Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Exo-K – Overdose

From concept to concept…


Madeleine Lee: Over the past two years, EXO’s singles have been a whirlwind tour of different identities as the group struggled to find its own. They’ve been a DBSK reboot (your own lawsuit joke goes here); they’ve been rap-step; they’ve been Blackstreet, to the most (and most deserved) success. “Overdose” is, at last, a single that sounds like something they’ve done before, and this is not a bad thing, because what it recalls are some of their strongest album tracks: Mama‘s “Machine” with the chorus and raps, XOXO‘s “Heart Attack” and “Black Pearl” for the melodies and beats. The Korean subgroup’s vocalists are shouters, not crooners, and the song accepts this as a strength, so that even that wonky note in the chorus sounds convincing when barked aggressively enough. I’m not sure how I’ll react if the next single sounds like this, or the next three singles, but for now, I’m glad the group is returning to its own catalogue, not trying to emulate someone else’s.

Patrick St. Michel: The concept of “Overdose” is played out, the ol’ love-as-drug-you’re-addicted-to metaphor that was never interesting to begin with. Yet there’s no sweetness to Exo-K’s version, and bless them for that. The brostep elements dig in like dentist drills, and the beat hits hard. The singing doesn’t quite match up with the hard-hitting movements around it, but this “Overdose” is far more aggressive than what I expected going in.

Jessica Doyle: If you wanted to throw out the potential camp of “Wolf” and just keep the stadium-suitable shouting, then “Overdose” is here for you. There’s even a bit of earworm smarts in that oh she waaaaants me, oh she’s gooooot me, a wink worth sticking with. But there’s no intimacy. (Compare to B1A4’s “Lonely” or MBLAQ’s underrated “Be a Man” before you start assuming that Korean audiences want maximalism now and maximalism forever.) To get at all the emotion EXO inspires you have to push past the music and get to the community built on GIFs, variety-show outtakes, in-jokes, and, most recently, sadness and accusations of betrayal. Kris, the one who’s suing to get out, is part of EXO’s Mandarin-singing half, but as far as the community’s concerned, it doesn’t matter: this is supposed to be a group effort on an epic, border-smashing level. And as far as the music’s concerned, it doesn’t matter either: it could be any half-dozen voices squeezed into the allowable space.

Edward Okulicz: A song that’s stuffed full of sounds and voices and tics yet still captures none of the sense of urgency you might expect from a song called “Overdose.” Not that such a song need be fast, but this one’s just too blank in the verses and fussy and fidgety everywhere else to evoke the idea of a dangerous reaction to some girl’s love. Overdosing isn’t really comparable to accidentally tripping over your own feet, you know? Also, if you care about such things, while Chen is still too cute for his own good, the M version is only slightly better because of a superior slow-menace-rap bit.

Sonya Nicholson: “One member down, ten more to go before I can debut as a solo singer,” Chen/D.O. thought, while trying to complete a difficult gymnastic maneuver on less than an hour of sleep.  

Scott Mildenhall: They’ve taken one cue from Labrinth (they’ve stolen his cue, basically), but they haven’t paid heed to his advice on clarity (via Rami Yacoub, via Max Martin, via Denniz Pop). There are nice elements like the kindred chorus vworping and actually Rami-esque foghorn, but they don’t make the direction of the song any less aimless, a problem reflected in the the noticeably vacillatory bilingualism.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: One of the wonderful things about the music industry’s rapid globalisation is the way that workmanlike producers find their niches outside of their own country. Away from the heavily-A&R’d merging of Missy and G-Dragon, Snoop and 2NE1, Snoop and Girls Generation — hell, Snoop and the whole world — there’s the folk behind-the-scenes, plugging their songs, selling the publishing, making moves outside of the US. (Rarely does pop feel like it could inspire an Olivier Assayas film, but this is one of those rare circumstances.) “Overdose” is a showcase for The Underdogs, a production team with the expected Chris Brown/Omarion credits that all American R&B journeymen seem to have. Perhaps in the US there are less vocal groups to use as battering rams, to bulk up and attack when the song demands. This is when Exo’s comically ginormous rank comes in handy – there’s so much song to be filled, and there’s enough members to do the job. Points deducted for the frowny-face emoji rap verse, as always is the case.

Brad Shoup: The track doesn’t offer much reinforcement, just a thin synth barrier, and no one’s dissatisfied with being wallpaper. The chorus is mostly those boy-band and-here’s-the-moral chords; they tie an elegant knot but immediately undo it.

Mallory O’Donnell: Too much growl, not enough prowl.

Reader average: [7] (3 votes)

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6 Responses to “Exo-K – Overdose”

  1. SONYA

  2. Also for the record, I don’t actually think either Chen or D.O. would think those things… I mean, I don’t know what they’d think. But the EXO’s fandom is built around guessing, GIFing, fanfiction, and projection.

  3. Typos in my first comment, can the mods please approve this one instead?

    For the record, here’s my original blurb:

    The Underdogs (who produced not just this song but also the entire mini) gave an interview a while back where they mentioned Kpop’s willingness to experiment, but actually this song is fairly safe by SM Performance Piece standards – it’s got the overloaded harmonies and the “smooth”/addictive production of other SME singles, but not too much going on instrumentally, at least compared to other busy-busy Kpop songs. The vocal harmonies are pretty much all the song needs, though, with many layered hooks (in English!) and a narrative that continues through the album’s other, superior tracks (i.e. Thunder and Moonlight). Fans who are invested in EXO – there are a LOT – will form their own theories about which member(s) of the group these songs are about, or whether they’re about EXO’s meteoric-even-for-an-SM-group rise to top rookie status. I’ll say is the new direction suits them… though the fact that only two of the remaining eleven members are credible RnB singers – and only four are showcase-worthy – does end up limiting EXO as a live group.

  4. Thx mods :)

    Edward, I like the Chinese rappers more too! High-five!

    The guy who sings the majority of the rap on the Chinese version is the guy who left the group, bringing up the important question of who will play TOP to Tao’s GD going forward.

  5. I learn to appreciate from the best.

  6. I absolutely howled at SONYA’s comment. probably one of the best kpop related comments i’ve read in several years