(Wow… It has been a while. – Izzy)
“XOXO” is the first studio album from the boy group EXO (EXO-K and EXO-M).
(image credit k2nblog.com)
- Baby, Don’t Cry
- Black Pearl
- Don’t Go
- Let Out The Beast
- Heart Attack
- Peter Pan
- My Lady
- Hugs and kisses? Honestly, I’m hesitant to give either.
- The ENGRISH is to die for (or it makes you want to die… Either one).
- The choice of promoted single is in question, but it seems to be an SM trend.
- Despite it’s less than stellar reviews, there are gems in the album.
- For simplicity, I will review both Korean and Chinese versions together.
OPINIONATED REVIEW BELOW
(NOTE: Because including every song in each language as an embed video each would be overkill, I left youtube album links below. Also, the meanings of the songs are derived from the Korean songs, unless stated otherwise).
Ooh. The highly anticipated promoting track of EXO. This song received TONS of mixed reviews. Wolf is a follow up of SM’s story telling concept, seen in Girl’s Generation’s I Got A Boy. Both songs seem as if different songs were thrown together, instrumentally and lyrically. Wolf in particular tells a love story from three perspectives: the infatuated wolf, his pack of bro wolves and the human of the wolf’s affections. Most listeners probably did not think SM was telling a story. Rather, it sounds like there was a party where their lyricists and composers got drunk and collaborated.
Personally, I like parts of the song. I am a fan of chants, oriental instruments, grungy noises and animal sounds. I find the “gurae wolf, naega wolf/wo shi wolf, yi tou wolf, AWOO” part to be very catchy. I am not a fan of what they may call “rap,” but what I call “talking fast and moaning.” Maybe Wolf and I Got A Boy are like Windows 8: it will take a while, but eventually everyone will come to accept and appreciate the new concept. In the present however, they seem awful and painful and will receive many haters for generations to come.
2. Baby, Don’t Cry
Ah, I really like this song. Supposedly, this has a strange Little Mermaid theme behind it (don’t ask me, this exotic has written a lovely and actually reasonable explanation). In a gist, the song says “don’t cry, I will suffer in your place”. It starts with piano. When the first person wings, the beat plays. When the next voices come in, a stringed instrument (I cannot identify) is plucked. A single voice and hastened piano instrumental play before the chorus drops “BABY, DON’T CRY. TONIGHT.” I really adore this song. The high notes, the instrumentals (as you may have skimmed over), even the barely qualifies as rapping is listenable because it is so mellow. It all fits. It may be dull for some, but for the sad song lover that I am I consider it one of the jewels of XOXO. My favorite line is the layered “I can hold you in my arms” lyric, more prominent in the EXO M version.
3. Black Pearl
A pirate themed song! Just kidding (see Block B “Nilili Mambo” for some booty). However, the song does use many seafaring to make metaphors of love. Not shocking, of course. I think my problem with this song is that in the first seconds, they dramatically sing “she’s my bleck purr.” Yes, I love it when songs chant and inject manly “hey”‘s properly. However, I cannot get past the Engrish. I have listened to this late at night and second guessed the title consistently. I will not include my mishearings due to the chance of offending various populations of society. I will give credit to EXO-M for doing a slightly better job at the pronunciation. Yes, I know they are not English speakers. However, it doesn’t mean that I cannot cringe.
4. Don’t Go
Something about this song reminds me of What is Love or Angel or something… I don’t know what it is. Don’t Go is just another love song, talking about how fantastic their love is and how they should not leave their sight, yadda yadda. It’s not a bad listen at all. I find it a bit bland in the ballad pop genre. I do like the verse right before the last chorus. Otherwise, it’s just another okay song.
5. Let Out The Beast
From the title, I was hoping for something relating to Wolf or reminiscent of Two Moons. Instead, this song is too soft for hardcore music but has too much bitchiness to be a listenable upbeat song. It’s an awkward hybrid that fails at either function. Oh, and that thrown in electric dubsteppish break. I do love those kinds of sounds, but where did it come from? It’s another level of awkward composition from SM. The song is about… Having energy? I don’t know. I compliment the English of both languages. However, I will probably never be a fan of this album’s rapping.
The introduction sounds like a One Direction song… The whole thing sounds like a One Direction song. Maybe that’s just me. As indicative of the title, it’s about loving and caring for a lover “3-6-5.” There’s nothing really exciting about this song either. Maybe if you like upbeat guitar riffs? Or if you are learning how to pronounce numbers? It’s definitely the most lovey dovey, summery, upbeat song in the album. However, I don’t find it at all memorable.
7. Heart Attack
It seems like many people aren’t a fan of this song compared to some of the others, but Heart Attack actually gripped me on its first listen. I find the lyrics to be interesting, in a sense that I do not quite know how to interpret them. The Chinese version seems to interpret a heart attack as a bad thing, naturally. The Korean version, on the other hand, seems to translate a heart attack as more of a good, love moment idea. Which is okay, I guess. Anyway, I really enjoy the ominous beginning (this is probably a taste thing). I can’t really explain why I like this song. It may be its instrumentals or something, I’m not sure. It may be their voices, which for the most part stay in beat and are repetitive note wise. I don’t know, it’s strange taste. I would have to rip the composition of this baby to explain it.
8. Peter Pan
Strangely, unlike Bleck Purr I was hooked on this song because of the Engrish! The lyrics talk about a past love with a Peter Pan theme. Perhaps the childhood familiarity with Peter Pan’s terms (Teenkahbell, Nevahland, Pita Pan, Wendy and Cinderella) is what drew me to the Engrish. Anyway, the song starts with some ohs, long ahs and long ohs. A What is Love like beat and guitar riff plays with the first voice. It then builds up to the chorus (insert Engrish) and drops back on the drums afterwards. I do love anticipation. Sigh, I do not like their rapping though. Perhaps they can rap really well, but these songs do not call for whatever EXO is doing.
A ballad pop kpop song, ABOUT LOVE. What a novelty! I don’t find this song to be memorable either. The intro deceived me. I thought that it would be something oriental or exotic, but the song sounds like the icicles instrumental on my 30 year old synthesizer. I suppose the catchiest part is the “babeh, babeh, bayybeh.” I don’t think it’s a bad song though. It seems to follow the music formula of sad + chant chorus + sad + chant chorus + sadness + chant chorus. There isn’t anything within the formula that makes Baby stick out.
10. My Lady
The raunchiest song of the album, and the song with the best Engrish. Oh yes, “you’re walkin’ into MY DOOR.” Grammatically, that isn’t the sexiest thing to do, but… Anyway it’s a chill, mellow, sexy song. Of course, another love song. Boy wants to be a woman’s man. Simple simple. If none of the sad songs or weirdly instrumental-ed songs did it for you, My Lady is a completely different flavor.
In the end, it boils down to taste. If you like sad songs, love songs, or experimental sounds (if you can even call it that… it’s more like clashing composition), you may find sanction in this album. There are (can I say) black pearls in this album that are worth the listen, so don’t dismiss it because of popular culture or initial distaste. I do like a handful of the songs, I’m sure that listeners can find a kink too if they give it a fair chance.
EXO-K playlist of full album.
EXO M video of full album
Normally, I post a lyric video from a generous youtuber. However, I will just post a website that has the album’s lyrics.