Most of the time, a k-pop 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 k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
EXO’s new Japanese album is absolutely fantastic from start to finish. Frankly, it’s how I wish more modern k-pop albums would sound — grandiose and explosive, brimming with ideas and energy. Among the three new tracks (Japanese albums tend to be slowly compiled over the course of a year with singles and b-sides steadily released), I could have easily spotlighted the bombastic electro assault of Into My World. But there’s something really special about Cosmic Railway — the surging sci-fi ballad that closes the album.
It’s amazing how certain songs can elicit such a strong visual. Cosmic Railway doesn’t have an accompanying music video, but it strongly conjures images of celestial journeys, neon energy and just about any anime you can think of. While I’m not a huge fan of the filter thrown over the guys’ vocals, there’s no denying its spacey, dreamlike effect. The song’s chorus is a wonder of layered vocals and soaring melody. Its dual refrains offer a theatrical sucker-punch, building to a knockout bridge that takes full advantage of the group’s vocal line. I don’t generally tend to gravitate towards slower tracks, but there are few things better than a show-stopping, vocally-driven pop song. Cosmic Railway is just that, and may be my new favorite EXO ballad.