Is it weird that, even after the first note, part of me expected Hello (안녕) to be a cover of Adele’s 2015 mega-hit? To be honest, I wouldn’t mind hearing that. Instead, Chen’s latest release is the kind of ballad you’d expect this time of year in Korea. It’s been awhile since I’ve written about this sort of K-ballad, mostly because I’m just not much of a ballad person. I only really love this style when it’s paired with a great drama. Speaking of which, I’ve become completely absorbed in the currently-airing JTBC drama 18 Again, to the point where even its drippy OST ballad has somehow gained resonance.
But I digress. Chen’s Hello is not an OST song. It’s just him doing something he does really, really well. Of all the EXO members, he’s positioned himself as the king of ballads. And even if I (along with many other fans) would rather hear him tackle rock music, I can’t deny that he knows his way around a track like this. Hello is autumn put into music, and Chen’s emotive performance sells that sentiment. The instrumental hinges mostly on piano, and there are some great moments where the keys help guide the melody. The verses and pre-chorus have a nice fluidity to their movement that builds momentum.
But, Hello is wise employ its greatest fireworks during the chorus. Percussion fills out the instrumental as Chen’s vocals (both main and harmony) surge to dramatic heights. The melody is standard OST-mush, but it’s arranged with plenty of panache. It won’t be enough to make me suddenly fall in love with sentimental piano ballads, but I can appreciate Hello’s assuredness.