[Album Review] 1 Billion Views (1st Studio Album) – EXO-SC

Today’s album review focuses on EXO-SC’s latest album release, 1 Billion Views. It has been a while since I promised this album review for a reader of this blog. The long delay was mainly because I wanted to write reviews for each of their duo’s solo tracks that are featured on this album (as they had music videos). I just kept on running out of time to write them and ended up delaying them until earlier today. Please accept my apologies for the long wait! And before I delay it any further, here is my review for the 1 Billion Views album, which features the title track of the same name.

1 Billion Views Album Cover

1. 1 Billion Views (10억뷰) (ft. Moon) (Title Track)Click here for the full review of 1 Billion Views. (7/10)

2. Say It (ft. Penomeco) – There are two main appealing elements in Say It. Unfortunately, neither of those two elements are actually EXO-SC. They are good in this melodic hip-hop track, but I just don’t have much to say about them. The first element that I enjoyed was the instrumental. It is quite laid back and has a lazy vibe to it (a compliment). Interestingly, it is also quite upbeat. Say It manages to find a well-balanced middle ground between having an active consistent beat and that lazy carefree vibe. The second element is actually Penomeco’s featuring. He comes into the track during the song’s chorus and helps smooth out the song quite nicely. I also like his voice and how it compliments that lazy vibe that I mentioned (also another compliment). But as this is an EXO-SC track, I am left wanting more from the main pair. (6/10)

3. Rodeo Station (로데오역)Rodeo Station jumps right out at me with its guitar melody that kicks off the song. The rest of the instrumental builds on this, bringing in some brass and bass to give the song that oomph that I am always looking for in upbeat tracks. The song is more vocal centric, with both Chanyeol and Sehun focusing more on vocals for the most part in Rodeo Station. Both members sound pretty nice in this song. It also helps when the melodies is actually quite catchy and fun to listen to. There is a bit of rapping towards the end of the song and they do give the song a bit of a punch. Overall, I found the track to be quite likeable and each element in the song was appealing. (9/10)

4. Telephone (척) (ft. 10cm) (Pre-Release Track) Click here to read the full review for Telephone. (4/10)

5. Jet Lag (시차적응) Jet Lag is a sentimental R&B track, which is all about wanting to return to their lover in their home country whilst they are overseas. The song is brought to life with pleasant acoustic guitar melodies, which I quite like. My only major complaint with this is that both Chanyeol and Sehun’s vocals seem to overpower the instrumentation at times and I would have preferred a finer balance between vocals and instrumental. However, the duo’s execution of vocals in this song is nice and enjoyable. Their harmonies throughout and the melodies are quite appealing in this song. It is a bit slow paced for my liking, but there is enough in this song to put it on the superior end of tracks. (9/10)

6. Fly Away (날개) (ft. Gaeko) – We get into even moodier territory with Fly Away. I really liked the instrumental for this song. It seems to delve into the R&B realm, featuring classical instrumental in addition to drums and R&B centric percussion. It is a stunning backing piece. Chanyeol and Sehun return to their status as EXO’s rappers by rapping throughout the song. It is a nice change up to their vocal-focus approach with their songs on the album thus far. Gaeko (one half of Dynamic Duo) actually does most of the singing in this song and his voice helps smooth out the intensity that the main pair add to the song. I quite like this contrast and this makes it a powerful track. Given its position, I would put this down as EXO-SC’s hidden gem. (10/10)

7. Nothin’ (Chanyeol Solo)Click here to read the full review for Nothin’. (8/10)

8. On Me (Sehun Solo)Click here to read the full review for On Me. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.6/10

1 Billion Views Teaser Image

[Review] On Me – Sehun (EXO)

In preparation for the album review later today, I will be reviewing both Chanyeol and Sehyun’s indvidual tracks that appeared alongside their 1 Billion Views and Telephone releases last month. I had promised these two reviews for some time now, but I just kept on running out of time to post them. But as I always repeat on this blog, it is always better late than never. As you can tell by the title, this particular review post will be focusing on Sehun’s On Me.

