Every EXO song ranked in order of greatness
Written by ABR on 08/04/2022
EXO fans often joke about the boyband being their own greatest competition (oh, the jokes really took off during promotions for ‘Obsession’) but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say it’s true. Since their debut, every release has seen EXO come back bigger and better, with concepts that stretch the imagination, yet seem so approachable and real thanks to how the group embodies them.
- READ MORE: Kai: “To me what’s important is my feelings, my emotions”
A truly fluvial act, we’ve seen them be gangsters, bikers, space explorers, scientific test subjects, they’ve even fought monsters and won. It’s testament to their growth and malleability as an act that each one of their concepts – however far out at first – seems tailor-made for them in the end. It’s why, even after a landmark 10 years, they excite the same wonder and awe they did as rookies.
Usually, even when you’ve been with an act for long, it’s easy to pinpoint some songs that you don’t personally identify with. While there are always ups and downs, EXO have emerged as one of those acts where the act of “ranking” their songs truly poses a task, simply because of consistent output.
But as the group celebrates their 10th anniversary, we take on the challenge of ranking every Korean song by EXO – sans sub-unit or solo releases – in order of greatness. A special mention, however, to those who could not make the list, namely their Japanese tracks ‘Electric Kiss’ and ‘Loving You Mo’’. You may not be on this list, but you’ll always be in our hearts.
‘My Answer’ (2015)
While we love the piano-laden instrumentals on this ballad, there just isn’t enough to keep us holding on towards the end.
‘First Love’ (2015)
This upbeat, bouncy number boasts a beautifully harmonious chorus, but comes in low simply because it pales in comparison to EXO’s other output.
‘Winter Heat’ (2016)
We’ve seen a lot of great holiday tracks from EXO, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.
Sorry, but this one didn’t land as well as it should have, and you only have ‘Smile On My Face’ to blame for it.
‘Lady Luck’ (2015)
Maybe it’s because EXO have spoiled us with far more engaging serenades, but the intensity on ‘Lady Luck’ fizzles out before it can create an impact. A shame, really, since the rest of ‘Exodus’ is unskippable.
I’m sorry. I have to do this. Breaks my heart.
‘Cloud 9’ (2016)
Despite the vocal work and its upbeat vibe, ‘Cloud 9’ fell short of the mark on an album packed with one memorable number after another. A rare miss by the group, but it happens.
‘Run’ might be a song meant for live performances, but it doesn’t have much else going for it, especially when we have gems like ‘Lucky’ and ‘Peter Pan’.
While ‘Stronger’ makes the most of EXO’s vocal prowess, it pales in comparison to the other output that the same members have presented on other albums. Sorry, this one’s mid.
‘Love, Love, Love’ (2014)
By any means, ‘Love, Love, Love’ is not a skippable song, but we’ve seen EXO perfect this particular genre in exciting, innovative ways enough times to know that ‘Love, Love, Love’ wasn’t the best it could get.
While ‘Beautiful’ creates an enchanting dreamscape, it fails to utilise the group’s excellent vocals to the fullest which, really, should be considered a crime.
‘My Turn To Cry’ (2013)
Unfortunately, on an album packed with the energy of ‘The Star’ and the melodic excellence of ‘Miracles Of December’, the simple acoustics of ‘My Turn To Cry’ find themselves overshadowed. You can’t say you don’t agree.
The costumes in this song were a crime and that is why it’s here in the “Sit in a corner and think about what you did” jail.
‘Two Moons’ (2012)
The first few years of an act are spent finding their footing and trying to see what flavor fits them best – we’re glad they left this particular one behind.
Okay, this author respects all the chogiwa enthusiasts, but they’re not one of them. Despite the frenetic energy of the song and some truly mesmerising choreography, there’s too much in there for this heart to handle. All the chogiwa memes in the world couldn’t get me to sit through this.
‘No Matter’ (2021)
No offense to ‘No Matter’ – which is a perfectly enjoyable, hygienic track – but if we’re talking about god-tier EXO summer albums, no one can dethrone ‘The War’.
