Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: EXO-M's "XOXO [Hug]" (Repackage)

EXO-M – XOXO [Hug] (Repackage) (2013, South Korea/China)
Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Baby, Don't Cry, Black Pearl, Heart Attack, Growl

First, everyone who is tired of hearing about EXO, whether positive or negative, please do not leave your trolly little messages on this review. I don't care if you're sick of them getting attention or they don't deserve any sort of praise. Second, I am not reviewing the Kiss version of this album (a.k.a Korean version), so don't request it. Third, thanks for putting up for this late reviews. I truly appreciate it. I've been really looking forward to reviewing this album. Similar to G-Dragon's One of a Kind and Big Bang's ALIVE reviews, I'm going to be including videos with each appropriate song. Some may be the Korean version as some of the songs were used in their gajillion teasers. When you watch the [Korean] teasers, keep in mind that I might not have the same opinion about the sound while you're reading this review. So, let's jump into it!

"Wolf" is the first promotion track to EXO's first full length album. Some liked it and others hated it. I actually like this song. I don't remember my initial feelings toward it when I first watched the video, but I listened to this track quite often. I can admit that this song (and video) has its problems, but the pure enjoyability for me is not one of them. The beat is kinda heavy, in weight not in sound, and the pronunciation is laughable at times, but not too distracting. It's a very dubstep driven song with some pretty good vocal variations in it.

"Baby, Don't Cry" is a big shift from the booming dubstep sounds of "Wolf" and let's the vocals shine with some piano accompaniment. I really, really like this song. It's soft, beautiful, and has enough energy to keep my attention. The lyrics are sweet and simple and delivered in that same way with tons of heart poured into every long note. Surprisingly, the rap section doesn't sound out of place either. It has good transitions and everyone gets to shine.

Looking back at this teaser using "Black Pearl", there's way too much dubstep and it totally makes this song unappealing. Listening to this on the album is quite the opposite. It has a nice gradual build up from the subdued introduction and hints of violin during the verses, then the music bursts through for the chorus. I really like this song. It has a good balance of beauty and energy. The musical and vocal transitions are very smooth and the dubstep break isn't too harming to the ears. Maybe because they calmed it down some and put the rap part over it.

"Don't Go" is a song I hear too much, at least that pseudo-piano intro, from TV appearances. The song is pretty standard and sounds a little awkward after hearing partial artificial sounds of "Black Pearl". It's almost too natural. It's not a terrible song. It has good vocals and it is refreshing to hear some actual instruments, it's just a track I don't listen to that often.

"Let Out the Beast" is more processed music. It mixes some booming electronic elements with orchestral elements. It's interesting that they start off with the rappers of the group and they seemed to have more of part in this song while the quickly delivered vocals bridge the gap between the parts. At times, it feels like they're struggling to keep up with the vocal pacing set for this song.

"3.6.5" is an upbeat pop song. So far, it stands out a lot compared to the electronic mixtures, dubstep drives, and beautiful piano songs. It reminds me of a One Direction song, which isn't a compliment coming from me. It still has heart, but too cute for me.

"Heart Attack" is a surprising track that I couldn't help but repeat over and over again. It has a pretty simple hip-hopish beat. You would think the rap section would take over this, but it's mostly singing and it works pretty well. The chorus is moderately catchy and the overall transitions, musically and vocally, are smooth.

"Peter Pan" is a simple, slow pop song that doesn't quite fit with everything else like "3.6.5". It just seems too...basic. It does kinda have this whimsical feeling around the chorus, but something doesn't quite stick for me.

"Baby" slows things down with this vintage 80s R&B leftovers. There are random keyboard drum beats and sound effects litter the background. The vocals are pretty strong, but this song is kinda bland and the chorus is cringe-worthy generic.

I remember hearing "My Lady" in one of the various teasers and it sounded pretty cool. It was one the teaser tracks I was kinda looking forward to hearing completely. It starts off minimalistic with a nice guitar melody, rhythmic snapping, and strong vocals echoing, then a stronger beat kicks in for the remainder of the chorus and verses. It just went downhill from there for me. The beat began to drone a bit and I didn't enjoy the vocal arrangement.

"Growl" brought on a repackaged version of XOXO and also more discussions of whether it was good or not, similar to "Wolf". Well, I liked this song slightly more than "Wolf" and on somedays I like it about the same. Aside from the creative film style of one of the videos, it has a simple R&Bish, pop sound to it. It's one of those beats you can't resist. The transitions are nice from the upbeat parts to the more softer sections to highlight the vocal section. It sounded like a better group bonding effort compared to "Wolf".

"XOXO" is another addition to this repackaged version was kinda unnecessary. It's not that exciting. It has a standard beat with pounding bass and a sprinkle of piano during the verses. The rap sections are a little lazy and the singing has this sweet sound to it. It's not bad,, I don't like.

"Lucky" is the last addition to the repackaged album. It's a more upbeat sound than "XOXO". It's a fun track and the vocals reflect that in this electro-pop tune. It could easily be a fun little summer song. Despite the exciting, happy tone to this song, it doesn't create any sort of spark for me. It's not a bad song. I can easily see a lot of fans enjoying this, especially live.

Despite my lack of description for some of these tracks, I enjoyed this album and it had some really good songs. When they're good, they're really good and addictive, but when they're bad, it's usually painfully boring or generic. Nonetheless, I think this was a good start for a first full length album, which I was surprised that they hopped on so quickly. I hope their next release is a little more solid and shows more growth, variety, and cohesiveness.

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