EXO is SM Entertainment’s latest project. The label, one of the largest in the K-Pop industry, handles artists such as SHINee, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior. I had a chance to see their concert, SMTown, at Madison Square Garden in New York City last year, and I got to see first-hand the quality of SM Entertainment’s artists. Needless to say, I had extremely high expectations when EXO, a new boyband, was announced. After what has felt like hundreds of teasers, their first EP has finally been released!

The whole concept behind EXO is really interesting – 12 boys are split into two groups, EXO-K and EXO-M, that sing the same songs in either Korean or Mandarin. Looking at it from a business sense, it is brilliant. SM can now simultaneously enter two markets with essentially the same group. The two subgroups can fulfill double the commitments a regular artist could. Also, fans now have double the merchandise and music to purchase. However, from an artistic perspective, this is definitely a little weird. There are Korean and Chinese versions of every song and music video and it’s literally the most manufactured a pop group could possibly be.

Overall though, the group is on par with other SM artists – good singers, good dancers and a lot of star quality. So how is their first EP? Let’s take a listen to both EXO-K and EXO-M’s versions of MAMA…

1. MAMA

The lead single. After two very good prologue singles, I had very high expectations for the actual single. It’s good – but not as good as I wanted it to be. I love the heaviness of the music and the creepy chanting, but I feel like the chorus could have been stronger – not sure if that’s down to production or what – but it never reaches the epic proportions that I want it to. The screamo bridge is a little much for me (and a little scary in the video) but I do like the buildup throughout the song. As a first single though, it’s a good start for the group and the choreography is great. I look forward to seeing them perform it more and singing it live. I definitely think the song sounds better in Korean (I just think it’s a prettier language when sung) but the members of EXO-M definitely sing just as well as those in EXO-K. In an ideal world, I would mix and match their voices to form the perfect group of 6.

2. What Is Love

I love this song. This was the first song we ever heard from the group, and I was pleasantly surprised. It sounds a lot like TVXQ’s RnB ballads. The two leads in the Korean version, D.O. and Baekhyung, are awesome. The leads in the Chinese version, Lu Han and Chen, are just as good. Out of the four, I like Baekhyung and Lu Han’s voices the best, but all four of them are definitely amazing vocalists. I hope that as time goes on and the group becomes more established, the four of them have a chance to sing together and really do some crazy harmonies and adlibs together. The song’s backing track is really interesting (it has a really choppy riff that goes through it that makes it memorable) and the emotion in their voices really show. Those adlibs at the end are crazy…I haven’t heard many Western male singers sing like that in a long time.

3. History

Definitely my favorite on the album. This was the second prologue single released by the group, and it is catchy with a good beat and a great dance routine. The chorus is fun and has a great hook. This is definitely a more “typical” K-Pop song, but it’s a good one and I hope that the group continues in this direction. Kudos to the whoever did the choreography cause I love it!

4. Angel

A ballad! This song is more of a generic boyband slow song (kinda soppy) but it has a pleasant melody and good harmonies. I’m glad that it doesn’t just sound like some Super Junior/SHINee/TVXQ reject and actually matches the sound set by the first three songs.

5. Two Moons (feat. Key from SHINee)

Rap song…interesting. It’s alright…good to showcase some other skills that other members have but I definitely think I’ve heard better rap stuff from SM before. I do like that Key’s there though and he brings a lighter/thinner voice to accompany the low/thick voices of EXO members.

6. Machine

First thought as the verse starts is that it sounds like f(x) – which isn’t a bad thing at all. I like the production in the song. It’s a solid end to the album – a song that’s not good enough to be a single but could be a really good performance if given a quality dance routine. Love the breakdown for the bridge as well – harmonies are cool and the build up back to the chorus is fun. Chorus is catchy and easy to sing along to.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Solid first EP. Not the best EP I’ve ever heard in my life, but definitely on par with other SMTown releases. I will definitely keep an eye on EXO and I hope that they keep getting better and find their niche within the huge array of boybands in the K-Pop world. SM has done a good job of not making them sound too much like TVXQ/Super Junior/SHINee and I’m interested to see how they develop.

Advertisements