EXO's 'Obsession' album review: K-pop heart-throbs get adventurous on their latest release


The nine-piece experiment with genres, from house and funk to disco, and Ed Sheeran guitar riffs

Chris Gillett |

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K-pop boyband EXO have spent most of the year focusing on sub-unit releases, following 2018’s full throttle release Don’t Mess Up My Tempo, but now the group have reconvened for their seventh full-length album, Obsession.

Openers Trouble, Jekyll and the title track are all moody, down-beat trap music. The songs are a marked shift for the group, with minimal instrumentation, and heavy reliance on wide-ranging vocal interplay, from tender pop melodies, to fast-metred rapping or barked gang vocals. They’re perfectly decent, but don’t add much to an already saturated market.

But what follows on Obsession takes a far more adventurous turn. Groove and Day After Day capture a far more serene and colourful landscape with tropical house beats and summery and mellow lounge-pop instrumentation.

The nine-piece really get into their stride at the very heart of the album, with Ya Ya Ya, Baby You Are, and Non Stop all vying for best song here. Ya Ya Ya could be mistaken for an early Kanye track, with its phasing vocal sample underpinning a retro funk aesthetic. 

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Non Stop has a smooth and infectious disco strut which shows EXO at their most confident and playful, as they collectively blurt out, “Hey! A Little bit of love/My love don’t stop!” 

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Baby You Are channels the muted, scratchy acoustic guitar riffs of Ed Sheeran, before a BTS-esque power-pop chorus elevates it to a wow-factor moment.

Where other K-pop acts do plenty of genre-skipping within songs, on Obsession EXO refreshingly change up their style on a song-by-song basis. It means the boys are onto a winner, with a handful of tracks that we can truly obsess over. 

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