Since SM Station’s inception, some of its biggest beneficiaries have been the guys of EXO. The project has often paired the members with unlikely collaborators or simply let them go solo, but many of the resulting tracks have ended up to be quite boring. I understand the desire to break EXO out of the glossy idol world and spotlight a different side to their talent, but more often than not this approach has slid them right into a toothless, coffee-shop song template that hasn’t done much to build upon their individual charms.
Bye Babe isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I’m pleased that the track has a bit of bite to it. Of course, indie duo (and now solo artist) 10cm have always been on the quirky side, so it’s no surprise that the song incorporates a bit of unexpected groove. Even so, the instrumental’s percussive guitar pluck feels like SM trying to pull off a sound akin to early Maroon 5. That’s not exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to k-pop.
Luckily, Chen’s vocals remain as engaging as they’ve always been. His warm tone harmonizes well with 10cm’s light, playful delivery. SM usually pursues co-ed duets, but even though there’s no forced love-line concept, Bye Babe sparks some real vocal chemistry. It helps that the instrumental is forceful enough to act like a third partner, driving the beat forward with punches of staccato rhythm. I’m not sure that I’ll remember the song in a year’s time, but its lively energy is much more welcome than yet another dreary ballad.