Review

Song Review: EXO – Don’t Fight The Feeling

EXO - Don't Fight The FeelingWith four members currently enlisted in the military, EXO have released their first album in nineteen months. Don’t Fight The Feeling arrives with much anticipation, including my own. As one of my gateways into K-pop, EXO hold a special place in my heart – so much that I’ve written about every single track they’ve released! And with teasers that pointed toward a funk-inspired comeback, that anticipation grew even stronger.

Don’t Fight The Feeling’s tricky first listen spawned excitement and frustration in equal measure, which will come across in this lopsided review. Let’s start with the frustration:

I’m so tired of writing about second verse breakdowns. They’ve become the structural trend that won’t die. K-pop’s ill-placed, energy-sapping trap breakdown isn’t creative, clever or effective. It’s been done thousands of times. By now, it’s become predictable and obnoxious, and it nearly ruins Don’t Fight The Feeling. In fact, it goes against the song’s one tenant, and ‘fights the feeling’ set up by the rest of the track. It baffles me why producers don’t opt for a more interesting way of incorporating rap into their songs. Don’t Fight The Feeling’s second verse plunges into this momentum-killing arrangement twice. Just… ugh.

Now that I’ve purged that from my system, let’s focus on Feeling’s strong points. I think there’s a great song in here, as evidenced by its first verse and chorus. I appreciate what the instrumental aims for, even if it could have been developed further. The bass-heavy groove has a satisfying filtered effect, as if running just underfoot ready to pop up and attack at any moment. The tempo is brisk and exciting (apart from those trap breaks), and allows for an ultra-rhythmic performance in keeping with the group’s strengths. And though the chorus is simple and repetitive, its swirling structure compliments the energy of the production. This segment is helped along by an excellent vocal performance, taking advantage of that classic EXO blend in short, potent blasts.

In the end, I can see myself coming around to Don’t Fight The Feeling big time, but there are moments that will always take me out of the experience. And with dance music — which is meant to get you moving without care or over-examination — that’s a problem. For now, I’ll be cautious with my rating and hope the song’s more jarring elements will grow familiar and welcome with time.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

52 thoughts on “Song Review: EXO – Don’t Fight The Feeling

  1. Considering how across the board excellent Don’t Call Me/Atlantis albums were I think my expectations for “SM Boy Group taking brief break from military hiatus to make an album” were so high that the whole EXO album was a bit underwhelming to me. All the songs were good and the title track I think was the best but it still didn’t live up to EXO at their best by any means

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I thought the first half-time breakdown was fine and decently done but the second one was just super jarring and after a really good day, I was expecting this to be the cherry in top and…it wasn’t.

    Also, even though the chorus gets my pulse racing I wish it was proceeded by an awesome post-chorus. And the track is too short…TOO SHORT! An effective post-chorus could have worked. Or you could have beefed-up the production like past singles such as Love Me Right. I have so many criticisms for this and Have to admit this is average. But I guess some parts are enough to compensate and make it grow for me…

    Liked by 6 people

  3. This feels like they’ve tried too hard to create another atlantis. Complete to the repetitive structure of the chorus. To be honest, it lacks the dynamics and turned boring quickly. The only enjoyable parts were the vocal centric sections like the bridge and the prechorus. And Lay finally singing was so well done, they managed to somehow incorporate him though it felt more like a feature. They could’ve atleast added adlibs.

    And that second verse breakdown, I don’t even want to talk about that. The bass was fine but I felt like I’ve heard that club throb atleast a hundred times. Except those vocals and those sm touches in tiny places, it felt forgettable and not tailor-made to exo even. Any group could’ve done this, minus the charisma. Middle 7s for me.

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  4. You’ve got to tone it down with the trap breakdown gripes or just not bother writing reviews on k-pop anymore. It’s a trend from black America that’s here to stay, like it or not. I’m sure we could go without having to devote a paragraph to your disdain of hi hatting in every review, especially with this likely being Exo’s last release for some years. It’s crawling to a point where I hear a “trap breakdown” (most of the time, not even the correct term) in a song and internally cringe at the thought of you ignoring the rest of a perfectly good song for this. Familiarize yourself with American trap pieces and move on, it’s been nearly a decade.

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    • I think the complaint isn’t with the inherent sound or concept of trap beats, but with the adding or removing of momentum. Trap beats in American rap/hip hop rarely if ever serve to create momentum rather than lay down a chill vibe for the singer to rap over which works great in the context it was created for. Plenty of KPop songs use it in the same way and it works but there is something particularly jarring that Nick points out in dance-based songs where suddenly the momentum just drops out completely and is replaced by a slower trap beat which to him and to me kills the structure of a song.

      Liked by 10 people

      • That’s exactly the point. It just happens to be trap most of the time because that’s the trend these days, but it’s all about momentum or lack thereof.

        I mention it often because it’s used often, but I also try to dedicate just as much space (or more) to the things I like about a song.

