Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
I’ve noticed that there seem to be quite a few people who have felt underwhelmed by EXO’s new album EX’ACT, especially when compared to last year’s Exodus. Yes, the album’s not as uptempo as I’d like (EXO albums never are), but to me it feels like their most consistent work in years. It’s definitely top heavy, with most of the best moments pushed to the first half. Artificial Love immediately follows the album’s double title tracks (Lucky One & Monster), and honestly feels like it could have been promoted alongside them.
In some ways, Artificial Love is emblematic of the entire album. It’s got a deep club groove that feels both throwback and experimental. It’s light on pop melody, favoring a glitchy, staccato delivery instead. The track is one long electronic throb, giving the guys a great opportunity to really dig in with their vocals in a slinky, funky way that’s pretty far removed from the type of glacial r&b they’re often known for. The rapid-fire hip-hop verse 1 minute, 40 seconds in is especially effective, trading lines between Chanyeol and Sehun. I wish it went on longer, but really the whole track is performed in a similarly beat-driven manner. Given SM’s recent obsession with this specific club sound, Artificial Love is not a surprise. The real shocker is just how well it fits EXO.