EXO - Tempo
It has been an excruciatingly long time since we last heard from EXO, clocking in at over a year at this point. But none of that matters anymore because today is finally the day! EXO are back, and I have to say that I was extremely excited to hear about this comeback being the kickoff to the November rush. Sadly I didn’t make the time to check out all of the teasers and bits of content leading up to this, but it’s EXO. I know what to look for - something new, something fresh, and something interesting.
Well holy mother of god did this song deliver exactly what I was looking for. Since I hadn’t looked into any of the teasers I had no idea that the actual concept for this track was going to be an ever-shifting tempo in the actual song. I thought it was just the title of it, honestly, but that shift plays such a crucial role into what makes this song so interesting and unique. And I seriously mean that.
Right now the popular trend in K-pop is to have a sort of genre swap when the chorus kicks in, with little to no rhyme or reason other than just introducing a new set of sounds for your ears. With “Tempo,” EXO have taken that concept and instead simply switched the cadence of the song while retaining a logical, cohesive set of sounds and ideas flowing. It works unbelievably well and I cannot stop gushing at how floored I am with this release. From the a cappella bits to the Daft Punk-esque instrumental backing, this song did not disappoint.
I don’t make it a particular secret that I’ve never really been a fan of EXO’s rappers and/or their rap portions in a majority of their songs, but I’ll be damned if I don’t say that I have the exact opposite opinion of that for this song. The pacing and performance of the raps this time around are absolutely perfect, and they are utilized as more than just a quick gimmick for one section of the song which only solidifies my opinion further. The back and forth of rap and singing for both verses also plays into the idea of tempo switching and it feels so natural and fluid.
My actual first thoughts while listening to this song were “holy crap this is going to be really high in my favorite songs for the year.” I found myself clicking the replay button instantly, and eventually just setting it to loop. This is absolute gold in my opinion. If there was any way to return from a year-long break, this was absolutely it.
The music video features a nice use of that bold red, which again seems to be picking up traction in the K-pop scene as of late. The styling of the boys is a nice combination of fashion-forward concepts with a touch of approachable added on top. All of them looked great as per usual, though I’m still wishing that mullets would pull a Houdini and disappear.
There are a lot of things happening in this video, but I’m going to explain the overarching concept as best as I can interpret it. At several parts of this video we see members holding a small cube, but further into the video we also see a Rubik’s cube. A Rubik’s cube is made up of nine individual pieces that move are independent of one another but if you have to move a single one, you’ll also move nine faces of the cube with it. Each member of EXO, including Lay even though he was not really in this video, are supposed to be represented as one of these smaller pieces, but they come together to form a much bigger, more stable puzzle. They’re perpetually linked to one another even though they’re technically separate identities, and what happens to the group as a whole.
That’s my main take away from this video, at least. There are other smaller pieces of imagery that we could dissect, such as Chanyeol seeing himself in the Rorschach test, but I think those are more open to interpretation than the overall idea of this video. This video was a great use of lighting and basic colors to bring out an interesting atmosphere and have it feel like there was a lot more pop to it than the budget of the sets realistically had. All in all, this was pretty damn fantastic and engaging to watch.
EXO may have had fans waiting for over a year for this comeback, but if that had anything to do with the quality of this song it was well worth the wait. It’s easily one of the most interesting and compelling songs that they’ve released to date, but it’s also an absolute standout in the K-pop scene as a whole. If you haven’t already given this a go, I think you’re making a huge mistake. I’d recommend it even to people that wouldn’t consider themselves fans of EXO.