Buried Treasure: EXO – What U Do?

Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-side tracks deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.

If the executives at SM Entertainment had put me in charge of picking EXO’s title track for their The War album, it would have easily been What U Do. Ko Ko Bop is perfectly pleasant, and even a bit experimental, but this kind of soaring funk pop is what latter-day EXO does better than anyone else in k-pop.

Ko Ko Bop embraced reggae music more completely, but there are traces to be found here as well. The song’s prominent rhythm guitar is given a familiar, summery effect, and the chorus pulses with elements of tropical synth (or are those filtered vocal riffs?) that never fall into overly trendy territory. But as propulsive as the uptempo instrumental is, the real star of the show is What U Do‘s chorus. It’s a sucker-punch piece of melody — simple and anthemic but delivered with an intensity of power that demands the listener’s attention. The layered vocals are tightly packed and given a forceful arrangement that feels utterly galvanizing. The hook’s more rhythmic first half segues into a sustained melodic refrain that builds seamlessly without sacrificing energy. The guys even have an opportunity to unleash some gorgeous ad-libs at the song’s bombastic climax. What U Do may not be EXO at their most original, but it sounds very much like the big summer hit I’ve been waiting for.

 Hooks  9
 Production  9
 Longevity 8
 Bias  10


8 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: EXO – What U Do?

  1. Great review! Haha, so that’s what you meant XD I very much agree and I think EXO might dominate the latter half of 2017 but who knows? Anyway I hope you enjoyed the album!


    • Casually lurking this years too late but this is so interesting! I would have easily pegged Going Crazy or Forever as my favourite tracks off the album, heh.


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  7. This is an old post but I’m just here to think about simpler times. What an amazing song. What an amazing album. This was all I ever wanted out of a summer comeback


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