EXO‘s long awaited full-length album marks a huge stepping point for the group, with over 300,000 pre-orders before its release. Playing on the success, the group released a repackaged version with a new lead track titled ‘Growl‘, along with a new track XOXO, the track that corresponds with the album title. With two different versions for the repackaged – like it did in the original, one for EXO-K (Kiss edition) and EXO-M (Hug edition) – the twelve boys of EXO aims to bring different kinds of charm through all 14 tracks.
THE LOOK: A Glimpse of the Packaging
As compared to XOXO, which resembled a notebook, the re-packaged album is no doubt bulkier and heavier. Consisting of a 104 page photobook, it was probably worth the buy as the photos in it resembled a lookbook for street fashion, displaying the charms of individual members.
A flip into the pages of the album and the first thing that caught my eye were the hand-written messages on the back of each members’ page, something that really fits the whole school concept. A flip till the end and you will definitely notice the hand-written lyrics, which undeniably showed the extra effort the EXO members placed in it since it is definitely not easy to write it out that neatly.
THE SOUND: Album Review
♫ 늑대와 미녀 (Wolf)
(Watch the music video)
When Wolf was first released, it brought in mixed responses. At first glance, the title track was gimmicky, playing on the theme of Beauty and the Beast but less of a fairy tale and more of modern teen fantasy of Twilight‘s Bella and Jacob. The song itself, is actually a pretty good extension of SM’s change in the direction of its SMP (SM-pop) with an infused quantity of dub-step and electronic sounds. But unlike its previous experiments Wolf managed to stand out for its good inclusion of high notes that allows the group’s vocalists to show off what they can do – after one gets past its questionable chorus.
That said, Wolf isn’t a song that one could plug in their earpieces and enjoy it on a loop without any visuals. The point of Wolf is its dramatic flair and theatrics in terms of its choreography, which is exceptional in terms of organization and fits true to the concept. Ultimately, this is a track that one have to watch to enjoy it fully, and not one track that is popular with the general masses.
♫ 으르렁 Growl
(Watch the music video)
The new promo track Growl is no doubt a Part II to Wolf; while Wolf talks about the fatal attraction to a girl that one couldn’t control, Growl took a more mature approach by warning/challenging any admirers for attempting to woo the girl they are after. In other words, it is the Growl of a Wolf finally marking his territory and making his advances. If Wolf is middle-school kind of puppy love, raw, aggressive but yet immature, then Growl is the high-school, hot-blooded teenagers fighting it out for a chance with a girl they admired.
The new promo-track takes the dub-step down by a notch, instead including a more hip-hop and R&B beat at various points, making this song more smooth and groovy than its counterpart. The choreography, while retaining its vigour, shifted its focus from the dramatic flair to something that emphasis on smooth transitions and groove, making use of a creative 360-degree approach to add variety. More importantly, Growl is a song that one can enjoy better with or without a choreography as a soothing mainstream pop song – and it seems to stick better with the masses too.
The rest of the album has a good mix of ballads, bubblegum pop and dance tracks, all linked, inspired and infused with different styles of music, along with interesting beats to play on the mystic theme of the overall album.
Baby Don’t Cry is definitely one of the more popular tracks on the album, and it’s not hard to understand why. The ballad track is beautiful to listen with headphones plugged in, the piano instrumental playing at the back is not overbearing and adds a light touch to the song. What makes this song amazing is the amount of ad-libs added, the lead vocals belting out to the high notes at the end of the lines is just amazing, and the transition is smooth, smooth, smooth.
As a personal favourite, I would specially recommend Heart Attack, Black Pearl and Peter Pan as tracks to listen. All three played the mystical theme well; both Heart Attack and Black Pearl are tracks that incorporated a darker theme in terms of tune and beats, and stand out from the average ballads we are used to hear in K-pop. While they’re not particular strong tracks, getting kind of repetitive by the end of the song with the lack of variety and climaxes, these two songs are the type of songs that I believe SM can work on to give EXO its unique sound.
The song Peter Pan is a child-like fantasy piece that would easily put a smile on one’s face in all its youthful and hopeful attitude. Surprising enough, the two versions of Peter Pan are very different, despite the same tune and similar lyrics – EXO-K, with lower, huskier vocals, seems to be singing a story of an adult recalling the old memories, while EXO-M seems to be a bunch of high school students telling a story that is still ongoing.
New tracks XOXO and Lucky are extensions of the songs we’ve previously heard in the original album, but with a more groovy approach and something more liken to the new promo-track Growl. One can easily find that XOXO‘s tone to be similar to that of My Lady and Don’t Go, but infused with R&B beats. Lucky is another bubblegum pop with simple lyrics, and for some reason sounds like a song dedicated to their fans. Nonetheless, it brings out the playfulness of the boys that isn’t quite found in the other tracks.
Other songs like Jazz, R&B inspired My Lady, hip-hop dance track Let Out the Beast, bubblegum pop 3.6.5, ballads Don’t Go and Baby added variety to the album, making the overall album a pleasing one to listen to. The one year wait wasn’t in vain, as this album did made effort to showcase EXO’s vocals, with different members getting to shine in the different songs. Definitely an album that one can easily enjoy.
Album Rating: 3.8/5.0
Giveaway on Monday Blast!
(x)clusive would like to thank eveRean for sponsoring the album for the review and we will be having a Monday Blast giveaway for you guys to get a chance to own this album! Do visit here for more information and hurry, as the giveaway ends on 22nd September 2013, 2359.
More about eveRean
eveRean is a Singapore based online shop dedicated to bringing in everything you are looking for from Korea at better affordability, and less worries. You do the shopping and they do the worrying!
eveRean’s Korean albums are purchased from Synnara, the established online albums distributor in Korea. All album sales are submitted through them, which in turn reflects in the real time charts. The prices at eveRean seems lower than normal since they have a partnership with one of their associates.