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.