After a two month wait for EXO-Ls (EXO fans), EXO is back again with a re-release of their second studio album, “Exodus.” Titled “Love Me Right,” the repackaged version was released on June 3rd and features four new songs, including the title track of the same name. Unlike the original version, which highlighted the voices of the revamped 10-member group, the repackaged edition only presented us with nine separate voices due to Chinese member Tao’s sudden hiatus from the group.
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Despite this setback, the South Korean-Chinese boy band proved that it was still able to dominate the charts when both the Korean and Chinese versions of the lead single “Love Me Right” stole first and second place respectively on Gaon’s Album Charts for the week of May 31st through June 6th. Of course, this comes as no real surprise since EXO is known to have a large and dedicated fan base capable of great influence, which, then, still begs the question… did the repackaged album live up to the anticipation?
Lucky for the boys, it did.
”Love Me Right”
The album opens up with its title song, “Love Me Right,” a track that makes use of a number of animated horns, pulsating bass lines, and rising synths that ultimately lead up to the hook. It is actually a nice follow-up to their last single, “Call Me Baby,” which also centers on a throbbing bass sound accentuated by the occasional bursts of brass.
Just as how main vocalist Baekhyun tells us to “take [our] time,” the song starts off slow, progressing as it makes its way through the two part rap separated by a bell-like noise I can only describe as that of a default ringtone. I suppose the one upside to the increasing member turnover rate is that members with little vocal presence, such as Sehun, are finally given more parts. Here, he can finally shine with his raps without being assigned to spelling out “E-X-O” duty. So far the song is nothing too impressive – until we are hit with a howl.
The mood instantly changes and we are thrown into a fun dance number. It is definitely a lively departure from their more electronic and hip-hop sound that we are used to, which is probably why it can easily be mistaken for another group’s song, namely their senior group SHINee. Not that that is considered a bad thing, as SHINee has always impressed listeners with their unique sound. It might take a couple of listens, but the chorus grows on you. The second verse does a better job with build-up by implementing the aforementioned synths, and after watching the live performances it will be difficult not to associate the claps following the bridge with the thigh slaps of the cute choreography.
The theme of the song is all about the rush one feels when in love, laden with many galactic references of wanting to escape to an ethereal universe with the significant other. Such a chimerical message is conveyed through the upbeat nature of the song and the “Alice in Wonderland” Easter eggs hidden in the music video. EXO does not have any summer songs in their repertoire but perhaps this could very well be it.
Following “Love Me Right” is the groovy retro track “Tender Love,” with lyrics from Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko. And like any groovy retro track, this one features smooth piano melodies and blaring trumpets to accompany the just as tender voices of the members. The song starts off with a buoyant a-skip-in-your-step feel as the members sing about the gentlemanly things they would do for the girl they like. Then, come pre-chorus, the beat slows down as reality sets in and listeners learn that the girl is not a girlfriend, but nothing more than a close friend. The entire chorus is a repetition of the words “tender love,” what the members want to give to the friend if only she were theirs. The meaning behind those two simple words could be felt by the passion behind their collective voices.
The instrumentals and musical arrangement work well here to tell the story of a man who tries to muster up the courage to confess his feelings, a position most of us can relate to. Not to mention the little exchanges of the various “characters” in the background add to a more engaging song. I can’t help but think that if the King of Pop Michael Jackson himself were to ever dabble in K-pop, the end result would sound something similar to this. Up until now, EXO has not delved into the retro-pop genre, which shows that they are constantly experimenting with their sound. “Tender Love” has all the fun and funk a fan could ask for; all that is missing is a dance practice video to go along with.
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As some fans might already know, “First Love” actually first made its debut not through the repackaged album, but through Youtube prior to the release of their second studio album. This was done in order to give EXO-Ls a sneak peek into what was to come and as a present for all the support and patience fans had given to the group. Unfortunately, it was only up for 10 hours on SM Entertainment’s official channel before it was made private, leaving many fans wondering if they would ever re-release it or if they were going to pull an “El Dorado” on us again (the song, along with “Beautiful,” was originally previewed in EXO’s debut teasers back in 2012 but did not make its official release until 2015). So when I discovered that the song was on the “Love Me Right” track list, I was beyond ecstatic.