‘Don’t Fight The Feeling’ (2021)
In the spirit of full transparency, this particular ranking is prompted because of rage, as well as sadness – after waiting two years for EXO and seeing faces that we’d all been waiting with bated breaths for, forgive us if we were expecting something a little more.
Simply put, ‘Don’t Fight The Feeling’ felt undeserving of an act such as EXO. After the cinematic brilliance of ‘Obsession’ and the excitement of ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’, it felt underwhelming and rushed, to the point that waiting longer for another release might have been the better option.
‘For Life’ (2016)
On its own, ‘For Life’ stands as the perfect track for the season, which is not always happy for all of us. Compared to their other output such as ‘Sing For You’ and ‘Universe’, however, it falls short of the mark.
Listen, it’s youthful, it’s cool, it’s energetic. It’s everything that young EXO represented – the only reason it ranks so is because EXO have outgrown this particular phase. In all honesty, so have we.
‘What I Want For Christmas’ (2016)
All we want for Christmas is for EXO to release another winter album so we can get gems like these.
‘The Star’ (2013)
Perhaps we’ve seen too many emotional, balladic Christmas songs, but the hip-hop flavors of ‘The Star’ are a welcome change from our usual output during the season – and we’re all for it!
‘What Is Love’ (2012)
What better introduction to vocal powerhouses Baekhyun and D.O. than on a track where they belt out tunes like their lives depend on it? This was only a trailer to what EXO could do, and by God did it get us excited for the movie.
‘Walk On Memories’ (2017)
In this author’s defense, ‘Walk On Memories’ is a perfectly solid track. It has all the trappings of the emotional R&B ballad that EXO, at this point, seem to have patented. The reason it ranks low on this list is simply because EXO’s discography has similar songs that far outrank it in emotional and vocal value.
‘Butterfly Effect’ (2019)
Once again, this writer must admit that at first listen, ‘Butterfly Effect’ didn’t do much for them. Let it never be said that they are too proud to retract their words – on second listen, this effect is mesmerising.
‘They Never Know’ (2016)
Slick, sexy and oh-so-cool, ‘They Never Know’ delivered a dangerous punch through its R&B base that later dissolves into frenetic dance-pop on the chorus, adding a mesmerising stroke to the young, urbanised vibe that EXO bring on ‘EX’ACT’.
‘Can’t Bring Me Down’ (2019)
We’re convinced that ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’, ‘Run This Show’ and ‘Drop That’ sit at the same table and plot world domination. They’ll succeed too.
When SHINee Frankenstein-ed their hit single ‘Sherlock’, perhaps they set into motion a precedent that many in K-pop have tried to live up to at least once. While EXO’s ‘Hurt’ doesn’t technically merge two tracks, it does utilise the same beats from the intro of the ‘Call Me Baby’ music video and switches it up to bring us a track far angstier than the latter.
‘Baby, Don’t Cry’ (2013)
Don’t tell me what to do!
‘Let Out The Beast’ (2013)
Perfection. No, we shall not accept questions. Next.
‘My Lady’ (2013)
D.O. called us his baby. Who are we to disagree?
All we think of is: Suho pulling out a spray bottle to sing “Shower”. Iconic.
‘Christmas Day’ (2013)
While we love ‘Miracles In December’ – a cut from the same release – this comes in a close second to the best song on the mini-album.
‘On The Snow’ (2015)
‘On The Snow’ is the track that your significant other plays in the background to a compilation of your best moments. Of course, all of us singles are jealous of the PDA and the immaculate taste.
‘Falling For You’ (2016)
Is this the track we play in our heads on winter mornings where we feel surprisingly chirpy and the smell of tea fills the house? Yes, yes it is.
‘Twenty Four’ (2016)
Bringing back the same energy as ‘The Star’, EXO switch out the ballads with this buoyant rhythmic number which fares much better than the former. Where ‘The Star’ had a certain naivete to it, ‘Twenty Four’ by comparison feels a little more cohesive and mature.
