On November 27, 2019, EXO finally released their sixth Korean studio album, (seventh overall) and I am obsessed! It has been almost an entire year since their last comeback in December 2018 with their repackaged album Love Shot, and so many fans (including myself) were impatient to get new music from the group. This album is significant for so many reasons. The first being that this was my first time experiencing an EXO comeback. Secondly, this is the first EXO album that doesn’t include Kyungsoo and Minseok (who are serving in the Korean military). Last of all, and perhaps the best part about Obsession is the unique concept that served to thematically connect all of the songs on the album together, and the fact that with only 6 people in the group participating, we got to see certain members have a bigger opportunity to shine.
When the concept trailer for the album first dropped, it was revealed that EXO would have doppelgangers with more wild hairstyles and different colored eyes, as well as intense makeup looks that contrasted with the more soft look of the regular EXO members. Their outfits were more revealing, and the scars and chains on their faces completed their transformation. In addition, there were references to the tree of life, a recurring motif that was present in the choreography for their song ‘Wolf’. The EXO members must also use their superpowers to protect the heart of the tree of life from the evil red force that is mentioned in the ‘Mama’ music video.
In addition, the trailer includes astronomical imagery of a solar eclipse as well as a planet, which alludes to the extraterrestrial origin story that they’ve developed since debut. The ongoing theme revolves around the members each with unique superpowers, since EXO is short for EXOPLANET, which means a planet that lies outside of the solar system. The fact that EXO have been consistent in carrying out their theme throughout all of their albums demonstrates how dedicated they are as performers to their craft. From start to finish of their discography, everything is connected, and makes their music cohesive. Each album is not just a standalone body of art, but they all work together to tell one single storyline. This helps EXO to stand out as not just singers, rappers, and dancers, but true artists.
The concept of Obsession was EXO deux (french for two). All of the songs as well as the outfits and makeup for their stage performances and the music video for the title track was based off of the battle between thetwo egos inside of EXO: EXO and X-EXO. X-EXO is an alternative version of the group with negative energy, and symbolizes the devil within themselves. This double concept of tough villains versus a revolutionary army highlighted the confrontation between EXO and themselves.
For each individual member’s Obsession concept photo release, it was revealed that their X-EXO counterpart had a similar name, but it was written with additional accents to differentiate them from EXO. The members of X-EXO are as follows: Suhø, Chën, Baëkhyun, Sehůn, Chanyeøl, Kāi.
Kai stated that the inspiration came from the duality of the members in the group, since they behave differently on stage and off stage. When they perform, they show their cool side on stage, but return to their usual selves when they walk off.
The EXO members took this concept seriously and turned it into a reality. They really tried to embody the idea of having an alter-ego with their fans and at times pretended to be X-EXO by behaving less like their normal selves. During their EXO THE STAGE performance of Obsession when the members were dressed in their X-EXO costumes, Chanyeol asked their fans who they preferred: EXO, or X-EXO. He then referred to EXO as being jerks, and Sehun commented that he didn’t like EXO. It seems like they’re really enjoying the EXO DEUX concept!
Furthermore, the group did not leave a single detail out of this comeback. In addition to the preexisting official EXO Twitter and Instagram accounts, new X-EXO accounts appeared on both social media sites. On Twitter, instead of the traditional @WeAreOneEXO, the new X-EXO account had a username that was the reverse, @EXOOneAreWe. However, the new accounts are not merely copies of the original. The tweets from the X-EXO account usually are related to behind the scene or concept photos and videos of the group when they are dressed as X-EXO. Not only this, but the manner in which the X-EXO account tweets is vastly different from EXO. X-EXO speaks more arrogantly in a bold and brazen manner, making the account updates more interesting to read.
To better understand the EXO DEUX, EXO vs X-EXO concept, you can watch their 2 different stages and see the difference for yourself.
The album contains 10 tracks, and 2 of them are the title track “Obsession” but in different languages (Korean and Chinese). You can read a description of the first 7 songs in the tracklist down below!
