SM Station has been a great excuse for releasing fun side tracks that would never make sense as part of a group’s album. Dancing King arrives after a longstanding promise made on mega-hit variety series Infinite Challenge. Host Yoo Jae-suk (who’s basically the most famous celebrity in Korea) has now fulfilled his mission to collaborate with EXO on stage. Musical pairings between k-pop stars and Infinite Challenge members are nothing new, but apart from the bi-yearly music festival series the show puts on, they rarely result in a full-fledged song release.
Dancing King piggybacks on SM’s recent obsession with the EDM genre, but thanks to its unusual history, the song feels more unique than some of the agency’s cut-and-paste efforts within this genre. To his credit, Jae-suk fits in seamlessly, even though he’s much older than the members of EXO, and obviously not a professional k-pop star. The song itself leaves little time to breathe, jumping from one hyped up segment to the next. The entire thing is underlined by an ebullient, almost brassy synth riff. And even though there are two distinct instrumental breakdowns, I love that the vast majority of the track is driven by vocals.
Most importantly, Dancing King gives EXO the opportunity to cut loose and have some fun. Being the biggest band in k-pop carries with it a lot of pressure to be cutting edge and push things forward. We rarely get to hear EXO record something as seemingly slight as this. At its core, it’s a simple pop song, propped up with the production flavor of the moment. But it gets by on pure energy, relying more on personality and good old-fashioned hooks than an endless series of builds and drops. After weeks of underwhelming Station releases, this might just be the best one yet.