Okay, we get it. The “Careless, careless, shoot anonymous, anonymous” is iconic, so is the vocal work on the song. Genuine question, though: how many EXO fans go back on the regular and listen to this?
‘Tender Love’ (2015)
Methinks Baekhyun made several points when he sang: “Tender love… chicken tender.”
‘Don’t Go’ (2013)
If ‘Promise’ is our track to cry to, ‘Don’t Go’ is the track that leaves us with a surprising warmth, wrapping us up in the comfort of EXO’s words and pure, gooey emotion. There are some songs that are best enjoyed live (looking at the lucky EXO-Ls who’ve seen the group live) and this truly is one of them.
‘Peter Pan’ (2013)
Was any EXO concert (or show, or fan-made video, or introductory video) complete without this banger? It was not.
‘Girl x Friend’ (2015)
Many say that ‘Miracles In December’ is EXO’s best Christmas album, but even they know – deep down in their hearts – it’s actually ‘Sing For You’, thanks to gems like ‘Girl x Friend’.
Do you truly need any other explanation than “XOXO”? If yes, please see yourself out.
Imagine sitting through this without imagining EXO performing this live and tearing up – I could never.
Ah yes, the concert anthem for the ages. If you’re ever in the need for a walk down memory lane or just a good cry, this is your EXO go-to.
If you like ‘Transformer’, please come on over here to the “immaculate taste” side.
‘Ya Ya Ya’ (2019)
EXO interrupted their regularly scheduled programming to bring some old-school hip-hop flavor, and we’re not complaining. Bouncy, rhythmic and cool, this brought the same energy as ‘Call Me Baby’ despite being worlds apart.
‘Day After Day’ (2019)
If a riverside stroll on a beautiful first date had a song, it would be ‘Day By Day’. Sensual, sensitive and deliciously teasing, the harmonies on this one are some of the best we’ve seen from EXO so far.
Once you get over the major second-gen throwback (seriously, this sounds like something SHINee would absolutely nail), you start feeling the funky, futuristic vibes.
*Insert Lord Of The Rings meme* One does not simply skip ‘Lightsaber’. Thanks to ‘El Dorado’ for almost speaking this one existence – we’ll always be in its debt.
‘Lights Out’ (2017)
EXO have perfected and embodied many genres over the course of their career, but ‘Lights Out’ is where they personified comfort. Truly a great song to close out the year on.
Alexa, play EXO’s most adorable second Christmas song, and then play a compilation of Sehun saying “Omaya”. I said what I said.
‘Smile On My Face’ (2018)
While we may not have gotten a winter album from EXO in 2018, the balladic ‘Smile On My Face’ more than made up for it. As a wintery chill set in right around the time of the release, ‘Smile On My Face’ was the candlelight that got us through the cold.
‘Just As Usual’ (2021)
It need not be said how hard enlistment is for K-pop fans – to say goodbye to their favorite stars for two years and to wait with open arms for them to be back and getting into the grind again is a task that requires nerves of steel. At some points, the fear that you might be the only ones waiting is enough to leave us frozen.
In that vein, ‘Just As Usual’ was exactly what we needed to infuse warmth back into our lives. It was not so much the track itself as it was the music video, giving us glimpses of EXO in the studio as they recorded their latest album. Even through the thoughtful faces, the haggard expressions after long hours in the practice room and the tired bodies, there was a calm reassurance that EXO will always be here.
What do we want? Chen singing ‘Hello Angel!’ When do we want it? Now!
The choppy and noisy arrangement on ‘Sign’ is elevated to a higher level thanks to just the right level of distortion – a perfect song to capture the confusion and fear of finding out unprecedented truths.
‘With You’ (2018)
As an album, ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’ embodied rush, both musically and thematically. Throughout the course of the album, EXO overwhelmed us by vacillating between slow jams that induced a maddening frenzy and hot-headed anthems that left us breathless. ‘With You’ emerged as a perfect balance of the two – its electro-trap never gave away more than it should have, but still kept us anticipating a change. If you don’t like it, we weren’t listening to the same album.