The song starts with and maintains a steady mid-tempo piano melody, which also complements the pep that each member brings vocally to the table. It’s a track about the dream-like experience of a first love, so certainly the song is going to be a light-hearted one that is easy on the ears. Even the raps from members Sehun and Chanyeol are bit calmer than usual. And though the melody is a fairly simple one, it is still very addictive. Repetition is key, and it is everywhere here.
You came to me and bloomed (a pretty single stemmed rose)
You are my light (my light that shines in my heart)
A secret that no one knows (a secret only we want to keep)
The most dazzling picture (my picture, such a beautiful picture, love)
From the piano, which employs the same couple of keys throughout the whole track, to the backup vocals, which echo back to previous lyrics, “First Love” is sure to entice listeners with the sugar sweet individual voices of the nine members. I know it’s a personal favorite of mine!
“Promise (EXO 2014)”
It’s true what they say about saving the best for last. “Promise (EXO 2014)” concludes the album, and its position on the track list was most definitely a conscious decision as it is arguably the most meaningful song to not only fans, but for the members as well. For this final track, member Lay personally helped in composing both the Korean and Chinese versions of the song and in writing the lyrics for the latter version. Meanwhile, member Chen (Kim Jong Dae) and Chanyeol wrote the lyrics for the Korean version. It is always good practice to listen to music with the lyrics in hand, but in order to fully appreciate this track this is an absolute must.
Like the previous track “First Love,” this ballad also relies on the use of a piano melody. Yet this song is set at a much lower note, which creates a more somber ambiance than the loving “First Love.”
Sometimes, I close the door and fall into my thoughts
Thinking about myself on stage
You even liked my clumsy moments
But I wonder if I even deserve that love
You always waited for me at that spot
You embraced me with your arms, so thankful to you
Right off the bat, it is clear that the members are singing about the gratitude they have for EXO-Ls regardless of the hardships they faced along the way. The song’s alternate title, “EXO 2014”, indicates that 2014 was a poignant year for them when two of their Chinese members, Luhan and Kris (Wu Yi Fan), parted ways with the group. It’s a pretty sensitive topic for fans, especially since one of the two remaining Chinese members, Tao, risk the same fate.
I won’t ever forget
I will make you happy
Just like the saying, we are one
The song’s pre-chorus, laced with finger snaps and a mild percussive sound, harks back to EXO’s slogan “we are one,” words that might be difficult to summon but mean all the more in their current situation. As the hook comes in, a set of strings becomes more prominent, riding the gusto in the members’ voices. Again, I can’t help but compare the sounds of the song to another one of their established senior groups, Super Junior. In particular, the song is reminiscent of Super Junior’s subunit group D&E’s “Growing Pains” that was released earlier this year.
“Promise” continues in a similar vein, with the members communicating their warm feelings towards the fans and promising to give it their all. It’s such an emotionally charged song that it is sure to make for a wonderful tear-inducing live performance. And of course, if I am going to review “Promise,” I have to give an honorable mention to main rapper Chanyeol for absolutely slaying the rap portion of the track. It begins as your typical rap-ballad, but escalates so fast into something so fueled with aggression and pain that it immediately grabbed my attention. Despite his young age, Chanyeol really sets the bar for other SM rappers.
EXO’s repackaged album “Love Me Right” is a pretty solid and stellar addition to anyone’s playlist this year. The re-release is a melting pot of different sounds, so listeners are sure to come across at least one piece of ear candy they will love. In a mere span of three years, EXO is slowly proving themselves as a mega-idol group of great musical prowess with well-composed albums such as this.
What do you think of EXO’s repackaged album “Love Me Right?” Have you given it a listen yet? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.