Album Review: OBSESSION, the 7th studio album by EXO

When I heard EXO were releasing a new album this year, my first thought was: “Finally.” 

After an entire year without musical activities as a group, the King’s of K-Pop made their grand return with their seventh studio album OBSESSION on November 27th. Consisting of ten tracks, OBSESSION is the first album to feature only six members of the nine-membered groups. Members Kim Minseok (known by the stage name ‘Xiumin’) and Do Kyungsoo (known by the stage name D.O.) are currently serving their mandatory military service, while member Zhang Yixing (better known as Lay) is tending to activities in his home country, China. Thus, this leaves us with Kim Junmyeon (better known as Suho), Byun Baekhyun, Kim Jongdae (better known as Chen), Park Chanyeol, Kim Jongin (better known as Kai), and Oh Sehun. 

Now that we’ve established the group, let’s get into the album, shall we? I will give a heads up, though: I am not a music expert at all. I am just a huge fan and hope to spread the word about this album, so my review may not be too in-depth. Regardless, I hope you all enjoy!

Anyway, let’s do this!

The first track of OBSESSION is, funnily enough, Obsession. I won’t lie, when I first heard Obsession, I was thrown off. Since their 2012 debut, EXO have never been labeled to ‘one sound;’ in fact, they have experimented with various genres throughout their career (as we’ll discuss in this review). According to SM Entertainment, EXO’s label, Obsession is described as “a hip hop dance song featuring repeating spell-like vocal samples and a prominent heavy beat.” Released with an accompanying music video showing EXO in a battle with doppelgängers X-EXO, Obsession’s lyrics can be interpreted in numerous ways. However, if one watches the video, the lyrics could be speaking of EXO’s battle with their doppelgängrs and their desire to break free. One thing’s for certain, though, the voice sample continuously chanting ‘I want you’ in the background is a definite earworm! Will definitely appear in my mind as I study for finals. 

This leads us to the second track on the list, Trouble, which, in all honesty, is probably my favorite song on the album. SM Entertainment describes Trouble as “a dance song that contains various genre elements like Trap and Reggae. The lyrics are about falling for one deeply and having no exit.” When I first heard Trouble, I immediately fell in love. It’s such a well-made song, and definitely one of EXO’s best. Trouble has quickly become a fan-favorite among EXO-L’s (a special name given to EXO fans by the band), and it’s not difficult to tell. Each member’s voice suits the song well, and the instrumental is enough to make one dance. 

Next is Jekyll, the third track. From what I have read on Twitter, this appears to be a another fan-favorite among EXO-L’s. Like Obsession, Jekyll threw me through a bit of a loop, but I now place the song in my top three tracks on OBSESSION. SM Entertainment describes Jekyll as “dance pop song with heavy drums, 808 bass along with dynamic vocal composition and transformation. The song's lyrics express an internal conflict with one's alter ego in an impactful way.” I remember seeing some people refer to Jekyll as ‘disjointed’ and having a ‘loud chorus’ (the former which I didn’t believe in my opinion, and the latter which I did not mind), and after reading the description from SM Entertainment, I could see why people might believe so. Regardless, I find Jekyll to be a standout track on the album. It might leave you confused at first, but it sure is enough to pull you back in for another listen.

Up next is the fourth track, Groove, described by SM Entertainment as “a song about lovers sharing affectionate feelings as if they were crossing reality & dream through dancing. The song features strings and flute instrumentation with a rhythmical chorus.” When I first heard Groove, I wasn’t a big fan at first, but I understood why a lot of EXO-L’s seemed to like the track. After listening to it over the past couple of weeks, however, it has definitely grown on me. I think what I like about it so much are the flute instrumentals, especially the solo that appears somewhat towards the end. I always thought woodwind instruments were neat. 

Following afterwards is Ya Ya Ya, the fifth track which has made its way into my top three. SM Entertainment describes Ya Ya Ya as “a hip hop dance song with lyrics expressing the belief that love begins in a single moment. The song has heavy 808 bass and an addictive chorus, featuring sampling from SWV's song You're The One (1996).” I remember being surprised when reading this, as it’s not too often I see K-Pop groups sample music from other artists. I will say, though, I really did not expect to hear SWV singing throughout the background of Ya Ya Ya. Am I complaining? Of course not! Ya Ya Ya is another highlight track on the album and it shows EXO’s strength in the hip hop and R&B department. If you want to recommend EXO to someone, definitely show them this song. 

Next on our list is the sixth track Baby You Are, a song SM Entertainment describes as “a dance pop song with a romantic vibe and elements of folk instrumentation. The lyrics tell a story about the exciting moment of love at first sight.” Baby You Are isn’t in my top three on OBSESSION, but it is another one of my favorites. It’s an upbeat song and I can definitely see myself listening to this whenever I am in a bad mood. The production of the song also reminds me of another group under SM Entertainment, SHINee (who, by the way, you should also check out)! Perhaps that’s also why I love this song so much. Either way, Baby You Are is another great song on OBSESSION.

This leads us into Non Stop, the seventh track which SM Entertainment describes as “a dance funk song with lyrics romanticizing the unstoppable love between two people. The song features prominent brass and guitar instrumentation.” Now, Non Stop isn’t one of my favorites on OBSESSION, but I can see its potential. It’s definitely upbeat, and I wouldn’t skip it. 

Eighth and ninth tracks Day After Day and Butterfly Effect respectively do not have their own descriptions from SM Entertainment, so I’ll do my best to describe them. Compared to the rest of the album, Day by Day is more on the lighter side, beautifully showcasing EXO’s vocals with soft instrumentals and minimum production. Butterfly Effect is almost the same, but with a more upbeat instrumentals and vocals. I won’t lie, they’re not my absolute favorite tracks on the album, but I don’t consider them to be filler tracks. They’re a nice way to close the album. 

Overall, I find OBSESSION to be a well-made and concise album. All tracks work well together, and while I do like some more than others, I don’t particularly see any as “filler” tracks. At least one song will reach out to someone. I remember people (fans are non-fans alike) were nervous about this album since three members would not be present, but I think EXO showed everyone that no matter how many members are present, they will always release a quality album. If you’re someone who’s never heard of EXO and are interested, I encourage you to check out the music video for Obsession on YouTube, and to also listen to the entire album! Who knows, maybe this album will make you a future EXO-L.