‘What If…’ (2015)
RIP to ‘Walk On Memories’, but ‘What If…’ is exactly the reason why the impact of songs like the former paled. Considering the tumultuous year that EXO had had at the time, ‘What If…’ brought a refreshing honesty that touched hearts.
‘Good Night’ (2017)
EXO can’t come and say good night to us in person (something that plagues us everyday), but we’ll take the next best thing.
‘Bad Dream’ (2018)
Once again, EXO bodied – as the internet calls it now – the biker concept by putting the emotion of a late-night ride into words. As you speed down an empty highway with only the wind to keep you company, ‘Bad Dream’ becomes the soundtrack and the balm to your broken heart.
I’ll tell you what ‘Trauma’ is – wanting to put this higher but not having the space to.
‘Damage’ brought to mind memories of another track where EXO were nursing themselves after a stumble in love – ‘Overdose’. The only difference is that ‘Overdose’ captures the quiet clarity and helplessness that breaks through right after the magic wears off and you realize something is not right. ‘Damage’, however, is more powerful – it gives back as good as it got.
‘First Snow’ (2013)
If any EXO 101 list does not contain ‘First Snow’, it’s fake.
‘Miracles in December’ (2013)
The song that kicked off the EXO holiday albums trend gets a special nod for showing us that EXO could shed the powerful, arrogant personas and still create the same magic. Classic.
Luckily, the disappointment of ‘Don’t Fight The Feeling’ was mitigated partially by the vivid, twinkling offering that was ‘Paradise’. Cool, carefree, and easy, ‘Paradise’ became the perfect track to a summer that was presenting us with opportunities to have fun – something we’d been missing a year into the pandemic. The icing on the cake was Lay’s soothing voice, back again with EXO after what felt like millenia.
On an album that felt unfinished and lacking in many places, ‘Runaway’ emerged as the triumphant winner that truly made us feel like we were seeing EXO back in all their glory. Soaring, atmospheric and leaving us with a saudade that wracked us to the very core, this is what we had hoped for with EXO’s long-awaited 2021 comeback.
Jekyll And Hyde references can be very dated and overplayed, but EXO make it work on this creepy, atmospheric ‘Obsession’ cut. “I shut you down, there is no place for you / Even if I block my ears, I can still hear your endless whispers / You’re making me go insane, from inside me,” they sing on the clever chorus.
Marrying jazz, hip-hop, and old-school retro, ‘Non-Stop’ is a groovy dance jam that we wished didn’t end.
‘Black Pearl’ (2013)
Only real ones appreciate ‘Black Pearl’ and we appreciate them.
‘Sing For You’ (2015)
There will be a day when this author does not start laughing at EXO simply having a rave in a small car as somber guitar plays in the background, but it is not this day.
Come Christmas, songs about happiness and healing abound, but lurking in the shadows of the twinkling lights, are introspections of our mistakes and lost loves. One would think that it could only be felt when wracking through us in waves, but ‘Universe’ accomplishes the difficult task of putting it into words and leaving us with a glimmer of hope – love is never truly lost.
As the group say, “It’s not easy, baby” to get over this track. From the moment you ‘fall’, you’re gone.
In the shimmery, summer-tinted extravaganza of ‘The War’, ‘Diamond’ felt much too dark and misplaced. With time, however, ‘Diamond’ grows on you with creeping intensity. It’s in the refrained progression, posing a very charming sense of danger lurking just underneath, it drives us crazy.
‘Artificial Love’ (2016)
We’ve said this several times now, but the songs from ‘EX’ACT’ are truly EXO at top form. And leave it to the boyband to make a song about an unhealthy relationship (“She don’t love me / That’s right, artificial love / Empty artificial love / Tell me what is the truth and what is a lie”) this groovy.
There are sounds that leave this author’s mouth every time ‘Playboy’ comes on, but for propriety’s sake, they’ll only categorise those sounds as ‘inhuman screeching’.
‘One And Only’ (2016)
Riding the wave of the early 2000s R&B, this sleek number makes for an easy, nostalgic listen.
While ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’ gave us some of EXO’s best output, the album did seem disjointed at some points. Fortunately, ‘Oasis’ lands in the better half of the record, bringing to life a longing and wishfulness that evokes a primal emotion.
Full disclosure: when ‘Power’ first came out, this author couldn’t stand it. It felt so removed from everything EXO had done that year that the maniacal energy of the song seemed to throw everything off-kilter. However, over time, one comes to realise that ‘Power’ is an acquired taste, and it takes a true connoisseur to appreciate it. This writer understands that now.
EXO have dedicated plenty of songs to their fans, but ‘Promise’ towers over all of them. Coming off a tumultuous run in their early years, the group shared this emotional anthem as a vow to their day ones. “I will make you happy / Just like the saying, we are one,” they sing, and it’s an oath they’ve kept to this day.
Funny how the song is named ‘Chill’ but that’s exactly what we don’t have the moment D.O comes in rapping.
You have nerves of steel if you hear Baekhyun ask you to “make it forever” and you say no.
‘Overdose’ remains a seminal track for EXO. It’s brimming with power, angst, and impressive coherence. More than that, however, it is also the proverbial turning point for the group. We didn’t know it then, but the next time we would see EXO would be without a few members. The change in line-up also seems to have prompted a change in musical direction, with the boyband pivoting to a more pop-leaning sound that eventually commandeered.
From the cinematic music video, the villianous outfits – special shout-out to Kai’s crop top – the droning instrumentals and mesmerising charts of “I want you”, ‘Obsession’ leaves us speechless everytime from every angle and at every second.
KBS may have deemed this one “unfit for broadcast” but you best believe we’ll be singing “Lipstick, chateau, wine color, white champagne, shower with bubbles” as long as we’re here. Every bit of this is as hedonistic and indulgent as one could hope for, especially considering how this theme only went bigger and better in ‘Monster’, where EXO seamlessly transitioned into a mature persona and blew us all away.
‘The Eve’ (2017)
Look us in the damn eye and tell us that you didn’t feel your soul ascend to a higher dimension when the chorus on ‘The Eve’ hit. You can’t – even after five years, the chokehold this track on us only grows tighter.
‘Lucky One’ (2016)
Ah, the infamous song where Kai literally fends off enemies by… dancing at them. Hey, he’s as confused as we are, but that doesn’t mean the song isn’t supremely addictive. Going ham on their alien concept, EXO delivered a banger representative of what many consider their best year. Bouncy, upbeat and focused, ‘Lucky One’ was simply breathtaking.
EXO had us going crazy on this scintillating, scorching number which came with booming, frenetic beats and a choreography to boot – creeping, creeping, creeping into our hearts, if we may say so. An honorable mention also for the dance practice video for the track – for a moment, we were all Xiumin stans.
‘Ko Ko Bop’ (2017)
Has there ever been a more apt way to describe this song than the viral video where a fan hears the starting riffs of ‘Ko Ko Bop’ and goes “I’m so sick of this song”, yet proceeds to sing it. Truly, EXO ruled the summer of 2017 with this reggae-inspired track that took us on a kaleidoscopic journey through a psychedelic dreamscape – this one never gets old.
Peppy is not a word that we ever thought would be used to describe an EXO track, but the spring in our step that this one leaves us with begs an exception. The funky ‘Boomerang’ sits comfortably in the territory of balancing flirting and lovesickness, something EXO have proven themselves masters at. Unskippable to the very end.
Clean, sensual, groovy – if future tracks like ‘Artificial Love’ and ‘Playboy’ made you feral, just know that it was ‘Thunder’ that set the stage for them. With ‘Thunder’, EXO tapped into their more flirtatious, perhaps dangerous sides and bowled us all over in the process. It was probably the same time Kim Jong-in realised his true power and became a menace to society.
Blazing through the blood like a spark of electricity, ‘24/7’ sees EXO at their chill R&B best. With harmonies that never overpower a tempered vibe, the song creates a wonderful magic that you almost don’t want to break out of.