        I’m well aware of what trap music is, and have complimented its use in several recent reviews (B.I, Jay B, etc). I just don’t like when dance songs suddenly lurch to a stop. It takes me out of the track. But, that’s just the way I feel. Everyone’s different.

        Liked by 6 people

    • Why so sour? We just feel a particularly excellent song can do well without those unnecessary hi-hats and trap applied in jarring ways. This is just the anguish felt. Plus, the ‘trap breakdown’ has just become a collective term. In case you haven’t notices, the review has been quite high and it has been well mentioned that this is a lopsided review.

      Liked by 5 people

    • I have grown weary of trap sounds too. To me, it already sounds dated, just like swooshing disco strings is of an era, and the keytar is of another era.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yep. “It’s a trend… that’s here to stay” is a bit of a contradiction. It is a trend, and like pretty much all trends in pop music, it is here for a moment and will become dated eventually. And then eventually eventually it may make it’s way back into the mainstream again.

        Liked by 4 people

    • Huh. Just because this might be EXO’s last release doesn’t mean it can’t get criticism or disdain as you call it. Ironically, this is a somewhat positive review. Most songs don’t even reach 9, and 8.5 is very solid.

      Also, what do you mean he ignored the rest of the song? The rest of the
      review is literally about the rest of the song.

      Even if you like and study trap, that doesn’t mean all trap mix-ups in k-pop are going to be fitting nor are they going to be all interesting. Energy and momentum are important, and basic production occurs all the time. For DFTF, it just halts a lot of energy that really should’ve carried over.

      Liked by 6 people

    • I can only point out how you told you internally cringe on Nick when you:
      1. Misunderstood everything about his disdain.
      2. Pointed out how he should like this because this is their last release.
      3. Say he wasn’t positive even though his last line was that’s he’ll come over it big time.
      4. Tell him to familiarize himself with American trap pieces when he’s been listening to music for 20 years and above.

      My friend, I don’t mean to offend you but you clearly haven’t done your research. So I’ll end this argument with the following line: You aren’t a joke, you’re the whole circus.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Now, now, let’s be kind. No one’s a “joke” for having an opinion this way or that about pop music. I can understand the OP’s perspective. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been called out about ranting against second verse energy. I can see how this would feel annoying to some readers. But hey, I do this everyday and listen to similar production choices over and over. It’s bound to get repetitive at some point for me as well.

        What I do find frustrating — as someone who tries to offer an honest reaction in a respectful way — is this insinuation of a sinister or hateful motive against an entire culture or genre. When it comes down to it, I just prefer these big dance tracks to keep their momentum without shifting energy too often. And if they do, I look for surprises that feel new and exciting.

        If I’m listening to a different genre or style, my taste changes. There’s a huge part of my own musical history that I don’t write about here because… well… it’s not really relevant. Gosh, I bought my first cd over twenty-five years ago. I think I’ve listened to (and loved) just about every genre under the sun.

        When it comes down to it, this blog is a hobby (yes, a hobby…) that I fit in between a full-time job and many other commitments. Take it or leave it. It’s okay if you leave it. I certainly don’t expect everyone’s musical tastes to match mine! How boring would that be?

        On a funny sidenote, I just can’t let this quote in your comment go: “he’ll come over it big time”

        A typo, I’m sure, but one that made me audibly gasp! LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a joy to have Xiumin and D.O. back (and Lay, in a cool way)!! This is simple, energetic, dance-able fun! It’s not revolutionary, but it doesn’t have to be.

    The chorus works surprisingly well. It’s a sequence of brief vocal moments, but as a whole they become stronger and more memorable. And Kai and Chanyeol had some lovely vocal flourishes in the verses that really impressed me.

    As for the second verse breakdowns, I jammed along with the first one, and was less taken with the second one. “Shawty bout to turn it up, you got that love wit that juice” made me laugh, though. A crowning new bad English lyric.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Raise your hands if the title reminds you of JT “Can’t stop the feeling”.

    It’s a solid pop song. It has some good moments, and a nice groove. Though, tbh its not very compelling, like their older songs Growl, Wolf, etc, Whatev, it does the job of having a solid comeback without being divisive.

    Related: OK, six in the video. This follows the SuJu philosophy of just having a comeback dammit, despite some being away. SuJu did it for ten years. I had forgotten that Yesung was not in Mamacita. I went to a line distribution – lyric video, and this particular Exo-l youtuber included on the list all his/her favorite inactives with (military) after their names. Point being: its not the end of the world to have one or more away for military service, stop having a cow, people.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. It loses its steam after the rough second verse, but the melodies are fun. The chorus and the non-rap verses work really well. Even the pre-chorus is decent.

    It’s short as fuck though. It’s missing a post-chorus to offset the repetitive bass and shortness of the chorus. As a title track, it’s also very un-dynamic and kinda basic song even if it is fun. Like, DFFT is a fine song but it has so much it could’ve been. But it isn’t.

    I still think it’s crazy they stuffed the second verse it with not one but TWO trap rap breakdowns? The first isn’t even that bad but both at once is criminal.

