When SM announced that a full-length EXO-SC album was in the works, I was thrilled for new laid-back tracks from the kings of chilled-out, summery tunes – and, when the album was released, I wasn’t disappointed.
Released just under a year after ‘What a Life’, ‘1 Billion Views’ is packed with the same feel good vibes that their debut mini album showcased. It’s not the sort of sound you’d be expecting from an EXO sub-unit as EXO’s comebacks have very dark concepts, but EXO-SC pull it off brilliantly.
SM teased fans by releasing a song from the album called ‘Telephone (ft. 10cm)’ along with a fully-fledged music video days before the album came out. The song is reminiscent of the piano-driven tunes that are key to EXO-SC’s previous music, with songs ‘Just us 2 (ft. Gaeko)’ and their STATION X 0 song ‘We Young’ championing this style.
For ‘Telephone’, however, the positive vibe that the staccato piano emanates directly contrasts to the angst trendat that’s expressed in the lyrics which are about the singer being romantically involved with someone who is obsessed with their mobile phone.
This album plays to EXO-SC’s strengths; though Chanyeol is known for being a talented singer, rapper and musician, it is no secret that Sehun struggles with the singing side of things so the producers have created music that allows for rap-singing and autotune to be used to showcase the best that EXO-SC has to offer. They’ve also utilised featuring artists on many of the songs to add some more diversity and musicality, including ‘Telephone’ which features Korean folk artist 10cm who is no stranger to working with SM and EXO as he previously released a single with EXO’s Chen called ‘Bye Babe’.
The title track ‘1 Billion Views (ft. MOON)’ was released on July 13th along with the full album. ‘1 Billion Views’ is a bass-and-guitar-driven song with 80’s synths and a beat that you can’t help but nod your head to. It’s a different hayamix sound for EXO-SC but is still in-keeping with the summery atmosphere that the group generate. The song’s 80’s vibes perfectly match the music video which is packed full of neon lights, bright colours and a retro-yet-futuristic theme.
Besides highlighting Sehun and Chanyeol’s rap skills, the album also showcases their writing skills as at least one member participated in writing every single song on the album.
If you close your eyes while listening to the second song on the album ‘Say It (ft. PENOMECO)’ then you can just about imagine yourself on a beach in a baking hot foreign country (which is basically what we all want to imagine while we’re stuck at home because of COVID-19). The minimalistic instrumentation which is dominated by rhythmic and tropical-sounding percussion is the epitome of chilled-out and kind of sounds garida like elevator music.
‘Rodeo Station’ flips the switch again with another guitar-focussed melody that gradually builds by incorporating brass and hip-hop elements. The song reminds me vividly of late-90s and early-2000s rock and hip-hop combinations like Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’.
For EXO-L’s who adore EXO’s ‘She’s Dreaming’, EXO-SC’s ‘Jet Lag’ is the song for you. ‘Jet Lag’s melodic guitar, subtle harmonies and sentimental lyrics about missing someone while you’re away illicit the same melancholic emotions that the song from EXO’s ‘LOTTO’ album does.
Once again EXO-SC worked with their close friend Gaeko on this album who has assisted in writing almost all of the songs on both ‘1 Billion Views’ and their mini album. The beginning of this song contains the most experimental moment on this album as they use a voice as instrumentation. However, as the song progresses, it loses the experimentation and becomes a more generic rap-oriented R&B song.
The album ends with solo songs from Chanyeol and Sehun which were teased with music videos before the album release. SM don’t often utilise solo songs on albums as they prefer to release entire solo albums for the group’s members. But, because neither Sehun nor Chanyeol have been able to show off their talents during a solo debut yet, it was refreshing to see them do this on the EXO-SC album.
Chanyeol’s solo ‘Nothin’’ was a fan favourite immediately and it ranked #1 Most Viewed SM Male Music Video for the day on YouTube by garnering 647,752 new views on 18th July. The slow rap song also boasts the catchy lyrics “I don’t ever worry about nothin’” which is a motivational quote that I’m sure EXO-L’s will be writing in journals and getting tattooed on their body across the world.
Sehun’s solo ‘On Me’ is reminiscent of his solo stage ‘Go’ during EXO’s The EℓyXiOn tour. With a more clubby, trap sound ‘On Me’ gives Sehun the opportunity to showcase his dance skills which haven’t been at the forefront of the rest of the album.
Overall, this album cements EXO-SC as an artist that creates the perfect album to listen to while you’re driving around on a warm summer day. ‘1 Billion Views’ lacks variety as a full-length album with all of the songs being of similar tempo and giving off the same vibes, but it is completely fitting with EXO-SC’s image and it presents the best of what Sehun and Chanyeol have to offer in this genre.