At first I thought the whole dual promotional stunt by SM‘s latest minions, EXO K & EXO M, was a neat idea and a unique marketing tactic in and of itself. However, now that it’s gradually being put into action, I really don’t know how I feel about any of it anymore.
Knowing that I’ll be essentially comparing every EXO K & M single always and forever for the sake of saying that I took both versions into consideration in a review kind of drives me up a wall. I mean, I kinda knew this already, but now that I’m here, actually listening to their first single (or prologue thingamajig), I’m finding myself torn in my preferences and asking myself if that should even play a role in my EXO reviews. Should it?
Do I critique an EXO song as just a composition, and exclude separate vocal performances altogether, or segregate one version completely? I mean, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were the same group belting out the same exact song in various languages (SuJu-M), but EXO’s two entities under one name. I kind of have to treat them as separates…but equals? The best way I think would be to treat EXO as just EXO, the project, and focus on what they’re attempting to encompass as a unit in style, song and execution (way to force me to give them special treatment, SM).
For now, I’m just going to rejoice the fact that EXO finally released something that wasn’t a fucking teaser with Kai‘s mug all over it and leave the biggest headache for EXO’s full length album, set to drop later this season.
“What Is Love” (Korean Ver.) MV
Baekhyun (main vocals), Chan Yeol (rapper), D.O (main vocals), Joon Myun (Leader, lead vocals), Kai (vocals, main dancer), Se Hun (vocals, lead dancer, maknae)
Chen (main vocals), Lay (vocals, main dancer), Lu Han (lead vocals, lead dancer), Tao (rapper), Xui Min (ead vocals)
When I listened to “What Is Love” for the first time, I instantly thought it was a pretty song. There’s no question that “What Is Love” is a Yoo Young Jin composition. I didn’t have to look up credits or anything, that’s how strong SME’s in-house production style is, and you really hear it in the R&B tracks. This type of song is Yoo Young Jin’s forte and he does it extremely well, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’ll continue the effort and be heavily involved in shaping EXO’s musical identity as they flock from the nest onward toward world domination. But as much as I would like to sit here, fapping over the fact that “What Is Love” is gorgeous, fabulous and nearly flaw-free, I just …can’t. At least not this early on in EXO’s debut (or whatever).
I have one major issue: “What Is Love” isn’t EXO enough for me.
Do I know what EXO’s music sounds like? Not at all, but that doesn’t change the fact that “What Is Love” is a carbon copy of Dong Bang Shin Ki‘s “Before U Go“. Yes, I said it. If I’m pretending EXO isn’t singing “What Is Love” for a second, this song could have easily been given to DBSK. Easily. It wouldn’t make sense to, but that’s who I’ve come to expect to sing this specific style of song and to suddenly hear it taken over by a bunch of rookies makes my skin crawl.
I’m sure SM wants us to take this as an exemplification of EXO’s amazing vocals and okay, they’re fucking amazing. I’ll give them that much. I’m also sure SM wants to treat them with the highest quality everything because it’s SM and that’s what they do. While I won’t get into how that irks me to my core (treating a rookie group on a level playing field with the likes of DBSK?!? Are you shitting me), but the fact that I feel absolutely no attachment to EXO whatsoever by this or get a sense of who they are worries me. YYJ has proven that he can make a pretty high-end copy of his own shit, and that’s about it. But where is EXO? I certainly hear
all two of them, but because “What Is Love” is so derivative, the song almost falls completely by the way side. It doesn’t possess a strong enough connection from its stunning composition to EXO, even if they’re singing it like the angelic singers they are.
I know this is a pre-debut release and the full album will probably shut me the fuck up, but I just wish “What Is Love” was fresher-er and not so goddamned formulaic. It proves that YYJ has still got it in him to churn out stunning songs, but it also proves that he’s maxed out in this particular style. C’mon man, get it together.
I’m glad to hear EXO K & M are talented and that SM has the decency to give them material that isn’t rudimentary dogshit to debut with, but give me something to make me fall in love with these guys! And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t shaft EXO M. Please.
“What Is Love” (Chinese Ver.) MV