EXO – 'DON`T MESS UP MY TEMPO'
3. Ooh La La La
5. With You
7. Bad Dream
9. Smile On My Face
11. Tempo (Chinese Ver.)
EXO has just dropped their fifth full album, 'Don't Mess Up My Tempo.' You saw the teasers, with obscure riddle-like taglines, all through October. Some of these pointed to other past concepts. This album has a solid 11 tracks, and this album is the first since the Hallyu ban to feature Lay, though he doesn't have a part in EXO-K's version of the title track (he's in the Mandarin version at the tail end of this LP).
"Tempo" is electropop. At the end of the day, it sounds a lot like older EXO tunes, but I would have appreciated a stronger drop, rather than the extremely mellow one that features here. It just felt a little underwhelming at the time, though the song is amazingly catchy and the hooks are awesome. Now "Sign" had a lot more to offer in my opinion. A slick R&B fusion with a prominent synth presence, and some great harmonies in the chorus. This would have been a solid choice for the lead single. "Ooh La La La" seems to give off some Latin-pop feels, with a more mellow tempo. It seems they did mess up the tempo here, as it's softer than the songs that surround it. It's okay, but it didn't really stick with me.
"Gravity" is a solid club-banger, with some of those smooth R&B vibes and dance floor grooves. It's still electropop, but it's got an energy that I really dig, along with a sinuous melody and their voices just seem to melt into it. Like it's namesake, the song really pulls you in. "With You" is an R&B ballad hybrid, high tempo, but still firmly in the ballad/soft pop camp. There's an interesting tension in the main verses, plus those thin, rapid-fire dance beats. Probably one of their more interesting tunes is "24/7." It starts out soft and tender, then has this subtle boom that hits you during the chorus. Snaps keep the time in this mid-tempo tune. "Bad Dream" starts out soft, but quickly chugs into a fairly forceful R&B tune. It's got this sharp, edgy sound when it hits the diamond-hard chorus. Yeah, it's not only danceable but is a great jam too.
"Damage" is another one of my faves on here. It starts with that sweet rap and one of the hooks is repeated in the intro. The raps are edgy in here, there are a lot of electro effects and they sound so powerful in the chorus. It's almost another "Overdose." "Smile On My Face" could be a companion piece to "Damage." Where the former was about being hurt, this one is about healing. It's almost a polar opposite sonically, a ballad with gentle R&B stylings. There's a pleading style to the vocals in the chorus, which almost seems like they're trying to convince themselves that they're ok. "Oasis" is a dose of soft pop, and has that epic feel like a lot of finishers, with this billowy chorus that seems like their singing it from a mountaintop. What does the song sound like? Hope.
One of the things I like about EXO is that they dare to be different. And the songs on this album reflect that. Yes, there are some traditional forms (R&B, for example), but also electropop. And it hasn't hurt them any, breaking 1,000,000 pre-orders before the album even dropped. But is it worth it? It is to me, as well as the legions of EXO-Ls who have been waiting for this one.
"Tempo" starts out promising, with motorcycles, a glowing hand-held cube, and neon lights shooting towards the center of some prop. And as for whether it goes downhill from there is up to you.
On the plus side, you get to see all your biases, right there and larger than life. Performing together and individually. On the minus side, it's pretty much the boy in a box MV, with lights shining on the boys.
They do get kudos for different sets with a bar that looks like it adjoins a bedroom, frex. They also deserve accolades for use of space, and some angles that change the way you think about the stage setting. The cinematographers knew what they were doing, and when it gets a bit banal they pull out the motorbikes and the moody lighting.
The boys of EXO have always been good dancers, so there's no worry there. Bold, confident moves combine with an awesome song. They actually sank some money into the choreo too. So if you're in the mood to see some killer dancing, check out this MV.
As much as I'm not a fan of the boy in the box MVs, at least this time they made it halfway interesting. And it didn't look cheap. I kept expecting something bad to pop out at me, but no -- it was really well put together. You've been waiting for a bit for a comeback, and this makes it worth the wait.
MV SCORE: 8.3
ALBUM SCORE: 8.7