SM Entertainment‘s 12 member group EXO finally released their debut full-length album early this year. Was it worth the wait? Here is our review, which is based on the repackaged edition.
Growl This song talks about a wolf and a human girl who fancy each other. Like any star-crossed love story, he tells her not to get too close because it’s dangerous but somehow he becomes fiercely protective from other wolves who are checking her out and threatens to kill them if they go near her. After repeatedly watching the two different music videos and the two dance practice videos for this track, the “Na eureureong eureureong eureureong dae” chorus stayed in my head for a long time. Growl is very catchy when you don’t want it to be.
Wolf The wolf is aggressively fighting his feelings of love for his intended prey. Other wolves are telling him to just kill her, get it over with and eat her quickly (the translations for the first verse say “put you in my mouth like cheese” which honestly threw me off when I first read it. The Chinese translations are something else). When I first heard this song I was baffled because I wasn’t sure if I could take the “Awoooo, ah Sarangheyo” part seriously enough but it grew on me over time. The dancing in the MV blew me away and the main singing in the chorus always made me throw my fist in the air.
XOXO (Kisses + Hugs) Secret feelings of love from a guy’s perspective. He thinks about trying to write a love letter to the girl he fancies. An X is kiss for a soft kiss. An O is for a circled hug It’s a very sweet song. The guy likes the girl’s smile and thinks she’s comfortable when she’s talking to him but he’s unsure of her feelings towards him and often daydreams he’s XOXO’ing her.
Lucky A lucky kind of love where a couple have much in common. The translations for the first verse certainly made me assume it was aiming for the Korean fans but it’s possible the song meant same language as in love. Who doesn’t wish for a lucky kind of love in their relationship where it’s easy to talk to their significant other about anything or everything?
Baby Don’t Cry This very sad ballad is loosely based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and the Chinese version of this song happens to be called Mermaid’s Tears. The mermaid has to kill the prince in order to become a mermaid again but can’t bring herself to stab him with her dagger. In this song the prince tells the mermaid it’s okay for her to kill him because he doesn’t want to see her dissolve into foam. I like how there is a smooth blend of soft rap and good vocal range in this track.
Black Pearl This song feels very surreal and it reflects the out of this world admiration from a man towards a woman who he calls the Black Pearl. I can picture the man as he fights to reach his goddess through a stormy night across the sea.
Don’t Go So we’ve had a wolf theme and now we’re moving to a ‘butterfly’ girl. Another touching track. The guy has fallen in love with a girl who has taken his breath away and has a soft, graceful beauty that reminds him of a butterfly.
Let Out the Beast This would work so well in a club or a concert (and given the fact the song talks about unleashing the inner beast, it would definitely fit supernatural tv series if anyone wanted to make use of it to film a live music scene with supernatural characters partying away). Some of the lyrics describe the setting rather nicely Did you bring your tickets, here, here, wait in line. Don’t worry, just sit here comfortably or When the lighting illuminates me, all the people looking at me fall for me. When the lighting illuminates me. Don’t miss any of my gazes. On a serious note, this track could easily let your mind wander in a club and you get pulled in by the music, letting go / letting out the beast as you dance.
3.6.5 Light-hearted song talking about a couple and the boyfriend is reassuring his girlfriend he’ll help her with her worries. The numbers 3, 6 and 5 play an interesting part in this scenario. Do something three times then it might extend to six times. There’s a fun line in the song where the guy says you should laugh three times, listen to a song six times and if you manage five hours of sleep that’s fine.
Heart Attack Is the guy dreaming about a pretty girl who is soaked in white light? He can’t tell if this is his fantasy or if it’s real, especially in this quiet environment. He’s close to getting a literal heart attack at this rate.
Peter Pan A guy reads through his diary and is reminded of a girl he liked in the past who he describes as his Tinkerbell, bottled in his little fairytale. He thinks of himself as Peter Pan – a mischievous rascal and reads through his memories of “Neverland”, hoping he’ll find her again soon and that this isn’t the end to a sad story. This is an uplifting song about finding lost love.
Baby The guy is nervous because he’s just started a new relationship. He’s so excited that is his heart is beating fast. He hopes this potential girlfriend will only love him back.
My Lady I somehow think this is a slight follow-up to the previous track Baby but has a more mature edge and thanks to a very simple guitar and drum beat alongside finger clicks, the song creates an intimate feeling. Right after a confession, the guy wants to be more than just a friend to the girl. He wants to keep her close to him so he can lose himself in her beauty.
On the normal edition of XOXO, you will get a subgroup version of Wolf. With the repackaged album the last track on the album is a subgroup version of Growl. Depending by which version you want, the Kiss edition has all the Korean songs whilst Hug is the Chinese one. It’s interesting to see how the sub groups independently take on these songs as you can compare how the vocal range differs between them and when they’re singing as a group of twelve.
UK Potential: 3.5/5 Non-English songs may make UK music listeners lose their patience, as would certain concept themes that might be deemed corny. However a song like Let Out The Beast would be good to play in a disco so British clubbers could enjoy that. Lady may appeal to people who like slow, jazz music playing in a small bar or cafe. 3.6.5 is a happy song that could get young music fans jumping up and Peter Pan is the type of song that gives anyone hope. The Peter Pan references could possibly keep the listener interested. Growl could be a hit or miss for a single. Perhaps the choreography will grab people’s attention.
Overall: If there was one thing that stood out to me while listening to this album it was how there were different stories going on that didn’t sound simply lovey-dovey. Yes the romance theme is evident in all the tracks but it was the way it was presented in the songs. Aside from the happy-go-lucky and fluffy side there were supernatural romance situations with borderline UST, love that dabbled with the fairytale theme and even a subtle approach to intimacy. The two versions of EXO‘s album really showcase everyone’s vocal talent. It benefits both the Korean and Chinese members because apart from sing in their native tongue they also challenge themselves by singing the same songs in another language.