Unlike Chanyeol, Sehun has yet to release a solo track in the 9 years since his debut. So On Me is a great gift to all the Sehun fans out there. The song finds itself in hip-hop domain, settling with a trap-based instrumental. Not really a ground-breaking combination or instrumental by today’s standard. But it had good ryhthm and energy that makes the song very appealing. A great thing about solo tracks that I am sure that all of you are aware of is that we get to hear the artist in all their glory. For Sehun, in On Me, we get to hear a lot of his husky rapping voice. It was harsh (a compliment) and added amazing texture to the already rough texture we got from the instrumental. We also got to hear Sehun sing briefly during the chorus. It adds a layer of smoothness to the song. Intererstingly, I liked how his rapping and vocals remained low throughout the song. It is his best sound and he really captialised on this. I also liked how the hooks of Sehun’s solo track (the ‘Forever Love Sad Happy‘ and ‘Work Work Work‘) were all emphasised versions of the huskiness and low tone. This added some depth to the song that I wasn’t sure we would be getting from Sehun. Overall, On Me really puts Sehun’s best foot forward.

On Me‘s music video only goes for a certain length and doesn’t capture the entire song. But as it is still considered a music video, it enables the release to earn a review on this blog. The music video is choreography based and focuses on Sehun’s performance skills. Can’t argue with that, given that we haven’t see Sehun have an opportunity to officially show off his dancing skills in a solo release. His performance really intensifies the song, which is fantastic. I also like the various camera angles and transitions employed, which adds to that intensity. Best part of his music video is when he is moving forward to the front of the dancers with one hand holding a hat on his head. That parts needs to be made iconic and should be appreciated more!

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Review] Nothin’ – Chanyeol (EXO)

Excuse me while I divert our attention to releases from a while back now. In preparation for an album review later today, I will be reviewing both Chanyeol and Sehyun’s indvidual tracks that appeared alongside their 1 Billion Views and Telephone releases last month. I had promised these two reviews for some time now, but I just kept on running out of time to post them. But as I always repeat on this blog, it is always better late than never. As you can tell by the title, this particular review post will be focusing on Chanyeol’s Nothin’.

Despite having a number of solo tracks already, Chanyeol manages to show off a different side to his rapping skills through the easygoing yet subtly intense Nothin’. The song starts off with the catchy vocal hook of ‘I will never worry about nothin’‘. I am not a fan of autotune usually, but his autotuned vocals added some texture to the song. The verses come into play and we hear Chanyeol slow rap along to slow trap instrumentation that the song is backed with. There are some guitar that is present in combination with the trap instrumental. Together, these two elements pretty much make Nothin’ sound like straightforward R&B. Unfortuately, the instrumental is repetitive and plain. It is disappointing to an extent, but I also find that this acts as a blank canvas for Chanyeol’s rapping, which is what gives the song some variety and appeal. We do get some profound electric guitar riffs at the very end, which was nice and much appreciated. As the song felt relatively short, the placement of this additional instrument actually felt appropriate. I couldn’t imagine what the song would have been like if this explicit electric guitar was brought into play earlier. Going back to his rapping, you could feel the emotion in his voice as the song progresses. It is subtle, but definitely present. It is also quite captivating. Overall, I quite like the song. It fits the chill nature of the album and direction of the subunit. Yet it manages to add a bit of Chanyeol flair to the song.

The music video is noticeably shorter than the actual song itself. But as there is still a music video, it earns itself a review. The song itself is about not worrying what people are saying and to stick to being yourself. And I thought that the path to the song’s meaning was well shown in the music video. The music video depicts Chanyeol as a photographer. His pictures seem to represent the thoughts and comments of others. After he develops them, he puts them on this wall, which acts like his thought bank. In this life, it is rather monotone and repetitive. We see Chanyeol clearly wants change. Once we see him certain of this, he rips a picture off the wall, revealing a bright light. It is uncomfortable, which is the harsh reality. But he gets used to it and runs away from the underground studio setting. He slowly gets used to it and this becomes a stroll, as shown at the start of the video. Moving away from my interpretation, I liked how the atmosphere we get from the video really suits the moody nature of the song.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] 1 Billion Views – EXO-SC ft. MOON

Finally making their official comeback today is EXO-SC with 1 Billion Views. This new track is part of the EXO unit’s first studio length album, which also shares the same name as the song. The release of the music video and album today comes after EXO-SC teased us with the pre-release single, Telephone. Both Chanyeol and Sehun also had solo music videos (Nothin‘ and On Me, respectively) at the end of the week. I have yet to review them and hope to get to them soon. But we are hear to listen to 1 Billion Views, so let’s get to that first.

