If you aren’t completely aware that KAI, AKA Kim Jongin, is one of the best pop stars alive, you need to catch on already. From his work in groups EXO and SuperM to his entirely skipless solo discography, KAI reinvents himself with every comeback. Now he’s returned with third mini album Rover, and we’re being introduced to a brand new KAI once again.
Six tracks apiece, each of KAI’s solo albums tells a unique story and showcases different sides of the multi-faceted artist. From the futuristic AI-inspired world of his debut to the soft sweetness and temptation of Peaches, KAI never fails to surprise us. Now, with Rover, he expands his repertoire even further, with influences spanning decades and the globe.
Keeping tradition with his previous work, Rover opens with the title track. However, that’s where the familiarity ends. ‘Rover’ is a heavy dance track that (we’re calling it now) has some of the best K-Pop choreo of 2023. The song is actually a remake of ‘Mr. Rover,’ a Bulgarian pop track from last year, once again showing that KAI’s ability to pull from inspirations across the world has no limits. One of KAI’s strongest suits is his husky vocal tone, and that is showcased throughout the album, but especially in ‘Rover,’ as he switches between singing and spoken word.
The music video for ‘Rover’ is gorgeous, rife with the stunning outfits you’d expect from one of the most stylish people in music. Like the track itself, it tells the story of KAI’s constant reinvention as he breaks free, and even breaks the law, to live authentically as himself without limits.
One of the very best moments in the music video is when KAI creates yet another fake ID with the name “Mr. Elliot Billy,” and seemingly uses it to purchase tickets for the ballet. As fans know, KAI trained in ballet from a young age and has pushed through many barriers to get where he is now, making him EXO-Ls very own Billy Elliot. We love to see KAI’s tongue-in-cheek humor poking through here.
KAI is one of the most astute artists in K-Pop, and he proves that on ‘Black Mirror.’ With lyrics like “Flash, click, play, switch,” KAI pokes fun at our generation’s reliance on social media, all whilst keeping us as addicted to the hip-hop track as we are to our Instagram feed. The song finishes with “Baby, kiss these angles,” followed by the sound of KAI blowing a kiss. Which makes us feel… fine and normal.
‘Slidin’ arguably feels like the most familiar version of KAI. It’s a softer R&B track that details the inevitability of falling in love, so it’s not impossibly hard to imagine it on Peaches. However, like much of Rover, this has a tinge of sourness that the sweetness of Peaches just doesn’t. His vocals really shine here, and with a track like this, we can already assume that this will have some classic KAI choreo. Hopefully, with the release of a brand new FILM: KAI, on March 20th, we won’t have to wait too long to see it!
Reggaeton is a huge influence in K-Pop right now, so it’s only natural that one of the industry’s best would try it out! ‘Bomba’ is exactly that moment, and we’re obsessed. The lyrics, encouraging fans to live freely, hark back to the title track, and we love a full-circle moment. Everyone was curious when KAI didn’t release an album on November 30th as he has in previous years, but with how instantly summery ‘Bomba’ is, it makes complete sense. Summer starts in March now! We don’t make the rules; Kim Jongin does.
‘Say You Love Me’
With ‘Say You Love Me,’ KAI really said we all deserve to have words of affirmation as a love language. After the carefree confidence showcased so far in Rover, this track is the most intense and vulnerable moment. It spotlights KAI’s infamous duality, and we love how it contributes to the ebb and flow of the album.
‘Sinner,’ the album closer, feels a million miles from where we started with ‘Rover.’ We began with utter confidence and freedom, and we end with KAI asking to be trapped, contained by his own actions and his fallen wings. The track details the complexity of love and heartache fighting to coexist with one another. The synth production is reminiscent of ‘Ride Or Die,’ but it feels like a hushed, more mature iteration. Maturity and growth are often overused measures of an artist’s success, but with how KAI continuously evolves, it feels fitting.
It’s truly breathtaking how KAI is able, yet again, to take us on such a journey and show us something completely new in just six songs. Rover is both quintessential KAI and like nothing we’ve ever heard from him before. It takes a truly special artist to create a body of work that is entirely the same and entirely different.
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