It was a long time coming, but EXO‘s first official sub-unit was an unqualified success this past October. Given the high quality of their first mini album, the emergence of new side track Crush U is definitely welcome. The song was released to promote NCSoft, a video game company, and is a collaboration with composer/singer Yoon Sang, who lately has been most notable as the prime architect behind girl group Lovelyz’ sound.
Unlike what you might expect after listening to their past material, Crush U offers a darker dance sound for the trio. While the song follows a pretty standard EDM template, its instrumental is far more experimental than the genre has been known to be in Korea. It’s a constantly morphing beast, incorporating industrial guitar in the second verse before slowing to a brief piano ballad. These shifts in sound are a bit difficult to wrap your head around on the first listen, but work to the song’s advantage as you become more familiar with its structure. It feels like the vocal arrangement needs just a bit more punch, as the instrumental threatens to overcome the members at times, but other than that it’s a brilliant piece of ambitious production that keeps things interesting throughout.
Of course, the instrumental would mean nothing if it didn’t have an effective melody to accompany it. Luckily, Crush U gives us a simple, but strong refrain that feels dramatic and propulsive. The verses employ a rapid-fire delivery that straddles the line between melodic and rhythmic before the chorus slows down to offer its more rousing hook. It’s a brilliant display of the power that the EDM genre is capable of when its composers are willing to color a bit outside the lines, and a promising swerve in direction for the group.