EXO is back and better than ever! This album marks the first group comeback in over a year, and it certainly does not disappoint! Although this album is missing three members, it does not feel empty at all.
What’s better than one EXO? Two. And Obsession is indeed so out of this world it seems EXO’s clones wrote it. From the first second, the repetitive ‘I want you’ swirls the listener into a maddening trance, made only more intense by EXO’s fierce and unique voices. This song might seem dreamy – but it’s closer to a nightmare. Chanyeol changes it up with a rap verse more high-powered than any we’ve heard from him since Monster, paired perfectly with dark English lines from Sehun that were designed to send international fans crazy.
With the words ‘Shut up and go away’, EXO shatter their boyfriend image in a move that would shock anyone – yet this unexpectedly hard-hitting lyric only confirms their artistic mastery. The bridge jolts confusingly into a Tempo-esque softness, but the abrupt change is quickly forgotten as Chen hits notes higher than most of us can dream of. This song might seem a little insane, but in the midst of the madness lies a magical symmetry that ensures an intoxicating listen every time.
We then move on to Trouble, which begins with Baekhyun’s smooth and charismatic vocals. The chorus is the most interesting part – the syncopation is unexpected but works perfectly, and coupled with the heavy bass line, this song certainly gets your heart thumping. The lyrics too are unique, especially EXO rarely use so much English in their songs.
Good feels bad, bad feels good
온 세상이 뒤집혀 I’m in trouble
Following on we have Jekyll, a song that builds tension from the very first second. The use of unique and sometimes jarring beats seems to be an ongoing theme in this album, and this track is certainly no exception. The chorus is badass and shocking, with influences from hip hop (c.f. the classic shouting in the hook), RnB and dubstep. The fading in and out of the beat in a way that emphasises the points of negative space make Jekyll one of the album’s highlights.
The is a sudden change of pace with the next track Groove. This song evokes a jazzy feeling, and reminds me of B sides from their third album E’xact, as well as EXO-CBX’s Blooming Days album. Groove features lots of classic EXO falsetto, and Chen’s angelic voice pierces through as the song’s focal point. There is a hilariously unexpected pan flute interlude, which actually fits really well and just proves EXO’s willingness to push the boundaries of pop.
I really love this next song, Ya Ya Ya, which instantly evokes an old school California rap vibe (with EXO’s own eccentric twist, of course). This song perfectly compliments both the groups singers and rappers. The funky beat, sassy lyrics and cocky playfulness all add to this song’s charms. The break down in the bridge is so smooth, making Ya Ya Ya an even more addictive bop.
Do you love me, do you love me not?
Baby tell me now, answer me ya ya ya
After so many dark tracks, a romantic road trip seemed a little out of context. But EXO make our hearts flutter with Non Stop as effortlessly as if this had been a carefree summer album. This song might be fun, but the same tingling energy surges through this one that powers all the others. EXO crack out the charm with mature voices adding the ‘evening’ to this night out. The character-filled guitar that ties this song together steps forward for a mini-solo near the end of the song – a pleasantly surprising sight in a Kpop song.
“Oh the pouring starlight is spreading
Oh girl, the darker it is, the brighter it is
You and me who resemble the stars”
Day After Day might sound like an average soft song, but EXO add a weird touch with vocal experimentation that hints at their impressive experience. The chorus of this song could make you cry just as easily as hold you close on a cold night, whereas the bridge is like dipping into cool water. We’re not used to hearing Kai’s voice this much, but it has an effortless, natural charm that communicates the vulnerability EXO show through this track. Just when we think we’ve heard everything, Sehun hits us with a rap that adds a refreshing youthfulness to this tried-and-tested formula. When Chanyeol and Chen share a line soon after, we’re hit with a fire-and-water combo that hits the spot perfectly.
Butterfly Effect is filled with ever-so-slightly unusual notes, to match its unique name. EXO sound mature and almost sleepy, as if they’ve seen all there is to see. Like ‘One and Only’, it becomes immediately clear that this is a hidden gem: the kind of song you pass down the generations. Their lyrics speak of the same warm and necessary love that features in countless songs before it, but somehow they contain a simple honesty that’s actually relatable – like people have sung about similar things before, but this time, EXO really mean it.
An angel blowing into me like the wind
The warmth I gain from you changes me
I’m not afraid anymore, because you’re by my side
EXO have once again proven that they are at the top of the game. This album is stunning; the group have managed to flawlessly meld and conquer so many genres whilst maintaining their signature sound. Add these songs to your long term playlist because they certainly won’t get boring!
Kpop Review Café’s Overall Album Ranking: 8/10
Written by Jessica and Krystal