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My take and commentary on popular (& good) music from South Korea

EXO – ‘XOXO’ album review: Rare case of album tracks > lead single

To say K-pop fans have been anticipating EXO’s comeback would be an understatement. Heck, anticipating EXO’s official debut in 2012 was such a long, played out event that it’s now become accepted Exotics have to wait ages for SM’s new boyband to put out some new music.

Of course, we all got a tease back in February when a leaked version of “Wolf” appeared online. Most people hated the song, so did I. Well, “hate” is a strong word. I laughed actually. I assumed SM was just trolling.

Now, imagine my surprise when “Wolf” actually ended up being the lead single off EXO’s first full-length album!

EXO xoxo album cover
‘XOXO’ a.k.a ‘Kiss & Hug’

Like my last EXO review, I will only be reviewing the Korean version of the album. So let’s begin, shall we?

01. “Wolf”

There is a reason why this track caused a lot of ruckus among fans when it leaked. They weren’t angry because the song leaked, they were just perplexed as to why SM Entertainment would choose such a bad song for a much anticipated comeback. The leaked version was terrible; the official release though, is far more polished — but I still don’t consider it a good song.

The unconventional nature of the song shouldn’t shock anyone considering it’s coming from the same production team responsible for SNSD’s “I Got a Boy”. But unlike IGAB, I just didn’t find myself hitting replay after first listening to “Wolf”. I only forced myself to listen to it again and again purely for the sake of this review. Just to see if it would grow on me. But even after a few days, “Wolf” is still a lame song as far as I’m concerned. I’m all for artistes trying out new sounds and breaking new grounds musically, but “Wolf” just doesn’t sway me in any positive way. It’s like SM purposely decided to avoid doing a killer song that would sweep the awards on music shows, just so EXO won’t peak early in their career.

The only saving grace is the brilliant choreography and the polished look of the MV. That’s it. – 2/5

Exo 12 members Wolf screencap

02. “Baby Don’t Cry” – One of the songs first featured on EXO’s many pre-debut teasers last year. A great ballad and a start to what I knew was going to be an otherwise great album. – 4/5

03. “Black Pearl” – Another backing track used in one of the pre-debut teasers that eventually turned into a full-fledged song. When SM put out the album teaser with snippets of each song, this was the track that really stood out for me. I loved it then and love it even more now! A dark, brooding ballad that still mixes in some great vocals and dubstep beats (still doing that, huh SM?) with the end result being a ballad none too common in K-pop. -5/5

04. “나비소녀 (Don’t Go)” – Another mid-tempo ballad that sounds as good as the boys singing it. – 4/5

05. “Let Out The Beast” – After a sting of ballads, we are back in dance territory again. This track may not be worthy of a single release, but it’s still a better song than “Wolf”. – 3/5

06. “3.6.5” – It starts out like a One Direction track, and with its European songwriting credentials, it sure does sound like one. This was another track on the album teaser which stood out to me thanks to its catchy chorus. A fun, uptempo track. – 3.5/5

07. “Heart Attack” – Slowing things down again, you would expect album filler material as we near the end. But the quality doesn’t drop as low as one would expect. This is still a very listenable track. – 3/5

08. “피터팬 (Peter Pan)” – Definitely the highlight of the song is the chorus. This track would make for a great sing-along towards the end of a concert. – 3.5/5

09. “Baby” – Produced by SM’s in-house composer Kenzie (who also worked on “Wolf”), this sweet ballad is yet another top-notch album track with a memorable chorus. – 3/5

10. “My Lady” – The final track on the album is another song that was first featured on one of the pre-debut teasers. This smooth, blues-y jam will have you bobbing your head during the pre-chorus. A good finish to put this album to a rest. – 3/5

Exo all members logo
The 12 members that make up EXO

I can’t recall just how many K-pop reviews I have written about how, other than the lead single, the rest of the album is just filler material. But EXO’s ‘XOXO’ is a rare exception. Practically every song on this album is better than the lead single “Wolf”! And it’s not just me who feels that way. Go read the comments on any of the album tracks on YouTube and you have scores of listeners who feel song ‘x’ would have made for a better single than “Wolf”.