‘Been Through’ (2017)
Okay, we know this song is about overcoming heartbreak, but EXO really put us through it. The soaring melodies on the chorus, Sehun’s break right after, and the harmonisation at the end – if ever there was a song that captured watching the skies at night with a cup of coffee, this is it.
‘Love Shot’ (2018)
What is EXO’s sexiest title track and why is it ‘Love Shot’? Much like the song itself, the days right after ‘Love Shot’ felt like a fever dream for EXO fans, thanks in large part to Kai’s lethal red suit.
That’s not to dismiss the song entirely, though. With heavy bass and heady dance-pop instrumentals, ‘Love Shot’ was where their previous songs in the same vein, such as ‘Playboy’ and ‘Sweet Lies’ came to a confident culmination – EXO were deadly in this one, and we were all too willing to be their victims.
‘Ooh La La La’ (2018)
We have a theory that when ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’ was being planned, the only brief that EXO received was: sexy. How else can you describe the guitar-laden ‘Ooh La La La’, sparking a rush of blood to the head that can only be described as carnal? ‘Ooh La La La’ may describe a heady, imaginary connection, but the hypnotism it leaves us with persists long after the song is done.
‘El Dorado’ (2015)
Space scavengers was a theme that we never knew we needed until EXO gave us ‘El Dorado’. Get into the spaceship, loser, we’re going to find paradise!
‘Heart Attack’ (2013)
Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference… *starts a prayer circle to have EXO perform this at their next concert*
Excuse our French, but ‘Trouble’ is the song that turns all of us into the Kylie Jenner meme: “Next thing I knew, I was pregnant.”
‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’ (2018)
If the biker concept awakened feelings that we never knew we had, the song itself sent us into a feverish frenzy. After the brilliant run of ‘The War’, EXO shook things up with a full-blown hip-hop and dance attack, complete with squeaky sound effects (if you know you know) and absolutely lethal crop tops from Kai.
The best part, however, was the surprising, mind-blowing acapella bridge – coming out of left-field, it was a neat slice of innovation that few have attempted and even fewer have perfected. EXO did it one go – and if ever there was proof needed of their vocal prowess, it was in those few seconds.
‘Love Me Right’ (2015)
There are two things in this song we’ll never get over: Sehun’s “Shawty, I’mma party till the sundown” and D.O.’s high note that seamlessly segues into a minimalistic bridge. Perfection.
What makes this the best track on ‘Universe’? Um, what doesn’t? The paced rapping combo of Chanyeol and Sehun, the atmospheric effects as the song peters out, the steady beat that roots us throughout its run – yeah, this one makes us want to go back and stay in the moment we first heard it.
‘Baby You Are’ (2019)
Never trust an EXO fan who doesn’t like ‘Baby You Are’. Never.
‘Touch It’ (2017)
EXO are well-versed in the art of seducing with their words. Just look at the silent, but deadly ‘White Noise’ or the infamous ‘Playboy’. ‘Touch It’ – penned by sensitive king Chen – however, is memorable in more ways than one. Not only did the song bring a decidedly upbeat approach to the art of wooing someone, but it also marked a departure from the classically R&B style that EXO had adopted so far for songs like these.
‘Sweet Lies’ (2017)
Five years and we still need several minutes to recover every time this banger comes on. EXO came for our throats with some truly god-tier slow and sexy R&B, with lyrics that melted like butter and enchanted like the Pied Piper. If you hung around on Tumblr at the time, you’ll know exactly the chokehold this had us in – it’s a gift that keeps on giving, with Chanyeol’s seamlessly rapping as a neat ribbon on top.
‘She’s Dreaming’ (2016)
If you ever wonder why ‘EX’ACT’ – and its subsequent repackage ‘Lotto’ – remains a crowning achievement in EXO’s discography, you need only look at tracks such as ‘She’s Dreaming’. It’s not just the slow, paced progression of the track, making the vocals sound like a warm blanket on a cold night feels, but also just how the album expertly vacillates between the cold, hard persona of a playboy and soft, sensitive embrace of true love.
