As SM Entertainment’s biggest-selling group for the past several years, EXO’s solo and sub-unit potential has been severely underutilized. I expect that this will change as members start enlisting, but I can’t believe it’s taken this long to see an official solo album from the group (not counting Lay’s Chinese efforts, of course). And honestly, I’m kind of surprised that Chen is the first to branch out in this way. He certainly deserves the chance, but I would have thought SM would opt for a flashier music style from a performance-oriented member like Kai or Xiumin.
Of course, this is April — home of the springtime ballad. SM has been in love with ballads this year, and this kind of song tends to do well with the Korean public. Chen’s rich voice is uniquely suited to this style, so I can’t begrudge Beautiful Goodbye (사월이 지나면 우리 헤어져요) for its hushed arrangement. Many fans were hoping that Chen would tackle a sound closer to rock, especially since he’s shown interest in the genre before. But, Goodbye plays things safe and comes across as a warm-weather mirror to the group’s gorgeous 2013 winter ballad Miracles In December.
Like that track, Beautiful Goodbye is a stark piano ballad that shines full spotlight on Chen’s vocals. Not many performers could pull off something this simple, but his voice captivates. The chorus is especially effective, offering a series of falsetto-led climbs before mellowing again for the verses. The melody continually hints at a climax that never comes, and that tease helps to keep attention — even if it ultimately fails to present the kind of knockout moment that could have made Goodbye a real standout.