When I heard the album teaser, I knew I was going to like the album. The quality of the songs on the album is top-notch, just like EXO’s debut mini-album was. It’s too bad the same can’t be said about “Wolf”. After waiting for more than a year, it’s disappointing EXO’s comeback single is best forgotten (as far as I’m concerned). There is always hope for a re-package album in a few months time, because I don’t think SM wants to keep fans waiting another year for just one more MV featuring the boys.

My final rating for EXO’s ‘XOXO’ (Kiss & Hug): 4 out of 5 (Very Good)

2PM – ‘Grown’ album review: Mature, sexy, and all grown up

I’ll admit, I haven’t liked any other 2PM singles as much as I liked “Again & Again”. Not only was that song the boyband’s breakthrough single, but since Jay Park left the group in 2009, no single since has been as good as “Again & Again”. “Heartbeat” and “Without U” were just okay, “I’ll Be Back” and “Hands Up” were pretty lame in my opinion.

It’s been nearly two years since 2PM made a Korean comeback, so needless to say the anticipation was pretty high. Five years old and now for a group of their stature, 2PM – and their mentor *whispers*JYP*whispers* – have a lot of catching up to do!

2pm Grown album cover
‘Grown’ is 2PM’s third full-length album

Continue reading “2PM – ‘Grown’ album review: Mature, sexy, and all grown up” »

Jay Park – ‘JOAH’ review

My favourite solo K-pop artist is back with new music! I always look forward to new releases from Jay Park as rarely has the dude disappointed. Jay put out an awesome English-Korean rap track (appropriately titled) “Appetizer” in February, produced by fellow Art Of Movement crew member and good friend Cha Cha Malone. Needless to say, that was just a teaser to what Jay Park has on the way.

Jay Park Joah MV screencapTitled ‘JOAH,’ this is yet another set of releases before Jay Park comes out with his second full-length album. He employed a similar strategy last year before the release of the stellar ‘New Breed’.


Going by the teaser, I figured “Joah” was going to be in the same vein as “Girlfriend” was. And with a title that means “like” in Korean, it was sure to be a sweet tribute to a girl crush. “Joah” is a mid-tempo track with subtle piano keys that keep you swinging in melancholy, or simply bopping your head to the thumping beats. The song isn’t groundbreaking in anyway, and is a reminder the production talents of Jay Park’s friends can be a bit limiting (to some extent). It does feel familiar — but I still ended up liking it after two or three listens.

What I liked more was the music video, filmed in Jay Park’s hometown of Seattle. It’s a refreshing change of scene and literally “out of the box,” if you K-pop MV addicts know what I mean. There isn’t any choreographed dancing either, but no worries, we Jaywalkerz know he has moves in store for his next release 😉

“Joah” is a good listen none the less. Proof that Jay Park, despite his image of body tattoos and overall badass-ery, is just a sweet homeboy at heart. – 3.5/5

Jay Park Joah MV screencapThe other tracks on this EP include “Welcome” – a sexy bedroom track. Jay just seems to love making slow ballads like this, or it’s just his love for R&B contemporaries like Treyz Songz and the like. Finally we have “1HUNNIT” featuring frequent collaborator Dok2. This sounds like Snoog Dogg track I can’t seem put my finger on (or was it Busta Rhymes?).

Still, with four songs out already, I can’t wait to see what Jay Park has in store for the rest of the year. His contract with SidusHQ ends this year and he’s already stated his crew are filming several music videos for his upcoming album. This could also be Jay Park’s last Korean album for a while as he attempt to crack America next.

Rest assured, 2013 sounds like it could be an exciting year for us fans!

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