Starting with the bombastic ‘Monster’ and ‘Artificial Love’, ‘EX’ACT’ slowly sheds this superficial exoskeleton to show a more profound side of the act – revealed over the course of songs like ‘She’s Dreaming’, ‘White Noise’, and ‘One and Only’. Few acts can take such an acute turn during the run of just one album, but EXO make it look like a cakewalk.
Oh, do you mean the national anthem? Nary a year goes by that we don’t see an upcoming K-pop act cover this iconic number, and for good reason. Credited as the song that launched EXO’s career into the stratosphere, ‘Growl’ still represents the best of what EXO can do. The slick, smooth choreography, the bouncy, catchy chorus, the steady pace that gives the song a delightful coherence. ‘Growl’ remains the crowning jewel of EXO’s illustrious career.
Girls don’t want boys; girls want EXO to call them “cruel queens” and “dangerously hot”. That’s it, that’s the blurb.
‘What U Do’ (2017)
What happens when you google the words ‘How To Make The Perfect Summer Track’? You get redirected to this absolute gem of a track.
‘Call Me Baby’ (2015)
“There are many things that shine”, but outshining all of them is ‘Call Me Baby’. Considered an essential on our EXO 101 courses, ‘Call Me Baby’ marked the group’s decided departure from their schoolboy aesthetics and coordinated costumes, bringing their own playful flavors into the mix – a glorious glow-up if there ever was one. It’s here that we see one of K-pop’s greatest runs truly catch momentum – we’re hanging on for dear life but loving every minute.
Also, how does one tattoo D.O.’s iconic “Baby girl” onto our bodies? Asking for a friend.
‘White Noise’ (2016)
While ‘EX’ACT’ as an album came packed with one banger after another, ‘White Noise’ towered over all of them in its sensual charm. This one gets the formula of attraction pat down. Throughout its run, it’s never overpowering or stifling, gently luring us in with soothing notes and impeccable vocal flavor. As we would find out later, EXO do this very well – in fact, one (this author, to be ‘exact’) might say that ‘White Noise’ walked so ‘Sweet Lies’ could run. You can’t change our minds.
‘Going Crazy’ (2017)
Just like EXO, we saved the best for the last. ‘Going Crazy’ isn’t a song, it’s an emotion. It’s an uncharacteristically chilly night by the beach in the middle of summer. It’s watching the sunlit landscape of the countryside from a train window – warm outside, but comfortably cool inside. It’s cooking in the middle of the afternoon with the windows thrown wide open – if these are personal experiences with this song, you’ll never know.
‘Going Crazy’ inspires a fanaticism – what an apt word for a track so named – that is wild, yet liberating and comforting in the feeling it leaves us with. The song may talk about primal hatred, but it leaves us with a giddiness for the future.
Remember when the Pied Piper of Hamelin led all the children of the town into the deep, dark unknown? If one were to put a name to the ecstatic frenzy of his tune, it would certainly look like ‘Groove’. Is it ironic that the song also has a hypnotic flute instrumentation?
Perhaps this is too poetic, but the singular thrill that ‘Groove’ begs this hyperbole – it was a hard task to tower over every other song on an album packed with one banger after another, but ‘Groove’ did it effortlessly.
Have you ever been in the passenger seat of a car, driving down an empty highway, and just watched the driver floor it? As your body is thrown back by the force of the unprecedented speed, you can do nothing but hold on and pray for dear life. Fear courses through your veins, but you’ll be lying to yourself if you didn’t think it was at least a little bit exciting. When the ride is over, you almost wish that it never ended. That’s what ‘Gravity’ does to you – put you at that neat little intersection where fear and excitement merge, creating a singular thrill you’ll spend your whole life chasing.
Is it really a surprise, then, that ‘Gravity’ roared in to claim the top spot on this list? As fast as it is furious, the thumping electro-pop on ‘Gravity’ takes over the mind with a dizzying intensity, perfectly capturing the aesthetic the group was aiming for on ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’. Every minute of it feels too much – at times, it feels like the song itself will spin out of control, leaving you with disappointment. EXO, however, keep such a confident and steady grasp on this ride that by the end of it, you’ll trust them with your life. You know you agree with this one.
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