I had absolutely no idea who EXO were or what sort of record this would be.
Turns out they’re a South Korean boy band. And…it’s not half bad. Seriously.
Honestly, this seemed to be right direction to take in terms of maintaining my passion for reviewing music in general. The songs and records I have generally chosen to write about for this blog generally span three categories:
1. The safe, mainstream stuff that sounds good because I’m familiar with it. Stuff I can write some pretty words about without truly connecting with, because authenticity and sincerity are for losers.
2. Music by my favourite artists that I’m kind of tarnishing by writing about and thus spoiling the unspoken magic that allowed me connect with their music in the first place – or worse, feeling like my words aren’t doing the music the justice it truly deserves.
3. Hipster/indie stuff I review in order to keep up appearances…notwithstanding the fact that it’s sometimes forgettable, pretentious, unambitious and, in somewhat less diplomatic terms, complete shite (see: all of my reviews from 2015). Not always all of those things, but more often than not, some combination thereof.
Unburdened by the biases and expectations I generally hold towards Western music, I went into this record with a clean slate and an open mind. And while I’m no stranger to listening to foreign language music, it really feels as if you can appreciate the essence of music more when you’re not trying to offer up some pseudo-intellectual literary analysis of songs that run the inspiring creative gamut of getting drunk, going clubbing, or having one night stands. Does it bother me that these fabulously wealthy performers with an incredible platform for writing about things that could actually mean something have chosen to squander that opportunity by singing about their Saturday night hijinks? Well yes, a little, but maybe I’m just not enough of a basic bitch to completely buy into it.
But that’s the great thing about not understanding a single fucking word of the music you’re listening to, because all those petty gripes about shallow subject material automatically no longer matter. I mean, it’s entirely possible that those aforementioned topics are being sung about too, albeit in Korean.
So in such circumstances, the production and melodies and little else are foregrounded. And on that front, this record delivers admirably.
Great pop music tends to toe the line in embracing contemporary trends and pushing the boundaries a little further (but not too far), all while wearing an impeccable veneer of polish and style. On all these counts, EXO succeeds without a hitch, and the sound is all over the place – the good kind of all over the place; like a rollercoaster.