Right from the very start, I can already say that 1 Billion Views fairs better than EXO-SC’s pre-release Telephone. Though, it still does suffer some of the issues I had previously noted in the Telephone interview. Let’s start on the positive that 1 Billion Views had. The chill R&B instrumental had a more of a beat to it, which was quite nice. With this kick in the instrumental, the song is more likable. I would gladly listen to the song given that there is more colour to the song. Their vocal work, in this instance, was quite good. The chorus featured really smooth melodies and I really liked how the vocals and rap segue-way into each other. Their harmonies during the verses was definitely one of the stronger moments of the song. I also enjoyed Moon’s featuring towards the end of the song, as her vocals do compliment the style that EXO-SC went for. However, as mentioned at the start, there are some issues that EXO-SC just haven’t fixed up. First, the song suffers from that ‘more’ concept (i.e. I wanted more). I think we all know of the potential that Chanyeol and Sehun have. 1 Billion Views (nor any of their unit releases so far) just doesn’t seem to capitalise on this, which results in the song coming off dull-ish. Even though I praise the instrumental earlier, I also wanted more from this element. I wanted it to be rougher and a lot meaner, that way the song could get to that style that I wished for the duo to go with. I get it that EXO-SC’s style is more chilled than your average Korean release, but I find that this song also lacks character. Thirdly, I find the song to lack memorable hooks and lines. They were heading in the right direction, just it didn’t feel like there was enough. The lack of character and hooks in 1 Billion Views do contribute to a dullness. But it isn’t as bad as previous tracks, given the instrumental and its more positive aspects that I mentioned above.

The music video is set at an arcade that would be best described as a hole in the wall. It also incorporates a few modern elements including virtual reality and Instagram live broadcasts. I also noticed that there were a few viral trends hinted throughout the video, such as the In My Feelings trend. All of these elements seemed to make sense, as the duo sings and raps about thinking of their lover for the billionth time. It was a nice video to watch overall. I found the editing to be suitable for the song, smooth and sleek. No choppiness, which I am thankful for. I also note that some of the post-production effects that were added to the video should have made the video feel choppy (such as the coloured static in the background). But it ended up being quite smooth, overall.

What we saw in the music video choreography-wise seems to be quite good. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of the choreography (i.e. the verses), so I am intrigued to know what the duo have up their sleeves. But if the chorus of the music video was to be the basis of my thought, I think this will be a pleasant routine suitable for the music.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] Telephone – EXO-SC ft. 10CM

The second SM Entertainment release came unexpected last night. EXO-SC has been confirmed to making a comeback and will be releasing an album on the 13th of July (that’s just under a week!). And while fans are preparing for that release, EXO-SC released a pre-release track that no one saw coming titled Telephone, which features 10CM. This is the unit’s first comeback since their debut with What A Life last year (another review which I haven’t gone back to update once the live performance came out).

What A Life came off as dull and lackluster. That is essentially all I remember about their debut song. And it is looking like Telephone is shaping to be the exact same. It delves back into the hip-hop genre, with the duo going with a rap-sing delivery of the lyrics. More specifically, Telephone delves into the chilled side of hip-hop, with the entire track going with a laid-back vibe, similar to their debut track. Though, I felt the song might have gone many steps too far into the chilled spectrum, that both Chanyeol and Sehun’s vocals were pretty expressionless and this really dulled out the song. Same comment can be made with the instrumental. It is pretty much straightforward, with the repetitive and simple tapping of a piano key. Not really the most exciting piece of music. It was pretty much empty and sparse of sounds, besides some phone sounds and the duo echoing the lyrics and providing some ‘few words’ in the background. And even they didn’t do a good job of filling up the song. The most exciting bit of the song is when 10CM joins in, providing smooth vocals and this leads to Chanyeol and Sehun doing a little more with their own vocals to close off the song. But by then, I had already tuned out and became distracted. It sucks that I have to echo the disappointment I gave in their debut review, but that is the reality. Hopefully on Monday, the pair will give us something a little more exciting to breakdown.

