Japanese releases by k-pop artists can be very hit and miss, but if any agency has managed a consistently solid j-pop catalog for their artists, it’s SM Entertainment. They’ve nurtured massive success overseas with TVXQ, Girls’ Generation and SHINee in particular, and for awhile I’ve wondered why EXO haven’t been given the same Japanese spotlight. Sure, they’ve released singles here and there, but as SM’s highest-selling group of the moment, you’d think they’d be everywhere. Fortunately, any sense of hesitance ends with Electric Kiss. It’s not only their strongest Japanese single by a mile, but it’s the most convincing promotional track they’ve released in years.
That’s really saying something, because EXO has long been one of k-pop’s most reliable suppliers of high-quality material. Even when their sound veers in different directions, as it did last year, the results are incredibly solid. With that said, Electric Kiss hearkens back to the dramatic bombast of their debut. It’s one of the most resoundingly immense singles I’ve heard in awhile, punctuated by thundering stomps of dynamic percussion. Its verses are an assault of unexpected, ever-shifting arrangements that deftly incorporate hip-hop in a way that feels organic to the track’s ballsy energy. Each moment feels in constant build, lending the song a streamlined — almost tense — structure.
Hype tracks have become something of a cliche in k-pop over the last few years, but Electric Kiss takes that familiar intensity and bolsters it with a hook that doesn’t simply rely on one repeated riff or idea. In this way, it feels like a fusing of the older and newer generations of k-pop — and an invigorating distillation of all of EXO’s best elements. This is the sound I’ve been longing for in Korea. How unexpected, then, to hear it make a surprise return in Japan.
Listen to the full song here.