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Posted by eric_r_wirsing AKP STAFF Monday, January 1, 2018

[MV & Album Review] EXO – 'Universe – Winter Special, 2017'



Track List:

1. Universe
2. Universe (Chinese Ver.)
3. Been Through
4. Stay
5. Fall
6. Good Night
7. Lights Out
8. Universe (CD Ver.)

EXO has released their eagerly awaited, delayed due to tragedy 'Universe – Winter Special, 2017' EP. It's become a holiday tradition, and while EXO doesn't necessarily keep to a consistent release date each year, they at least ensure that you have a selection of new songs to keep you warm.

"Universe" is their title track. It's a power ballad, and it starts out with D.O., transitioning to Baekhyun, Suho, and Kai, and...you know the drill. The tune changes several times, gaining some momentum on Chen's part, and adds a guitar with Chanyeol's vocals, and finally becomes a full-blown, lush arrangement. The emotions change with each lad, ranging from tender and soft to urgent and pleading. Basically, it's a song about breaking up, but not giving up. The chorus tells the whole tale:
"I'll search the universe/Until I can find you again." 

There are no notable differences between the Chinese version of "Universe" and the Korean one. The members have the same parts, and the composition and arrangements are identical. Even the English parts are exactly alike. It's just the main lyrics are in Chinese -- but you could have guessed that yourself. It's a very pretty winter song.

"Been Through" has the overused tropical house beat, but it's not a bad pop tune overall. There are some unique time changes to it, and some suspense-building elements. I like "Stay" a lot -- it starts out soft, but quickly transitions to some smooth R&B.  It's ultra-catchy. 

"Fall" is soft pop/R&B, with a laid-back synth and guitar accompaniment. It sounds really familiar, too but I can't place the influence off-hand. I just know it's a western influence. "Good Night" has more of those soft, tender vibes. It's well-crafted, and their voices rain warmth all over it. 

"Lights Out" is their closer, and it's a confessional style ballad; very raw, and very authentic. The CD-version of "Universe" is different from the others. It lays off the power-ballad structure and instead opts for more muted guitars, and the harmonies tend to propel the song. The boys have buttery-smooth voices, and they get a chance to really shine here.

So this album is entirely in keeping with their previous winter releases. They've got a really mellow sound here, and they stick close to what works. Lay was left out of this one, busy with his Chinese activities (and he has his own Christmas album out). But they've crafted something that is crystalline like ice in winter, and beautiful, almost delicate like a snowflake. There are even special Christmas messages by the members inside the CD booklet. If you're an EXO fan, you owe to yourself to get this seasonal special album. You can find out for yourself exactly why it's burning up the charts.


And of course, they release an MV that in some ways seems just as warm-hearted as the song. It goes along at the same pace as the tune, never losing its stride. And there are tons of symbolic scenes in here, like trying to untie a knot and then ending up tangled in it, and lots of references to coffee, whether having the drops darken the sky or standing in cream.

It's interesting, and you don't feel that dispassionate or detached while watching. The background colors are inviting, if somewhat monochromatic. The CGI is really well-done, even if I have no idea exactly what they're trying to get at. I'm pretty sure I don't think of coffee during a breakup, but that's just me. The knotted-up feeling I can totally relate to, however.

They don't dance, and the performance is largely them standing, singing, not moving much at all. Even their faces seem oddly blank. I'm not sure if that was the effect they were going for there. But the MV itself is fun to watch, just to see what happens next. Eye candy is a pretty good thing to base an MV off of. And oh yeah, EXO definitely qualifies as eye candy for some.

And I like the nice, quiet ending.


MV Relevance...........8
MV Production..........9
MV Concept..............9

Album Production.....9
Album Concept.........9



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