There are so many unique aspects about the lyrics and production of each individual track in the album. There are a lot of small details that can be easy to miss, so here’s my personal ranking of the album and my favorite parts (lyrics, vocals, and raps) of each song.
1. Baby You Are
This emotion called love
Always leads to you at the end
It’s a lie to say that we fall in love for no reason
I can tell you about it the entire night, look into my eyes
This appearance with flawless style
This moment in my eyes, this gut feeling, oh god!
It’s altogether unfamiliar, something new
This feeling that everything is changing for me
This song is a romantic dance pop song that talks about love at first sight. Out of the entire album, this track is definitely my favorite because of how dreamy it sounds. Suho’s beautiful vocals starting off the song is heavenly, and the meaning of the lyrics is even sweeter. The members sing about finally discovering their soulmate, the person they’ve been searching for their whole life. During the chorus, all of the members harmonizing together makes your heart flutter, and overall the song helps you feel what it’s like to fall in love.
2. Butterfly Effect
An angel that flew into my arms like a miracle
The love I gain from you changes me
I’m not afraid anymore, because you’re by my side
Because you won’t let go of my hand
You’re saving my life
Saving my life
Don’t leave me
‘Butterfly Effect’ is an extremely special song. For starters, the song was made by EXO specifically for their fans. In the song, the members thank the fans for saving their life, always staying by their side, and supporting them no matter what. They also mentioned in an interview with Teen Vogue that this track connects to their song Don’t Go from their first album XOXO. In both songs, the butterflies represent EXO-L’s, and the meaning that the group wants to convey with this symbolism is that everything that the group has achieved, and the reason why EXO continues to endure is all thanks to the fans’ unwavering loyalty.
3. Day After Day
After bitterly swallowing the long darkness
Even if the night of fighting with memories of you passes
When it pushes in with the quietness of the dawn
I want to get rid of this long emptiness
I think about you
I know how you felt, how much you had to
Erase (from someone like me)
Only the lengthy longing comes to an end
This song is extremely calming and soothing. There are very few instruments in the background, so you can clearly hear the pure voices of each of the EXO members in all of their glory. The track has plenty of ad libs, harmonizing, and overlapping of everyone’s voices singing together, which make the song sound vocally impressive, and allow for a beautifully smooth and mellow work of art.
Thousand nights, I repeated so many times
A vicious cycle of nightmares I’ll end it now
The turned-off exit light
Get away from me now
Ha! It’s enough
All the gibberish on my ear Imma let it blow
My five senses are focused on it, on edge
You come in and stir it up recklessly
When I fall asleep with one eye open
You permeate without a sound, the phantom
I’m so sick and tired of it
When the light turns on, I hope you’re gone
Of course since ‘Obsession’ is the title track and has the same name as the album, the production and visuals of this song fully embodies the concept of EXO Deux. At first, the repetitive sound of the voice saying “I want you” can be disorienting, however this is intentional. The seemingly conflicting melodies and instrumentals in the different verses combined with the auto-tune effect work together to portray the battle between EXO and X-EXO sonically. The sultry sound of the pre-chorus that starts off with “thousand nights” and Chen and Suho’s bridge contrasts deeply with the first two intro verses by Baekhyun and Kai, as well as Chanyeol’s intense rap verse. The bridge of the song reminds me of the a capella part in ‘Tempo’ and highlights the strength of EXO’s vocalists. However, one of the best parts of the song definitely has to be the dance break with Kai and Sehun, and Sehun’s 3 lines in English “Blacken my heart, creepin’ dark night, stainin’ my soul”. This hip hop dance song really is addictive once you listen to it a few times, and coincidental I’m obsessed with it.
5. Non Stop
The sunlight that
Drowsily crumbles away into silver
That sun that envied the feelings we shared
Its light dazzles our eyes
Your soft breaths
Make me dance
Will you hold only me in your clear gaze?
