements and choreography made it difficult to ID the members when naming them, the close-up shots reconciled well.
Their outfits weren’t too shabby, except for the fluctuating vote of approval/disapproval towards Kai’s cornrows. For the other members who had their hair dyed was a refreshing sight, and it made some of them glow, like Sehun who looked all-too well with the blonde hair turned rainbow, and Tao’s fiery red which then turned into blonde. Looks like the stylists thought it over meticulously as well.
Wolves aren’t anything new, but it does call for a little banter from non-fans, in reference to the werewolf craze thanks to some movies *cough Twilight cough* prior to the comeback. There’s a confusing gap between the concept photos of the boys which said “First Class” and it was a yearbook sort of thing, and the MV itself, which had EXO turning into wolves. Leave it to SME to stump you and give you a headache with the concepts. It’s a good thing they nail it with the songs, which deliver so much power and influence to the target audience, they can just make fans forget about the incoherent themes.
The tracks on the album basically fall under RnB apart from the obvious “K-Pop” genre. The slow tracks are really the gold in this album, especially Baby Don’t Cry, which had beautiful rapping in it, brought to us by velvet-voiced rappers Chanyeol and Kris. Heart Attack is an easy-listening RnB track as well, which makes you happy-sad for unknown reasons. Let Out the Beast and Black Pearl are intense tracks, both upbeat. The former was the backing track for the teaser featuring Xiumin and Kai, while the latter was the teaser in which Sehun fronted, while the other members were faintly shown. More of the new tracks: Baby, Peter Pan, and Don’t Go are just as precious, there’s no other way to explain this but for you to listen to the songs on your own.
Personally, the album was worth the long, agonizing wait, as the output was evidently prepared with blood, sweat and tears by all 12, by their producers, writers and everyone who worked on XOXO. Here’s to looking forward to the performances, radio guestings, and concert appearances that EXO will have, hoping that they will be able to perform most if not all of the tracks in their album.