After some of their members debuted with solo projects and as apart of SuperM, and in the midst of the mandatory military service of two core members, EXO has returned with their seventh studio album, Obsession.
The first track, and lead single, “Obsession” is a gritty and sexy hip-hop/dance driven song that is anchored by the rappers in EXO. Lyrically, the track is dark and mature, a welcome change of pace from a year in K-Pop that has gifted us with more saccharine songs like “Boy with Luv” or “Umpah Umpah.” The track speaks about the obsessive sense of entitlement that ex-lovers, haters, fans, and the media can develop in their relationship to the group’s brand and members. It’s heavy stuff for a pop song, but EXO does it well. On this song, the group also employs a chanting refrain that is present on later tracks like “Jekyll.” Unfortunately, where the chants elevate the broader structure of “Obsession,” they overwhelm the already angsty production on “Jekyll.”
“Trouble,” the song sandwiched between “Obsession” and “Jekyll,” is a standout on the album. EXO draws from the energy of Imagine Dragons and mixes that with some reggae influences. After the rap heavy title track, EXO’s vocal line bursts into forefront. It all culminates with an impressive high note from Chen, arguably the best moment on the entire album.
The album’s sequencing is particularly interesting. Most of the more intense tracks are pushed to the front of the tracklist while the lighter and funkier songs are stuffed towards the back. This decision pays off because it immediately positions EXO as one of the more mature groups that K-Pop has to offer. Of the lighter tracks, however, there are some excellent moments. “Baby You Are” is an enjoyable folk-pop number while “Non Stop” is a soulful funk moment that shows off the group’s versatility. Obsession is a very solid offering from one of the most iconic boy groups in K-Pop; the album expertly shows off their growth as artists and teases how much the future has in store for them.
Key Tracks: “Trouble”; “Obsession”; “Non Stop”