Tell me you’ll stay, always beside me
This track is a dance song that talks about the unstoppable love that two people have for each other. The lyrics talk about the romantic feelings that a couple shares and how when they are with each other, they feel like they are on top of the word. When you listen to this song, it makes you feel like love can conquer anything. The song has a catchy beat that makes you want to bop your head and sway your body to the melody.
Please help me endure this, even if it hurts
Just stay by my side, forever
The wound’s just a trace with you (it’s ok)
Heal me, you’re my only cure
Deeper than I could be able to escape
Being on hell with you is like heaven for me
Pull me in and swallow me up
As if you were me from the beginning
This trap reggae dance song is a love story about two people that fall in love with each other and cannot escape from their romance. This song is very relatable because sometimes we meet someone and we instantly know that they’re going to change our lives completely. When you’re with this other person, everything is reversed. Love can blind you and make your judgment is questionable. The harder you fall for another person, the more control they have over your thoughts and emotions, which can be dangerous. It’s easy to get caught up in your emotions and swept away, and your world gets turned upside down. ‘Trouble’ does an amazing job of describing this whole concept of the intricacy and complexity of love, with its advantages and downsides.
The distant night, this dangerous moment
The moonlight that brushed by faintly
The shadows cast over it
Find those displaced pieces of memories
Wandering on this night, I will break away from you now
Jekyll is a dance pop song about the inner conflict within an individual. The chorus is cacophonous, filled with shouts saying “Break out! You’re wriggling like a nightmare in me,” referencing one’s dark side or the “Mr. Hyde” alter ego within Dr. Jekyll. The stark contrast between the serene verses and the harsh yelling in the chorus, which parallels the battle between EXO and their evil doppelgangers X-EXO exactly.
8. Ya Ya Ya
I think I’m a little slow
The days where I just circled around, I don’t regret it
Because i know you that much, let’s be softer now
Wherever you are, I turn toward you
Even when everyone turns their back on you I’m on your side
The thing everyone doesn’t know, our secret
Baby tell me now I’ve known them all along
This song is a hip hop dance song about love occurring in the blink of an eye. It contains a sample from ‘You’re The One’ by SWV, and in the song, one person gains the courage to put aside their pride and confess their feelings to the other person, and they ask if their feelings are also reciprocated. From beginning to the end, ‘Ya Ya Ya’ narrates the words, thoughts, and emotions that an individual goes through in the process of having a crush. The track is extremely fun, playful, and lighthearted. You can’t help but want to get up and dance around the room while listening to this song.
Feeling excited for some reason, your heart is
Racing and fluttering, leave it all to me now
Every moment is romantic
Let’s look for the road that goes on endlessly and run
At the end of a long day, even if it’s not far
Let’s leave, just the two of us
Do whatever we want, we already know the answer (wherever)
‘Groove’ is a dance song about the feelings that two people have for each other, and their love is represented by the the idea of dancing across the realm between dreams and reality. When listening to the lyrics I can envision individuals getting lost in their love for each other and unable to escape their dream world. The song puts you in a trance and the sound of the flute, along with the line “come with me”, reminds me a lot of the Pied Piper who lured children away from their homes. The main harmony and the melodic sound of the members’ voices make you want to do exactly as the title says, and groove. The high notes in the track are hauntingly enchanted, making the song hypnotizing to the point where you can’t stop listening to it.
With every album release, EXO continues to outdo themselves, and this time is no exception. Whether it’s with 9, 8, or 6 members, the group still remains consistent in releasing music with different genres and sounds that they have not previously explored. Each EXO album sounds completely distinctive from all of the others in the group’s discography, and with Obsession, they have shown a new side to themselves (both figuratively and literally). Their EXO DEUX concept is a unique idea that I have not seen before, and was a pleasant plot twist to their previous comebacks. Even after 8 years of being together as a group, EXO still never fail to amaze me, and their return with this album was definitely one that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on Obsession, and what is your favorite track from the album? Comment down below or tweet us at @TheHoneyPop on Twitter!
Featured image source: SM Entertainment