Despite SM Entertainment’s occasional ambivalence when it comes to promotions, EXO comebacks still feel like events. Even with the group down to six members thanks to military enlistments, the arrival of their new album Obsession marks a much-anticipated bookend to 2019’s K-pop slate. We’ve had solos and sub-units all year long, but the full group hasn’t released Korean music since last December. With this in mind, Obsession is an odd choice for title track. It’s a solid r&b groove, but lacks the kind of impact I’d expect from an event release.
I love the idea of sampling in music. My favorite pop artist of all time, Janet Jackson, pretty much built her whole discography out of expertly-chosen (and woven) scraps of past hits. But, the pitched-up vocal sample that opens Obsession is more grating than galvanizing. The idea of using a repeated vocal hook as percussion is promising. Stray Kids struck gold with a similar approach on their spring hit Miroh. However, Obsession’s sample is dull and irritating, hanging around for way too much of the track. And though it forms a nice contrast with the instrumental’s heavy bass and dark, sinister vocal filters, there’s just not enough meat on the bones to satisfy.
The same could be said about Obsession as a whole. It feels like a solid b-side – the kind of vocal-rich, sensuous r&b that often fills EXO albums. The arrangement is gorgeous, and carries many of the hallmarks expected of co-producer Yoo Young-Jin. He works with a veritable army of composers on the track, which is surprising given how simple Obsession’s melody actually is. The verses pulse with the kind of half-sung, half-rapped structure that has characterized many NCT singles. The chorus is more robustly arranged, but its actual refrain is short, simple and oddly forgettable. Taken apart from the captivating visuals of the music video, Obsession is missing that extra magic that makes EXO title tracks so dynamic.
** Want to know what I think about literally every EXO song recorded? Make sure to follow my ongoing EXO: A-Z feature by clicking here! I’ll also be reviewing the new album, track by track, over the next few days as part of this project.
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