When all is said and done, it’s starting to feel like 2019 will be known as the year of debuts and military enlistments. The number of high-profile enlistments that have occurred over the past few months has been staggering, as K-pop’s much-loved second generation of male groups take various forms of hiatus. There’s a new generation of acts waiting in the wings, poised to bring a different energy to the industry. I’m excited to see how it all turns out.
With most enlistments comes a last hurrah gift for the fans. In SM Entertainment’s case, this is almost always in the form of some sappy ballad, and the formula is starting to wear thin. It doesn’t help that the agency has spent most of 2019 clogging their discography with like-minded tracks, causing each to run into another. It’s hard to review songs like Xiumin’s You (이유). Objectively, none of them are all that interesting. I don’t think they’re designed to be. But, they’re milestones unto themselves, celebrating a seminal moment in any performer’s career.
With Xiumin’s enlistment, his group EXO enters a state of flux. They’re one of K-pop’s biggest acts, and their changing presence will likely send shock waves throughout the industry. This makes You quite bittersweet, and also makes me yearn for a much more interesting take on the “farewell single.” Placed aside bigger vocalists, Xiumin has never received much solo spotlight. Because of this, it’s nice to hear him take the reins completely. He does an admirable job within You’s sentimental trappings, but the song feels like a rewrite of a rewrite. If you’ve heard any OST-sounding ballad of the past decade, you’ll know what to expect. A performer as energetic as Xiumin probably deserved more, but it’s hard to completely rain on his very earned parade.