I felt that the music video had a lot more substance than the song. The lyrics is all about their reservation to the phone, which everyone (including their crush and themselves) to communicate to other people. Chanyeol and Sehun are trying to get their crush’s attention. When they are together, their crush to too busy looking at their own phone. When they are not and Chanyeol/Sehun are trying to communicate with them, they blame their phone and use phone-related excuses for not being able to answer (i.e. the phone was charging, I was driving so I couldn’t pick my phone etc.). This leads to Chanyeol and Sehun entering the phone and destroying the attention stealing stuff on the phone, leading their crush to have nothing to do, other than message the two guys back. At least that is my take on the lyrics and the visuals from the music video. I also think there is some sort of hidden message at the start of the video, that we would be too busy doing one thing (i.e. reading the messages that popped up on the screen) to notice some of the stuff the pair were doing, such as applying wood filler to a toothbrush, overfilling a bowl, wearing odd socks and oversalting food.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 5.6/10

[Album Review] What A Life (1st Mini Album) – EXO-SC

While it does seem like I was very unimpressed with some title tracks, the title track ends up being on small factor when it comes to deciding which albums to review. Instead, I do a quick listen through the album to hear what it has to offer. If I am satisfied there is enough to write about, I put it on the list. This is the case for EXO-SC’s album. The title track (What A Life) wasn’t to my standard. But a number of the tracks on the album were. And hence, we find ourselves here today to have a run through the album, which shares the same name as the title track. Let’s see if you agree with my thoughts!

exo-sc-whatalife-2
What A Life Album Cover

1..What A Life (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of What A Life. (4/10)

2. Just Us 2 (있어 희미하게) (ft. Gaeko from Dynamic Duo) – With the addition of Gaeko in this track, there is no doubt that EXO-SC would continue their hip-hop venture with Just Us 2. And I think the hip-hop genre was heard loudly and clearly in this track, which I think is fantastic. I am still not exactly sure about Chanyeol and Sehun’s approach with their rapping. It just isn’t exciting for me. Though, they do manage to mellow out the song. My favourite bit is Gaeko’s chorus. His voice just seems to extend beyond the primary duo and I really like the twisty accent that he finishes with his lines. There is a lot more colour in the chorus, which I really like. And surprisingly, this colour speaks volumes, as I think this is my favourite track (with a music video) from this album from EXO-SC. (8/10)

3. Closer To You (부르면 돼)Click here to read the full review for Closer To You. (6/10)

4. Roller Coaster (롤러코스터) – Something I suspect is coming true. I am starting to like the tracks that aren’t getting the spotlight. Roller Coaster is a ‘return-to-form’, for me (at least the hip-hop that I know of when it comes to KPOP). I find their delivery a little more captivating. The instrumental, which is does feature that common xylophone synth sound, is a little more dynamic as well. The best part has to the flute-featuring chorus. The ‘Express Yourself’ shout was very subtle yet very memorable. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people found it plain. But I actually thought the song was very really cool. (9/10)

5. Borderline (선) – It is a short one. The delivery of the lines is a little plain, like their primary title track. Yet there is an intriguing factor to the song that manages to ‘save’ the song from plainness. The instrumental is very minimal. Yet I would consider this to be an upbeat song due to the fast tempo from the tapping in the song. There is a little more to the instrumental with the brief pauses and the periodic wail-like sounds (which was okay but fairly plain). But other than that, thanks to the instrumental, the song manages to speak volumes. (7/10)

