Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides 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.
SM Entertainment spent a lot of time hailing EXO’s new album as a collection of diverse genres, but in reality it’s primarily mid-tempo r&b with slight variations. That’s fine, especially since the guys sound particularly strong on these kind of tracks. But, I’ve learned never to judge an EXO album until the inevitable repackage rolls around. Don’t Mess Up My Tempo, like many of their albums, suffers a bit from a saggy middle. Historically, their repackages tend to straighten this out with the injection of a few more uptempo songs.
Gravity sticks out from this mid-tempo landscape like a glittering disco ball. Unlike the title track (which only just clicked with me in a big way), Gravity was love at first sight. I often babble on about the importance of producers, and that couldn’t be more true here. My two favorite Tempo b-sides are both LDN Noise productions, and that’s no coincidence. Interestingly, Gravity and Damage feel like sequels to LDN Noise’s 2016 EXO title tracks (Lucky One and Monster, respectively). It should be no surprise that I prefer the one that’s couched in bright, retro funk influence.
Like last year’s What U Do, Gravity forms the big, pop-hearted centerpiece of the album. It would have made an incredible single. From the electro pulse of its verses to the spacey, layered chorus, the song is feel-good energy through and through without sacrificing the group’s excellent vocals. Its final minute ups the funk to delirious levels, blending intricate synth work with perfectly placed power notes. These sixty seconds are among the finest moments in EXO’s discography. Prior to this extended climax, Chanyeol’s rap verse riffs on pieces of melody from Susanne Vega’s 80’s hit Tom’s Diner, though I’d be kind of surprised if the similarity was intentional. Either way, it’s a fun little callback to the decade Gravity so lovingly draws upon.