When the first EXO sub-unit was announced, I was ecstatic. I was even more ecstatic when the sub-unit members were announced. Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin make quite the trio in their group EXO-CBX. All three of them bring a dynamic that makes for the best sub-unit sound a fan of EXO could wish for.
With a first listen, this sub-unit has the distinct SM Entertainment sound that has been on the charts all year. From Red Velvet, to SHINee (including Taemin and Jonghyun solo albums) the throwback retro sound is strong with this mini album. While both Red Velvet and SHINee experimented with a wide variety of classic throwback genres on their new albums, EXO-CBX stayed on the 1970’s disco track. They not only pulled it off, but managed to add a modern day touch that tied it together so perfectly. Even the album cover is retro, resembling a pixelated Rubix’s cube with the letters ‘CBX’.
The first song on the five song mini album is titled ‘The One‘. Right away the song has strong SHINee ‘Prisim‘ vibes. It quickly transitions to the sound of EXO’s song ‘Artificial Love‘. The mashup of the two sounds make this song the most modern sounding on the album. The rap lines are evenly distributed (almost giving me, personally, an NCT rap vibe) which blend well with the harmonies of all three singers. While it’s personally my least favorite on the mini-album, it is a fun song to listen to.
The second song on the album is debut title ‘Hey Mama‘. The base line in this song is by far amazing, playing well with the amazing vocals. This song is mixed incredibly well, giving off a ‘call and respond’ feel when listened to. The unexpected rap breakdown in the middle of the song is perfect, giving EXO fans a taste of rap skills from the most unpredictable members of EXO. This song is as fun as the music video. For a debut sub-unit, this was the perfect debut song for them.
The third song on the album is titled ‘Rhythm After Summer‘. This song have a very big sound. This would be a song that would be seen in a classical musical, in one of those outdoor dance numbers. This song in particular is my favorite on the album, giving me throwbacks to my childhood and my endless viewings of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club’s Band‘. If this were the 1970’s, I could totally see the Bee Gee‘s doing this song, and with that being said, it almost sounds like EXO-CBX covered this song. I would love to see them do a music video for this song, and in leisure suits. Yes, leisure suits were quite awful, but, it would add to the fun retro vibe this song brings. SHINee did a wonderful job sporing them for ‘1 of 1‘ so now it’s EXO-CBX’s turn!
Keeping true to the retro base line, is song number four ‘Juliet‘. While this song is slower, it does not disappoint. This song brings me back to the ‘1 of 1’ reference, and to me feels like the B side of the record to the song. However, setting it far apart from their SHINee label mates, is the soft and subtle, but very distinct EDM sound. It’s hard to explain, but once you hear it, you notice it every time. This is the modern touch they pulled off so well in this album. It’s still very retro, and funky, but also ties in popular music so beautifully.
The last song on the album is titled ‘Cherish‘. Out of all of the songs on this album, this one has a very strong variety show feel. This is a song that big groups in the 70’s would have performed on shows like The Flip Wilson Show or The Dean Martin Variety Show. When listening to this song, I can envision the sub-unit holding vintage microphones and doing a simple line dance as they woo the audience. It’s the perfect anthem for love, declaring their love in song. This would be another fun music video, if the group decided to release another music video.
It would be really amazing if SM Entertainment continued to produce such retro concepts. It’s also nice that SM Entertainment decided to test this retro concept on a sub-unit for EXO rather than the entire group. Having all of the members of EXO doing a retro concept like this would not be as sharp and well executed as the sub-unit managed to do. Being able to focus on the talents of just three members made the concept even stronger.
Overall I give this mini album a 10/10. For being a debut album, and for being a debut sub-unit, I am thoroughly impressed. This album should win many awards, and hopefully the sub-unit continues. It would also be cool to see EXO release other sub-units as well. Only time will tell if that happens.
What did you think of the EXO-CBX mini-album? Let us know in the comments below!
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Edited By: Sarah Smith