6. Daydreamin’ (夢) – I guess to make up for the short preceding song, Daydreamin’ is extended to be a little longer. I like the guitars in the R&B styled instrumental. It gives off a nice atmosphere. There is a bit more to the instrumental as there are many sections, such as the classically styled ending. But they all come together quite nicely. I also like the member’s voices in this song. There are very different textures thanks to the use of autotune, which all assisted the song in becoming very soothing and calming. In summary, one of the better songs of the album. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7/10

exo-sc-whatalife-3
What A Life Teaser Image

[Review] Closer To You – EXO-SC

When EXO-SC launched their debut with What A Life, I did not know that there were multiple title tracks for their debut. I did tweet about it once I found out (Follow my Twitter @kpopreviewed). But I haven’t been able to sit down and review these tracks until today. In conjunction with What A Life, EXO-SC also released Closer To You and Just Us 2 (which I will not be reviewing separately. You can read my thoughts on the song in tomorrow’s album review!).

To me, Closer To You follows What A Life with its ‘uneventful instrumental’. So, the song already starts off as pretty forgettable, which might not be the opinion you are seeking, especially how I labelled What A Life with the exact same description. But there are differences that make Closer To You stand out a little more. The rapping and vocals from both Sehun and Chanyeol do give off a good impression. To me, there is a little more expression in the way they deliver their lines throughout the song, giving a slight appeal.  There is a little more oomph to it, which makes it even more appealing. It does stay stagnant for the most part (i.e. neutral gear). But it felt better than their primary track. Once again, the hook wasn’t as strong. But I felt the melody did have a nice ring to it. I think the song could have been even more appealing if the two went an extra mile in any department within the song. If I had to prefer one track over the other, it is definite that Closer To You comes out on top.

I thought the music video for this track was a lot more interesting. Both Chanyeol and Sehun are completely separated throughout the video, minus the very small outro at the end. So the alternating concept was actually quite cool. The song is about wanting to get closer to their crush, going lengths to call a driver so that they can be together in the back seat. And naturally, the video shows both members in the car (both back and front), along with them at the dinner table outside in the dark. The darkness makes the video slightly aesthetic, which I think helps ‘bold’ the members in the video (despite them wearing black and white, which does blend them into the background).

Song – 6/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 6.8/10

[Review] What A Life – EXO-SC

I really hate to be a broken record with the way I start off these reviews. But we have seen a lot of EXO lately. Just not as a group. Instead, EXO has been promoting continuously as stand-alone members, making their solo debuts and releasing special singles before enlisting into the military. However, today we enter very exciting territory, with the debut of a brand new subunit from the group. Consisting of Chanyeol and Sehun, EXO-SC makes their debut with What A Life. The pair have previously come together for the SM Station release, We Young, back in 2018.

What A Life delves into the hip-hop genre, the genre which heavily uses rapping in its songs. It is a pretty laidback and loose track, whilst other hip-hop tracks tend to be more hard-hitting and heavy. So I guess there is some potential in the track. But that potential isn’t referenced in any other part of the track. The instrumental is probably one of the most uneventful ones I have ever heard in KPOP. They just used the same synthetic xylophone synth thing over and over again. It just got really dry quickly. The rapping and vocals felt quite monotone. I had expected there to be some sort of change-up or development. But as the instrumental kept on going, the vocals and rapping just didn’t deviate from that tone. The song also didn’t have much of a hook. The main repetition of What A Life during the chorus was lacklustre. Put all of these elements together and you get the What A Life package. Maybe the song will grow on me if I was to remain hopeful. But as I continuously replay the song to write this review, I am growing more tired of it.

I am personally going to say the exact same thing regarding the music video. It is also a very dry video. It looked like a few things were thrown together to make what seems to be a ‘potential hip-hop music video’. Just the way these things were utilised in the video looked very dreary and uneventful. The models throughout the video don’t add to the video’s content. The sets just acted like backdrops chosen randomly. I also didn’t feel the hazy camera filter they had on, which made very look gloomy.

I can’t find a proper live performance for the comeback yet (i.e. showcase). However, EXO-SC did perform the track at the recent EXO concert (over the weekend). Not much dancing from the duo, who focused on the live aspect of the performance. Fair enough. In the music video, there seemed to be a little more choreography, which I think looked good. So I guess we have to see what the music shows will look like.

Song – 4/10
Music Video – 5/10
Performance – 5/10 [Will comeback to update. I promise!!]
Overall Rating – 4.5/10