    I will continue listening just because it’s fun enough to vibe to, but I get why people aren’t thrilled. The production is quite unambitious, especially for EXO.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t think I have much to add: I feel exactly the same way.

    The first half of the song is great! It kicks off nice and ~ propulsive ~, the chorus is not a total knock-out, but it works. I really like this filtered effect on the production, and the little sound effect flourishes that liven up the minimalistic bass+beat structure.

    The second half really kills the mood. The trap breakdowns are scheduled in such a way that I almost believe it’s done intentionally to annoy me. Just when I get back into the groove after Chanyeols part, the song comes to an abrupt halt AGAIN to let Sehun do his thing. Just.. why?

    Overall, I don’t think this holds up to EXO’s more famous title tracks, but it’s fun. I really like it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. First it was ‘don’t mess up my tempo, don’t slow it down for me’ and that tenet doesn’t actually get taken on board through the song lol, now it’s ‘don’t fight the feeling’ but then a random breakdown that ends up breaking up the groove a little just as I’m getting into it.

    I don’t think this song was bad by any means, it’s a perfectly good song that could however have moments that could be fleshed out more to make this knock-out stunning. I felt the lack of crisp Chen and Suho vocals here very keenly, I think Chen’s high notes in particular could have enlivened that bridge a little more. However, the very fact that we’ve got Kyungsoo and Baekhyun singing together at an EXO bridge after ages (and for what will be ages…) makes up for it for me.

    All in all, though, what I really like about all of this is how this doesn’t really take itself too seriously. It wasn’t meant to be a showstopping spectacle, I don’t think, it does the job in terms of letting me groove and that chorus is a lot of fun even if it isn’t ‘perfect’ for me. This was a fun and welcome respite from the long EXO draught, I’m hoping for a bombastic return for the full group post-military (whenever that is).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think this will become iconic. It’s too short for my liking, and I don’t really appreciate the loss of momentum either, but it’s fun, it has solid vocals, and the members look like they’re enjoying themselves. Plus, looking at the context of the release, they’ve said the album is a gift for fans on their 9th anniversary. So, I’ll just enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. EXO is one of those power groups that I want to like more than I actually do. Someday I’ll have time to dig in a bit. The rap sections here don’t bother me and the song is happy and energetic. Their dancing is fun to watch – I love those sort of corkscrew movements they do. Seems about right for summer.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I like it. It is fun..funky .summery and very …friendly? It also..like some of the people said, is not very ambitious..but it also doesn’t try to be anything more than it is.

    P.S- Well …kinda sucks for people who thought this exo comeback is about to be the “ohhh they are back from the military grandd comeback!!!” Because it’s not!
    They aren’t returning from military..they are still going.EXO is in a weird place right now with changing lineups since mid 2019..And likely next year we won’t have any group album because Kai and Sehun will enlist too.

    SM is using their recent comebacks as mediums for lore building rather than being too ambitious with #1 hits.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Can’t agree more! It’s not about being #1 anymore. At this point, EXO has already built its brand (a solid one) and these comebacks are really just to be out there for the fans (and their contracts most probably). I hope they continue to stay relevant, just like Suju.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I like it. It is fun..funky .summery and very …friendly? It also..like some of the people said, is not very ambitious..but it also doesn’t try to be anything more than it is.

    P.S- Well …kinda sucks for people who thought this exo comeback is about to be the “ohhh they are back from the military grandd comeback!!!” Because it’s not!
    They aren’t returning from military..they are still going.EXO is in a weird place right now with changing lineups since mid 2019..And likely next year we won’t have any group album because Kai and Sehun will enlist too.

    SM is using their recent comebacks as mediums for lore building rather than being too ambitious with #1 hits.

    Like

  14. The bass in this song has the opposite effect of the trap breakdowns. They say “come here” the raps say “go away”. Ultimately I’m a fan of this song, but I just can’t understand what makes producers so inclined to add it to their songs. It’s not as if there aren’t many successful songs that forgo this decision. I first started noticing this trend back in 2018 with momoland’s bboom bboom. Why is it still here? It’s baffling

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I think Bboom Bboom was the first major K-pop track to feature this style of breakdown. And you know what? It was kind of fun and quirky back then.

      Over three years later, it’s become a predictable trope, which threatens to make songs feel cookie-cutter. I wonder if agencies are specifically requesting this feature when soliciting material from producers? It’s hard to believe that songwriters — who I imagine are generally creative people — would want to use the exact same structure over and over.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. while i am a fan of the entire group being present, EXO are my favorite male kpop group (tied with Big Bang) and i hardly come across anything they make that i do not like….for me, “Don’t Fight The Feeling” continues on their non-fear to experiment with different themes, concepts, and musical genres….i enjoyed “Don’t Fight The Feeling”….the entire album is nice.

    -mm

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  16. I liked the song,the chorus was really good but it lost steam midway and somehow it got a bit boring towards the end.And also the MV,there was nothing memorable in it for me. But I definitely liked it more than obsession.

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