[Review] EXO 'XOXO'
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In short, no. Much of the song is completely brilliant, pulling together the strong vocals from "MAMA", the dark, urban style of "Two Moons", and bringing in the dubstep influences that were teased pre-debut but never fully realized in EXO's first album. It's a lot of stuff to try to cram together into one song, but, the composition and production come together beautifully. At its best, "Wolf" feels like something out of an epic, modern rock opera, much like Girls' Generation's "I Got A Boy". Is it conventional pop? No. Is it radio-friendly? No. But that's not what EXO's about.
K-Pop is now so heavily performance based that it only makes sense that acts would chose to promote songs that are made to be seen and not just heard, but with a crowded, competitive market, it's incredibly risky to take on something as dramatic and theatrical as "Wolf". Before their official debut, when EXO released "History" and "What Is Love?", they proved that they could do K-Pop the way we all know it and then their official debut with "MAMA" showed us that they didn't have to. They're good enough that they can throw out the rule book of conventional pop wisdom and be on top the game.
"Wolf"'s tight, complex production may turn into a problem for the group when it comes to live performances. "Wolf" would be a stretch for even the most stable vocal group to reproduce live- add in the crazy intense choreography on top of that vocal challenge .This is K-Pop, however, where lip-synching is often overlooked as long as the performance is good. This song's other problem is the fact that the drawn out shout-chanting and nasal cries of "saranghaeyo!" in the pre-chorus and chorus are, at best, out of place and distracting. When these lines are layered under other vocal lines, they work just fine. On their own, however, they take away from what is otherwise an amazing song.
The rest of the songs on the album are all good in their own right- the long, long awaited "Baby Don't Cry", "Let Out the Beast" and "My Lady" don't disappoint. Fans will recognize these from their many debut teasers last year, but their inclusion here proves appropriate as a segue from their debut mini-album to 'XOXO'.
New songs "Black Pearl" (also showcased in their many debut teasers) and "Heart Attack" are particularly interesting. They're dark and unconventional ballads that really mesh well with and expand upon EXO's dark and mythical motif.
The remainder of the tracks buffer the album with a lighter sound. "3.6.5." and "Peter Pan" echo western pop styling whereas are "Don't Go" and "Baby" could've been great sung by SHINee or Super Junior.
EXO may have taken a risk by waiting so long for a comeback when 2013's rookie trend was to come back soon and often. With a comeback this strong, however, I think we can all agree that 'XOXO' was worth the wait.
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