Review

Buried Treasure: Kai (EXO) – Nothing On Me

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 want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.


Though Kai’s debut mini album isn’t exactly the sound I’d hoped to hear from him, it’s a very solid collection of modern r&b. And as expected from the teasers, title track Mmmh is one of its more boring songs. I understand why Mmmh was chosen for promotion, but it feels like a major missed opportunity not to give Nothing On Me a striking music video and dynamic live performance.

To my ear, Nothing On Me sounds tailor-made for today’s trends, melding Kai’s r&b sensibilities with a monster synth riff. It may be too overtly sexual for promotions, but that tense energy is one of its biggest charms.

The opening verse is underlined by distorted synths, twisted and dark and barely able to hold their form. It’s incredibly atmospheric, and shines spotlight on Kai’s vocals. This electronic backbone slowly transforms into something more rhythmic, adding pressure to the instrumental as the melody enhances the drama. This all builds to a brilliant drop. I’m not usually one for single-phrase hooks, but Nothing On Me‘s structure is so taut and focused. The simple chorus is like a knife through the air, cutting the tension in a moment of earned release. The track becomes more dynamic the closer you listen to it, and feels uniquely qualified to support Kai’s skills as a dancer. I know that SM doesn’t often release follow-up singles, but I wish they’d make an exception for this.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75


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14 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: Kai (EXO) – Nothing On Me

  1. I’m glad you think positively of the release as a whole – I moved apartments this weekend and surprised myself that I listened to the minialbum 6 times while packing. It’s super digestible and as an R&B head, I think the style is well tackled. I always like seeing how SM filters trendy styles du jour through their futuristic aesthetic.

    I think it’s funny that people in defense of Kai “oh he’s a dancer turned singer…” I’m pretty sure everyone was calling him “one K-pop’s greatest all-rounders” until they didn’t like mmmh hahah.

    This track is much better and I definitely agree about it’s dynamism.
    In agreement with the comment above – Ride or Die is my favorite. I just love the guitar lead line and the vocal melody. Also Adrian McKinnon’s harmonies are very reminiscent of Yoo Youngjin’s and I welcome that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. it’s surprising that i love this mini as much as i do seeing that my exo bias isn’t kai, but i’m glad that sm has found a way to mesh his interests (i guess) through their future-ish filter they want to employ. i do love this track, especially the drop that i think works very well, but i (as everyone else has said) see ride or die as the obvious standout! overall, all of it is quite solid and i’m glad you view it as a positive effort on his part.

    if you don’t mind me asking, what style do you envision him pursuing? my curveball choice would be that i would love to see him do something in the vein of wednesday campanella’s ‘melos’ and mondo grosso’s ‘labryinth,’ but was also very impressed by the dynamic performance and sound of his solo stage “i see you” – would love to hear your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m for sure not Nick but here’s why I think Nothing On Me might be slightly stronger than Ride or die…

        Both songs are similar. They are the two tracks on the mini album that aren’t trap, and both feature a full intro and 1st verse without drums. When Nothing on Me kicks in gear that tempo hurdles the song forward whilst Ride or die settles into a nice mid-tempo triplet groove. I love it but it isn’t quite as energetic as Nothing On Me.

        While the Ride or Die instrumental has some immediately impressive instrumental flourishes (that guitar and the synth solo at the end), Nothing on Me does sound a lot more idiosyncratic, pitch bendy and off kilter in a way that just feels right. There’s also slap bass elements. So there it’s really take your pick preferentially. Both songs have atmospheric pads that drive the verses, so the similarities continue there…

        Looking at a distance I think Nothing On Me is a track that could stand on it’s own as a single, while Ride or Die is an incredibly strong album track. It embodies the visuals of the Mmmh video, sonically. It feels epic, futuristic, and Kai sounds heroic and sexy. Ride or Die also grounds Nothing on Me within the context of the mini album through their similarities.

        I think they’re incredibly strong tracks but I definitely see Nothing on Me as more of a single than Ride or Die.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m still surprised that they didn’t pick this as the title track. SM has released more risqué title tracks in the past (I mean, wasn’t Mirotic banned in some stations?) and Nothing on Me is by far the flashiest (and arguably the best) song of the mini album.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this song and I’m mad it isn’t the title track.

    Sorry that it is unrelated to this post, but are you going to be doing a buried Treasure on Enhypen’s 10 months? Because I really feel that it is the by far the best song in their mini album and is just really satisfying.

    Like

  5. I know I am late but here is my thoughts on the song:

    Nothing On Me takes everything which makes Kai an enduring performer and pairs it with a distorted, almost chaotic Instrumental and in this way, It sounds like the theme instrumental for a villain when they arrive on to the scene. The first verse is Incredibly rhythmic and as it goes on, the backing vocals are added on to the song, Increasing the tension. We soon get launched onto to the song’s Epic Chorus!

    This Instrumental is so amazing here, It sounds so apocalyptic and is a great backbone for the sharp hook powering the entire chorus. This is all awesome stuff but what is even better is the Ending. The bridge Is ethereal and eerie (thanks to the backing vocals of the track) and an excellent falsetto welcomes the listener onto the final chorus of the track. This chorus has no difference to the ones which came before it (The excellent Synth riff sounds amazing as always) but the Ad-Libs give it a well-deserved ending (much like Taemin’s criminal). Nothing On Me Also sounds like the concept SM Normally goes for, so you can just imagine a music Video. This might be one of 2020’s best album tracks and it will certainly be on repeat!

    Liked by 1 person

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