Jul 5, 2016

EXO Finally Lives Up To The Hype And I LOVE IT

Guys. Do you even have the slightest idea how long I've been waiting for this day? How long I've been looking forward to the day were I proudly say that I genuinely like an EXO comeback? The answer to that is since their freaking debut. It's been four years since "MAMA" and for the very first time EXO has come back with not only one but two title tracks that I actually like. "Like" isn't even a good enough word because what I feel towards this comeback is more related to love than anything. THANK YOU SM for stepping up your game and finally providing your money-making group with real quality material.

For this comeback SM decided to give EXO double title tracks for their comeback, which isn't a strange thing at all these days (I mean look at SNSD last year with three title tracks), and those songs are called "Lucky One" and "Monster". The first named was released a tiny bit earlier than the other, but I actually watched "Monster" first. As you know very well by now my relationship with EXO and their promotional songs isn't the best, and I wasn't really thinking that would change now after four years in the business, but I was very wrong this time. As I watched the MV for "Monster" and heard the song I kind of fell a teeny tiny bit in love with this group, or at least this comeback.

In a lot of ways the song reminds me of "Overdose", with a similar kind of instrumental and general vibe, and it has a similar chord progression as well. It definitely is a sound that I would immediately associate with this particular group, but in my opinion this song is about a thousand times better than their 2014 release. The title of the song fits quite well with the mood too as it has that kind of dark and mysterious atmosphere, and the lyrics are doing a good job of making the members of EXO out as actual monsters. I don't really mean this in a good way though because the lyrics are truly quite scary, but of course I wouldn't assume them to be literal but more metaphorical in their meaning (not that it makes the less creepy though, unfortunately). Nonetheless the song is a really great listen and I still feel the beat drop in every bit of my body when the chorus hits, and the powerful vocals of Chen and Baekhyun take over my headphones.

The video isn't too bad either, although it's certainly not SM's best work. It's also quite dark and scary, capturing the essence of the members as monsters, but there's no real effort at creating a unique and intriguing storyline. There are some parts and bits that hint at one but it's not explored as much as it could've been. The members are dressed up as "monsters"  (they come off more as gang members or criminals of some sort) and are seen both fighting the resisting forces and being captures until Baekhyun (in disguise) releases them at the end.

This is one of those SM videos where you can tell they kind of went half-way, with not quite sticking them in one or two boxes but not exactly letting their creative forces run wild either. I would say though that the choreography probably is equally important here if not more, and the dancing is really impressive as is the camera work the follows the members movements and formations. The styling is alright but not amazing, although I do kind of love Baekhyun's face jewelry and piercings.

"Lucky One" differs a lot from "Monster" just in terms of the song itself, as they sound quite different from each other and works with different styles and arrangements. To this day I still haven't made up my mind about which song I love more because each time I hear one I think I like it more until I listen the other one again. Yeah, I think you get the idea of how much I've enjoyed this comeback. "Lucky One" is a lot less intense and a lot more funky and light (especially compared to "Monster"'s heaviness and intensity), and there are some electronica influences mixed in which makes it more interesting as well. The instrumental itself is just amazing with the way the beat goes up and down, builds up and regresses, and the chord progression is fantastic here as well. Additionally I have to complement the vocals, because I don't think I've ever heard EXO sound this good (and this goes for both title tracks), but a lot of it is also thanks to the production of the tracks which holds such a high quality.

As for the MV this one is also very different from "Monster", with the main difference that this is all plot and no dancing. Video-wise I do prefer this one even though there's no choreography, but that's because it's probably the first EXO MV to have an actual storyline that's both original and complex. The theme of this video is closely related to EXO's debut concept (with the superpowers and all, you remember right?), but it looks like this one might be taking place before their very first video. It's possible it takes place afterwards as well, but the main premise is that the members have been locked up at some institution where they are tested on as objects of investigation.

They are seemingly expressionless, almost like dolls, and don't appear to be human at all at the video's beginning (the plastic-looking makeup adds to this too), which could be due to the tests their exposed to. Near the end of the video though they manage to break out and (re?)discover their powers, using them to defeat the female robo-guards that look after them. Well, they all use their powers except from Kai who instead dances for them, which stands out in not the best way since it doesn't really match the rest of the video (even EXO themselves have commented on this and are just as confused). However it is revealed that although they think they've escaped they're still trapped in the EXO-maze, watched over by the same droids that were in the institution. What is real and what is imagination? No one truly knows after watching this video.

This MV is by far one of EXO's most interesting videos as of this date, as it hosts an intriguing story that connects to their debut concept but doesn't feel cringey or dated but is rather a fresh new take on the "superpowers" idea. Although the lyrics of the song don't really match video the vibe of the song suits the mood of the video and the editing of the MV does match the dynamics of the track which is quite cool.

I've also given their album "Ex'Act" a listen since I liked the title tracks so much, and I actually didn't find it too bad either. Nothing will ever top "XOXO" in my opinion so literally any album they release will feel mediocre in comparison, but I do think I enjoyed this album more than I did with "Exodus". Well, the two albums aren't that far apart in terms of my liking of them but there are more individual songs on here that I like as well as two amazing title tracks, although "Exodus" had a much better cohesiveness and flow. This album does feel a bit all over the place with a lot of tracks in different styles, but there are some pretty decent songs on it. My personal favorites are (apart from "Monster" and "Lucky One") "Artificial Love", "Heaven" and "One And Only". Like I said no album will ever be as good as their first one, but this one is pretty decent too.

With this comeback EXO has definitely proven that they can live up their huge popularity with actually putting out good title tracks for once, and SM has stepped up their game big time with not only these releases but with all of their material for the last year or so. I do believe this has improved my opinion of this group by a lot and I'm finally not pressed about them killing the charts and winning on music shows because this time I feel like they actually deserve it with the two tracks they've released. You can't exactly call me an EXO stan yet, but you can definitely call me impressed.

Monster MV: 3,4/5
Lucky One MV: 4,15/5

Ex'Act: 3,7/5

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