BAEKHYUN – 'CITY LIGHTS'
1. UN Village *Title
2. Stay Up (Feat. Beenzino)
4. Ice Queen
6. Psycho (Bonus Track)
Baekhyun of EXO fame has just dropped his first EP as a solo artist, 'City Lights.' It's got six tracks, written and produced by various luminaries such as ChaCha Malone, DEEZ, and Kenzie. And this album is smashing all records. He's the 5th solo artist in a decade to sell 100,000 copies. His new one is number 1 on iTunes in 63 countries, breaking an EXO record. And he's beaten out Lay as the highest-selling solo artist in EXO. Not to mention snagging the highest first-day sales for a male solo artist in Hanteo history – 260,000+ copies.
"UN Village" starts with odd lonely sounds and clattering beats. The song itself draws you into the picture he paints of Seoul's Hannam-dong neighborhood, known for its shameless wealth. He wants to bring a girl there and do what couples do. It's a romantic groove, and Baekhyun slides into like you might into a DM. It leads into the sensual "Stay Up." Rapper Beenzino guests on this track. If you thought the first song was smooth, it's nothing compared to this one. It's a fantastic showcase for Baekhyun's vocal range. Beenzino's rap is about the best-integrated one for a long time. I love how this one sounds. "Betcha" has an island beat to it, cheery and playful. I like the beat and the bass thrums. Some EXO-Ls took the preview clip of Baekhyun’s “Betcha” and edited it into videos of people dancing. Everyone's doing it, from A Pink to Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. I can see why, though, because this song is super-catchy and fun.
The R&B stylings of "Ice Queen" return us to smooth again, with cool relaxing tones. I like some of the repetition in the lyrics, and the vocals are always on point. Maybe he's singing about an ice queen, but all I felt was warm. This is the perfect song to chillax to. "Diamond" has a definite R&B vibe, jazzy but fused with modern pop. I love the sound of this one, with its staccato melody and time changes. There's also this suspense in the vocals, too. It sets you up to listen to the tune and pay attention. And his crooning falsetto just shows you how versatile he is. He finishes the EP with the crashing "Psycho." It reminded me of nothing more than angry waves breaking over rocks. There's an ethereal quality to some of it, but it never leaves that energy of the beginning far behind. It shows up in the chorus again, and really gives the sense of being at least slightly unhinged.
So Baekhyun decided on an R&B album for a summer release. Nothing wrong with that at all. He's got the chops for it, so why not? And he does have it down pat. Some of these aren't just R&B, they're convincing R&B. So if you had it on in the background, you wouldn't know the difference between this and a western release until you started listening to the lyrics. Not only that, he does an awesome job here, fusing modern sounds with their more traditional jazz counterparts. If you're looking for something to cool you down, then Baekhyun has just what the doctor ordered.
This was one of those MVs that jumped out at me and said: "we're on a budget."
Well, sort of. It doesn't look cheap, far from it. But they eschewed all sorts of things they could have done with CGI (like a moon in the sky), and instead opted for a more artistic MV.
Which isn't a bad thing. We get shots of Baekhyun in silhouette, with shadows from shutters striping his face, shots in blue lighting, and shots with the complex interplay of light and shadow.
The MV is quite well done for all that, trying to create a mood rather than trying to be glitzy. And while I would have preferred to see something like a temple, city lights, a ritzy area, or even a moonlit night, this is still a quite accomplished piece. Kudos to the makers of the MV.
MV SCORE: 8.0
ALBUM SCORE: 8.0