Out of more than 120 song reviews this year, only eleven singles have earned a nine or higher from my ratings system — and five of those were Japanese releases. Japan’s stalled Hallyu wave is beginning to make a rebound in an exciting way. While much of this year’s k-pop remains mired in certain trends, Japan is becoming a playground for genre-bending, risk-taking pop music. EXO’s outstanding Countdown album was emblematic of this, bursting at the seams with ideas and energy. Now, it’s time for the group’s sub-unit to do the same — albeit with their own unique flair.
Rarely has a song made me laugh as instantly as Horololo. It’s honestly just so stupid.
I don’t mean this in a bad way, though the track isn’t quite a knockout either. Bounding out of the gate with energy to spare, it’s a welcome jolt after the relative restraint of CBX’s latest Korean release. When it comes to this trio, I definitely prefer a more melodic approach. Horololo’s beat-heavy verses head in the opposite direction, offering a sing-talky rap over blasts of brass. Thankfully, the impressive pre-choruses swoop in to smooth things out. I love how the shift in instrumental tone is gradual, with the synths fading in as the beat fades out. It’s a cool sonic trick, and builds hype without resorting to expected tropes of the genre.
But back to “stupid.” The song’s blitzkrieg “horololo” hook is one of biggest WTF moments we’ve heard from Korean idols in quite some time. On the plus side, this ridiculousness hearkens back to an era when the industry didn’t take itself quite so seriously. In that way, it’s actually pretty refreshing — even if we all know EXO are capable of delivering far more interesting choruses than this. With that in mind, I can’t help but pine for what might have been. But every time I get too critical, that catchy burst of vocal nonsense returns to slap me back to my senses.